W1021 TO DR. CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his niece Louisa Jane McAllister
Aug 8 1855
To: Dr. Calvin McQuesten Hamilton, Canada West [Ontario]
From: Cleveland, [Ohio]
Dr. Calvin McQuesten
Hamilton, Canada West
You probably dear Uncle, will be surprised to receive an epistle from me. I trust however that you will excuse the liberty, that I have taken in addrefsing [sic] you, as I feel it my duty to appeal to you, however unpleasant the task may be that I have undertaken. It is a case of emergency, else, I would not trouble you. For it is on behalf of my poor Father I would now speak we fear that unless some assistance is rendered him he cannot live long. Do not dear Uncle, cast this aside, but listen to me, while I tell you of our suffering, our extreme need.1 You have wealth, you live in magnificence, can you then picture to yourself my dear Father, with his family suffering for the bare necessities of life. I ask not neither do I wish you to give us anything. You have already been very kind to us, and we all feel grateful to you, this is why it is unpleasant for one to ask a favour of now. But what can I do, to whom can I apply! I am willing to be censured for my dear Father Sake, therefore I do implore to lend us a helping hand. It is nothing but poverty, and the fear that my beloved care worn [sic] parent will not be spared to us long. What I now appeal to you, Uncle, the thought is agonizing, I do not care for myself, I am still young. But old age is fast creeping upon my Father, his health is failing, his flesh had left him--and he is fast wearing out--Will you not assist him? O do not refuse, Alfred and I will repay you as soon as it is in our power, we will, as we have already done, deny ourselves, every thing until you are repaid. We have tried to do so, yet everything seems to be against us. I was engaged as teacher of Drawing & Painting, at the Seminary in this city, but was obliged to leave, as there were no scholars that wished to take lessons.
My health is not good for the three past summers I have been under the care of a Physician, having had fevers, neuralgia in my head, which at times rendered me insane, and for months, have been twice up with fevers & ague. Still if I can find anything to do, I will most willingly labour. I have applied for drawing and also for scholars in Painting. Alfred is a most excellent boy, steady, and willing to work hard--When he first came to Cleveland, he entered a store as clerk, but last fall businefs [sic] was dull, and all were complaining of hard times, a great many young men were thrown out of employment, and Alfred among the number as there was little businefs only the old clerks were retained. In the Spring Father rented a small house, with six acres of land under cultivation, two miles from town. Father & Alfred, have worked hard all summers, but with the utmost economy, we cannot possibly pay the rent from month to month, according to agreement--Father is now oweing [sic] about one hundred dollars, and has not means of paying a cent of it, as the owner of the place is a hardhearted Irish man, we fear that the crops will be attacked. When we moved into the place, we expected to pay the rent, but the peach trees were all winter killed, and all that we shall have is a few apples from some young trees. We were also in the hopes that we should raise enough from the garden to take to market, but oweing to frequent rains the deeds did not come up, although planted over several times. We have not any of us spent one cent for any article of clothing this year, and also lived very retired, having seen on one [sic] this summer but Uncle Tilden's family. Our food, had consisted of Indian meal, and the small potatoes we could not send to market, as we had no money to buy flour, meat or even sugar for our tea, sometimes we have had butter, often not any. Many times have I seen Father sit down to the table with the tears coursing down his cheeks, as has seen Howard who has not been well, unable to taste a mouthful of food set before him. If we could only have a cow that we might have milk to live upon, we could be quite happy but we were unable to purchase, although we have pasture land enough for one.
I know that what have I written will seem to you exagerated [sic], but I have only given you a faint idea of what we have endured. Could you but see my Father, who had always led so different a life, now toiling from morn till night, without a covering for his feet, and yet unable to maintain his family, you would pity him. Now Uncle, will you not lend him some money that he may go into some kind of business, or find some employment for him. If we had the means we would like to go to Iowa, and buy a little land where it is so cheap that we may rid ourselves of having such enormous rents as we now have to pay. Alfred has made up his mind to become a farmer and all that is wanting is for some kind friend to give us a lift. Where we shall find such an one, I know not, unless it is you. I know dear Uncle, that you have money to assist, but we will do all in our power to repay you as soon as possible, if you see fit to lend us anything. We have no one else to go to but you, as all our friends have a hard time to get along. Hewy has a very extravagant wife who keeps him in debt, Uncle Tilden would be glad to assist us, but he has a very large and expensive family, who to economise as much as possible. No one knows of my writing this perhaps I have done wrong, if so, forgive me, but what led me to take this humiliating step, was hearing from home yesterday that the landlord had for Father to pay him the rent due him immediately which made Father pass sleepless nights, besides confining him to his bed the next few days.
No one will ever know of my writing this would you choose to answer it, as I am now away from home spending a short time at Uncle Tilden's five miles from where we reside. Please let no one know at the East know anything that I have written as Lucy is the only one there who knows our condition. Pardon me for detaining you thus long, and if I have committed an error in thus addrefsing you, it is through ignorance, my motive is good.
Louisa J. McAllister [McAllaster]
Cleveland, August 8th/55
1 Hugh McAllaster, Louisa Jane's father, made many bad business choices and the family often struggled financially. Dr. McQuesten responded to this letter within a week, sending money to the family (W1026). See W0889 for more details and links about the McAllaster family.