Letters from Edwin J. Hobbs of Hampton, sent home during a sea voyage in 1856-57
Sent home during a sea voyage in 1856-57
The letters below were transcribed here from a typescript created by an unknown person at an unknown time. The original letters were not available to be examined for accuracy, so there may be typos below that were made by the original transcriber. Also see Edwin's obituary.
Ship Saracen Now Lying
in Hong Kong China
June 26, 1856
It is with the greatest pleasure that I now take my pen to address you. Your letter came to hand yesterday dated March 31. I am well and I was very glad to find you in such good health and in such prosperous situation. I see by your letter you received both the draft and money from Boston. I felt quite anxious about the two letters. I have not been ashore yet for it is time enough for we shall lay here about two months I suppose.
I see by your letter Hilliard has gone to Bath to settle. I thought he was to live at home. Changes are continually taking place everywhere. Goodwin a democrat. That is all right enough providing he can do better by that party.
I have not told you now when we are arriving. We came in the 23rd of June with a good rain shower 110 days from New-port. We stopped at Angar Point one day for fresh provisions. About Dea. Knowles I am very glad to hear he is where he is.
Our Meeting House will look to me as it used to. Please give them all my best respects for they are worthy of any man's respects. I hope those feelings which once existed between our family and the Knowles family may again revive.
Please give my respects to Mr. Colby and wife, J. Perkins and other friends, my brothers and sisters all both by marriage and birth.
You spoke of Mrs. Leavitt's land north of the new road. Your prospects are good by what I can see for paying for it. You also have a great deal of planting land you have to pay taxes on which you have to cultivate it to get anything from it. I hardly know what to say about it. I think sometimes I shall follow the sea altogether. Still if the land can be bought for a reasonable price -- a price that will pay I think I should buy it. Probably I may want to spend some of my latter years at Hampton. If so, you and I may trade together.
I have been thinking of when I returned again to purchase a share in a vessel with Captain William Sanborn of Seabrook to go a-fishing and in the fall to go to the East Indies. I now understand navigation well enough to take a ship to any part of the world and am capable of doing it. I think I can make more money and a great deal easier than any other way. You please write me your opinion upon that subject to me in London. I would like to try my luck. I feel anxious to do something more Than I am at present. If you think it advisable, you can let Sanborn know my mind and write me so I shall know what to do when I arrive in London. I think Sanborn is a very trusty man and I think I never shall go carpentering after this voyage. If not I shall leave all my tools at home with you so you need not buy anything more than you actually stand in need of.
This is Sunday June 29. The mates are on shore and half of the men so I stay by the ship. I have not been on shore yet or no inclination to until the excitement is in some measure over. What money I spent foolishly is but a little. I received Sisters Harriet and Elizabeth's letters with yours. I shall write them by the next mail and then I can tell them about their shawls and dresses - what they cost &c. I have seen some splendid things since I have been here. You will please tell them how it is and that I shall write them before I leave. Clothes are much cheaper here than in Calcutta and I can buy them one-eight less than anyone else by being accustomed to their manner of trade. Washing is one dollar a hundred.
I see by your letter Mother was working at boot and shoes. You have no boarders by that I presume or Mother would not find time to work on them. Anyway you must not work too hard either of you for you have enough to carry you through life comfortable without much exertion.
I see Harrison is attending the Academy. I was glad to see that for education is a thing a person cannot get along through this world without as he could when you first commenced life. I will speak for myself. I should rather have a college education than one thousand dollars placed in my hands this day for it fits a person for any position. It places his name on the pages of history or fame. When we look around in our common schools who among us can tell what boy in that school will become one of our leading men of our town, county or Nation. We very well know that some of those boys we know will be our rulers and he who gets the best education will be most likely to fill that place. W. Hobbs did not set our standard high enough. He looked upon others as being superior which is not the case by any means. I have come to the conclusion to make one great struggle to attain a higher and more noble place among my fellowmen. If I fail it shall be no fault of mine. But enough of this for the present and why I write this is for you to know what my intentions are when I return.
