SHEBOYGAN, WISCONSIN, JULY 26, 1850
MY DEAR BROTHER JOHN AND ALL YOUR FAMILY,
As we have about got to our journey's end, I now for the first time in the new world send you this epistle. I hope and wish it may arrive and find you all enjoying good health and happiness. Since we last parted in Commercial Road, I have journeyed over many scenes. I will just give you some little information about our journey to our resting place at Liverpool. We entered the ship Constellation with 981 souls besides ourselves and endeavored to stow away ourselves as well as we could. It was like taking us out of the Queen's Palace and locking us up in some shit house, but we managed pretty well, taking all things into consideration.
We sailed on the 5th of June and had a fine start with a favouring gale for the first day and night until we got clear of the Irish Channel and entered into the Atlantic Ocean. Then My boy we had it pretty stiff for 3 days. If you could have seen us on the 4th day you would not have said we had of been the same lot as came onto the Constellation all crowing and capering like so many monkeys at the thought of the beautiful ride they were going to have. On the 3rd, 4th, and 5th days there was not a soul on board but would have sacrificed all they had could they have been landed at their old home left behind. I don't know what to compare the sight and sensations of the passengers to. The 3rd day they all began to turn up their eyes like so many dying jackdaws. Such moaning, groaning, crying very little laughing, praying, swearing, rolling, tumbling, hanging first by one thing and then another & sometimes up and sometimes down apparently more helpless than a man dead drunk so that when he falls he feels upwards for the ground. Such is about a fair description of our situation for the first week on our trip which broke us in and prepared us for anything. But when the mighty waves had done with their frolics and had given us a good shaking and thorough good cleansing, everyone seemed to be born again and began to fill up all empty spaces which such a sudden revolution had inflicted. For my own part I kept up all the time and shot the cat but once, but felt awfully dizzy. But as none of the rest could not move a peg, I was forced to roll about some how and if I had known what the journey would have been I think I would not have had the courage to enter upon it.
We had two more pretty good shakers after that but we had become case hardened. Then the last was accompanied with thunder and lightning - one such a clap of thunder as I have never heard before. It actually made every inch of the vessel quake; it came on about l o'clock night. Rain fell in torrents - waves rushing over the old ship and she a pitching into them like fury and away. We went up and down like a swing boat. But nothing daunted us and at last we caught sight of land called Long Island, after 36 days being out of sight of it.
The entrance into New York is a very pretty and beautiful ride but the Landing is very indifferent, inconvenient, confined, and awkward, on a sort of old wooden Pier such as they would not allow to be seen in any port of the old country. New York is rather a large place but the customs and accommodations together with the roads want a deal of alteration before they will be in accordance with my desires. The streets about the wharf are very narrow, and the roads nothing but hills and holes about Broadway. It is a very nice Place and that is the chief road in the city, but the roads chiefly about New York are worse than the roads are at Orwell in the Winter time. Tis actually a fact - I could not have believed it.
If you want any thing to eat you must either go to an Hotel or a lodging house. There is no such Place as a House where you can go and sit down and have a Beef Stake cooked with a Jolly Quart of good beer to wrench it down - no, no, and if there was a house of that sort to be found by faith you could neither find the Beef Steak nor Quart of Beer for there is no such thing in New York. At least I could not see nor hear of any.
There is nothing cheap in New York and all the places we came through except snuff and tobacco. Everything else you can mention is as dear as tis in England and bread is double the price tis in London, so have found it hitherto but now. I hope we shall be able to manufacture most for ourselves. I think we have found a rather better place but can't tell at Present - The Proof will be in the spending but will tell you in my next.
