Monday, December 15, 2008

Bogg, 14 July 1870

[Image: A portrait of Marion Glencross, seated, with her friend Jane Law, standing, c.1870; both women are wearing elaborate hairstyles and white lacy dresses with dark sashes at the waist.]

Marion Brown writes in better health, but she can still "walk none" in the summer of 1870. She's writing to Marion Glencross, who is nearly 18 at the time. Maybe the woman-to-woman dynamic is becoming especially noticeable in this letter, as Marion Brown writes lightly about young men they know, hairstyles in fashion in America and Scotland, gardening, and cheese. I've speculated in other places that Marion Brown's choice of topics with young Marion Glencross is no accident. She knows her younger cousin has no mother or older sister or nearby aunt, and by addressing feminine culture, she may be making a claim to unique usefulness, as a kinswoman and a female mentor.

The image of Tam taking Marion on a ride in a cart is charming, and emphasizes how little she gets out of the house at The Bogg. "I was just like a bird out of a cage every thing was like new to me."

There's a discussion of "waterfalls" in this letter--she means the elaborate (in this case curly) hairpieces some women wore to augment their coiffures. From Betty J. Mills, Calico Chronicle: Texas Women and their Fashions 1830-1910 (Texas Tech UP 1985; on Google Books): "Available by mail were fake curls, buns, and waterfalls that could be pinned in place. Many women kept such hair pieces on hand for the sake of style." (132)

Finally, sixty-pound cheeses? Yup. The 1823 Encyclopedia Brittanica (also on Google Books) entry on Agriculture quotes an agricultural expert as saying "The process of making Cheshire cheese is as follows, viz. on a farm capable of keeping 25 cows, a cheese of about sixty pounds weight may be daily made in the months of May, June, and July." The entry goes on to explain how to get enough milk together to make that much cheese daily... let's just say, Aunt was very busy in the summertime.

"The Bogg" Thursday July 14th 1870

Dear Cousin

You will be thinking by the time this reaches you that I have been very careless in not writting you sooner. I am here at last and I hope this will find you both in good Health as good Health is the greatest blessing we can enjoy in this world. Aunt Nanny has not been so well this summer she had a bad turn with her head and stomach about the middle of May and she has never got the better of it but we ought to be very thankful when she is able to go about for it is a queer house when Aunt has to be in bed I am a great deal better as when I wrote you last I can sit up all day and altho I can walk none I just think I am well when I am able to sit up.

I was very glad to see by your letter that your garden was looking so well and if I was well and able to walk I would take the advantage of your invitation for I should come over and help you to pull your fruit and very likely I would be eating all the time I was pulling. I think you are quite right in wanting your father to get a cow for you will not like to want milk I dont know what your fields are like in America but I have never mind of seeing so much grass as is this year Cousin Tom just got one of Brandley carts and took me out one day and I was greatly delighted for I was just like a bird out of a cage every thing was like new to me. our cows has been very good this year but they have plenty of grass and that helps them to give more milk.

I have to give you Aunt Nannys compliments and say she is making a cheese sixty pounds and some times more every day just now and if you would come over and learn cheese making she thinks she would go home with you when you went away but if all goes well she has sent you a little cheese with a young man that is going to leave Wanlockhead today and if he gets it safe to you, you are to send her word if it is a good one They young mans name is James Weir he used to come and help Aunt at the hay stakings

you speak of John White being a Greenhorn I suppose you will think all the old country folk Greenhorns for they speak so much different from the Yankees but altho the scotch folk is slow they are sure and I hope all that has gone to America will do well there is one John Nicol gone to Pittstown brave young man and is a good fiddler. there was one Robert Watson went with him and we sent a parcle with him to you and I hope by this time you will have got it. you say that David Williamson has given up buisness in Dunmore and I am sure you will miss him very much for he is a fine lad and would be very good company, but you must tell him from me he is not to think the lasses here does not wear waterfalls for some has a waterfall nearly as big as their own head but the hair is worn in a nicer fashion now for it is mostly in curls and I like to see hair in curls

give Mrs. Moffat my kind regards and say saying how soon she will have to make me my tea and give my kind regards to all enquiring friends not forgetting your own self I am your loving Cousin Marion Brown

PS Please write soon and let us know how all goes with you MB

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bogg, 5 May 1870

This incomplete letter is very damaged by torn and worn-away edges (the damage happened while the letter was folded, which quadrupled the loss), but I'll try to share as much of the contents as are readable.

My dear uncle

I again lift my pen to let you know how we are all getting on at the Bogg and I am very happy to be able to tell you that we are all in a moderate state of health at present for which we cannot be to thankful for. it is astonishing to see how strong Aunt keeps to have so much [torn] for she is always working [torn] have all the thinking to do to ge [torn] thinks kept right. I hope this will find you and Marion both in good health you will be busy getting all your garden put right everything comes in its season Tam is wondering what kind of [hens? torn] have because if ever he [goes? torn, more than a full line lost] like them in America [torn] great man for all kinds [torn]

Mr. Kennedy thinks he can [torn] the pedigree of the Bogg cows since he was four years old. our cows has done very well this spring but we have been very scarce of hay and although the cows are not to be called lean they would have been the better of more to eat. we have a [torn] littler of young pigs just now [torn] ere is twelve of them and they [torn] doing very well and we [torn] sow to pig about this time [torn] if all goes right with the pigs they will be a good help to Aunt for they are very dear just now we have got our potatoes planted two weeks since but there is no [torn] this year Aunt thinks [torn] just as well to buy all [torn, more than a full line lost]

Kerr of Whitehill [torn] begun to make cheese again [torn] busy in the boiler house just now putting boiling whey on the curds. I hope by this time you will have got your parcle from John Moffat and the tailor is wondering how your trousers will fit he thinks you might come over some Saturday night so that [torn] could get measured for he [torn] there will be a difference of [torn] now, give Marion my kind regards and tell her she will get a surprise some day that will make her boil the kettle quickly we were all sitting at the fire the other night and we made a settlement that we would just all go of to America and [torn, more than a full line lost]

that is the girl that [torn] us for a year and a half [torn] to do all the messages [torn] says if he is not in America in less than two years he will be a soldier so you see we have all things settled the same as if we were going to start tomorrow uncle Joseph and uncle William are both at Greenock draining [torn] I had a letter from them this week and they were both well their families are all in good health at present my brother James has got another addition to his family a little girl and I think it will be named Margret for my mother, I wrote the most of her last letter lying in my bed but [torn] to sit up and write [torn] on the table at the window [rest of letter lost]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bogg, 6 April 1870

A newsy eight-page letter from Marion to her American uncle. The news is of Marion's health (poor--her head has been shaved and she's had blisters applied to treat "an attack of inflam[m]ation of the brain"), crops, work, emigration, and family connections. This letter was written just a few days after the letter to James Bryden (previous post), but there's no mention of Bryden here. Marion's sense of her health as a chastisement from God is described more explicitly here than usually. Two local men will be emigrating to the Scranton area soon, John Moffat and Robert Watson, to carry more handmade clothing for John and Marion Glencross.

