Letter front John Kennedy to James Douglas
Karin Knoble - Archives

Douglas Letters – The Sequel

Karin Knoble - Archives

In February of this year, the Archives posted a blog about the oldest item in our Collection, an 1823 Letter to Edinburgh, Scotland by William Douglas.  His wife, Margaret, was later left a widow with two sons, John and James Douglas.  She remarried, to Thomas Lunn, and the Lunn family left Scotland in 1842 and arrived at Owen Sound, Upper Canada, in May, 1843 aboard the schooner “Otter”, along with John and James. The Lunns settled one mile northeast of Leith, planning to farm.

John Douglas had a store for some years at Guelph, but moved back to Owen Sound in the 1860s.  John’s son, Thomas W. Douglas (b. June 24, 1859), later had a dry goods store, which he opened in Owen Sound in 1881.  T. W. Douglas’ sons, John, Wilfred & Stewart, helped keep the Douglas store in operation for a long time.  Another descendent of Wm. & Margaret Douglas was John J.  Douglas, who became a manufacturing jeweller in Owen Sound.

Thomas Lunn became Reeve of the Township of Sydenham and chaired the first meeting of the provisional council of Grey County.  In 1852, the Lunns moved to Owen Sound when Mr. Lunn was appointed the County’s Registrar.  He also was an Owen Sound councillor and was elected as Mayor in 1862.

The 1823 letter is the oldest item, but the Corbet/Douglas Collection (PF34) it is part of also offers two others, still early in terms of written documentation available for this area. The next is by John Douglas in 1830, informing Margaret Douglas of the death of her husband, William Douglas (1799 – 1829) on November 15, 1829.

January 25, 1830 (postmark)

Mrs. Douglas

Favoured by Yester Park

Mr. Riddell  By Gifford

Ashkirk Mill Jan’y 9th, 1830

My Dear Margrat [sic]

I am sorry to say that it has become my painfull duty to advise you at this time, by recording the Death of your Husband, and my Brother, William Douglas which took place the 15th Nov last ___ I have just now received a Letter from a Mr. Roberts, who resides at a place called Wallingford, in the county of Rutland, and State of Vermont: – and in whose House he had resided during his last illness, and who had attended him until the Vital Spark expired – The circumstances respecting his Sickness, and Death, as related to me, are nearly as follows:  He came to a Town called Tinmouth, about nine miles distant from the above place in the fall of the year 1827 where he offered himself as a candidate for a School Teacher, when after undergoing due examination, was found fulley [sic] qualified for the Task, after which he immediately commenced teaching and it appears had given ample satisfaction to all concerned

About the beginning of March last, he caught a Severe Cold to which he had paid little, or no attention, still continuing to attend his Schools, ntil [sic] the month of June when his decay became more rapid, and his lungs became Seriously affected, after which an incredible quantity of blood flowed from them, and although it appears that he had been attended by various of the most Skillfull physicians in that place, but Still to preserve his life was beyond all human aid; as he became weaker and weaker by degrees until at last the Vital Spark expired, on the morning of the 15th Nov’r as befor [sic] mentioned  It may be worthy of remark, that during his residence in that place, he had become intimately aquainted [sic] with many of the most respectable, and learned, and many of them became kind friends to him in life, and by whom he was not forsaken during his last moments in this world; – when on his dying bed he was calm and hopefull [sic], expressing a wish to be at rest, where Sin will cease from troubling; when asked by Some of his pious Friends his views at Death, he acknowledged himself as the chief of Sinners, yet expressing his hopes of forgiveness, through the attoning Blood of his Dear Reddeemer [sic], and that he would rather be Sanctified than raised to health; – a day or Two previous to his Death, he desiared [sic] Mr. Roberts, to write a Letter to me; (but not till after his Funeral) desiring me to write to you, his dear and beloved wife, aquainting [sic] you of his Death, and that you may be carefull, in the education, of your beloved children; that they may be usefull members in Society, and that they may become a comfort, and consolation to you in your declineing [sic] years, Should it please God to Spare you and them together, was his most earnest prayer at Death; – Mr. Roberts also States that there was Sufficiency of his effects to defray his Funeral (expenses) and all other accounts, that could come against, owing to  attendance of differant [sic] physicians during the [time of] his Trouble, and the extravagant charges ma…  Thus far have I given you a full account of his (passage) from this Vale of Tears;  He is gone, we can but [mourn] I trust not as those who have no hope; we mourn as for a Husband and Brother, God grant that this dispensation of his providence, this affliction, may work out for us all, a far more exceeding, and eternal weight of Glory, and that we may all have part in the resurrection of Just

Marey [sic] desires to be remembered to you – and I trust you will let me hear from you, as Soon as convenient,

May the consolations of the Gospel [sic], enable you to hear, and bear, this Solemn providence, is the prayer, of My Dear Margarat [sic]

Yours Most Sincerely

John Douglas

1830 Letter pg. 1

The final letter was written to James Douglas from his friend John Kennedy, sent care of Thomas Lunn, James’ stepfather. (Condensed for blog due to length.)

