Transcribed – 1 June 2003 by TxLady59
The letter below was written by Mr. David Smith, who was living on St Vincent Island in the West Indies in 1841. It was addressed to his brother William Smith who was studying Engineering and Mechanical Drawing in Glasgow Scotland.
The letter has been in my family for over 150 yrs. I have always been told that William, Andrew, David and John were cousins of my Thomas relatives – maybe my ggg Grandfather Joseph D. Thomas or his father. If any one knows this Smith family or how they are related to Joseph D. Thomas from Ohio I would be very grateful.
People and places mentioned in this letter:
Andrew – probably David and William’s brother
Johny – probably another brother
LeGall Graham & Co – Solicitors, St Vincent Island
St Vincent Island – West Indies
Saint Thomas Island - West Indies
Cooks Establishment, Glasgow Scotland
New South Wales – Australia
Cummock Scotland – not stated whether Old or New
Malta – Maltese Islands
Letter Addressed to Cook and Co Engineers
If the letter is difficult to read, please remember that people talked and spelled very different then and many were illiterate, though I do believe the Smith Brothers had more than the average schooling. I have transcribed the letter exactly as written with the grammar and spelling intact. The envelope was sealed with wax, which is missing from the back now, but was still there when I was a child.
Letter is addressed to: Mr William Smith
Care of Messrs Cook & Comp
St Vincent, 20th April 1841
I duly received your esteemed favor under date 29th January last which I was happy to observe you were happy with Cooks Establishment pretty well and I hope you may soon acquire a complete knowledge of the Business as well as that of Mechanical Drawing. I need scarcely say I shall have much pleasure in appreciating the small amount (which I intended sending you for the purpose of learning drawing) in the way which you have judiciously pointed out; although in promising you my assistance I had no intention of neglecting my Father in consequence in short we are all indebted to him far above which money can every repay and whenever I can afford to render any little assistance to him I shall do so with much pleasure, in the meantime however I have not so much past me. My account has been overdrawn for some time past in consequence of having remitted a small sum to assist Andrew when he left which together with the £5 which I sent you and £20 borrowed from Johny when I left, makes altogether about £40 sent home by me during the two years I have been here and considering how expensive clothes were here etc. and but a small salary to meet all claims I look upon myself as having done pretty well – in a month or two I espect to be able to send about £10 and so long as I am able I shall continue to send a small amount occasionally.
As regards James Drummonds enquiry respecting a market here for Snuff Boxes etc. I have given if my best consideration and I’m really at a loss to give a decided opinion on the subject – snuff boxes would not sell, perhaps a few Segar Cases might, and Card Cases, Ladies Work Boxes and Dresing Cases but I could not recommend him to send them in chance as he would run a considerable risk – if however he will send me the following I will send the cost thereof and as I shall then have a specimen of the Cummock Boxes in my possession I may perhaps be able to procure an order for some, in this way he will not run risk and if I do not succeed in getting an order for some why there is not harm done – say a neat dresing case, a Ladies work Box, if such things are made, and 3 Segar Cases, 3 snuff boxes and 2 or 3 Card Cases. I ???? Card Cases for containing two to four packs of Cards – I wish them all of different patterns in order that I may have a fair specimen.
You appear very anxious to leave Glasgow notwithstanding that you are well pleased with your situation nor I think you would be doing very wrong to leave Glasgow sooner than a year or so, the short time you have been with Cooks cannot have offered you the means of acquiring a sufficient knowledge of the Business to enable you to get on elsewhere and I confes I cannot see the good of kicking about until you are master of your trade, if you will be guided by my advise I would recommend you to persevere on for some time yet at Cooks and by and by there will surely be some way in getting on for yourself. Andrew seems very much against advising you to come out to the West Indies and after all perhaps it would be better not to think of it as in this climate you would feel the Business of an Engineer a very oppressive one and would very frequently be exposed to the sun – however if you are inclined to try your luck by and bye I shall not prevent you, but if you could get out to New South Wales perhaps it would be much better for you. I have requested Andrew to write you giving his opinion in the subject.
I cannot help remarking the very bad spelling contained in the your letter to me, bad writing is excusable but both your writing and spelling might be much improved if you would only bestow a little more pains, I am sure you might have been much better in the respect considering the opportunities which you have had – in fact I have never met with worse spelling in my life, even the very smallest words you cannot spel correct for instance the word go is spelled gow. Could any thing be more ridiculous - I often spoke to you on this subject when in Cummock and I must tell you plainly that if you need never think of coming out to the West Indies unless you can do better in that respect for these things are just as necessary as a knowledge of Mechanical Drawing, and Engineering itself – you need not get offended at me for these remarks, as they are given with the best intention and I would recommend your particular attention to them once more.
The 93rd Regt. has just arrived here from Malta and I assure you the fine appearance of the kilts are astonishing the natives not a little – I am told a Highland Regt. has not been stationed here for the last 20 years and of course it is a very great novelty in this quarter. I never had the pleasure of witnessing one before so that is likewise a pleasure to me.
We are all looking out for a War with the Yankees – by the last arrival from America we had intelligence of the British Minister at Washington having demanded a pass-port and left for England and this news has since been confirmed by way of Saint Thomas – if a War should place I espect we will see some glorious scenes amongst these Islands – Barbados is the head quarters and of course all the ???? will be taken in there.
I am happy to say a good crop of Sugar this year and the Laborers are much improved.
Pray write me soon – Andrew joins me in Kindest Compliment while I remain
My dear Willie
Your affect. Bro
Please address my letters in the future
Mr. David Smith
Messrs LeGall Graham & Co