|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.53-59: Copied by Permission of Miss A. McKisack, 9, Mount Pleasant, Belfast.
|The Public Record Office, Northern Ireland.
|Document added by JM 02:09:1993.
|Petersburg. February 24th. 1812
It will be two long months to-morrow, my dearest Margaret,
since I had a letter from you, I cannot tell you how anxious
I have been for some time, for I am very sure it is not your
fault. This has been so dreadful a winter off this coast that
there have been few arrivals, but I hope sincerely that the
first ship from Ireland will bring the much longed for
packet. I have got my picture taken for my darling Margaret,
and as I did not like to send mine without William's he very
good-naturedly had his done for you also. I know my dear
Margaret will prize it very much, they are thought to be
extremely well executed. William will have them sent by the
first ship to Liverpool, there to be framed and forwarded
to you. I wish the originals were to accompany them. I had
my hair done as you wished, and I think it will render the
likeness more striking.
William and I have enjoyed uninterrupted good health
this winter, I hope and trust all the loved inmates of
Strawberry Hill have done the same. William said he would
have me weighed in order to tell you how much fatter I was
than when I wrote last.
William Brown spent some days with us about six weeks
since, he intended going to Savannah, but the weather at that
time was so intensely cold that he was afraid to undertake
so long a journey. You have little or no idea what cold
weather is in Ireland, for a few days this winter the cold
was so intense that water froze in the room we constantly
sit in, and a large pitcher was broken by the frost, though
it was on the sideboard near the fire. But this weather did
not last, indeed I do not think we have had more altogether
than three weeks' or a month's winter; for some time past the
weather has been very pleasant, as warm as it is with you in
April, I have begun to my garden, and I hope to get the seeds
put down soon, a great many have their early peas up already.
I am to get my flower seeds from Mrs. Bell, I was very busy
the other day nailing up roses and jessamine in my little
flower garden, I intend having it very nice.
The more I know of the inhabitants of Petersburg I like
them better, they are extremely friendly and social, I think
my acquaintance will be almost too numerous soon. I received
an invitation to attend the Birth-night Ball, on Friday last,
but declined going. I do not care for dancing so much as I
once did. I am told it was very well attended. It is held in
Blandford, a short way from Petersburg, in honour of the
birthday of Washington. We have nearly finished the History of
America, it afforded us great amusement this winter.
Oh, my dear Margaret! how I long to hear how you have all been
this long time past. I need not say how much or how often you
are the subject of my conversation and thoughts. My dear
Rachel has gone to school by this time, I hope she will like it,
tell her I will expect to here from her some time soon.
I wish my dear James would answer my letter that I wrote to
him, you surely have received letters from me lately? This
is the fifth I have written since I came to America.
We got our winter store of pork six weeks ago. You will
think it odd to mention this piece of intelligence, but I
assure you it is quite a serious business to the Petersburg
folks, and I hope before long you will be able to tell me how
you like my hams. In my opinion they are far superior to any
you have in Ireland, they are much smaller and not nearly so
fat as yours. We never think of cutting a ham here, they are
just large enough to boil whole. We laid in eighteen pigs all
at the same time, so you may fancy what an eating of spare ribs
souse, chine, etc. we had for a long time after. Old Nancy is a
famous hand at making force-meat, cheese, souse, all these
kinds of things. The cheese is made of parts of the feet,
head, etc., boiled, spiced, and put up in a shape, it is eaten
cold, with vinegar, and is extremely good. Souse is the feet
boiled and kept in salt and water and used in the same way as
the cheese. Pig's jowl, alias check, is thought to be very
nice dish with turnip tops in Spring. The head is cut exactly
through the middle, the top is the skull and the under part
the jowl. The tongue is left in. We put a little sugar on the
hams and cheeks, which is thought to be an improvement. We
keep all the bacon in tubs for five weeks, and then put it all
in the smokehouse, there to remain, there must be a little
fire put in almost every day for two months. I was thinking that
the far end of the hut would make a very good smoke-house,
it would only require the floor to be taken up. You cannot
think how much it helps to keep the meat from spoiling, and
makes it so much better. What a dissertation I have given you
about bacon. Mr Cumming hopes to be able to send some hams to
Ireland, and then I will have your opinion on this important
subject. Our pork came to fifty-four pounds this year. (54 pounds cash)
How delighted I shall be when I return to you all to be
able to amuse you with all I have seen, and heard in this part
of the world. Oh Margaret! when will that happy day arrive?
William has made several inquiries respecting the success
Mr. Neelly [Neely?] would likely have if he came to America, and he does
not doubt of his final success. Baltimore would be the place
for him to settle in, as such a teacher is much wanted there,
but it would be impossible for Mr. Cumming to say what he
would make. Good schools are much wanted in America, does he
still continue to think of leaving Ireland?
