Wales of Old
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The Letters of James and Fanny EAMES
of Brynmawr, Breconshire
Letters, photograph and family details provided by Ruth Kelly of Lehi, Utah, USA
Ruth's story revolves around the letters written by her distant relative James EAMES and his wife Fanny to James's family in America. The letters provide fascinating evidence of life in industrial South Wales in the second half of the 19th century and help explain why so many from Wales chose to leave their homeland in the hope of finding a better life overseas.
James Eames, and his parents and siblings, originally lived in Herefordshire, but emigrated to America.
In 1872, James returned home to Britain on the steamship Wisconsin. In June 1872, shortly after his arrival, James wrote to his brothers Edwin and Henry in America, describing his journey from Missouri, USA, back to Herefordshire, England. Extracts from his letter are transcribed below:
I now endeavor to write you a few lines hoping it will find you both well. I have not been very well since I landed, I caught a violent cold. I have had a mighty bad cold but it is nearly well now — Thank God for it. I am here at Liz's mothers I came here on Monday night last. Her brother met me at Eardisley Station. I stayed with her nearly a week in Hereford at Mrs Price's. I accidentally met with her in the Market house. She had went from here that same day Wednesday. She is well and looks very well so now I think I had better not write any more backwards.
I shall commence at the other end of my journey and tell you of my journey through I started from Troy (Missouri) on Friday afternoon. I got to St Louis well, it was dark by the time I got off the train. Went by omnibus to the ticket office and purchased a ticket through to New York by way of Chicago on the Illinois Central Railroad. All passengers were taken over to the other side of the river to East St Louis by the same omnibus, on the steam ferry from thence to depot. There was no train leaving that night and by this time, it was getting late. Well, all passengers going that route had to stay until morning first train half past eight arrived at Chicago half past nine that night Saturday night. Then there was no train leaving there for New York until Sunday evening 15 minutes past five o'clock........
.......I started on the Michigan Central Railroad which runs along the edge of the lake perhaps 70 or 80 miles or less reached Lake Erie on Monday morning, crossed it on the steam ferry in the cars, and reached Niagara Falls about 12 o'clock. Stopped 20 minutes for dinner and passed slowly over the Suspension Bridge. It is a beautiful scene. Reached New Jersey Tuesday morning 7 o'clock. Crossed over to New York until Wednesday at 12 o'clock, had everything by this time. Came by steam ship "Wisconsin" on the Guion Line. She arrived at Queenstown Saturday evening just at dark. We had a view of the Irish Coast about 12 o'clock. Well, we reached Liverpool the next evening but could not cross the bar until the tide rose again. Well, she come in docks at 12 o'clock in the night we could not leave the ship until 8 or 9 o'clock. Started raining from 2 to 5 that evening. Well, it rained on Tuesday morning I walked about Hereford and got a little wet from which I think I caught cold. I was heartsick nearly half the way. It was very disagreeable. My ticket from St. Louis to New York cost $22.25; from New York to Liverpool $30, from Liverpool to Hereford 9 shillings, from Troy to St Louis $3.50. I did not keep a correct account of other expenses. There has been a great amount of wet weather here. It has been a fine week since I came. People have been busy cutting clover and hay.
By the following year, James had moved from Herefordshire across the border into Wales in order to find work. In April 1873 he wrote from Beaufort near Ebbw Vale to his brother Edwin in America:
I now take the opportunity to answer your kind and welcome letter, which I received two weeks ago. I was very glad to hear from you You said I had not wrote to you since I came home but I have. I wrote all the letters to Henry (Eames) and you, and thought you would see them. Believe me just the same as if I had wrote to you alone but if you want to hear from me alone, I shall write to you hoping it will find you and Henry well as it leaves me. At present only I have a little toothache.
