1829: William Schuyler Malcolm to Catharine Van Rensselaer Cochran

Capt. William S. Malcolm in later years

This letter was written by 19 year-old William Schuyler Malcolm (1810-1890), the son of Samuel Bayard Malcolm (1776-1814) and Catharine Van Rensselaer (Schuyler) Cochran (1781-1857). Samuel B. Malcolm was the private secretary of President John Adams. After Samuel’s death in 1814, Catharine married her cousin, Major James Cochran (1769-1848).

William S. Malcolm “was educated for a civil engineer, but preferred a nautical life, studied navigation, and at the age of nineteen went to sea. At the end of two years, having made voyages to Smyrna, Leghorn, and the West Indies, he returned home, and immediately went to commanding vessels on Lake Ontario. For twenty-three years he sailed the lakes, commanding numerous vessels, both sail and steam, many of which he owned. Among the ships he commanded were the steamer “Oswego,” the propeller “Chicago,” and the steamer “United States,” then considered the finest vessel on the lakes.

“For a short time during the “Patriot War” of 1838-39, Captain Malcolm acted as deputy United States marshal, being especially selected, on account of his knowledge of the frontier, to prevent violations of neutrality laws… In 1842, Captain Malcolm was married to Eliza Lawrence (1822-1865)…” [Source: History of Oswego County, New York]

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mrs. Catharine V. R. Cochran, Oswego, New York
Brig Barian

Smyrna [Turkey]
April 14th 1829
On board the Ship Don Quixote

Dear Mother,

It is with pleasure I now take this opportunity to write you these few lines. We arrived at this place after a passage of 35 days. We were exactly 16 days from New York to the back of Gibralter. The first 7 days the ship was scudding under close reefed Main Top sail at the rate of 11 knots an hour. The wind was blowing a violent gale the whole time.

The weather here is very fine and pleasant. We are now taking in wine barrels for the Island of Samos and there to load with wine. There have been upwards of thirty Man of War of different Nations and 3 Americans — Frigate Java, Sloops of War Fairfield and Lexington. We shall sail next week and I long once more to get under weigh. The few lines of the Twentieth Hymn often comes in my mind. We expect to be in New York in about 10 weeks. I hope then I shall have the pleasure of visiting Oswego without fail.

I was very glad to see Captain Cochran in New York. I hope he’s been able to procure the appointment of Collector of the Port of Oswego. If he gets it, it will be a very handsome salary.

I have a piece of Turkish stone which will make two very fine hones — one for father and the other for Captain Cochran. My friends in New York were all very kind to me — William and Mr. Sturgis particularly. Cousin Robert was dangerously ill when I left New York.

Smyrna is a very large and ancient city. The houses are not large but well built. The streets are very narrow, being almost impassable. They have no carriages — their burthen being carried on the backs of camels. It has a very fine harbour.

The harbor at Smyrna in 1829

Remember my dear mother to all my friends and relations. My love to Father. I suppose Alexander considers himself quite a man. This letter I hope will find you as it leaves me, in the best of health.

I am yours most respectfully, — William S. Malcolm

10 o’clock in the evening

A Scene in Smyrna


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