An IRISH Emigrant's
Letter Home to Ireland
from the Pacific Northwest
in 1883

More than one and a quarter centuries ago, in January 1883, an Irish immigrant named John F Costello, the grandfather of Irish Heritage Club members John and Leo Costello, wrote a letter from the Seattle area back to his family in Croagh, Co. Limerick, Ireland. Following are excerpts from that letter transcribed exactly as written. These are excerpts only with much of the original letter ommitted.
Please Note: The 'Mr. P Hayes' (return address) was an uncle of the letter writer and owned the farm where Costello was living. The letters 'JFC' are the initials of the letter writer, and by putting them following the name and address, serve to indicate that the nephew's mailing address is c/o of the uncle. 'WT' is the then Washington Territory; '10d' means 10 pence, 'William Power' probably refers to the owner of Powers Irish Whiskey; and 'Meade & Fitzgerald' were probably landlords in the Croagh, Co. Limerick, area.
Joseph J. Cahill, a son of the 'J Cahill' mentioned in the letter as going to Australia,
served as Premier of the Australian State of New South Wales from 1952 to 1959.


Mr P Hayes JFC
White River Valley
King County WT
January 11th '83

Dear Father Mother Sister and Brothers,
I once more take the opportunity of addressing ye a few lines from the far and distant shores of Puget Sound hoping they will find ye and uncle & family in as good health as I am at present. I expect ye are of the opinion by this time that I never did intend to write again to ye but I hope ye will excuse my laziness and I promise to be a better boy for the future even if I don't write very often. It's often l think of ye & Cousins & Uncle and all my old Companions. To speak in truth, my last thought going to bed at night and first arising in the morning are of home. The thoughts of it everlastingly haunts my mind.

I often think if I were back in the Atlantic States I would be home to ye every Christmas, but we are so far West here that if we attempted to go any further we would walk into the Pacific Ocean. Its often I laugh when I think about school at home when James McDonnell used to ask me point out Vancouvers Island for him, I told Mike the day I landed here. If he were out here now I could lay his hand on it. But at one time it was my last thought I would ever see such places as I have seen.

But then I still think I am in as good a country as there is in the world today for a poor man. The majority of what men is in the country have risen from their own industry. Any man here that will work and save his earnings, and make use of his brains can grow rich. This was one extraordinary good year that's past, on all kinds of work in general but especially hop raisers & loggers. Hops were ($1) one dollar per pound my Uncle has 17 tons. He sold some for 60 cents, and holds 8 tons unsold. Yet his brotherin law John Burns; sold 12 tons at $1 per pound in San Francisco.

Burns is a man that worked many a day for 8 and 10d in Ireland and he is worth more than William Power today. He has 9 men working for him; and paying them upwards of 30 dollars a month per man: and they are not starved with the hunger like half the Gentlemen to home. There are no Gentlemen here. If a farmer in Ireland made 3 or 4 thousand dollars in a year you couldn't walk the road with them. You would have to go inside the fence or they would ride over you.

I would like to know what the boys about to be wasting their time around Croagh. They have nothing to do there but to go to work for somebody; and sooner then I would work for a farmer in Ireland, I would cut off my good right hand. I don't think little of Ireland by talking so, for its the dearest spot upon the earth to me,

For as true as the needle by magnet love lead
My sad heart points faithfully back to Ireland
In vain all the charms of creation may woo
While away from thy shores,
Oh my sweet sainted sireland

There is one thing certain if they ever do come out here. For many a long month they will wish they stopped at home. But home sickness is something that's natural. I often get a relapse of it but somehow there seems to be no cure only to stand it. I often thinks that I would give $200 for to be at home again for the short space of one day. But when you cannot have what you like, you must learn to like what you have. I have seen fellows here who have been back 4 times to Ireland and still intend to be buried there. I am sure I don't know where I will be buried though neither do it bother me any yet. I suppose the greater portion of the boys around Croagh are all leaving there.

I heard that John Hayes & J. Cahill went to Australia. I think this is a better Country than Australia. I wish ye would send me their addresses if possible. I also understand that Jas. Hogan with others intended to go to Australia. I don't see why they wouldnt come out here. Wages is good, work and Land plenty but a wild looking Country, all woods, trees: Some of them I have seen 14 and 15 feet in diameter. If that was in Croagh the people would class it one of the seven wonders of world.

I would leave but account of the wages. Then I am getting the highest wages paid on a ranch. The only dislike I have is the hours are so long. In the morning now I do be up and have 50 head of cattle, pair of horses fed 6 cows milked and breakfast and then it is not day. There are none but Mike and I working here now during the winter. He is in town for the last few days. I do be cutting cord wood all alone by myself in the woods during the day. Often I sits down and think of everybody I wished well to home. Indeed I do be thinking of ye when ye don't least expect it. I felt kind of forlorn all last summer. Not a letter did I get from anybody belong to me. But I have made up my mind that it won't be my fault or they will write next year.

When Sunday comes takes a rifle or shotgun, go out to hunting. Wild animals of all description abound here. And as for wild ducks they are as thick as the cows to home. Also pheasants grouse you can take your gun, or four if you want to, and nobody will ask where is your license. All you went is money enough to buy a gun. To sum all up this is a free Country. If they see such men as Meade Fitzgerald here they would tie them and drown them in the river.

I must conclude by wishing ye & Cousin & Uncle a fond adieu.

Respectfully yours

J F Costello


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