EDITOR'S NOTE: The 1840 letter from Isabella to her brother, Alex Gordon, has been transcribed and can be read in its entirety here. The age of the letter and style of writing made it difficult to decipher certain passages, but the transcribed letter and the excerpts shown here are close interpretations. Question marks were placed where Linda Turner, who found the letter, wasn't able to decipher its contents.
Pictou 31st December 1840
My dear Alex,
What in the world is this reason that I have not had a letter from any of you in the last packet. I think it is a great shame that among so many of you I have not a regular correspondent except Mama.
A friend of mine here boasts that he has a letter in every packet and had in the summer season when they come once a fortnight. Now though I do not expect to hear from home so often as that, I hope you will make a resolution to write regularly after this.
I had a newspaper from Papa to say that you were all well, which I was happy to hear and I trust you will continue to enjoy good health throughout the winter. I wrote you some time ago by Capt (?) Simpson who I expect has been to see you before now. Cousin William had a letter from him announcing his safe arrival at Grawick or Traniok (Greenwich?) or (?Needs to be clarified) and so I hope he has forwarded the love/vase/ (box?) which I entrusted to him. He wished to carry the packet of letters himself will so you will no have them soon the vase (box)? I am sorry
I am sorry I had no more things to send but they are rather expensive.
You will be all quite busy today preparing for New Year’s Day. I wish I was with you. They will be all merry here too but so will not I. I am always more dull on such day than any other because I will be thinking of home. We have always a number of visitors to wish us a happy new year and we have to go to so many places – we have so many friends though they are all very kind I would much rather stay at home for it is such a trial for a poor mortal to go through so many ceremonies in low spirits. The only thing that I enjoy is a drive into the country or a conversation with some of my cousins. I can talk to them about home, about ??RUSBYTY and about a thousand things I could not mention to anyone else. I have holidays just now & so I must make the best of them. This is a long story all about myself but it is to set you an example and you must write me whenever you get this and tell me all about yourself and tell all what you are doing he he (?)
I hope you do not neglect John as you do me. You might to write him frequently. Tell him how grieved I am that I do not hear from him and that he does not get any of my letters. No vessels come to Pictou from the W.I.’s (West Indies?) and I suppose the Captains they are trusted to do not put them in the Post Office. I have been thinking that if he directed a letter to me and he sent it to the care of (W? Clark)or Mr. Clark … Quebec or W.J. Gordon at Mrs. Welsh’s in Halifax I might get it.
I hope my dear that you do not need to be reminded that you might to make good use of your time this winter. Winter is the best season for study when there is no fine weather to tempt you out. Read as much as you can and follow my former advice of writing Mama a letter now and then.
Tell Papa that I had a visit from Mr. Matheson that he told me about. He told me to tell Papa that he was doing very well. He had 5 boys and 3 girls but he is now getting old and frail and he hoped to see him in this country yet and was sorry he did not see him here long ago”. He does look old to be sure, but frail I should not think so. He is as smart a lively as any young person & man in Pictou & he knows all that is going on in the “Old Country” among our friends as well as if he was there himself. Mr. M. Matheson also came to see me and showed a letter he had from Wemy McLaren his niece. Tell Mama he said that he would write to advise her to go to Canada, for the people here were too fond of doctors. He desired me to mention this in my first letter.
I am acquainted with a Mr. MacLennan. He knew all our friends. He lives at Rogers Hill about 13 miles from town and Mr. Matheson the tailor is 5 miles further off. I wish very much I would see McDermott (??) but he lives at Merigomish where our Uncle John lived before about 20 miles from here. Most of the Sutherland people live a good way off and they seldom or never come to town – it was the election brought those men. By the bye – if you see anything further of Captain or Mr. Simpson, say, I desired to tell them that the Kirksmen got everything their own way – Blackadar and Holmes for the county & Glasgow and the Township of Pictou. The Antiburghers (??) got the completest beating that ever was heard of and without any fighting. They were beaten in town here – only one vote was polled at the New Glasgow.
I want you to get a book for me that I lent Betsy Sutherland. Shaw’s Physyognomy ?. Send it the very first opportunity for I want it particularly. I got Mama’s letter dated 2nd October but I will wait til I have her answer to my two last. I have written this large that you may have no difficulty making it out.
I shall now conclude, wishing you all a good new year and many happy returns of the season. Remember me to Betty and all inquiring friends, & believe me, my dear boy,
Your affectionate sister, Isabella