My dearest Margaret, 1
August 30th, 1811.
We arrived here yesterday evening about five o'clock, safe
and well after encountering the danger of a tempestuous sea and the most
dreadful sickness I ever endured, but I will try to give you some account of the
I cannot express what I felt on parting with you all, I
watched you walking along the shore 2 till I could see your figures
no more. Had I been in spirits I would have been delighted with the view of
Rostrevor and the Carlingford mountains, which appeared more beautiful than I
ever saw them.
The Mourne mountains began to look very black and angry. I
thought we would have a very rough sea before long, and so it happened. I had
not as yet felt the least sickness, and began to think I would not. About eight
o'clock we were asked down to the cabin to take some tea, we had not been long
there when the ship began to heave in rather an odd kind of manner, so I thought
I would make my exit out of the cabin as fast as possible. When I came on deck
the scene was a good deal changed, the females were all sick, some of them
crying; the waves were rather higher than I had ever seen them before, but still
I was not sick. Mr. Cumming 3 told me there was no danger; we sat on
deck and I amused myself looking at the waves, which sometimes appeared as if
they were on fire, an appearance I had never before seen. At this time the ship
was going very fast indeed, and I began to feel very sick, which put the thought
of danger out of my head. You cannot, my dear Margaret, conceive what I suffered
from that time till about twelve o'clock the next morning, it is the most deadly
sickness I ever felt. Mr. Cumming thought I would be better if I would go down
to the cabin and try to get a little sleep, but that was impossible. Figure to
yourself me lying in a little bed about two ,feet wide, Mr. Cumming in one above
me, the ship quite on her side, the waves booming against her in such a manner
that I sometimes felt her side bending, the noise of the men pumping on deck,
the cries of the females above us calling "Oh, Captain, the hold is full of
water", the sound of the great waves dashing over the ship, me as sick as
death, thinking every now and then I felt her going against a rock. Imagine to
yourself all these things, and you may suppose my feelings were not of the
pleasantest kind. The wind got higher about four o'clock in the morning, the
water came into the bed where I was, and I think it was about half a foot deep
in the room where we were. Mr. Cumming was sick a little, but all our troubles
are over now, I never felt better in my life than I do to-day. The wind abated
about ten in the morning, we came on deck, and were delighted with a fine view
of the Welsh mountains.
Mr. Cumming is the most affectionate attentive nurse that
can be, indeed he is everything my fondest hopes could wish for. I believe he
thinks he should be more attentive than ever, now that I am parted from all my
friends. Bad as I was the other night I was amused with the cabin boy who was
very attentive to me indeed. I was lying in my berth about the middle of the
night listening to the sweet murmuring of the waves below me when I heard in the
cabin the most uncommon kind of noise that you can think of. One of the
gentlemen called out "What is the matter?" "Oh, nothing at
all" was the reply, "It is this door that has gone adrift". I
then found out that he was trying to shut the cabin door. A little after a sweet
little boy that was in one of the berths tumbled out in the cabin, he was not
hurt, however. The next morning Mr. Cumming was looking for my green veil, which
had been mislaid somewhere about the bed, he did not find it however, but he got
a dead rat that had been under my head all night, so upon the whole my first
voyage has not been of the pleasantest kind, but I must think nothing of these
We dined and slept at an inn, and about half an hour ago
arrived at Mr. W. Brown's, 4 where I am at present. Mr. Brown and Mr.
Cumming are gone to see about our trunks. I believe we will go to the theatre
to-night, some of the London performers are here at present. Mrs. Brown 5 is
a very sweet looking woman, I am sure I will like her very much. They have one
little daughter about six months old .6 Liverpool seems to be a great
bustling place, I have not seen much of it yet. I am longing most anxiously to
hear how my dear Father, is. 7 I think I will have a letter on Sunday
from you. You will not have to complain of my not writing often, it is the most
pleasing task in the world. This is a sad confused epistle, but you know I am
not the best hand at letter writing, I will improve, however. Oh, my dearest
Margaret, how often I think of you all, but I trust I shall soon see all my dear
friends again. I feel very happy, the prospect of being soon with you again will
keep up my spirits for four or five years. 8 I believe Mr. Cumming
leaves this for London on Monday, I will write when we get there. I would have
written last night, but I was very much fatigued, and not myself. I felt as if I
was in another world when I awoke this morning. I am sure I will be very much
better after my sea sickness, there was a great deal of bile on my stomach. Mr.
Cumming joins me in kind love to you all. Give my most affectionate love to Miss
McCully 9 and my dear Margaret 10. Mr. Cumming thinks I
will not be sick any more, I am sure I hope so most sincerely. I have just sent
off the keys of my trunks, I suppose they are going to open them at the custom
house. I do not like such customs at all as they have in this country. You will
hardly be able to make out this bad writing, but I know you will excuse me, it
is well for you my paper is done, for I think I could write this hour, I think I
am talking to you.
I was very much pleased with the view of Liverpool coming
down the river Mersey - I do not know whether I should say down or up.
Farewell, my darling Margaret, expect to hear from me soon.
Be sure to write often to
Give my dear Rachel 11 a kiss from me. Do you
know it is like a second parting with you for me to quit writing. I hope my dear
Father is quite well by this time. Once more adieu.
Strawberry Hill 12
||Margaret, to whom most of these letters are addressed, was Mary Cummings
elder sister by almost two years
shore at Warrenpoint, Co. Down.
the first few letters Mary refers to her husband, William, as Mr. Cumming.
Brown's father, Alexander, formerly of Ballymena and then of Baltimore, had sent William over to England to establish a trading house in Liverpool. This William did in partnership with his cousin
William A., son of Patrick Brown of Camden Town,
London. Their firm, William Brown and Company of 34 Strand Street, Liverpool,
though independent of the parent company Alexander Brown and Sons of Baltimore, was in fact an agency for it.
the summer of 1809 William Brown had visited his old family home in Ballymena. A
boyhood romance was revived with Sarah,
younger daughter of Andrew and Jane Gihon of that town. They were married on 1st
January, 1810 and their first home was at
3 St. George Square, Liverpool, where William and Mary
Cumming no visited them.
William and Sarah's first child.
Rev. Andrew Craig (1754-1833), Presbyterian Minister in Lisburn (1782-1823).
Mary invariably refers to him as 'my father' never
as �Father� or �our father� as she might well have done in letters home
to the family.
is clear from this that William and his wife intended all along to return to
Ireland within a matter of four or five years.
Mother's name was McCully before she was married. presumably Miss
McCully, was her sister. Their father, James
McCully of Ballyhaft. near Newtownards,
was known as 'an ingenious experimental farmer'. He wrote a series of articles
to 'The Belfast Evening Post' which were later published in book form entitled 'Letters
by a Farmer.' Mr. W. H. Crawford of the
Ulster Folk Museum thinks "they are especially signifcant because there are few
full accounts .(of the methods of potato
cultivation) at such an early date (1787)"
'James 0rr, Bard of Ballycarry', p. 56.
great childhood friend had been Margaret Byers. The Byers and McCully's
was Mary's younger sister by same
Hill, purchased by the Rev. Andrew Craig in 1785 from William Whitla, lay about
a mile out of Lisburn, along the
Ballynahinch Road. on the County Down side of the river. This pleasant country
home sat squatly on its own little eminence
overlooking the town. Gently rising lawns before the house and more functional
offices behind proclaimed it to be both residence and farmstead. Here the four Craig children grew up. Though the town nestled
down below them, they could live in a world of their own, or they
could call up friends in plenty, just as they fancied. For them the place was
paradise The farm remained
Craig property for almost fifty years until Andrew's death in 1883. After every
effort had been made to save it, the house was
eventually demolished in 1968.
Camden Town. 1
September 7th, 1811
My dearest Margaret,
I cannot express how much I am disappointed at not hearing from you before this.
