1847: Margaret Louisa Bowie to Walter Bowie, Jr.

Margaret L. Bowie as she might have looked at age 21

This letter was written by Margaret Louisa Bowie (1826-18xx) to her brother Walter Russell Bowie, Jr. (1823-18xx). They were the children of plantation owner Walter Russell Bowie (1790-1853) and Mary Smith Tod (1804-1866), of Westmoreland County, Virginia. Bowie’s plantation — named “Kirnan” — fronted the Potomac River.

Margaret wrote the letter while attending school in Winchester, Virginia. We learn from the letter that she was boarding with her Aunt Catherine (Tod) Baker (1804-1870), the wife of Rev. Joseph Baker (1799-1855). The Bakers had at least two children — Cecil and Eugene; the latter mentioned as recovering from a recent illness. Cecil was later killed in action while serving as a Lieutenant pin the Ninth Virginia Cavalry during the Civil War. Rev. Joseph Baker — Margaret’s “Uncle Baker” — is credited with establishing the first female academy in the Valley of Virginia at Winchester.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. Walter Bowie, Jr., Hague P.O., Westmoreland County, Virginia

Winchester [Virginia]
May 4th 1847

My dear Brother,

After a long silence you did make out to write me a few lines — so few that I thought the post script was first. However, I intend to return good for evil this time and answer your letter very quickly.

I was very much disappointed at not getting a letter from home Saturday night. I hope to receive one Wednesday night for it has been some time since I heard from you all. I cannot describe the anxiety I feel about Father and sister coming up. I do indeed hope they will come. I have fixed my heart on it and if they do not, it will be a bitter disappointment.

The Convention¹ will take place on Wednesday the 19th and that time will soon be here. I am very sorry to hear that Mr. Welling intends leaving you so soon. It does throw one back to be continually changing their studies, for nearly every one has a different system, and it cost so much to buy so many books. You must be coming on very well in mathematics. I hope to improve too, but I must be content to come on at a slow pace, for I am only in Echange. How do you come on with your Greek? I learn only my mother tongue. I have not taken French lessons since January. Monsieur Pray’s charges are rather extravagant and Uncle Baker thought it better for me to stop taking lessons, and I was very glad of it. Mr. Pray was not very agreeable.

I received a letter from Sallie Ellis Saturday. She said Mr. and Mrs. Tapscott had idea of coming to the Convention. I hope Mary has recovered from her cold by this time. Have you heard from Miss Anna lately? She has slighted me very much, I think. She has written to me only once since I have been here. Miss Johnson is also very sparing of her letters. She has never answered my last letter. I suppose Brother Robert has been to Baltimore ere this, and returned with his new ____ods.

Tell sister that flowers are very much worn as trimming on thin dresses and trimming up before is worn on worsted dresses and dresses not to be washed, such as puff’s, graduated caves &c. Cottage bonnets are worn, and when sister comes she must have hers altered for no gipsey’s will be worn this summer. When sister comes up she must bring up my composition book and The Swiss Family Robinson, and ask her (if she has that black silk now that she said I might have to make an apron) please to make me a cape if she does not want it for any other purpose.

Aunt Catherine has gotten me three dresses — a blue lawn, a white, and a gingham. I am making the gingham myself. Tell sister that very deep fills, full pieces, and pieces ___ that on my blue lawn are very much worn on the bosom of dresses. The sleeves are work perfectly plain and trimmed with edging. Bishop sleeves are also worn.

Has mother heard from any of our relations lately? I received a letter from Cousin Sally Goodwin last night. She said Cousin Mary Goodwin expects to be in Winchester Saturday before the Convention. She wrote a very affectionate letter, and said she would be delighted to meet Father and sister at that time. Mrs. Carrighan — one of mother’s acquaintances, is at the point of death. She cannot live. I never felt so sorry for anyone as I do for her children. They will be in such a forlorn condition. I never knew any family more prepossessing than that, but she is perfectly resigned and has not the shadow of a fear. Uncle Baker has visited her quite frequently and Aunt Catharine stays with her all the time. Eugene has been quite unwell, but has now recovered.

I hope you all enjoy good health and that Father will not have the ague and fever this spring. I suppose mother will soon have peas and strawberries.

When did you see Sarah and Rebecca? I have not heard from them for a long time. How many scholars has Mr. Welling? Uncle Baker has a very good school and nine boarders — a large family we have here. Ask Mary how she would like to come. There is a little girl here only nine and not as far advanced as she is, but she very often cries as if her heart would break. How is Cousin Mary Chowning’s health? When you see her, give her and Cousin Sally my best love. Give my love to all my friends and particularly to those who inquire after me. Does Mrs. Mays still talk of coming? I hope she does. Tell her she must come any how. Give my love to Father, Mother, Sister, Mary Eddy, Ella, Aunt Catharine and Cousin William, and remember me to all the servants. Write soon, my dear brother, and believe in the sincere attachment of your sister, — M.L.B.

P.S. Dear sister, Aunt Catharine, Uncle Baker & children unite in love to you all & say you must certainly come.

¹ The “Convention” Margaret refers to in the letter was Diocesan Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Virginia which opened in Winchester on 19 May 1847.


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