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.