Edinburgh 18 December 1843

My Dear James

Although you seem to think that because, waters wide between us roll, all our friendship should cease yet I do not think so, and am not inclined to let you off so easily. I have heard of letters coming from Johnnie & you to different cronies in the town, but as I think we (Peter & I) are about the oldest acquaintances you have and you might have sent us a scrape of your pen if it was only to make a boast of among our friends, but should this reach you which I hope it will, I trust that some night when your work is done you will say to yourself “should auld acquaintance be forgot.” No in dyst [?], if it will and you will grasp the gray goose quill with the valiant resolve of writing a letter to your old chum John Kennedy. And now James how goes it with you and the rest of your family, how rolls the tide of life in the wilds of the far west. You will have seen more than you have eaten by this time and have seen life under many a different aspect. I daresay you many a time think that if some of your old friends were beside you and seeing what you have seen they would be a little astonished. I doubt not but you have seen a “possum up a gum tree” or a “big raccoon sitting on a rail” along with many other scenes with which we are accustomed to associate a life in the woods. … You can tell Mr Lunn that old Charlie Howden was buried last week. The rest are just plodding away much the same as you left them Fred McKensie you will have heard was out in America and had some letters for you but as he did not get your length he sent them per post. he came home again and after staying here some time embarked again for the states but the vessel was driven back by stress of weather and he is staying here all winter but intends going out in the spring I suppose that you will not care much now about Church Establishment & dissenters but while writing you I may as well mention how things are getting on you will have heard all about the disruption that took place in May last since then Free Churches (so called) have been building all over the country. … You may tell John that James Blackie died this summer but Johnnie is as fat & ruddy as ever Jerry Bell Johnnie Watson & the rest are all as lively as ever We received a paper from Mr Lunn last week and along with this I send a Scotsman in which I hope you will get something to pass a few leisure minutes and now James how goes it with the good lady your Mother I have always been told that America was a land of Gallantry but of any word that has come to Edinr I am not aware of having heard her name mentioned Give her all our kind remembrances and in particular remember my Mother to her who when she heard that you were gone so far into the woods said Im vexed for poor Mrs Lunn I wonder how she gets on in the middle of such a place I wadna like to be her for something [?] I daresay Mrs L will enjoy herself in the backwoods as much as anybody Our Winter has not yet commenced the weather being open & mild but we expect to catch it yet, by the time this reaches you I suppose you will be in the midst of a canadian winter which I believe is no joke and on a much larger scale than we are accustomed to here. … How do you like your new mode of life. What do you get to eat. What kind of a church have you. Is there any trade goes on beside. What sort of encouragement would a young fellow such as myself have if he were coming out. What would he get to do Are you enrolled in the Militia, and many other questions I would ask but in the meantime I shall say no more, but I hope you will take this letter as a mark of remembrance from a sincere friend and at your first leisure write me a long answer and tell Johnnie not to be behind hand let him put a slip inside of your letter and I shall write him next I suppose his ideas of life are a good deal enlarged since he left Scotland. … in conclusion I wish you John, Mother & Father every one of you well and that you may prosper, and that I hope we shall yet meet on this transitory scene and have a glass of ale together for auld lang syne May God bless you all is the worst wish of your sincere friend ardent well-wisher and old companion do not be long in writing

John Kennedy

20 Dec‘r I have just seen the Misses Gilbert and when I mentioned that I was writing to you they both requested me to send you and John their compts and their best wishes for your welfare which I have now great pleasure in doing as it will shew that tho absent you are not forgotten


Mr. Lunn. Dear Dear Uncle. I take the liberty of adding a word. I received your letter of [?]. I had no intention of going to America I agree with you as to the careful consideration I ought to give to the subjects proposed. My letter was merely sent to collect practical strictures regarding your locus & the country at large which might be serviceable to others. I mentioned my Grandfathers health. he is now entirely recovered. He is leaving Quarryford & is going to Leader-foot farm. All the rest of Mrs Lun’s relatives are well. a letter came from James to my Uncle John & one from yourself

[A note written across the other writing] Mr Coats compts to Mr Lunn he received his letter and will write shortly his folks are all well


1843 Letter


By Archives staff with thanks to Mollie Wilson and Joan Hyslop

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