The Island Register - Letter to P.E.I. - The Douglas Letters - 1798

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The following letter was transcribed for us by Mike Salmon, from his collection of Prince Edward Island Covers. This letter was a letter to James Douglas, then Comptroller of Customs of St. John's Island by his brother, John residing in Scotland.

James Douglas was married Jan 31, 1789 to Waitstill Curtis Haszard, b. Mar 12, 1772, d. May 23, 1804


28th Sept. 1798

Dear James:

Your letter of 24 Nov & 27 Dec 1797, I received on the 18 May last & wrote you in answer 2 & 30 June.

Two days ago I had yours of the 30 July last inclosing Certificates about the lost Trunk & am happy to observe the addition you have had to your family; Offer my best respects to your wife & tell her that all the articles in her memoranda on your letter of 24 Nov last will be sent in the Spring, but for the reasons already wrote you those for Mr. Haszard must be curtailed, I hope by this time you have received my letter of the 30 Sept 97, which you mention as not come to hand & also the Box with the Silver Spoons and sent you by a Liverpool vessel this Spring, when I go to Glasgow, I will enquire the name of the Vessel it went in. The Box as usual was addressed to the care of Mr. Newton, Halifax.

The beginning of last month Mr. Grayhurst, London sent me his bill on Mnr. Davidson Duprey for 50 Sterling at 6 weeks date. This money as he directed is placed to your Credit with me, it was paid a few days ago -- when he sent this Bill Mr. Grayhurst wrote me that it was the contents of a Bill you had sent him & that he expected to receive some more money upon an Assignment you had sent him & which he was also to remit me as soon as he got it.

In consequence of Mr. Brown & I not agreeing about the price, to be put on Shielhill, we entered into a submission to Mr. Granger & Mr. Mathie in the manner I wrote you of last spring; And there have been examined upon their opinions of the value & otc of that Farm, three different proprietors & farmers in that neighbourhood, besides Mr. Graham & Mr. Hill written in Glasgow whose opinions I formerly sent you and whom Mr. Brown thought proper again to examine in presence of the Arbiters.

The persons whom I named & who were examined on your part, were, the Reverend Mr. Russell who farms his own property in Newton, Mr. Arthur Herbertson of Shaw formerly the Creditor over Maidenhill & Shielhill & Robert Pollock Vintner in Newton & who farms a property that marches with Shielhill. The substance of the opinions of those who were examined for you is, That the Shielhill should let in its present condition on a 19 years lease at a Rent of Thirty shillings per acre but they differ as to the number of years purchased this worth

(The death of your late Governor Paterson was in the Newspapers the other day)

There is now a Tax on Armorial bearings every person who keeps a carriage & has his Arms on it whether a full coat or only a Crest must take out a yearly Licence & pay Two Guineas & those who use Seals with a Crest or Arms, pay one Guinea annually if they are not possessed of a Carriage which makes the Tax two Guineas & every other person who has no house pays 10/6 - If the Arms is on any piece of furniture or plate the Tax reaches to it & must be paid.

I was informed some months ago by the Major of the Charges laid against you by your Collector & I read the answers by you to the Commission upon this subject I wrote & must here refer you to my letter -- It is the Lord of C. Barons opinion you have been ill used but that you should keep in with your Govt & Chief Justice as much as possibly you can.

His Lordship in July last delivered me a Letter of Attorney by a Tenant of his, Peter Leitch & his wife Elizabeth Mr. Cowel of St. Johns Island empowering me to recover for them some succession falling to Elizabeth by her Fathers Death -- The Lord Chief Baron had taken a good deal of trouble in order to bring about an amicable Settlement with Mrs. Leitches Sisters here but without effect & desired me to write to the Sisters & their husbands on the business, this I have done but have received no answer to my letters -- The following Epistle which is as Answer to a letter I wrote by Lord of C. Baron to the Rev. Mr. McFarlane the Minister of Drymen will give Peter Leitch & his wife all the information on this business I know,

