The Peat family and their descendants have lived in Long Whatton for over 200 years. As were most of the residents of the village the Peats were farmers, they did not travel far for work beyond the neighbouring villages and mostly married locally. However, one of them did travel, by necessity rather than by design, and the account of his life in the New World of North America, though sparse, offers an insight into that experience in the middle of the nineteenth century. The circumstances in which he left Long Whatton are mostly left to the imagination, but the accounts reveal serious problems concerning himself and his wife which resulted in his leaving the country with no possibility of returning. Thomas Ironmonger Peat was the eldest of four children born to William and Ann Peat (nee Upton) in 1803. He had two brothers, William and Joseph, and one sister, Sarah. He married Frances, a woman three years his senior. Thomas' sister Sarah was married to George Eastwood Townley of The Manor and it is to these two people that these letters are addressed.
A Mr Roy Wilcox found a set of letters copied into a school notebook and it is from this source that the information has been derived. The letters of Thomas Peat that have been retrieved vary from misery at his state, to anger, then after the storm at sea, to forgiveness; he gives much account to his ailments but also, as he comes to appreciate the bounty of the New World, he becomes more disillusioned with Long Whatton and urges others to follow him. Two letters were written in 1843, the year he left England, two in 1844, one in 1846 and others in 1848, the year of his death. From the letters which are very detailed it is obvious that he wrote many more but unfortunately they are lost. His style of writing depends on the recipient. He writes more of family matters to his sister, while of agricultural matters to his brothers. He writes of much affluence, but sadly when he died he left almost nothing. What his letters have provided is an excellent story of those from the area who willingly travelled to New Jersey and what they made of it.
On Thursday 19th January 1843, Thomas Ironmonger Peat sailed from Liverpool in a Europe Sail Ship bound for New York. The previous Monday evening he sat and wrote a long letter home to Long Whatton. This letter offers the first account of what had befallen him and why he was leaving the country.
I hope this finds you well and all my dear relations well. I be of all men the most miserable. If ever there was hell on earth I be now in it I see nothing but misery before my face, pray God that it may turn out better than it now looks to me. I have this day paid my passage and will leave this dear country on Thursday. It is the worst time that could happen. I have paid forty dollars, eight pounds sterling, finding it myself. This is a first rate ship 1000 tons. I left Derby on Friday morning, early on Saturday I was in the county of Lancaster, at Townley, and went very near Townley Hall, the seat of Thomas Townley esq. A noble mansion it is to look at, Dawsons is no more to it than my office in the garden is to a brick parlour. I can't say no more than God Bless you all. ('Dawsons' is a reference to Whatton House then occupied by the Dawson family.)
Friday 3rd March 1843
Dear Sir, Sister, Brothers, your children, my own In a far land I write to let you know I be, with the blessing of God Almighty, alive. I shall now give you a short account, after kissing your dear names, with tears in abundance in my eyes, of my voyage here. I left my native land, on the 19th January in bad wind, but nothing happened till the dreadful first day of February where the Almighty thought good to visit us with a dreadful storm, which did much damage to the ship as well as to our little property on board. I worked all night to the pumps, up to the knees in water, and in the morning we had a most dismal prospect to look at I lost part of my property, but owing to the care of packing, not as much as some of the others. At ten o'clock the Captain ordered all on deck for prayers, which he read in a very devout manner. I must confess with shame that it was the first time that I ever bent the knee to pour out my soul to God in public.
Dear sisters and brothers, if you did but know the horrors that fill my breast with the thoughts of leaving as I did, in the greatest malice and hatred with almost my own flesh, but with prayers to God Almighty to help me I forgive all as I hope they will forgive me. Give my love to Aunt Skermer and tell her to trust in the Lord. I now come to the dreadful thoughts of being parted from my wife, who had borne me children, nursed them on her knee, and gave them suck at her breast But God so ordered that if we had been together it matters not in what way of life, what has happened would have broke it up. Dear sister if you think well it is my wish that you will send for her to your house, and if she comes let her see this, and if she does I most earnestly wish for the sake of her children to forgive me, as I do in the name of God Almighty forgive her and all her brothers and sisters.