I am beginning to feet very uneasy, but I hope most sincerely I will have a
letter from you to-day. We left Liverpool for London on Tuesday2 last,
and arrived on Wednesday evening. I was very much fatigued being out all night.
We did not stop at Mr. Brown's as they live two miles out of London, we went to
an inn where we stayed till yesterday evening. On Thursday I Saw St. Paul's, the
Tower, and all the things worth seeing in it, and in the evening we went to the
Lyceum, a very nice little theatre which is open at present. Mr. Brown3
called to see me on Thursday, he is uncle to Mr. Brown of Liverpool. I like him
very much indeed. He told me Mrs. Brown would call the next day and go with me
to any place I wished. She did so, and is very attentive to me, I like them both
very much. I have got some very handsome silk and cotton stockings, some lace
and cotton for morning gowns. Yesterday I bought some very pretty muslin for a
gown, it is rather thin with a satin sprig. I also got some striped muslin for
morning gowns. Mr. Cumming wished me to get a velvet pelisse to take out to
America with me. I got it and a hat of the same. It is the most beautiful colour
I ever Saw, it is a bright green and yellow shot. I think I might venture to
send a little bit in my letter, it is quite a new kind. Yesterday I saw
Westminister Abbey, which I think better worth seeing than any place in London.
You cannot conceive, my dear Margaret, anything so grand and magnificent. St.
Paul's is larger and a superb building It is true, but there is something so
elegant and noble in Westminster Abbey that surpasses anything I could have
I have this moment got my dear dear Father's letter, which
has put London and all other things out of my head. How delighted I am to hear
he is well and that you all got safe home.4 I am so happy that I
hardly know what I am doing and saying. I believe I was talking about the Abbey,
which I cannot get out of my head. Oh, my dearest Margaret, how I wish you had
been with us! I also saw Westminster Hall, and the House of Lords, and crowns
and kings and sceptres, and long pikes that belonged to the Spaniards, and as
many guns I think as would arm all the men in Europe, and a great hatchet that
Queen Mary was beheaded with, I could hardly lift it, and a hundred other things
that I do not remember: for believe me seeing so many different objects makes my
poor head quite confused. We all dined in London yesterday, and in the evening
came to Camden Town where I am now. Mrs. Brown has two children, a son and a
daughter. Her son is married and lives in Liverpool, Miss Brown is in Ireland at
present. But I have got a delightful piece of news to tell you, which is that
Mr. and Mrs. Brown of Liverpool intend to go out to America with us, to spend a
few months with their friends in Baltimore.5 You cannot think how
rejoiced I am, as I like them both very much. Mrs. Brown is an Irishwoman, they
have a lovely little daughter about ten months old. They intend taking a servant
with them, she can do anything for me that is necessary. Our passage is taken,
we intend going with the "Mentor", a very fine new ship that is now in
Liverpool. Mr. Brown has taken one of the staterooms and Mr. Cumming the other,
so that we shall be as comfortable. She will sail on the fifteenth of this
month, however I will write to you the day before we leave Liverpool. We think
of leaving London on Wednesday next. Mr. Cumming went into town to-day on
business. The weather here is most delightful, to-day is as warm as any day I
ever felt in Ireland. I suppose my Father is busy with his harvest. 6
The country between Liverpool and London is most charming, there is hardly a
cottage without a flower garden before the door, and they are all so neat and
clean. You will laugh at me when I tell you that I was quite provoked to find
that England was so superior to my darling Ireland; but it is not so in every
respect, the country is too flat, and when you look around it appears like a
great wood. I was quite tired of fine houses and planting, and I felt very
pleased when we came within sight of a mountain, which is very seldom met with
I think very little of Liverpool, it is a great
uninteresting town as ever I saw, and as for London, it is very fine to be sure
but I would tire of it in a month. Some of the shops are very superb, but then
it is like going through a fair from morning to night. Convent Garden will open
on Monday next, we intend going. I was at the Liverpool Theatre, it is much the
same as the Belfast one, only a little larger.
We have not, nor shall we see Mr. Crawford, we did not come
up through Coventry, so that we could not meet with him, I am very sorry for it.
I suppose you have got the last elegant epistle that came from me, I think this
is a little better, but when I go to America I will take more pains. I hope I
will hear from you soon again. You did not mention my dear Rachel's name in your
letter. Tell her to write a postscript. This is a very pleasant place and I feel
quite at home. I wish I was at the buttermilk in the pantry, I think I would
take a drink of it. I spoke to Mr. Cumming of the sarsnets, he says he does not
know how they would be sent to Ireland, as he does not know anyone going, and it
would be uncertain to send them by a stranger. He thinks I could send anything
much safer from America with some friend going to Ireland. I feel disappointed
as I would very much like to send Miss McCully and my dear Meg some little
remembrance, but I will when I go to America. Be sure to write so that I will
get your letter before I leave England. I never was better than I am at present.
I believe the sea-sickness was of great use to me.
I think the ladies dress much the same here as they do in
Ireland; the hair is worn very thick in front, and shaded quite to the one side.
I expect to be very much entertained on Monday night.
The King7 is not going to die yet. I hope most
sincerely he will live till I get away. Has Rachel got her frock made yet, does
she go to school this winter? I saw St. James's Palace, it is a great big ugly
black building as ever I saw. Give my most affectionate love to all my friends
at Strawberry Hill, and to Miss McCully and Margaret. I fear they would charge
double postage if I sent a pattern of the velvet, but I will send it at the
Farewell! my darling Margaret! Write soon, and believe me
Your most sincerely attached
||The residence of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Brown. On taking up work in London
as an insurance broker. Patrick changed his name to John Brown "to avoid
prejudice against his name as Irish."
|| Tuesday. 3rd September.
||Patrick Brown (1753-1836) was Alexander Brown's elder brother.
||After seeing her off at Warrenpoint.
'Friends' meaning relatives. ostensibly William Brown w returning to
Baltimore to report to his father on trading conditions at the fast growing port
of Liverpool during the war with Napoleon, but also to introduce his wife and
baby daughter to his parents.
||Like many another minister in those days, the Rev. Andrew Craig was also
a farmer. (see Dubordieu's 'Statistical Survey of the Country of the County of
Antrim, Part II Addenda, p. 111).
King George 111 had been mentally ill for mom than a decade and did not
die till 1820.
My dearest Margaret,
September 22nd, 1811
When I wrote last to you I thought we would have been half over the Atlantic by
this time, but we have been detained here this week past in hopes the
"Mentor" would sail to-day, but on account of having some bark on
board she was seized and has not been released yet. Yesterday Mr. Cumming took
our passage in the "Lydia" a very fine ship, equally so as the
"Mentor", I except that the accommodations are not quite so
elegant. I suppose she will sail in about two hours, the wind is very fair
to-day. I am very well pleased we were not on the ocean yesterday as it was a
rough unpleasant day, l was vexed for fear you would think we were at sea. This
is a charming morning, and I hope the wind may continue fair. I would have
written to you, my dear Margaret, on our return from London, but I waited from
day to day, in hope of having it in my power to tell you when we would sail. I
cannot tell you how delighted I was when I received your last letter and heard
that all my dear friends were well. That you all may be happy and well shall be
my constant prayer when I am far far from you and Ireland.
I was very much pleased with our London jaunt, the weather
all the time we were there was as warm as the middle of July in Ireland, indeed
it was unpleasantly so as I walked a good deal. We were at Covent Garden one
night, I was quite delighted with the house, and the scenery is most enchanting.
