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This Week in History: November 20

This week, big brother Hugh sends Robert a note following up from his recent trip back to Ireland.  The brothers just lost sister Elizabeth, and, affectionately, Hugh reveals that — of all their family — he could not bear to lose Robert, too.  And he has some interesting things to say about the state of his love life, and he encourages Robert to get hitched.  You know, only if he feels like it, of course.  Debt is a common theme in letters from this period.  When Hugh and Robert’s father died in 1810, he left a substantial debt from building Aughalane, the family home.  The brothers are still trying to remit money back to Ireland to pay this off.


Milton NC November 27th 1824

My Dear Robert,

From contents of a letter just received from our mutual friend James Reed I am astonished to find that you have not received my letter of 18 Sept.  He does not speak of another from Andrew forwarded at the same time which I presume has met the same fate.  These cursed irregular mails and negligent postmasters are likely to break the chain of our correspondence and give us both cause for anxiety and unhappiness.  Hereafter I wish you to write me once every two months, whether you receive a letter from me or not, and oftener when you hear from me – I will pursue the same plan in future.

Since my return to this place, I have had two letters from Andrew, one from Mr Boyle, one

Aughalane, Robert and Hugh's family home in Ireland

from Mr. Beaty, and some other friend in that country – all of which contains the most pleasing intelligence from home, except what relates to our dear beloved & lamented Eliza.  Let us not repine Robert – It was God’s will & it is our duty to submit.  My Mother had received your letter directed to me in Ireland and one from Mr. Wiley, describing your new situation in St. Louis.  I have written her and Andrew last week & requested both to write you immediately.

When I last wrote you everything relative to my late visit was fresh in my memory & I gave you a general summary of all news in which I thought you would feel any interest.  Perhaps I may fail to do as well now but I will try to condense as much as possible in this sheet.  Tomorrow I start to Richmond via Raleigh in business – on my return I shall write you again.  Dan Wilson of Omagh died suddenly in July last – Sister Peggy died in April – Sister Margery & husband are somewhere in this country, but not contented – Sally Catherine & Mary much as usual – Our dear sister Anne is unhealthy and has begun To spit blood – Mother is quite well – neither could write me.

While in Ireland I rented out the land held by the different tenants for the space of 10 years from Nov 1824 (present) at the annual sum of about £66.10s.  Mother retains about 9 acres around the house.  Her rents are to be paid over to Andrew McFarland.  Gabriel Walker lives in Glencopagaugh at the yearly rent of [missing].  There is a new house there and I suppose it will hereafter be well taken care of.  Andrew is struggling along as usual.  His little daughter Bess was a lovely interesting child when I was there – another (called Mary) has been born since I left Ireland.  I was highly pleased with Andrew & his little family when amongst them.  He don’t drink a drop of spirit now of any description except a little wine.  I settled with Billy of Glengaw for £53.13.9 – paid him £15 and gave notes for balance @ 18mo.  I expended $500 amongst my friends including expenses of tour and did every thing in my power to make all happy.  My efforts were successful – they were pleased beyond my expectations with every thing I did – but I left them without bidding farewell!  I could not support a parting scene with Eliza.  None of them wish you to go home, untill you are independent at least.  I have arranged business in such a way, that they have now no trouble with farm or tenants.  Don’t stay in St. Louis, if you think it unhealthy – no matter about your situation – go elsewhere should there be the least danger.  I could better support the death of any other of our family (except Mother) than yours – if you can do half as well elsewhere, leave it in the spring.

Page one of this letter

With respect to my worthy friend James Reed’s affairs, they shall be attended to – Uncle John could not at this moment spare $30 to all the friends he has – of course John Reed’s journey here will be fruitless, and indeed worse than useless, though we shall be very glad to see him.  The old people are becoming less able to attend to business & consequently more embarrassed in money matters.  I see them often and do all I can to assist every way in my power.  Their house will always be open, as their hearts, to their relatives but their purses are too tight to be of any service at present.  We shall be required to see James here should he come this way in the spring.

A few weeks ago I had a letter from David Kyle Junr offering to take me in as a partner in Richmond – William & David Kyle will dissolve at Christmas and William proposes giving up the old house In Richmond to David & me.  Our Mr. K. is not willing to part with me & offers to give me five thousand dollars in VA money as a present at the expiration 2 years from my return (Sept. 1826) and the use of his credit to any extent, to establish business on my own footing if I stay with him untill that time expires.  Either proposition is beyond my expectation – I have not yet resolved which to accept, but will determine in a day or two.  I will write you on my return from Richmond more decidedly on this important subject.  You see fortune smiles on me at length.

Should I consent to stay in Milton I will remit one thousand dollars to Ireland for the use of my good old mother for payment of debt in the course of a year.  In either case should I become possessor of more than a decent support, the surplus shall go to my friends – marriage I have no idea of at present and in all probability never may.  Let such be your views Robert, and our change of residence will not be in vain.  You ought to write home directly.  I understand that sister Ann has written you on 7th Sept.

I procured situations for four of my ship mates today – George Boyle with W & D Kyle, James McKimmon of Trinamadin with R & H Kyle Raleigh.  David Rogers with R. Kyle Oxford & Robert Stevenson of Strabum in this store. Robert Wiley is still the same amiable character – Ezekiel Anderson is doing pretty well in Rockingham – Mr. Kyle’s family are always friendly – I subscribed for the Milton Gazette for you – Do you receive it?  Shall I send you any other papers?  Or can I do any thing to add to your happiness – If so, write me & it shall be done.  The Doctor is still the same – our business has been quite brisk lately – Kerr has opened at Clarksville VA about 44 miles east of this & is doing tolerably – Fare thee well, Robert

Hugh Campbell

Shortly after my return to Milton I had reason to suspect James Mathey (the young fellow who came shortly after departure).  I searched his drawer and found that he had purloined from the firm between 200 & 300 dolls.  Mr. Kyle was not at home – I took what cash he had from him & dismissed the scoundrel – His parents live in Derry & are very mean – this you see we had a second edition of John Monaghan in Milton.

[Side page 1]

When I advise you to adopt a plan similar to mine I don’t mean to delay you from offering at Hymen’s altar – I should rejoice (my dear Robert) to hear that you had made choice of a helpmate for life if it were a prudent one – but in this I shall leave you to act as you please

[Side page 2]

I received yours of 13 Oct & a Missouri paper – I trust [?] you write better than formerly – If convenient you can send me occasionally only any paper [missing] something curious – don’t make me a regular subscriber – your western papers are not worth esteem here.

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