I landed here on the 1st March, having been in as bad a voyage as man ever was for the time, it being the worst time of year that can be, we never saw a fire all the time we were at sea, our victuals we had to pay the cook to fetch and bring them, so you may think what a state I was in, my poor feet were swelled till I could not get my shoes on, by the time I had been at sea a fortnight I got a pair of old soles off one of the sailors and cut up my hat and made a pair of slippers and very glad I was with them. I be now three to four thousand miles from you and I shall go a great deal further, my feet are getting better and I think by next Monday I shall start off again. Dear Mr Townley, sisters, brothers, wife, children, do not once give me up forever lost, if it please God that I live till summer I will write to you and let you know where I be. Dear sister, brothers, if you have in your breast one thread of love for your unfortunate brother, spin it out on his wife and children. Suffer them to come to your house, but if any meet with my wife, don't let drop one word of former animosity but meet as you was once wont to do. I hope by Gods help that my dear sons may never in any way impoverish or disgrace you, but on the contrary strive to reward you for the blessings they have received from your hands. I hope William is in his place, if you have not sent him word that I have left you to it. My grief is so great that I can write no more. So may the Almighty in his goodness bless you all.
Sunday 26th March, Philadelphia
Dear Sir, sister, brothers, children, and to all my friends and foes of the family, peace be to you.
I hope you got the letter I wrote to you, when I first landed at New York, respecting the bad voyage we had at sea, in which I detailed a great deal of my unhappy, mind to my dear sister, of leaving matters as I did, at perfect hatred, with my own nearest flesh and blood, but as I have forgiven and beg pardon if I have done wrong I hope to be forgiven. God bless both my dear sons and with his help and with their own care, may they be blessed in manhood, not as their poor father, afflicted, go where he will.
I had not been in America a week when a Castle Donington gentleman heard of me and sent for me. He told me that he had bought a farm in New Jersey. I went with him from the city of Philadelphia when he wished me to stop with his brother till the 1st of April. But the Almighty ordained it in another way as two days after I got there I was obliged to be brought back to be under the hands of the doctors, where I still remain. I have got such left, leg as I hope you may never see. I have had twelve leeches on it at once, besides lancing, but my dear friends, don't think that I have wanted for the necessities of life. If had not had the good fortune to have brought with me some bedding, I don't know what would have become of me. I board with a Leicester person that I knew when he lived there and very good they are to me, getting me anything that I want I have advice from the doctor daily, for nothing, but pay for the drugs. Where I am is a Public House and scarcely any but English come to it I have seen from all parts of the county (Leicestershire), Hathern, Sheepshed, Donington, Loughborough, Whitwick, Mountsorrel, Barrow, all in the place at the same time. If it please God that I get better, I shall go back to Jersey as Mr Oldershaw wishes me to continue with him till I have learned more of the country and habits.
My Dear Sir and brothers, I will now as far as I know give you a description of the country. It is as fine a place as ever was under Heaven and by the look of it, there is as good land as any you have got in England, but it is easy to see where an Englishman lives and where an American man lives. You may see as splendid houses and gardens and farms belonging to the English as any there are in Charnwood Forest, only instead of having to clear it of stone, they have to clear it of wood. For the Americans, themselves as farmers are the most slothful race under the sun. If you pass by a farm house of 500 acres you would not see one bit of garden round the house, but pigs, cows, poultry and such like. They grow their potatoes and turnips in the field that is all they want in the winter with their meat, they eat off the fat of the land, all meals are alike. It takes a woman as much time to get breakfast as it does dinner and supper. They have very good cattle here. Horses in particular, they are of all animals the most handsome I ever saw, all of a breed to look at, not large or heavy. They think nothing of running a waggon from ten to twelve miles. There is likewise good beasts and pigs, but they are all in the hands of the English. I have not seen many sheep. Prices: Land - you may buy at £1 to £20 per acre, good wheat flour at l0d a stone, best meat 2d to 3d per pound, butter 6d Clothing much the same as in England. Oysters by the load for very little. Fish and wild fowl most numerous.
I made a little bag on board ship for my little dear William and there is canvas, thread and needles and thimble, the canvas is from fragments of the top mast gallant sail that was shattered on the night of 1st February. I wish you Sir, to make Charles a bag of the canvas, and I hope they will keep them for the sake of their poor unfortunate uncle, that had the ill luck to witness and feel the loss of that dreadful night I should not have written again so soon but Mrs Kirk was coming to England and was so good as to say she would bring the parcel.
