Scots Abroad: Stories of Scottish Emigration

Letter of Peter Hastie, 1838

To his relatives in Selkirk concerning his life as a resident engineer in the waterworks of New York City. New York, 7 May 1838:

My dear Sir

Your letter of 28th December was duly received. The account you there give of uncle 'Nezer's conduct surprised me. I did not think that, even he, would have gone so far. He is a strange man, and does no credit to the name he bears. I have hitherto lived in the hope, that he would contrive to make a little money, honestly; and settle himself down, quietly, in his old days and enjoy it in peace with all men. Your letter has entirely destroyed all such hopes. He will most probably get "a humbling" before he dies. Perhaps for his own sake it is to be wished that he should. – I wish much to hear from you the result of his imprisonment: will you write to me soon, and let me know how the case stands? You need not fear that I will in any way implicate you in anything I may say to Jo. Johnstone. I received a letter from him a little time before yours, and have written to him by the "Great Western" but have given no hint that you have written to me respecting my uncle's conduct. – Uncle Ebenezer would make an excellent Yankee! such conduct is, I fear, more common with us than with you. I am glad that uncle James has left him; particularly since he has been so fortunate as to get a good school, & is respected. Does he get enough to enable him to live comfortably? How is it with aunt Jean? – Aunt Margaret you say is still complaining of the old stomach affection or some modification of it: the same remedies that have been found useful formerly should be tried again. She will not probably ever get to be entirely well, still the evil may be much alleviated.

By the way, how did the suit terminate betwen Robert Scott & uncle Ebenezer? I should like to know.

I heard of the death of Geo: Beattie from John Johnstone I fear all uncle James' family will be cut off by the same disease; sooner or later. I thought George stood the best chance of any of them.

As for myself I am in the same situation as when I last wrote to you. Our surveying operations were nearly completed last fall; and I have been employed all winter in the Water Commissioners office making maps, plans, calculations etc. In a few days we shall put 12 miles more of our work under contract, making in all 33 miles, out of 40 ½. – The remaining 7 ½ miles, will be let sometime this season: say in August or September . – I have charge of the 4th division of the Aqueduct: the end next the city, about 10 miles in length, it will cost from 3 to 4 millions dollars and is to be done in 4 years from this time. The whole line of aqueduct is estimated to cost 8 ½ to 9 millions dollars and including pipes for distribution throughout the city will not cost less than 10 millions dollars – This is a great work to be undertaken by one city. It is however very necessary and will ultimately amply repay the expense of construction. – I have good reason to be well satisfied with my situation – my Employers seem also to be satisfied – They have this season, without solicitation on my part advanced my salary to 1800 dollars a year. This compliment has not been paid to any of the other Resident engineers. – I do not wish you to speak of this – I mention it to shew you how I succeed, & that my attention to business has raised me up friends in this distant land. – By the way the successful voyages of the steam ships "Sirius" and "Great Western", has shewn it to be practicable to establish lines of Steam Vessels between Britain & America; & has for all purposes of communication brought the two countries 1500 miles nearer each other. – When the line is fully established; I could count upon leaving New York for Selkirk, spending 2 weeks with you, and again reaching New York in 6 weeks from the time I left it. Perhaps I may do this before I die should fortune prosper.

My health since I wrote last, has been very good. I have expected to be sick this spring. Office work is not so suitable for me, as exercise in the open fields. However I do not as yet feel any symptoms of an attack. I beg to be remembered to all my relations & other friends – not forgetting honest John Dalgliesh: tell him I often think with pleasure of the fishing excursions we have had together.

In a book I lately imported from London, (Transactions of the Institute of British architects) there is given an account of certain stone bridges, erected by the Smiths of Darnick one on the Etterick at Falshope & another on Yarrow at Yarrow Kirk. I should like much if you can tell me the exact situations where these bridges are placed, especially that at Falshope. In an engineering point of view, the erection of these structures is important, both as regards the materials used the mode of building and the expense. Is your namesake at Silverbuthall still alive & well. I wish to write to him as well as to Scott of Kirkhope & Gibson of Shaws – Do let me hear from you as soon as your convenience will permit. With best wishes for your welfare temporal & spiritual as well as that of aunt Margaret

I remain my dear Sir

Very affectionately & truly your friend

P. Hastie

May 7, 1838
Mr James Scott