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Title: Letter from John P. Doherty, Honolulu, Hawaii, to his Father
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FileDoherty, John P/32
SenderDoherty, John P.
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationsuperintendent at railway company,
Sender Religionunknown
OriginHonolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
Recipient Gendermale
SourceT2606/4: Presented by J. T. Fulton, Co. Down, Ireland
ArchiveThe Public Record Office, Northern Ireland
Doc. No.9503049
Partial Date
Doc. TypeEMG
LogDocument added by LT, 14:03:1995.
Word Count1589
TranscriptHonolulu, Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
Nov. [November?] 24th 1850

My dear Father
I am doubtless long since recovered as having
taken my exit from this " vale of tears" but thank God
it is not so, notwithstanding a great many hairsbreadth
escapes _ I will now endeavour to give a faithful acct. [account?]
of myself since you last heard from me - previous
to which allow me to assert that my long silence is not
owing either to a forgetfulness of those I left behind
or the want of a sense of the great responsibility vesting
upon me, - but purely misfortune I own I might have
written sooner but I did not want to plunge you in
grief unnecessarily - To begin - I wrote to you
last from [Meslin?], Pensylveinea [Pennsylvania?] where I was a
superintendant [superintendent?] on the Central Railways; there,
from prejudice or some other motive, some of my country men from the
South, waylaid me, and I narrowly escaped with my life - gave up my
situation returned to Philadelphia with the full intention of coming
home, but when I arrived this notwithstanding all my economy, I
found myself worth
only 5 or 6 Dollars, - I did not visit any of my acquaintances for
certain reasons but put up at as great a distance
from them as possible. I found a boarding house in
Chestnut st. [street?] near the wharf - what to do I knew not, times
were dull & several Boarders idle like myself
among the rest a young scotchman, in the same predicament, could
neither work nor want, we resolved
to set about the first thing we could find, he came
in the 3 evenings, after my arrival, and told me he
could stand it no longer, being already in debt,
that he had an offer from the owners of a whaling
expedition, and intended to embrace it, I went
down with him to see about it, the cruise was to
be for 9 months with a fair prospect of realising
$500 clear, I was offered the chance to go, - I thought
of my wife and family, of my present assets and
of the $500 dols. [dollars?], that 9 months would soon fly
past, and I unfortunately embraced the offer - we
were hurried off immediately and sailed from
New London, Connecticut, in the ship General Scott
Harris Master - but instead of returning at the
appointed time, 9 months after we sailed, we
found ourselves at the Sandwich Islands,
having doubled the cape of Good hope, cruised
around New Zealand, and taken 4 Whales, which made
300 Barrels of oil - All this time I was
in dispair [despair?] but could not better myself -
When we got to Lahuia I with some others resolved
to run away, and made the attempt; and
succeeded, but were caught next day, by a party
of Natives, and Brought back to the Ship, next day
she sailed for the Arctic Ocean, and 6 months after
stood in the same harbour, having taken in all
2500 Barrels of oil, from 18 whales, 9 of which
I helped to take, that is, our Boat took them, -
at Lahuia, the Capt. [Captain?] refused to go home until
his ship was filled, (we carried 3500) The Balance
we could not get in less than a year, as we would
have to wait for the Arctic or N. W. [North West?] season, -
In consequence of the Capt.'s [Captain's?] refusal, the crew
refused to go with him any further; we placed the
affair before the Consul, and got discharged Oct. [October?] 17 /49
[1849?] at the place I write from - When we got discharged my first
impulse was to go home, but the Gold mines were in every bodies
mouth, so I thought I'd try
my fortune there - before I could accomplish my
object I must get some money, for we were discharged
without a cent; I accordingly went
to work, and the following March, had saved $100,
I sailed immediately as passengers on Board the
Brig [Caemmonicus?], and arrived in Sanfrancisco [San Francisco?],
about the middle of april, - it was too soon for
the mines, so I looked about me what I could do,
I went to work at the first thing that offered at
5 dollars per day, Board $14 per week.