I have sent you some grafts from the Susquehanna gardens. I hope one of the lot may grow, also two sorts of beans, the small ones make the most splendid soup you tasted in your life. Sir, there is one thing that you may do if you think proper, that is to see Joseph Skermer of Belton and tell him that if he has a mind to come to the New World as they term it, I think he can't come at a better time for as things are now he may buy a deal of property for a little money, but tell him not to say that I wished him to leave his native place for I don't, but if I was young and strong I should not fear but to get on here better than in England, as a man can get so much land for a little money and the woods are so beautiful. Cedar trees grow ten times thicker then Ash or Elm does in your country, the Lancewood tree grows very straight and tall. You may see peach orchards ten or twenty acres and apples without end. I have never seen a gooseberry nor a currant tree and there are very few pears. My dear Sir, you have often scolded me for making away with a bit of old oak. You may see ten thousand times ten thousand of the most splendid trees cut up for burning. They cut up four feet lengths and sell it by the chord for 10d or 1s per chord. Cedar wood is a little dearer and lance poles are about 6d each. Deal at the saw mills are about 2d per foot I have sent you all a bit of tobacco which is all I can do for you. I wish I could do more but you may rest assured that when I close my eyes in death, the thoughts of my dear brothers, sister, wife, and children will be to pray for them all. I wish to hear from you whether you got this letter or not a/so send me word if you can if old Cheslyn is dead and Mrs Dawson or Mr Ward is left ('Old Cheslyn' was a reference to Richard Cheslyn Esq of Langley Priory who died on 17th February 1843. 'Mrs Dawson' was the first wife of Edward Dawson (1802-1859) ofWhatton House who died in March 1843. )
The next letter is dated a year later. Thomas suffers from lameness but is otherwise healthy, and appears to have been staying with the Oldershaw family who first befriended him.
3rd June 1844
I received your kind letter of 8th May. I hope this finds you well as it leaves me at this time in health, but very lame and always shall be which is a great misfortune as I cannot ride on horseback, if I could I should be a gentleman. Mrs Oldershaws father came to live with them on the 1st February and I left them. I had no need to hunt for a situation I had plenty offered to me, but I thought I would start west. I went to the city of Delaware and was taken with the rheumatism so that I was obliged to call the doctor again. I got better in two weeks and thought it prudent to return back where I was known. I knew it was no use offering to fill any situation although I had two in the neighbourhood offered me.
Chief Judge Hickman of the courts of Gloucester and Trenton heard of me and sent for me. He had built a large new house in Berkley. I went and bargained with him to lay out the gardens. Apples and peach orchards to be planted; I should have made a good job of it if I could have got two or three fellows, but I could not make the best of it, though I did not do amiss when we had done planting. The Judge said he could find me plenty to do and board in the house. I was not very fond of her Ladyship, but Lord was a rouser, he would come into the garden in the morning, and first thing would be Tommy, have you had your toddy? No. Come then, be quick by God. We then got a horn of brandy or pine rum, and then used to set to work until Madam came down. I stayed here till the 25th April when Mr Oldershaw sent for me to come back. He sent for me on 1st May and on the 2nd I went to see why he wanted me, it was but ten or twelve miles, when I got there he said I must not go back. I told him it was impossible to stay, I would come back in a week. I then went to the old Judge and told him that I was going back to my old place, and that I wanted my money. He told me that I might go to Hell for it, and there the devil would have his own, but in the end he gave it to me.
I never in all my life saw such a place for fishing and shooting, it is hard to give any idea of the number. We do not go fishing here like you do, we go and catch what we want and then give over, we have thousands at the bottom of Oldershaws garden when the tide is up, the great Delaware river runs within four hundred yards of the house and the great timber creek runs on the south side of the Farm. Perch, pike barbout (catfish) and roach. I caught seven and a half brace of fine pike one day in two hours, we never bait with anything but worms, except pike, we use any bit of fat meat. The season for shad fishing is out on 10th June. I have seen eight or nine hundred shad fish caught at one draw, at the bottom of Oldershaws meadow. It is the most delightful place in the world and the most productive place in the world, anybody but me may be happy, all sorts of trade is very brisk. A young man of any trade ought to be cowhided to death for attempting to stay in England.
