Margaret Anderson Stevenson to son, Robert, 1823


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The following letter was transcribed for us by Allison Stevenson, asteven1@becon.org.

This letter was written by Margaret Anderson Stevenson of Kilmalcolm, Scotland in 1823 to her son, Robert Stevenson, (1786-1829), a shoemaker, who had settled near St. Andrews, NB. Robert emigrated to N.B. aboard the Brig "Active" in 1818. His wife, Janet Crawford and a number of children joined him a year later, aboard the "Jessie and Flora"*.

Margaret tells him of the migration of her son John to Prince Edward Island, and of the birth of John's son, Robert [b. 28 June 1821]. John Stevenson had been a divinity student in Edinburgh, and boarded with a Mrs. Nisbet. He married her daughter, became a weaver in Paisley, then emigrated, with his wife, 9 children, to P.E.I. in 1820 aboard the Alexander. He was instrumental in the founding of the Church of Christ at New Glasgow.

This letter was first printed in the Charlottetown Guardian 27 Sep., 1934, page 4. There was a brief introductory paragraph:

* Pioneer Times in New Glasgow, PEI Outlined in Letter
The Guardian is indebted to the Rev. Charles E. Johnson, of Margaree, Inverness County, Nova Scotia, for a copy of the following hitherto unpublished letter of over a century ago, concerning New Glasgow, P.E.I. Rev. Johnson obtained the letter while visiting in Sydney, N.S. at the home of Mr. Harry Stevenson.

* From the St. Stephen Courier, New Brunswick 13 Nov., 1873:
Robert Stevenson, shoemaker, (1786-1829) a native of Lochwinnoch, Renfrew, arrived at St. Andrews 4 June, 1818 in the Brig "Active" from Ayr. He helped load the Brig with timber at Digdeguash for the return trip. His wife Janet Crawford (1786-1869) with sons Alexander (1804-1879); Charles (1806-1877); John (1809- );Matthew (1811-1876); Robert (1814-1885); and James (1818-1888) came out from Scotland in 1819 in the ship Jessie and Flora arriving at St. John, N.B.

* Thanks to Gary Carroll for these references.


Wardell Park, Scotland
10th March, 1823

To Robert Stevenson
Near St. Andrews, N.B.

Dear Son:

I received your letter of November 9th upon Saturday 13th February and am very glad that you are all in health. I had been at that time off my ordinary for more than two weeks and although I was so revived by your letter that I had the appearance of being quite well yet I cannot.... better, but I have reason to praise God for his goodness... with pain or sickness and have been able to sit up......cough difficulty of breathing and extreme weakness are my chief complaint.

Concerning John going away it is near three years in the spring of 1819:

Robert Orr, Hardridge, and James Arthur from Hurton went to Pr. Edward Is. with their families in 1820. Your brother went in the same vessel. Along with him there went Alexander Laird, Burn-bank, and family; James Laird, Nutton, and family; James Houston, Woodend, and family; James Sample, Mount Blow, and family; Alexander Lang Jr., Botherickfield, with his wife, newly married; George Nisbet and family. The old woman went along with them, 105 persons in all. The vessel stopped a short time at the Island and returned bringing the greatest number of letters to Kilmalcolm that ever came from a foreign land either before or since, being little short of a hundred. The best account we can give of their contents is a copy of the following song composed by your brother.

(Tune: Jamie Riley and Colin Bann)

Dear friends and good old neighbours
Pray lend a patient ear
Until we do inform you
Of our arrival here

 

Our vessel being moored
Up the river we did go
But when we saw New Glasgow
Our hearts were filled with woe
(The greatest part were most distracted at seeing the forest)

 

This conduct so infamous
Like Israel of old
Who after their deliverance
Did fret and grieve and scold.

 

They soon forgot the slavery
And toil they had endured,
And for the flesh pots in Egypt
They longed every hour.

 

To their cruel task masters
They wished to return,
They would rather die in Egypt
Than languish here and mourn.

 

They saw the sons of Anak,
Men of six cubits high:
Large towns and walled cities
Which reached to the sky

 

They the pleasant land despised,
They awful fate we view,
Lest we like them should perish,
For want of courage true.

 

So we laid aside our mourning,
Our tears they are all dry,
And now we mean to conquer
Or in the attempt die.