The play was "Romeo and Juliet"; Mr. C. Kemble 2 did the
part of Romeo, he is a very good actor. Mr. and Mrs. Brown were as attentive to
me as possible during my stay with them. I never felt so completely fatigued as
I did travelling from London, the heat and dust were dreadful. I think I would
rather cross the Atlantic than go from this to London again, but I shall change
my mind before long I suppose. It is along, long journey, but I do not feel any
alarm. It is very pleasant for me that Mrs. Brown is going, she is a
sweet-tempered gentle creature as ever I met with, I like them both extremely.
Mr. Brown and Mr. Cumming are gone to see what time the ship will sail. We drank
tea the other night at a Mr. Wolesley's, an American gentleman that has come to
England lately. His wife is the most elegant woman in her manner and appearance
I think I ever saw. Mr. Wolesley lives like a nobleman. They are acquaintances
of Mr. Brown's. We were asked to spend Friday evening at Mr. Braddell's, an
Irish gentleman, but the evening was so wet and unpleasant we were obliged to
send an apology. Mrs. Brown is a daughter of Major Wallace 3 of
Ireland, they dined with us before I went to London. I called on Mrs. Melling
the other day, she is very well. I would have waited on her before we left
Liverpool, but we were so busy, I sent the letter however. Mr. Higginson and
family are all out of town, so I shall not see any of them. Mrs. Melling asked
me to spend Friday with her, but it was not in my power as I had some things to
Mr. Cumming bought me a flageolet the other day, but I am
at a great loss for some Irish music. Perhaps you could send me a few of your
favourite tunes in a letter, such as "The Heather Bush;" "The
Meeting of the Waters" 4 and a few others. Oh, my dearest
Margaret, how often I think of you and all my dear friends, but I am very happy.
Mr. Cumming is so kind and attentive to me that if I was in Ireland I would not
have a wish ungratified. He desires me to give his kindest love to you all;
indeed I believe he loves you all nearly as well as I do. Tell my dear James5he
has no reason to be offended at me for not mentioning him in my letters. I think
of him very often, and often picture to myself what a fine dashing young man he
will be when I have the happiness of seeing him again. Write soon, my darling
sister, after you receive this, that I may have the letter soon after my arrival
in Petersburg 6. We will stay a few days at Baltimore, at Mr..
Brown's, father to this Mr. Brown. Mr. Cumming is anxious to get home as soon as
possible. I am delighted to hear my dear father is getting well so fast. Mr.
Cumming wishes you to let the Armagh people know of the change in our plan. I
never saw a more flattering letter indeed from my brother-in-law7 (I
believe) indeed I flatter myself I am a favourite of his now. I do not like the
town of Liverpool, it is a confused place as ever I saw. I hope I shall not be
sick at sea, I am very well now, but I dread the sea-sickness. I pity Mrs.
Brown, as she has the prospect of an addition to her family sometime soon, she
is not in good health at all. Oh, my dear friends, how I anticipate the happy
day that will bring me back to you all. I hope my dear Mary Cumming 8
is with you now, give my affectionate love to her. I hope my dear Miss McCully
and Margaret are very well. Tell Margaret I will praise her excellent letters as
tong as I live. I was surprised to hear of the marriage that is to take place
soon, Mr. Cumming laughed very much when I told him. Remember me to all my
Lisburn friends. I hope my Father will write sometimes to me. I believe Mr.
Cumming thought me half mad when I got your last letter, I was afraid you would
not write again thinking we had sailed. What is my sweet Rachel about? Tell her
to add a PS. to your next letter. James must write sometimes also.
Our trunks went off yesterday, I hope we may go to-day (or
fear of the bad weather coming on. There are two ladies going in the
"Lydia". There is a fine cow on board, which will make it very
pleasant. I suppose you are getting ready to go to meeting just now, and I think
you will pray for me. I will leave this open till Mr. Cumming returns.
They are just returned, the ship will not sail till eleven
o'clock to-morrow. Do not forget to write soon.
God bless you, my darling Margaret, and all my dear
friends. That you may enjoy every happiness this world can bestow will be the
earnest prayer of
Your Affectionate Sister,
This is like a second parting with you, but you will hear
from me soon. I can hardly bring myself to close this letter. Once more,
farewell, my darling Margaret!
||The following year on
26th May the "Mentor", together with time other ships. involved
in an incident at she mouth of the Foyle. Fearful lest she be trapped in a
hostile port, should war with America be declared. she slipped out of
Derry and lay as anchor off Moville, awaiting a favourable wind. Here she
as boarded by a naval party and her single male preseason brusquely
||Charles Kemble (1775-185A), younger brother of the more illustrious John
Philip Kemble and she celebrated Mrs. Siddons.
||Major James Wallace was a Yorkshire man who in 1790 introduced the first
steam engine into Ireland in Lisburn, where he owned a large four-storey cotton
||Words by Thomas Moore.
||Mary's brother James was three years her junior
||Petersburg, Virginia, the destination of their journey and William's
place of business.
||The Rev. Thomas Cumming, William's brother. who had married them at
Strawberry Hill on gas August, 1811.
This Mary Cumming was William sister.
Thank God, my dearest Margaret, l have the happiness of
telling you that we got safe to New York yesterday about three o'clock. It would
be impossible almost to conceive the delight I felt when again I set my toot on
land, I never in all my life felt so truly grateful to Providence. Oh, my
dearest friends, I never imagined when I last wrote to you what a voyage across
the Atlantic was! But let me endeavour to give you some account of our passage.
This day six weeks we left Liverpool, and I may say I never
had one day's good health since that time. We did not sail till Saturday2
morning as the wind was not fair. I was confined to my bed for three weeks-the
longest ones I have ever spent. The, sickness was most dreadful, it was with
difficulty I could rise for a short time in the evening to get my bed made.
There I lay, not able to lift my head from the pillow. My dear Mr. Cumming
attended and nursed me during all my illness with the greatest care and
attention, in fact he did everything for me that it is possible for one to do
for another. For a long time he had to feed me like a child, indeed I was quite
as helpless as a infant. As long as I live I shall never forget his attention
and kindness. I was so weak at last that nothing would remain in my stomach, and
for some days I lived almost on port wine and water. Our passage (except for a
few days) was very rough, indeed it blew a constant gale, alias a storm, for
most part of the time. When we got near to the banks the weather became warm and
pleasant for a few days. I then got better and was able to be on deck for the
most part of the day. I then enjoyed myself very much, the weather was very
warm, unpleasantly so for a short time, but I shall never be a good sailor, I
suffered more the last Sunday we were at sea than any day before. But I have
dwelt long enough on the miseries of a sea voyage, let me think if it has any
pleasure to make amends (or them. That question would require some
I was very much delighted looking at the sun setting, which
is a glorious object at sea. I believe I only saw it set three times during our
voyage. I remember one night in particular watching him sink into the ocean, the
scene was delightful. For a great length of way waves appeared (ringed with
burnished gold, the sky was so clear and the air so pure and reviving that it
wanted nothing but a little bit of terra firma in view to complete the scenery.
Fine as the scene was I thought as I stood admiring it "It would be afar
more delightful sight to see him set behind an Irish mountain." When shall
I see that again?
Our accommodations were very good, we had plenty of most
excellent provisions, and what was our greater comfort, there was a very good
cow on board, so that we had plenty of good milk, which is the greatest luxury
at sea you can imagine. Our party was very pleasant. There were two ladies on
board, one the captain's wife, the other a very pleasant woman who lives in
Augusta. Mrs. Brown is just as bad a sailor as myself, for some days we would
not be able logo from one room to the other, but I will not think any more of
our troubles. Mr. Cumming was not once sick, which was a great blessing, I think
he looks fatter and better than when he left England. I have often amused myself
thinking when at sea if the author of the miseries of human life had ever
crossed the Atlantic. If he had, I think it would have afforded him a few more.