We got the potatoes and all the seeds and letter safe. A great deal I think of them, the grafts were dead with time, the potatoes are all up as well as the seeds. I sowed some of all of them. I took the first wagon load of green peas to Philadelphia on Holy Thursday at 40 cents per peck but now they are not worth 20. The best wheat flour is selling at 10s per hundred. We kill all sorts of meat and take it to the market, best cuts of beef which is as good as any in England is worth 6 cents per pound, good fat weather legs of mutton is worth 5 cents, best dried hams 7 cents. I kill all the mutton and take it to the market. We only had fifteen pigs. It is nothing for a farmer to kill seventy. You would not be afraid to eat American pork, it is better fed than in England, they graze the best of pasture in the summer and in the fall the food is made up with Indian corn, fruit and pumpkins.
I have a most splendid garden at my own command, you may walk in the garden and fifty or more large Men of War and other ships may be seen at all times of the day, as all shipping to and from all parts of the world to Philadelphia go by the bottom of the garden, the river is two miles across and lower down it is four miles. I often sit with my pipe in my mouth and tears in my eyes and look at the Liverpool ships with English colours flying, a place I shall see no more. I was very much grieved to hear of my little Billy's bone being broken. I hope it has not crippled him in the least God bless him and his dear brother. I had provided a small present for both of them, as well as for you, and several others things as Mr John Oldershaw fully expected to set off to England in May but he and the trustees have settled in writing till next year. A young man, a Mr Crung came from Melbourne to see us. Mr Robinson is coming home, they are on the water as I write, he had packed his boxes when I saw him. I gave him a small book which I know you will prize. I hope you get it /p>
Concerning my friend Joseph Hartshorn wanting to come to this country, I don't know what to say, there is not the least doubt that he might get work, as he is young and strong and has got some knowledge of the brewing and malting which is good here, but I wont tell him to come and stay then I shan't be blamed. We can get good ale here but it is as dear as with you. Liquors are very cheap, good brandy is 50 cents a gallon, rum 40, and gin and whisky 35. Tobacco good at 8 cents per pound. Whether at work or play we take out toddy and pipe. I have a thousand things to say but no room. Let me give you this advice. Wash all your fruit trees with lime wash twice every year, Spring and Fall. Set all your gate posts root end upwards, put plenty of salt in the holes. Give my best love to all that has or will ask after me. God bless you, your wife and dear children, flowing with tears, farewell till death.
Your Loving Brother. Thomas Peat
9th June 1844
I hope this will find you and all the family well and both my brothers, as it leaves me in good health, but very lame and till death must be. I received the letter and other presents by Mrs Kirk. As to the shirts, the value of them was great, but nothing to the love and esteem which I bore from a sister to an unfortunate brother whom she cannot think of ever seeing again. I put one of the shirts on for the first time on Whatton Wake Monday, as a party of us English had made a proposal to hold a feast, they were from Loughborough, Sileby, Syston, Leicester, Thorp, Sheepshead, Donington, Ashby, Wooden Bow and Whatton. We kept it at a private house and everything is so cheap that it cost very little, we kept it at Philadelphia.
I received at the same time a letter from my dear son and was very much hurt to think of him being out of place and troubled to know the cause of it. It grieves me very much that I did not stay to see it out. My body would have rotted sooner than I would have seen any body but myself put to trouble. I know that I joined a note or bond, but I call to heaven to witness that I never saw a shilling of the money. If it had pleased God to have given me good health I should have been able to have paid my share of it before now, but I have had a great deal of expense on me since I landed, but thank God, I don't owe a cent for neither doctor nor any other attendance: If it should please God to ever turn the wheel of fortune I then should think myself bound in duty to contribute my share of the debt It was a most infamous act on the part of Craddock not making it known at the time that all the rest of the concerns were settled, but I can't do any more in the matter that will in any shape help it. I must make room for other things. Concluding my dear boy informed me that he was out of place which was a great trouble to me, as I know youth is full of folly, but still I think and hope that he has reserved his character. This I plainly see, by his very first entry in life, that he will never have any good success in life while he is in the country. If I was active and young as he is, I would not stay in it one day longer than I could. It is out of my mind to persuade him to leave where he was born, I would not do it for the world, not to him or any other person, but if he has any inclination I be quite sure that he may get a living if he thinks proper to seek for it If he has a mind to come to this country I will pay for and send him a passage certificate that will land him in the streets of Philadelphia. As to my other dear lad, I hope and pray to God to give him health and strength in body and mind, to walk in the path of honesty and sobriety and then need not fear of doing well. It was happy news to me to hear of him having left that blackguard place and shifted into one that is a credit to him and if he behaves in it nothing can hinder him getting on in the world.
