This letter was written by John Buchanan, Jr. (1778-1847) of Greenock, Scotland who was a cooper but also engaged in the merchant marine trade as we learn from this letter. He was married in 1809 to Agnes Hooks (1791-1851). Greenock was a ship-building port city on the River Clyde near Glasgow which became a major import city for sugar in the early 19th century.
Buchanan wrote the letter to his relative, Samuel Watkinson (1745-1816), who immigrated with his family from Lavenham, England to America in 1795. “Like many of the English who arrived after the Revolution, the Watkinsons came not in search of religious freedom (as the 17th-century Puritans did) but to find economic prosperity. Samuel Watkinson, saw Middletown, Connecticut, as a thriving, pleasant city, and in 1796 bought a large home on Main Street. The Watkinsons joined a small circle of other well-to-do English families here, and the young people filled their social lives with picnics, sailing excursions, sleigh rides, dinner parties and dances.” The “Miss Watkinson” in this letter is probably a reference to Ann Watkinson (1781-1836), Samuel’s well-bred daughter. Several of Samuel’s son engaged in the West Indian trade.
Addressed to Samuel Watkinson, Esqr., Middletown, State of Connecticut, New England (by ship Fanny)
9th March 1803
It is now such a long time since you heard of or from me that I daresay you will almost have forgot Cousin John (as you once were pleased to call me) but being prompted by a warm desire of hearing how you and all your worthy family are, I make bold to address you in this familiar way & begin by assuring you that though we now are removed at a distance from each other, that our thoughts here often turn towards Middleton with that sincere wish that all our good friends in that quarter may be happy & enjoy all the felicity that a fine country, gay society, & good health can bestow.
I feel a degree of pleasure in announcing to you the welfare of our friends here. The old ladies (my Aunt & Mother) enjoy a tolerable share of good health but the gradual progress of old age which is creeping imperceptibly upon them prevent their going much abroad.
Mr. & Mrs. Ker are both well, as are their families & between business, domestic affairs, & keeping a good deal of company, are always busily employed & apparently very happy.
Dr. Dow and his Lady were here a few days ago & spent the time they remained here in continual visiting & feasting, which they seem both to be very happy with. They have since returned to Saltcoats which they chiefly make their home & where they intend remaining until the month of April when they propose going into Eden to gratify themselves in spending a few months in the gay society of the inhabitants of our metropolis.
David Therburn is at present as a clerk with a Mr. Parker of Kilmarnock [15 miles southwest of Glasgow] who is remarkably attached to David & he very happy with his employer, but as it is now time he should be setting about doing something for himself, proposes coming to Greenock again Wednesday next to commence agent, which business he was bred to, & by the good offers of his friends in Glasgow hopes he will be able to make a decent livelihood. I intend joining him in that business & likewise endeavor to introduce myself a little into the Mercantile World and as a beginner have in connection with my brothers purchased a vessel of about 170 Tons __ Register which is at present chartered for Montreal to sail the end of this month or beginning of April & if she runs clear of accidents may be expected here in July at which time we at present think of sending her to New York there. But as we have no correspondent who would interest himself, & already knowing your good wishes toward us, I hope you will pardon this freedom in me in asking you as a very particular favor that you would write your sons of our intention and if found consistent with their situation in endeavoring to procure for us what freight they could for this port, it would be rendering us a very singular service, which would at least be repaid by our warmest gratitude & if ever chance or opportunity occurred to be of the smallest use to you or them, would feel ourselves particularly happy in serving you.
The vessel can be recommended as being as fine a ship as any of her size, perfectly new, never as yet made a voyage, & navigated by an experienced & active Master. She will we think carry 240 to 250 tons of goods.
From the letters which passed between Dr. Dow & William Watkinson, we were in the highest expectation of seeing him here & assure you found ourselves much disappointed that his business prevented his coming this way. We cannot enough thank Miss [Ann] Watkinson for her kind & elegant epistles which she occasionally honors us with. They are truly a great treat to all of us — in particular to her Aunts who would willingly answer them but are now got out of the way of letter writing, but if she would accept a few plain lines from David or I, would feel ourselves particularly happy in sending them. As my paper is nearly filled up, I must beg leave in connection with my Aunt, Mother, & all our other friends here, to present our warmest wishes to you all.
I am, dear sir, your most obliged & humble servant, — John Buchanan, Junr.