I soon saved 300 dollars - after mature deliberation I resolved to
speculate a little - there was not 50lb [pounds?] of coffy [coffee?]
in market, and worse, none expected, it had got so high as 55 c.
[cents?] per pound - at the Islands I could buy for [profit?] & to
10_, so that after paying costs &c. I could realise 400 per cent -
There were several ships in Harbour, bound for the Islands, wanting
men, I was something
of a sailor, and agreed with Capt. [Captain?] Upton of the
ship Huntress - to assist him in taking his ship
to the Islands, on condition that he would pay
me 200 dollars, before the anker [anchor?] was lifted. -
He paid me the money, and we started, I thus
accomplished a double object namely the addition
of 200 dollars to the sum I already possessed, and
my passage to the Islands, where I wanted to make
my purchases, but all my airy castles were pulled
down, for 2 hours, after we started, I had my leg
below the knee, broken to pieces, and myself almost
killed - How we got to the Islands I know little about,
suffice it to say, we got here in 21 days, during which
time the greatest care was taken of me - my leg was
badly set, no doctor being on board, so that it took
a longer time for it to get well, which it is not yet,
I was 4 months on crutches, but am now, thank God
able to walk about and attend to my business -
After I landed, I was attached with rheumatic
fiver [fever?], but thank God I am quite well in
health, my leg is weak, but will soon be as strong
a ever, I am a little lame, but that will wear away
you will be now disposed to ask what I am
doing; and what are my purposes, - in answer - I
have charge of the mission Building for which
I have $50 per month - my Boarding, Lodging &
Washing, cost me $6 per. week, Although the Board
throughout the Town is from $7 to 14. however, it
becomes me to act frugally = I owe nothing, I am
as it were beginning afresh, for it took all my
money I saved to pay my Doctors Bills, and attendance
- there is however good prospects in view, I will make
another trial, and on the event please God, go home
If Mary & the children were here, I would stay
but as it is, I have no alternative. If my
leg were quite strong, I would go myself
instead of sending this, but as it is I
cannot, besides I want to make some
money to take with me - I have left unintentionally,
for a long time, a great burden
on you. I say unintentionally, for God knows
I never intended to be so long posted from my
wife and children. I know what the world
will say but that I care not for - One thing
I will say I will return if not a richer a wiser
man. - it is unnecessary at such a distance to
write to the family separately I will enclose
[--- -?] lines [- ---- ---?] say all you [---?] to [-----?]
[--- -?] I cannot make up my mind [from?] - my sister
Isabella Anne I hope she is well give my love
[to?] her, likewise to all, James his wife, Wm. [William?] & susan,
[---t?] to my Dear mother though last not the least.
Since I left you how I have missed a parents
love & a Wifes loving and affectionate care
it is unnecessary to say, I trust in God we will
soon be united - Although I have not before named
Wm. [William?] Patterson I dont forget him give my kind
respects to him - Now to say a few words about
these Islands they, are 7 or 8 in number the
principal is Oahu where the King Kamehameha III lives
[in a?] palace is in this city of Honolulu all the Islands
[are?] subject to him and are situated about 21 o N [Degrees North?]
and [----?] 135 [-- ---?] [stained] in the North
Pacific, [stained] is from all parts of the World are
resident, remaining only so long as a good fortune is
being made then leave - The government consists
of two houses where the laws are enacted and put in
force as at home - The prosperity of the Islands are
solely to be attributed to the Missionary labour, churches
are in every part of the Land and the word preached in
the native language ; the Bible translated and largely disseminated
all the natives can read and the schools are largely attended - The
produce is sugar, coffy [coffee?] (the best in the world), Banamas
[Bananas?], melons, Tarrow &c - I have written a long letter yet not
so long as I would had & now I must conclude by recommending you to
God & his Grace
I am Dear Father - your unworthy
John P. Doherty
If you write Direct
Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaiian Islands
(or Sandwich Islands other)