When I read my dear William's letter, my dear sister, you cannot conceive the horrors and agonies that sprung on my mind. My very blood ran cold in my veins when I came to the words that his mother was in London. How can that wretch ever think of setting foot in that wretched place, the very place of her own, of mine of her childrens destiny for ever. If she had never gone there, we should now be living together and in the sight of our children. But from the very day that she left Whatton to first go to that place all ties of love and esteem were for ever broken. I was jeered by my enemies, laughed at by my friends, and plunged into thraldom which none of you ever knew of that I could not extricate myself of. I know that she cares not for me, and I be afraid that she does not have a deal more regard for her children. I would still like to hear what course of life she is pursuing and whether she has totally deserted her own or not. If you are in unity with her you can let her know if you think it proper that you have heard from me and give my respects to her.
I have a few days since got a letter from my dear brother Joseph. I received it with much joy, and was surprised of not hearing from my dear brother William but Joseph informs me he is doing well. He also informs me of an increase in his family. I hope it is doing well and little Joel and all my family. I hope Ursula is steady and useful to her parents, tell her from me to be mindful of the business. I must now turn to your own family. I can scarce hold the pen at thoughts of you all: First I shall forever love and esteem your dear husband for the manner in which he has been pleased to address himself to me. Next of the affable manner I hear of him receiving my children, whenever opportunity offers in my way I shall try to make him amends. I have selected several small things which if he gets, he will prize, and you my dear sister, if I cannot reward I hope my children by duty will. I saw the handwriting of dear little William, he said come back Tom. God bless him I shall never see him or his loving brother Charles any more in this world. They are not of years to think what I should do for maintenance if I was to come while I can get one here comfortable if not happy. There never was such a woman as Mrs Oldershaw and the old lady is as good. She was born at Donington, knew our mother. She saw our mother married to our father, her name was Earp. My Aunt Skermer can remember her coming to this country.
I have not had so much running to market this year as we are not keeping half the cattle as they do not pay. He has got 60 acres of grass to mow. Eleven men began on Monday last, the crops here are most abundant and early. Wheat and rye will be cut by the first day of June, we have but 4 acres of both, 4 acres of cucumbers, 3 of melons, 3 of kidney beans and 8 of peas. We have dug 4 acres of potatoes and they are sold, we are just beginning with the cucumbers and sweet potatoes. There are 3 acres of Tramats, I have seen them at Dawsons, they call them love apples. We have apples, pears and peaches, not half of it will be gathered, the hogs will have to get the bulk of them. Prime old cider is but 10 cents a gallon, all sorts of grocery is cheap, but tea is best at 4 shillings per pound, first rate sugar from 5 to 8 cents, butter at 10 cents and cherries are as low as one penny a hat full. Strawberries grow in the field like weeds, likewise asparagus, it is good in turtle soup. We have plenty of them we catch one any night, we have caught many a one 17lbs in weight.
We had dreadful riots in the city between the Catholics and the Protestants. Murder and burning without mercy. St Augustines Church, the most costly building next to Rome, was burnt to ashes, the pews, beams and all the roof was cedar. There is no lead or tile or slate, I saw it fall in.
Give my respects to Mr Marshall, tell him I have seen a sale of human flesh, seventeen in number, sold by auction, one woman and a child for 400 dollars.
My love to all that ask and poor Aunt Mary, don't forget to let my brother write quickly.
Your affectionate brother Thomas Peat
The next letter found was written two years later and indicates some problem experienced by Thomas' brother-in-law George Eastwood Townley.
16th August 1846
Dear Brother (George Eastwood Townley - brother-in-law) I received your letter on 11Ith August, never did I wish to hear from you so bad in my life. As you know the last news that I sent you was such as the devil would not have thought of hearing. My mind is the same as it was then. And I say my lad, push, shove, lift, call upon Hercules to give you a lift at the wheel. I don't mean to persuade you to sink your little boat with trying to catch that big ship. You may get advice from lawyers that would like to take a complaint like that in hand. Nothing get, nothing have. Was it not very strange that a thing should be revealed to me in a far distant land, yes indeed it was, and I shall feel to the last moment of my life that it is your own right I have been trying to find out where the party trying for the property reside, but I cant learn more than it is in Maryland. I have done all I can for it but don't give up till you see it gone down. I must begin with other things. First I hope you, my dear sister, your two dear boys are well. My brother Joseph, his family, my dear departed brother William's family, may God of his goodness bless you all. I will not persuade him, but I be glad to hear that my brother Joseph has not done thinking about America. Your letter informed me of the arrival of Mr T Green in this country. All young men moving in his circle of life are fools to stay humbug in England. But why did not my old friend Mr Paget come with him. I have not seen or heard of him since his arrival. If he had landed at Philadelphia I know he would have found me out. Tell his friend not to grieve, but to rejoice that he has left the land of bondage and safe arrived in a fine country, a land flowing with milk and honey. A land where agriculture and trade both flourish.
