Tag Archives: Milton Sublette

This Week In History: September 1

Bill Sublette’s brother Milton needs a cork leg (for the right or left?), business is phenomenal, a troublemaking child, and Robert needs to thank his lucky stars for all of his good fortune — this and more in today’s letter from Hugh Campbell to his little brother Robert in St. Louis.


Phila Sept 1835
My dear Robert
To any other an apology would be necessary for my long silence – to you I need only say that it was out of my power to write you sooner. I have never been so much wearied in business as during the last six weeks – but our hurry is now over for the season.
Your favor of 6 and 13 inst. are duly to hand the latter by this evening’s mail. I am pleased to find that the intermittent which was caused my imprudent exposure is subsiding and that you are likely to be “yourself again” but it seems strange that you don’t name a time for coming on here. The season at which I have been accustomed to see you and our friend Sublette approaches – and you will aid us in spending agreeably some long winter nights if you appear in Philadelphia about 1st Nov. or should you defer until later about 8 Dec. for I must spend a week in Richmond in the latter part of Nov. on business of the estate.

The attention – the downright brotherly friends of Wm. L. Sublette is almost without a precedent. In this cold heartless world, my dear Robert, it is like an oasis in the desert to meet with such a man – and I think his conduct and that of his household, to you, during your late dreadful attack, is enough to cure the most obstinate misanthrope. Perhaps it may one day or other be in my power to show him how gratefully remembered is such well timed friendship.

The cork leg for friend Milton is not finished but the workman says it will be ready for delivery in all this week. Mr. S. forgot to say whether it was for the right or left – and finding that to wait for an answer would require a month at least, I ordered a right leg to be made, at the same time, having occasion to write Mr. Dormell, I requested him to call on Mr. S. & cause him to write me on the subject by return mail. I expect his letter before the cork leg is finished, and can make an alteration in two days if it be wanted for the left leg.

Not a single sentence from home for many months, except the brief letter mentioned in my last from Andrew, merely stating that Sarah Dunn was married to Hugh MacFarlane & requesting attention to her. In a P.S. to Mary’s last letter I told you what a strange “kettle of fish” this same marriage had likely to turn out – & the fortunate result of my interference in the matter. Before this reaches you, I presume you will have seen the happy pair, on their way to Galena. I really feel interested in their welfare.

You have been informed of the death – the very sudden death of our cousin James B. Borland on his way from Jackson to this city. The surviving partner, James Lee, will of course wind up the business. I am sorry to learn from a letter received from our cousin in May last, while in Nashville, that J. Lee is a complete and irreclaimable drunkard. Of course my expectations from the close of the business are extremely moderate. I expect to hear from his father shortly, and will take such measures as may be in my power to protect the interest of the family should they send me a proper power of atty. All the leisure moments I have lately had to spare were engrossed in purchasing for Mrs. Kyle a small assortment of dry goods, suited for a country town in the interior of Missouri or Illinois. They have been forwarded about ten days ago and the invoices amounting to $2850 have been enclosed to Mr. G. Sproule. When in St. Louis, I found that the family preferred a small store to any other kind of operations and promised to send betwixt $1000 and $1500 of goods which I told them must be repaid in 1 2 and 3 years but it was impossible to get up anything like a variety for that sum & I increased the amount accordingly; stipulating that the surplus over $1500 should be repaid from the first sales. If this start in business prove serviceable all will be well & I shall be amply repaid, in the feeling of pleasure which their success will afford. If not, I shall have done my duty & they must try some other avocation. I am anxious that they should make some arrangement with Mr. Edgar, the Messrs Kerr’s or some other house, for occasional supplies, – as it will be impossible for me to continue to send goods from Philadelphia. The family speak most kindly of you. I am pleased to find you so general a favorite and that they seem to place so much reliance on your advice.

