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Title: O'Raw, John to Bryan and Nellie O'Raw, 1809
CollectionIrish Immigrants in the Land of Canaan. Letters and memoirs from colonial and revolutionary America (1675-1815) [K.A. Miller et al.]
SenderO'Raw, John
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationgrocer
Sender Religionunknown
OriginCharleston, S. Carolina, USA
DestinationBallymena, Co. Antrim, Ireland
RecipientBryan and Nellie O'Raw
Recipient Gendermale-female
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count2792
Genreaccount of passage, arrrival at colonies
TranscriptJohn O’Raw, Charleston, South Carolina, to Bryan and Nellie O’Raw, ca. Ballymena, County Antrim, 1 April 1809
Charleston April 1 st 1809
My Dear Father & Mother
Through the mercy of divine Providence I am still in existence after innumerable Misfortunes & dangers & is in good Health & happy & must ask forgiveness of the Almighty, & of you my dear parents in prolonging writing to you, but I trust you will not attribute it to ingratitude as my Heart still flows with the most affectionat & ardent emotions of Filial Affection, On the 18th Inst I Recd a letter from you & one from my Sister Kathy by the Brig [...] 75 days from Belfast which was the best I ever recd you mention you wrote twice before but I never was so happy as to get any of them, you say that your Health & my D r Mothers is in a declining state which grieves me to the Heart to hear particularly as you say it is principally on Acct of never hearing from me— But I trust that that God which has Hitherto spared you will yet prolong your days to your poor Children— My Cause of not writing before this was owing to been so situated & unsettled since I came here that I never could think of writing with any satisfaction to you or myself till the present I am now happy to inform you that I am in an eligible Situation in this City, in a large Grocery & Liquor Store in the employment of a Mr Phelan an Irishman my Salary is 200 Dollars a year found in Boarding & Washing I arrived in this City from the Country in the middle of January last I came in prospect of getting into a Situation & got the one I am in now through the recommendation of Mr Henry OHara I have great reason to thank God that I was so fortunate as since the Embargo was laid on little or no Business has been doing & many young men Tradesmen &c for want of employment is in distress As you will be desirous to hear an Acct of my unfortunate passage & my situation Since my arrival here, I shall endeavour to give you as Short and Correct an Acct as I can— On the 24th Nov 1806 we Sailed from the White House roads, we passed the Island of Raughtry on the third day after we Sailed –We now had most Boisterous Stormy weather & I began to grow Sea Sick On the morning of the tenth Day after we Sailed, before daylight, a light was descried from the deck & when day began to dawn we found ourselves close in upon the land, when we thought we had been a considerable way at Sea, Here that providence which still protected us saved us from an almost inevitable death, we were drifting in— in the night upon a dangerous lee shore & it blowing so heard that it was almost impossible to think that the Ship or our lives could be saved when fortunately about OClock in the morning the Wind Shifted & we Stood along shore & passed in between the County Donegal & Tory Island & then stood out to Sea, I now took the last view of my Native Country We encountered the most dangerous Storms & head winds for three Weeks & was driven into the bay of Biscay of<f> the coast of France a great many of our passengers now took the Flux & one child died of it, the weather continued most dreadful for 6 Weeks during which we were frequently carrying away our Yards & rigging in dangerous Storms of Thunder & lightening the Capn said he never was at Sea in such before, I was for 4 Weeks that I was almost reduced to the point of death by Sickness, I now for the first time found myself from Home we had fair Weather from the 10th January to the 22nd of the same Month, when on the morning of that day about 4 OClock going Nine Knots an Hour we struck on the rocks of<f> the Island of Bermudas 12 miles from Shore the Cries of Men Women & Children at this Awful period of our lives will never leave my ears, it now began to blow very heard & we were in immediate expectation of the Ship going to pieces but fortunately as if the Almighty wished to Save us in the midst of our greatest dangers, it calmed, when day light began to appear we Hoisted a Signal of distress, which was Answered by One of the Forts on the Island, but we could see no Assistance come to us till about 10 OClock & by 12 OClock there was upwards of Boats about the Ship the Negroes in the Boats when coming on Board began to tear open Boxes of Linen passengers Chests &c on I went ashore in the Second Boat & landed