Letter from P.E.I. - Alexander Beazeley to Miss Nicholson, Nov 23, 1850

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The following letter was transcribed for us by Mike Salmon, mikesalmon@blueyonder.co.uk from his collection of Prince Edward Island Covers. This unfinished letter was enclosed with the other letter of the same date to Miss Nicholson by Alexander.

Transcript of letter mentioned as being enclosed with folded letter of Nov. 23rd 1850 to Miss Nicholson, Thornton Bank, near Berwick on Tweed, England.

Charlotte Town, Prince Edward Island, Gulf of St. Lawrence

My Dear Elizabeth and Harriet,

You will doubtless, after so long a silence on my part, expect a long letter, but perhaps you were not prepared for such a lengthy production as this. I hope that you will find it as interesting as it is long, and, if you will write me real honest full sheets, or as full as you can, you shall always have a long letter from me in reply. My first correspondence is always experimental. I write a long letter, if I get such a one in return, I send another. If I get a short answer, my reply is equally brief, & if I get none at all, I calculate that the person does not care for writing or receiving letters, & I then discontinue it altogether. I have sent off several long letters from hence, I have only got one decent one in reply. I hope that you will be numbered among my "long correspondents". It is not difficult to fill up a long letter. You take a good sized sheet or two, & sit down and write me a short letter, or note as if I were in London. Then when you have said all you can, & told me all the news & gossip, lay the paper by for 3 or 4 days, & then enter upon it another letter. You will find this really a very easy way, & I speak from experience. In writing this letter, for instance, I write about half a page or a page. Then, perhaps, I have to go out to office (Michael & I are studying the Law here) ~ or there is a sleigh to drive out, or I take my fun & go out after the wild fowl, which are now coming to our shores in great numbers ~ or else there is some other business to be done. Well, then, leave the letter, perhaps for some days, & then resume it, by which means the sheet is filled with very little trouble. You must not be offended at my addressing my letters to both. There would be no use whatever in writing only to one at a time or in sending a duplicate to each. You must consider these as intended equally for both, & your answer, you know, can be in the same style. I daresay that you think my preface quite long enough, & as I have finished all I had to say about it, I will proceed with my journal. We took lodgings at Gravesend, to wait till the "Prince Edward" (the vessel we were going in) should sail. This sailing was postponed, day after day, till we almost began to doubt whether she was going at all. At last, one afternoon, down she came, & dropped anchor opposite Gravesend. We went on board, &, nasty, untidy, & dirty as she was, we were still glad to leave the shore, for the delay & suspense were intolerable. The Prince Edward was about 350 tons, & being build not for a passenger-ship, but a "lumberer", - that is a vessel that brings timber – her accommodations were of the smallest & worst description. She had a cabin or "cuddy" on deck, & a long dark cabin, miscalled the "saloon", temporarily fitted up on the beams of the after-hold. The cuddy was about 12 feet long by 8 wide, & the mizzen-mast came down through it, so that, through it was a sort of security against the crazy cuddy being carried away, it occupied almost more room than we could spare. On each side of the cuddy were little cupboards, where the berths were fixed. There were 6 of them, 3 on a side. Father & mother occupied one, Ona & Kate another, Michael & I the third, Capt. Chambers (the master) another, & the remaining two were a storeroom & the steward’s pantry. The "saloon", or hold-cabin, was about 20 ft. long, & perhaps 10 ft. wide, & like the cuddy it had berth-places on each side. It was here we took our meals. Our fellow passengers were~ Mr John Holl, whose father is settled in the Island, & is in the council - Mr. Griffith, a friend of John Holl’s. He was going out to see how he likes the island, & to see whether he will care to settle there – Mr Aldous, a retired house agent & auctioneer from Dorsetshire, with a wife & 3 brats, all disagreeable – Capt. Nowlan, going out to take charge of a new schooner - & Miss Mackie, a lean Irishwoman, going out as lady’s maid to Lady Campbell, the wife of the Lieutenant-Governor. If the mere appearance of the ship was disagreeable, the appearance of things on board was more so. All the sailors (when we went on board) were tipsy, & I think the only sober men were the 2nd mate and the pilot. All was set right by the 1st Sept.~ when we weighed & left Gravesend. Next morning (for we left as September came in) found us at the Nore, in a mist, pitching at anchor. Oh! how wretchedly ill we all were! and how provoking to see the pilot with such good health & appetite, when we could not touch a morsel! In two or three days we men got better I cured myself by imbibing large quantities of sea-water. We were 5 days in going down Channel, during which luckily we had beautiful weather. The last evening. Sept.