"My Lord:

Since my return home I have enquired into the circumstances of that small property in the Village of Drymen in which Peter Leitch your Lordships Tenant has an interest, & now sit down to give a short account of them, -- James McCuill his Father in Law died about ten or twelve years ago leaving his only Son & five daughters, Elizabeth married to Peter Leitch; Jean married to William Edmond Broker in Glasgow; Agnes married to Alexander McNab in Drymen; Janet & Mary both of whom are still unmarried & live in Glasgow -- His property consisted of about Eighty pounds in money & a small piece of ground, with two or three houses upon it the whole rent of which, does not exceed eight or nine pounds a year -- The Son dying soon after, his Sisters took out a Charter from.

Mr. Herbertson says (you will observe that the Arbiters took all the Examinations upon Oath) that he would give for the Lands of Shielhill in their present condition, independent of the moor that goes along with them, Forty pounds, Sterling per acre Scots measure.

I formerly wrote that I had got plans & measurements of both Maidenhill & Shielhill made you'll remember that the Tenant on Shielhill (he is now dead) told us that the Farm consisted of from 28 to 30 acres, The measurement however which David Owen makes it, is 24 acres 38 Falls leaving a difference of 4 or 5 acres; As it was proper that no mistake with regard to the measure should be laid before the Arbiters I thought it was best to cause another measurement be made of the ground by the Surveyor for the City of Glasgow; This last measurement of Shielhill agrees with that made by D. Owen at a difference of 4 Falls less -- The business lies now with the Arbiter to determine the value of Shielhill I have been attentive that every Information should be contained in the before mentioned Examinations which appeared to me that the Subject required. There were two diets of Examination at Glasgow, the first was on the 9th May last, when Mr. Brown attended, along with Mr. Russell, I expected Robert Craig in Broom & other two whom I named, to attend however only Mr. Russell on your part came forward to be examined. As the Court was about to sit down in Edinburgh & Mr. Granger was not to be in Glasgow till it was up again, I insisted that the Arbiters should not decide the business till there was an opportunity of having examined on your part one or two more people the more especially as Mr. Russells opinion was a single one & opposed by Mr. Brown's two big Shepherds Graham & Hill -- Mr. Brown was very instant by letters & to have the business settled without further delay but the Arbiters very properly refused deciding till both parties were satisfied that the proof was compleat. It was on the 19 inst. That Messrs Herbertson & Pollok were examined but Mr. Brown would not attend, however, he dined along with the Arbiter & me after the Examinations.

The proof on your part is as favourable as could be expected & should bring the price I think very near Mr. Molles value.

There has been for some months past a terrible Rebellion in Ireland & many thousands of the Rebels have been destroyed -- After the Rebellion was over the French landed from 3 Frigates about 1800 Men, 96 of whom were Officers intended to take the command of the Rebels. They landed in Killala bay middle of last month & after fortifying themselves for a short time they had one decisive engagement with Troops under Gen. Lake when they laid down their arms -- not so many Irish joined them as they expected. 

Neither Mr. Molle nor Messrs Aston & Hill would receive any thing for their trouble.

There has been put up within these few days the printed Advertisements on the turnpike gates & respecting a Lease of Maidenhill, by the Measurement of D Owen it consists of 28 Acres 2 Roods 24 Falls Scots, one half of which is only plowable -- I expect offers every day -- I am only to give the Tenant a Sum to put the Houses a proper condition as the farm is too small to be at the expense of new ones.

The Lord Justice Clerk who is Judge in the Action against Netherhouse has been so indisposed all the last Session that he was not in Court. If he does not recover against the Siting down of the Court in November another Judge will be named to the business which Lord Justice Clarks indisposition keeps back; A Memorial for you has been laid before Mr. James Montgomery in order to draw up a Condescendence of the Facts you rest your cause upon; There are several very strong Circumstances arised from the papers produced by Netherhouse and which when added to those contained in the paper drawn by Mr. Cullen in the last cause will puzzle Netherhouse I believe to explain or give a proper answer to -- A copy of the Condescendence & the Answers for Netherhouse will be sent you -- I wrote you in my letter of 30 Sept 1797 that Mr. Brown informed me that he thought that the Broom consisted of about one hundred & fifty acres mostly arable & I suppose it is of much the same quality with that of Shielhill. With respect to any Leases which Netherhouse has granted they must fall of course if his right to the Property be set aside.

