|Mary Cumming, Petersburg, [Va?] to Margaret Craig, Lisburn.
|Irish Emigration Database
|Cumming (n. Craig), Mary
|middle class housewife
|Petersburg, Virginia, USA
|Lisburn, Co. Antrim, N.Ireland
|T 1475/2 pp.48-51: Copied by Permission of Miss A. McKisack, 9, Mount Pleasant, Belfast.
|The Public Record Office, Northern Ireland.
|Document added by JM 01:09:1993.
|Petersburg. January 9th. 1812.
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. We
have had a very few 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 have 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 differences of the two
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
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 are 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 a 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 William
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
after-piece 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, other losts their lives by
attempting to get down the stairs, which fell with the weight
of the crowd, and 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 wear 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 here 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" 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 Rachel.
God bless you my dear dear Sister, and make you happy. I
will write you again in Febuary [February?].
Miss Margaret Craig,
Received and forwarded 11th. January 1812.
by A. Brown and Sons.