You wrote me of election. I see you have one or two young selectmen. I hope the town officers will be handed around a little more than they have been before. You can live as you have before by great industry. I see you are putting the liquor dealers through the law. No doubt in my mind that Hampton will be a much altered place before I return and that for the better if they continue to prosecute those who deal in liquors. You have three good constable men that will put them through right. Now that they have commenced I hope they will put them though straight. I hope that I shall be at home for the next election in March. I probably shall be if this ship comes home to Boston from London which I hope she will do for I shall have a great many things to take home with me, and by the way I shall want you to be at the depot with the carriage - sleigh if sleighing - if not a wagon to take my things home. I have made a ship with all her spars &c. She is a perfect model of the Bonito and will be worth fifty dollars when completed. I have left nothing undone. She is admired by every one that has seen her and is said to be piece of fine workmanship. Everyone wishes me to make them a present of her but I shall sell if I dispose of it. While I was in the Bonito I commenced one besides this which I gave to the waiter for he was a fine fellow.
By the way the Bonito was not sold in Havre but went to Cardiff to Shanghai China some 850 miles up the coast from Hong Kong. She passed through the Straits of Sunda six days before us and made the voyage fifteen days less than we. I received a letter from the second mate of her in Angar Point. They wish I was on board of her. The Captain came to New-port to see me and would like to have me come with them. They got a very poor thing for a carpenter so they wrote me.
I think you did perfectly right in raising your calves. It is a good way to get money. They will eat your fodder better than strange cattle. I suppose you have Fanny the horse yet. I think you will never get one much better than she has been. Since I received your letters I have thought how our family has separated one in Exeter one in Bath another in Hong Kong China a perfect wanderer but don't wander without learning a great deal. I am very much pleased with my business and hope to do better and think I can. But again to my subject when I return I cannot take Fanny as before and ride to see all my sisters. I hope Elizabeth will like in Bath first rate. It is a fine growing place and cannot see why John should not do well there but I was much taken back when I saw that he was bound down to Bath to live. I thought he would settle down with his father. As least I hoped so for many reasons. One reason is that it makes it so much handier for us all to visit one another. I should have liked to have been at home on last Thanksgiving Day when all the family were at home. It is so pleasant such meetings and we do not know when we shall all meet again.
John Lewis works at the depot I see by my sister's letter and hope he is doing well. Sure pay. You may dress Edwin their little boy and I will pay the expenses when I return if you please.
The weather is very sultry here indeed and the sun very hot. We have a great deal of rain but it does not cool the air much, if any.
I see by my sister Harriert's letter Capt. Berry has not returned from Africa. My respects to him and his wife.
If the Dow land is sold by the Academy purchase it by all means, or if any of the parsonage land at a reasonable price. I almost wish at times we had held on to the mowing land and not Isaac Emery had it. I think I should buy a three rod way through Thomas Ward's to our land in the parsonage and it would make a good building lot.
I suppose you know Capt. Thomas Dearborn has gone home from here worth one hundred thousand dollars - a fine sum to acquire in so short a time.
As the mail does not go until the tenth of July I shall not finish this until after the fourth so that I can give you an account of it.
I see by your letter that Philip has not returned yet. I am very sorry for that. Please give my best respects to his wife among the rest of my friends in Hampton.
I see Johnathan Perkins plays the organ. I should like to hear it. It is something I have wished for in our church for a long time. About the double bass viol - if you think there would be any danger of its being loaned too much for plays of different description or its being troublesome to look after, I should sell it and put the money at interest. If not sell it I should choose a committee to keep all the Society's instruments and to let them for no other purpose than the direct interest of the Society for they might cause trouble, or get lost, or ruined.
This day is the fourth of July and we are having great times. We have fired a national salute of 32 guns. Now we have 30,000 of the snapping crackers to fire this eve. But this day is like all other fourths - accidents of some kind take place. The second mate of Samuel Willetts, an American ship, had both of his arms blown off. I have not been on shore yet.
I see my paper is rather short and if I omit anything, I shall put it in my next.
You are now about commencing English haying. I should like to swing the scythe but cannot. When this reaches you, I presume you will be in the marsh. I shall write you all before I leave.
Yours in love,
Edwin J. Hobbs
P. S. This paper is English and I do not like to write on it because the sheets are very small. I see by Elizabeth's letter that Marshall has married and gone out West where I hope he will do well. Sam Tappan is out in Kansas. Benjamin is still in his native town. By the way, our second mate was mate with Marshall's father when he was captain out on the coast of Sumatra. He is a Newburyport man.