Marion talks a bit more about her own family here--her father is "lame" now, her half-brother is working, her brother James has a little son with (what sounds like) a permanently dislocated left shoulder. The men in the family are working at draining, much as John apparently did before he left Scotland.
My Dear uncle

After a long silence I take up my pen to write you a few lines to let you know how things are moving on about the Bogg. I am very glad to be able to tell you that Aunt and Tom are in moderate good health and has been all winter for which we cannot be to thankful. and for my self I am very glad to be able to tell you that I am recovering from an attack of inflamation of the brain I was quite insenseible for ten days I got my head shaved and has had on six blisters and they have done me a great deal of good and now altho I feel very weak I am greatly better and can sit up for about two hours which is a great releif.

dear uncle sometimes I think I have been sorely tried in my journey in this sinful world but no doubt but our heavenly Father has seen I have need of chastisment or he would not have afflicted me so long. He knows what is best for us in whatever way we may be placed.

I hope you and Marion are both well. and as the spring is come round again you will be busy getting your garden planted we are not begun to our garden yet it has been very hard dry barren weather here this some time every thing looks ready for rain. our cows are begun to calve and we have got all the queys calves we need the Master wants seven and it is very lucky we have got the queys first the hay is going to be very scarce this year which is a bad thing when the weather is so backward but we are to get a load or two more meal and that will help so far for the want of the hay

Aunt has her kind love to you both and I am to say that she thinks you will think she is turning daft in her old days if you are spared and well to see the trousers and waistcoat she has sent with John Moffat to you there is far more orang in them as she expected and you are to send word soon what you think of them and there is some other person going away from Wanlockhead about the middle of May and perhaps she will have some thing else ready to go with him. his name is Robert Watson he has an uncle some where not far from you one James Watson and you must let me know what you think of your socks and how Marions stockings fit her if all goes right so that you get your parcle. I knitted both the pairs lying in bed it is good amusement for me when I can do nothing else since my head was so bad I have not been good at ???ing but my sight will improve as I get stronger.

uncle Joseph and uncle William are away to Greenock to work again there is nothing going on here at all uncle Joseph has got another addition to his family he has four sons and a daughter now and his young son is named James for uncle James both families are all well at present. I have found Helens Mother at last I got a letter from her the other day and she is well and very comfortable she is housekeeper to a lady and just goes about with her it seems they are not long in one place but now when I have found her out I will can send her the money to the address she has sent me and she would like very well if you would send your likeness and Marions both on one card and you are to send the card to me as I cannot tell you how long she may be at the same place and I will send it to her.

I have not had a letter from cousin John Glencross this some time but he is stoping a little at the shoulders when he is walking the last time he was here he had very busy whiskers and I was for cutting them but he told me they would keep his neck warm when the cold weather set in. You must send him one of your cards when you get them taken--

we have had a very dry summer here the water was very scarce for a long time we had it all to cary from Lochburn and it was very bad. we have got all our hay in and the stacks thached but we have not so much hay as we had last year but it is very good what we have for it scarcly ever got a shower either growing or after it was cut. the cows has not been so good either it was so dry and warm that they could not settle to eat and they grass was not very plenty either our turnip crop is very good and the potatoes are thick in the ground but very soft and watery the corn is nearly all in so I think the busy time will soon be past for another season.

the swine is doing very well as far as is past yet and Tom is going on with his hens as brisk as ever I ont tknow how many kinds he has just now--I cannot tell you very well what uncle Joseph and uncle William is going to do now they have been talking about going away to Greenock to drain for there is no work in this place of the country. but I am not sure when they will go away.

my brother James was down from the Tower seeing us last night but I think he is not agreeing very well with the cheesemaking I told him he had as little colour in his face as I have and that is not much now and he is very thin to. but he is hired for another year so if he keeps his health he will be cheesemaker another summer yet he has a son named for my father and he is very like James and is getting a very stiring boy but he has got his left arm of joint at the shoulder and he cannot use it at all and the bonesetter cannot put it in it might have been some thing worse but it is a pity to see as little a boy as he is to have no power in his left arm. my father is very lame now he can scarce walk a step and has not very good health at times either but can go about to I have a half brother that drives coals to Wanlockhead he is not very big but stands the storms going up Mennock wonderful well--

this new Mistress is making some turn ups at Brandleys this term all the servants in the house is going to leave at Martinmas and the cook has been there for eight years she is Grace Hunter a daughter of James Hunter that was living at Meadowbank when he went away many a time she tells me about my uncle John draining at Auchentaggart and a little dog with you.

give Marion my kind regards and say I wish she was over here to keep me in company when I am sitting all alone in the room and I have to tell you from Aunt that you have to write soon and let us know if you get your things all right and between Marion and you I am sure you need not be long in writting give my regards to David Williamson and say I was dreaming about him being here the other night give my kind regards to all enquiring friends and except of the same to you both from your affectionate neice Marion Brown

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bogg, 2 April 1870

We've moved into the 1870s with this letter, four months after the last surviving letter. And we've also changed addressees--this letter was not sent to Pennsylvania originally, but to James Bryden in Ayrshire (a much later photo at left). He's planning a trip to Dunmore, and will take along a parcel from the folks at the Bogg. Because this letter ended up among the other letters sent to the Glencrosses in Dunmore, you can assume he got there, eventually... but that's a story that will unfold in the next few years' worth of letters.

There are some logistical discussions in this brief letter about how objects to carry would be packed. And there's Marion saying she'd go to America cheerfully if Aunt would, and that she might even be accompanying the next parcel herself. She's feeling better, but she still can't walk--she is able to sit up and wear her ordinary clothes for a few hours at a stretch, though.

"The Bogg" April 2nd, 1870

My Dear Friend

You will be thinking we are long in sending down the parcle to you but Aunt intended to be down with it herself to see you all but she has been so bad with a sore back that she will not can come she is a little better today but not very good at walking. I hope this will find you all in good health and I wish you all good health and a good journey and may God guide and and protect you. and if we have our Heavenly Fathers protection nothing can come against us

uncle John sent us word that we were not to put the things up in a parcle but just to let you lay them in you chest as if they were your own and if you are all spared and well to be there and see him you can tell him if I could have walked I would have gone to America with you for I have a great notion to be in America I could go as cheerfully as could be if I had Aunt with me.

