Wm.Erskine to Alex. Shields % Cap.n James Trumbel, Craftsbury Postmarked Athens, PA Jun.14 183/4 Galston, April 1841
We received your letter of the 8th February. We were happy to be informed that you were all well and getting on prosperously. We were likewise hapy to hear from our friends and acquaintances. But was a little dissapointed to hear nothing of Charles Barber [not in 1850 census], John Nisbet [Greensboro 1850 had 8 Vt. born children, m. to Janett], nor John Cuthbertson [Greensboro 1850 had 4 Vt. born children, m. to Ann]. We are in our ordinary state of health. My Father in Law Robt. Shields is very much failed, he has wrought none at his trade since May last, and comparitively little this two years. He is scarce able to go to Darvel Church and home in one day. He amuses himself when able at fishing. Hugh is still healthful and strong at his advanced age but not able to do much.
With regard to news I am at a loss to know what may be most interesting to you. My wife Betty has had a son about three weeks since, his name is Hugh. We have 4 sons and 1 Daughter, 5 in all of a family. You may not have heard of Hugh Woodburn’s Death in January last, and of your Brother James Shields nearly two years since. John and James Dow for a number of years after their father’s Death continued his business till about 5 years since James left John and took a shop for himself and lately after got married to Hellen Young of Meadowfoot but falling in to drink and loose habits he failed in business in about 18 months after his commencement. He and his wife then went and lived with John and his mother for some time and in May 1838 John gave up his business and they all went toCampbleton and there rented a farm and did not succeed. They left it in about a year after, having lost all and something in debt. John and his mother came toGlasgow and James and his wife came to this place and wrought for some time, but behaving still badly he and his wife parted. He went again to Glasgow and she is at present living at Loudon Kirk. John is engaged in a shop at 1 Pound per week, and James likewise at 10/ a week. There is an iron work lately erected near Galston. It has brought a number of strangers to the town, but has made no improvement in the morals of the people, as drinking, swearing, and Sabbath profanation is carried on to an alarming degree. There is likewise a tile work beside the town; tile draining is become very general through Ayrshire since you left Scotland and I think is the greatest improvement ever came into it. Their method of doing is to level the land and put a drain in each fur of 18 foot rigs. The most part of the land is so done.
There is a great cry got up among the lower class or what used to be radicals for their charter. They hold chartist meetings; they form themselves into Chartist societies. They have Chartist Preachers of common tradesmen among themselves and even profanes the ordinence of baptism by administering it [amongst themselves].
Trade is rather dull for the most part and living very high. Potatoes 15 & 16 Pence per peck, meal 18 shillings per boll, Cheese 14 and 15 shillings per stone, fresh butter was from 18 pence to 2 shilling per trou Pound.
I have wrought in the Gauchaland Quarrie for 8 or 9 years, and the last 4 years I have been engaged as foreman. My wages is twelve shillings in winter and 16 in summer per week. Margaret Young of Meadowfoot has been complaining this sometime. I think she is consumptive. The rest of your friends so far as I know is all well. You ask our opinion of the Church of Scotland and the patronage question. I can say but little on the subject for Lord Brougham [crossed out] Milbourneat the head of her Majesty’s government has declared his intention of leaving her to the law of the land, but I think something must be done, for there is meetings in all most every Parish and headed by a number of the clergymen and petitions coming in from all quarters signed by thousands of all ranks. [This agitation followed the “Great Disruption” of 1834 from which grew the Free Kirk.]
With regard to popery I think it is greatly on the encrease. To give you some idea I will give you a statement of what was in a publication printed in1834. In the year of 1793 the number of Roman Catholic chapels in England and Scotland did not amount to 20 and now in 1833 there are upwards five hundred. What a prodigious increase in the space of 40 years! In 1792 there were only 2 Popish seminaries of Education in England in 1833 there are upwards of 50. In 1792 there were no Popish Colleges in England, now there are 9 regular Colleges overflowing with students. Even during the years 1831 and 1832 there was an increase of 10 Roman Catholic chapels in England and 7 in Scotland. We have often heard of the superior education and intelligence of the lower orders of the people of Scotland, yet this would certainly seem to intimate that these are not sufficient to resist the progress of Popery. Our new testimony in general gives satisfaction, indeed the new has little difference from the old one, the doctrinal part is shorter and in some things more plain, particularly anent the difference with the Secession Church.
My Father in Law would feel very happy if you felt it convenient to come and see him as he will never be able to come and see you. At all events we hope you will write us soon. Letters here is carried cheap now. Your last letter cost us only 8 pence; we can send a letter through the kingdom by paying 1 penny.
Let us know particularly if you can about Mr. Neilson as his Brother in Kilmarnock is very anxious to know what he is doing. [name not is census records forEast Hill.] I have made all the enquiry I can about Andrew Young but can get no word and so must conclude. May the Peace of God the father and the good will of him who dwelt in the bush be with you and us.
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