Sunday July 6. I must finish this today so to be sure that it goes by the next mail. You wrote me you did not know where I got the impression that Moses Perkins was dead. I will tell you. When you wote me in Harve you wrote me about the deaths &c. First you wrote me you boarded the minister Mr. Colby until after ordination. Now, to Moses Perkins - Nathan Redman died July 2nd, so you perceive I made a mistake in reading that part of your letter. I see by your letter that potatoes are not so much in the winter. I presumed you disposed of yours at that time as you most generally do, and do better on your crops than anyone else. I see too you have a courthouse and judge in Hampton. A very fine thing. I hope that Hampton will get to be a model for other towns to work from. It has the privileges that but a very few towns can boast of. One thing our town fails in very much indeed - that is education which would make the town the first in the state. Parents should take more interest in educating their children. How much more pleasant it must be to parents to see their children in good circumstances and filling a high place of honor among our fellowmen. We have but one life to live and we should make all the advancement we can in learning, and impart the same to our children. Would that I could have looked on this most important thing when I was attending school as I do now. Not one unoccupied hour should have escaped me. Without education man is dead to himself and his fellowmen around him, he is but a little above the brute creation and his society is unfit for any person above his own order. Such a person nowadays is an outcast in society. I want my brothers to educate themselves better than I have, for they will find it a great detriment to themselves with a little knowledge of different subjects especially if they have the fortune or misfortune I have had the last six years. But enough of this. I have come to a period in my life when I feel I am called upon to make more exertion then I have ever done to establish myself in life. My age is thirty - quite advanced. It almost startles me when I think of it and see that my prospects at present are no better. I shall try some other source than the one I now follow when I return to my native land. With a little capital to start upon, I am in hopes to make an addition more fast than I am now. But, father, I do not wish to weary you on this subject, but simply to let you know my mind and feelings, for I see others around me filling stations much higher than myself and not so capable.
Yours in haste,
Edwin J. Hobbs________________________________
Hong Kong, China
Sept. 10, 1856
I once more seat myself to write you a short letter letting you know that I am still in the enjoyment of health and I hope this will find you in the same condition-----. You have most likely received all the letters I have written you since my absence from you. Hong Kong has been quite sickly since we have layed here, it being in the summer season and it being so very hot, and the climate being different from ours at home, & indulging in the fruits &c. of the place, death has done its work. Captains have fallen as well as the Sailor. The disentary is the most common complaint although the feavor & ague prevails among many. Our sail maker has had a feavor, then to wind up with he had the feavor & ague, but rather slight. I did not think much of writing this soon, but I have a good chance to send by the way of San Francisco, by the Clipper Ship Meateor Capt. Pike a ship belonging to the same employ of this ship Curtice & Peabody of Boston. I am unable as yet to tell you where we shall go from here as the Charter Party have not come forward yet to load ours on account of freights being very low at present, and there are not old teas, so we shall have to lay for new tea if we load here. If the party do not come forward by the time our laying days are out which will be the second day of October, we shall be at liberty to go where we please for freight. I heard the Capt say that he may go to Calcutta, but cannot say. If we should go to Calcutta most likely we shall load for Boston which will bring me home some two months sooner than if I go to London.
I hope by the next maile to be able to let you know where we are bound. I have bought a shawl for Harriet, a black silk dress for Elizabeth, and summer pineapple dress for Annie. As I never bought them anything of importance, and as she lived longer at home than any of the girls &c., I thought I would make her a present of a pineapple dress which will be something different from what any can get at home.
I presume I shall get home about the right time to have the dress cut, and made summer, so if she wants a summer dress she had better stop until I get home and then she can come out with as fine a dress as most any young person. There will be no dress in our Meeting House equal to it in my opinion.
You will perceive by this I have but very little news to write you. I wrote to Sisters Harriet & Elizabeth by the last mail and told them to let you know how I was &c., and that I should not write you until this mail for I did not know where the Ship was bound to, and I hoped to know by this but you will see I do not know yet.