I came up here to try the works a little as I have not settled myself in anything to suit me yet. Perhaps, I shall try some little business up here after a little while if the works keep on favorable. As they have now started again after a long strike since Christmas. Really, all the works of South Wales have been stopped 70,000 hands have been out of employment but now they seem to be all started again. I can get 4 shillings per day here now and work 7 turns a week and the chance of making extra. Lizzie's brother James Davis is here with me. He is well and Liz when I head from her only she has the toothache very bad sometimes. Mrs Davis was pretty well. Liz is at home with her where I have made my home since I came back. Liz and me thought to have got to ourselves before now but our luck has not been for us to be so yet. I would like to get what little money is coming to me and that with what we can muster up here, will start us pretty well. Thought sure Henry would have been able to send me some more before this time but I suppose times is no better than when I left. I was working down close to home when your letter came. Liz read it to me when I came home to supper. She said she was going to write to you soon.
I have some little news to tell you. Ann Jenkins was married on Saturday last to a young man by the name of Thomas Probert, a brother to young James Pugh's wife. He is about 21, tolerable steady young man I believe. They are staying with James Pugh. Ann has been keeping house for James since his wife died. James is doing very well. Ann is going to write to you. I was to remember her to you. James has been working at one of the blast furnaces as a filler here at Beaufort since we left. He has been making from 30 to 45 shillings per week according to how many tons of iron was run out of the furnace. His pay was by the ton.
James worked at the ironworks in Beaufort, only 15 miles from his original home in Michaelchurch Eskley in Herefordshire. He had originally planned to return to America after his visit but found that he could make his fortune in Wales.
In June 1876 James wrote from Ebbw Vale to his brother Edwin Eames in Missouri:
You will think I have quite forgotten you not answering your letter sooner but better late than never. I suppose I received your letter on March 30 and was very glad to hear from you and that all things are quite satisfactory so far. I wrote an answer to your letter soon but never posted it. I did not have it to post and I have kept putting it off until now.
I hope you have enjoyed good health and I have since you heard from me; thank God for it. I was very glad to hear that all the folks were well there with you and also the relatives many miles from you. Please remember me to them all and tell them that I am enjoying myself first class. I have my good health and I am not working hard. I am taking things quite comfortable. I am working at the same place but I am not living at the same place. I am now boarding at James Pugh's. He has moved to one of his new houses, which is near where we work. He is married again to Miss Mary Moore, you recollect her do you not? So I have a very comfortable home only us three in the family but I don't know how long I may stay here if I see a chance of bettering myself.
I had a letter from Emily Powell last week. They were all well and sends their regards to you. John Jenkins and family are all moved to Cardiff from Tredegar, Wales. Ann is left a widow with two little girls since last March. She was here at James Pugh's last week she was well. James Pugh's father and mother are pretty well at present. They live in Beaufort, yet I have not heard much from Michaelchurch.
Isaac Phillips is still at the Rhydybach and I heard that he had the place where his Uncle Richard Moss had. He, Richard Moss, sold off and went to New Zealand and is doing well. Ann Pugh is living as a housekeeper at Llanrossor, Michaelchurch. Now she was at the Quakers last year with the Morrises that used to live there.
Well, the weather is beautiful here now for haymaking. There is a great deal commenced about Abergavenny. The crops are fair, I believe, considering a late cold spring. The winter was very long and severe. Trade is very slack in the iron and coal all the time. Well, I have not much news for you.
On 18th April 1877, James married Fanny Castle WORNALL in Beaufort. Fanny was then 20 years old and James was a 28. He was a stonemason by trade, as were his father and grandfather. Fanny did not want to leave Wales because of her parents so she and James stayed to raise their family in Wales. James and Fanny's first child John Richard Eames was born on 24th June 1878. They were then living at 116 Worcester Street East, Brynmawr, Breconshire.
The photograph (right), taken in Brynmawr, shows James EAMES and his wife Fanny Castle WORNAL. Fanny is holding their son John Richard which dates the photograph at early 1879.
In June 1879, James and Fanny wrote to James's brother and sister in America. The full text of the letter follows below, including scans of the opening and closing lines of the original letter:
June 24th 1879.
