[visual emphasis added e.g. Watson]
Pittsburgh January 8th 1821
Very dear Father and Mother, Brothers and Sisters,
I have been looking most anxiously for
a letter from you for some time, I can safely say that I have
been at the post office more than thirty times lately, about two
weeks since I loosed one for N. Gibson, and a few days ago one for Jos. Stephenson, I carried them to the persons, expecting to
have heard something in them relative to you, but nothing respecting
you was mentioned in either of them, the last Letter I received
from you was dated April 28th 1820, the last I wrote was dated,
if I mistake not about the latter end of August last.
A week or two after that, I left Pine Creek, from two or three considerations, one was that they begun to be more reluctant in making settlements with their Labourers, and more unwilling to pay their wages, another was that they were going to reduce the wages from Seventy five to sixty two and a half cents a day and I did not feel disposed to work for any less than the former wages, another was that Mr. Belknass droped a few ungenerous expressions relative to my going to the Camp Meeting, and from thence to Jos. Gibsons, without asking his liberty; During the time of harvest I asked him more than two or three times, to have a day to go and help Jos. Gibson to reap, but he would not consent for me to go as he had his own concerns in hand, and as I saw that my going would be a little disadvantage to him I did not take the liberty, but as harvest was now over and no part of his work urgent nor would suffer any injury from my absense two or three days and me being hired by the day, under these sircumstances was I going to ask when I might go to a camp Meeting or to visit a friend,? No not at all. -
Upon the whole Belknass was a good Master, but of a remarkable quick temper, I generally tried to humour him a little, and I am not certain whether any under his works agreed better than him and I, we also parted good friends, when I got a settlement, I observed that I was obliged to him for the employment which I have had under him, he said he did not think there was any obligations on either side, for I had got his money and he had got my work, I had about fifty Dollars due to me half of which I have got and expects the rest in a day or two.
I then came to Pittsburgh and boarded with a young Englishman and his wife, who lately came from Carlisle, of the name of Pearson, (a Class mate of mine) for two Dollars per week boarding and washing I had not been here many days before I got a Singing School established, I had wrote an article before and given it to an Englishman whom I was acquainted with, and who I much esteem, he and other two young men from Ireland very worthey characters too, one of them a Local preacher of the name of Mr. Fielding who lately married one of Mr. Wrenshalls Daughters these three as they were acquainted with people desired to collect schollars which was a great accommodation to me, they mentioned it to none but respectable well behaved persons.
I was requested to come to teach Singing by Wrenshall & Cooper and some of the principal persons in Society, yet I wished to move in as concealed a manner as possible. I therefore consented to teach a School after it was made up, I did not take more than three or four Names myself. I always find, particularly in such a town as this that is the least said the soonest mended. I forsaw an Evil in this way of proceeding as you may easily perceive, for there was many who was members of Society, that was overlooked and refused the privilege of subscribing, we agreed to take only forty into the School, that number was soon made up of members of the Methodist Society and chiefly those who moves in pretty high rank in life, this produced some disagreeable feeling in the Minds of those who was denied the privilege, and gave rise to a great deal of talk, some called it the Rich respectable School, some the Select School (as it certainly was) some called it the English Singing School, as nearly half of them was English people, under these sircumstances I consulted the preacher wh. was the best way to try to remove these feelings and it was thought best to commence another.
Accordingly Mr. Kentley (one of the preachers) published it in the Meeting, that as the other one was made up any that wanted to learn Music might meet and I would attend at such a place in town, so we made up a School there of about thirty five persons, chiefly members of Society and civil well behaved people too from about the age of sixteen to twenty four of both sexts I only charged this Seventy five cents each a quarter and they found Candles, I made little books with blue pasteboard backs and put the tunes in that we learnt and let them keep them, I recd. pay at the common current for this School.
Still I was afraid there would not be that union between the Schools as there ought to be, but to remove all objections of this kind some of the principal scholars belonging to the first, occasionally attended this one too, and allowed these to visit the first, Shortly after this Mr. Davis desired us to sit together in the Meeting house, accordingly both Schools met together generally half an hour before preaching.
The first School was held in the house of one Mr. Wm. Schooley an Englishman who I mentioned before us giving the article to at first, they let us have the room two Evenings in the week and fire and would take nothing for it I think it is the finest front room that I ever was in the walls is all papered, and a fine Carpet on the floor and Excellent green Chairs to sit on, and most superb furniture in it the Quarter is now out in it a week ago after we begun it with forty Schollars we took in other five; this school was chiefly composed of persons of polite easy Manners, of affable dispositions, and religious behaviour; it was conducted with the greatest regularity and decorum, We commenced and concluded always with prayer, and sometimes an exhortation, we had some in it that was Class leaders, we really sometimes sung with the spirit as well as the understanding, this I laboured to enforce that we might find it profitable, and I have seen sometimes when we have been singing several has been in tears, and at times myself, particularly when I thought about hearing the same tunes in my Native Country.