Hampton I presume could afford me some news by this time since you wrote me last it has been some time since. The land you spoke of buying of Mrs. Leavitt. I did not think at the time I wrote you of the land that John D. Lamprey owns in the hollow. You know that he has made a practice this last five years of carting across her field, hence the reason I believe of her wishing to dispose of the land, it being a way you know of getting over a difficulty like that without any hard feelings on either side as I said I did not think of that obstruction when I wrote you. I would rather you would if you could wait until I come home. Anyway, do not on any account make a change of land between J. D. Lamprey in the hollow and yours in front of the hill joining his for several reasons. One is yours has a first rate building lot with all the privileges of a ------ which is worth double of his, or any other mans land lying as his land lies.
You know what kind of a man J. D. L. is to deal with and what difficullty we used to have with the Dows, and our cart path. It is not very pleasant. ...............
I hope you like Mr. Colby as well as ever, and I hope he fills the Meeting House as well as at first. You pay him a good salary for such a place as Hampton and he should do all in his power to build up the Society rather than to pull it down as did Mr. Fay. My respects to them all. I hope the Organ has good effect among the singers. I should like to be with you on the Sabbath. J. Perkins plays it appears. My respects to him also together with his family and mother and sister.
The Academy I see by your last was in a flourishing situation. I hope it still continues the same.
While I am writing to you I suppose you are in the marsh. Very healthy work. I should like to just be with you and swing the scythe a few days. But I must drag this letter to a close by saying that I shall write and let you know where this ship goes to from here as soon as I find out.
Please give my best respects to Grandmother and all.
Yours in love,
Edwin J. Hobbs___________________________________________
Whampoa, Nov. 12th, 1856
I still have the pleasurable opportunity to write you although far from home and hear but little of the affairs in Hampton still I feel an interest in the people of my native town. Would that I could know more of what is poping at home. I can still write you with a heart full of thankfullness that my health is still good while others more robust than me in this port have gone to their long home. I hope this will find you all enjoying the same blessings as myselfe. I look forward with the fondest anticipation when I shall once more be landed on my native soile, the land that can boast above all others for thousands privilages that were never known in foreign lands.
I feel & do rejoice that I was born in such a country where the young have such a good opportunity of securing to themselves a good vocation, the poor as well as the rich, no person need go down to his grave ignorant as do the heathen. No person can see the want of an education more than the person who travels through different countries & among all classes of people. I wish I had a college education then I need not toile so hard for to accumulate little property as I now do, for I have seen a plenty of places that I could have stopped for a few years and do well.
We are now laying in Whampoa some ninty miles up the river from Hong Kong and seven miles from Canton, the place where the English & the Chinamen are at war. We are nearly among it you will see. We can hear the canons, and see the City on fire. We should have been on our passage to London before this had it not been for the war. But I hope we shall soon get our tea and be off.
I did not think of writing by this mail but as every one else in the ship are I think I will, but my time is so short I must scratch if off at the best or worst as you will perceive; but you will excuse this as I hope I shall have a chance to write you again before I leave for London. We shall not be at home I think until about May or June. We have been laying in China nearly five months. I sent you a letter by the Ship Meateor Capt. Pike to San Francisco which I hope has reached you by this.
I would go on to tell you about the war in Canton &c. if I had time but I have not. You will give my best respects to all friends.
I will draw this to a close by bidding you good bye until I write or see you again.
E. J. Hobbs
Daniel Hobbs Esq.
Hampton, N. H.
U. S. A.
Akyab, Jan. 10th, 1857
My Dear Parents,
I once more seat myselfe to write you a few lines to let you know where I am, and where I am bound to from here.
I am now in a place called Akyab, pronounced Acaab. This place layes a little to the south, and east of Calcutta. We are here for rice, Chartered for some port in Europe but cannot tell where yet. We are ordered to Cowes; the Isle of Wight for orders where to go to, so you can write me there.
We shall probably get there the last of May or the first of June. We could not get our tea in China on account of the war and we left China for Singapore and Calcutta and we were lucky enough for to secure a freight. I am well as usual and have been, and hope this will find you the same.
Please give my best respects to all friends my Brothers and Sisters my love too hoping I may soon be with you. I have not much news to write as I am so far out of the world as it were. You will please give me a full description of the Presidential Election together with the other news. Times are very hard in the Indies & China now._____________________________________________
Rangoon, Birmah. Feb. 8th, 1857
You will please excuse me for not writing you before. It is not because I have forgotten you, or did not wish to write far from it, but because I have never known where the ship was bound to nor no one else.
