now more about that now

now more about that now

The two previous blogs are concerned with page 1 and page 2 of a letter written by Joseph Hemming and sent from Upper Canada, dated December 1830, and addressed to his brother John in Limerick, Ireland. The letter begins, ‘I tak up my pen’. This week’s blog continues with page 3. The discussion is preceded by a detailed transcription. This is as close to the original as possible with regards to spelling, punctuation and layout.

Pages 1 and 2 are the front and back of a single sheet of paper. Page 3 is the inside of sheet which was folded around the others and has the address, and the other side marks of a seal on it. As a consequence of its function, this page too bears the signs of wear and tear as it travelled the oceans, with a number of words unclear and at some points missing slithers of paper and so of words. A ?word indicates a doubtful reading. And [text] is the start of the sentence which ended page 2, provided here for ease of reading.

Page 3
[I Landed in New York on 4 of September 1828 stay there 2 weeks from thence to Pilladelphia] in Pennsilvania and worked there 6 weeks Pilladelphia is supposed to be one of the ansomist places in the world but no more about that now I unditake A jorney of three hundred miles I pasd over the Allegany mounten from Pillidelphia unreadable Pitsburg the citey of Pitsburg is situated on the point betwen too Rivers the ?Monagaala and the Allegany were joined together ?to ?form the Oiho the value of the merchandice wich passes through Pitsburg annualy is estimated at 20..000.000 Dolers it is situated 230 miles ?WNW of Baltimore 290 miles ?N by ?Philada and about ?2000 by the course of the Oiho and Mississipi above New Orleans situated 40o ?81’44 N Longgitude ?by 80o ?87’ I Travelled wordmissing the Route in 10 days I worked in Pitsburg 3 months and then went as Carpenter on A steam Boat wich run to from Pitsburg to Lewisville in the state of Kentuckey wich is 700 miles we made one trip to Nashville in Tennesee wich is unreadable ?frorom ^from^ Pitsburg from thence to cannady in may of 1829 and now wordsmissing Deareham Forge so for the want of rom must conclude with wishing you well I remain your Affectionate Brother Joseph Hemming

Directors Colony Joseph Hemming

Deareham Forge County Oxford Uper Cannady North Ammerica


This page of Hemming’s letter is concerned with his extensive travels in the fairly short time from him arriving in New York in September 1828, then in Upper Canada in May 1829, and writing his letter of 8 December1830. It provides some precise distances and also and rather oddly two compass directions. It is also oddly precise in other ways too. For example, regarding his comment that “the value of the merchandice wich passes through Pitsburg annualy is estimated at 20..000..000 Dolers”, this is both very precise and also raises the question of how he could he know such things. It is possible that this came from something published in a newspaper, but also possibly from information given him formally by authority figures in Upper Canada. Other similar comments concern him having travelled a route in 10 days as well as providing the amount of time he worked in some places. These are his travels. He mentions arrival at Dearham in May 1829, but this is undetailed apart from the very positive statements (also undetailed) about liberty and markets given on page 2.

Why should Joseph Hemming’s letter to his distant brother give the details of his various travels, rather than provides detailed information of what he was doing after his arrival at Dearham Forge? The result is certainly a kind of travelogue, but why it should be so remains mysterious.

The letter has a very conventionalised formal ending in the form of a reason or excuse for why it stops when it does, that this is a kind of necessity. However, in fact this comes at a point on the paper when there is actually a fair amount of room left for at least one further comment to have been written. The explanation is provided by the lengthy direction that is then given for how to send letters to him, which is via the colony directors with full details provided.

Another question immediately comes to mind because of this. Why imply that his brother should address any future letter to Joseph via the directors (acting as a kind of postbox) of the Upper Canada Colony? Did he perhaps at that point still have no fixed abode? Or what? It seems to indicate that he had a fairly close or at least compliant relationship with authority in the colony. Along with the travelogue detail of places and journeys and the earlier written inducements of Liberty and good fortune, this again raises the possibility that the letter might have been written at request for recruitment purposes, for some of the details are such that it is difficult to imagine how and why he might otherwise have gained such knowledge to pass it on, if he had not been provided with it. But this is merely surmise and there is no certain evidence to back it.

Page 4, discussed in next week’s blog, is the outside sheet of Joseph Hemming’s letter. As noted earlier, it was folded and sealed round the others, and is fascinating in its own right.

Last updated:  13 September 2018