W0889 TO MARGARETTE B. [LERNED] MCQUESTEN from her sister Louisa [Lerned] McAllaster
May 21 1837
To: Margarette Lerned McQuesten, Brockport, New York, [U.S.A.]
From: Hopkinton, New Hampshire, [U.S.A.]
While seated by the window holding my head, the thought occurred if deprived of attending meeting by a severe headache, can I not write with one hand & still rest my aching head? Immediately, commenced though a very long time since I have written to anyone lest I might grieve the feelings of sisters by giving them the same story, disappointment, doing nothing, discontented &c. My health is not good, & family cares press more heavily than I ever knew before. We have had boarders ever since we came in this house which adds greatly to my other cares. I sometimes try to look forward hoping for better days but the prospect grows darker. I so desire to learn the lesson St. Paul taught us in whatever state to be content, but I find it a hard lesson. I cannot at all times feel submissive in the unsettled state we are in, but give way to days of weeping & heart felt discontent. Husband is poor & I believe no better contented than I am, but he knows not what step to take--he knows if he stays here much longer he must stay till another spring as the same would prevent this fall that did two years ago, my health. So it is! I desire to be reconciled--I call upon no one, visit only my kitchen and occasionaly [sic] at Marys. I have no wish to mingle in society, but prefer home & yet I feel unwilling to call this home, but enough!1
Your letter was a welcome treat as they are now "like angel's visits so few & far between" yet my dear they are a source of comfort, they are heart searching & awaken my stupid soul. Of late there has been more attention than usual on the subject of religion particularly in the Baptist Church. I was surprised to learn that Mr. Kelley is boarding out & that his health was so feeble, surely he must like all others who have lived in sin, have bitter cause of reproach. The death of Mrs. [Wishner?] was very sudden, I think you have many sudden deaths at B.
Never was such a time known as the present, so many failures, all confidence lost, every thing very high, and dull, dull times. How I should delight to be settled near you within a days ride or more & think Hugh would like to open a tavern if he could obtain a good one & come to some settlement with land & his agent. I wish sis, I could feel to send L. Jane to spend a few months with you, she is a good girl & would be a great deal of company for you. I should be willing to have her go if she had a motherly friend to go with her.
Mary has joined the Episcopal Church & had her children all baptized. Daniel spends every Sabbath at home. Aunt Woods is living but is no better. Mrs. Brock went off in good spirits but I guess she will think often of her good home left behind. May day--when you was writing me, I was seated by a blazing fire, with Mother & M Chadwick both at work for me thinking of good old times, & looking with wonder at my great girls, who were dressing to attend a May day party at Mr. Davis's they live in Dr. Colby's house.
Catharine is very pale & Mother says her health is not good. I expect she confines herself to painting, and ornamental needlework instead of house work & plain sewing though I knew not but precious little about her, she calls occasionally at the door but does not stop. Hannah & Lucy have spent a week with me. H is a fine girl very steady, industrious & has the love of all. Lucy is good hearted & talkative as ever. Elizabeth as tall as you & could overlook you, she is pretty but not so open hearted. Mary appears very happy never has any thing to trouble her.
I do not think Mother is so happy as Mary though I have not lately heard her mention any trouble, a family of children my dear is a constant source of anxiety. A cup of coffee I could not join you in, but the Johnny Cake I would have tonight if we had meal or could even get by borrowing. Mrs. Estabrook is at Concord quite a belle. William & family leave soon for Alabama, he has failed for a great sum. I do not see Mrs. Hutchins as I go no where not even to return calls. Mary [?] is a rogueish girl smart to work. Sarah is an oddity, cannot sew or read no inclination to learn. Yes, Alfred is "stout" enough just such a form & head as father had & a very bright boy, he knows and does everything that the rest do--can talk quite well and is the pet of the house.
[Following sentence crossed out:] Among the many failures Dustin has lost all. Bonnets worn here are white & straw coloured satin very large & Florence Braid. The murder caused much excitement at the Bridge but not much in this village--the murderer is in Jail. Now my dear have I not answered every question you asked me? I believe I have. By the bye writing about Indian Cake made me so anxious to taste one for you & myself too, that I have just sent into Mrs. French & borrowed enough for supper to eat with boil'd ham. Oh M. if you could but have a bite of it.
June 5th Monday P.M. When I commenced this letter two weeks ago I expected it to go immediately as I heard Philip Brown was going West, & now I have heard a Mr. Colby started tomorrow and you must take it as though it was the very best, for I have not much [?] about me. I have seen Mrs. Estabrooks since writing the above she sent much love to you. L. Stanwood is now on a visit to Exeter, Mrs. Burleigh in one of her letters mentioned "the dear little Margarette" inquiring about you, & Mayor Bailey failed last week at the bridge & Mr. Solomon Phelps died. Mrs. P. has two sons. Mr. Sargeant & wife have run their [?] soon at Boston dash'd out in style for a few months, rich furniture, houses, stove &c. & are now once more in their old house living up stairs with the old lady as Mr. Knowlton lives in the lower part--part of their furniture on the way back again.
