Friday, March 15, 2013

A Granddaughter's Letter

Letter from Maria Lovenia Jarvis to Samuel Peters,
Oct 2, 1802. John Macintosh Duff Collection,
University of Guelph, XR1 MS A210031

Maria Lovenia Jarvis (1788-1829) was only three years old when she accompanied her parents and siblings to Upper Canada (Ontario). Maria, the oldest daughter of William Jarvis (1756-1817) and Hannah Peters (1762-1845), was born in London, England on 31 Dec 1788. In 1791, Mary's father, a Loyalist living in London, had been appointed Provincial Secretary of Upper Canada, a post he held until his death.

For the first few years Maria and her family lived at Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake), but in 1798 they moved across Lake Ontario to York (Toronto).

In 1802, Maria wrote the following letter to her grandfather, Reverend Samuel Peters (1735-1826). Samuel Peters has been born in Hebron, Connecticut, but at the start of the Revolutionary War had left for England. He was living in London at the time of this letter.

The letter forms part of the John Macintosh Duff Collection at the University of Guelph. A significant part of the collection consists of letters written to Reverend Peters by his daughter Hannah and his son-in-law William Jarvis. One of the recurring themes of the letters is the entreaties for Reverend Peters to visit his daughter's family. This is reflected in this letter from his granddaughter.

From Maria Lovenia Jarvis
York 2nd October 1802

Honoured Grand Papa
    It is a long time since I have seen you. I have no remembrance of you but your name which is so often repeated that it would be rather hard if I forgot. Our expectations of seeing you in Upper Canada has been long and as yet in vain but hope that we shall be gratified when Mr. Mosely returns. The tall pines which surround us I believe have wafted away all my ideas for fun—not think of any thing to amuse you with. The Castles in this place are so numerous were I to undertake a description it would swell my letter to a greater size than would be pleasing to you. The one I have seen appears to me that the owner had some thoughts of looking over the trees at the time of building and after all forgot the trees grew as high on the hill as in the valley Castle Frank—the rest being inhabited by bears and wolves. I have not ventured as yet to take a view of then as yet. We have a tolerable house unfinished but can I hope make you very comfortable if you will come. I am almost as tall as Mama and I have learnt to nurse. It would give me much satisfaction to have it in my power to practice in some degree with my Grand Papa with or without sickness. My sister and self have been hard at work to send you a patchwork counterpane the which we request your acceptance. Mama sends you a lap, tippet, socks and gloves and believes you will wear them for her sake and is sure you will find comfort in them on your passage out to Canada and also a Bottle of Bear's Grease. I shall be very much obliged to you for some useful and entertaining books. It is very difficult to procure any here and those very indifferent print. Mama finds it so painful to write or read that she cannot write you at this time. Without a glass she cannot read at all and very little with.
    I am honoured Grand Papa your most dutiful Grand Daughter.
Castle Frank may refer to the now buried Castle Frank Brook or to the rustic lodge built in 1796 by John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. The word "castle" was used ironically by the early inhabitants of York. Maria's sister, Augusta Honoria Jarvis (1790-1848) was eleven when this letter was written.

Maria married George Hamilton (1788-1838) at York in 1812. After the War of 1812, George purchased land in Barton Township at the head of Lake Ontario. He developed a town site which grew to become the City of Hamilton. Maria's grandfather finally visited in 1818, and baptised his grandaughter, Maria Lavinia Hamilton.

Maria Lavinia Jarvis died in 1829, leaving behind her husband and eight children.

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