For instance when you are lying in bed in a rough gale of wind trying to get a
little sleep, the ship to roll in such a manner that you have to hold yourself
in bed in order to prevent being heaved on the floor, or when you would attempt
to stand to come smack against the side of your bed so that your legs would
retain the impression for a fortnight after. All this happened to your humble
servant. There was one night I thought we were all gone, and I bawled out
stoutly, as you may imagine. But I almost forgot to tell you I have had the
felicity of seeing the sea in a storm, I went on deck one evening for the
purpose, but I was very glad to get down to my room again. You cannot imagine a
more grand and awful sight. The ship was lying quite on her side, the waves now
and then dashing over her, sometimes she would get between two of these great
mountains of water that you would be almost sure would swallow her, then rise to
the top and plunge down in a sea of foam. I never wish to witness so frightful a
scene. Our captain said he never had so rough weather even in the middle of
winter. We passed several ships on the way, and had the satisfaction of getting
before them all. The "Lydia" is a very fast ship, we have often made
ten miles in a hour, which is going pretty quick. Last Monday morning I heard
the enchanting news that land was in sight. This is the most delightful hearing
that can be imagined.
The pilot came on board soon after, and we were all sure
that we would get up that night, but the wind got into a very bad humour and
left entirely, so that we were obliged to spend another night at sea, in sight
of the smoke of New York, which was very provoking to be sure. During the night
we got within ten miles of the shore, and the next morning the wind took it into
its head that we should go no further that day, but we did not agree with Mr.
Boreas, for we thought we had been quite long enough in his power, so we got a
boat and here we are all safe landed in the great city of New York. In my life I
never was so enchanted with the view of the shore and the harbour coming up. I
can give you no idea of the beauty of the American woods at this season of the
year. I have often admired the colouring of the trees in the Autumn, but never
could have conceived that the colour could be so much richer here than with us.
The green is so very bright, and I can compare some of the woods, to nothing but
groves of gold; and the nice little white wooden houses peeping from among the
trees render the scene altogether the most captivating that I have ever looked
at. Then we had a fore view of the fortification and spires of New York. Oh, how
I wish yo;. had been with me, I am sure you would have been as much pleased as I
We dined yesterday at an inn, Mr, Robert Dicky3
came to see us as soon as we arrived, and insisted that we should all come to
his house and stay with them, so we got here yesterday evening. Mrs. Dicky is a
cousin of Mr. Cumming and Mr. Brown, she is daughter of Dr. Brown of Baltimore.
I believe -Mr. Dicky is a very rich man, I never saw so elegant a house as this
is, everything in it is superb. I am writing in a splendid drawing-room, there
are so many fine things to look at that I can hardly write for admiring them. I
have just been in the parlour. There is to be a party of gentlemen here today,
the dinner table is laid out in great style, indeed I wish it was ready for I
begin to feel my land appetite again. Mrs. Dicky is a very pleasing and
accomplished woman, I like her very much. Her mother is with her at present, I
believe she will go on to Baltimore with us. I think we shall stay a few days
here, I have not seen much of it yet, but what I have seen I like very much. The
trees along the streets have a good effect, they consist chiefly of poplars that
look beautiful just now. I have been almost all morning writing this sad scrawl,
but I know my dear Margaret will excuse it, for indeed I am not myself yet. You
would laugh to see me walk, I feel as if I was still on shipboard.
Oh, my beloved friends, how anxious I am to hear from you
again! I think I shall get a letter from you on my arrival at Petersburg, I will
write immediately after I get there. We think of staying a day or two at
Philadelphia, and three or four at Baltimore. Mr. Cumming wrote to Armagh
to-day. I hope Mary Cumming is with you now. When you write tell me all the news
you can think of. The weather is rather cold here at present. I must reluctantly
bid you farewell as my head begins to ache. Write, my dearest Margaret, whenever
you receive this. Do not disappoint me for I am very anxious to hear how you all
are. Give my kindest love to my dearest Father and James and Rachel. I suppose
James has gone to Dublin. 4 I hope my Father will write to me
sometimes. You will not have to complain of my neglect, for it is the greatest
pleasure in the world for me to write home. Give my kindest love to Miss McCully
and my dear Meg, I hope they are both well. How often I thought of you all when
I was ill. You never in your life saw me so thin as I am at present, but I
expect to get fat directly. I must go and dress for dinner.
Farewell, my dearest Margaret! Write soon to
Your Ever Affectionate.
||This letter is undated but from content appears to have been written on
8th November 1811.
Saturday, 28th September, 1811
Robert Dickey was a native of Ballymena. The family originally came from
Ayrshire and settled in Ballymena under William Adair as early as 1620. Later they lived at
Leighmore, Ballymena. James Dickey of Crumlin was a United
Irishman who played a minor role during the later stages of the '98 rising in
Ballymena, for which he forfeited his life on the gallows. Like the
Browns and many other Irishmen who left the country far America after the '98,
Robert Dickey prospered over there and
became immensely rich. He married a daughter of Dr. Brown
||To read law at Trinity College.
My dearest Margaret,
November 25th, 1811
After encountering the troubles and dangers of a sea and
land voyage, here I am at last comfortably fixed in a very pleasant house which
I may call my own. When I look back on the last two months of my life it appears
like a dream. I am now quite tired of travelling for some time, I think I shall
be a very close housekeeper this winter. Oh, my darling friends, how I wish you
saw how happily I am settled in this nice little place, there is everything in
it I could possibly wish for. The house is extremely neat and convenient, but I
will try and give you some description of it. The first floor is entirely taken
up with the office and store and room for the young men to sleep in. Above
stairs there is a very neat parlour about the size of the sitting one of my own
sweet Strawberry Hill, a very handsome drawing room in front with three windows,
it is very neatly furnished indeed. You go out of the parlour into a little
passage which leads to my sleeping room, which is a very pleasant apartment. On
the same floor there is a very nice little dressing room which I intend making a
china closet of. Next to that there is a back stairs which leads you through a
little shrubbery to the kitchen, which is at a little distance from the house.
There is another little room with shelves all round it where the cold meat and
bread are kept. In the third story there are three excellent sleeping-rooms all
as neat as I could wish for. There are fireplaces in all the chambers except
one. From this imperfect description you will have some idea of the house where
I am to remain for a few years. Mr. Cumming has got plate, china and glass,
etc., in great plenty, indeed it does not look much like a bachelor's
establishment. Our family consists of Mr. Cumming and your humble servant -
"the best first" you know, Mr. Gibbett and Mr. Orgin, who seem to be
genteel, modest young men. They are constantly in the office, except at
mealtimes. And now to give a description of a large family in the kitchen. First
there is old Nancy, the cook, who is an excellent good one, Jenny the housemaid,
who seems to he a very decent woman. She has four fine children, the eldest a
little girl about twelve years old, who is to be my little attendant, her name
is Mary. Then there is Betty, Cora and Joseph. They can all do something. Mary
is a pretty good worker at her needle, she is now sitting beside me making a
slip for herself. I think I shall make her very useful to me in some time. The
man's name who attends at table is Palermo. This is an account of our family,
the servants appear to be all regular and well behaved. They were delighted to
see us when we arrived. I shall not have much house-keeping to do if Nancy
remains with us, she is so good a cook that I have only to tell her in the
morning what I wish for dinner. Palermo gets breakfast and tea, Nancy bakes our
bread. The American flour is extremely fine, I like the cornmeal bread very
well, it is much better than we had in Ireland at one time. If I was writing to
any but my darling sister I should be afraid of tiring them all with these
trifling matters, but I judge of you as I feel myself, everything is interesting
to me coming from you.
We have got a few peach trees in the shrubbery and in the
yard, I wish I was near my dear Rachel, I could supply her with jessamine, we
have got plenty of it here. I intend getting a few flowers planted before the
parlour' windows in Spring. We arrived here on the twenty-first of this month,
last Thursday. The first wish we felt was that our friends in Ireland knew that
we had arrived at our place of residence. When, my beloved Margaret, shall I
have the happiness of hearing from you? I cannot tell you how very anxious I
feel. If you love me write very often, since I shall not see you all for some
time, hearing from you will be the greatest comfort that I can have.