I was also glad you got the bag safe that contained the rifle and other small articles I sent you. I should think by now you have popped the eye out of something, I know it will do the trick. If you let Garner try it, tell him to mind which end he puts to his shoulder. I hope, my dear boy that you wont think yourself in dependia to me for it I be happy to have it in my power to make restitution for past favours. I hope the next news I have of you may be that you have resumed your old sport of shooting and took out a licence again. The most grateful obligation that you could confer on me would be to send me one of your country cock pheasants and a partridge with tails and full plumage, but dead. If they were well packed in hay or dry moss they would keep good enough as they should soon be stuffed and preserved to perfection as soon as they got here. I hope you have had a good fishing season. As for me I can catch as many as I want anytime any sort If you go to Donington Park no doubt you will take Garner with you and take a stake and rope and let Mr Derbyshire tie him, then he wont get in the water. I hope you have got the turtle shell that I sent with Mrs Oldershaw. I have caught two since, larger than that, we make no more of turtle soup than you do of broth.
We have got his Reverence and his Lady come to stay during the summer, and they have got a cook, a half breed English and don't I wait on her. Tell my brother to write to me as he has not done lately. This is a great fruit year, we shall have cider for very little. My paper is full I must conclude your well wishes till death,
Dear Brother (George Eastwood Townley)
I once more sit down to address a few lines to you hoping they will find you, your dear wife and two sons, whom God preserve in good health, as it leaves me at this time. Te last nine months have been a terrible time for me. I have often thought of what E Draper said of H Peat who told him that he was up to the chin in sorrow, but I have felt it run over my head.
I received a letter and newspaper in October with which I was greatly pleased, and was glad that you was well. My dear brother and his family, my much to be lamented brother William's family, give my love to them all. I also, on the same day, had a letter to my unspeakable joy from my dear son William, but opening the letter and finding the first pan of its contents what joy and what surprise, I could not help giving vent to a flood of tears. I could not read to the end of it so I put it to Mrs Oldershaw who declared with Mr Oldershaw they never saw nor heard such a letter from a child to a parent in their lives. I wrote to him back directly giving him no advice for nor against taking a wife, nor coming to America. If the woman is what he represents, he will be better with than without her. They are going to a fine part of the country and Detroit where he says he has friends is the capital of Michigan, and a fast improving place it is. I have no doubt but that if they are lucky they may get along but if he had no better success in America than what I have had, him and his wife too, had better both be sent to the bottom of the sea together. Dear brother I have one thing to beg of you. If my dear Tom takes it into his head to come with William do all that lies in your power to persuade him from it, let his brother try first He informs me that he shall land at New York, which is the proper port for Detroit, but the canals are not opened till the latter pan of April. I sent him word to write to me directly, and not stir from New York till I get to him.
You sent me a deal of news in your last letter which I am very thankful for, to attend to a little of it, I think my brothers talk of America is all a bag of straw. Mr Marshall you said was not likely to live for long. Henry Peat still bad. I hope old Hetby is kind and smooth with him. If she is not tell him from me to shoulder his crutch and fetch her a tap betwix the buds of her horns. Old Admiral Blake you say, has got to his old castle again, am very glad of it I was the worst afraid that he might get being Admiral of the Navy, the Duke of Rutland, Colonel in the army, he might get a wide scope of gaming acquaintances and much diminish his fortune. If the Chartists in the least insult him tell him from me to take his pistol and shoot one of them, and when I hear of that I will send him a six barrel revolving rifle, that will blow the rest, as General Taylor says here, he has blown the Mexicans to the devil. Lady Blake I hope, will again attend to her former vocations. You seem to be much taken up with your rifle, but you don't send me word of doing much death like destruction with it I have got one small present for you. I went in a hardware shop in the city the week before Whatton wakes to get some pike hooks. I saw a splendid set of twisted boring Augar tackle from two inch down to the lowest I could not help asking the price, I gave a bidding and had them. I did not like to do anything on your Wake Monday so Mr Adam G Wills, Landlord of the Gloucester City Hotel took me in a carriage to the old flood gates for pike fishing. But the day was cold and we were more inclined to drink out of our bottles and bite at our pies and ginger cake, than the fish was to bite at our baits. But my old Oakley brought to terra firma ten, and Mr Wills four, so we did not so amiss. I wish if you see my old friend Derbyshire you would tell him to send me one of his silk barbie lines as I be grown very short and don't forget to give my best love to him.