We are now loading with rice for some part of Europe and will have a quick dispatch I hope. We are bound to Cowes the Isle of Wight for orders where to discharge. We shall arrive there the first of June I think and I hope you will write me there in the care of Capt. Barry Ship Saracen. My health is good and I hope this will find you in the enjoyment of the same. I have not heard from home for such a length of time I hardly know how to address you. I wrote you by the Ship Lotus bound to New York. When I wrote that letter we expected to go to Calcutta and load but things have changed since. I am now hoping to be at home by August if we have good luck. The place we are now in is where the Rev. Dr. Judson died, one of our Missionarys.
Here is the largest Pagoda in all the Indies, the gilt upon it cost $100,000 and is guarded by soldiers day & night.
The natives of this Birmah Empire come from hundreds of miles to worship this building. It is the most splendid thing I ever saw. It is two hundred feet high.
We lay about two miles from the town of Rangoon down the river. The place I cannot give you a full account of it as I should like to do, but I have not been ashore but twice yet and both times after lumber, still I will tell you all I know. The City of Rangoon lay on a river as does Portsmouth some thirty miles up, very pleasantly situated, with some fine buildings, but not as many and fine as in Calcutta, for the place has not been in the hands of the English as long. The buildings are mostly two stories with piazers around them. The streets are very well laid out, and are good carriage roads, having been built by the English since it was taken in 1840. This place promises to be a very large & rich although the principal exports is rice, which goes to all parts of Europe and China. Things are very dear here, as they all are brought from other ports, from England & Calcutta. This place is very hot, the sun standing in the shade at 96 degrees. I have seen the hottest weather since I left home this time, and the most that I ever have in the same length of time. I have been in this climate now 10 months without a change and I presume I should be rather a poor hand to face a hard winters storm. But I cannot be half thankful enough that all of our next passage will be very fine or nearly so. We may have a week or so off Good Hope, all the rest will be good. I would like to be home in haying time to help you, and I think now I shall by the last part, it has been so long now since I have swung a scythe I should really like to do it. I suppose Harison has got so to use the scythe by this to very good advantage. But I hope father you will not omit giving him a good Education above all things you must give both the boys that, for that is what makes the man now a days. I hope you will write me all the news in Hampton, for I have not heard from you since March 1856 this is quite a long time, many changes have taken place since then. I have often thought of Grandmother since I have been gone this time, afraid I never may see her again, but I hope we shall all meet again in a few more months, you will remember me to all our folks, and my friends. I hope Mr. Colby is loved as much as at first by the people of Hampton. Deacon Knowles, I am very glad to hear that he could go to his own Church, and meeting again, and I hope he will be used as in by gone years, let what is passed be forgot, and never more to be brought to mind by the Church. I hope he fills his office as usual for he I think is a worthy man. That was an oversight in the Church to do what they did, and I think if the thing had been looked upon in its true light it never would have happened, but I hope everything is now settled. You will please give the family my best respects. I shall write to no one but you this time as I have not time, and you will please let my brothers & sisters know my whereabouts &c. I hope this will find them all well. I hope they will excuse me for not writing them. Tell sister Harriet I have her shawl and was hoping to get home with it by the spring but cannot. I would have sent the things by the Ship Lotus, but I dare not for fear of their not reaching you. I have a dress for Anna, and Lizzie.
I suppose by the time I get home Nathaniel Johnson will have a new house and be married. A fine house will look well from that street, it is a very fine place for a house there. Has Philip C. Nudd got home yet from California? I hope so. Please give my best respects to the whole family, Aunt Betts so called, and Sarah A. I would not forget Jonathan Perkins & wife his mother & Hannah.
Dear Mother I see by father's letter you were at work on shoes. I presume you are not oblidged to do that at least I hope so. I have often thought of you how it must appear since I have been away, and my sisters have got married and left home, no one to sit to the table but father you & Harrison, while only a few days past since we all were at home making work for you, as well as company. We may never all meet again around that family board still I hope so. What makes me speak this is because Elizabeth has moved so far from home. I see you are in a prosperous situation, making money fast. May you always prosper.
I send my best respects to Harrison & Morris. I hope they will get there lessons well while they tend school. I shall soon have to draw this to a close by the appearance. Since I wrote you I have been to Whampoa, Akyab, and now in Rangoon. I cannot tell when you will hear from me again, it will be owing to how long we lay in Europe about me writing from there. You will excuse me for not writing more and I will draw to a close by bidding you good bye.