Alfred has been rather unfortunate, last winter he fell into the fire with both hands & burned him badly & a few weeks ago fell with his left arm into a [?] kettle of boiling apple sauce. The skin came off from his arm pit to his fingers ends he is now well, attended meeting yesterday & a third service [?] Church. Mrs. Harvey left her seat before services commenced "to see this sweet boy." Mother has been sewing for me 4 days expect her again tomorrow she often says "What would Margarett say to see such and such an [sic] one." By the bye Caroll after a three months ramble has got back to Concord & Mr. Mac goes down tomorrow to see if he cannot get up his papers. I will write you the result if favourable as soon as we ascertain.
I do feel now as though we may start for, I know not where before many weeks. I do hope not to be disappointed. I have thought much of Oswego but what a [?] to journey with such a family & my health not good. If any thing new or a good place seen on your Canada excursion let us know.2 We have a great deal of rain and some very heavy thunder showers, it rained 14 days in May. If you have [?] paper please to plait in 6 plaits green or some dark colour & put on your glass 5 sheets trimmed mine 2 at top one at bottom & [?] no cut paper now. [?] M [?] another son. I believe my little ones love you much for they think as much of a letter as I do from B. Did not see Charles last Friday when he pass'd, mother & I as we sat at the window sewing he call'd at Mothers & left letter. Thank you kindly for the Moral Reform it goes through the village send as often as you please--[?] to a garden we go shares with Mrs. Stanbery in her half, husband does the work for her, so much rain that every thing is very backward, thought much of you your birth day. Write often. Give much love to Dr. & Edward and accept a large share from your affectionate Sister
Louisa [Lerned McAllaster].
What bonnet do you wear? [?] &c. Mrs. Cole who lives with mother is acquainted with Mrs. McClure, Dr.'s lady. Dr. will feel quite [?] again. Yesterday Daniel commenced attending meeting at Mr. Kimballs. Hugh Alfred takes his drum & drums through the street up to Aunt Marys, runs away after his father & in fact I must go [?] his [?]. M. can watch him. Should you be willing? Mother says you would love him.
Sam Chase married the girl he was crazy for & in 2 months after he was father. Tell E. his friend Sawyer will soon be father, his girl 32, he 18.
[Envelope wrapper:] Mrs. Margarette B. McQuesten, Brockport, N. York
1 Louisa (Lerned) McAllaster was the sister of Margarette (Lerned) McQuesten and Mary (Lerned) Flanders and half-sister to Catharine, Edward, Elizabeth, Hannah and Lucy Lerned. Her husband, Hugh McAllaster, was not particularly successful in his financial endeavours and moved his family numerous times in search of his fortune.
In 1832, the McAllasters were apparently staying with the Flanderses, but by the spring of 1833 had moved to Sandbornton Bridge where Hugh had rented a store. That summer, Hugh stopped selling rum because of the growing temperance movement but worried that this would cause his business to fail since alcohol was a very profitable commodity. However, his lease on the property quickly ran out and he considered moving to Brockport where Margarette and Dr. Calvin McQuesten were living at that time.
Two years later, Hugh wrote to Calvin about becoming involved in land speculation in Maine where he hoped to make thousands of dollars as he claimed that many others had done. In November of 1836 he wrote to say that he had jointly purchased land with several other men, each man investing $20 000. Unfortunately, all of the profitable business propositions concerning the land that had materialized soon fell through. In a letter to Calvin in August of 1837, Hugh remarked "I have given up all hope of a final settlement & think there is little prospect of...our obtaining a title of a foot of land or recovering any portion of the money we have paid or even obtaining our securities." In the same letter, Louisa remarks to her sister "[l]ast eve I saw Hugh while writing this to Dr. [McQuesten] weep like a child. Oh! I pity him, pity him so kind, affectionate, honest and sincere to lose by the art & duplicity of others" (W0897).
In October of 1854, Hugh moved the family to Cleveland Ohio but was disappointed there also, spending much time unemployed. His daughter, Louisa Jane, secretly wrote to Dr. McQuesten about the sad condition of her family and of her father especially, and Calvin responded by sending much needed funds. The family moved to Clinton Iowa in 1856 (W1021, W1026).
Hugh died in 1874 and his daughters Louisa Jane and Lucy were living with one of their brothers in Chicago. They put in claims on the estate of their aunt Elizabeth Lerned, who died on November 24, 1874 without leaving a will. Eventually they signed a quit claim but there had already been much anger and controversy surrounding the estate particularly because of Mary Flanders' insistence that it was her right to heir from her half-sister (W1054, W1064, W1091).
For more on the McAllasters, see W0565, W0484, W0651, W0679, W0701, W0781, W0801, W0810, W0833, W0841, W0857, W0869, W0897, W1174, W0175, W1042.
2 Dr. Calvin McQuesten was making arrangements to move to Canada at this time. He had already opened his foundry there at Hamilton, Upper Canada, and his cousin/partner John Fisher was operating the foundry. The McQuesten's son Calvin Brooks was born in Hamilton, Ontario on October 27 according to Whitehern records. However near the bottom of W0906, Dr. McQuesten writes to his mother-in-law on October 30 that his first son was born "five days since at this hour," indicating that Margarette had actually given birth to little Calvin Brooks on the 25th. To learn more about Margarette Barker Lerned [McQuesten] please see W0609.