You are aware that I brought on little David W. Kyle with me on my return from St. Louis, intending to place him one year at school in this city. He is a kind hearted, thoughtless boy and a city is badly fitted for improving either his mind or morals. I have therefore sent him this evening, in charge of a friend, to a school at Hadly, near Northampton Massachusetts, where he will have no temptations to misspend time & where he will be obliged to study hard. Should he not prove a steady boy, I will not consent to his return to Missouri but I entertain great hopes of him.
Our business this fall has been very heavy. The sales of last month were more than $10,000 greater than those of any preceding month since we commenced. I believe it has been prosperous too. Thank God every thing has gone on well with me and I have been blessed in all respects beyond my deserts. I have a good wife – a tolerable brother – many kind friends – and a prospect of moderate independence. For all these, I admit I am not sufficiently grateful. You, dear Robert, should reflect on this passing remark. I seldom speak on religious subjects when writing but for your late merciful recovery from the very brink of the grave, your gratitude should not be confined to the kind friends around you. Do not think me superstitious when I tell you that I attribute much of our success in life to the prayers of our good mother and sister! God bless them.

I have had a letter from Hugh Reed by this morning’s mail dated at Newburg N.Y. He is suffering under an attack of intermittent fever & wishes my advice (in other words money) to go home by next packet. I will write him – but really he has cost me so much already, that unless he wants money (for he had nearly $100 on leaving home and has been making ever since) I will not send him one cent. I beg you will write me fully on receipt of this. I am anxious to know your views and future prospects. In any case, Dear Robert, come on here as soon as you can travel with safety. I wish to see you, apart from business. The approaching long winter night would pass pleasantly. We can talk over a thousand things. Mary can give you and Mr. S. a comfortable bed & I pledge myself you shall have more solid slices of bread than the transparent cuts you saw with us last season. God bless you & make us both thankful for many kind dispensations!

Hugh Campbell

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This week in history: April 18-24

Today you technically get multiple letters, all wrapped into one!  On April 22, 1835, William Sublette started a letter to Robert Campbell, who was at Fort William.  Sublette added to it on May 1.  He made one more addition on May 2, before finally sending it to Robert.  The letter covers everything, from business to family to gossip from home. One interesting and important reference Sublette makes is to “Fontinell”.  “Fontinell” was Lucien Fontenelle, a well-known French-American fur trader who worked for the American Fur Company, run by John Jacob Astor and the Rocky Mountain Fur Co. and Sublette and Campbell’s biggest competition.  Sublette also tells Robert that “Virginia”, meaning 13 year old Virginia Jane Kyle, who Robert would marry in 1841, is doing well and “Mrs Fox also lent Virginia compliments to you”.  Enjoy this fascinating look into Sublette & Campbell’s business and personal lives!

[Front Cover]
Mr. R. Campbell
Fort William

St. Louis MO April 22nd 1835

Dear Robert,
I received your letter from Columbia and also one from Lexington dated april 18th. I wrote you by the first mail after you left at Lexington and also to Independence.  Enclosing those notes you wished [spelled wisht] Fontinell to Settle, as he refused doing so here but stated [spelled staited] he thought he would Settle them when you delivered over the fort to him.  I have written all that passed between us to you in my letter to Independence which I presume you will get before you leave the United States although you did not state in your letter from Lexington whether you had received mine or not.  Galio [?] sent a letter to you from your brother to Independence and I now also send one letter to Fontinell.  Fontinell has only visited my room but twice since you left he appears too [spelled two] busily engaged in courting or something else that I can scarcely get to see him.  On yesterday Mr Fontinell & Beret both came to my room.  I showed them both the part of the letter you sent me or so much as related to their [spelled there] matters and they made [spelled maid] no objections.  Fontinell told me he expected to leave tomorrow but you know him, the people is all well here generally, and not much change in affairs.  Since you left Capt. Fleiseheman is dead and buried, marriages Marpy & Shanice is both married, Miss Billow also & Miss Calena is expected to be in the same situatiation in a few days etc. etc.

[Pg. Break] There appears to be but little alteration in Milton since you left Sister Sophronice Cook is now in St. Louis and expects to leave shortly.