 

We here do not need weapons
For warfare that are made,
No ..... nor scaling ladders
To climb the balustrade

 

Nor in this barren wilderness
Does there before us lie
The swelling stream of Jordan
Our course (?) for to annoy.

 

(Two verses here were not readable)

 

Till we arise like heroes
Our purpose to pursue
And show the brave Canadians
How Scottish boys can plow.

 

All you who are inhardship
And cannot pay your rents,
You need not fear to venture
Your lot along with us.

 

The soil is dry and fertile,
We have a verdant sky,
And all that land produceth
It can be sold quite high.

 

Our belly is our factor,
He may us crave severe,
But if we should run in arrears,
He will not poind our gear.

 

When he sends us a summons
It costs us no expense,
And with sequestrations
He never threatens us.

 

Those who some years before us
Have from oppression fled,
An ocean of difficulties
I find they had to cross.

 

But now they roll in plenty,
Their barns with wealth are filled,
And cattle in abundance,
They have upon the field.

 

Those lines for to conclude anew
We bid you all adieu,
We mean not to advise you
But tell you just what's true.

 

We mean not to deceive you,
From no sinister view
Your coming or your staying
To us no good can do.

- JOHN STEVENSON

The above is the best statement of their arrival and circumstances at that time which we think can be given in a few words. We can get a letter from John once a year. He has got up a house and a loom and has as much work as he can do himself. The boys manage the farm. His daughter is married. We had a letter June last. They have been all in health since going there. Their cattle have thriven well. Crops, and all, equal expectation. The lawsuit respecting the Ducal estate was settled in May 1821. The following list includes all the farms from which tenants have gone or have been turned out since 1818: 1, Burnbrae; 2, Midbranches; 3, Burntbank; 4, Greenside; 5, Lukerton; 6, Tounfoot; 7, High nutton; 8, Laighwood-head; 9, High Hugh; 10, Laigh Hugh; 11, Hardridge; 12, Horswand; 13, Burnbank; 14, Midtoun; 15, Bridge-end; 16, West Lawpark. There are six more sequestered upon the estate.

The last letter we had from John came with a man of the name of Malcolm Brown, a grandson of Malcolm Baxter who had been there about two years and gave a particular account of their situation as being on the whole favourable. John has a son born to him since going there and called him Robert [b. 28 June 1821]. Mrs Kirkwood is nursing her twelfth child [Mrs. Kirkwood was John Stevenson's sister Jean (1781- ) who married James Kirkwood (1771-1845) at Kilmacolm in 1802 She did indeed have 12 children . Her "next youngest" was Anne born 14 June, 1820.]. Her next youngest is the same age as your youngest... and sisters and their families are... Oatmeal has been the whole of their diet. Potatoes 6/8d per bbl. many of them have...Two penny loaves weigh 29 oz. The fair price of oatten (bread?) for the upper ward of Lanark shire is thirteen shillings and four pence per bbl. A good milk cow is not worth above six or seven pounds, the very best are about eleven pounds. The tax is off the salt which sells at one penny per pound. Those who...on potatoes and got no other...live very.... We had the stormiest winter which has been since 1795.

The wreaths in some places, 16 feet deep. The overseer upon the road from Edinburgh to Berwick, a distance of 45 miles expended 400 pounds for clearing the snow off the road. Jannet Love, east side, is married to Alexander Lang, west side. [Alexander m. Jannet 30 Jan. 1823, Kilmalcom] Wm. G... married his girl who belongs to Inner kes parish. Write me by the first opportunity as you will...... often requested to do so by me. I add no more but remain your affectionate mother Margaret Anderson.

If you could find an opportunity to St. John's Newfoundland direct to John Stevenson, New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island to be forwarded to Stewart and Renny*.

(Recd. at Fredericton, N.B. July 14th 1823)

Submitter's comment: Renny (sic.) owned Lot 23 at the time. It was to him that the people of the New Glasgow area had to pay their quit rents. Probably the source of the name "Rennie's Road". From a letter owned by the Rev. Charles H. Johnson of Margaree, published in the Guardian, 29 June, 1953, page 4.

New Link!Elder John's Family - a site is dedicated to the memory of Elder John Stevenson and his wife Margaret (nee Nisbet)


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Last Updated: 07/29/2001 10:57:31 AM
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