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This Week In History: September 1

Bill Sublette’s brother Milton needs a cork leg (for the right or left?), business is phenomenal, a troublemaking child, and Robert needs to thank his lucky stars for all of his good fortune — this and more in today’s letter from Hugh Campbell to his little brother Robert in St. Louis.


Phila Sept 1835
My dear Robert
To any other an apology would be necessary for my long silence – to you I need only say that it was out of my power to write you sooner. I have never been so much wearied in business as during the last six weeks – but our hurry is now over for the season.
Your favor of 6 and 13 inst. are duly to hand the latter by this evening’s mail. I am pleased to find that the intermittent which was caused my imprudent exposure is subsiding and that you are likely to be “yourself again” but it seems strange that you don’t name a time for coming on here. The season at which I have been accustomed to see you and our friend Sublette approaches – and you will aid us in spending agreeably some long winter nights if you appear in Philadelphia about 1st Nov. or should you defer until later about 8 Dec. for I must spend a week in Richmond in the latter part of Nov. on business of the estate.

The attention – the downright brotherly friends of Wm. L. Sublette is almost without a precedent. In this cold heartless world, my dear Robert, it is like an oasis in the desert to meet with such a man – and I think his conduct and that of his household, to you, during your late dreadful attack, is enough to cure the most obstinate misanthrope. Perhaps it may one day or other be in my power to show him how gratefully remembered is such well timed friendship.

The cork leg for friend Milton is not finished but the workman says it will be ready for delivery in all this week. Mr. S. forgot to say whether it was for the right or left – and finding that to wait for an answer would require a month at least, I ordered a right leg to be made, at the same time, having occasion to write Mr. Dormell, I requested him to call on Mr. S. & cause him to write me on the subject by return mail. I expect his letter before the cork leg is finished, and can make an alteration in two days if it be wanted for the left leg.

Not a single sentence from home for many months, except the brief letter mentioned in my last from Andrew, merely stating that Sarah Dunn was married to Hugh MacFarlane & requesting attention to her. In a P.S. to Mary’s last letter I told you what a strange “kettle of fish” this same marriage had likely to turn out – & the fortunate result of my interference in the matter. Before this reaches you, I presume you will have seen the happy pair, on their way to Galena. I really feel interested in their welfare.

You have been informed of the death – the very sudden death of our cousin James B. Borland on his way from Jackson to this city. The surviving partner, James Lee, will of course wind up the business. I am sorry to learn from a letter received from our cousin in May last, while in Nashville, that J. Lee is a complete and irreclaimable drunkard. Of course my expectations from the close of the business are extremely moderate. I expect to hear from his father shortly, and will take such measures as may be in my power to protect the interest of the family should they send me a proper power of atty. All the leisure moments I have lately had to spare were engrossed in purchasing for Mrs. Kyle a small assortment of dry goods, suited for a country town in the interior of Missouri or Illinois. They have been forwarded about ten days ago and the invoices amounting to $2850 have been enclosed to Mr. G. Sproule. When in St. Louis, I found that the family preferred a small store to any other kind of operations and promised to send betwixt $1000 and $1500 of goods which I told them must be repaid in 1 2 and 3 years but it was impossible to get up anything like a variety for that sum & I increased the amount accordingly; stipulating that the surplus over $1500 should be repaid from the first sales. If this start in business prove serviceable all will be well & I shall be amply repaid, in the feeling of pleasure which their success will afford. If not, I shall have done my duty & they must try some other avocation. I am anxious that they should make some arrangement with Mr. Edgar, the Messrs Kerr’s or some other house, for occasional supplies, – as it will be impossible for me to continue to send goods from Philadelphia. The family speak most kindly of you. I am pleased to find you so general a favorite and that they seem to place so much reliance on your advice.

You are aware that I brought on little David W. Kyle with me on my return from St. Louis, intending to place him one year at school in this city. He is a kind hearted, thoughtless boy and a city is badly fitted for improving either his mind or morals. I have therefore sent him this evening, in charge of a friend, to a school at Hadly, near Northampton Massachusetts, where he will have no temptations to misspend time & where he will be obliged to study hard. Should he not prove a steady boy, I will not consent to his return to Missouri but I entertain great hopes of him.
Our business this fall has been very heavy. The sales of last month were more than $10,000 greater than those of any preceding month since we commenced. I believe it has been prosperous too. Thank God every thing has gone on well with me and I have been blessed in all respects beyond my deserts. I have a good wife – a tolerable brother – many kind friends – and a prospect of moderate independence. For all these, I admit I am not sufficiently grateful. You, dear Robert, should reflect on this passing remark. I seldom speak on religious subjects when writing but for your late merciful recovery from the very brink of the grave, your gratitude should not be confined to the kind friends around you. Do not think me superstitious when I tell you that I attribute much of our success in life to the prayers of our good mother and sister! God bless them.

I have had a letter from Hugh Reed by this morning’s mail dated at Newburg N.Y. He is suffering under an attack of intermittent fever & wishes my advice (in other words money) to go home by next packet. I will write him – but really he has cost me so much already, that unless he wants money (for he had nearly $100 on leaving home and has been making ever since) I will not send him one cent. I beg you will write me fully on receipt of this. I am anxious to know your views and future prospects. In any case, Dear Robert, come on here as soon as you can travel with safety. I wish to see you, apart from business. The approaching long winter night would pass pleasantly. We can talk over a thousand things. Mary can give you and Mr. S. a comfortable bed & I pledge myself you shall have more solid slices of bread than the transparent cuts you saw with us last season. God bless you & make us both thankful for many kind dispensations!

Hugh Campbell

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