How often I think of you all, and how often wish I could
transport this house and its inmates to my dear Ireland. But I feel very happy
here, my dear Mr. Cumming does everything he can to make me so, and a few years
will fly swiftly away, and then I shall leave you and dear Ireland no more. I
believe if I was there I should think my happiness too great to last.
But I must give you some account of our journey from New
York to Petersburg. In my last elegant scrawl, which I suppose you found some
difficulty in reading, I told you how much I admire Mrs. Dickey. The longer I
was with her I liked her better, she is as charming a woman as I ever met with.
She and Mrs. Brown were as attentive as possible to me when I was with them. Our
time was too short to allow us to see all the beauties of New York. We went out
one morning in Mrs. Dickey's coach, but that is not a good way to see much of a
town, however we took a walk after dinner and saw as much of the city as we
could. I was very much pleased with New York, indeed, all the American towns are
very much handsomer than I expected. Owing to the inhabitants burning wood
instead of coal, the houses and public buildings look quite new and clean. From
New York we took the steamboat to New Brunswick, a small neat town on the
Ravitor river, state of New Jersey. We then took the stage and travelled to
Burdenton, on the Delaware, sixteen miles. There we again embarked in a second
boat driven by steam, and sailed down the noble river Delaware to the city of
Philadelphia.1 We arrived about 2 o'clock, and after dinner we took a
This town is more regularly built than any town in America
and is thought to be the handsomest. For my part I think as much of New York,
however our time was too limited to permit me to form a correct opinion.
Philadelphia is certainly a very elegant town, the view of the long line of fine
ships as you approach the city is very grand indeed.
Cook2, the celebrated actor, was to perform the
night we were there, so we all went to the theatre, and in my life I never was
so delighted as I was with Cook's acting. He performed the character of Sir
Pertinax Mac Sycophant in "The Man of the World," and he supports the
character most admirably. He appears to me to be the most natural actor I ever
saw on the stage.
The next morning we left Philadelphia in a sail-boat, and
came further down the Delaware to Newcastle. There we again took the stage and
crossed over to the French town which stands at the head of Chesapeake Bay,
where we embarked in a sail-boat that brought us to the city of Baltimore, so I
think we had a good deal of variety in our mode of travelling. The steamboat is
a delightful way of sailing, there is not the least motion in the boat, and you
glide along almost imperceptibly. The day we sailed down the Delaware was very
fine, and the view of the Pennsylvanian shore on one side and Jersey on the
other was beautiful beyond description.
I cannot well account for it, but I felt on my arrival in
Baltimore, as if I was going to a place that I knew before, and I think
Baltimore will be like a second home to me during my stay in America. We went
directly to Mr. Brown's3, father to the gentleman who came from
England with us, and they were delighted indeed to receive their son and
daughter. William Brown had left America on account of his health three years
ago, and you may imagine the joy his poor mother felt at seeing him strong and
well and his wife and child. She had not any daughter of her own, and little Ann
will be a great pet of her grandmother. Mr. Brown has four sons, one of them4
sailed for England a short time before we arrived. Mr. and Mrs. Brown are both
first cousins of Mr. Cumming's. Mr. Brown has made a large fortune since he came
to Baltimore, they live in a fine house and seem to enjoy it. I am very fond of
all the family, they seem to live so happily that I soon found myself as if at
Dr. Brown5 and his charming family dined with us
the first day, I never saw a family I admired so much as I do his. Mrs. Dickey
is his eldest daughter. Jane, the second, is equally pleasing as her sister, she
is an elegant, accomplished girl as ever I met with, she was as kind and
attentive to me as if she had known me for a length of time. She appeared to
take the greatest pleasure in showing me all that was worth seeing in Baltimore.
I went out with her in the carriage one day and had a delightful drive. She had
two sisters younger than herself, Grace and Mary, they are very handsome. There
are three sons, I did nor see any but the youngest. The eldest is married not
long since to a young lady with a fortune, he is gone to New York to accompany
his mother home. Almost all the ladies I have met with are extremely pleasing
Mr. and Mrs. Oliver6 and their brother came to
see us the first evening, John the same good-natured pleasing man that I
remember in Ireland, but a great deal older looking than when he was there, he
was extremely attentive to me indeed. Mrs. Oliver appears to be a very pleasing
woman, her eldest daughter was married about three weeks ago. We all dined with
them the day before we left Baltimore. I cannot well describe the magnificence
of their house and furniture. I think it is the finest looking house in
Baltimore. You go up a flight of beautiful white marble steps to the door, the
rooms are very splendid indeed. The drawing-room window curtains, sofa cover,
and chairs are of blue figured satin, the mirrors and lamps are equally elegant,
as for the dinner I can give you no description of it, but that the china, plate
and glass on the table was the finest I ever saw. It would be a difficult matter
to give you a description of the manner they entertain company in this country,
such a profusion dishes is put down, one half of which I never saw before. I
always feel glad when dinner is over. Mr. Robert Oliver is very pleasing in his
manner, and is liked by all who know him. Mr. John Oliver has some thoughts of
going to Ireland next Spring, what would you think of setting your cap at him?
The society of Baltimore is extremely agreeable. I saw Mr. Sinclair, he is the
same lively, laughing man he was when he was in Ireland, and he could hardly
believe that I was the daughter of Mr. Craig, I was quite an infant when he went
away. He breakfasted at Mr. Brown's the morning we left them, and in the midst
of our hurry bidding them farewell, he asked me if I remembered when he married
my father and mother!! He has a very good situation in the College of Baltimore,
he is beginning to look old.7
We left Baltimore on the seventeenth of this month, we took
the mail and got to Georgetown that night, which is 45 miles from Baltimore and
two from Washington, the capital of the United States. The next day we went to
see the Congress Hall, which is as fine a building as ever I saw, and the
President's house is a magnificent edifice. Washington is the most curious city
I ever saw, the plan is laid down on a very extensive scale but I think it will
require a great length of time to fill up the ground with houses, at present it
looks like a great number of small villages, the houses are all so distant from
one another. It is seated on the beautiful river Potomac. We left Washington in
the evening, crossed the celebrated bridge over the Potomac, which is built of
wood and a mile in length. We went through Alexandria and travelled in the stage
all night. I was very much fatigued when we got to Richmond the next evening,
the American coaches are not so pleasant as they are in Ireland. The roads went
through woods all the way from Baltimore to Petersburg. I like travelling
through the American woods very much, it often appears as if you were riding in
a fine domain through rows of cedars, which grow in great perfection here and
look beautiful at this season, but there is no tree I admire so much since I
came to America as the weeping willow. It is very common and grows to a great
size. They are the most graceful elegant trees I ever saw.
There have been several ladies called to see me, they
appear to be pleasing people, but I will tell you more of them in my next, by
that time I shall have seen more of them. We were at church last Sunday, they
have not a very good preacher here, I do not like the Church Service, but there
is no other place I can go to. I am sorry my paper is so near done, for I feel
quite happy when I am writing to you. Oh, how I long for a letter from you, my
dearest Margaret! Tell me everything, no matter how trifling. I hope my father
is quite well this Winter, what is my sweet little Rachel doing, and my dear
James? Tell Rachel to put a postscript to your letter. I hope my Father will
sometimes write to me. How is my dear Miss McCully and my dear little friend
Margaret? How often I think of you all, my dear dear friends. Remember me in the
kindest manner to my friends in Armagh when you write.
The weather here at present is very fine, last Sunday was
as warm as the month of May with you, the dust was thick on the roads, to-day is
not so warm, there was frost last night.
