Letter - OCTOBER 23, 1857  

William Slater is still finding his way around his new home area and here meets several of his cousins and their families. Singing in the church choir is already part of his life

Readers will find that William Slater wrote with very little attention to using commas or full stops/periods. Here we kept the words and spellings but have often spaced the words to indicate what we believe are really intended to be separate sentences. We also add paragraphs hoping it may speed comprehension. The original form of the letter can of course be seen in its entirety in the scanned copies.

Reading July 30, 1857

My dear Sisters & Brother,

It's the fashion here to have ruled letter paper so I may as well write on the lines. Well,: I suppose you want to know how I am &c. I came to Reading on Saturday afternoon so I stayed four days with Mr Hopkin he wanted me to stay Sunday over with them but I thought it would be better to go, so went. Mr Jackson does not live far from the station so I had not much trouble in finding him out, I wrote a letter from Hopkins to tell him that I should see them in a day or two if all was well so when I inquired if Mr Jackson lived here they said yes and asked me if I was the friend from England they were expecting so of course I thought it was my letter that had informed them but after Miss Jackson came down and shook hands and asked how I was & she told me they had been expecting me at the beginning of the week they knew when the ship arrived and had had a letter from some of you Mr. Jackson had written a letter for me to the office of the owners of the ship and I asked them to give it me but I did not get it as was to direct me the best way of getting up to Reading I think it was very kind and considerate of him. In consequence of my not coming for 3 or 4 days after the arrival of the ship he wrote to Watsons to ask if I had called on them. Well at night when they came from the walk I was expecting to see Thomas & Henry and so I did but it was the Thomas that I thought was dead. I could not help looking at him when he shook hands with me and he was glad very glad to see me out here I was a good while before I knew what to make of it but there we all were at tea and he asking me lots of questions about things at home &

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after tea Henry went with me to the station to fetch my box and I told him what Thomas had a written, he looked at me and laughed and said it was a mistake he meant his grandmother

I've had a good many drives out with Mr. Jackson in the four wheel'd carriage he has two one to go to the walk in every day the other for special occasions and a very nice one it is they call them rockaway wagons but they are very nice light carriages the horse they run in harness is a good sized brown one and can go like a four year old although he's of Mr. Jackson told me that he could trot a mile in 3 minutes, Henry says he could go nearer two and I believe he could with H's driving for he can make him go faster than his father can, one morning we were going to the walk Harry was sitting on my knee and his father driving Harry started him of and kept on saying get al-o-n-g and laughing at his father because he could not hold him till at last he was obliged to take hold of the reins and bring him up. When I am alone with Mr. Jackson he talks a good deal about different things and tells me how he first came to Reading and began business he and his brother Edward and how they got along and all about it, He has twenty men and 8 lads at work now one of the men was prentice at Burns Gainsburough when Jack Wood was he told me that him and Johnny Wood once called at our house about 18 or 19 years ago and had something with given them When I was talking with one day he said Mr. Jackson had told him that he was expecting a relation from England. Mr. Jackson says I can begin to work when I like or not at all whichever I please but I want to be getting something I want a new vest and another pair of light pants and a linen coat, every body here almost wears

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linen coats some are dressed all in white and go to church in their linen coats and straw hats there are plenty of churches here Presbyterians Lutherans Episcopalians Baptists Methodists Roman Catholics & so I shall have to visit each of them to see which I like best the last mentioned one excluded on Sunday night service does not commence till about half past 7 on account of the heat and it is hot here and no mistake about 12 o'clock mourn if you are out walking you have no shaddow scarcely, the sun's rays come down nearly horizontal it makes the sweat boil out of me above a bit just about the same as when I was in the vapour bath and got the stream pretty well up as you may guess whether you could keepe your sens wharm or not. [sens = dialect for keep yourselves] There are wagons going round every morning selling ice by the bucket every body has to buy ice and at least those that want to keep them things cool they keep it in the chest and put the meal and cream in to keep it cool the butter has a lump laid on it when it comes on the table and makes it quite hard if you go to get a glass of ale or porter they put a knob of ice in to cool it in the railway cars there is a barrel of water with ice in, there is also another convenience which is not (necessary) for me to mention the railroad goes through one of the streets quite through the town people may walk on the line if they like to run the risk of being killed. the coal trains are very long ones sometimes there are above a hundred wagons some of them less, and the double wagons are larger than those in England. Most of the streets are shaded with trees on each side like Philadelphia streets they are straight running parallel with each other and are crossed by streets in the other direction and distances from each other so the houses are left in

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Yesterday Harry and I went a fishing in the river Schuykill that runs close past the town we had a boat one big enough to carry 20 men the night before there had been a very heavy shower so there was a good deal of water in the bottom that made it still heavier so when we got in the stream will began to pull and try which could gain on the other so I laid to with all my might almost and snap went my oar about a yard of the end he stared at me and says you are a great fellow and then began to laugh then me got some string and lashed it and went on and commenced fishing and caught 4 very curious looking fish such as I had never such seen before, the fish did bite very well so we went elsewhere on an island and got some blackberries very fine ones about an inch long and very luscious after we had a good blow out with them we went home, There are a great many grape trees here and plenty of fruit on them but not ripe yet.

What sort of crop of strawberries have you had at Culperton and at home, was the hay got well and did Mr. Watkins farm foreman buy the cow that I brought from Mr. Barford and what did she sell for and are they rearing one of them calves and how are you getting on altogether does Father & Mother keep well and does any body ask you if I'm safe landed and how I like it if so tell them that what I've seen of the country at present I like very well. We breakfast just after six dine at 12 tea at 6 or 1/2 past and and sup at 1/2 9 or 10. I felt very hollow towards 11 first day or two but don't now, the men go to work at 7 and don't stop till 12 the spinners get done about 5 those that are on by the day shop till 6. When you get a newspaper and put a stampe on and send it here if it's only a pioneer don't forget now

I must conclude hoping this will find you all well with kind love to Father & Mother and all of you not forgetting old Aunt (tell her I am going after a while to Watsons with Mr. Jackson) and remain your affectionate brother

Williams Slater.

(A scribbled addendum on top of front page of letter) Tomorrow is the 31st Alfreton fair. I did not think that I should be here this time last year. Remember me to Wilson and Jemina when you write. Thomas Jackson is going on a voyage to San Francisco and will be away for 18 months or two years.


We are not sure who "Mr Hopkin" was but believe he was someone originally from William's Eastwood area of England who had emigrated to America and was making a life there

"Miss Jackson" who was the first to meet him was obviously Matilda, Thomas Jackson's second child and only daughter.

It seems there had been an earlier mix up in communications between and TJ's son Henry and William as a result of which William Slater thought that Thomas Junior had died. In reality it was his grandmother who had recently died and Thomas Jr was there to shake William's hand in welcome, much to his surprise!

Thomas Jackson had 2 carriages and used them extensively, often taking William along on trips. From these Willaim learned a great deal about his older cousin.

References to "the walk" indicate the ropewalk- the usual name for the location where ropes were made ( so called for historical reasons)

Clearly Henry (Harry) impressed William with his hair raising driving but the two young men also shared more restful times such as going fishing.

We learn that Thomas Jackson offered William the opportunity to work or not work as he chose.

The final reference about Thomas Jackson going on a long voyage refered to the son of Thomas Jackson Snr and was for supposed health benefits.

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