I have received a letter from Mr J.J. Carpenter of N.Y. stating our furst is still unsold and that several persons has been lookng at them but will think them too [spelled two] dear.  The Saulaperans are all here as yes but expect to leave in a few days.  Bean Garden & Lane all let out shortly up the Mississippi surveying.  I had word from Edmond Christy a few days since he is well and they say is doing well keeps himself steady and attentive to business.

May the first I have this morning received your letters with Andrew from Independence April 21 1835.

I have you will percieve by this commenced [spelled comenced] this letter several days since.  I have just called on Fontinell and he informs me he will start this evening or tomorrow morning for a certainty, Cabanne, came down last night Fontinell has been so busily engaged courting galavanting etc. that he has hardly been to see Milton but one time since you left (it appears to be fine times with him) Milton has much mended since I commence this letter I have had him riding out and he is now bout on his crutches lest his leg is about the same the ligatures still remain.  Mrs. Ashley has been quite unwell but is now better I have paid but one or two visits since you left and I can assure you I feel quite lonesome.  I expect to take Milton to the farm in a few days where I shall stay principly.

[Pg. Break] I have received but one letter from your Brother but what I have sent you and I enclose it with this I expect another in a few days, Randolph has visited Miltons room several times I expect there is something on foot as he has been trying to get employment and Milton appears dissatisfied [spelled disatisfied] with Fontinells detention here and have I believe expressed [spelled expresst] him self.  So I will finish this letter by piece meals [?] whilst Fontinell remains.  Robt. this evening I received a letter from Hugh statting he will determine in a day or two whether he will visit St Louis or no if so he will leave about the first of June his stay will be short and he will return through Tennesee, Alabama, and Kentucky.  He states he received a letter from Brother Andrew dated 26th Jany last all friends was well at that date and nothing new.

I would send you the letter which is dated the 17th of april only it contained a list of my fruit trees and a description of them etc prinicipaly on that subject.

I was at Miss Kyle’s this evening all was well and wished I would remember them in my letter to you.  Mrs Fox also lent Virginia compliments to you there has nothing transpired since you left worth notice I am getting on with my building and farm as well as could be expected Mr Jackson is now in St Louis I have had a settlement with him Smith & Ashley.

[Pg. Break, top of front cover] May 2 1835 Robert I have just been to see Fontinell he says he will leave positively today.  W & Mrs Stephanson leaves to day for Galena.  Mgr Bean also Gordon is gone.  Miss Calena is married and off to Illinois.  Miss Tharp is also married and so forth,  Beut and Sarena is still here but will leave shortly         Your friend W Sublette

[Section Break, upside down] I intend forwarding our bill on for the goods spoken of immediately I have been waiting to hear from you at Independence or I would have done so before now Milton wishes to be remembered & Sister Cook has left and I feel entirely at a loss what to do or how to employ myself as you know I have been a bird of passage the last twelve years yours farewell, W.L.S.

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This Week in History: November 5-November 11

November 6, 1835 letter from Hugh Campbell to William Sublette.  The original is at the Missouri Historical Society – it was transcribed and published in Glimpses of the Past: Correspondence of Robert Campbell 1834-1845. The footnotes were added by them and give interesting contextual information.

Robert has come to Philadelphia to visit his older brother Hugh but arrived sick.  Hugh writes Robert’s friend and business partner William Sublette to tell him all about Robert’s health and trip.  Find out how he’s feeling today.  Also read all about William Sublette’s brother, Milton, who had his leg amputated – Hugh ordered a new cork one for his friend!

Philada. November 6th 1835
Friday Night
My Dear Sublette

On Tuesday evening my brother Robert arrived here, in rather a low state of health.(footnote 4) I did not know he was in the city until next morning, when he surprised us by stepping into the store. We soon got him up to my house & called in my friend Doctor McClellan under whose care he has been ever since. He had a severe chill on Wednesday-but I am happy to tell you that it did not return to day. He has been, however quite sick and weak ever since his arrival-unable to move out-and likely to be confined to his room for some days longer. The plan we have adopted is to avoid giving any medicine, unless what is absolutely necessary-and that of the most simple kind. He has had too much physic-and our Doctors here think that nature is the best physician (with a little assistance) in his present situation. Mary is a pretty good nurse-but after all I fear he will never believe he can have any nurse to be compared to you.