My health, my dearest Margaret, since I left England has
been far from being good, but do not be alarmed, it is not the climate that has
any effect on me, there are other reasons which you can guess. I would have let
you know sooner but I did not wish to make you uneasy, for I know how anxious
you would feel for me. This part of my letter is only intended for your eyes. I
hope I shall soon feel better, but I have suffered a good deal of late.
God bless you, my dear, dear Sister, and all my friends.
May you all enjoy health and happiness is the sincerest prayer of
Your ever affectionate
The Browns and Cummings made their journey by steamboat on the Ravitor
and Delaware Rivers some weeks before Henry Bell's "Comet" -the first
steamboat in Europe - made her maiden voyage on the Clyde in January, 1812.
Boats driven by steam bad been plying on the Hudson give, as early as1807.
||George FrederickCooke,1756-1811. William and Mary must have seen him
very shortly before he died in New York city.
||To Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Brown's home in Baltimore. When William and
Sarah Brown returned to Liverpool the following year they left baby Ann in Baltimore
in the care of her grandmother.
Brown, 1787 - 1859.
George Brown- no relation- had married Ann Davison of Drumnasole,
Co. Antrim. sister of Mrs. Alexander Brown.
They emigrated in 1783, since when the
donor had built up a nourishing practice in Baltimore. He and
Alexander Brown were close friends there.
Oliver�s were a Lisburn Quaker family.
||The Rev. William Sinclair was fourth son of William Sinclair, farmer, of
Tobermore. Co. Down. He matriculated in Glasgow in 1775 and was ordained in
Newtownards Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in 1784. He was implicated in
the'98 and transported for life the same year. It was he apparently who had
married the Rev. Andrew Craig and Miss Mary McCully of Ballyhaft in 1787, during
his ministry in Newtownards.
December 6th, 1811.
I feel truly grateful to you, my dearest Father, for your
very kind and affectionate letter, I am delighted to hear you are quite
recovered from your long and tedious attack of gout, and I trust you will enjoy
a double proportion of good health this Winter.
I shall study to observe the very good advice you were so
kind as to give me in your letter respecting mine, indeed I never knew what a
blessing it is to enjoy good health till I was deprived of it for a short time.
I suffered a good deal of sickness during my voyage across the Atlantic, but
thank God, I am now quite well.
We got to Petersburg at the most favourable time of the
year, I am told the weather was uncommonly warm in the latter end of the season,
indeed, since I came here some days have been as warm as the weather in May in
Ireland. A great many of the inhabitants have been ill, some not yet quite
recovered. The invalids all seem to wish for frost now, we have had a little
already, but I think the weather just now delightful, the air is so clear and
dry, and what we would think rather unusual in Ireland, the dust is in great
abundance on the roads. However, the weather is very variable, one day will be
very warm and the next quite the reverse, but I shall take care and suit my
dress to the changes of the season. I intend keeping a journal of the weather
for your amusement, I would like to compare the differences of the two climates.
I am delighted to hear that you approve of my dear James's
choice, 1 I hope most sincerely he maybe successful in everything he
undertakes, I always thought, and think so still, that James will-be an honour
to his family. I shall be quite proud of him when I return.
I perfectly agree with you in your opinion of Mr. John
Oliver, he is gentle, good-natured and obliging, he was uncommonly kind and
attentive to me when in Baltimore, he told me he had some thoughts of going to
Ireland in Spring. The family are very much esteemed and liked by all the
respectable people in Baltimore, and deservedly so. Mr. Robert Oliver is a most
excellent man, how delightful it would be for their poor old mother to see them!
They live in the greatest style you can imagine.
Oh, my dearest Sir; I hope all your fears respecting war
are without foundation. I never felt the least interest about politics before,
but now I do, but Mr. Cumming says the American people have been talking in just
the same manner for four or live years past. It is a dreadful thing to think of,
two nations going to war with one another who are so nearly connected as the
Americans and English.
Provisions are cheaper here than in Ireland, our flour is
superior to anything I ever saw, potatoes are tolerably good, but they will not
keep so well during the Winter as in Ireland. You can get excellent green tea
for about five shillings a pound. Wines are far more reasonable here than with
you, Madeira is the kind that is generally drunk, I would far rather have
gooseberry, but this shows what a bad taste I have. We had champagne, claret and
Madeira at Mr. Oliver's. We have been at church every Sunday since we came, our
clergyman is a Mr. Linn, and is a bad an orator as I would wish to hear. I know
I am not easily pleased, but poor Mr. Linn's is not calculated to charm anyone
that had ever been accustomed to hear good preaching.2 His sermons
are dry, uninteresting and unconnected, and I hate the morning repetitions that
they have in church. You will think me severe but I cannot help it, however I am
determined to attend regularly and perhaps I shall get reconciled to Mr. Linn's
performances. Shall I or shall I not receive the Sacrament here? You will tell
me what I ought to do.3
Mr. Cumming has begun to read the "History of
Virginia" to me, I like it very much. He has a pretty good collection of
books, and there is a public library in Petersburg of which Mr. Cumming is a
member. They have got Marshall's "Life of Washington" which I intend
reading. It contains an excellent account of America which I should like very
well to be acquainted with, for I like the country and I admire the people whom
I have met with extremely. The American ladies are in general gentle and elegant
to their manners, and most of those I have the pleasure of knowing appear to be
accomplished and well-informed. I hope to derive great improvement from their
society, as we have a good many of this description in Petersburg, who have
waited on me.
Mr. James Cumming 4 who lives about half a mile
from: this has got what would be a very good garden if cultivated and taken care
of. Mr. Cumming intends to take it from him, as his brother has no use for it. I
mean to turn gardener and have it kept in nice order and I think it would be
both healthful and amusing for me to attend to it. There is nothing in it at
present but a few greens. I do not intend putting flowers down as we have a
little place for them before the parlour windows, but merely make a vegetable
garden of it. I did not pay as much attention as I might have done when at home
to your methods of gardening, but still I think I know something about it.
However, a little experience will soon teach me. I should like to have some of
your nice broccoli seed to sow if I live till Winter, though if I remember right
you sowed yours the latter end of last Summer. I do not know whether or not I
can get some of the same here. Mr. Cumming tells me that all kinds of vegetables
are very plenty in Spring and Summer. I should apologise to you, my dear Father,
for troubling you with all my foolish thoughts but I know you too well to be
afraid on that score. Write often to me, my dear Father, for you cannot think
how much I am gratified by your kind letters, and I will study to be all you
wish me. I was telling Mr. Cumming that this is the first letter I ever wrote to
you. When we were away from home Margaret always had to write, being much better
at the business than I was, but I hope to improve in the delightful art of
letter-writing, as well as in many things which I am ignorant of. I wrote a long
letter to Margaret some time ago, in which I attempted to give her a description
of our journey from New York to Petersburg. You will not have to complain of my
not writing frequently, for I am never so happy as when so employed.
Farewell, my dearest Father! That you may enjoy every happiness is the sincere
Rev. Andrew Craig.
I wish you had seen me, my beloved Margaret, when I
received all your welcome letters. I was above stairs at the time, busily
engaged in putting up bed curtains. Mr. Cumming had been looking all over the
house for me, at last he came upstairs, and after standing for a minute, without
any preface he took out the welcome packets. I knew immediately who they were
from, I made one spring across the bed, and as I sat down to read them there was
not a happier creature in America. I felt real joy, for it was so long since I
.heard from any of you.
I have written to Miss McCully, M.B.6, and my
father, and I now begin to write to my darling Meg. The last long letter which I
wrote to you has not left Baltimore yet, I suppose. If you feel the degree of
joy when you receive one of my letters as I do when I hear from you it will not
be my fault if you do not hear often. I am determined to write once every month,
perhaps oftener, and I hope you will do the same.
