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An 1840 Letter to "My Dear Mamma" in Ireland

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

This is a stampless folded letter from 1840 that was sent from Niles, Michigan, which is about 20 miles north of South Bend, Indiana, to Lurgan, Ireland – or Northern Ireland today – about 23 miles southwest of Belfast. This letter had an interesting journey, which is told by the various postal markings.

The letter is dated April 11, 1840. It was sent "Post Paid" on April 12, 1840, from the Dover, Michigan post office in Milton Township, about 6 miles southeast of Niles, to New York City. The going postal rate in 1840 for a letter weighing an ounce or less and traveling more than 400 miles was 25-cents. The letter arrived in New York City on April 22, 1840, as shown by the circular date stamp on the front of the letter.

The letter was then placed on a ship that was bound for Waterford, Ireland, a port on the southern coast. When the letter became shipbound, what ship it sailed on, and whether Waterford was the ship’s original and sole destination are all unknown. The letter did arrive in Waterford on May 20, 1840, as evidenced by the circular date stamp on the back. Also note the “WATERFORD/SHIP LETTER” stamp on the front of the folded letter.

After nearly a month-long journey across the Atlantic Ocean, the letter rapidly proceeded to its destination. It arrived in Dublin, 103 miles north of Waterford, on May 21, 1840, as indicated by the diamond-shaped postmark on the back. On May 22, 1840, it arrived in Lurgan, 91 miles north of Dublin. That circular date stamp is also on the back of the folder letter. You can clearly make out the “GAN” of Lurgan.

I have not been able to discover much about the writer and the recipient of the letter. The recipient was a “Mrs. Richardson” who lived in “Springfield,” which I assume was a district or location within or near “Lurgan, Ireland.”

Based on the letter’s salutation – “My Dear Mamma” – she must have been the mother of the letter writer. Unfortunately, the letter writer’s name has been cut out of the letter, but I assume the writer was Mrs. Richardson’s son. He must have emigrated to the US sometime before 1840. From the letter, he owned farmland in Michigan but intended to go into some unspecified business, was well traveled, had been sick off and on with “fever and ague,” and looked forward to the possible arrival of a friend from Springfield by the name of “Jeremiah (?) Lawther.” He also longed to visit Springfield if “only for a few months in winter.”

I wonder if the writer ever connected with his friend and if he ever had the chance to visit his mother in Ireland.

Acquired at Vance Auctions on May 18, 2022, for C$500.00 or about $362.00 as of October 2022.

Figure 1- Front

Figure 2 - Back

Figure 3- Page 1 of letter

Figure 4 - Page2 of letter

Figure 5 - Page 3 of letter

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