Thomas Macky to Catherine Cochrane(Note: This is a manuscript copy)
September 5th, 1850
I received your kind epistle of March 10 days since, which is the first I have received from you, and believe me, my dear K it gave me no small pleasure. I am sure I have missed some of your letters as James sent all my letters on to San Francisco expecting they would find me there, but I left sooner than he expected and so missed the pleasure of reading your letters. My disappointment was greater too, because I was filling myself with the hope of having a great many letters to peruse on my return after being so long without hearing anything of my dear friends at home. However, your letter coming to hand a few days after I arrived made up in part for the disappointment.
I write as if you knew all about my being at San Francisco but I am not very certain that you did. However, I will explain and the explanation is the more required as I have been very very neglectful of writing to you or anyone at home, but believe me, you were never absent from my thoughts.
I left Auckland for San Francisco in November. At that time, California was all the rage here and over all the Colonies and many hundreds went there. It also caused a spirit of speculation to get up among the merchants and shipments of various articles were sent there. Timber (or, as the Yankees call it, lumber) was among the various articles that were bringing very high prices there. James got twenty wooden houses built and sent them along with a good quantity of wine, spirits, groceries, etc which I had to proceed to dispose of as part of the assignment, which you may be sure was most joyful to me. I was to proceed from San Francisco to England to invest the proceeds of the shipment in goods and to purchase a ship. So, I left full of hope of embracing my dear Kitty in about four months. However, it pleased the Lord to order it otherwise so I had nothing for it but wait.
When I arrived here on the 4th February the principal part of the shipment that I had, viz houses, was not worth near so much then as it cost in Auckland, from the immense quantities of lumber that arrived there from the States, so I had to store them and wait some time to sell them. As the loss upon them amounted to about £400, I felt bound to try and do something to make up the loss. There were many things that cost very little in New Zealand, that if I had had would have paid handsomely, so I wrote to James to send lots of potatoes, onions, oats and barley, hay and every description of agricultural produce.
A short time after I arrived another vessel arrived from Auckland in which James sent about two tons of potatoes just to try how they would do. I sold them for 18 cents per lb (9 pence per lb for potatoes). Well, through time a larger quantity arrived together with oats, barley, etc. I got about 70 tons of potatoes, 2,000 bushels of oats and barley and a quantity of small things. I sold all the potatoes from 9 pence to 4 pence per lb, oats and barley 4 pence per lb, and after five months' residence in San Francisco I got everything sold. I bought a first rate barque (500 tons bulk) and started for Auckland once more. After winding up everything I had made for them about £1,000.
Now my dear Kitty, you must forgive me for not writing to you for so long a time. With my first arrangements being frustrated I put off from time to time expecting to have something definite to write, and had to come back to Auckland with the vessel. However, I was very glad, I assure you, to leave San Francisco. It certainly is a fearfully wicked place and most miserably uncomfortable. I lived on board ship all the time I was there. However, it is worth going to see. There are about 700 ships laying in the harbour and every day the arrivals are from five to 50. I have seen 47 arrive in one day. The population when I left, of San Francisco and the town up the river, and the mines, was fully 300,000. Few years since there were not 10,000 in all the country. Such is the attraction gold has for all, and there is no greater proof of the insignificance of it, than that, in the land where it is most abundant and where it can be obtained plentifully for the digging, thousands die from starvation.
Oh, it is a very wicked place. You could not tell the Sabbath from a week day-- gambling houses filled full and bands of music, shops open and houses building, and everything resembling a little hell. They had two fearful fires in the city during the time I was there which consumed the greater part of it but in a short time it was all up again and everything going on as usual.
There are churches of every denomination. I joined with no particular one but went through them all. They were well attended, wicked as the place is. The climate is very inferior to New Zealand. I am now, thank God, in excellent health, enjoying the peace and quietness of Auckland after the bustle and confusion of California. The weather is most delightful and the country looking beautiful. Oh, that all my dear friends were here, all who are truly dear to me. I think more of New Zealand now than ever and would not exchange it for Ireland.
I found a fresh addition to James' family when I got back, another son. He is called Josiah-- a fine youth, and I was no little surprised to find my aunt here and married to Mr Baird. I had half hoped, though faintly, that my father and mother might have come out and that you would come along. However, I trust the time is not far distant when we shall meet again-- if the Lord wills I am to proceed once more to San Francisco about the first of January next with a cargo of potatoes and sundry other things, and if I am alive I will be in Ireland in May. Oh my dear Kitty, how I long to again meet you. May the God of Peace be with you and bless you with every blessing. If you were here for a short time you would not regret leaving Ireland. Not having seen any letter from home I have to pick up any news that I have been handed, but from what I have heard there must be many changes (what changes there are in the Diamond), but I trust God will order all things for good.
My aunt likes the country well. They have bought a farm of 150 acres within seven miles of Auckland. Mr Baird says the soil is first rate. They have lived in town since they arrived here but are building a house at their farm and will go out there soon. I write to John and father by this opportunity. I wrote to John to come out at once as there is now a good opening. Particulars in his letter.
Now my dear Kitty, may God bless you until we meet, which trust me (and I think I never said I would to see you that I did not) will not be longer than nine months from this time, and if it please the Lord to spare each of us to meet, nothing but death will induce me to again part from you. I will write to you by every opportunity, but do not expect long letters. I must conclude. With love to dear Rebecca, Ann and Sarah, and all.
Believe me, my own dear Kitty,
Your ever affectionate,