Misc: Letter from J. SKELLERN - August 19th, 1864

Ireland Genealogy Projects Archives
Dublin Index


File Contributed By: Diane Tempest 

Letter of J Skellern to his brother in London
New York August 19th 1864.

 Dear Thomas.
Very many years have rolled away, and almost a generation  
has passed since last I seen you, or even had the pleasure 
of hearing from you -a strange family indeed. I have sort in 
vain in this large city for a London Directory to find out 
about you , but not one in any of the large Commercial 
houses or shipping offices could I find until last week I 
was told I could find directories of all parts of the world 
at the Merchants Exchange, when to my great joy I seen your 
name in 1863 Directory along with George Skellern. ( He was 
a Tailor with many children but I do not know the 
connection) God has spared us both to this good old age, 
the last of our generation. and only surviving ones. I have 
been very anxious to hear about you, your wife and children. 
as like myself you must be a grandfather years ago. space 
will fail me to give you a history of myself it would take a 
book and a large one at that for me to tell you my history 
since last I seen you. All I ever knew of Dublin are dead 
years ago except a younger generation of the date of George 
Skellern in London, and they too are gone some of them . I 
will try to give you a very brief history of my family  and 
hope to hear in return from you a more fortunate one of 
yours. At the time that I was in Dublin business was against 
me as usual. Uncle George's money all expended by continual 
idelness, and being persuaded by a young man of about 22 
years old to dispose of all I had and go to America where he 
had very rich friends where we would all be happy for life, 
showing me a letter from his father to us for our kindness 
to his son by us, that he would be a friend to us as long as 
I lived all this turned out to be fictious the letter was a 
forgery and all turned out false on my arrival in this city, 
where I found myself, my wife and four children left 
deserted by the wretch who not only decieved me so far, 
after paying his passage with our own, but also supporting 
him on sea for about 8 1/2 weeks and about 2 months board 
and lodging in Dublin , but robbed us of all the money we 
had along with some clothes etc etc. and escaped leaving me 
and the family with the large sum of a half soveriegn I had 
in my pocket to begin the world in a strange country- my 
wife nearly got crazy but I put my confidence in God and 
kept as calm as I could under such trying  circumstances. In 
about 3 or 4 days I procured employment, at about a dollar a 
day my daughter Maria  who you seen in London soon got 
something to do also at 4 dollars a week, and my eldest son 
, then 13 years left me adding to my affliction, thinking he 
was drowned, but at the end of two weeks returned, bring 
home to me a few dollars which he earned from a farmer on an 
orchard, so by this way I seen the hand of Providence 
outstreched  to me when I least deserved it. and by constant 
diligence to business and everything here being pretty 
reasonable(quite different now) I endeavoured to save up in 
the course of a few years about 300 dollars  but again 
another and more trying misfortune came over me , one but 
nothing but death will end it. Fifteen years ago my daughter 
Maria who you seen  got married to a young man named 
Fitzgerald, whose mother was a sister of Mrs Skellerns of 
Capel Street. Umberella makers, wife of Charles Skellern out 
first cousin . This young man was after her for years 
seeming to us a proper well conducted and SOBER young man 
another was after her at the same time, but used to drink 
sometimes- being bit by the young man that induced and 
robbed me I thought I would not be duped again and preffered 
Fitzgerald to the other, althou she did not like him as much 
.  The latter young man Watson has turned out to be a most 
prosperous man, whilst Fitzgerald, ever since the first week 
of his marriage has turned out a notorios drunkard and 
loafer , can earn 3 dollars a day when he works, has four 
handsome chilren besides 2 dead. Poor Maria is sometimes 
left in the greatest poverty by his conduct, not seeming to 
care for his wife or children whether they starve or not. 
They would all be dead long ago only for me and my eldest 
son Geoge  and Charley . His oown brother is out here and 
has all done what we could for him but worse he is idiling 
for 2-3-4 weeks together once 13 weeks during that time one 
of the children died and I had to inter it a fine boy of 6 
years the cost of internments is frightful, it cost me 50 
dollars for that alone. enumerating at the lowest this 
unfortunate matter is put away from me not under 3 and 4 
hundred dollars exclusive of all the others that helped them 
