Sunday, January 16, 2022

1853 Letter from William, Traveling to Eastport, Maine, to Wife Mary in Boston, Massachusetts, area; Searching for "Family" of Caretakers

Letter dated June 29, 1853 from William, visiting at Eastport, Maine, to his wife Mary, with daughter Ella, back home, presumably in the Boston, Massachusetts, area.  

William, who is on a mission to procure a "family" to help his household at home, is not impressed by the rocky aspects of the Maine coast.  If he can't find a "family", he will have to consider some single girls.

Transcription at the end of this post - any corrections gratefully received, as well as theories as to William's identity.

Another guest at the Mabee Hotel where William is staying has this advice: go to "Prince Edwards Island", as there are an abundance of such families who have nothing to do - and are of Scotch descent. 

People and places mentioned in the letter:
  • Mary - William's wife in the Boston, Massachusetts, area; daughter Ella
  • Cousin Mary, presumably also in the Boston area
  • Portland, Maine - 15 minute stop - he observed a Lighthouse, a Railroad and Neal Dow (1804-1897), of Maine Liquor Law fame, on the wharf 
  • Machias Light
  • "Grand Monand Island" - Grand Manan Island
  • Admiral Owen - owner of Campobello Island - Admiral William Owen
  • Dr. Richardson -  Dr. Erastus Richardson (1794-1855) and wife - see another post that features an 1840 letter to Dr. Richardson from his daughter Mary Lydia Richardson (1823-1907), future wife of Thomas Hammond Talbot (1823-1907)
  • Mr. Billing, wife and daughter - son in law of Dr. Richardson; married to the youngest Richardson daughter - William B. Billings, husband of Frances E. (Richardson) Billings (1830-1874)
  • Mabee's Hotel
  • Washington Street, Eastport, Maine
  • Custom House, Eastport, Maine
  • British Consul Office
  • Fort Sullivan with a Colonel, two Lieutenants and a garrison of soldiers
  • George, back home
  • William, letter writer

One of Dr. Richardson's interesting observations was that there was a good deal of Aristocratic feeling in the place and the ladies consisted of two classes. The parlor and the kitchen girls no medium - poor & proud and how they contrived to get a living and comfortable support was more than he could tell. 


Eastport, Maine June 29, 1853
Dear Mary
I am at last in Eastport, having arrived here this afternoon at 1/2 past one o'clock after a very plesant trip so far as weather and good sea go to make a voyage plesant. I left Boston as I expected at 11 o'clock A.M. But Cousin Mary was not there to meet me - so I am all alone once more - The voyage was quite monotonous, nothing to see but just the rocky share of Maine in the distance. We arrived in Portland at 1/4 before 8 o'clock and made a stop of 15 minutes - jumped on shore so that I might say that I had been in the place. It seems to be a thriving place the eastern part is lately built over and looks new around the Lighthouse. The Rail Road runs along between the City and the water's edge and tends to make it look more business like. The business is mostly trade with the West Indies. When we arrived Neal Dow of Maine Liquor Law notoriety was on the wharf - having his eyes on what was going on. Two miserable sots aboard when we left gave three cheers for "Dow" and the Law" out of spite - they were then so drunk that they could hardly stand much to their discredit. we left the wharf at 8 o'clock - and I turned in for the night and slept soundly until about 5 o'clock My eyes felt and looked as though they had been boiled and smarted like pepper - in the morning were well in shore, which was nothing but barren rocks with a little stunted wood upon it and a few Island interspersed along the shore. Now and then a few headland find their way to the water - but otherwise it is not very high. We came in sight of Machias light about 11 o'clock leaving them to the south and next made Grand Monland Island [Grand Manan Island] which was left about Southeast of us 20 miles from the main land and run around the Island which belongs to Admiral Owen of the British Navy - and lays east of Eastport. After I arrived I brushed up a little and called upon Doct. Richardson, found him at home - also his son in law Mr. Billing who married his youngest daughter and arrived with his wife and child in the same Boat with me. I saw also Mrs. Richardson - was very politely received and was invited to tea, which I did not think advisable to accept until tomorrow. He racked his brain for me and finally concluded to let the old gossip of the place know my errand across the way and the morrow I expected to be frosted. Good night to you & Ella.

June 30th - It is quite plesant this morning and I have been looking over the island and I find it nothing but sterile rocks with now and then a tree upon it. The people live by fishing and logging. The Doctor told me that there was a good deal of Aristocratic feeling in the place and the ladies consisted of two classes. The parlor and the kitchen girls no medium - poor & proud and how they contrived to get a living and comfortable support was more than he could tell. I suppose I shall have to go back into the country a ways to find what I want. At any rate, I am laying my plans for a general scour and I shall be able very soon to know what I can do.  
I am stopping at "Mabee's Hotel". The Landlord is an old sailor. And the sign swings on a pole before the house. It has a steamboat on one side and Gen. Taylor giving orders to Capt. May to storm the Battery on the other. By the way, the Street is called Washington St. and on one side it is all planked the whole length of the street and Doct. Richardson lives at the head. You must know that this is the promenade and that the Custom House is close by and the British Consul office right above us. The street is very narrow and steep and I can go down at an easy pace. On the hight of land overlooking the town is situated "Fort Sullivan" with a garrison of soldiers on duty. Officers one Colonel and two Lieutenants a regular dog life they live. They drill about 3 hours per day and sentries are on duty the whole time. About 60 miles from here they catch salmon and close off the shore they catch Cod & Haddock in any quantity, Haddock bring the enormous sum of 1/2 cent per pound after it is all dressed. I am awful lonesome here and shall be glad when I get home once more. I intend to finish up business this time so that I shall not have to go from home again. It is as cold as September here now but in an hour it may be as hot as Dog-days. Take good care of yourself and Ella until come back and look out for mad dogs, cats & c__. As for the garden, pick and eat and spare not, on my account - but be sure and not get sick.

July 1 - I called on the Doctor last evening and took "tea". I think he is a very fine man and his wife is a very fine woman indeed. He will ride over the island with me today and call on those that he thinks will answer. And if I can find none here I shall strike off into the interior. One old gentleman at the Hotel from the western part of the State advises me to go to "Prince Edwards Island" as there are an abundance of such families who have nothing to do - and are of Scotch descent. But it will take me a week to get there and back from this place. It is one complete mass of fog this morning yet. I think it will clear off before noon for the sun is trying hard at times to get a peep at the "Earth" if rocks can be called such.

Tell George all about what I am doing and tell him to write me. If I cannot get such a family as we want I must get some single girls. The Boat starts for Boston this morning and I wish I was one of the passengers, don't you? Kiss Ella for me and let Ella kiss you - and I trust I shall be home soon. The breakfast bell is ringing and I must bid you good morning. Write often - say every other day - And think of me as your affectionate
I cannot stop to read it over -

Sadly the map below cannot give the option to travel by sea, let alone to travel by sea, then by land across the Isthmus of Chignecto and then again by sea to Prince Edward Island, but it will have to do.

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