Scots Abroad: Stories of Scottish Emigration

Peter Hastie letter extracts


Letter of Peter Hastie, shopkeeper in Edinburgh, to his uncle and aunt in Selkirk declaring his intention to emigrate. Edinburgh, 12 May 1827:

'I have now resolved to give up shopkeeping … It is very galling to think that I must spend the best of my days seated at a desk or standing behind a counter, earning barely sufficient to keep me … without being able to save a sixpence … I have for some time past thought of going to America and if I ultimately resolve upon this, it will be necessary to learn some other trade than my present.'

Letter of Peter Hastie to his relatives in Selkirk giving news about his early days as an emigrant in New York and his life and work in New York State’s waterworks. Hamilton, Madison County, 16 March 1834:

'I find that I can get along very well with the Americans. I don’t dislike the country. Both have their faults, but where can we find a country, or nation or people without them? … I find that I am getting over my prejudices and am becoming familiar with the manners and customs of those around me.'

Letter of Peter Hastie to his relatives in Selkirk giving news about his life and work in the USA. Madison, Madison County, New York, 17 August 1834:

'I mention these things … in order to convey … some notion of my situation & and of what may be expected by those who think of emigrating to this land of freedom and of labour. My wages during the summer will be $2 a day, my rank … that of assistant engineer … I am improving every day in a knowledge of my profession & I believe enjoy the confidence and favour of my employers with the prospect of promotion as soon as opportunity offers.'

Letter of Peter Hastie to his relatives giving news about his move to New York City as a resident engineer in the waterworks. New York, 26 July 1837:

'Mr Jarvis made me the offer of a residency on his new charge which I accepted. My salary is now $1,500 … The New York waterworks means the supplying of the City with pure and wholesome water … The cost … will be seven or eight millions of dollars. It is therefore … a very great work … I have at present charge of 20 miles of the route next to the city … I shall have charge of the laying out and the execution of 10 miles of the work next to the city. This will include the most difficult and expensive part of the line. I have therefore my hands full.'

Letter of Peter Hastie to his relatives in Selkirk concerning his life as a waterworks engineer in New York City and his intention to visit Scotland. New York, 12 May 1841:

'My situation in a worldly point of view is on the whole a good one: the emolument is not great but it is enough for all my wants. The engineers, my associates, chief and assistants are better men than I can reasonably hope … Could I be assured of being as well off for the rest of my days as I am now perhaps I should say 'agreed', I am content.'