I am very glad to be able to tell you that I am a great deal better I was up and had on my clothese two hours yesterday, tell uncle John and Marion to send me word how they are pleased with their stockings and if they like them perhaps I will soon get another chance to send another pair if I don't go with them myself. I would like very well if you could come up before you go away but your time will be all taken up for you will have a great deal to do. if you cannot come up Aunt will try and be down to see you before you go away. now I will say goodbye with Kind love to you all and may God be your guide is the desire of your affectionate friend Marion Brown

These are two cards for uncle. Robert Wylie is a cousin of his and I thought he might like to see a peice of old Sanquhar so I sent that card.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bogg, 23 December 1869

This week, the fourth and last letter from 1869. It's an eight-page letter that starts with a note written by John Glencross's brother William Glencross (set in green below), whose spelling isn't quite as standard as Marion Brown's. This letter features several voices, in fact, because Marion takes dictation (set in blue below) from Aunt Agnes (John and William's sister), and relays a message from uncle Joseph (their brother) as well. There are also reports about Helen's mother (that's John Glencross's mother-in-law, Marion Glencross's maternal grandmother, living near Dumfries--John wanted to send her money, but Marion Brown doesn't have the right address yet), and John's son John, a shepherd living in Scotland.

This letter features one of the loveliest passages in the letters, in which Marion Brown urges John Glencross to take care of his teenaged daughter's education--"for it is the best fortune you can give her to make her a good scholar." Marion Brown reminds her uncle that anything can happen in life, but learning can't be taken away; and that her own circumstances would be very different if she had not learned to read and write.

John Glencross and other American friends sent gifts to Sanquhar for the holidays--a check for Aunt Agnes, apples for Marion (who confesses a love for roasted apples). In return, Agnes has a progress report on John's long-promised trousers, and Marion sends a photo of a kinsman.

"The Bogg" Dec. 23rd 1869

Dear Brother it is not often that i write you but as i am just hear at present i will let you know how i am geten on and i am very happy that i can inform you that we are all in good health at present and hops that you and marrion are still enjoyen good health it is a blessen we cannot be to thankful for his goodness to us for god is a bountiful giver and may each one be mad gratful receivers from his hand

i most asuredly owe my kindest love to you for the gift i received from you may gods hand be a round you in all your doings i have bean doen nothing since we came home but a month of winter weather will work in and then we will to the hills again in health permit there is nothing doin about sanquhar so we must just wate a little the days get out a little

as our friend marrion is just watin to give an account of the bog cows and swin i will bid you and all friends goodnght Wm. Glencross

Dear uncle you see I have got uncle William started to write a bit this time but his hand is shaking very bad and I will take the pen a little. I am very glad to be able to tell you that we are all standing the winter pretty well at "the Bogg" as far as it is gone yet which is a great blessing for when we have not got health we cannot enjoy much. I must surely send you my very best thanks for the present you sent me it was so kind of you to mind me among the rest of our friends bu as I say many a time our heavenly Father always provids for the helpless for it is now five years since I could do anything for myself and I have always been well taken care of and I hope God will guide you and give you plenty as long as you are in this world to need it. Aunt Nany was very proud of her present to she is getting very frail now just scarcly able to go about but very contented and happy Mary is wonderful well she is able to go about and do the turns up and down the house

now I will tell you about Helens Mother she is left Dabton and is living with an old lady near Dumfries. she is very healthy and comfortable it was my grandmother at Carronbridge I got the account from and I sent away one letter and I have not had the right address for it is come back to me again but I will do what I can to find her right address before I send away the money.

now here comes Aunt from the byre and she says I have just to write down as she speaks to me. I have to give you her compliments and say that she got the check chashed all right and uncle William came home just the day before I got your letter and he went to the bank with her and she is very proud over her Christmas gift and she will have a good cup of tea over it. And she has visitied none this two years and no saying but you may be the first she will set out to see. and the web she was expected you to get your trousers of is ready now and if well she is expecting to get you a pair with Turnbull in the spring for the tailor was telling us he was willing to take any thing we liked to send.

Now comes an account of the live stock the cows did very well in the forepart of the summer but they all took the Murrain in the end of the harvest and the milk went entirely of them and we had a bad time of it for they were kept in the house for six weeks and never got out not even for a drink and it was very hard work to carry water for so many of them but we had two very willing girls and it was astonishing how we got on now for the swine department I have sold three fat ones one was twelve stones and the other two were somewhere about thirteen stones each and I got seven and eight pence a stone. and they paid my three summer girls at the term and I have two to kill yet and I had two litters of pigs and I will have fourteen of them for sale and they will average about thirteen shillings each so you see I have been very lucky with my pigs now I think I have said my share of the letter so with kind love to you and Marion I will say good night from your sister Agnes---

When I told uncle Joseph I was going to write he said I was to tell you they were all well and he is going to write to you some time and he is very much obliged to you for your kindness for it came in very good stead this winter weather.

perhaps you will have heard before this reaches you about the loss of some of our old neighbours there has been a good many sudden deaths lately James Slimmon died very suddenly about a month since and James Hunters wife died about a fortnight since she was just a week ill and never neither spoke nor moved all the time she was ill. death is never a stranger just showing us that is left that this is not our resting place.

it is a good while since I had a letter from Cousin John I tell him he is very lazy at writting for very often I write him two for one. I have got two cards to send to you one of uncle John Wylies which I will send this time and one of his son Roberts which I will send next time if spared to write again.

give Marion my kind love and tell her to be anxious at the school for it is the best fortune you can give her to make her a good scholar for when once learned no one can take it from her and no saying what we are to need if uncle James had not made me a moderate good scholar what would have become of me now when I have to write every thing I want to say but when she is at school you will have more to do but when one has moderate health they are busy

I had nearly forgot to say that our turnip crop did very well this year but the potatoes were not so good and we had no corn Aunt thought she would be as well without it and she got her oat meal from Mr. Kerr Whitehill and very good meal it is.

you must give my kind love to David Williams and tell him I was very proud over the apples he sent me and if I was with you I could nearly live on apples for I am very fond of roasted ones. I think if I was over among you I would be useful at times to altho I can neither walk nor speak I could sew on a button or knitt a stocking as need might require. Maggie Williamson has not been very well she has had a bad turn with her head but it is a good thing she is getting better again so you may tell David I am just waiting for an account of his marriage some day. now uncle I hope you will excuse so many blunders in this letter for my head gets very stupid at times so with kind love to Marion and yourself and all enquireing friends I remain your affectionate neice Marion Brown

please write soon and a happy new year to you all

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bogg, 20 September 1869

An incomplete letter this week, but one that gives many details about the logistics of getting clothes made and sent to the American emigrant. Marion Brown is feeling better than in last letter but still cannot walk. We meet David Graham the tailor, and get the sense that he and Marion have a bit of professional comraderie (Marion is listed as a dressmaker in census records). We also hear about "our Sanquhar patterns," which refers to the distinctive black-and-white Sanquhar knitting (see image, left, and see the Future Museum site for an excellent online exhibit of vintage Sanquhar knit patterns).