Dear Brother & Sister,
We now endeavour to write a few lines to you again hoping it will find you in good health as it leaves us. At present we have been waiting a long time for a letter and your photograph. We now send ours again and our dear son who is this day one year old, it being mid summer day. He is a fine good-tempered little fellow. He has been little trouble to us as regards sickness and of course, I need not tell you that he is the best boy in this town. We take for granted that your leisurely breaks are filled up playing with either son or daughter by this time.
Our son's name is John Richard Eames. I want to bring him out to America. I do not see any chance of getting along as I wish to here, the depressed state of trade which still exists in this country which hinders working men rising little above the state of existence. There are great numbers emigrating to America and different parts of the globe. They are tired of waiting for better times here and so am I.
As soon as my wife is willing, I shall cross the
Atlantic but she does not like to leave her parents who live next door to us and she never lived anywhere from home till we were married so such cases makes hard partings. Her parents are natives of Beaufort. Her father is a Minister with the Calvinistic Methodist Church. He has acquired the Welsh Language in which he preaches and most frequent since he came here to Wales.
Well, I hope that you are enjoying good harvest weather. We have had a long and hard winter here, very much snow & frost. We have had much rain lately, crops look more flourishing than we expected but late. I thought of going down in the country this week. I have not heard from nor seen any of the country folks since I wrote to you last. We have been putting off writing from one time to another waiting for a convenient time to have one likeness taken one thing or the other coming in the way. I hope we shall get yours soon. We were very glad to hear that you were getting on so well and to hear from all the rest of the folks out there. Please remember me to all in going friends. Please do not delay writing as we have this time. We were delighted to hear from you so soon and send likenesses. We will try and write a little often for the future. We are still in the same place.
Well, dear brother & sister I think that I have no more particular at present as my wife will write a little to accompany this. To all Conclude with kindest regards to you both
from your Brother & Sister
James & Fanny C. Eames
The 1881 census shows James and Fanny Eames and their family living next door to Fanny's parents in Worcester Street East, Brynmawr. As well as a son (John Richard), James and Fanny had a daughter Rachel born early in 1881, but she died in childhood. They then had a second daughter, Nellie (after the 1881 census). The census details are set out below.
|116 Worcester St East, Brynmawr, Llanelly, Breconshire|
|NAME and Surname of|
Head of Family
|Rank, Profession, or OCCUPATION||WHERE BORN
|James Eames||Head||M||32||Mason at coal works||Garway, Herefordshire
|Fanny C. Eames||Wife||M||24||Wife||Beaufort, Brecknock
|John R. Eames||Son|| ||2|| ||Brynmawr, Brecknock
|Rachel A. Eames||Daur|| ||1 m|| ||Brynmawr, Brecknock
|115 Worcester St East, Brynmawr, Llanelly, Breconshire|
|NAME and Surname of|
Head of Family
|Rank, Profession, or OCCUPATION||WHERE BORN
|Richard Wornall||Head||M||63||Clerk & Calvinistic Methodist Minister||Risington, Gloucestershire
|Rachel Wornall||Wife||M||55||Wife||Blenheim, Oxfordshire
|Henclys Wornall||Son||U||17||Fitter (eng) (out of employ)||Beaufort, Brecknock
James Eames died on 7th April 1883 in Brynmawr with a ruptured blood vessel in his lungs. He was 35 years old. Two months later, his widow, Fanny, wrote this touching letter to Edwin and Cora Eames in Missouri.
115 Worcester St East
June 12, 1883
My Dear Brother & Sister,
I cannot tell you with what joy I received your kind letter on the 28th of May last and also on June 8th. I can assure you it was highly appreciated to think that you should send assistance such a number of miles to a person you never saw but you have the same mind as my dear husband. Oh, if he could but know what care is taken of me and his dear children whom he was so widely passionately fond of. It seems such a long time for me but he is forever out of my sight. What a cruel thing is death; it steals into all classes but whoever it goes, it casts a gloom for many a long weary month.
