A letter from William Belshaw: 1834
It is with great pleasure that I now take my pen to write a few lines to you from americas shores. We reached New York May 21 after a voyage of 36 days. We left England on the 14th of April, we sailed along the coast of wales .... steadily having a soft breeze the north east wind ...... About eight oclock Sister Mae was rather sick ... we went to bed but the rest of us appeared verry well. About half past eleven oclock The wind blew and tossed the ship about and in half an hour there was a general vomiting all around. About four oclock it began to abate, I got up and went on deck. The sea was all covered with white foam, we were all of us sick but the next day being fine and a steady wind we was much better. The wind continued favourable for us for ten days during which time we made more than half the way and if the wind had continued for us we should have been here in 8 or 10 days more, but the wind have got into the west and blew a strong gale so that we had to tack about. But on the next day it turned into the north west and blew very severe that it drove us out of our coast (course?) a long way. Father and Mary was frightened - Father allways was afraid that the vessel would turn over I was not .................. a capital new wife (?)....... ...... at Boston. Captain Hall is native of America Born at Boston he is about 33 years of age has sailed to England 35 times .......................................
In the ship the first mate was a strong fellow with the Irish - he could not bear them. There was about 30 English besides ourselves and as many scotch and about one hundred Irish there was three fiddlers on board. The Irish had dancings every day for the first ten days but when the weather was rough they was still. The Irish was in the steerage, the English and scotch in the second cabin who had often some quarrels with them at the fire about cooking, though there was one for us and one for them, yet we could not keep them from ours. They often had fights among themselves: when two began they always all began, so sometimes they threw sticks out and played away as hard as they could. We are all very glad we have got out of their company. The man that came with us was the most master of them; he never was that least sick all the while at sea. Mother, (?) Mary, Henry, John and myself was the worst. The terrible (?) twins was verry well, particular Charles, Samuel, Ann, Thomas and George was very well. After the first night it had been very cold weather all the while at sea. Our Captain said he never knew it so stormy at this time of the year and to hold so long: we was 22 days when the stormy weather set in and yet did not get more than 150 miles. Then there was calm 2 or 3 days; one day the sea was very smooth, almost every person was on deck looking at porpoises that was darting about in the water. Some of them had large ......... and some more which the Sailors called Spanish men of war. When a large turtle came floating on the top of the water, when the captain ordered the boat to be let down, He got in the boat with the second mate and 2 sailors. They rowed the boat out round it and then came close to it. When the captain seized it it made a great struggle and was very near pulling the captain into the water but the other got to and helped him and got him into the Boat. He was a fine fellow, weighed about 5 stone - they said he would be worth 2 pounds at New York.
Whit Sunday we expected to see land before night but the wind kept much ahead of us. Monday the wind was better and we came very near land at night but the wind turned quite calm. Many of the passengers ..... went to bed. On Tuesday morning the wind was verry still; we could not sail but they was a great number of fishing vessels all around us so we knew we was not far from land. About 12 oclock we came within sight of land, a pilot came on board and we sailed into the channel. It was the most beautiful sight I ever saw in my life: there was an island on one side, Statten Island on the other was some verry pretty, gentlemens houses and beautiful green sides and such ...... of green trees as I never saw in my life.
We then came over against .......... quarantine ground when the ..... was to come on board but he did not come until the next morning. The Captain sent two sailors on shore for some brooms (?) and tobacco and cigars which are verry cheap here. They returned home loaded with the fruit of the land - we never went to bed that night. Four or five of our passengers sent for a gallon of Brandy it cost six shillings. Cigars the Captain gave us, there is 6 for a cent so we was smoking and drinking most of the night. In the morning the Captain let us take the boat and go on shore where they was every thing we could wish for. They was apples, oranges and nuts - walnuts, almonds - and figs. We went to a public house and got a leg of Veal. We picked the bone. We had pies and tarts of all kinds, Sherry wine and ale, we drank it all alike, 3 cents a glass.
The captain got a steam boat to take us to New York which was 5 miles distant. It was a verry beautiful steamer. They sold liquors on board. Almost all our ships crew went upon the steamer, some of them soon got fresh with the liquors which is verry strong. New York was verry handsome place: there is rows of trees on the sides of the streets; the people dress verry grand, most of them have rings on there fingers. We are going up the country by a steam boat for Ollaway (Albany?) and so up to the state of Illonies, (Illinois?) which all the people almost prefer to any other part. We shall take Mr. Attenborough's Frank with us to Buffalo where we are informed will be the best place to send it from. Pray be so good as to send this to Barky Bridge; otherwise send my Ant word that we are all alive and in good health, which we ought to be verry thankfull for. May the Lord bless us all and direct us in all our undertakings.
Next month: the Belshaw family arrives in Indiana.
A footnote from the booklet in which this letter appears explains the unusual spelling of American place names thus: "The Belshaws may not have seen these names written down, and spelt them as they heard them pronounced, in an unfamiliar accent. Albany would certainly have been the major terminus for steamboats going up the Hudson river from New York."
Return to Lowell History
Return to the "Pioneer History" A to Z Index Page