I be going to take a longer journey than I ever have done in this country in about three weeks. Mr Oldershaw is now the largest landowner that resides in New Jersey, he has bought a large track of land lying to the North East corner of Pennsylvania, containing nine thousand, four hundred acres. It has timber, mountains, lakes, lime stone, iron ore, and now they are at work mining for coal. There is plenty of deer, fish in abundance, bears and game of all sorts. He brought a fat buck and a hamper of pike the last time he went I shall not stay long, but you can depend on it, I will make them smell old Oakley, both the pike and the trout There is no house, barn or shed on it, but he says back in the woods dose by one of the principal lakes where he is going to put up a sawmill, there is a den where the hunter killed two bears, that will do well for me, it will hold my bed, plenty of room for tackle, fire, rum keg and I must go to the nearest place for eatables. The place is but three miles from the town of Wilksburg. I tell Mr Oldershaw to first occupy the mansion himself, there is no doubt it will be a fine thing for him and his family after him, it is but one hundred and eighty miles from the spot where we are now with both canals and rail roads going very near. He can go from home for the first part of it in a day and a night I do not want to go as I cannot ramble about with him, but he insists, so I will, but I shall soon come back. He has employed a skilful agent who knows the business and is going to work first on a large scale with the timber, he has already sold a lot
In your last letter you wished to get some tobacco seed. You will find it in a newspaper if you have the good fortune to receive it, with what little directions I have been able to gather. I was glad to hear you had a good summer in the most part We had the most fruitful summer I have seen in this country for everything. Well the apple crop in some parts was not large, but you can still get a good quart of cider for four cents. England need not starve without she is determined. Let her rulers keep open her ports and her seas free, and brother Jonathan will feed all her people that wish to stay in overburdened taxation districts, swarming with poor law commissioners and such, and what is still worse her excise men levying and taxing every bit of sweet that you eat and every drop of good drink till it tastes quite bitter, so much so that a great number of your English mouths cannot taste a bit A great many are tired and are leaving their wants and scants for the rest to growl over. Here everything is plenty for anybody that is able and willing to work for it
Governments reports for the last three months gave out that 27,400 European free immigrants, and they appear but a handful. It has been such a Christmas as I never saw and what is better still I be recovered so as to have the pleasure as far as any mind would permit to join in the harmony that has prevailed all. I had a ticket presented to me for attendance at the Gloucester City Hotel Christmas Entertainment, but my mind and thoughts were filled with other matters so I did not go. I had a pie given to me the next day and have got it yet I wish I could wrap it in newspaper, as you and all the rest of my dear children and near
relations might enjoy it Do you think John Skermers wife kept Christmas with him, or her other paramour. I should like to know who he is, and whether my aunt is still alive to see their disasters. I hope you will write to me again before my dear son William leaves England, and always send me a newspaper when you can. I once intimated to you that I should like a cock pheasant, it would be of great service to me. Now as William says that nothing but death will prevent him coming, he may easy pack it straight and perfect in his luggage, if you will be so kind as to lend your assistance in procuring it I would not wish you to go to the trouble of perfecting it and putting eyes in it, that can be done here, there is nothing I could wish for from you more. And I be confident that when opportunity occurs you will be rewarded for your trouble I hope you keep both the gardens and orchard in order, soon you will have two dear sons able to assist you
Mr Oldershaw sends his respects to you and says you had better come and bring your gun and fishing pod, and go with him, he says you may get plenty of game on the mountains and catch what fish you like in the ponds and lakes. He says there will be some splendid farms on the place, some of them to be made at a very small expense, but he will not sell any he will cut the timber and then let the lands on lease at about five cents an acre. I have a hundred more things in my mind, but must stop for want of room. Do give my respects to one and all, and I remain your dear brother,
I hope this will find you and my two dear boys, Charles and William all well, as Bless God, it leaves me in better health that I have been for the past nine months. I was not able to do anything from may till August I be very lame and at times suffer very much. I often go to bed on all fours, but I bear it with patience as I know there is no other remedy I can do. My dear brother in his last letter informed me of the melancholy disaster that had befallen my wife of having to end her days with a cancer in the breast, for which we know there is no remedy but death. You must remember, dear sister, by the laws of God, she is my wife and the mother of my two dear sons. I hope in the name of your dear brother you will forget and forgive what has been. I forgive her all I wish her to forgive me. I hope if you have not visited her you will do so, and tell her not to lay the charge of losing her son to me, as I have not had anything to do with it If I was worth all the world I would give it to see her on earth once more, but that cannot be, God grant we may meet in a better one. Do not fail, dear sister to send me word all you can.
