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Title: John Skellern, New York to "Dear Thomas"
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FileSkellern, John/24
SenderSkellern, John
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationunknown
Sender Religionunknown
OriginNYC, USA
DestinationLondon, England
RecipientSkellern, Thomas
Recipient Gendermale
SourcePhotocopies Donated & Originals Held by Mrs Diane Tempest, 2a St. Johns, North Gate, Canterbury, CT1 1BG
ArchiveMrs Diane Tempest
Doc. No.212195
Partial Date
Doc. TypeEMG
LogDocument added by LT, 06:12:02.
Word Count1871
Transcript$$H152 Part of the Diane Tempest Catalogue$$H

New York
August 19th 1864.

Dear Thomas,
Very many years have rolled away, and amost a generation has
passed since last I seen you, or even had the pleasure of hearing from
you - a strange family indeed - I have sought in vain in this large
city for a London Directory to find about you, but not one in any of the
large Commercial Houses or Shipping Offices could I find, until last
week I was told I could find Directories of all parts of the World at
the Merchants Exchange, when to my great joy I seen your name in
1863 Directory along with George Skellerns - God has spared us both
to this good old age, the last of our generation, and only surviving
ones. I have been very anxious to hear all about you, your wife and
children, as like myself you must be a grandfather years ago. Space will
[ail?] me to give you a history of myself - it would take a book and that
a large one, for me to tell you my history since last I seen you.
All I ever knew of in Dublin are dead years ago except a younger
generation of the date of George Skellern in London, and they too are gone
some of them, I will try to give you a very brief history of my family
and hope to hear in return from you a more fortunate one of yours. At the
time I was in Dublin business as usual went against me. Uncle George's
money all expended by continual idleness, and being persuaded by a young
man of about 22 years to dispose of all I had and go to America where
he had very rich friends where we all would be happy for life, showing me a
letter of invitation from his father to us for our kindness to his son by
us, that he would be a friend to us as long as I lived - all this turned
out fictitious - the letter was a forgery and all turned out false
on my arrival in this city, where I found myself, my wife and four
children left deserted by the wretch who not only deceived me so far,
after paying his passage with our own, but also supported him on sea for 8
1/2 weeks and about 2 months board and lodging in Dublin, but robbed us of
all the mmoney we had along with some clothes etc.etc and escaped,
leaving me and family with the large sum of a half Sovereign I had in my pocket to begin the world in a strange country - my wife nearly got crazy, but I put my confidence in God and kept as calm as I could under such trying circumstances.
In about 3 or 4 days I procured employment, at about 1 dollar a
day - my daughter (Maria) who you seen in' London soon got something
to do also at 4 dollars per week, and my eldest son, then 13 years left me,
adding to my affliction, thinking he was drowned, but at the end of two
weeks returned, bringing home to me, a few dollars which he earned
from a farmer on an orchard, so by this way I seen the hand of Providence
outstretched to me when I least deserved it, and by constant diligence to
business and everything here at that time being pretty reasonable, (quite
different now)
I endeavoured to save up in the course of a few years about 300
dollars but again another and more trying misfortune came over me, one
that nothing but death will end it. Fifteen years ago my daughter
Maria (who you seen) got married to a young man named Fitzgerald, whose
mother was a sister of Mrs. Skellerns of Capel St. Umbrella Maker, wife of
Charles Skellern (our first cousin) This young man was after her for
years - seeming to us a proper well conducted and sober young man -
another was after her at the same time, but used to drink sometimes - Being
bit by the wretch that induced and robbed me I thought I would not be duped
again and preferred Fitzgerald to the latter, altho' she did not like
him so much
The latter young man (Watson) has turned out a most prosperous
man, whilst Fitzgerald, ever since the first week of his marriage has turned out a notorious drunkard and loafer (idler) - can earn 3 dollars a day when he works; has four beautiful handsome children, besides 2 dead.
Poor Maria is sometimes left in the greatest poverty by his conduct, not
seeming to care for his children, or wife, whether they starve or not. They
would all be dead lone ago only for me, and my eldest son George and
Charley - his own brother is out here and all done what we could for him,
but worse he is, idling for 2, 3 and 4 weeks together - once 13
weeks, during that time one of children died and I had to inter it, a fine boy 6 years - the cost of interments here is frightful, it cost me 50 dollars for that alone - enumerating at the lowest this unfortunate matter is put away from me not under 3 and 400 dollars exclusive of all the others
