This Week in History: October 18

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a Scooby Doo-style mystery letter.  This is an unsigned note sent to Robert, purportedly from a good Samaritan to ask him to send money to his poor destitute niece Virginia Hamilton in Ireland.  (Her father was Robert’s oldest brother, Andrew.)  Was this letter truly authored by a well-meaning friend?  Did Virginia’s husband send it?  You decide.  Incidentally, it says Robert sent Virginia 400 Pounds in honor of her 1867 wedding; that would be the equivalent of roughly $9,500 today.  (That’s a pretty nice wedding gift.)

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Newtownstewart
October 23rd 1877
Colonel Robert Campbell

1867 Shilling

Dear Sir
You will please pardon
an utter stranger writing you an anonymous
letter, but it is for a kindness to a Niece
of yours that I write and I hope you will
pardon my boldness, but knowing and hearing
so much of your generous kindness to your
friends and strangers I thought I might address
a few words to you.  Her name is Virginia
Hamilton ( her husband’s name is Alexn.) and she
is a credit to the name of Campbell for every
one respects and loves her, but she has got
into difficulties, or rather her Husband.
Rather he had been in some little debt
previous to her marriage (but she was not
aware of it). Her kind good Uncle Robert
sent her after Marriage 400 pounds she
told me she gave to her Husband 200 pounds
and invested the rest on herself but she
did not get keeping it long as there was
a lease of a House sold and she gave
100 pounds for it, well with one bill and
another she had to give all her money,
and this Spring one of their creditors wrote
for all his money and her Husband was
not able to meet with the demand so
he had to call a meeting of all his creditors
and the all agreed to take 10 shillings to
the pound they got 3.6 and 9 months to
make their payments.  Your Niece Virginia
never knew of it until three days previous
to the meeting and I, her dear friend, never
did see anything like her grief. Indeed it
was thought she would have gone out of
her mind but she bore up like a Christian and
I told her she was not to blame as she had
wrought so constant in her shop had gained
so much custom and they were doing so well
she would not allow her Husband to get
an assistant to keep down the expense. I asked
her to write her kind good Uncles her
circumstances and they would soon send
help but she said oh no I could not think
of doing such a thing as they were far to
kind to her and all her sisters, so please
don’t blame her in causing me to write this
letter to you as she or her Husband or any
of her friends are not the least aware of
it being wrote. So kind Sir if you would
send her some money you would never miss it
and it would be the means of setting her
up in the world and as they left themselves
wanting any means to pay their creditors and
your Niece Virginia is such a noble person.
She says “Oh if God pleases to spare me my
health to I would pay the last farthing of
debt I would die happy.”  I have not a
a single friend I would prefer before her
since she came to this town she has been
a model Woman and wrought all she
has one little son a promising
boy he is and his age I think would be
now about 7 years and two lovely little daughters
aged 2 years and one year her own health is
very delicate, so kind Sir I trust you will
forgive me for addressing you this is every word
true and your Niece and her Husband above would
forever reward them for it and for Gods sake
send her the money.  Farewell good bye and God will
bless you.

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