Your Loving Brother, Thomas Peat
You said that Mr Draper was very desirous of hearing from his son Edward, he stayed out west but three months then came back to Jersey, he then went to Chester Delaware County, he came to see me when I was ill, he had a good place and was doing well. As I have said very little about my dear brother Joseph I hope he won't think that I have forgotten him. No, No. I will write to him soon, Old Patchett too. I have not forgotten he was the last Whatton man I saw in Old England, my respects to him. I have seen Henry Wright and his wife within a week and they are all well and are as comfortable as King and Queen, the woman was very good, she came to Westville the first Sunday after she landed and brought me the matters you entrusted to her care. Sends her respects to you and all her friends.
23rd October 1848
It is my painful duty to inform you of the death of your brother Thomas Peat he died on Saturday 21st of this month at 3 o'clock in the evening and was buried on Sunday at 2 o'clock. Your brother came to live with us about a year ago and had tolerable good health (with the exception of a constitutional weakness in his limbs at times which gave the appearance of being lame) till about two months since at that time two months back he left us to go to Philadelphia and was away for five weeks. The greater part of that time he was down sick with chills and fever, a complaint we have all had this fall, but he returned and went to work again and was looking very well till last Monday week. At that time he had a severe chill and was very unwell and had to go to bed. On Tuesday he was better and on Wednesday morning he helped to milk and after his breakfast finished putting some potatoes in the garden, the same afternoon he became worse and when I came home from Philadelphia I found him paralysed in all his limbs and quite unable to speak. It took four of us to get him up to his room, poor fellow, we could get nothing into his mouth, he did not seem to suffer much internal pain and all his mind seemed to be gone. On Thursday night he rallied and on Friday morning was sensible for about two hours, he ate some soup and took a small quantity of brandy and camphor, by the doctor’s orders. Afterwards he became quite deranged and attempted twice to get out of the window. In the evening he was again palsied and speechless and remained in that state till he breathed his last I have thus, my dear Madam, given you the details of a solemn and I doubt not to you at least as well as to us the afflicting intelligence of the death of your brother. I have a small balance of his wages remaining in my hands, which will be about sufficient to pay all his little bills and the doctor. With regard to his trunk, we found in it one new pair of pantaloons and a new waistcoat, an old blue coat, several walking canes, fishing tackle, and quite a number of little matters such as gimlet awls, and some old roping and all the rest of no value. Two counterfeit dollar notes, ten English farthings and some old penny and halfpenny pieces. The trunk is worth more than all its contents. He had a gun, but whether he sold it or lent it to someone I do not know, but I will try and find out His things are just as we left them and will be so till I hear from you. If you wish them to be sent over to you I will forward them with one of Copes Packets, the whole are not worth an English sovereign except the waistcoat and pantaloons and the gun. But probably his friends would like to have them sent over, please let me know what I shall do with them. We have had a very sick house for two months but are better. Your brother was not sensible when he died. I told him I feared he was about to die and he was on his knees for several minutes in prayer and when he died the persons in the room say he died easy. I hope he is better off. I will write again in a week or two, but wish you to send me word immediately what to do with his trunk. Our kind regards to yourself and Mr Townley and all the family.
I remain yours truly Thomas Oldershaw.
The letters leave many questions about Thomas Ironmonger Peat. Perhaps one of the most interesting is whether his son William did go to America. The last letter available is dated January. Thomas died in October. If William had crossed the Atlantic why is there no mention of him in Mr Oldershaws letter? And why was the news of Thomas death sent to his sister and not to William? But perhaps the most surprising part is that when this man found the land flowing with milk and honey and praised it as much as he decried his own country, did his possessions, when he died, amount to so little?