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David McKersie proposal letter.

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Canadamap
Surname/tag: McKersie
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This is the proposal letter written to Mary Osburn by David McKersie on 1 December 1838. The letter was written on embossed stationary that measured 16 by 25 inches. The letter was folded in half and the written portion shown measures 8 inches by 12 1/2 inches. The back side of the letter had Mary Osborn's name on it. Presumably it was hand delivered through an intermediary rather than being mailed since there was no postage or place address on the letter. The letter was in the possession of Ruth McKersie Lee (1922-2004) who had owned it from the 1960s and had it framed and hanging on the wall of her basement in Toronto. The letter was somewhat frayed. There are old scotch tape repairs on the unwritten side of the sheet but the written side of the letter was plasticized to "preserve" it which was a common practice at the time. The letter was hand lined by David. He must have meant the letter to only be written on one page for maximum viewing impact since half way through the letter the lines are more narrowly drawn and the words are somewhat cramped in order to get all the writing on one page. The word "I" is not capitalized within a sentence and there is no punctuation or hyphens in the letter. David likely did not have much formal education in the modern sense; however, he has good command of the language and writes in a very clear and artful script. There are variations in spelling compared to present day English. 'Great' is spelled "greate" and "December" is spelled "Desember". There are corrections in the letter that appear to have originally been blotted out rather than "X'd" out. The blotted out letters or words may have reappeared on the paper after 160 years or the standard of the times of very expensive paper tolerated corrections and blotted letters. The embossed figure on the paper is an oval with Queen Victoria seated and a crown at the top of the oval. This paper would have been rather expensive at the time. It would not have been lost on Mary or the others in her family that would have been allowed to read the letter that David went to the trouble and expense to write on such quality paper. David apparently did not have confidence in his ability to ask Mary in person to marry him. He may have expressed his ideas and feelings more clearly in writing than speaking. He was after all a Scot He must have been seeing Mary repetitively in some social venue since his letter says that his ability to ask in person has "often" failed him. He writes that he is unsure of what her answer will be. According to David, Mary had many "amiable qualities" and his future happiness would very much depend on her agreeing to marry him. He assures her that he has not made the decision to propose without deliberate consideration. He states clearly that he doesn't want her to say "Yes" if her 'heart' would not accompany her 'hand'. Considering the times, a suitor in rural Upper Canada the 1830s could not detail in a letter what exactly were the "amiable qualities” that a woman possessed. David would have expected the letter to have been read by others in the Osburn family after Mary had read it or even before she received it since the letter was hand delivered and not sealed. He clearly wanted her to agree to marriage out of her love for him rather than make her decision based upon only material considerations. David addresses his character and the importance of his standing and honor in the community. He writes that his character is unblemished and the evidence of this truth she could see for herself since she knew the McKersie family. His references to his "character" would likely have referred to his economic standing in the community as a land owning farmer, the reputation and position of his family and David's dedication to the church. At the end of the letter he writes that if she agrees to marry him it will make him extremely happy. But in a more serious note of duty, he promises that if she does he will make it the study of his future life to spend his days with her, the woman " i do prefer to all others in the world". This reference to other women may have been an indication that there may have been other women who David could have asked to marry him. This reference to other women could have been taken as a compliment to Mary but also a veiled reference that there was some possible competition for Mary to consider. The letter must have been given to Ruth McKersie by her father, Wilbert McKersie who inherited it from his father, Nathan McKersie, a son of David McKersie. Nathan lived the last few years of his life Wilbert’s log cabin farm house on Indian Trail Road in Eramosa township. Since Mary died young (ca. 1840) and David remarried, David must have valued the letter with tremendous sentimentality to keep it all his life despite his marriage to his second wife and the children they had together. Sadly, due to Mary's early death after only about two years of marriage to David, he did not have long “to make it the study of my future life to spend my days in the company of her whom i do prefer to all others in the world".

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