about 3 OClock in the afternoon fully impressed with the goodness of God in thus preserving my life we had now to go through difficulties on land almost as distressing as the dangers we had encountered at Sea of the passengers immediately on landing was pressed & put on Board British Ships of war among which was Jno Boyds two eldest Sons & Rob t Gibson from near Crebilly I would of Shared the Same fate of those poor fellows had I been along with them as the<y> went to S t Georges the principal Town on the Island & I went to a Country part of it the Capn now told us we would have to all do for ourselves for that he had done with us, & we never Recd anything more from the Ship from the day we left her passengers that had Money was now obliged to live at their own expence & what had not was obliged to live on Charity Bermuda is one of the dearest parts in the World for provisions & the expence I was at was Consequently enormous The Remd of the passengers that was not pressed was Summoned to appear before the Governor to give an Acct of themselves & the Cause of leaving their own Country I was Summoned twice to appear before the Governor but seen him neither times but I was examined by his Secretary who ordered me to appear on another day when his Excelency the Governor would have leisure— but this I declined as I understood it was their intention to put me on Board a man of war, & I now Kept myself Retired in obscure & remote parts of the Island, Seldom Sleeping at night & often in want of the Necessaries of life which I could heardly procure for money, & almost reduced to a Skeleton by the Flux which I took very ill a few days after my landing It is almost unnecessary to mention the most inhuman & cruel manner in which the Cap n treated the Passengers after suffering Ship wreck by denying them every Article of life when the<y> were cast away in a remote & distant part of the World & leaving them to Starve or depend on the charitable donations of the Humane, the Cargo of the ship was all saved, & she was got off & condemned as unfit for Sea from the damage she had Sustained the Capt n Sold all the Cargo & made off for New York the potatoes sold for 16/0 a Bushell some of the linen at 7s/6d the yard, what passengers of us Remained now chartered a Sloop for Charleston for 450 Dollars & to lay in all our own provisions My part with my sea Store came to 40 dollars we Sailed from Bermuda on the 1st April & after being 3 days out was obliged to put back with the loss of our Bowsprit having carried it away in a Storm Misfortune now seemed never to forsake us we got the Vessel Repaired & again sailed on the of April after remaining in Bermuda from the 22nd January, passage now was the most disagreeable that imagination can conceive from the accommodations in so Small a Vessel & the greatest danger we ever yet was in at sea happened on the 14th of April, when we were in a Violent Storm hove down almost Keel up 2 inches more would have Consigned us to Watery graves, as the Hatches was open & the water running into them the Cup of Misfortune Seemed now to have been full & only to Submit to the divine will, but that good & Merciful God which had brought us through all our former dangers now saved us at this dreadful Moment, after being on her broad side for 4 Hours she began to upright & we got the Ballast which was almost hove out of her Hatches put to rights, we were now a perfect Wreck having carried away our Boom & the greatest part of the Rigging Boat & every thing swept off the decks the weather coming good we got her so far Repaired that we were enabled to proceed I arrived in this port after a passage of 18 Days & 59 Days from Belfast to Bermuda & 76 Days I remained in Bermuda –I was three Weeks in this City before I got into any Situation after my arrival Chs & Henry OHara procured me one but it was not a good one as it took all my Salary to pay for my Boarding which is Dollars a Week here, the Summer coming on to be very Sickly & in a poor state of Health after the Fatigue & hardships I had undergone I thought it prudent to leave Charleston as it commonly proves fatal to Europeans to Stay here the first summer after coming in I left charleston the latter end of July & went by Savannah to Augusta in Georgia with an intention of living with Wm Bones I was only one night in Savannah & Seen Jno Moorehead there he was friendly to me when I got to Augusta (which is 130 Miles from Savanah & Savanah 130 Miles from Charleston) I was unable for any Business I staid in Augusta only 3 Weeks & went to newberry in this state I went from Charleston to Savanah by Sea & from Savanah to Augusta in the Stage Coach it was with the greatest difficulty I could make to Newbury to where Jno Boyd lives from Weakness & it was Eighty Miles I had to travel, a few days after my arrival at Jn o Boyds I took ill of a fever, in which I lay for 9 Weeks my