The letter below was written by Herbert Welsh to his half-sister, Anna Maria Welsh Smith, who had married J. Somers Smith in November 1863. Their son, J. Somers Smith, Jr., referred to as “Somers” in this letter, was born on 26 May 1866, so he was about one year old at the time this letter was written. Three others mentioned in the letter undoubtedly were Herbert’s full sisters, Elizabeth, known as “Lillie” (1840-1930); Alice (1848-1925); and Ellen (1850-1934). The letter was written from Cataract House, Niagara Falls, New York, evidently a resort where several members of the John Welsh family were staying on vacation. Herbert was fifteen years old when he wrote this letter. The text of the letter follows, with Herbert’s spelling uncorrected:
July 19th, 1867
My dear Sister
I recieved your most welcome letter this morning, before I was up out of bed. And I am very much obliged to you for being so kind as to write to me so soon.
We spent most of the morning on Goat’s Island. The falls looked splendidly, and there was a most beautiful rain-bow. I enjoyed just before dinner a splendid currentbath. I do not think that the town itself is an interesting one, consisting principally of fun & Indian curiosity stores. This afternoon we are going over to the English side.
Miss Eliza Murphy is staying here now, and took dinner with us today. Ellen appears very glad to see her. I miss Mr. Patterson and his family very much. They left here yesterday afternoon for Toronto, on their way from Montreal and other places through the Canadas. Both the Miss Pattersons are very good looking, and so is the young man. I think Alice & Ellen think so too.
How is Somers getting along, I will be so glad to see him and all of you again. It would have given me much pleasure to see you endeavoring to capture the Canary bird. I am glad that you succeeded in the same. Rev Mr Tiffany and Dr Butler stayed here for about a day. I wrote to Dr Morton the other day, apologizing for not having sent back the drawing board he lent me. I hope Charles heeded the warning that you gave. Tell him I am glad to hear Shirley is looking so well, and not to let her get too fat. How is little Sam?
There was one thing in your letter, at which I felt very much hurt, almost insulted. You said that you would have written before, but you did not know that I cared to be written to. Now this is very strange language to use to me, because I supposed that all at home understood that I particularly wished to hear, as often as any body desired to write. Now, so please write as often as you possibly can, for I always am exceedingly glad to hear from you.
When I look at these magnificent Rapids and think of the fearful force they possess, I wonder that Mr Henry Chancelor, wishing to put and end to his mortal existence, did not select this awful place as the means, what a sensation would it have produced, how it would have sounded in the daily papers! I think I should have selected that small suspension bridge over the Rapids as the best spot! I have have been much better at Niagara than any other place, but I do wish most heartily to get home again soon.
I am sorry that I have had no more interesting news to give you than these little items. But I put every thing in sister Lillie’s letter that I could think of. I have seen no young lady that could equal Miss W. in point of beauty, although the Miss Pattersons are both very pretty and agreeable. Miss Eliza Murphy looks as much like a “Pole” as ever. How would you like father to bye Goat’s Island? I have some pretty “specimens” from the Table-rock, which is being blasted. Man’s wickedness is very great, in this part of the country, he is continually blasting rocks, and what is worse, daming rivers. (To make that joke worse, it is not original.)
But now my dear sister I must bid you good bye as we are going out riding. Please give my love to Mr Smith, Somers and all the others. Please write soon and a good long letter like the last. I remain your most affectionate and loving brother
P.S. E.P. Miller’s Uncle is staying here with his wife. H.W.