Regrettably I cannot, without more time and access to Scottish records, confirm the correspondents connected with this letter written from Mobile, Alabama in 1834. It may have been written by the same Neil Snodgrass (age 21) who arrived in New York City from Liverpool aboard the ship John Taylor in February 1834 with his father, Robert Snodgrass (age 56). A fellow passenger, Walter C. Campbell (age 22) may have been the same Campbell referred to in the final paragraph of the letter. All three of these passengers indicated they were from Scotland and intended becoming inhabitants of the United States.
From the letter we learn that Snodgrass was engaged in the lumber business in Mobile, Alabama, and employed a large number of slaves to cut timber. The author of the letter gives an entertaining description of Mobile and New Orleans.
Addressed to William Black, Esqr., Almorness, Castle Douglas, Galloway, Scotland
1st December 1834
My Dear Fellow,
Yours of the 11 of April I duly received in ____ and you will no doubt think I am the paragon of punctual correspondents by answering it so soon, but procrastination &c. I have no other excuse to make. You inform me that you have lost The Matthews. If she had been insured it would have been a fortunate loss for she has been rather an unlucky vessel for you. I am happy to hear — alias learn — that you have taken your farm again. If some twenty or thirty years hence I should pay a visitation to the Land of Cakes [Scotland], perhaps we may sing Willie Brewed [A Peck O’ Maut] &c. by your own fireside yet. I suppose the new house is built by this time and the new made wife sitting at one side of the cozy ingle, and your noble self at the other. Oh! ye Gods what would I not give to see you some morning after a hard-____ and still harder certain lecture. How truly repentant you would look, and bestowing heartfelt and perhaps head felt maledictions on women and wine. May the Lord preserve you from such evils. Amen, Amen.
I never knew that C. Crosbie had given up his farm until I received your letter. You mention J. Kelly has gone to Ireland but you do not say to what place or what he is going to do.
You wish to know what kind of a country this is and what kinds of wood. The country is very rich in lands but not so in population. Nearly one third of it is in virgin state inhabited by Indians, Bear & Wolves. As for the timber (where I am quite at home having upwards of thirty negroes cutting wood every day), there are five kinds of oak. The live oak is the largest — some of them upwards of twenty feet in circumference — [with] all kinds of crooks and bends beautifully adapted for ship building, two kinds of hickory, two of gum, cypress, sycamore, cedar, walnut, maple, sassafras, magnolia, and bay equal to the Honduras Mahogany, and a great many more. The prices are various. There are plenty of steam saw mills here and it is all cut up before it is sold, for pine plank one inch thick, one foot wide, one Do. long, fifteen dollars per thousand feet, oak plank about twenty-four Do. just freight a vessel with pretty young Batch girls and come out here and take a cargo of wood to the Isle of Man, duty free, fit for ship building. I think it would be a grand and profitable venture, or by way of a change, take home a cargo of Indian squaws. I can procure you plenty in this neighborhood, and for your own dear self, I can get you one of royal descent, daughter of a prince of the Seminole Tribe of Indians. She will be very little expense to you for she prefers displaying her round and beautifully shaped waist and limbs to all the foolish stays and petticoats ever was made. She is about twenty years of age. Her name is Nemrooma. You may have her for a blanket, two strings of beads, and a gal. of rum.
I was over at New Orleans lately. It is only a trip of six hours. It is a place of very great business but as it is several feet below the level of the Mississippi, the streets in wet weather are knee deep in mud. On Sundays you would think every person was pursuing pleasure as if it was his last. Waltzing, gambling, and every other kind of fun you could name is there for money but nothing for love. And Jesus Mary, what handsome quadroon girls and beautiful French ladies, by the powers. They are enough to drive a fellow mad. The Quadroons are all slaves and of course ladies of easy virtue. Some of them sell as high as three thousand dollars. Those are for concubines to the rich merchants or clergy. Religion here is a real humbug. Ministers keep these yellow girls so you may guess how the people are.
Tell my father I have engaged with Campbell for a year at 550 dollars. He finds me in bed, board & compliments to your mother. Best respects to Mr. S. McKnight until the last kick. I will remember him with gratitude. He once saved me and mine from the clutches of a rapacious landlord.
God bless you. — W. Snodgrass
Say everything kind for me to Mr. & Mrs. Cowan and to the two Orchoustons. You would not know me now. I am a light mahogany color.
Present my best wishes to the Misses McKnight. I am afraid that is rather too bold as I was not acquainted but let it go. I have not room for the half of what I had to say.