I like the black servants, (I cannot bear the word slaves)
very much. Nancy is a good-natured old creature as can be. I
pay her a visit every morning, give her orders about the
dinner, which she always executes well, Jinny is a very decent
woman, she washes and does up our clothes as well as I could
possibly wish, in time the children will be very useful.
There have been no less than three earthquakes since I came
here, two happened about a fortnight ago, neither William nor
I felt any of them, but a good many in this town felt the shock
quite perceptibly, both happened at night, and I am told many
felt the bed shake in rather an unpleasant manner. There are
no earthquakes in Ireland!
There is great work here in winter getting the icehouses
fitted. Mr. James Cumming has got a very nice one on his lot.
There is no living without ice here in summer I am told.
Do you know the greatest comfort and amusement I have when
alone is in building castles of what I will do when I go home
for this is the burden of my song, what happy scenes I picture
to myself when I am again in dear, dear Ireland, many a time
William laughs at me about my castle building.
I hope my dearest Father has been quite well this winter, does
he often speak of me? But I am sure he does. Oh, my dearest
Margaret, what I would give to see you all once more! If I
heard often from you I would be better reconciled to our
separation. What keeps up my spirits is the constant attention
and kindness of my dear William, he has without exception the
best temper of anyone I ever knew, months fly away and still
find us happy with each other, and as poor Mr. Wilson said--
" Wedded concord proves itself,
Brightens the bloom upon the cheek,
And looks the joy it need not speak."
You know I am not given to boasting, this I assure you is how
I feel, and I have no doubt of its continuation.
How are all my dear friends in Lisburn? I hope well, tell
me all the news when you write, though absent I still feel
very much interested about them all. I hope Miss McCully and
my little friend Margaret are well and happy, give my most
affectionate love to them and all my Lisburn friends. How
does Margaret [--------?] go on now? Tell me when you write.
I kept a dairy of the weather for the last two months for my
dear Father's amusement, which I will transcribe. I would like
to know the difference of the two climates.
January 1. fine clear day, wind at the west.
2 & 3 fine clear day, wind at the west.
4 frosty and clear.
5 delightful day, hardly a cloud to be seen.
6 fine day, a great deal of dust on the roads.
7, 8, 9 fine day, a great deal of dust on the roads.
10 dark and cold, in the afternoon snow came on.
11 heavy fall of snow durning the night. this day fine and clear.
12 cold and dry.
13 hard frost.
14 dry day.
15 a charming warm day, so much so that I sat at
an open window at work, as warm and dry as a
day in May with you.
16 cold and unpleasant, ground covered with snow.
17 cold frosty day.
18 intense frost.
19, 20, 21 intense frost.
22 The most dreadful cold day I ever felt, water
froze in the room with a fire burning.
23 not so cold.
24 a thaw, not so cold, it is wonderful what effect
the least change of wind has in this country.
25 mild day, in the evening heavy rain.
26 & 27 wet, unpleasant.
28 fine clear day.
29 & 30 dark and disagreeable, rain in the evening
31 fine clear day.
February 1 cold and unpleasant.
2 delightful day, warm and pleasant.
3 dark day, at night a great deal of thunder and
4 fine clear day,
5 rather dark, a little rain.
6 fine clear frosty day.
7 mild and dark, the shock of an earthquake was
felt at night.
8, 9, 10 fine day.
11 dark day.
12 cold, frosty.
13 delightful day, plenty of dust.
14 very wet.
15 warm fine day, quite like Spring.
16 very wet.
17 & 18 dark and unpleasant.
19 & 20 lovely day.
21 & 22 fine Spring day.
23 & 24 delightful day.
From this little account you will be able to judge what a
changeable climate this is, I will continue to keep an account
of the weather for this year, tell me when you write what kind
of a winter you have had, in Ireland. Do you know I love to
listen to the rain beating against the windows, it reminds me
of my own dear country. I have only been once out in the gig
since I came, the horse was lame for a long time afterwards,
and now the roads are in some places so bad that it is almost
impossible to get through them. It is as handsome a gig as ever
I saw, and the horse is a beautiful creature, he is worth 90 pounds
Will you not be tired before you get through this long letter?
But I hope you will retaliate and send me one twice the length.
I must now begin to make little things. Oh, my beloved Margaret,
how I wish you could be with me; but I trust in God all will
How are the Armagh people, I expect to hear from them soon.
I hope Mary has been with you this winter.
William joins me in a thousand loves to you all. That you
may all enjoy health and happiness is the sincere prayer of
Your ever affectionate
M. [Mary?] Cumming.
God bless you, my darling Margaret.
Tell my Father a law has passed in Congress to raise an army
of 25,000 regular troops for the avowed purpose of invading
Canada. This army is however only on paper as yet, and it is
the general opinion it will never be raised, and that peace,
so much to the interest of both countries will continue.
William thinks there will not be war.
Miss Margaret Craig.
Co. [County?] Antrim.