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.
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.
Dear Father Mother Sister and Brothers,
Mr P Hayes JFC
White River Valley
King County WT
January 11th '83
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
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
For as true as the needle by magnet love
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
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.
J F Costello
IRISH HERITAGE CLUB