Letter #36 – DEC 29, 1874  


Most of the previous letters have been sent from Thomas Jackson in Reading. PA to his cousin Caleb Slater, in Derbyshire, England.

This present letter was sent by Thomas Jackson's cousin, John Watson from Metuchen, New Jersey, America to Sarah, Caleb Slater's daughter in England. It mentions Edward Jackson (TJ's brother still living in Reading) and provides the last account that we know of about Thomas Jackson.

"I received a letter from Edd Jackson Reading last week. He said Thos had not been able to leave the house in 8 or 10 weeks. His legs was swelled so he could not walk he called it dropsy. He was very short of breath when he wrote to me last, said he had to walk very slow so short of breath. I think he's time is short."


NOTE: Unlike most of the other letters, this one has had punctuation added and spellings improved to aid quick reading. The news relating to Caleb Slater and Thomas Jackson has been highlighted.

Metuchen Dec 29 / 74

Dear Cousin Sarah
I recd your letter duly. wish you knew how glad I was to hear from you. I am glad to hear Cousin Caleb is in comfortable health again. I often think of my aged cousins. May our health and reason be continued with our lives. My health is comfortable accept a disagreeable sensation in my head, when I read too much which is hard to refrain from, or when I go out in the sun since I had that sunstroke. My wife is in comfortable health except the complaints,common to old-age. she still does have her own household work with a little exception. What a matter of thankfulness to be well enough to take care of ourselves in old age.

My Chas is well... will be 28 in March. I am thankful he is steady sober and industerous in his habits; he has been at work for my Bro Wm the past summer who has lately finished building an addition to his house. Chas did the carpenter work. I think he's engaged to one of my wifes nieces but no time appointed [for the wedding presumably] he is now out of employment like many thousands others owing to the dark times here.

Bro Wm is well, his wife is feeble has much anxiety and care of the two children her daughter left the oldest 3 years, the youngest 1 year old their father still lives with Wm and is in partnership with his son who has a wife & 1 child. they keep the dry good store, (Drapers) and doing very well I believe., William's other daughter is 28, at home assisting her Mother, an amiable young woman.

Bro Amoss is much afflicted with chronic rheumatism, very lame aparently incurable still able to sit at his desk attending to his books: too much credit and too slow pay

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He has to sons and five daughters Married they have three babes His three sons assist him in the store he might do with two but situations and not easy got now, he has only son by his third wife say five years old.

I received a letter from Edd Jackson Reading last week. He said Thos had not been able to leave the house in 8 or 10 weeks. His legs was swelled so he could not walk he called it dropsy. He was very short of breath when he wrote to me last; said he had to walk very slow so short of breath. I think he's time is short. He lives with his daughter. His brother Henry has moved to Reading and is not doing very well I fear.

Francis Shilstone is ill not expected to live... his Wife and her sister Mary have opened a small store at Scranton: I have seven first cousins in NY & state from my Father's Bro & Sister (perhaps your father can remember them)and many second cousins & several third, nearly all diligent in business to make a living. I fear some of them are liveing in the neglect of that great salvation which is the worst kind of lunacy.

I thank you for the papers you send me so frequently and send you some in return in which you see the general news here. Times of wonderfully changed here since cousin Wm was here. I wish I could say for the better. and I must reverse that, during the war the nation was flooded with paper money on government credit has remained so ever since, I have not received 2 dollars in gold or silver in 13 years. the denomination of our paper is from 1000 dollars down to 10 cents (five d =pennies). five cent papers was called in some two years since five cents nickle in their place, 1 cent copper below

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Pride and extravagance has brought on the greatest stagnation in all kind of business that I have a new here. Our papers are full of bankrupts and Sherriff sales daily of all kind of robberies & murders & dishonesty in high and low places. No knowing who to trust. we hear of dishonest treasures is running away so often that we look upon it as a matter of course.

Public credit is lost. My next[door] neighbor, D Falmage, from the farm I sold was assassinated in his own barn at 5 PM & his pocketbook taken. 600 dollars reward was offered for the murderer. He was 10 taken after.They are selling Mf F's moveables today. The farm to be sold within six months; the widow takes her thirds, the rest divided equal amongst the children as they become of age 21. That is the law when a man dies without a will.