life was the most of the time despaired of I was Seldom Sensible during the time Oh My D r Parents now was the time that I Knowed the want of you dear Suzy Boyd acted the part of a Mother to me, I was 4 Months before I was able to go about, when I began to recover I was in so weak a Situation that I was unable to leave the Country & was advised to Stay in the Country for some time & teach School which I was now obliged to do through Necessity 12 Miles from Jno Boyds & teached for one year, I Boarded 7 months with a Sister of Jno Crawfords your neighbour her first Husband McCollum is dead she is now married again –Johnny Boyd has bought 130 Acres of land for 300 Dollars he is very contented & happy he has made a good change he will in a Short time be Rich which he never would have been in Ireland, he came from Bermuda in the Man of War that his 2 Sons was in the<y> touched at this port & landed him & his Family here except his 2 Sons that was pressed on his Arrival here which was Weeks before mine there was a Subscription made for him in consequence of the loss of his sons Jno Boyds oldest son Thomas has got home to his Father & Mother he deserted & left his Brother in Halifax Novascotia & got his way made good here –on my first arrival in Charleston Alexr OHara formerly of Belfast was Just come from Africa, he brought with him Negroes for which he got about 1200 Dls & bought a Vessel but not being a Citizen of the United States he could not clear her out in his own name & got a man to clear her out for him who took her away to another port and sold her & never gave OHara a farthing the man Returned again but OHara could do nothing with him, when I came to charleston he borrowed 5 Guineas from me as I then thought there was no Risque in lending it to him having brought four Slaves with him from Africa I however never Recd a Farthing of it nor never will he was afterwards in a poor Situation in this City Borrowing from every person he could get from & at last put in Jail for his Boarding he is now back some where in the Country Alexr McQuillan brother to Jenkins is in Fairfield district in this State teaching School I am told he makes out wonderfully Robt Phillips son to the Col is also in Fairfield district & is married he makes out as bad as in Ireland I heard he was lately in Jail for debt Thos Banks is married about Eight days ago his Matrimonial Speculation has been but a poor one he has now Joined a man in partnership to Keep a Tavern Jas McCay is well & does not he tells me intend going home at this time William Jno Swan is well & is one of the finest smartest young men in this City –on the 15th Ultimo the Embargo was taken off & a Non intercourse Act passed in place of it which forbids all intercourse with England & France it is generally thought here that a war with England is inevitable, this Country has made great preparations for defence Recruiting for the Army & Navy is carried on brisk this country is distracted by two contending parties viz Federalist & Republican the Federalists is distinguished by their partiality to England their opposition to the Embargo & the measures of the late <a>dministration & Hatred to France The Republicans was Strenuous Supporters of the Embargo & Mr Jeffersons administration & has the greatest hatred to England Mr Jefferson has retired from the helm of Affairs with the Blessings of his Country & Mr Maddison another Republican has been elected president of the United States by the Republicans, I seen George Savage Some time ago in this City, I saw him pass several times in the Street but did not Speak to him, he had a Ragged Shabby appearance when you write let me Know what is become of Frank Kenedy I hope he has got his way made to some part of this Country, likewise F. Dobbin, Chs Kenedy son to W es Kenedy of Belfast is a Soldier at Fort Johnston below this City he has been ten years in the United States Service he lives very well he is Armourer I will write shortly to my Brother Francis & to my Sister Kitty & you may from this forth expect to get at least or letters in the year from me, I will give you a full Acct of this Country in my next as this letter chiefly is taken up with my passage, do not neglect one day after you Receive this to immediately write to me & also I hope Francis will write to me immediately a long letter giving me an Acct of every thing has happened about Ballymena since I left it you did not mention if you yet held the customs Remember me to M r Fitzsimons tell him I will write to him also to M r Clark & in a particular manner to Mrs Hill & all the Mulhollands & my Cousin Kitty & their children to my dear Brothers & Sisters my Heart flows with affection for them I have not Room to say more but my Earnest prayer my Dr Father & Mother shall be ever to God for your Health Happiness & welfare from your late Undutiful but now dutiful & affectionate Son
John O Raw