This continues the series of letters written home to Wales, from America, by Phillip Griffiths – they have been contributed by Rhyl History Club member, Maggi Blythin.
As a reminder Maggi writes:
My great grandfather, Griffith Griffiths, moved to Rhyl in 1900. He farmed at Trellewelyn Farm and his youngest son Edward Herbert took over from him. Griffith had 3 brothers and 4 sisters. One of his older brothers, Edward, had a Poultry and Greengrocery business in Rhyl for many years, but, prior to this he travelled to America with the eldest brother Philip.
May 2 1871
I am availing myself of the privilege to send you a few lines hoping you are well like myself at present. I received John’s letter yesterday, Sunday April 30th. I see that he has written since 20th March therefore it has been long on the road and he has been long writing and because of one thing and another he has rather upset my plans. If he had answered as soon as he received my letter I would have had two or three weeks warning to go to Chicago because all the money we have is in the bank there and we are over 800 miles from there. He sent to say he would like £20 but as we have had no warning it is impossible for us to do so but we will do our best here in the face of our circumstances. We are sending 80 dollars which is about £15. Watch for the post there. The draft will be there within 3 or 4 days of this letter. I am sending by the first mail boat which comes here to New Orleans and as soon as you get the draft the money will be available in the bank in Ruthin. But I would like to hear rorm you as soon as possible because we are leaving the South here for the North and if there is some trouble with the draft we want to make everything right before we leave here and let us know when John will be starting so I can be in Chicago to meet him. Tell him to come straight to 213, Mitchell Street, Chicago and we will be there to meet him. I think we are sending plenty of money for him to come to Chicago at least, and if the fare will not be dearer than it was when we came out he will be alright.
It would be quite nice to have the company of Thomas Williams Fawnog because he has been before, but if he has left already don’t break your heart, be brave, you will be alright. You have plenty of English which is of great value in this country. You will get on quickly, but you must be sharp. Don’t heed what anybody says to you in Liverpool nor in New York. There will be many who will want to marry you, but don’t listen to anyone, go forward like a bull, do everything you are instructed. Go to James Sam in Liverpool and tell him that we have advised you to go to him and that you want him to book you on one of the best steamers to New York.
If you can get on the City of Paris or the City of London – that is the one by which we came, and tell him that you want him to go with you on the ship in time to get a comfortable place as he did with us. You will get a receipt for your box from one of them. Keep that in your pocket and be careful not to lose it and be very careful with your money. If you happen to be a bit sea-sick don’t mind, you will be healthier after the crossing. I was a bit sea-sick, but not much. You will have forgotten all about it by the time you reach New York and ask Mam to give you some oatcake and butter. That is all you will need. What we had helped greatly. And if you can get a bottle of brandy or some other liquor and keep everything of that sort near at hand. Don’t put them in your box because they might put your box in the bottom of the ship where you can’t get them out. Try to get your box under your bed, you will get help I know to carry it.
When you come to New York you will go from the ship to a large shed. If your box is under the bed take it out to the shed. If your box is at the bottom of the ship go out and watch them unloading and pick your box and open it. There is a man who looks at everything that is inside it. After he has looked at it remember to keep the receipt you have had for it in Liverpool in your pocket and follow the passengers. Perhaps you will be coming in a little boat across the river. Then you will come to a large place – Castle Garden they call it. There will be a man in a sort of pulpit. calling names. Don’t take any notice of him. And there will be another asking your name and your age and where you want to go. If he should want to book you to Chicago tell him that you don’t want him to do so. When they let you out into the street and if someone tells you that they know the best way to Chicago don’t heed them, go forward like a lion, listen as you walk along the street for someone speaking in Welsh. There are Welshmen waiting for every ship. Go to them and ask them. But if you don’t happen to see a Welshman ask the policeman to show you the Temperance Hall, 405 Greenwich Street. John W. Jones is the name of the man there. Go there or the Cariboo Hotel, 212, Fulton Street. Michael Jones is the name of the man there. But whichever you go to say that we advised you and you want him to book you to Chicago and exchange as much money as will be necessary to pay for lodgings. It would be better for you to stay with him a day or two, then you will be able to see a little of the town and tell one or two you will be staying with in New York that you want to go to Chicago with the express train so that you will be there in less than two days and two nights. The train runs day and night. Start from New York in the evening so that you will be in Chicago in the morning.Give the receipt that you have for your box to the man who you are staying with in New York.. He will go to the ship to fetch your box and take it to the station. They will give you a receipt for your box in the station. Keep that until you come to the house in Chicago. You had better buy some food in New York for you to have on the train. It will stop three times in a day 25 minutes for you to get food. There will be a conductor coming along the rain to collect tickets and ask him quite often when it will be necessary for you to change the train for Chicago. You will have to change trains once or twice and that may be at night. You don’t have to worry about your box, keep the receipt you will have had for it, they will move it and as soon as you reach Chicago ask for 213 Mitchell Street. There is no danger of you missing it, you will come there quite easily.
I gather from your letter that you have had good instructions by someone and by ourselves so you should reach here comfortably.”
Below is only part of the fifth letter – the rest was lost. It is not clear to which of his four sisters he was writing, it is beautifully written and so sad. It was the last letter that they received from him as he died in November 1871.
“It is a fine Sunday and I am like an exile in a foreign country without a friend or acquaintance to go and visit. There are two services in the chapel and those of the worst you have ever heard. I have a longing for chapels full of ordinary people and the matchless services in Liverpool. If I had two wings I would fly there this minute. Don’t be surprised if you see me soon. But I won’t run down this country too much yet before I see a little more.
Those here who know you wish to be remembered to you very kindly – Thomas Williams, Thomas Jones and R. Williams. He too is living here, but he too does not like it half as much as the old country.
I am going to ask you one favour, that is, will you send me an occasional newspaper to pass the time in my misery and an occasional Welsh paper with a penny stamp like on letters in the old country, but if you should send two at the same time you have to put two penny stamps on them.
I now conclude, sending my kindest regards from your true brother