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Daily life and challenges for the various groups involved in the fur trade.

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Author: Editors: Judith Hudson Beattie and Helen Buss
Title: Undelivered Letters to HBC Men on the North West Coast of America 1830-57
Publisher: University of British Columbia Press
Year Published: 2003
Location: Original: HBCA - Archives of Manitoba, E31-2-1, fo.101-102d, January 28, 1841
Copyright Holder: Expired; no restrictions on use. Please credit HBCA - Archives of Manitoba.
  -149- Ann Duncan: To Husband Alex. Duncan

This is a letter from Ann Duncan to her husband, Alexander, who was commanding the Hudson's Bay Company's barque Vancouver in the Pacific Ocean. Alexander Duncan served on HBC ships between 1824-1848 and, while home in Scotland in 1829, married Ann Simpson.

Ann remained in Scotland during her husband's absences, but grew unhappy that she saw so little of him: during the first 19 years of their marriage, they spent only 23 months in each other's company, and their first three children were all born while Alexander was absent in the Company's service.

Her frustration -- clearly seen in this letter -- was made even worse by the realization that at least three of the four letters she wrote before this one had never reached her husband.

"Capt Alex Duncan, Barque Vancouver, Columbia River,
To the care of William Smyth Esq, 4 Fenchurch Street, London

Kincardine Janary 28th 1841

My Dear Husband
I take this opportunity of writting to you to let you know that I received your letter in the Month of Octber dated the 2 of April informing Me that you have received no letter from Me. I was happy to hear that you was quite well and I trust this will find you well. your letter afflicted Me much when I received it. now when I think of your long absence from Me Makes my life like a dreary Wildrness.

it is now twelve years since we was Married now and we have been only seventeen months to gether all that time. do you think that you dont punish me sore enough without sending me a letter of the kiend frome such a distance you had more ned to send altter of more comfort to me. I have wrote you 4 letters to now and this is the 5. i know not wether you will receive it or not.

I Wrote to the Company to see what was the reason that our letter did not go foret and they wrote me saying that the had sent them all of. I sincerely hope you hav received all them before this time.

the first I wrote to you was about the bierth of your daughter in the month of May 1839 and the Eext in the Month of Octber and my letter cam back to me and I was sorrey for the ship was sailed tow Monthes sooner than I Expected and the next I wrote you after your Brother J arrived here and I sent up to London in the month of September 1840 and the shipe was sailed in Agust and that was another opportunity I lost. So if you dont receive this letter I can do no more than I have done

I inform you that the two Children are quite well at present Ann is astout gerl now if you was at home now she would amuse you know. Margret is now 22 Months old now she is a anticeng Child for she Chated whan she ws fiftwen Monthes old as well as Ann Could do.

you Mentioned in your letter if you was to remain in the Country ten years that you would not write me another letter until you received one form me but Many Fatherless Children is ben left here since you want away. thay want away after you.

Mr Martin son is one amongst the number and left his Weif and two Children but I trust that God that has procteced you through the Mighty ocean will bring you in safty here to your Dear Children.

my brothe James wife wreetes him at the same time. your brother peter is with Cap nickel at the present tim. friends are all well at present. loving friends sends ther kind love to you

I add no Mor at present but remains your loving and affectionate Wife
Ann Duncan"

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Did You Know?
Alexander Duncan was apparently feeling neglected by his wife, but he had other problems to contend with as well.

Around the time he wrote his bitter and angry letter to his wife in April 1840, he was dealing with his drunken and disobedient boatswain, James McLoughlin.

Duncan returned home in 1841, but his reunion with his family was complicated by illness (possibly malaria) and by legal action brought against him by McLoughlin for assault and mistreatment.