Letters  from the Past

“The Byron family in Lincolnshire and New York,1803.”

We have two letters concerning this family in the late 18th and early 19th century which would be of great interest to anyone researching this family. The places concerned are Louth, Tathwell and Boston in Lincolnshire where the family was established, and then America, where the eldest son had become resident. There is an entry in the 1790 census for Philadelphia which gives his address and details.

The first letter is written by this Joshua from Liverpool, (perhaps on his way back to America) addressed to one of his younger brothers, Mr Christopher Byron Near Louth Lincs, with a poor, partially applied postmark of Liverpool, with part of the year date 803, and a charge mark in manuscript of 9. The letter is dated May 5th 1803 but for some reason there has been written "9th" above the address, it should not have taken 4 days to get from Liverpool to Louth. The illustration shows how very messy the cover of the letter really is The letter is written from one brother to another, and as a bonus there is an enclosure of another letter, also to Christopher Byron, from another of his brothers.

The letter is only a social one, but it is really easy to read, and includes information about the family.

Liverpool May 5th 1803
Mr Christopher Byron
Dr Bro~
I parted with you at Tathwell on Tuesday the 12th of last month, I left Boston on the 24th and Lincoln on 27th and arrived in this place the 29th.

The Ship
William Capt. Kingston for Philadelphia, which I had thought of going out in is likely to be somewhat delay’d owing to Capt. Kingston laying dangerously ill of the Influenza, a ship for New York, the Telegraph Capt Ingram, being ready for sea, only waiting a fair Wind, I have engaged to go out in her so may expect every tide to be called upon to go on board, let me not neglect thanking you for the friendly attention and different accommodations you was pleased to extend towards me in the time of my Visits at Tathwell, if I arrive safe in America, after spending a short time I shall write to you. I do not recollect anything particular to communicate, please make my friendly respects to Mrs Byron and to all the Children, and respectfull Compliments to those who may enquire after me. I wish you health and happiness and I remain your friend & affectionate Bro~

Joshua Byron

N.B. We are Six Cabbin passengers
And I find Twenty in the Steerage.

Overleaf there is another short note

At Nottingham I see Mr Geo Nelson, he tells me that he shall sail for America, early in June. I did not mention anything about his application to his uncle at Lincoln.

Notes: 1) When I tried to trace the ship, in 2001, through the Maritime.Archives@nmgm.org I had this really helpful response.

“ According to Lloyd’s Register 1803 there were 99 ships named William in service at this time but not one has listed as its captain Kingston. The Telegraph for the same year has 8 listed. One ship has as its master B Gardner and written underneath J Ingram; it was 310 tons, registered and built in New York. There is no other information listed from the Registers. There is very little information available on early vessels; I am sorry I cannot provide further details.
yours sincerely
Margaret Evans ”

I was amazed that there were 99 ships named William in service at that time, as I had imagined that when a vessel was registered there was a check made that there were no others with that name. Obviously that was not correct, but the one that she managed to trace was the one mentioned by the writer Joshua Byron, The Telegraph.
Note 2) There are many scribbled sums over the front of the letter, which look like costs of the price of shares or items of cargo e.g. 170 @ 30/– 255 (which is correct 170 x 30 shillings = £55) but there is no mention of anything like this in the letter.

Some of the figures are obviously sums which are correct, but there is one group of three lines which cannot be understood at all, no matter which addition or subtraction is made. It is not even clear who wrote the figures on the letter, the writer or the addressee.

The map shows how close Louth and Tathwell are, certainly in walking distance, but the brother who has been appointed to the postmaster of Boston is much farther away, about 30 miles and that would not be an easy journey unless by horse, or horse and carriage.

The single sheet letter inside is written by a different hand, it is undated, but because of the content it has to be later than 27th August 1809. There is no address of the sender and no signature, but is obviously same family. This is addressed Mr Chrisr. Byron, Tathwell (this place was mentioned in the first sentence of the first letter). There are no postal markings either, so it must have been delivered locally, possibly by a servant.The writer has covered both sides of the paper, including the front address portion of the letter. The content indicates that it was written in Britain. Many of the words have an unexpected capital first letter, which was common in hand written letters of this era.