~ 5th when we left the Lands End, was particularly fine – the last of Old England was splendid, lighted up with all the glory of a cloudless setting sun. That night we lost sight of the Scilly lights, & stood out to sea on the broad Atlantic, and next morning found us dashing along with a fresh breeze, in a rolling sea. As one day was spent almost exactly like the others, one description will serve for all, & give you a tolerable idea of how we passed the month of the voyage. Being generally awake about 61/2 or 7 I stumbled out of my nest or box, & having partially dressed (a matter of intense difficulty, for the "state room" was so small & low that you could hardly move without knocking your head or elbows) ~ I got on deck, with a basin of water & a towel, to wash. This was a great recreation, for I got the water fresh from the sea, quite cold, & had a good souse in it. The after-hatchway served as a washing stand, & this was very convenient, only that I had some trouble to keep the basin steady, & to hinder the towel blowing away. Shaving was not to be thought of – nobody performed it above once a week, excepting the captain, and his patched chin served as a warning to us not to be so rash. Dressing at last finished (for you must imagine that all the others were dressing), we met on deck, walked or sat, & chatted about the wind, the weather, how her head was, how much she had run in the night, whether the wind would change, & so on, till 8 or 81/2, when the steward rushed aft from the galley, bearing a dish of potatoes or fried ham, or whatever it might be and vanished into the cabin below. This was the signal for breakfast, & down we all went, & ate bad "skous" (Irish stew) or beef, or ham, & drank vile coffee without milk. By the bye, during all the voyage, the provisions were very bad, & the allowance of them very scanty. Breakfast over (I don’t describe it because you could have no idea at all of its miserable & uncomfortable state), we passed the time as best we could till 11 o’clock. Sometimes we read or wrote, or played chess. When the weather was wet (which was very seldom) we all crowed into the small cabin and felt wretched and discontented. At 11 there was biscuit and cheese for those who liked it. Till 2 o’clock, our dinner time, the time was passed in the same dull way as before. Sometimes a sail appeared on the horizon, & all eyes directed thither, & a vast amount of speculation & guessing took place as to what she was, wither bound etc. Sometimes we watched the schools of porpoises as they went dashing by, and rolling over & over in the water. They look very pretty indeed, & their motions are very lively & graceful. Or perhaps a great whale was seen far off~ or half a dozen small ones would swim under our bows, looking like elephants in the water. They generally swam in pairs, & it was wonderful to see how each pair rose and sunk at the same moment as the other. At 2 dinner was served, & there was great art in getting to the proper place at table. I generally managed to get to the bottom, & thus was helped first - the plates being passed down from the head of the table. You wonder, perhaps, at the anxiety manifested to obtain plenty to eat, but you must know that there was little brought to table, that those were lucky who could finish their plateful, & send up in time for the 2nd edition. We became extraordinarily greedy on board. Dinner over, we dawdled & idled away the time till 5, when tea was served. But such tea! Fancy a mixture, tasting of old dishcloths, grease, japan, & bad water, with sugar & no milk, & you have a faint idea of it. Seated on chains, stools, the hatchway, or the deck itself, we received this delectable mixture, with which we ate biscuit & some of our own marmalade. I shall never forget the intense wretchedness of this meal – and the best of it was, that we all tried so hard to fancy it comfortable, & "really like home". This over, we walked about, or talked, or amused ourselves as we best could. You will wonder, I dare say, why we did not read or write more than idle the time away. We tried to do so, but could not fix the attention sufficiently. Even the lightest reading seemed dull – our minds were very much weakened during the voyage, I am sure. In the evening we sometimes practiced gymnastics, climbing ropes, etc. which met with much favour, as being good exercise. Sometimes we played on the accordion which I had brought, or sang. Sometimes we played forfeits – or sat still & listened to the sailors singing on the forecastle. The evening concluded by the captain, Messers Holl, Griffith, Aldous, & I going down below, after all had retired, & playing whist. How we stuck to this game! Every evening we played it - Holl & I against the captain & Griffith, & so evenly did we play that on the last night one party was only 1 rubber ahead. Once, while lying off the steep, iron bound coast of Cape Breton Island, we had a dance on deck. There was a strange contrast between the lively music & the dancing, & the stern, gloomy cliffs frowning close above us, & the long thundering roll of the surf against the rocky shore. To us, so long accustomed to the unbroken horizon, & the splash of the waves as they rolled by, there was something very striking in this bold coast, & the dull roar of the breakers. The 2 or 3 nights we passed off this coast were very pleasant. I liked to walk the deck at night, by moonlight, & hear the sea beating on the rocks, & see the lofty headlands as we passed – They looked so grand. This brings me to land – On Sept.~ 25th we sighted Cape Breton, & on the 28th Cape St. George, Nova Scotia. We were 3 days beating up Northumberland Straights, against a strong head wind, but early on the morning of October 1st we entered Charlotte Town harbour. The entrance is about a mile or ¾ mile wide, & the town from thence looks very pretty. It is situated on a gently rising ground, between 2 creeks or arms of the sea, which, with another creek, & the entrance, make a cross, the centre point of which is opposite the town and forms a harbour. The shores of these creeks are prettily dotted with farms, their white cottages showing out bright against the dark wood beyond. The town itself, though neat, & particularly welcome to eyes that for nearly a month had seen nothing but the unbroken horizon - is nothing remarkable as viewed from the water, except in its situation. After we landed - which by the bye, was not accomplished without a little difficulty & opposition from the Board of health, as there was a rumour abroad that we had cholera on board – we went to the Victoria Hotel, in Water Street, near the river.