There's also mention of sending a photo or "card" of John Glencross's son John Glencross to him--but the description here doesn't seem to correspond to any in the surviving album of other photos sent from Sanquhar to America.

"The" Bogg, Septr. 20th 1869

My Dear uncle,

I take up my pen to write you a few lines to let you know that we are all in a moderate state of health in the mean time and I hope this will find you and Marion enjoying the same precious blessing for which we cannot be enough thankful as long as we have good health we do not think half as much of it till once we know the want of it I wrote my last letter to you lying in my bed and today I am up sitting writting on the table and surely that is a great change

I was telling aunt if I could have walked any I would have gone to America with John White my back is always very weak I cannot walk any but I am very glad when I can sit up it is more cheerful than to have to lie in bed all day but I never weary any. we got rather a surprise when we got word John White was going away so soon we got word on Thursday night that we was to have a the parcle ready on Monday if we was going to send any thing to you. it was very lucky that the tailor happened to be here making trousers to Tom so we just got yours made without any ado. And I was to give you David Grahams compliments and tell you he would come over so that he could get you measured for he was not sure if your old measure would fit you now David is just the old man yet him and me has many a spree when I am dressmaking when he is here--you have not got your trousers off the new web as Aunt expected. them you are going to get is brown and white and the other web was to be orang and black but just the same pattern we got such short warning we will not get ready what we expected to send. Aunt repeated one of my grandmothers sayings when she got word, she said when one takes what they have they will never want so I will just send what I have.

I was begun to knit a pair of black and white stockings to Marion to let her see some of our Sanquhar patterns and I am like aunt I am greatly disapointed but perhaps we soon get another chance Aunt says if spared she will keep a pair of trousers to you of the new web and then they will be ready Aunt had some flannel in the house as you will get a pair of drawers and a cemmit and yarn for a pair of stockings to you and Marion, and I will send a little bag to Marion for a purse as it is on use for any thing else but a purse it is so small.

I got a card from cousin John but it is not a very good one for his eyes have not come out very well he told me he got it taken when he was away with lambs and he was sweating very hard at the time and it has not come out so well but when you look at the card you see the way he always goes for he always keeps his plaid over the one shoulder and stoops a

[end of letter is missing]

Thursday, October 2, 2008

An overdue note about cheese

The last letter posted here mentions Aunt Agnes having a "wee cheese in the chesle." What's a chesle? I emailed Richard Foss, a local foodie friend who teaches culinary history. He didn't know himself, but he wrote off to a Scottish culinary historian, Cathy Jacobs, who kindly provided this answer:
"I thought I knew the definition, but to be sure I checked in my Scots dialect dictionary (compiled by Alexander Warrack). There are a number of terms, all with similar phonetic sounds, and all of which mean a tub for pressing cheese. These include chessart, chessirt, chessel, chessil, and cheswell."
Okay then, one mystery solved. While I was talking about this with Richard, I mentioned that Aunt's special treat was "swine curds," or cheese made from pig's milk. Now, it is very rare to find a strange food that Richard Foss (a) hasn't tried, and (b) doesn't want to try, but swine curds met those criteria easily. He sent back the following research on the subject:
The Hungarian health authorities have uncovered a conspiracy involving a shipment of salmonella-infected disznasajt (pork cheese) that was off-loaded to unwitting consumers in several towns in and around Pest county. According to, for Ft 5 million (รข‚¬20,000) and a promise he wouldn’t be fired from his job, one Zsigmond Zsolt R. agreed to take responsibility for the poisonous pork-by-product-product, which even when not infected with salmonella is known to cause nausea and other unpleasant symptoms among those who consume it.

...and another article about why pig cheese isn't more common, though it is apparently eaten in parts of Mexico:

From Dave Barbano: “Pig milk contains about 6.8 percent fat, 2.8 percent casein, 2.0 percent whey protein, 5.5 percent lactose, and 1.0 percent ash. Thus, from a composition point of view it is a fairly rich milk. However, since the pig is a nonruminant, the milk fat will be primarily long-chain fatty acids (probably a lot of C16:0). The short-chain fatty acids that provide the typical flavor to dairy products produced from ruminant milks (e.g. cow, goat, sheep, etc.) would not be present in pig milk. The fatty acid composition of the fat in the milk from pigs will be a function of the diet of the pig, just like it is for milk fat in human milk. Thus, I don’t think there is much of a future for pig milk cheese.”
Now we knew that Aunt Agnes was a talented and tireless cheesemaker, but she was also, apparently, skilled at making good edible cheese from pig's milk, a rarity indeed. Or maybe the Sanquhar folks just had very sturdy stomachs.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bogg, 28 July 1869

A long newsy eight-page letter on green stationery reports that Marion's been very unwell, and who's working where this year. There's a short note about Helen Brown's mother (Marion Glencross's maternal grandmother) being in service at Dabton. Another photo of Marion Glencross, age 17, has been sent to Sanquhar--and all approve, including Tam Scott and Mr. Kennedy the landowner. This letter gives a strong sense of what, besides letters, is crossing from Sanquhar to Dunmore: Aunt will be sending John Glencross a pair of trousers, and a "wee cheese" she's made, and Tam Scott included a feather from one of his prized chickens, and a photo or two are also promised.