Jonny does not talk much of his Dada now but he was for a long time asking when it would be Saturday for the funeral or come and fetch his Dada back to have supper. It was very hard to make him believe he never would see him again, but I told him one day he never would. And he only said, "Oh, well then, Mama, I will be your Daddy now and work like he did and give you all the money like him and all". So you see, he is a little Eames in nature. He is a very bright youth and goes to school regular. James used to say he would make a clever man for his Dada & I think he will but his poor little father will not have to see it.
My Dear Brother I would have written to you before but the money order was made payable at New York instead of Brynmawr. So we had to send it to London and they returned it to Brynmawr Post Office and I received the £2 — 1s — 1d this morning for which we all return our sincere thanks to you and your dear wife. I should be so glad to receive your photo. You mentioned in your kind letter about making a home for me and my family with you in America. I am sure it is very kind of you really, but my dear parents would feel it very acutely, to part with me and especially the little ones. I have always lived next door to them and was never from home only to have a change of air in the summer times so you.......
Unfortunately, the last part of Fanny's letter is missing.
Fanny was widowed at 27. She later married Mr Jenner who helped raise John and Nellie Eames. Fanny had eleven children by her second husband.
James and Fanny's son John Richard was in the Boer War in South Africa but had returned to England by June 1899 when he married just after his 21st birthday, and had two children. He lived in Brynmawr and in 1907 became a local preacher. Nellie Eames married a Mr Davies on 23rd July 1904 and had three daughters. Her husband was an ambulance man. They lived in Beaufort where her mother's family had lived.
Ruth has other letters which refer to her extended family in Wales. The following are parts of letters written by Edwin Eames to members of his family in America:
10th December 1899
........ I want you to instruct L. Henry to come this way on his return from Old England as I would like to see him also, I would like while he is in England to go to Brynmawr and look after Bro. James two children. I am of the opinion that John R. Eames is over in Africa as a British soldier fighting the Boers and he may be one of the many slain in that terrible struggle. I have not heard from him recently.
Did you receive the photos I sent to you last winter? You never stated in your letters I sent four. If I remember correctly, one of J. R. Eames photo. Since I began this letter, I received a letter from JRE [John Richard Eames] and was very glad to hear from him. He stated he was married and was living at Brynmawr and Nellie was in Cardiff. He had given up the life of a soldier for some time. He married a short time after he became 21. I would like to see those children come to America.........
............May God be with you till we meet is my prayer.
As ever E.S. Eames
A merry Christmas to you and a happy new year to you all.
........ Just received a letter from Nellie Eames. She is now about 18 and a very nice looking girl. She also sent her photo. She looks like my youngest girl very much. John R. Eames had a long spell of typhoid fever but is well again. He failed to come to USA last summer — lack of ample means I suppose was the reason. I think they will come before many years.
Well, Sarah I have passed the half-century milestone in my life and you almost 54, and I hope you are feeling much better than when you wrote last.
May God be with you till we meet is the prayer of your devoted Bro & Sister
E.S. & Cora Eames
........ We also received a letter from Nellie Davis. They were all well living at Beaufort yet. Jack or John E. has been studying for the ministry in the Baptist faith..........
........ Brother James [Eames] maiden name was Fanny Castle Wornall. Three children were born to them, 2 of whom are living. John R. and Nellie, both married and have families. They live in Beaufort. Fanny married again, a Mr. Jenner of Beaufort. To them were born 13 children, 11 of whom are living. Fanny died about 3 years ago. She was a very good woman from the acquaintance I had in correspondence with her, a loving and sacrificing mother. Her trials in life were no doubt many. She was about 54 or 55 when she died..........
Ruth concludes, "I know from the letters that there were other pictures sent from Wales but we have no idea if they survived or who in the family has them. Our extended Eames family now is so large that a cousin in the family could have these pictures but who knows?"
Many thanks to Ruth Kelly for allowing me to use her family letters and photograph.
If you think you are connected to the EAMES family, or have further information, please send Ruth an e-mail.