St. Catherines Well Aug 6th/60
My dear Annie
I shall now inform you of our welfare & happiness! but first I must tell you that the Dr: says this water is too strong for Custis, and that he must go to Sharon for 10 days & then come back & try the bathing. So he is going this evening. We have begged him to go to the White, but he says he won’t leave us so far away. It is too bad; the waters don’t suit him as it would be so much pleasenter for us to be all together. But Dr. Mack thinks he knows everything & that is his opinion. I have just taken a second wine glass full of the water from the Saint’s well, which an old gentleman here advises me never to visit if I wish to take a third! But I will first give you some account of our journey although you have heard from Niagra. We were over in plenty of time met Mr. D. Meade on his way to Balt. & had a long “Dana talk” of course. At Baltimore Capt Palmer of Pa’s regiment Capt. Tilton, Clara & Mr. McGuire (on their way to Bedford) joined us. At Harrisburg Mrs. Stedman, Rosa & a Miss Nesbitt got on & Mr. Jackson, the english man you know. Our other friends having left us there, they were quite welcome. Rosa has grown up a very pretty girl, & Mr. L was most urbane.
We all spent the first night at Elmira the second at Niagra. The journey was very long but on the whole very pleasent. And then Niagra. The sun was setting when we arrived at the Cataract house1 which overlooks the rapids just above the falls. We went out immediately along the wooden walk just over the water down to where you look over the great falls & obtain a partial side view. It was perfectly fascinating, though we did not half see it from this side. The next morning we drove over to the Canada side & had a full view of it. Having heard so much of it & having seen such good views of it, you are disappointed that it does not overwhelm you more & for a long time you can’t realize its true height. It is something you must look at again & again & each time it is more perfectly beautiful. We returned & drove around Goat Island which is beautiful but I should like to spend days & days there. However Sat. eve. we had to leave our friends & arrive at this lovely place. I wished very much you were with us until we commenced our journey to Canada West, then I could not be so uncharatable. I never felt so miserably in my life, but since yesterday eve. our spirits have risen a little, Custis suggests because he is going to leave us. The Dr. saw us Sat. night he is a fine looking pleasent englishman with a full proportion of his countrymen characteristic, self conceit. I take the bath & a shower bath just on my hair & a wine glass of the water twice a day. I think he understood me so far as to know I would not take more, but expecting something almost supernaturally horrid it is really not so bad! An intense salt until you can hardly imagine anything so strong to remain water but that is all. It must have a great deal of iron for the baths are perfectly red. The bathhouse & its arrangements are most singular & uninviting. There are a good many tin bathing tubs rough & reddened by the water. The men & woman enter at one door & have a pretty promiscuous time of it after they get in, which others seem to enjoy more than I do. It requires a considerable amount of resolution to get in but afterwards the effect is very pleasent.
The people are principally elderly or afflicted, and the most quiet of the quiet. There is nothing to do, but we are quite reconciled now & can probably exist quite comfortably. And then we have only been here one day & that one Sunday. we went to church & prayed for her Majesty; the town is right large with some very pretty residences. We are in a cottage belonging to the Stephenson House where we take our meals. There is quite a nice family of Adams’ with us from Boston. Everything is quite comfortable Cousin Mary says she is improving but we have not seen much of anything for everyone. We are seizing this opportunity of Custis’ going to the States to mail our letters. And how have you all been? I hope those numerous illnesses disappeared after our departure. Have you the carriage? Cousin M. is going to write & will tell of herself. If sister has returned give my love to her & to Rob & Mildred. Tell Mil. I miss that “precious boy” very much, have seen nothing near as sweet since I left. I have seen a number of scarfs like yours but with a bow of ribbons right long just behind the neck. There are a few small plaits & then the bow hangs down; of the same color as the scarf. You must write to me soon & tell me all of the news. You had better think of joining us at Niagra on our return. I do not think you need care to visit. St. C’s I want you to look in my bottom drawer (how I hate you to go in it) and send me a small piece of my travelling dress the cinders have burnt a hole in it. Our direction is Stephenson House, St Catherines Canada west. Adieu your sister Agnes.
Do go & see Miss Ross & Mrs Antisell if you have not done so. If you send Markies box put all the letters in it I should think you could put the dresses between papers & write in it
Source: Photocopy of original letter, Mss1 L51 c 259, Section 14, Lee Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 March 29
1. This was the largest hotel in the area at the time. It was built in 1825 and burned down in 1945.