Victoria Hotel

You must not imagine, from the name "Hotel", that it is anything very grand. I send you a rough sketch of it. It is a long low building, & is moderately well kept. The building on the left hand of the sketch is Mr. Peake’s shop, or "store", as they are called here – people don’t know what you mean by a "shop". This Mr. Peake is one of the richest men in the island – he owns the steamer also, which runs between here and Pictou with mails and passengers. At the Hotel, we as new comers, received visits from most of the families resident in the town and neighbourhood. Some of these we liked, & some were not so pleasant, but they were all very kind, & seemed so glad to see us, & so ready to welcome us that we soon felt quite at home. I suppose you will like to become acquainted with some of them, for I know that you North Country young ladies are great gossips. Well then, to begin with those we know best, there is Mrs Grubb and her 3 daughters. She is an old lady, whose husband came out here some 6 or 8 years ago, & bought a farm, (which I have marked on the little sketch on the next page, called "Falconwood"). Here he built, but did not finish, a brick house, & died. His widow let the farm, & came to live in town. She is on the whole, an agreeable woman – perhaps a trifle managing, but on the whole will do. When we left the Victoria hotel, & moved into a house for ourselves, in Prince St. (which you see marked with a black dot near where the St. Peter’s road comes into town) – we saw a great deal of the Grubbs, & many pleasant evenings we spent there. Perhaps those we know next best are the Hensley’s, who live 5 miles out of town on the Malpec Road. Mr Hensley was in the Navy. They have a large family, & are pleasant people. Near Newstead (Mr. Hensley’s) is Kenwith, where a Mr Holl lives. He has a great many sons, the eldest of whom came out with us on The Prince Edward. Then there is Mr. Hodgson, the Attorney General. He is of a North Country family, & his son and daughter have quite a Northern face & the burr & sing. I have often heard of peculiarities appearing in the 2nd generation, but never before saw it so strongly illustrated. Mr. Hodgson’s father was from England - he himself was born in the island, & has nothing in his voice or appearance, to indicate that he is of Northern descent, but his children have. He is a remarkably quiet, pleasant, gentlemanly man – everybody - seems to like him – certainly no one ever speaks ill of him, & that is a great thing in a place like this. You don’t know what a gossiping, scandalizing little place this is – but of that hereafter. Michael and I are studying the law with the Attorney General, & hope to be able to distinguish ourselves – By the bye, people pursue a great variety of employments here. Nearly everybody farms more or less, & the lawyers are barristers, solicitors, attorneys & all the branches of the law in one. And in the office of the Attorney General we have also, the probate office & the registry of Marriages. As for the rest of our friends & acquaintances, I must leave them to be mentioned when I can, for I find there are so many that I should never get through them. The country, as far as I have seen, is rather tame, but pretty. There are no high hills or large rivers, but numbers of swelling undulating hills, & many little brooks & streams. Near Town there is a great deal cleared, but here & there are little copses and clumps of trees which relieve the eye. The principal wood is fir, spruce, maple birch & beech. There are many other trees, but not so common. The roads are detestably bad. There is no granite or stone to mend them with - they are just made on the sandy earth, & mended as best may be. In the spring & fall they are very muddy, & full of deep ruts and holes. They are generally mended by ploughing up the sides and throwing the loosened earth, & spruce boughs and pieces of wood, into the holes, but that does not do much good, & they are never decent till the hot weather comes, & then, after a very heavy rain & a hot day, they are hard and good. But a damp day, or slight rain, ruins them again. They are

The End....

Note: As confirmation of the passengers on the Prince Edward named by Alexander above: Royal Gazette Tues., 2 Oct., 1849, page 3 - "Passengers In the Bark Prince Edward 30 days from London, George Beazeley Esq., Lieut. R.N., Lady, Miss Simeona and Margaret Beazeley, Messrs. Alexander and Michael Beazeley, Mr. & Mrs. Aldous and 3 children; Messrs John Holl, and Griffith, Miss Mackie, Capt. Nowlan, and 5 others." Clipping found by Gary Carroll.

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