-would to God that he was dead, and is too great a coward to 
enlist in the army- we trust that he may drefted in this in 
this next call for 500,000 men next month for this 
unfortunate war. Now I wish to tell you a little about my 
next child, George his destiny is quite different- he has 
been no trouble to me of expense to me whetever and his 
prospects were bright , thou it caused me much affliction I 
always thought him wild but he was doing good for himself 
all along as I told you befor he left me to do good. from 
that he went to sell and make up flowers , and then into a 
fruit store then a little at a printing press then to a hat 
stoe where he was taken great notice of but last of all he 
enlisted in the Untied States Service at the age of 16 as a 
musian where all the officers of his regiment (the 4th 
Artillery) held him up as a pattern to others for his 
cleanliness, good conduct etc. and had him educated in the 
army besides instructing him themselves during his 5 years 
after that time they wanted him to go to West Point College 
to be educated as an officer, but he preferred a civil life 
and came home procuring for himself a clerkship, where he 
remained for 6 or 7 months still gaining knowledge in 
bookeeping  at the end of that time he prucured a more 
lucrative situation at double-entry bookkeeping in a 
merchants store then laft that and now hold a responsible 
situation as sole conductor of one of the largest Iron 
establishments in this city ( Cashier and Account in it 
where over 100 men are enployed - (Messrs Catewell's Iron 
Works) his salary there is 1500 dollars a year. besides many 
perquisites this is not all he makes up the books of another 
establishment down town in a large restaurant for which he 
receives 500 dollars a year for 2 nights in the week - he is 
married to an american woman by whom he has 3 children - we 
very seldom see him - he has almost forgotten his father and 
mother , and is quite american  he is very fat. My youngest 
son Charles is far less fortunate, would never take any 
education and was on my hands until the outbreak of this 
war, when he enlisted in a regiment and was in 2 engagments 
when he got injured and was discharged; again he joined the 
37th National Guards of New York for 6 months without 
examination as a substitute where he was in the battle of 
Gettysburgh came home unhurt; again went off with the 7th 
same way and at last was recieved into the Invalid corps 
where he now is in Baltimore and by his least letter is 
about being sent home , again as unfit for any duty- in this 
he received his 300 dollars - he is too goodnatured and 
extravagant can never keep money he is the finest of the 3 I 
have - both tall and  handsome- would give money away to 
anyone he thought  wanted it, as long as he had it/ The rest 
are all dead only 3 out od 8. Now I have told you all as 
short as I have little time to spare , we are on the Strike 
for higher wages , and eveything is almost at famine price, 
3 or 4 times as dear since the war broke out- people are 
almost starved everything is so dear and enormous taxation 
on everthing, the vaslue of 1 dollar in gold is 280 dollars 
in paper currency - we never see gold or silver not even 
pennies (or cents as they are called here) only paper money 
such as dollar bills 50,25,10 and 5 cents postal or currency 
bills and for pennies the store keepers give their own 
little casts whereon is printed "Value for 3 cents" or 2 or 
1 as the case may be and pass from one to the other , I 
never seen such times - people expect to die of starvation 
in the winter -coal 15 dollars a ton now-in the winter is 
expected to be 20 dollars.  As to myself I am getting very 
weak , extreme heat in summer extrem cold in winter. My 
sight is failing me much , but I retain my teeth and hair 
yet, as you may percieve by my likeness in the Carte de 
Visit I send you show it to your children . I suppose your 
wife would not know me I am so old 65 on the 12th inst. now 
turned into 66 one of my lungs is hepatized these last 6 
years so I have only one sound one , which makes my 
breathing short sometimes. Can I prevail on you to write me 
a letter about yourself, wife and children let me know all 
about them, I would dearly like you to send me a card of 
your likeness as we will never see each other again in this 
world  Remember me to G Skellern give my love to your wife 
and children- I will send you some American (NEW YORK) 
papers if I hear from you . Direct your letters to John M 
Skellern 453 West 42 Street between 9th and 10th Avenue NEW 
YORK I have no more room left - Your affectionate brother 
John M Skellern. This likeness is perfect you see how grey 
my beard and whiskers are - my hair is not so very grey 
considering my age but I am getting very much stooped in the 
back- wife wears her age much better.