I have now got over all my fatigue, and at present enjoy
excellent health. I have a good many visits and I will have more. I like the
Petersburg ladies very much indeed, from what I can see there seems to be a
pleasing Society here, but I will try and give you a description of those who
have already called on me.
First, then there was Mrs. Colquhoun, who is almost a next
door neighbour, and Mrs. Bell, who I think will be my great favourite here. She
is an elegant American, pleasing, gentle in her manners, she lives at a charming
place called Blandford, about half a mile from Petersburg. I have been there
twice, she has no children, and has therefore time to cultivate a charming
garden, which is in the nicest order. Mr. Bell is brother to the gentleman who
died in London. Mrs. Bell has some fine lemon and orange trees, which are most
beautiful at present. Two of them belong to Mr. Cumming and I think there are
two dozen large oranges on one of the trees. Some are ripe and they look
delightful, Mrs. Bell is keeping them till we get some place to put them in. She
has got a great variety of fruit trees of all descriptions in her garden. So
much for my favourite, Mrs. Bell. Mrs. Colquhoun is pleasing, but not so elegant
in her manners as Mrs. Bell, she however, appears to be gentle, and I am sure I
shall like her. Now to give you an adequate description of one of my own
countrywoman, who was my next visitor. She was a Mrs. Moore, who lives very near
me. She has resided twenty years in America, but she is completely Irish in her
manners, which I like very much. She is a great, large, fat, bouncing-looking
woman, appears to be perfectly good-natured, and extremely obliging to me
indeed, but I come from Ireland, and that is my recommendation with Mrs. Moore.
When she came to see me she shook hands, and welcomed me to Petersburg in the
true Irish mode of hospitality. "Och, dear", she said to me," my
heart warmed to you whenever I saw you come into church". She is a complete
national character and I like her very much. She is an old acquaintance of Mr.
Cumming's, and seems to have taken quite a fancy to me. She told him he was
quite right in bringing a wife from Ireland. She is to have a ball next week, to
which I shall be invited. My next visitors were Mrs. Anderson and Miss Hexatt.
She is rather an elderly lady and lives with her brother in a pleasant spot a
short distance from town, called Strawberry Hill. I was there last Sunday, she
seems to be pleasing in her manners. She is an Englishwoman. Mrs. Anderson is a
well-informed, elegant, American, she also lives out of town. Mrs. Robinson
called the other day, she lives near me, I cannot as yet judge of her as I have
only seen her once, but I think her a pleasing young woman. This is a list of my
visitors as yet. Some of the ladies are prevented calling through illness. I
think I shall have a pleasant society.
This, my beloved Margaret, is my birthday, 7and
l know you will all think of poor Mary. God knows what may happen before another
year. Who could have told me this day twelve months that I would spend my next
birthday in America. I hope to hear from you, my darling Margaret, very soon, it
is a long time since your letter was written. Oh that I was with you to tell you
a hundred little things I cannot write so well about. You will see my letter to
Miss McCully. I cannot tell you how much both Mr. Cumming and I were astonished
to hear that Mr. Richardson's marriage had not, nor was not to take place. Mr.
Cumming met with him in Liverpool the day before we sailed and he then appeared
to be in wedding haste, for he would hardly stop to speak to him. Mr. Cumming
desires his most affectionate love to you all. You are a great favourite of his.
You cannot think how much better he looks than when he was in Ireland, he has
got quite fat, and enjoys uninterrupted good health. He is the picture of
happiness. Apropos of a picture, I will not get mine done till I regain my
healthy looks again. Mr. Cumming has me weighed the other day, and I am seven
stone and a half. I was once nearly nine. He is ten pounds more than when he
left America. Tell my darling Rachel I am delighted to hear how much she is
improved since I saw her. My next letter will partly be to her. Tell her I will
bring her a little present when I return. Give my kindest love to my dear James,
I shall write to him some time soon. I intend writing to Mrs. Cumming to-morrow.
Farewell, my beloved, darling Margaret! I will spend many happy days with you
yet. Write soon, and tell me everything.
How are the Derry 8 people? Have you heard from them lately?
Her brother James' choice to read law at T.C.D.
||A very nice compliment to her father, to whose sermons in Lisburn she was
well accustomed. Mary's younger sister Rachel, aged sixteen, kept a diary during
the early months of 1814. For Sunday, January 2nd she wrote, "Heard an
excellent sermon from my papa appropriate to the season which I hope has
strengthened me in my resolutions of amendment" On Sunday, January 30th she
wrote, "Heard as usual a good sermon from my Father." On Sunday March
13th she wrote. "Heard a sermon from Mr. McCane And 1 have heard preachers
again and again But heaven defend me from such as McCane!" In later life
she married the Rev. C. J. McAlester, Non-Subscribing Presbyterian minister in
Holywood, 1834-1891. What she thought of his sermons is not recorded !
||Apparently it was at the Episcopalian Church in Petersburg that William
and Mary worshipped, for in 1813 William Cumming was listed as a vestryman
there. This would account for Mary reeking her father's advice concerning her
participation in Holy Communion. The minister at that time was the Rev. Andrew
Lynn, born in Lanarkshire in 1755. He emigrated in 1790 and became rector of the
parish in 1794, where he served for the ensuing 45 years. He was held in great
reverence and regard by the community who, on that account, put up with his
apparently boring sermons.
||James Cumming. a bachelor, was William's brother.
||The 'Pourhatan' was one of Alexander Brown's ships.
||M.B. - Margaret Byers,
Mary's twenty-first birthday.
||The Black family of Londonderry. her brother-in-law Thomas' wife's
I have been engaged these two days writing to my Lisburn
and Armagh friends, and I now take up my pen to write a few lines to my dearest
James, my old and loved correspondent. I am sure you would be pleased to hear
that after encountering the dangers of a tempestuous voyage at sea and a
fatiguing one by land, that I am now comfortably fixed in my new place of
I cannot express the joy I felt when after being buffetted
and tossed about for five long weeks on the great Atlantic, I again got in sight
of dear terra firma. I was as sick as possible during the voyage and
sea-sickness is the most unpleasant and dispiriting kind that I ever suffered.
I wish my dear James saw how comfortably I am settled in my
new habitation. Everything in it is as neat as possible. I am very much pleased
with America and the people I have met with I like and admire very much-indeed.
The American ladies are in general elegant, accomplished and well-informed.
Their manners are extremely pleasing, there are a good many of this description
in Petersburg who have visited me since I arrived, and I think I shall have a
very pleasing society. I was quite delighted with the view of New York, the-harbour
and surrounding country; on our sailing up the river Hudson there was nothing
that attracted or pleased me so much as the immense tracts of country covered
with woods. I can give you no idea of the beauty and endless variety of the
colouring and form of the trees. On my arrival the woods appeared in all their
magnificence and charmed me more than anything I ever saw. The trees assume a
much more brilliant appearance here than in Ireland, but I was delighted with
everything I saw then being completely tired looking at the wide Atlantic for
such a length of time.
The principal towns in America are very handsome, some of
the public buildings are extremely beautiful and the houses have all a clean
nice look, owing I suppose to the inhabitants burning wood instead of coals.
Philadelphia is thought to be the handsomest town, it is built in the most
regular manner, but I admire New York more, the situation is beautiful. When at
Philadelphia I had an opportunity of seeing the celebrated Cook perform his
favourite character of Sir Pertinax Mac Sycophant in "The Man of the
World". I never was so pleased with an actor in my life as with Cook. There
is a theatre here but it is not open just now. We were at Covent Garden when we
were in London, I was delighted with it of course, but indeed, my dear James, we
went to so many curiosities when in that great metropolis that my poor head was
quite bewildered, I never was in a place that I would like to live in so little
as London. Our climate here in some respects is pleasanter than in Ireland,
particularly at this season of the year. The weather at present is clear, dry,
and in the middle of the day as warm as in the month of April with you. But I
will be better enabled to tell you how I like it when I spend a summer here.