that helped them - would to God he was dead, and is too great a
coward to list in the army - we trust he may be drafted in this next call
for 500,000 men next month for this unfortunate war.
Now I wish to tell you a little about my next child, George, his
destiny is quite different - he has been no trouble or expense to me
whatever and his prospects were bright, altho it caused me much affliction - I aIways thought him wild but he was doing good for himself all the time;
as I told you before he left me to do good - from that he went to sell and
make up flowers, then into a fruit store, then a little at a printing
press, then to a hat store where he was taken great notice of but last of
all he enlisted in the United States Service at the age of 16 as a
musician where all the officers of his regiment (the 4th Artillery) held
him up as a pattern to others for his cleanliness,good conduct etc. and
had him educated in the army, besides instructing him themselves during
his 5 years; after that time they wanted him to go to West Point
College to be educated for an officer, but he preferred a civil life and came home procured for himself a clerkship, where he remained for 6 or 7
months still gaining more knowledge in bookkeeping; at the end of that time
he procured a more lucrative situation at double-entry bookkeeping in a
merchants store then left that, and now holds a responsible situation as sole conductor of one of the largest Iron establishments in this City (Cashier and Account in it [accountant?] where over 100 men are employed-
Messrs. Catewell's Iron Works) his salary there is 1500 dollars a year,
besides many [perquisites?], this is not all - he makes up the books of
another establishment down town in a large Restaurant, for which he
receives 500 dollars a year for 2 nights in the week - he is married to an
American woman, by whom he has 3 children - we very seldom see him - he
has almost forgotten father and mother, and is quite American - he is very
fat. My youngest son Charles is far less fortunate, would never take any
education, and was on my hands until the breaking out of this war, when he
enlisted in a regiment and was in 2 engagements when he got [?] and was
discharged; again he joined the 37th National Guards of New York for 6
months without examination as a substitute where he was in the battle of
Gettysburgh, came home unhurt; again went off with the 7th same way and at
last was received into the Invalid Corps, where he now is in Baltimore
and by his last letter is about being sent home, again as unfit for any
duty – in this he received his 300 dollars - he is too good natured and
extravagant can never keep any money - he is the finest of the 3 1 have -
both tall and handsome - would give money away to anyone he thought wanted
it, as long as he had it - the rest are all dead - only 3 living out of
Now I have told you all as short as I could in this small space
as I have a little time to spare, we are on the strike for higher wages,
and everything is almost at famine price, 3 times or 4 times as dear
since the [war?] broke out - people are almost starved everything is so
dear, and enormous taxation on everything, the value of 1 dollar in gold
is 280 dollars in paper currency - we never see either gold or silver,
not even pennies (or cents as they are called here) only paper
money, such as dollar bills 50, 25, 10 and 5 cents (postal) or currency
bills and for pennies the store keepers give their own little casts
whereon is printed "value for 3 cents" or 2 or I as the case may be, and
pass from one to the other. I never seen such times - people expect
to die of starvation in the winter - coal 15 dollars a ton now - in the
winter is expected to be 20 dollars.
As to myself I am getting very weak, extreme heat in Summer,
extreme cold in winter. My sight is failing me much, but I retain my teeth
and hair yet, as you may perceive by my likeness in the Cart de Visite 1
send you - show it to your children, I suppose your wife would not know me
I am so old - 65 on the 12th inst now turned into 66 one of my lungs is
hepatized these last 6 years, so I have only one sound one, which makes my
breathing short sometimes.
Can I prevail on you to write me a letter about yourself, wife
and children, let me know all about them, I would dearly like you to send me a card of your likeness as we will never see each other again in this
Remember me to G Skellern, give my love to your wife and
children – I will send you some American (New York) papers if I hear from
you. Direct your letters to "John M. Skellern" 453 West 42 street, between
9th and 10th Avenue New York - I have no more room left .- Your
affectionate Brother
John M. Skellern
453 w.42nd St.

This likeness is perfect - you see how grey my beard and
whiskers are – my hair is not so very grey, condidering my age but I am getting very much stooped in the back - wife wears her age much better.

Transcribed by Jonathan Engstrand