The end of last & beginning of this month I spent a very agreeable week at the Whim -- I never saw the Lord of Chief Baron looking so well & clever as at present. The Major & Mrs. Robert were there I wrote you that Miss Ann was married Aug 1797 to a Major Hart who had been in the East Indies -- he has returned to that quarter & taken her with him.

I informed them that I would be again in Glasgow in 8 or 10 days & desired them to look out the voucher of Debt against Mrs. Leitch by that time, which was promised when I called they excused themselves, by saying their Sister Mrs. Edmond was from home -- I could not persuade them to give me any notice where I could see Wm. Edmond which makes me think that he did not wish to meet with me.

The only thing I can do for to bring the business to a settlement is to Summon the Sisters before the Court of Session -- In the meantime I will cause the heritable property left by their Father to be Inhibited which will prevent the Sisters from disposing of it until Mrs. Leitches share is accounted for.

You can inform Mrs. Leitch of the above particulars and let me know in your next what sum she owes to her Sisters & also if she consented that her Mother should Life Rent the heritable property.

Write me if William Craig be on St Johns Island, his friends in Douglas have never heard from him since you was here and are anxious to know if he is in life -- and if he be in tolerable circumstances or not.

Mr. Herbertson informed me that when Mr. Brown Settled with him, he only paid him his heritable Debts over Shielhill & Maidenhill but refused to pay him a Bill granted for bygone Interest on these Debts by our Grandfather in 1780 amounting to 57 odd. That as there was no person who would enter heir to our Grandfather this Bill had been allowed to prescribe for want of proper diligence but that he expected as you was to receive part of Maidenhills Subject free, you would Discharge this Debt which was equally honourable with the others -- You will observe Mr. Brown was not entitled to Discharge this Debt but I do not see how you can, without hurting our Grandfathers memory, refuse to pay this Bill from his free subject -- At the same time I think Mr. H. should abate the Interest or part of it, on account of his allowing the bill to prescribe -- Write me if I shall pay this Bill.

I have read all the papers about the Mearnsmuir Debt -- There was a Decreet in the 1778 obtained at Mr. Grahams instance before the Court of Session for this Debt. This Decreet is against those of the heritors who neglected to pay their proportions of the Debt, our Grandfathers share then amounted to 96. 9.10 -- And it appears from the process that in every stage of the business Samuel was called for his Interest & his Renunciation to be heir to his Grandfather dated in December 1785 is in the process & I am informed that the Broom -- was inhibited for this Debt. So there can be no Debt of this Debt being good; but I have found out from the papers that there are some objections occurs to me to the extent of the Debt from its not being fairly proportioned on the Lands which belonged to Maidenhill & that there may some alteration on it arise from Maidenhill having sold part of his property between the 1756 & 1766 during which time the expence now sued for was incurred. I have no room now to explain the particulars of these objections but before the Debt is paid I will have them all answered by Mr. Graham.

I understand the new Iron work at Glenbuck is in Blast and I mean next week to take a ride to that place & know how they are going on; they have been advertising for hands this want is a great drawback to the work -- I will write you in my next what they are doing.

Mr. Smellie promised me to finish the submission as soon as possible. Thou was some delay occurred by D. Fleming (some time before he died) giving in to Mr. Smellie a random Statement of 600 which he said was made up of Bills which he paid of yours on Samuel; It was fortunate that I was possessed of all your Bills on this Country about the time he alluded to and likewise of Samuels Drafts on me for the amount of your Bills these Drafts were regularly sent to Fleming in order that he should retire your bills & his Discharges on them show that he advanced no money, the Arbiter is now satisfied of this I produced these vouchers applicable to the time D. Fleming had any thing to do in the business -- I formerly wrote you we had gained Shirras Cause I have not yet got Cromptons Settled.

