|Mary Cumming, Petersburg to Rev. Andrew Craig, Lisburn.
|Irish Emigration Database
|Cumming (n. Craig), Mary
|middle class housewife
|Petersburg, Virginia, USA
|Lisburn, Co. Antrim, N.Ireland
|T 1475/2 p.80-84: Copied by Permission of Miss A. McKisack, 9 Mount Pleasant, Belfast.
|The Public Record Office, Northern Ireland.
|Document added by JM 29:10:1993.
|If I was writing to any person but my beloved Margaret
I would be sure they would be completely tired before they
would read all I have written, but it gives me the greatest
pleasure to think that my poor productions may amuse you and
my dear Father a little. I suppose you are in Armagh now, I
hope all my dear friends there are well. I must write to Mrs
Cumming soon. I am very glad to hear my dear Rachel likes
school, tell her to write to me sometimes, how I wish she was
with me, I think little Mary would afford her great amusement.
When you write let your letter be very long, you can hardly
imagine what delight I take reading them over. Tell my dear
James not to be offended with me for not answering his kind
letter before this, I will write to him the very first opportunity,
give my kindness and love to him, time or distance cannot
diminish my love for the dear, dear, companions of my early
days. Oh, Margaret, will I ever have the happiness of being
with you all once more? I trust I shall. I am rejoined to hear
Miss McCully and my dear Margaret are well, give my most
affectionate love to them and all my kind friends. I am glad
I am not forgotten among them. You have not mentioned Nancy
Wightman in your letters. I hope she is well. Give my kindest
love to her, tell her though far away I have not forgotten
the many happy days that she and I have had together. William
will write a few lines to my Father. I was surprised to hear
of Dr. Crawford's marriage. I hope I will soon hear of J. C.
being Benedict the married Man, you will know what I mean.
Write very soon to me, my beloved Margaret, that you may all
enjoy every happiness is the sincere prayer of your
We have three cows, I intend vealing all my calves this
year, and laying out my money in the purchase of tobacco,
which I will have shipped off the first opportunity, so you
see I mean to become merchant. William sometimes buys twenty
hogsheads a day, he bought two last week which he says were the
best he ever had, and paid a hundred dollars apiece for them.
Some are to be had for forty dollars, but if this dreadful
embargo passes it will be a terrible thing for us merchants.
I send you some althea and clematis seed which I wish
you to plant somewhere in the garden, I suppose you know the
althea, it is a pretty flowering shrub and seems to be very
hardy, the flower is of different colours, sometimes white.
The clematis I never remember seeing in Ireland, I think it
very handsome. It should be planted against a frame, in order
to allow the stems to run up. It has a delicate little white
blossom, and when that withers it assumes a beautiful silky
appearance and remains so for a length of time. Walter Scott
in the "Lady of the Lake" speaks of the clematis and "virgin's
bower". as being the same plant, but he is wrong, for we have
both in the garden, the latter is very much prized here, and
is raised from slips. It is also a kind of vine, and bears a
larger flower resembling the blue lupin. I shall try to get
some seed next year and send it to you, for I have heard it
will grow from seed, but there is one shrub in the garden
which I admire more than all the rest, this is the Venetian
sumac or sultan's feather. It grows to a considerable size
and when in flower has an appearance which I cannot well
describe. The flower is large and is something like a beautiful
feather but is of so light and delicate a texture that at a
little distance you would think there was a cloud over the
tree. It is very difficult to propagate but I believe it can
be raised from layers. The magnolia is grown very much since
we came here, but I never expect to see it on flower. Our
orange tree is loaded with fine looking fruit just now, the
lemon tree has not so much. We have a kind of green-house
under the back portico which does to keep them in during the
winter. Mrs. Bell had excellent taste for gardening and spared
no expense when she lived here in procuring all kinds of rare
plants and shrubs, but she liked to keep all of this description
to herself and could not bear to part with anything which she
thought curious. When she went to Richmond she took a quantity
out of the garden and since that time Mr. Bell wished to have
the magnolia removed, but I would not part with it, for she
told me in case we came here to live it should not be taken away
and here it shall now remain as long as I stay. She has got no
less than five layers from it and with these I think she may
be satisfied. I do not like such selfishness. I am raising a
layer from it now for Mr. Freeland, Mrs Bell had got a slip of
the ivy which is prized very much here but before she went away
had taken great pains (the gardener told William) to have it
all rooted up for fear we should have any of the highly-valued
plant. but as bad luck would have it some little bit of root
remained which has since sprung up and is growing so well that
in another year I expect it will cover a frame which William
is at great pains training it against. I wish when you write
you would send me a few seeds of the broad-leafed laburnum, I
have not seen that kind in this country, indeed the common sort
is very rarely to be met with, and is very much admired. We have
a pretty winter flower called the India plant which blossoms
when the frost makes its appearance, its colour is a deep
scarlet and when seen glittering with the frost looks very
beautiful. It is raised from the root. When I leave this
country I will endeavour to take some roots with me, the moss
rose is invaluable here and is seldom to be met with, I have
not seen the auricula. I send you a flower of my own drawing,
taken from one a lady lent me I have not met with the flower
itself but have a great curiosity to see it. I am told it
grows wild in some parts of Virginia, sometimes the flower is
of the purest white, at others it is slightly tinged with pink.
I fear my dear Father will be quite tired reading this long
epistle, but I almost think I am talking to you. I hope you will
all write very often to me. I shall let no opportunity escape me.
Our weather till within these few days past has been remarkably
dry and pleasant, now there is a deep snow on the ground
the air piercing cold, but this sort of weather agrees best
with me. I know you will be pleased to hear I have got on
flannel waistcoat and socks, which I find a great comfort.
I do not know what we will do if the war lasts much longer,
every article of imported goods is three times the the price it
used to be. We have now to pay five and three pence a yard
for common printed calico, provisions are to be had as usual.
I wish I could send you some of our fine flour, and some hams.
We have got eighteen hogs lately, and will get more after
Christmas. This is a troublesome business, but we cannot
avoid it. I will not close this letter till William returns
from town, I wish to tell you there is no embargo. William
is returned, and brought the unwelcome news of the embargo
having passed into a law, I do not know when I was so much
disappointed, but I fear I will not hear of many opportunities
of writing, but you must not be uneasy at not hearing often
from me. I shall let no chance escape me of sending my letters
and perhaps there may be [cartels?] going now and then. I hope
you will continue to send yours to W. Brown. Mr. Cumming has
heard often from him lately, indeed I have often been much
disppointed when he would receive letters from him and none
I hope my dear Father will write soon, it will be
twelve months next March since your last letter was dated.
William thinks the embargo will be continued till peace can
be brought about. Jemmy Madison has got his wish now, and a
nice situation the country is in at present. After all, I
see no people so happy nor no government so good as my own.
They talk of this being a land of liberty and such stuff,
but in my opinion it is not so much so as Great Britain.
Tell my dear Margaret it is a long time since I had a letter
from her. I was very much pleased with Rachel's improvement in
writing. William joins me in wishing you all health and
happiness, and that we may all meet once more is the constant
Your ever affectionate
I wish you may all spend a happy Christmas. "Remember me."
Rev. A Craig
Co. Antrim. IRELAND