It is the best way to make a will and leave it as they please. I'm sorry to say that large numbers of professors of religion are conforming to the world's rediculous folies & passions instead of setting a better example. why is it quite common for women to wear a double tail dress as I call it I trailing 1 to 3 feet behind a little bunch of artificial flowers on top of their heads instead comfortable hat or bonnet; and a large quantity of unnecessary material behind & [?] it is very expensive living here now. I have neighbors that pay 300 dollars for a house with 8 small rooms & small garden. In cities rents and tax are ruinous. The tax is 2 to 3% on real estate. a moderate sized house was 5000 dollars will be tax hundred and 150 dollars, sometimes a little less. They are making new streets at a great expense which wont be all needed it in 50 years to come I believe.

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I would not advise my friends to come here to settle except I have plenty of money and a robust constitution & both able and willing to work. still farms are cheap both east and west but Franklin's maxim was true that "he who by the plow would thrive himself must either hold or drive myself & brother William worked as faithful 40 years as any English serving man. And that and the advance in real estate has made us both in comfortable circumstances in old age. Through the blessings of God.

I think prices of everything will go down As we approach he specie[?] payments again. I still think that this would be the best country in the world if our rulers would be ruled by the Golden rule. Instead of the self-rule. and self agrandisement.

I have a neighbor who brought a small farm in the state of Florida south. he goes that every winter he says there is no cold weather their. he raises oranges and yams and sends them here to our store keepers to sell so cheap south.. The yams are excellent; they grow like our sweet potatoes the tops look very much like our English ivy running on the ground.

I raised 4 bush(els) of sweet potatoes last summer. we all like them much. They would not get ripen in England neither would tomatoes of which I raise some a some more runs long Pucci Walden running home the ground they would not get ripening to neither would tomatoes of which I raise last summer more than we could eat. We had more apples than we could use - have plenty yet to last till may. I picked 15 bushels of winter apples and fruit to all kinds is abundant. Southern fruits and vegetables come by rail a month early in the spring and can be raised here.

there is a girl comes to school near hear from Montana. She says the country is mountainous ...a great Mining country have father has a Silver mine is mountainous a great mineing country. Her Father came with 500 miles on the stage, and then she took the RR some 2000 miles alone. I had a neighbor went to the northwest a preacher. it was so cold he could not stand it. Ice over 3 ft thick always in day Hi saddled with 3 foot thick always in danger of having their ears and toes froze. he is gone to California. That climate is fine. I had a neighbor went to Ilinois, bought a farm, staid 5 years, did not like it their, is come back is going to keep grocery at Newark.

We have begars here every day, sometimes 2 or 3, mostly foreigners after work; some dressed decent, some ragged. I pitty them our almshouses are full

(no more pages known for this letter)


We have mentioned elsewhere that, as well as the collection of letters from Thomas Jackson, we also hold an extensive trove of other family letters covering more of less the same historical period. Most of these have yet to be read or transcribed.

This is just one of them. We have included here because it adds to our knowledge of TJ and Caleb Slater in their declining years.

It sounds as if Caleb Slater, although 15 years older, might have outlived Thomas Jackson. To the best of our knowledge, Thomas Jackson never did make it back to England after 1942, even though he had been speaking of it for many years.

Having become familiar with the eloquence of Thomas Jackson, readers who examine this original letter from John Watson will be struck by how relatively limited in spelling and grammar he was.

For those interested in the genealogy of the Watson Family, this letter provides rich details to be harvested.

Opportunities for Further Research on Thomas Jackson

It is hard to believe that such a prolific writer and anti-slavery advocate as Thomas Jackson did not leave more papers elsewhere.

We continue to explore possible sources. In particular we would especially like to locate the remaining relatives of Edward H. Jackson who was the last member of the Jackson family to run the rope works and who, tantalizingly, appears to have had an extensive personal library.

Unfamiliar names

Dropsy: An old term for the swelling of soft tissues (Edema) due to the accumulation of excess water. In years gone by, a person might have been said to have dropsy. www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=13311

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