- To: John Doyle
- "The Hill,"
- Pollerton Little
Le Sueur County,
January 23rd, '73. (1873)
My Dear Cousin John—A short time ago I received a letter from my brother
John dated at Monroe, Michigan. He informed me that a neighbour of his
named Patrick Phelan had been home on a visit to his friends living near
Carlow and, at his request. Mr. Phelan went to Pollerton to see our
friends. It being Sunday most of the people were at Mass but he saw some
of Mr. Dobbins's folks and by that means learned that you are married to
one of our cousins Kelly and living in the old place in Pollerton.
Now, dear cousin, after being careless about writing to my friends in
Ireland for over twenty years I make bold to address this letter to you
hoping it may find you and your family and also your father and all
enquiring friends enjoying a fair share of this world's goods and also -
the blessings of good health. Myself and my nine children are well,
thank God. My wife died in labour one year ago today, leaving an infant
boy. We raised it very well until it was 7 months old when it died. We
get on as well as can be expected. I have been married and living here
on a farm 16 years, we had eleven children, four boys and seven girls.
The oldest girl is 15 years and the youngest is not three yet.
I have 80 acres timbered land, about 30 of it improved, so that I could
run a reaper on most of it. The balance of it is yet a wild forest, but
the timber will be needed sometime for fuel and other purposes. There
are thousands of acres of vacant land here of the very best quality and
can be bought for 1 to 2 pounds per acre. The land in America is
surveyed after the English rule. We grow here the very best kinds of
wheat, oats, barley, rye, potatoes and all kinds of roots and vegetables
without any manure for several years. I am raising large crops on some
parts of my land for the last 12 years without a particle of manure. The
largest part of this State is prairie, looking as level and as nice as a
gentleman's demesne in Carlow, but no timber in sight for several miles.
That and the long winters is the only draw-back here. This is the most
severe winter we had since I lived here. It commenced about the middle
of November and has continued very cold ever since. There is now about
14 inches of snow on the level and in some places the roads are
impassable with drifts. Yet we do not mind it much, we wear good warm
mittens, fur caps, plenty of flannel shirts and drawers, thick boots and
everything to match. In this way we all get through the worst of
winters. It never rains here in winter. This is the season for 'teaming'
or as you would call it 'carring.' Teams are driven in pairs like
carriage horses, and are hitched to sleighs in winter and to waggons in
summer. 20 to 30 cwts. Is a good load. The snow begins to melt about the
first of April and by the 15th farmers are busy sowing grain, etc.
This State contains 74 Counties and any of them are as large as Carlow,
Kilkenny, Wexford and Kildare. Every township in this State contains
23,040 acres or six miles square. The Government has reserved 1280 acres
in every township to be sold to the highest bidder and the money put at
interest to help educate the youth. There is a school house and a chapel
less than two miles but the priest has so many places to visit that he
does not have Mass in it but once a month. There are a great many
railroads in this State already built and under contract. The wages paid
to the labourers on these roads are about 2 dollars per day and to a man
and his two horses 4 dollars. Board on the line of these roads is from 3
to 4 dollars per week.
Wheat is selling here at 1 dollar a bushel of 60 lbs., corn 40 cents.,
oats. 25 cents. (32 Ibs.), barley, 50 cents, potatoes, 25 cents; butter
and eggs are dear now, 25 cents per Ib. Flour is selling at 3 dollars
per 150 lbs.
Now, dear John, I have tried to give you a little information about this
country. I could give you much more but I think my letter is long
enough. My brother said he intended to write you, but in case he did
not, I will tell you a little about my relatives in Michigan. My mother
and her sister, Mrs. Tobin, are well and happy considering their ages.
My brother, Tom. is well off in this world. He has 7 or 8 boys and keeps
a large grocery and provision store. John went to California and made
about 3.000 dollars in gold. He and Tim served as Lieutenants in the war
and came out without a scratch. He owns a large farm 4 miles from town
and some buildings in town which he rents to tenants. Mike is a
carpenter and lives in town. His first wife died and he is married
Tim is a sailor and is mate of a steamer during the navigation season.
Bridget is married to an American and is happy and well off. She lives
near John. Ann is a Sister and teaches a Convent School for .the last 12
years. I am the poorest of all and the reason is I did not lay up my
money when I had it in plenty.
Now, dear cousin, I have crowded more news into this letter than I could
think of when I began it. As I have a notion to marry again, if I could
get a safe match, please send some good young widows or old maids. I
want to get one from my own county because I would know her and we would
get along very well together. It is a fact, John, women of all kinds are
rather scarce here in Minneseota but especially good ones. Pick out one
for me and tell her I will take her on your recommendation and pay her
passage into the bargain. I am one year younger than you and have two
good horses, 4 cows, 8 sheep, 20 hogs and all tools to work my farm. I
am a carpenter to boot and will give her all the tea and coffee and pork
she can possibly get out of sight. I believe I have talked enough
nonsense, if you call this nonsense.
Now, I will close by asking you to write me a few lines. Give my love to
your wife, to my uncle and aunt Dobbins, to your father and brothers and
to my poor aunt Nelly if she is alive. I fear she is not.~~
I hear from you,
Source: Carloviana. January 1947.
Vol 1. No. 1. p. 25
Note from Michael Purcell:
I had a great reaction to the recently posted "Letters from America"
so here is a little further information:
The com plete transcript (above)of the 1873 letter, it was addressed
Doyle, "The Hill" Pollerton Little, Carlow.
The writer Lewis Doyle was born in Carlow in 1823. His father was
Timothy Doyle (1790 - 1842), and his mother, Margaret Burns (1795- 1878).
Both his parents are buried in Monroe, Michigan.
He married in the USA about 1855 to Winnie Reilly (born circa 1836,
In 1850 Lewis is recorded in the US Census living with his mother,
brothers, Tim, and Michael and sisters Bridget and Ann.
His first child was born in 1856.
Lewis died 31st October 1890. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in
Kilkenny, La Sueur County, Minnesota. USA.
(I am grateful to Joan McKenty of Irish-American website for the above
The letter was addressed to John Doyle of "The Hill" Pollerton
Little, he was related to the Carlow historian, Mary Theresa Kelly of
"The Stream" Pollerton Little, Carlow.
In 1947 and 1948 Mary Theresa published six letters from the USA (dating from 1852 to 1880) in the Carloviana Journal.
Following her death the letters passed to another relative Seamus
Murphy of Pollerton Little.
Seamus presented the letters to Dr Kevin Whelan in 1987. They are now
in the National Library of Ireland.