Bogg July 28th 1869

My Dear uncle

You may well think me very careless in not writting to you sooner but I will make no apology about not writting sooner for I will just tell the truth and I suppose it stands longest, I have been very bad since about a week before I got your letter. I was nearly blind for five weeks but I am very thankful that my eyes are better now for I felt rather lonely when I could neither speak nor see, I made Aunt laugh that day I got your letter I was vomiting when the post came in and after I got hold of the letter I vomited no more for an hour and she laughed and told the doctor when he came up that uncle Johns letter had feared me from vomiting for one hour and he wished you was here if you would have any effect to make me better, but let me be thankful I am rather stronger this two weeks past but not able to be up any yet. Dear uncle you see I need a great deal of nursing and every one is so kind to me it makes me take many a serious though [sic] when I think I can do nothing for my self and to see every one so willing to serve me--

I think it is high time I was asking for you and Marion now I hope you are both in good health and getting on well with your work you was just in the midst of it when you wrote to me so I hope you got well through your garding plainting and what other work you had to do I was very proud over the card Marion sent me and I think it must be like her for the most of our friends that has seen it points out some resemblings she has to some of us. I was letting Mr. Kennedy see it the other day and says she is very like what her mother was when she was young. he was asking very kindly for you and wondered if you never took a notion to come home. there is great changes now about Brandleys MissKennedy is going to be married on the eleventh of August, and John went away to a farm at Whitsundy. you will know it, it is the Stenes down in Tynron, so you see in a short time Mr. Kennedy will be left with his second wife the same as when he brought home his first, but one thing the present Mrs. Kennedy never will be like the first one she is a very high proud woman just as if there was nobody like her but the master is the same yet he comes in and askes for us all as homely as if we were his equal

you wanted to know if I knew any thing about Helen's mother. it is about six months since my Aunt was up from Carronbridge and she told me that she was always working at Dabton and was wonderful well but I have heard no word of her since. Now here is Aunt come ben she has been busy baking and I have to tell you that she is standing the works wonderful well this summer but just about roasted in the boiler house this hot weather it ias been so hot this some time past

Dear uncle it is wonderful to see Aunt standing so well for she has so much to do now although Tom does very well he has ot so much sense about things yet Aunt made nearly out with the cows last year she wanted three stones but the master was very kind he said it was the first time ever there was any of the rent wanting since she came to the Bogg so he would just let it go, we have a good lot of swine this summer we have two breeders and one of them had six and that served ourselves and the other had twelve and they were all sold at twenty five shillings each and Aunt says the price of the twelve pigs will pay the winning of her hay and to appearance we are going to have a good crop of turnips and potatoes and we are begun our hay this week but they say it is not so good as it was last year the dry weather has been against it uncle Joseph and uncle William and one James Menzies is our mowers and we have William Halberts daughter for one of our girls and a sister of uncle William's wife for the other she was with us all winter she is a very quite [sic] girl and can help Aunt very well and that is a good thing, and Aunt says I have to tell you she has plenty of cloth for two pairs of trousers to you but she is getting a new web made and she wants you to get a pair of it and John White is speaking about going to America after the harvest and she expects to get them over with him and she has a wee cheese in the chesle for you and she will be very glad if she gets it over when it is in season.

uncle Josephs wife and family are all well he has four three boys and one girl their names are Tom, William, Samuel, and Agnes, and I was to tell you uncle Joseph would write to you soon but he is very lazy at writting or he might have wrote you long before this. uncle Williams wife and family are all in good health to he has five three in the first family and two in the second Helen the oldest girl is our cow herd this summer and Tom and William and these are what Martha had and John and James are what Janet Young has I have to tell you from Tom that he has four kinds of hens silver penciled and golden penciled and silver spangled and golden spangled and he gave seven shillings for one of the hens and these are some of the golden penciled ones feathers and that is one of his card he has sent to Marion. and I will just tell you what he said when he saw her card that she was the best looking friend he had and he thought he would soon be over to see her. he does not incline to work among the cows very much but I think he is not sure what he would like to do yet.

I told you about Robert Wylie in my last letter and he was here last week he is going to give me one of his cards to send to you the next time I write he is a mason and working at Penpont just now, his father and mother and all our Douglas friends were well when he was here. Brother James is at the Tower this summer and he is Mr. Hyslops cheese maker but he is not agreeing with it very well but perhaps he will get used to it his wife and his son George is in a moderate state of health they have had the measles but are in a bettering way my father is wonderful well in health but is very bad at walking.

now uncle I have given you a pretty fair account of things here, but I had nearly forgot Aunty and Mary at Mennock are wonderful Aunty is spinning the yarn for the new web you have to get your trousers of Aunt joins with me in kind love to you and Marion and tell Marion I will write to her next time for I am tired of writting lying in bed and perhaps I will can sit up next time give my kind regards to all enquiring friends and except of the same to your self from your affectionate neice Marion Brown

pleas write soon and if well I will not be so long in answering you

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bogg, 7 April 1869

A long gap, almost a year, since the last letter--but Marion Brown acknowledges a long gap in her first lines; still, she also says this is her fourth letter without a reply from Dunmore in the past year, so we may be missing a few in the sequence.

Marion's writing at least part of this letter lying on her back, it's been weeks since she's left her bed, and she cannot speak either--she makes several comments of religious resignation to her "afflictions" here. Thomas Glencross "Tam" or "Tom" Scott, Aunt Agnes's son, has a bigger presence in this letter than we've seen in previous letters--he's "crased" about hens, an interest we'll be hearing more about in coming letters.

Another young man also makes an appearance: "Cousin John Glencross" is Uncle John Glencross's son--Marion Glencross's half-brother. When Uncle John left Scotland with his new wife Helen Brown in 1852, he left behind a son, John, whose mother was Christian (or Christina) Neilson (or Nelson), a woman Uncle John apparently never married. The boy was named for Uncle John, and stayed in contact with the family at the Bogg; at the time of this letter, young John was living with his mother and working as a herdsman, a "straping good looking young man" more than six feet tall, according to Marion Brown. There may be a photo of this young John Glencross in the albums, but there are a lot of unlabeled young men's portraits in there--so who knows?

Eight sides, paragraph breaks and links added.

My Dear uncle After a long silence I lift my pen to write you a few lines hopping this will find you and Marion both in good health and this leaves us all in a moderate state in the meantime for which precious blessing we ought to be very thankful if we have not health what can we enjoy but it is well for us to be afflicted at times or we would forget alltogether what we really are I am never very strong and has not been so well this some time past as I was I have been close confined to bed for the last three weeks many a time when I am lying all alone I have mind of you tieing a pink ribbon round my head and making me walk across the floor with my mouth prim. but what a change is come over me now when I can neither walk nor speak but no doubt all this affliction is sent for my good so I must just wait with patience and try to submit willingly under my cross----

Dear uncle I have had such a time dreaming about you I have had you twice at the Bogg this last week but I thought you would never sit down so I don't know what you are about at all we have been wearing very much to hear from you this some time for I have sent away three letters and this is the fourth and I have never got an answer although we hear how you are sometimes it is never like a letter from yourself perhaps you will not think it is so long as it is since we got a letter from you but it is a year past and no wonder although I dream about you. Now I must begin and tell you how things move on about the Bogg we had uncle Joseph last summer for my Brother left us last Whitsunday it was rather a hard summer with us for the weather was very dry and warm and the cows were not so good but I think Aunt had her quantity of cheeses but no more and the master was very well pleased with them so that was so far good it cheers one up to know of a thing being right after working so hard with it and we had a very bad crop of turnips but we had very good potatoes and what corn we had did wonderful but we had not much Aunt had to sell all her swine before they were fat for she had no meat to fatten them off. we had no man through winter Tom has been our man and we expect to do without one till May begins if we all keep well. Aunt has two breeding swine just now and the pigs is very high in price and if they do well she will get something of them to help her through summer. we have seven cows calved and they have all queys so we have got all our calves at the very first which is a good thing.

