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Title: Henry Johnson, Hamilton to Jane Johnson, Antrim.
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FileJohnson, Henry/19
SenderJohnson, Henry
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationunknown
Sender ReligionProtestant
OriginHamilton, Canada West
DestinationCo. Antrim, N.Ireland
RecipientJohnson, Jane
Recipient Genderfemale
SourceT 2319/1: Copied by Permission of The British Museum, London WC1.
ArchiveThe Public Record Office, Northern Ireland.
Doc. No.9404127
Partial Date
Doc. TypeEMG
LogDocument added by LT, 20:04:1994.
Word Count2107
TranscriptLetter 3
Henry Johnson, Hamilton, Canada West to Jane Johnson, Dungonnell, Antrim.
18 September 1848

Hamilton Canada West, Sept. 18 1848

My Dearest Jane
Since I wrote a letter to you from Liverpool enclosing a gold Heart
for Alex which I hope you received, I have had rather a rough time of
it. I was a week in Liverpool before the ship sailed, which was on the
7th of July. We started with a fine fair breeze and got along well
untill [until?] the third day when it came on to blow very hard. I was lying in my berth sleeping when I was wakened with cry and shouts of Ship's lost "the ship's sinking - I started up and such a sight: Men, women & children rushing to the upper deck. Some praying & crossing themselves others with faces as white as a corpse. On deck they were gathered like sheep in a pen crying on the Captain to save them. I asked some of them what was wrong but they were so frightened they couldn't speak. However
I seen the sailors rushing down to the lower deck & I followed determined
to know for myself and there sure enough the water was coming in
through one of the portholes at the bow as thick as a large barrell [barrel?]. For a long time all the efforts of the sailors & two mates were unavailing to stop it and they gave it up in despair and came and told the Captain to lower the boats. He cursed them & told them to try it again but the first mate refused & told him to go himself which he did telling the man at the helm at the same time to put the ship before the wind, a very
dangerous experiment at the time as we were near some rocks on the
Irish Coast. However he went down & got it partially stopped which
partly quieted the fears of the passengers although some of them didn't
get over it till the end of the voyage. There was fur [four?]-five hundred on board all Roman Catholics with the exception of about forty protestants
and a more Cowardly Set of hounds than the same papists I never seen.
In the time of danger they would do nothing but sprinkle holy water, cry,
pray, cross themselves and all sorts of Tomfoolery instead of giving a
hand to pump the ship and then when danger was over the [they?] would Carry
on all sorts of wickedness and they are just the same any place you meet
them at home or abroad. I took the matter cooly enough. I knew if we
were to go down I might as well take it Kindly as not as crying wouldn't
help me. Under this impression I enjoyed the Scene about me well. One
old fellow Kept me laughing nearly the whole time at the way he was
getting on. The very Senses were frightened out of him Cursing & praying
in one breath. I got such a disgust at the party of papists at this Scene
that I felt almost as if I could have submitted to go down if I had got
them all with me. "God forgive me". We got all right again and went
on our right Course. Up to this time I had not opened my provision box as
it was lowered into the hold but when I did get at it I found the ham alive
with magots [maggots?] & was obliged to throw it overboard. The remainder of the stuff I eat as sparingly of as possible but Could not spin them out longer than four weeks at the end of which time I was obliged to subsist on the ship's allowance which was two pounds of meal or flour and five pounds
of biscuit in the week. The pigs wouldn't eat the biscuit So that for
the remainder of the passage I got a right good starving. There was not
a soul on board I knew or I might have got a little assistance "but it was
every man for himself". Altogether it was nearly eight weeks from
[the time when?] we started from Liverpool untill [until?] we got to New York, the longest passage the Captain said ever he had. Six days before we got in a regular storm came on with the wind in our favour and anything
I had read or imagined of a storm at sea was nothing to this. We had
some very hard gales before but this surpassed anything I ever thought
of. Although there was some danger yet the wind being with us and
going at the rate of 13 miles an hour through mountains of sea I enjoyed
it well. In the Six days the Storm lasted we made more than we had
done for Six weeks before. This was the pleasantest time I had although
not for some others. One poor family in the next berth to me whose
father had been ill all the time of a Bowell [bowel?] Complaint I thought
great pity of. He died the first night of the storm and was laid outside of his berth. The ship began to roll and pitch dreadfully. After a while the boxes barrels etc. began to roll from one side to the other, the men at
the helm were thrown from the wheel, and the ship became almost
unmanageable. At this time I was pitched right into the Corpse, the
poor mother and two daughters were thrown on the top of us, and there