I am glad you are determined studying law, and if the best
wishes for your success in everything you undertake would be of any use to you
be assured you possess my most earnest prayers, for your happiness and
prosperity. I often anticipate the joyful meeting we shall all have if we live
to return to my dear native country, and I trust and hope you will then be
Councillor Craig. Oh! how proud I shall be of my dear brother. I hope I shall
hear from you soon, it is impossible to conceive the joy I feel when I receive a
letter from Ireland. When you write tell me all the news you can think of for
every trifle is interesting to me now that I am so far from all of you. How are
the Miss Wallaces?1 Give my kind love to my Nephew William .2
I hope he is well. Mr. Cumming joins me in the best wishes for your health and
happiness, and believe me, my beloved James, your sincerely attached,
Mr. James Craig.
Per Ship Powhatan via London.
||This letter is undated but from content appears to have been written on
11 th December 1811.
||This William was son of the Rev. Thomas Cumming.
January 9th, 1912
I received your last letter, my beloved Margaret, on
Christmas morning, just as we were sitting down to breakfast. It was the most
acceptable gift I could have received. By this time you will have got my first
letter from Petersburg, and I hope you will soon receive the last I wrote. There
is a ship to sail from Baltimore to Liverpool in a few days, which I hope will
take this safely to you. I am rejoiced to hear that you and all my dear friends
are well, that you may all enjoy health and happiness is my most earnest prayer.
I know, my dear Margaret, you will be glad to hear that I
am in perfect health at present. I was never better in my life than I have been
for the last six weeks. I believe it is in some degree owing to the delightful
dry clear weather we have. Winter has not commenced here yet, we have had very
little rain since I came here. The weather at present is remarkably clear, dry
and pleasant. There is plenty of dust on the roads. W e have had a few very cold
days lately, this climate is more changeable than in Ireland. To give you an
idea of how much it is so I will tell you of the changes we had in the short
space of three days. The Sunday before Christmas was as mild and warm as in the
month of May. Monday it rained from morning till night, and on Tuesday the frost
was so intense that the water was frozen during the day in my room. I have begun
to keep a journal of the weather to send to my Father, I wish you would do the
same, I should like to compare the difference of the two climates.
Yesterday was my beloved Margaret's birthday, we drank your
health, and many returns of it, which I trust you will see. I hope I will live
to celebrate many of them with you in my dear Ireland,1 I have had a
great many visitors since I wrote last, indeed, the ladies are remarkably kind
and attentive to me, I never met with more pleasing people. I have got several
little presents sent me by some of them, knowing I was a young beginner. Mrs.
Colquhoun sent me some very nice ketchup and two pots of jelly. Mrs. Bell sent
me a large pot of preserved lemons, done when they were green, it is the best
sweetmeat I ever tasted. She also sent me some delightful oranges, the produce
of Mr. Cumming's tree, they were as fine as I ever saw.
About a fortnight ago we were at the great ball and supper
at Mrs. Moore's, I am sure there were seventy people at it. There was nothing
danced but Virginian reels, such as William2 taught us in Ireland. I
did not venture to dance for a long time for fear of putting them wrong, but at
last I was prevailed on to attempt them, and succeeded better than I expected.
The American ladies in general dress remarkably well, young and old are fond of
dancing, but there has been an end put to this amusement for some time. That
night we were all so gay and happy at Mrs. Moore's the most dreadful occurrence
happened at Richmond that was ever known in this, or I believe, any other
country. On that fatal night there was to be a new afterpiece performed, and the
theatre was more crowded than usual. At the commencement of the second act of
the farce part of the scenery took fire, owing to a lamp being hung up, in order
to give effect to some part of the scenery. The alarm was given, but the flames
Spread with the rapidity of lightning, some of the people attempted and effected
their escape by jumping out of the windows, a great many were suffocated by the
terrible black smoke and smell of the oil burning, others lost their lives by
attempting to get down the stairs, which fell with the weight of the crowd, and
it is with sorrow I tell you that between seventy and eighty persons fell a
sacrifice to the flames, fifty of them among the most respectable inhabitants of
Richmond, the greater part consisted of ladies. I never heard of an event so
universally lamented. Richmond, I am told, is a scene of desolation and woe,
funeral sermons have been preached in all the neighbouring towns. A great many
of the inhabitants of Petersburg were mourning. I believe it is general. There
is to be a monument erected on the spot where the theatre stood. Dancing and all
public amusements are prohibited for four months, in all my life I never heard
of so melancholy an event, but I will not dwell on it any longer.
I had a letter from Mrs. William Brown the other day, she
is very well, and likes Baltimore greatly. I fear I shall not have the pleasure
of seeing her, her mother-in-law is afraid to let her travel so far in Winter,
and in the Spring she will have something else to attend to. We expect William
Brown here next week on his way to Savannah, he will stay a week or ten days
with us. We had a party of gentlemen dining with us the other day, I was glad
when it was over, but I got through the day better than I expected, I sat and
carved at the head of the table, and I felt quite at my ease. Nancy is a good
cook, so I have very little trouble.
I hope my dear Mary Cumming is with you, I wrote her mother
some time since, I hope to hear from them soon. Write me a very long letter when
you receive this, and do not neglect to date it as I like to know when you
write, and tell me all the news you can think of, no matter how trifling. I
think it would be a good plan to send your letters to Liverpool, to the care of
James Cumming, if he is there, or to William A. Brown. They will forward them to
me sooner than from Ireland.
My dear William looks and is perfectly well, the longer I
know him I love and esteem him more, he is everything to me my heart could wish
for. Oh! if we were in my dear Ireland I would be too happy. He is reading to me
Robinson's "History of America" which I like very much. I have been
amused reading "The Scottish Chiefs" 3 lately.
I hope all my friends in Lisburn are well, remember me
kindly to them all. How are the Belfast people? Give my affectionate love to
Mrs. J. Ward and Mrs. Telfair, when you see them, and to Mrs. Ward and the
Macleans. Tell Mrs. Ward I have the card-racks she made for me last Winter put
up in the parlour. They remind me of the giver whom I shall always love and
admire. Is there any news from Lisburn? No word of any of the girls getting
married? I hope my dear Miss McCully and Margaret are well, give my kindest love
to them. I hope I will get a letter from you soon, tell me how my dear James is.
Is Strawberry Hill just the same as when I left it? Tell my Father that it is
the general opinion that we shall not have war with England. Mr. Cumming says
the Members of Congress can talk about raising an army, but he thinks they will
not get it accomplished, from my heart I hope they will not. Give my most
affectionate love to my dear Father. I will add a postscript for my sweet
God bless you, my dear dear Sister, and make you happy. I
will write you again in February.
Miss Margaret Craig,
My dear Rachel,
By the time you receive this I suppose you will be at
school in Belfast. 4 I hope most sincerely you will like it. It
gratifies me more than I can express to hear of your improvement in every
respect since I left you. I am sure you will be everything my dear Margaret can
wish. I expect you will be able to superintend the education of a little
relative that I hope to take to you. Don't you remember the plans you and I used
to have in case of such an event?
You will be quite a woman when I see you again. I wish I
was near you to assist in making your clothes, but I suppose you can sew very
well now. I wish you would write a long letter to me, tell me how you like
Belfast, and all the news you can think of. Will you learn to draw? If you do, I
wish you would take a sketch of Strawberry Hill for me, I would like it more
than I can tell you.
Farewell! my beloved Rachel, I am sure you will be
everything I could wish.
Received and forwarded 1lth January 1812. by A. Brown and
||Margaret's twenty third birthday.
||For the First time Mary refers to her, husband as William.
||A popular novel by Miss Jane Porter (1776-I850) about the Scottish
patriot William Wallace.
||Rachel was then thirteen years of age.