it would be worth your while to come over and have a crack with Tom about hens and sheep he is just crased about them he is talking about giving five shillings for some kind of hen just now but I don't know what kind it is Tom is a real Scott he has not an inch of his mother in him he is turning as like his father as can be he says he will be in America before he is much older if he keeps his health. uncle Joseph is here delving the garden this two days he has very little to do this winter every thing is very quite here the farmers is doing nothing and there is scarcly any work to be got he is going to Lochside to live this summer his wife and family is all well and he has been very well this some time better than I have seen him for a long time. uncle William has been working with masons all winter when it was weather he could work and be away to Crarapark this week and he expects to have the most of his summers work there if well his Master is Robert Wylie from Douglas a Cousin of your own and a very fine quite man he is, uncles wife and family is well and he has another son and his name is James so he has both James and John Glencross now. but uncle there will be many a James before we get one like the one we have lossed but it was Gods will to take him from us so why should we murmur but he was just like my father and always I feel the more miss of him

I am forgeting what I meant to say but here comes Aunt from the byre to tell me what she has got to say to you and she says I have to write every word she tells me. she has her kind love to you and Marion and she thinks you have forgot her altogether now you have been so long in writting and she thinks you might have had a letter here long before this and you are to tell Marion if you dont write she has to write herself and she thinks she will have a better summer this summer if spared and well Dear uncle Aunt has such a spirit she works on and she is getting very thin now and not very strong at times but still she goes on as long as she can some times she wishes she was beside you to see what you are doing.

We had a visit of Cousin John Glencross last Sanquhar fair he is a straping good looking young man I am sure he is above six feet he is herd at Carmacoup and his mother keeps house to him he has a married herding this four years passed he is very like you I have got his carte but it is not very like him he is going to get his likeness taken again and if it is any better than the one I have I will send it to you. now uncle I am getting tired writting lying on my back and I think I have given you a pretty fair account of things as they stand just now. give my kind regards to David Williamson and tell him it is time he was married now all friends and acquaintances is well at present as far as I know so with kind love to you and Marion I remain your affecitonate neice Marion Brown

write soon

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bogg, 15 April 1868

A change of address, here--this letter begins "My Dear Cousin," so Marion Brown (age 24) has begun to write directly to Marion Glencross (now 15 years old). She adds a couple pages for uncle John Glencross too. In this letter, we get more of Marion Brown's medical treatment for headaches and impaired speech--"fly blisters" (painful blisters raised on the skin by applying the irritating extract of certain insects), and "a cord" in the back of her neck....?

Marion's brother James Brown has married Agnes Kerr, age 19, a resident of the Bogg. There's also commentary on how hard Aunt Agnes works, and how quickly Marion Glencross might lose her "Yankee talk" if she visited Scotland.

My Dear Cousin

I received your Kind letter in due time and was very glad to see by it that you and my uncle was both well for what a blessing it is to have good health and when we have not health we may say we have nothing for we can enjoy nothing and nothing is a pleasure to us in this world. I was so proud over your letter for since I could not speak when I get a letter it is just like talking to yourself it is a great mis the want of my voice but what a blessing it is I have always my reason but our heavenly Father is always kind to us and gives us poor sinful creatures far more than we deserve I can not but say that I have had a sore winter and is not much better yet for I have such a queer stupid head I can tell nobody what it is like the Doctor says it is the nerves that goes from the spine of my back to my Brain that causes my head to be so bad. I have had on a good many fly blisters on the back of my neck and I always get some relief with them the Dr. is going to put a cord in the back of my neck now he thinks it will do more good as the blisters but perhaps the good weather will do me good now for the weather has a great effect on people that is not very strong and it has been a very changeable spring here

now I must begin to give you the news and what is going on about the Bogg. first of all how queer it was that I got your letter that day that my Brother James was going to be married. he was married on the third of April to Agnes Agnes [sic] Kerr. Your Father would know her she came to William Halberts to be nursed and she always stayed with them and now she is married she is just ninteen but she has always been a very solid young woman for she has been at the Bogg with us for six years she came first to herd the cows and just stoped on till she got hired for the long term as the saying goes. so you see there is nothing but changes. we don't know who will be our summer man yet for James goes about as dumb as a stick and has never said a word whither he will stop with us or not but Mr. Kennedy takes a good intrest in Aunt for he says there will never a wife come to live here as long as Aunt can do it all.

Dear Marion you told me all about your stock of hens I think we will just have about the same number as you and a good many of them is laying and we have two breeding swine and some shots and we have eight cows calved and I think we will have plenty of hay this year. we have two pets and one of them has a lamb James is busy getting the garding selved this weekend we got our corn sowen last week so you see the work is fairly begun for another year and they are going to be plainting potatoes at Brandleys this week they are a good deal sooner with them this year. now I think I have told you the most of the things that is going on just now.---

Dear Marion you think you would not enjoy a visit to Scotland much because you don't know much about the language but I think you would soon give over the Yankee talk if you was here now although you have only wrote one letter to me I hope when you are begun you will continue on and not be very long in writting again and I will close to you at this time hopping this will find you in good health I will say goodbye with kind love from your affectionate cousin Marion Brown

Dear uncle

As the saying goes long looke for comes at last and we were all wearing very much to get a letter from you but Marion is a good writter now and she must just write in your stead for your hand will not be very steady for writting sometimes. I am to give you Aunts compliments and say that she was wearing so much to hear from you that she dreamed every night for a week about you before we got your letter and I have to tell you that she has made out with the cows and had a little over to begin with again. Dear uncle Aunt has a great deal of work to go through to keep all things right and is not very strong at times but she is wonderful to but if it was not her spirit that keeps her up I don't know how she would do at all. Uncle Joseph has been working at Brandleys all winter and is there yet and all his family is well. And uncle William is draining Mains just now and his wife and family is all well. All friends and acquaintances is well here as far as I know just now, and I will write to you as soon as I know who is to be our summers man for James is not like Me for he takes a long time before he can speak his mind but I just say what I think and has done with it so now I must stop for it is nearly past time and with kind love from us all I remain your affectionate niece Marion Brown

pleas write soon

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bogg, 21 August 1867

[Image: Studio carte of Marion Glencross (1852-1919), as a girl, in a long dark dress with darker hash-mark trim and hair that's parted in the middle and possibly cropped?]