Corpse, boxs [boxes?] barrell [barrel?] women & children all in one mess were Knocked from side to side for about fifteen minutes. "Pleasant that, wasn't it Jane Dear". Shortly after the ship got righted and the Captain came down we sowed [sewed?] the body up, took it on deck, and amid the raging of the storm he read the funeral Service for the dead and pitched him overboard. When I got into New York I eat too freely and the second day I took dysentry, a very Common Complaint here which lasted 14 days. I went to a doctor and he gave me a Small bottle told me to use with it a glass of burnt brandy three times a day. This I done but it still continued untill [until?] I was scarcely able to stand on my feet. I made application to get into the hospital but on account of a wrong name being on the ship's books they would not let me and were going to fine me into the bargain only I started off as fast my legs would carry me. I stopped in New York about ten days and in that time made every exertion to get a situation of some kind. John McKillop, John Johnson, and another were on the look out every day but unless by accident I might remain there till doomsday &
not get one. I told John McKillop I had a letter to a young man in this
country and he advised me to start off direct as business was better and
there wasn't the slightest chance in New York. Business is so very bad
in it at present. I was very ready to take his advice as I felt my money
slipping away from me very fast and I thought I would try the end of
it rather than hang any longer on a mere chance. I got packed up &
started for the place I had Bristow's letter for. I passed through a
great variety of Scenery coming here & through a great deal of annoyance
also. The space I have here will not allow me to describe it to you but
I may have another opportunity Soon. When I came here I was very
much disapointed [disappointed?] to hear that the young man to whom I have them letter died in July last of a bowel complaint in two days sickness leaving his father & mother & sister entirely helpless. They had only come over a short time before entirely depending on him. If you have any opportunity of letting Bristow Know this send him word. The young man's master is at present in New York and will not return for a week. When he does return I intend showing him Bristow's letter and making application to
him myself either for a situation with himself or in some of the mills
about here and I think very likely will get one. At any rate I intend to
Settle down here in one Shape or other as I am tired of being tossed about
such as I have been this long time and besides it is a great waste of
money travelling. If you had a thousand eyes you couldn't watch the
rascals that are on the way from New York to Canada unless you have
been this way before. It is scarcely fair for the short time I have been
in the Country to give an opinion upon it one way or other; however as
far as I have observed the Country the people their Manners and Customs
I will give it to you. In ten days travelling through the state of New
York I came in Contact with a good many characters of the Yankees and
from New York the Canada Shore I did not meet one that I Could like.
They have no regard for religion, children have very little respect for
their parents, and they Carry what they call the spirit of independence
So far as even in their speech to defy God himself. The Canal Boats
carry on their trade on Sunday Same as another day. If you were dying
they would Scarcely give you a cup of water without paying and for
everything you do get they charge very high although the first cost price
is very low. There are better and worse but any I came in Contact with
are of this Stamp. Labour is very well paid but I don't know that some
tradesmen wouldn't save as much at home if they would take Care. The
people of Canada are quite different. They are all Scotch and North of
Ireland people, homely and civil in this part. When I came into it first
I felt almost as if I was getting home again. It is most decidedly a
better place to rear a family in than the States if you wish them to have
any regard to religion or any respect for their parents. You must forgive
me not writing to you immediately on landing as I promised to do as I
wanted to be settled in Some place where you would Know where to
write to me and also I did not wish to Send any word untill [until?] I could Send Something encouraging to you as I am Sure My Dearest Jane, you would require Something by this time to keep your Spirits up. If I had got
into a situation I intended sending some money with the letter but I hope
you are not yet in want of any. I will write again immediately I get
settled in any place so that you may Know where to direct your letter
to as I am Sure by this time you must have a great deal of news to tell
me. I hope you heard good news from Wm. [William?] McKeen & family &
Isabella. Give my love to all your family & Kiss the two little children
for me. You and them has never once been out of my mind and heart
since I left you. I have been very very anxious on your account and I do
think if I had Known all I have suffered since on account of being
Separated I would either have had you with Me in spite of everything or
else remained and suffered the worst they Could do on Me but dont be
discouraged Dear Jane. I am at present in right good health and
determined to do all that lies in my power for you and if possible to
redeem Some of the past errors of my life. As I intend writing again
Soon, I need Say litle more except this. I dont wish this letter to be
shown. It is only for yourself as there are few others Care anything for
Me. So I wish to be forgotten by them. God bless you!
I am as ever My Dear & beloved Jane
Your faithful & devoted Husband
for ever
Henry Johnson

P.S. I will be able in my next letter to give some description of the
Country. This I merely intend for yourself.