Thomas Macky to his parents, John & Eliza MackyAuckland
October 20, 1850
My dear Father and Mother
I trust you will forgive me for my neglect of writing to you for such a long time but I have been so much tossed about that I always put off writing from time to time. I wrote to John and Kitty a short time since by way of Sydney. This letter goes by way of Valparaiso in the Oliver Cromwell which is a very speedy boat and should reach you I think long before this.
You will have heard before this reaches you of my having been at California but I will give you all the particulars about it.
I left this in November last in the barque Pilgrim. At that time everyone was mad about it. A great number went from this place but we have them nearly all back again. I think I mentioned in a letter to you before I left that James was building some houses to send there. I did not know at that time that I would require to go with them, but when Captain Pearse arrived here he had not room for anything so we had to charter a vessel and I to go in charge of the shipment. The part of the arrangement which I liked best was that I should go home and purchase goods with the proceeds of the shipment. However, it pleased the Lord to order it otherwise and I had nothing for it but to submit.
The heavy part of the shipment was house and sawn timber, which at one time were a very high price in California, but we were about two months too late.
When I arrived there on the 4th February they were fallen to a lower price than at Auckland in consequence of the immense quantities coming round from the Eastern States. The loss upon timber there has been fearful. Ships and cargoes sold at less than half what they cost-- the loss upon the houses and timber that we shipped was about £500, so I did not feel justified in going home until I would try and make up for it in some other way.
Many things pay exceedingly well, things that can be obtained cheap in New Zealand, as they do not grow anything there. Vegetables are a very high price. When I arrived there I wrote to James to ship lots of potatoes, onions, oats and barley and every kind of provision, which he did do and which paid a handsome profit. I sold potatoes there at 18 cents per lb down to 10 cents, oats and barley 9 cents per lb, onions 60 cents per lb. Potatoes keep very well to ship there. We put them in boxes of 1 cwt each. Onions required great care in the passage, but we had about 5 tons of good ones out of 7 tons. The cost in New Zealand is one penny per lb.
I was altogether five months in San Francisco and after selling everything I purchased a first rate barque there for James, on joint account with another merchant in Auckland, and started once more for Auckland. After winding up all the shipment there was a considerable gain by it. California will be a great benefit to New Zealand in giving it a good market for our produce, and next year I think there will be a good thing made out of it.
I arrived here on the 20th August after a most delightful passage of forty-seven days. The passage back is much more pleasant than going as you have a fine fair wind all the way and generally fine weather, and seeing islands very frequently, some of which are very beautiful. I assure you I was very glad to get back as California is about the most miserable place to live in that I know of. There is no comfort there of any kind. I did not sleep one night on shore all the time I was there as I much preferred sleeping on board of ship to sleeping in a room with about 50 or 100 stowed away in bunks four or five tiers high.
It certainly is a most extraordinary place, fearfully wicked. There is no restraint and the worst passions of men broke loose. Sunday there is like another day only rather worse spent, gambling houses better filled, shops open, and business going on the same as a week-day. When I left, the population of San Francisco and the towns up the river and the mines was fully 300,000 and in six months it will be greatly increased as thousands are still flocking to it. Not more than two years since, there was only a few scattered houses in all the places. Now towns have sprung up all over the country.
Such is the attraction gold has for all, yet thousands repent bitterly leaving happy homes to go to it. At the mines very many die and no one will do anything for you. On the other hand if you handle a lot of it you are in danger of being murdered.
However, bad as it is, I believe I am to pay another visit about January next with a cargo of potatoes, onions, and sundry other things which I think will pay well, and if God spares me and everything goes right I will be in Ireland in May or June, and trust we will have a happy and joyful meeting and that you will all come with me to New Zealand. You will never repent coming to this country. The more I see of it I like it the more.
I had only one letter from Kitty and one from William since I got back and all the letters that came when I was away James sent on to San Francisco but they did not arrive in time for me. Thanks be to God we are all well and happy. My aunt and Mr Baird like the country very well but they are writing by this opportunity and will give you all the news themselves. My aunt and the girls are still living in town, but Mr Baird and Sam are out getting the land ploughed and a house built. We were all out there one day. We had a very pleasant day, it put me in mind of a picnic at home. The place is about seven miles from Auckland and there is an excellent road all the way. It is very nicely situated and has the benefit of water carriage to Auckland as it is right on the banks of the River Tamaki, a small river which flows into the harbour of Auckland. The land is most excellent, and almost level. I wish you were all here now and had a farm alongside of it.
There is not much doing here, only we have had a terrible row in the church. Mr Panton goes home in the Oliver Cromwell. It is a long story, but the substance of it is that it has been all owing to a little bit of jealousy on the part of Mr Panton because the people made a present of £40 to a Mr Inglis, a Cameronian minister that preached once or twice in the church on his way to live in the New Hebrides. Mr Panton was much annoyed, suspended the elders and deacons and called a meeting of the congregation to let them know upon what terms alone he would preach to them. I was absent when all this took place but there have been several meetings since and the end of all is as being the only way to restore peace in the church, that Mr Panton go home. I have written to John to come out at once, which I hope he will. We have now a first rate church and with a good minister the congregation could be doubled.
James and the family are all well. He is still prospering. We do a very excellent business. He is now half owner of two fine barques, the Daniel Webster which I bought at San Francisco and the Helen S Page. He is much liked by everyone, indeed only too much as it sometimes leads him into too much company, but he is kind-hearted and affectionate. He had another addition to his family when I got back, another son. He always promises to write but puts off to the last moment. He says he will write a long letter home now.
John Thompson showed me a letter from his cousin Joseph. There was a good deal of news but not much of interest to me. He is going to stop out here. He is not very steady.
(NOTE: No ending-- apparently a manuscript copy)