Back to the letters. This week, a long one--seven sides (the eighth is a short note from uncle Joseph Glencross to his brother). Again, I've added some paragraph breaks.

In this one, Marion is more explicit about her impairments than in any of the other letters I've transcribed here so far. She describes recent and long-lasting interruptions in her mobility, vision, and speech; at the time of this letter's writing, she hadn't been able to speak in about four months. She says she often thinks "we are the better of a crook in our lot." She also points out that it would be "a very different thing" if she lost her reason instead of her voice (which is perhaps her way of assuring the reader that she hasn't lost the former). We get more physical description of Aunt Agnes Scott here, too: she's "failing" and thin, "turning very small about the shoulders," but with a stubborn spirit and obviously very hard-working.

More news of the livestock and the neighbors who are leaving for America or getting married. Aunt will send some blankets and books over with David Williamson. And we get mention of "Marion's carte"--a photo of young Marion Glencross, age 15--it might be the photo I've attached to this post, above left. (That's definitely Marion Glencross as a girl, but maybe there was another young-Marion photo now lost?)

My Dear Uncle I have been longer then I expected in writting to you but I hope when this reaches you it will find you and Marion both in good health for what can we enjoy if we have not health and nothing in this world is a pleasure to us but we are the better of a crook in our lot some times or we would be apt to forget what we realy are.

Many a time I have thought that since I was close confined to the house, but I am very thankful to be able to say that I am a little stronger for when I wrote last although I am not able to go without a hold of some thing yet it is a great change from being close confined to bed and I would have written sooner but I have had very sore eyes for a long time but I am thankful I can see a little better this week for I felt very lonely when I could neither speak nor see have not could speak a word since April but amidst all our sufferings we have mercies too for it would have been a very different thing both for myself and everyone connected with me if it had been my reason instead of my voice

now I think I have given you a long account of myself and I will tell you about Aunt next she is wonderful healthy but I know a difference of her this summer she is failing she is turning very small about the shoulders now but she has such a spirit she will go through where many a one twice her weight would stick. And I was to tell you from her that she has got clear off for last year and she will let you know as soon as she can how she stands with the cows this year and she has five pigs and four shots and she is going to have them all away as soon as she can and she has one away this week that was 18 stones and she has two breeders and it will not be long till we have a lot of pigs again and that is an account of the swine and I think the cows has done very well as far as this year is gone. and they are going on with the hay if it keeps good weather they will son have done and I think all the rest of the things is going on as useal but there is a great want for although I have my brother here he is just like nobody beside my uncle but never ??ed with him before and that makes me feel the difference more.

Aunt has some things she would like very well if she could get them over to you there is some of uncles books and some other things and she has a pair of blue and white checked blankets she would like Marion to get them, David Williamson is talking about going away and if he goes we will get them with him, uncle Joseph has been speaking about writting but may be he will talk a long time befor he begins but he has been very well this hay time and he has got another addition to his family in July it is a daughter this time and her name is Agnes and all the rest of his family is well and uncle William's family is well but his wife had a still born son about three weeks since but she is wonderful well again and going about. there is not much new here just now but James Young of Knockenhair is going to be married to one Agnes Broadfoot she has been serving with him for seven years and she is only 26 and he is above sixty the folk says. I am very proud over Marion's carte she is a stout looking girl and she will can help you with your household work now and Aunt joins with me in kind love to you both and if you don't write yourself Marion has to write and let us know how you are getting on and I will say goodbye hopping this will find you both in good health as it leaves us all in a moderate state at present from your affectionate niece Marion Brown

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Greetings from San Francisco

This is a photo (taken by Susan Burch) from the presentation given by Iain Hutchison and myself about Marion Brown, today at the Disability History Conference in San Francisco. See that big grey box on the table between us? That's the box of letters from Sanquhar. In front of us, on the table, there are photos in frames, a small Bible from Scotland, two of the books we've put Marion's story into, and other goodies. The session went well--we had audience participation and some animated conversation in the comments time (especially about what medical historians should or should not ask of such stories).

Monday, July 28, 2008

Marion Brown is too busy to blog this week

Actually, the letters are already packed, along with some photos and other goodies, to show off at the Disability History Conference at San Francisco State University this weekend. I'll be presenting with (and meeting!) Iain Hutchison, in a session where we'll be talking about our trans-Atlantic collaboration on a trans-Atlantic correspondence. I'll report back, and hope to have some photos too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bogg, 11 April 1867

Another letter on black-bordered stationery this week--different stationery, the border is wider, but it still means a death reported. This time it's Aunt Elspeth, another resident of the Bogg (not sure how she's related to the rest just now). The Miss Kennedy mentioned as living at Brandleys is probably Mary Kennedy (b. 1848), who would eventually marry a doctor named Hyslop. Robert McWhir, who was mentioned in the 1865 letter, reappears here. Marion is still 23 at the writing of this letter, and makes no mention of her own health status in this letter.

Paragraph breaks and links for dialect words added.

My Dear Uncle

I lift my pen to write you a few lines to let yo know how things moves about the Bogg. perhaps before this reaches you you will have heard that there is another blank made in our home, Aunt Elspeth got her journey finished here on the 24 of March she was only a week close confined to bed but she was very weak for a long time before, it was water that was her trouble in the end the cough and the breathing was very hard for some time but it was much easier nearer the end

Dear uncle we have had a great deal of trouble at the Bogg within this last two years but such is the way of this world. All things decays and goes away and man is compaired to A flower that blooms in the morning and is withered at night and that may show us the uncertainity of our time here, we don't know how soon we may be called from this to another world where there is no change all is either happiness or misery.

Dear uncle Aunt Nannie is thinking you have forgot us altogether you have been so long in sending us a letter she wearies more since she was left alone. I may say alone for we have A big house but death is makeing it empty but we ought not to pine at what God sees fit to lay upon us but submit willingly and say 'thy will be done.'

I may let you know what is going on about the Bogg the cows is begun to calve and you know from that that the work is fairly commenced for another year there is twelve cows calved but the queys is very scarce we have only three yet and we have two litters of pigs one has 8 and the other has 7 and one of them is so ill natured she will not let the pigs be beside her so you see the swine is as thrawn as ever yet. As for the hens Tom Scott has great work with them he is always wanting his mother to get some new kinds for he thinks the old ones is not very good he is a great man among beasts of all kinds he has three pets and they have all lambs and he can scarcly get sleeping about them I think I have given you an account of the most of things but we are going to be rather scarce of hay--which is not a very good thing but they think they will get through. I may let you know what the people is thinking about doing at Brandleys this year. Mr. John Kennedy is going away to South America he sails on the 21 of this month and it will be an empty house at Brandleys for there will be nobody but Miss Kennedy and her papa left. And Robert McWhir is going to leave at Martinmas and he has been a long time among us

[no signature, may not be the end of the letter]

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bogg, 25 July 1866

This week's letter is written on black-edged stationery, which nearly always means a letter reporting a death in the family. Marion, age 23, still in bed, is writing about the death of her uncle James Glencross (1824-1866), brother of her letter's intended reader, John Glencross in Pennsylvania. James was heading the household at the Bogg, and doing the outside work before he fell ill from a "belling throat" (badly infected throat and ear)*, and died from "congestion of the Brain." This untimely death required some family rearrangements--another uncle, Joseph, will come stay a while to work and head the Bogg household as well as of his own family.