Perhaps you will be a little astonished to be told that it is my intention to embark for Liverpool by the packet of 16th
inst; on a short visit to Ireland. It is my intention to return here early in February next-so that my absence will not if
possible exceed 90 days. Robert promises to make my house his home while I am gone-and if you will only contrive to
come on & take lodgings with him, I think you can contrive to make the time pass agreeably untill my return. Mary is
a pretty good housekeeper and has improved prodigiously in, the size of her slices of bread. She has got some 8 year old bacon too & is resolved to hold on to a ham or two until you arrive. I promise you comfortable quarters-a night key, so that you can come and go without ringing-and in short that you shall in all respects command your time as fully as if at your own house. I have not yet talked to Robert about your plans or intentions-but from your late letters I take it for granted you design coming on-and I trust on receipt of this you will hasten your journey to Join Robt & Mary as soon as possible.
The left cork leg is not yet finished. I wrote you some time ago that I had ordered it with the view of making it a present
to my friend Milton.(footnote 5) So soon as I receive it, I will look out a safe conveyance & send it forthwith.

Robert met many kind friends on his way from St. Louis to our city. All of them rendered the very best attention-&
his health having become very bad he required all the civilities of an invalid. I have written thus far without asking him if he has any message for you-& he now directs me to say that the moment he is able to move out & attend to business he will write you fully. I hope this will be about five or six days hence for he is this evening decidedly better & in better spirits.  He is constantly talking of you and of your noble & disinterested conduct during his late dreadful illness. I know not when I was more amused than to hear of the partnership he wished to establish while suffering under the attack. He firmly believed you should have divided the pain and thought it quere that you should be moving about while he was laying prostrate. Perhaps there are few whims more rational-for your feelings, wishes, tastes and dangers have been so much in common of late years, that a community in suffering might readily be considered as a natural consequence.
Mary Joins me in warmest wishes for your health & happiness. May God bless you my Dear fellow is the prayer of your
Hugh Campbell(footnote 6)

William Sublette
Near St. Louis, Mo.

4 Robert Campbell was ill at the farm of William Sublette for some time before going to his brother’s home in Philadelphia. Dr. Bernard Farrar treated him for intermittent fever, caused by exposure.

5 Milton G. Sublette, one of the most courageous men of the mountains, was born in Kentucky about 1801. With his elder brother, William, he joined Ashley’s expedition of 1822. Later he was with Smith, Jackson, and Sublette, and upon the dissolution of that firm was associated, as a partner, with Fitzpatrick, Bridger, Henry Fraeb, and Jean Baptiste Gervais. It is said that in a fight with the Blackfeet Indians he was struck in the ankle by a solid ounce of lead from an Indian’s rifle. It
tore its way through flesh, bone, tendon, and artery, and made a terrible wound. The foot had to be amputated, and Sublette, as impromptu surgeon, cut oif his own foot. When he reached St. Louis he submitted to another amputation, in order to secure a better stump. Nathaniel Wyeth, in his diary under date of May 8, 1834, Little Vermilion River, says: “Milton Sublette’s leg has grown so troublesome that he is obliged to turn back – his leg is very bad.” The account books of Dr. Farrar of St. Louis, show several entries about Milton’s leg. One, May 27, 1834: “Commenced dressing M. G. Soblet’s leg;” and finally under date of February 4, 1835, an entry says he amputated the leg. Milton Sublette was back in the mountains in the spring of 1835. He died at Fort William, on the Platte River, April 5, 1837, “of consumption, the foe of his family,” according to one commentator.

6Hugh Campbell was born January 1, 1797, in County Tyrone, Ireland, and died in St. Louis, December 4, 1879. On March 4, 1829 he married Miss Mary Kyle, in Milton, North Carolina. She was a cousin
of Virginia Kyle, who married Robert Campbell. In 1859 Hugh Campbell came to St. Louis and became associated in business with his brother, Robert. This partnership continued until a few years before the death of Robert Campbell. He had no children.

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