Letter From America:

an Emigrant from Audley Writes Home

The letter is addressed to:

            William Burgess

            Audley Neare




...and is dated:

            Middleport.  September the 14th 1846.

            Hon. Farther.  i write these few lines hoping to find you in good health as it leaves me.  i am arrived at my broather Georges and found him and his family in good health and spirits.  we sailed in the ship isabella on the 29 of july and landed on the 10 of september making our passage in 43 days. we had thunder and lightning the first day and night.  we cleared the channell in 2 days, we made hafe way in 9 days and then we had headwinds and calms.  We got to the banks of Newfoundland august 23 and was becalmed and sounded at 50 fathoms.  we spoke to a French brig at anchor on the banks.  We spoke to another brig 41 days from Liverpool on the 27.  She had been fast in ice 3 days.  We had a very severe storm on 29 lasting 2 days and 1 night and were drove north on the green banks of Nova Scotia and was very nearly drove on shore having but 7 fathoms of warter and but 15 miles of land.  We had thick fog for 7 days we could not see the lingth of the ship, nothing more till we took the pilot on Sunday the 6.  On Monday we were becalmed all day.  On Tuesday the 8th we saw the lighthouse which we came by at 12 o'clock at night and then we had no wind and cast anchor and lay all day.  The captain refused to have a steam tug.  We was in sight of the batteries. (1)  On the 10 we sailed up.  It was a grand sight but nothing to Philadelphia,  It is the finest city i ever saw.  i did not think there had been such a place in America, from Philadelphia we took the railway to Potsville and found C. Billington. George (2) being 8 miles from here, on Sunday the 13 we went to George at a place called Middleport.  Richard Malkin is here and Aaron Billington.  They are all well and William Rowley is at Potsville.  He is well.  It is 8 miles from here to Potsville.  It is a very mountanous country and very little land cultivated, it not being worth it the soil is too loose and George is all for going to the west country and he wants you to get George Scott's address and send it.  They have wrote to Charles Proctor 3 months ago but I got no answer.  J. Billington is going to the west next fall but work is very slack, Congress having taken the tariff off coal and iron and this is a mining district, but most people are in good spirits.  Them that have been here any time having plenty of money to take them to the west which they are going to quite fast almost every day.  George knows a William Wright and his family from the Potteries that are gone to the west.  He is a shoemaker and he is to write to George to let him know how he is going on.  George wants you to send what ship it was that George Burgess was lost in - the name of the ship and captain.  If you can the day of the month and what ship it was that run her down and he wants you to send him word how many languages there is spoken on the earth, in Europe, Asia, Africa and America.  George and his wife send there best love to you all and you must give their love to the Smiths and Ann Harding and tell them that he will write soon and give his love to Richard Harrison.  Tell him he is very sorry to hear of the potato crop being rotten again in England.  You must give all our loves to Matthew Dean and wife and to all inquiring friends.  Please to give my kind love to my grandmother and to all at Red Hall Farm and tell Emma that I am very sorry that I did not see her before I left England.  Please send me word if you received two letters for me one from C. Billington and one from George.

No more at present from your loving son

                                                            Felix Burgess

P.S. We saw 3 large whales one was 60 feet long and 3 sharks.

Please write as soon as you can and direct to Potsville.

                                    * * *                             


(1)  In New York harbour.

(2)  George is the writer’s (Felix’s) elder brother, who emigrated in 1844.  Felix and George were sons of William Burgess, eldest son of Ralph Burgess of Red Hall Farm, Halmer End.  We now know that William, then aged 50, along with a third son, Levi, joined George and Felix in America, went to the Mid West, bought land and became farmers in Lafayette County, Wisconsin.  George was killed, Felix married his widow and Levi joined the "Gold Rush" to California.  Levi’s great grandson, Raymond Burgess, lives in Watsonville, California and visited Audley very briefly a few years ago.

According to the Audley census of 1841:

Aaron Billington, 15-20 years old, was the son of John & Elizabeth Billington of Ravens Lane.

Richard Malkin, 25-30 years old, lived on his own in Halmer End and was a labourer.

William Rowley, aged 17, was a collier and lived in Halmer End.

George Scott was a coal miner of Gumblers Brook, Miles Green, and had a wife, Elizabeth, and 4 young children.

Richard Harrison, 55, lived in Halmerend with his wife and children.

Charles Proctor lived with his wife Lucy (nee Wood) near to the Boughey Arms in Audley.  He was a shoemaker.  With his wife and young family he sailed to America on 25th August, 1843, taking 51 days to reach New York City.  They settled in Wisconsin and became farmers.  He and his wife returned to England around 1870 for a short visit and when they went back to Wisconsin they sold their land and went to California to live with their youngest daughter, Jane, and son-in-law Levi Burgess (brother of Felix, the letter writer).   This information was given to me by Ray Burgess.

The original letter is now in the possession of Colin Baddeley, a great grandson of the Emma (sister of Felix) mentioned.  If any reader has further information about the names mentioned in the text, the society would be pleased to receive it.


Pat Spode


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