Mr. Aitken who purchases the things I send you in the Spring mentioned to me that if your Brother-in-Law Mr. Haszard [Thomas Rhodes Haszard - see Haszard File] was disposed to send any of the produce of your Island to Glasgow that he would dispose of it to the best advantage for him, I desired him to give me a Note of what articles sold best & I should send it to you & the following is a copy of his Memoranda which you can show Mr. Haszard:

Black Birch from St Johns always sells at a good price in Clyde
Mapple never sells so high & always dull
Pine Timber when clean & free from knots always commands a ready sale
Planks either Pine or hardwood do not command a good market
Ash sells but not so high as Black Birch
Oak always sells, and Oak Staves
Cow Horns, Oil in casks, Cowhides, Bark, Ashes, and Short vessels of 300 Tons Carpenters measure sell in general well

Misses Buchannan of Drummakiln the Superior as Heiresses to their Fathers. This Charter was made out in Mrs. Leitchs name as well as in the names of the other Sisters, & she was in fact upon it along with them I believe in the year 1792 -- I understand the Sisters who live in this Country have agreed that their Mother's an Old infirm woman, shall enjoy during her life the whole rent of the heritable part of their Father's Subject, which, as it pays about five & twenty shillings of free duty is very inconsiderable -- I conversed with the Husband of one of them who seems very ready to pay Mrs. Leitches proportion of the money which her Father left, but expressed a wish that his mother-in-law might not be disturbed in the enjoyment of the Rent of the Land & houses -- I have also written to Edmond, who is married to another Sister and expect his answer in a day or two, when I shall immediately communicate the contents of it to your Lordship -- The readiness which they have always shown to give me every information on the Subject induces me to hope that they will join in settling the business in an amicable manner & I have the honour

signed/Duncan McFarlane, Drymen Manse
June 11th 1798"

In addition to the above you will let Mrs. Leitch & her husband know that I have called within this fortnight three different times at William Edmonds house / he keeps a small Shop & sells old Clothes & in the Bridgegate Glasgow & have never been able to find at home either him or his wife; I saw there, however, Mrs. Leitches two unmarried Sisters who would tell me nothing about their Fathers Succession, all the information they gave me was that they never received a penny of their Fathers property, that their Sisters had agreed to allow their old Mother to retain possession of the house & during her life & that no Settlement could take place till she died. At all events said they, our Sister Mrs. Leitch can draw nothing, as she received from Mr. Edmond when she went to America more than any thing coming to her by her Fathers death, & that they had vouchers of Debt against her.

On 22inst I received a letter from Sandy dated Upper Canada Fort Erie 15 July 1798 -- He writes that Mr. Dickson & he have built a Timber house about 1.1/2 miles below Fort Erie 80 feet from the River. It is about 70 feet long including Kitchen & Cellar. The cellar is of stone & vaulted over the House & two acres of Land cost about 600 Sterling, he gets most of his goods this Summer from Montreal as it is difficult to get Bills from that Country on Britain he says you have never wrote him once since he last went to America -- It is a fortnight past since I came here. All friends here are well & Mrs. D joins in compliments to your wife & your family & I am

Dear James
Your Aff. Brother
John Douglas

P.S. I shall attend to the certificates about the lost Trunks
Mr. Granger sends his best compliments to you & family

Received the 16 April 1799
3 1/2d Ship
letter rate

James Douglas Esq.,
Comptroller of the Customs
Island St John, Gulf of St. Lawrence

Care of Joshua Newton Esq.,
Custom House Halifax
North America


arrival mark -- 28 Septe 1798

John Douglas
Peter Leitches business -- What parts of Timber are Most saleable.

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