I felt my mind a good deal impressed sometimes toward the conclusion of this School, with divine things, wh. led me by the help of the Lord to speak a word in his name by way of Exhortation, which was rendered a blessing to us all as many of us had left our Native homes and had undergone similar trials and exercises, our feelings was much excited by observing that everlong faithful relations would be gathered from the four winds of the earth to meet where parting is no more (May this be all our portion) we had the finest treble in this school I ever heard in all my life as you may readly imagine when I tell you that we had twenty three young woman mostly about the age of Eighteen or twenty (only two Married) and these all had good tuneable voices except one, we learnt your tunes in the most part, which are these - Egypt, Orton, Townhead, Newbrooks, Peru, Rehamah, Advocate, Melody, Brity, Burnham, Station and a few more.
For the accommodation of the School we mentioned in the Article that none was expected to attend but those who signed their names, but any particular friend or acquaintance we took the liberty to let them go and hear us; one evening when we had a most excellent singing night Mr. Davis and Mr. Henley the two Itinerant preachers, and a Local preacher came to hear us and spoke very favourable of it. Davis gave out the Hymns and I played on the Clarinet; he has concerned himself more about the singing than any other preacher would have done.
As the leading men in the Singing and in the Society is English, the Irish Class leaders opposed our sitting together in the Meeting house, being of an Envious contentious spirit. And in the Leaders Meeting they got up one after another and made their objections, Davis sat still till they had done, and then he got up and reflected their objections one after another and spoke pretty direct, he observed that there was some persons (meaning them) who had prophesied the Singing would come to nothing; and least their prophecy should fail they were trying to bring it about themselves, Davis seeing there was more in favour than against it, let it be carried to a vote, and there was nine for it and six against it, these manifested their dispositions the Sunday following by refusing to stop, and receive the sacriment from Mr. Davis, but to state particulars would fill a volumn, being a kind of new thing, it was the principal topic of conversation for some weeks.
I had a Dollar per Quarter for the first school and I found candles it is about a wk. since it was out, I have got most of the pay there is no fear of getting the rest, the other school wants a few days yet of being out, I do not intend commencing another Quarter untill this be out and only having in the Neph; each school met two evenings in the week, and I had tunes to put into about eighty books so that my time was very much taken up.
I boarded with Pearson a few weeks, and as I had some spare time an Irishman had something to do about a new house, he had built, he is a Class leader, I lived six weeks with him, and got work that nearly paid for my boarding the time I was there. About a week since I came to Mr. Wm. Schooley and will likely remain here while I stop in Pittsburgh, they came from England three or four years since, they are certainly the friendliest people I have been acquainted with in this Country, there are many who apear very social and friendly for awhile, but generally the less you know of them, the more you esteem them, but I find such constancy and truth in these people that leads me to form the same favourable Idea of their Characters which I did when I first knew them, I had frequently took dinner with them before I came to live in Pittsburgh, (they have two Children). Misses Schooley is certainly a fine woman, and the best singer I ever heard (except it was my Aunt Nanny), she led the treble, we sung three parts sometimes, I played the Counter too, I often wished that Geo. had been here with his Instrument, wh. would have been a great help to us.
Jos. Stephenson generally attended with his Clarinet, him and I is remarkable intimate, his wife is a nice woman too, I can put a great deal of dependence in them, they are all in good health (you may tell their friends if you see them) little Thomas has been rather unwell lately but he is getting better again ( the Letter they got was from their Brother John), he is still following Butching and doing very well at present, I believe, him and his wife had to go on Christmas day to visit some acquaintances twelve Miles out in the Country, I was acquainted with some of them and was invited along with these two We had preaching that Morning at five Oclock, and it was astonishing to see so many attend at that hour, after the Meeting I got a horse and we all three rode into the Country, the old people came from Scotland, and has three Sons & a Daughter, Jos. and Elizabeth Stephenson came home that evening, but as I had nothing to fret about I stayed all night, and returned the next day.
The next thing you wanted to know if I had got my Money of Major Woooley, about the middle of last summer he was stationed to Boston and he went of without settling his affairs, and left his family here, he told me when he went away he could not possibly pay me then, but he would as soon as he came back again, he came back about two Months since, and stopt about a fortnight, during that time probably I was at him twenty times and he put me off from one time to another, I always kept my patience and manifested nothing but good humour.