Edwin J. Hobbs
Daniel Hobbs, Esq.
Hampton, N. H. U. S. A.
St. Helena, June 6th, 1857
I once more feel it my duty as one of the family should, when so far away from all we hold so dear, to write to you every opportunity to let you know the state of my health &c. I still enjoy that greatest of blessings that can be bestowed on mortals in this life, health. I hope you all are blessed with the same.
I suppose you will look astonished when you see this letter for you, dated St. Helena. You will perceive by the date that we have had a long passage from Rangoon to this Island, that is the reason of our calling into this port. By having a long passage the consequences are, we are short of provisions. We call for a supply.
We are now out 85 days, this is longer than I was last year in the Bonita, from Boston to Batavia, or the passage from Batavia to Havre, the distance between the two places are nearly alike. When I left Rangoon I expected to have been very near Cowes now. I thought this passage would be no more than one hundred days. I think now she will be 120 or more. I was hoping to have been at home in August to help you hay, but that hope is vanished as the dew before the rising sun. You need not expect to see me before September, about the time you will be rafting home your salt hay &c.
I have written you two letters from Rangoon and hope you have received them. I wrote in Hong Kong and sent it by the Ship Lotus bound to New York, this was my last in that port. It has been two years this month since I left home for Calcutta as I then thought and hoped not be away from home over ten months but we went to Batavia thence to Hong Kong and from that port to Singapore, where we took up a Charter for Akyab to load with rice but there we were ordered to Rangoon, and in that port we received our load, and now we have got back as far as the only land that was ever capable of holding one of the greatest Generals that the world ever knew. Thus you will see we have had bad luck attending us this last eight or ten months.
It has been a very long time since I heard from you, it being the letter I received in China in last June just one year ago, dated March 28th. Many changes have taken place since then in Hampton, many have gone to the land of Spirits, and aught I know some one of our family, if not one of the family most likely someone may have died whom I held dear. But I hope this is not the case. I hope I shall have a letter in Cowes and then I shall almost fear to open it thinking it may contain that, I should not like to hear, such is the effect a letter has on me when far away, and long from home. I hope you will write me how you like your minister, Mr. Colby, and if he fills that place as well as Mr. Fay, &c.
Harrison & Morris have got to be quite large sons and of a great deal of help to you. And I hope they will not neglect to secure to themselves a good education, as that is the one thing that makes the man now a days, that is the thing that gives many such power, and places leader of such a government as our own. It is that, which places one man so far above an other. With a good education no person need ever suffer in a Country like our own. Would that I, when a school boy knew the worth of an education as I now do, I never should have let so many hours pass by me without improving them better, nor should I have recited so many imperfect lessons. In a few words of myselfe, Give me a good College Education as I now am, and I had rather have it than the best farm in Hampton. This may look rather ficticious to those who are attending school, but this is the view I take of the subject. Knowledge is Power. I hope Father if the boys wish for a good education, that you will let them have it by all means. You will please excuse me for not writing more but time failes me. You will please give my best respects to all my friends.
The Choir is as good as usual I hope especially with the Organ, I do want to get home to hear the Organ, and see the Church since your repairs. I think it must be splendid.
Please give my best respects to Deacon Knowles family & Jonathan P. Perkins & Wife & all those who are friends. I presume by this Nathaniel Johnson has his home complete and settled down a married man. My respects to Joseph and Nathaniel, their Wives, together with the old folks, Uncle & Aunt Johnson. As a member of the Choir, I also send my best respects to them, one & all hoping that they are now as when I was at home, the best Choir in town. I would like to step in among that noble body of Songsters every Sabbath and join my voice with theirs in those sacred songs. Never did I enjoy myselfe better when at home than I used to when I was found among that number. The time may come yet when I shall have that privilege again.
While I am writing this we are sailing along under the Island of St. Helena. As we shall probably stop but a day or so I cannot give you any description of the place as I should like to do. I hope you will excuse me for not writing more. Grandmother I would not forget, still when I speak of the family I mean all.
I will now draw this to a close by bidding you goodbye until we meet.
E. J. Hobbs
Daniel Hobbs, Esq.
Hampton, N. H. U. S. A.