Dear Bro
As I have not had any thing of Importance to communicate to you I do not recollect that I have wrote since 6th Decr 1807. I should have wrote sooner, but know that our Brothers George & Benj keep up a correspondence & and as I have had accounts from you thro those Channels I trusted you would excuse my Silence. The last account I had was from Mr S Allenby. He told me that his Bro. Geo had a Letter from you wherein you mentioned your very bad state of Health which I was very sorry to hear, but hoped that Mr S.A’s Information might not be correct.

Respectg our Brothers & Sister I trust they are all pretty well in Health & all remain in the same situations as when I wrote you last except Dr who I presume you know is fix’d at Hull, I am told he is in pretty good Practice. Out Bro Wm’s daughter has married a Mr Dickinson a Farmer who resides at Tattershall. They have been at our House & I have called upon them once. Mr Dickinson appears steady & is fix’d in a pleasant Situation. The farm belongs to Ld Fortescue. They have one Son & I am told are likely to have a further Increase.

Note From the next part of the letter, it is obvious that life has not changed much for the ordinary people, of 200 years ago who were then also affected by the weather, taxation, and the high cost of living. They also realise that the taxation has been imposed to pay for the war against Napoleon Bonaparte.

Unhappily for the People of this Nation we still have to contend with that most formidable Enemy, the Emperor of France. The enormous Expence of carrying on the War causes us to be very heavily burthened with Taxes. The Prospect of any Alleviation of our Burthens appears so very distant & uncertain that it casts a gloom on the Countenances of the thinking Part of the Community. Our only Consolation is that we are in the hands of the Lord & trust that in the End all these things will be for the best.

Our Bro G. Byron has been appointed to the Office of Postmaster at Boston. I believe the Salary is more than 100 Pr Annum. He obtained the Office thro the interest of Mr Field.

We have had an Account of the Death of Lieut Wm Ash who died at Madras 27 Augst 1809 but we had no account of the Manner of his Death. Your old acquaintance Mr T Philips is also dead.

The letter ends with a paragraph about current living costs and the difficulties ordinary people are facing. It ends with no greeting or signature.
We are now engaged in attempting to get our Corn in but the Weather is so exceedingly Wet that it must be very much damaged & we shall sustain a great loss. At foot I have mentioned the Prices of many Articles of Life by which you may judge of Difficulties which many families must labour under to procure even the necessaries of Life.

Louth Market :
Wheat 100/- to 110/- per Qr.
Barley none
Oats 28/- to 36/- or 40/-
Beef 8/- per Stone
Mutton 7d per lb
Wool 26/- to 28/- per Tod
(this was the weight for wool usually 28 lbs -OED) Horses of all kinds extravagantly dear.

The really interesting thing to me about these letters is that there is so much available about the people and places on the internet now, whereas when I first looked at this more than 20 years ago, I could find nothing except that Louth and Tathwell are both in Lincolnshire. Now I know that these brothers were part of the family of Joshua Byron and Elizabeth Allenby who married in 1743 and had 12 children.

The eldest, Joshua, emigrated to America but there are no records of his journey, because until January 1820, the United States government did not require passenger lists, but the new Steerage Act of that date required the master of a ship to provide a manifest of passengers boarded at a foreign port, and it required each vessel to carry a specific quantity of provisions for each passenger with an entitlement to compensation should supplies prove deficient.

However, the 1790 census entry for Philadelphia giving the following information is available, and shows that he was settled there at that time.
1) Name Joshua BYRON
2) occupation Merchant
3) address 131 Water Street East Side Philadelphia had with him
5) 1 Free White Male under the age of 16
6) 1 white female under the age of sixteen
7) and two others no details, both listed as NOT SLAVES.

Finally His death is recorded in the Penticostal Church of Philadelphia and he is listed in the Historical society. His Burial is recorded as being in the Christ Church Yard April 21 1819. Our letter shows that he must have returned to England for a visit and then wrote to his younger brother from Liverpool to keep him informed of the progress.

Because there is no signature on the letter, it is not possible to know who wrote it, but a process of elimination shows that it cannot be George or Benjamin or Joshua or William who are all mentioned in the letter, so it could have been written by any of the other four brothers, Stephen, Joshua, Malcolm or Samuel. It could also of course have been written by either of his sisters, so that is a mystery. Presumably no signature was needed as Christopher would have recognised his the handwriting, or remember who had written to him 2 years previously!

I could not trace anything about Lieut Wm Ash who died at Madras 27 Aug 1809. The East India Directory I have as a reference does not include anything prior to 1830.

Copyright By EARS Leisurewrite

Contact us

back to Old Letters

Return To our Home Page