People was running to him on all directions wanting money, and any that knew the concerns between him and me advised me, by all means to sue him for it, this I would not do if I had it would have been six months before I could got it at any rate, and him being near a thousand Miles of it might soon have been as much expence as it was worth, and moreover than this, I still had a secret impression from the manner he had always conducted himself towards me, and me towards him that he would pay me if he could get it, and if he could not it was impossible for me to get it anyway.
Two evening before he went away I went to see him, and I manifested some concern about it and observed that forty Dollars was more to me than a thousand was to some, and that while I had not wanted it I considered it as safe in his hands as in my own, He said he thanked me most ardently for my patience and kindness in letting him keep it so long, he said he had not got the Money that night, and he should have to go away two days after if there was Thirty Constables and three Sheriffs after him, but (says he) you may depend upon it that after all your kindness, I will not go away and leave you in the lurch, if I do not pay you tomorrow evening I will confess Judgment and give you security, or I will go with you to the jail, I said I was not afraid he would and I did not desire him to go to jail, for I believed if he could get it he would pay, and if he could not I would forgive him the Debt, well says he I know well enough that you are not afraid, but I only mentioned that to express my determination to pay you at that time as I wanted a Coat and trousers if he had concern with the Drapers I would take as much cloth as would make them, he said many of the Drapers would gladly let him have all the Goods that was on their shelves, on Credit, but he did not like paying debts that way, says he, I want to give you the Money into your hand and then you can buy your cloth where you can get it cheapest, I went the next evening and he counted me down forty one Dollars, (which was due) of the old bank of Pittsburgh wh. is as good as Silver for they give Silver for it, and other currant money has three per Cent on it, discount.
Cloths is very high still in this country, as my trousers & Coat was getting much worn I got three yards and a quarter of fine dark blue Cloth at 6 Dollars and a half per yard, the reason I went to this price was it being the cheapest I have seen in this Town, I got it of a young Englishman whom I got acquainted with he came lately from England with goods to here and sells by wholesale and as I took a fancy to this cloth he cut me that much off it the Wholesale price, I could not get any other as good under Nine Dollars, Making and trimmings cost Ten Dollars which made them Thirty one Dollars, And the winters are so intense cold here, that a person cannot do without a coat And that which I brought here was too little and too short, so I got it made into a straite coat, and I have given twelve Dollars for one ready made up, and one is often wanting things, as my mother says, my stockings and other things is wearing out, but I have cause to be thankful that as yet I have always had money to get things with.
I think I have made full as much this last three Months, as if I had been working, and have had the opportunity of getting to the Meetings and often into good company, perhaps I may never spend another winter with as much pleasure and satisfaction as I have done this one so far, it is very probable that I may go to the Country again in the spring as Pittsburgh is no good for Labourers.
I often wish I had been some kind of a Mechanic so that I could have remained in Pittsburgh, or if I had a hundred pounds Sterling I would have opened a Shop this next spring for there is much more made that way than by labouring, and I have got a great many acquaintances now in town, there is some who has money that would join me at a Shop and I pay him interest for the Money we would want to lay out (Interest is generally 6 per cent). But I do not consider him a person in whom that much confidence could be placed as to go into partnership with him, altho he is a Class leader for I have known serious consequences result from such things, and I have no thought of doing it, One might get an excellent shop and house for two hundred and fifty Dollars a year and others for less than half of that, if my Br. John had been here I durst have joined him.
With regard to times in America, Money is very scarse and bad to get, but it is much better what there is of it than it was, Provisions is exceeding low, flour 4 and 6 c per Cwt, Pork and Beef the best at 2c per pound, Tea 4c to 6c a pound, butter 7c, sugar 7c so that a family lives very well for very little I think for as little as a Single mans expenses, at their peril any more young men come from Weardale without wives, or else two Dollars in their pocket to pay for one here.
Land sells very low now, it is the best time to purchase now that has been for some years there was a place sold four miles from town last week, consisting of Seventy Acres forty of which was cleared and had twelve acres of excellent orchard on it, and was good land and was sold for ten Dollars an acre, Farmers does not make much Money, but they live well and easy and improves their farms against times be better for certainly the wheel is at the bottom now, or approximating near it, wages is just half now that they were when we came in they were a Dollar then in winter and they are generally half a Dollar now.
I have had my health very well since I wrote last, except sometimes having a Cold which I am a little subject, and Singing four Evenings in the week from six to nine Oclock, and a little on Sundays, so that I sometimes feel so hoarse that I cannot Sing at all, but in this case I am chearfully excused, yet I have never disappointed them I always make out to lead it, some way or other, being able to use an instrument has been of great service to me ( We use none in the Meeting house), in general I have my health better than I had at the Mines, and when I think of coming back to England, hardly can bear the idea of going to the Mines again, I prefer working above ground so much before it.