From New York we came by Canal to Buffalo in what they call a passenger Boat. We took Cabin Passage and a most damnable passage it was for the first 3 days. The first night we had to halt in a Lock all night - for such a storm of thunder and lightning arose as though Heaven and Earth would mingle. Although the night was dark at first, it was light enough when the lightning came on, for it flew about in all directions without a moment's ceasing. The wind roared, the thunder rattled, trees fell crashing down and the Banks of the Canal was carried away by the rushing of the waters a little way above us and stopped us 5 days on our journey. Most all the passengers that were in the Cabin with us left the boat and left us so much more room which made it much more convenient and so we jogged on to Buffalo where we took one nights lodging and had a peep at Buffalo - and paid Mr. Geo. Willis a visit and conveyed your respects and took a glass of Whiskey to drink his health and had the worth and his wife over about business at home, etc., etc. He is in business for himself, but he says not much better than London. He desires his kind respects to you from Buffalo.
We came up Lake Erie, called at Cleveland, up River St. Clair into Lake Huron. Called at Mackinaw, thence down to Green Bay on arm of Lake Michigan, 100 miles down and back again into the Lake, and then we hasted our way to Sheboygan from whence I write this.
Sheboygan is quite a new Place, stands on a very healthy spot, contains about 1800 inhabitants and has only been Commended 4 years. All a forest of Trees 5 years ago and now a very Pretty Place. Shops of all descriptions, going to have Public Docks made, and according to opinion it will be a fast-rising Place. I hope Please God that we may be fortunate to rise faster than the Place.
I have found out one in Sheboygan who lived at Royston 40 years ago. He was quite pleased to see us so we had quite a chat... it makes you think you are close by Home when you meet any one so. I happened upon one at Syracuse, and one at Green Bay who knew me when I went into his shop. It was a Butcher that I used to trade with at Cambridge so go where you will - some body's there before you.
I can't tell you much about the Country at Present, only that it is a fine country when Brought into Cultivation, but if all Europe was to come it would take them tens of thousands of years before they do half do it for the 1800 miles that we came from New York appears hardly touched. Only hear to there a little spot - nothing but wood, wood, wood. It seems almost a pity to burn up such fine Trees but the Quantity makes it a nuisance and everybody is glad to get rid of it. We have 2 brewerys - 5 churches - 2 or 3 good schools and shops of all descriptions. So much for Sheboygan. And when I can positively see that you can come here and live like a gentleman with very little work will let you know, but at Present I would say to everyone that is getting a comfortable crust to stay at home and enjoy it, by all means, for I assure everyone that comes out here ought to be composed of Iron and Steels to put up with Botheration of Journey. Tis no Joke to come with a family of helpless persons. If I had to travail my Journey over gain I could manage it much better but we must all have experience before we can learn.
Price of Provisions at Sheboygan
Butter sixpence per pound, Cheese sixpence per pound
Beef threepence per pound, Mutton threepence per pound
Turkey 2 shillings each, Geese 1 shilling eache
Fowls 2 shillings 5 each, Eggs half penny Each
Whiskey 2 shillings per gallon, Gin 1 shilling per gallon
Brandy 2 shillings per gallon, Beer 8 pence per quart
Potatoes about same as in England
Apple and Plums none at Present
Bread if Bought of a Baker Double to what tis in England
House Rent as Dear as tis in Melbourn
Farming implements as cheap as in England
Clothing about the same
If Bro. Jos. should not get his letter as soon as you get this you can tell them you have heard from me, but perhaps he may get his first. There is no telling so far off. I hope his Dr. wife is better. I don't know what I have any more to convey to you in this but will send you some more in my next, if Please God I'm spared. So regards our present health we are all about same as when we started. The Weather in New York we found almost to warm and moist - part of our journey, but the weather here is about same as tis in England, quite warm enough. I shall send to Betsey Jos. Jack & Tom, so you must inquire if you all get them, let them all know. Rhoda at 124 Marine Parade, Brighton. I shall send to them all as soon as possible. I should like to have one from you as soon as you get this. I have sent you my direction.
With most affectionate love to you and all your Brothers,
This letter is reprinted with the permission of Patricia O'Boyle, from her book Scruby... Through Our English Channels. Thanks to Ruth Marler for help in deciphering the units of currency.