Letter from John Hopkirk, in Iowa, to his parents William and Isabel Hopkirk in Gattonside, Scotland. John hints at the deaths of sister Elizabeth and brother David at sea, and John also hints that the letter from Alexander may have mentioned father William may be near death in Scotland, but John can't return home. The original letter was in the possession of John S. Hopkirk of the New Zealand branch, and given to John K. Hopkirk in December 2008 and returned to John D. Hopkirk, a direct descendant of the writer, in 2009. Our thanks goes to Alexander Hopkirk(1823-1907) for transporting this letter to New Zealand and additional thanks to Alexander's descendants for preserving the letter for over 154 years. The actual letter is one piece of paper, about 10 inches by 15 inches and written on both sides and then folded into the shape of an envelop for mailing. View a copy of the letter folded for mailing. View page 1. View page 2. View page 3. View page 4, unfolded.
Jefferson County, Iowa May 29,1854 Dear Parents, I have been a long time in writing to you and perhaps you will think it is the way of the world. When space and time intervene between friends the affections grow cold and memory faithless. But it is so with me neither time nor distance can make me forget the Mother who nursed me and watched over my tender years or the father who toiled almost night and day that I might be fed and clothed, and I cannot forget the fatherland with all the associations of my youthful days. All the beauties are mapped on my memory and I can call them up at pleasure. Nighttime has the effect that distance has on a landscape - it makes the beautiful more lovely as distance lends charm to all the scene and what looks lovely near it makes more lovely still. I have had a great deal to do within the last year. I have built a large house; there are five rooms and a cellar divided into two parts making a great deal of room. It has cost a great deal as wages are very high here, stone masons $2 a day, bricklayers $2, carpenters 15c and board, so you see as the phrase is here it costs like the nation. I have a kitchen partly built. People coming along the road frequently say what a pretty place and so it is. The orchard and the cultivated on the North and open to the South with a rich growth of young timber mixed with wild thorn crab apple and wild plants and wild pasture of two thousand acres in the distance with scattering trees and hundreds of cattle. But there is no sweet without its bitter for the frost has destroyed all my fruit and they have begun this day to cut a railroad through my fields. While I write I can see thirty men at work in my clover within 250 yards of the house. We had rented the old house for eight shillings a week to a lot of Germans. William has got Alexander's letter. It has made me feel very uncomfortable although we have been looking for just such news or worse. Oh how I would like to see you before you go home but it may not be. The sea has been the grave of two and it might be the grave of another and my family is too helpless yet to leave. Tho I may be called to leave them soon I do not wish to run any risk. Now my dear parents there are many things that I would like to say but cannot in a letter. There is one thing however that you might to do. David's land lies in such a way if you should want it sold we could not make dead for it and if you should not want sold you should make a will so as to guide us when the grave shall be your resting place. When you write to me again let me know how father feels on prospect of his departure hence it is a dreary thought to those who have not hope of a higher and holier destiny. But to those who look through the gates of death to a prospect of a happy deliverance from a world of toil and sorrow and suffering and sin the soul does look and long for and aspire to a higher destiny and surely the author of our being did not create us and endow us with reason, reflection and the other qualities and desires of the soul, to live and toil and suffer and hope and fear and then after a moment's living quench it in Eternal Night. We are all enjoying excellent health at this home. My wife is kept busy with cows and children. They are just big enough to wear and tare without being able to help much but they don't coast us much anxiety as we used to give you for we have plenty for them to eat and plenty of milk to drink with three cows giving milk and we have sheep enough to raise wool enough for clothing. We are not so well off for the schoolmaster. The most that we have had yet is a quarter in summer and a quarter in winter and the children make slow progress in learning. The three oldest is at school now; cousin Elizabeth is teaching. John and David are at home working mischief. John is a slim boy and David is a thick strong built boy: I been to William's today they are all well at present. William will write you soon. Now my dear father and mother may God bless you with the light of His countenance and the consolation of his spirit in every hour of trial you may have to endure in this life and after death crown you in glory. With the prayer of your affectionate son, John Hopkirk Give my love to my brothers and all others who may enquire for me. Farewell. Home or Olde Hopkirk Letters
This page was last updated on 21 September 2009
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