Be very careful to write as soon as you receive this and tell me all particulars, that was a good letter that Geo. sent me last, he must tell me if he has got on work yet or not, and where, Get a large sheet like this one, for they are the same expence, and be not afraid of telling me the worst things; I long very much for a letter from my Sister Nanny tell her to write to me shortly and let me know if she has the same views of the excellency of Religion as she used to have, & you my dear father & mother I want to hear from you, as you are now traveling down the declivity of Life, and feel some of the infirmities of advanced years or the effect of toil and labour, not I trust that the peace of God which passeth understanding is still your support and bears up your little Bark while in the boisterous ocean of time, Oh, that its waters may gently roll towards the "port of endless rest" altho you are sometimes "tossed on a sea of distress," and perhaps not altogether without fear of Sinking yet still encouraged "When thou passest through the water I will be with thee, Oh, that a Gentle Breeze from Sion's hill may fill the Sails of your resolutions and waft you heavenward, "Fear not" your blessed Saviour is at the Helm and knows well the Shoals and Dangers of the Channel. He will "guide you by his council and afterward bring you to Glory".
We have a most excellent revival of Religion at Pittsburgh , twenty or thirty is added to the Society almost every Month, Mr. Davis is in my humble opinion one of the best preachers I ever heard, except for Dr. Clark, he has certainly been made an instrument in the hands of God of Much Good. He preached last night from these words I will pray with the Spirit and with the understanding, I will sing with the Spirit and with the understanding also, he gave the opposers of Singing a reprimand, the chief subject of his discourse, was to enforce the necessity of Understanding and as there being exercised in all religious concerns, a very necessary subject.
We held a watch night untill the New Year came in which was a very solemn Season, and yesterday we had the Sacriment administered and this evening we have a Love feast. Our English people generally feels very much affected when they speak in these meetings; there is no place can be more favoured with Privileges than Pittsburgh.
Continue to direct your letters to Pittsburgh, as I do not know another of the same name with myself; I only live a few doors from John Marshalls people, you may tell my Brother they are all well Give my kind love to Brother John, and tell him that I thank him for his kind intention of sending me something to read, anything that comes from the Old Country, especially anything that is new is of great account, Mr. Wrenshall has got the Life of Mr. Bramwell and Mr. Longdon sent from England.
If ever you should send any kind of a parcel, it would be best to direct it to the care of Mr. Marshall, if I should have left Pittsburgh. I was very much struck by hearing of the sudden death of Wm. Gibson, it impressed my mind a great deal wh. led me the next time the school met to say something on the uncertainty of human life, I composed a few verses relative to the sircumstance one of wh. I shall inset along with a tune I set to it which I don't recollect of ever hearing before, to keep the event in my remembrance, paper forbids me inserting the rest of the poem.
"Since death hath seized my friend,
To me a warning prove,
Then when my flesh to dust descends
My Soul may rest above"
Nicholas Whitfield came about a week since to Jos. Gibsons and I think he is going to live there a while this winter he has done pretty well but has had to take his wages in Iron and it is rather difficult selling it now, but he will get the money some way he is in good health and was down to Pittsburgh a few days since and took dinner with us at my lodgings.
With respect to my general disposition I think I possess a little more firming and stability of both civil and religious concerns than I used to do, Providence has often opened my way.
Write immediately and tell me if any be coming to America. If any person bring anything for me if they will pay you the value of them I will give it them when they get here with the carriage also Jos. Gibsons family are all well, when I gave the letter for Jos. he was a good deal concerned about his Br. Wm's death but bore it as well as one could have expected, give my kind respects to Thos. Gibsons family, to all my Brothers and sisters and Gd. Mother as I have so many friends I cannot name them all but give my love to all who shall enquire after me.
Farewell Nicholas Watson
|Footnote: The original letter is held by
Mrs. Jean Hill as well as another letter dated August 19th 1820
by Nicholas Watson, also to his father. These letters predate
the two letters by Nicholas Watson deposited in the Darlington
Memorial Library of the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
U.S.A. by Dr. P.A.Barkas in 1962.
The letter was written on both sides of a single sheet of paper 21 inches wide by 18 inches long. The sheet was vertically divided to form two large pages. The large sheet was folded twice in each direction to make a letter of a size 6 inches by 3.75 inches.
The present typescript follows the manuscript as closely as possible and uses the original spelling and punctuation. To make the document more easily readable, a line space has occasionally been inserted to create paragraphs. No space was wasted in the original document.
(Transcript): Brian Whitfield, 20 May 2003