This is a six-sided letter, and I've inserted minimal paragraph breaks where they seemed necessary (Marion rarely breaks up her writing with punctuation, let alone paragraph breaks, but a little spacing does help in the reading).

*A bealing throat is mentioned in this 1827 letter by Thomas Carlyle; there's also a passage in Amelia E. Barr's 1886 novel The Bow of Orange Ribbon, where a character is mentioned "making a plaster for black Tom's bealing finger." The word "bealing" was noted in use in Appalachia as recently as the 1920s, used for the same meaning Marion uses it here (see Carey Woofter, "Dialect Words and Phrases from West-Central West Virginia," American Speech 2(8)(May 1927): 347-367).

Dear uncle I take the pen to write you A few lines to let you know how we are getting on and I have sad news to tell you this time but as God sees fit we ought to be willing to submit to his will for he knows what is best for us for I had little thought that the first letter I was to write to you was to inform you of uncle James's Death for although he was not very strong we little expected we was to lose him so "soon"

he was not very strong the whole Spring and he took A bad cold about two months since and he was just getting A little better when he took A belling throat and after that he had congestion of the Brain which is A very dangerous trouble and the Docters said it proceeded from A sore ear he has had for A long time he was confined to his bed for three weeks and I think the most of his pain was past before he took the bed for he never complained of any thing scarcly after he took the bed but one great blessing we ought to be thankful for that he was sensible to the last but it is A sore trial for we never was left without A head before and he was like A father to every one of us and I was to give you Aunt Nanies compliments and say she losed one head and now another but she thinks this is the worst and it will be the worst for us all and we are very lonly for he had always A cheerie word to every one.

I may let you know how things is to go on for me A while we had Mr. Kennedy over on Monday and he thinks it is best for Aunt Nanie to go on with the cheeses till Martinmas and uncle Joseph is to come to stop with us and look after the cows and out door things for we could not get on without A man to stay in the house with us and he is not very strong he was away in the North draining an he came home to the funeral and he is not fairly railed yet uncle Joseph family is all well just no and so is uncle Williams we had him here two weeks the time uncle James was ill, as for myself I am still confined to bed but I think I am A little stronger than I was in the winter all the rest here is wonderful and the busy time is commenced and when one has plenty of work it helps to keep up the mind they commenced the hay today and we have George White and my Brother James to mow it this year again and they will be very busy for A while all friends and acquatinces is well as far as I know but we dont know how soon A chance may come

give my kind regards to Marion and I hope by this time She is quite strong again for we heard she had been very ill since you last wrote kind regards to yourself and all inquiring friends pleas write soon and let us know how you are both getting on and I will add no more remaining your affectionate niece Marion Brown

now uncle uncle James had A line in the Bank and uncle Joseph says you have to send home word what claim you have and if the money is lifted you will look to him and not the Bank for your share of it and you must write soon and let him know yours, MB

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bog, 26 June 1865

Marion Brown was 21 years old when she added these words to a letter written by her uncle James Glencross to her uncle (his brother) John Glencross in Pennsylvania. John had left "the Bog" and emigrated in 1852 with his wife Helen Brown; their daughter Marion Glencross was born that same year in America. Helen Brown died in 1855.

In this first surviving letter, we already see Marion's usual topics of correspondence: her own health (usually not strong), the crops and livestock (potatoes, turnips, pigs, chickens, cows), and local events (deaths, mainly). This letter was written soon after her aunt, Agnes Glencross Scott or "Nanny," lost her husband Samuel Scott.

Dear uncle seeing uncle James is so busy I will try and write you a few lines to let you know what is going on about the Bog although I am not able to be up yet I sometimes try to write in bed. I was glad to hear by your last letter that you and Marion were getting on so well with your household and gardening affairs. they are very busy here weeding the potates and one thing just brings on another I will begin and tell you about the live stock now---we have not so many pigs this year we have just six big ones but we have an old one and ten young ones, and we are nurseing one ourselves. and I think the cows is doing wounderful well this year Aunt Nanny is going on with the cheader cheeses, and she has not many hens but she has a lot of young chickens and she thinks if she could get A chance she would send you two or three for A change of stock but I was to say likewise that she felt herself very lonely it is A great mis to us all the want of Samuel and it must be worse for her but Death is no stranger amongst us their is A good many of our acquaintance taken away this spring---

William Young of Moshend
died about two months since and Robert McWhir's wife is very poorly and not expected to get better her trouble is a growth in the stomach.

Proper Introductions

[Image description: an oval-framed photo in sepia tones shows an older woman, Marion Brown, white hair parted in the center, wearing a black cap and dress; the photographer's cardboard frame adds a red border and the words "Jenner & Co."]

On this blog, I'll be transcribing letters written by Marion Brown (1843-1915), a woman who lived most of her life in or around Sanquhar, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. The letters were written to her American relatives between 1865 and 1903, and were given to my by my grandmother in 1994 to organize, transcribe and conserve. And I did all that, promptly. Unfortunately, the transcripts I did back then were in a format that I can no longer easily access; so I'm starting over, with more attention to the details, going more slowly, making links, and inviting feedback. In short, I'm turning this problem of technological obsolescence into an opportunity.

Much of what I know about Marion Brown beyond these letters comes from the excellent work of my colleague Iain Hutchison, who has tromped along the edges of foot-and-mouth quarantines and through cemeteries to ground Marion's existence in buildings and places and documents. So before I even get started here, big thanks to Iain. We'll be presenting together about Marion Brown later this month, at the disability history conference in San Francisco.

The photo above is a late photo of Marion Brown, labeled in pencil on the back, from my great-great grandparents' photo albums. We figure this was taken about 1905--so ten years before her death, and a little while after the last letter in the collection.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Happy birthday, Marion Brown!

I figure the 165th birthday of Miss Marion Brown (1843-1915) is the right day to launch this site, even if I'm not actually ready to start just yet. Consider this post a placeholder till I can come back and do proper introductions. Soon!