Letter from Ireland, 22 February 1850

The following is a transcription of a letter (including spelling) from Sophia Proud to her daughter, Eliza Pidgeon, wife of Nathaniel Pidgeon. It was post dated Enniscorthy, February 22, 1850 and over-stamped three times on February 23, 25 and lastly the 29th in London. No envelope; just two sheets of notepaper folded inwards and sealed with sealing wax and another stamp; JU = 1850 Ship (unintelligible)

Background Note: Sophia Proud (nee Koehler) was the mother of Eliza Proud (24/7/1822-30/6/1902). Eliza married Nathaniel Pidgeon (16/8/1803-17/2/1879) on 24 July, 1839 at St Mary’s, Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland. Nathaniel, Eliza and their five month old son, Richard William Pidgeon (8/1840-1890) along with 13 other family members emigrated to Sydney, N.S.W,, Australia departing Liverpool on 6 January, 1841 on board the Orestes, arriving Sydney, 14 May, 1841.

Subsequent research has revealed that Sophia, her husband William Proud, son William Koehler Proud and daughter Sophia Proud migrated to New York in June 1850 aboard the ship London.  It is highly doubtful Sophia ever saw her daughter, Eliza or grandchild Richard again. Eliza and Nathaniel went on to have eight further children. One died at age two and their last died at age 6 weeks


Mr Nathaniel Pidgeon, Cabinet Maker,
Care of Sidney Post Office, New South Wales
Feby 22 1850

Dearest Eliza,

We received your letter with the power of attorney on the 31st of January at which we were all pretty delighted. I should have answered it sooner but I have been very ill the last three weeks and had to keep my bed for six days but thank God I am now well. I wrote to you last August which letter I hope you received. I promised then to write soon again but in September your dear father got a very bad finger which at one time was so bad that we were apprehensive of mortification. It turned out to be a felon on the middle finger of his right hand so that for three months he was quite unable to dress or undress himself and if it was not for the good care he got his constitution would have sunk under it but he is now thank God quite well with the top of one joint but is not able to do anything yet. This is my reason for not writing according to my promise that time.

I told you in my last that your Uncle James went to America last May and that if we sold my share of the property we intended to follow him but it appears to me providence has ordered it otherwise for after we got an offer and accepted of it and went so far as to send up the papers to a solicitor in Dublin to have it all settled the person went back of his proposal without giving any reason for doing so. We even left the papers in Dublin for several months after expecting to get another offer but got none so I withdrew the papers. I am quite determined to try what providence will put in our way and see if we got a reasonable offer for all our shares together in which case we are determined to go to Sidney but I know it will take some time to accomplish as money is so very scarce in Ireland it is almost impossible to sell any property especially house property so that like yourself I fear the indulging the thoughts of our meeting again least I might be disappointed tho I sometimes think providence is sparing me for your sake and in answer to your prayers we are all in good health at present although many are falling on our right and left. Your Aunt Fanny is living here again with Richard. Isabella has come to live here again. She has one son lately and one daughter alive. Frances is settled for life in Wexford. She is as comfortable as she need wish and has a small family of two boys and two girls. She has had eight in all. We had two letters from Uncle James. He gives no great encouragement to go to America however we will do all we can to go to Sidney. Willy is wishing of all things he says to be in partnership with Nat but he says if we cannot go to you that he will try to get to America if possible without selling the property but I would much rather sell and go to you. I sometimes think I would be satisfied if I could just get out and leave my children altogether and see you settled that I could then say Lord none latest this servant depart in peace for my eyes have seen thy salvation but the Lord knows what is best. Ah may he open our providential way and may I be enabled to say not my will but thine be done. Tell Nat that Jim Bolger is still living. I heard him some time back pray in the Chapel. John Butan (Britain?) died of cholera last month so that all the old members except Jim James are gone. There is no one to ring on the claxon now but him and Uncle Goodwin a most miserable society now and very poor congregation. I am not pleased with Nat that he wont write a few lines to Willy or some of us.

I have no strange news only the country is in a state of bankruptcy with poor, etc and no employment for the people but there is a great alteration in provisions within the last three months. We have now (as long as it lasts) ? lb 12 oz best ? bread for 6 pence yet poverty and starvation is going on to a great extent. Thank God we have had our bread and water sure to the present. Willy has been kept in work all the winter at 9 shillings a week but no other earning coming in only what Mary can give us. The property is going to pay debts and house rent, taxes, etc but I expect after this summer we will be out of debt and if we cant get out to you I will be able then to send you something which I intend doing if the Lord spares me and leaves my family free of those trying calamities which we have been going through in past years. May the blessing of heaven descend on both of you and the dear children. My heart goes to …. Oh may the Lord grant I may yet clasp them to my bosom. Father, Brother, Sisters and all friends join me in love to you, Nat and the dear boys wishing you long life and happiness. I am your ever affect mother.

Sophia Proud

(and at end a special letter to Richard)


My Dear Grandson Richard,

Enclosed I send you bit of your Grandpaps and your Irish Grandmama’s hair (as you were pleased to call me). You may kiss it and keep it for my sake and when you look at it think of what I am going to say to you. I am glad to hear you are growing a fine boy and I hope you will grow to a finer man, be very dutiful to your parents and be very loving to your brothers and pray to God daily to bless you and make you a blessing to all your relations and dot forget to pray to God for your Grandmama and if it is His will to bring her out safe to Sidney and then we will have some chat together about old Ireland. I expect you will now be able to write me a letter as I suppose you are going to school. Give a kiss to Papa and Mama and to each of your brothers for me. I will you off with kisses when I see you. May God bless you is the constant prayer of your loving and affectionate Grandmama.

Sophia Proud

Tell Mr James that his family are all well.

Sophia Proud (nee Koehler), most likely in New York, c.1850s











Thirza Pidgeon’s 1937 World Tour – 19 September: Philadelphia, 91 miles from New York

Sunday, 19 September 1937

91 miles from New York

Left Empire Hotel N.York at 8. Through the Holland Tunnel, under the Hudson R. Came along and struck some heavy rain. Scenery poor coming along, until just before we got into Philadelphia. Drove through lovely avenue of trees for miles & miles, very fine. And nice homes, nothing palatial. Arrived at [Parker] Spruce Hotel [apparently now a dump – see a documentary about the hotel], about 1. Had lunch, then walked around the town, took bus out to Frankford, very nice suburb. Got back had tea at the automat, came back early & bed.


Thirza Pidgeon’s 1937 World Tour – 16 September: Coney Island, New York

Thursday, 16 September 1937

Caught boat for Coney Island 25 c each. Passed statue of Liberty: took 1 ½  hours by boat, a very large place of amusement. Side shows of every description, wonderful lighting effects. After spending some hours went back by train, very tired.

New York; 15-18 Sep 1937
New York waterfront taken from the Coney Island boat; 16 September 1937
Coney Island, New York; 16 Sep 1937
Florence Spriggins (left) and Thirza Pidgeon at Coney Island, New York; 16 September 1937

Thirza Pidgeon’s 1937 World Tour – 15 September: New York City sightseeing

Wednesday, 15 September 1937

Fine day. We walked around town, had lunch, then took coach to see N.Y., 3 ½ hours. Cost 10 / – 2 ½ $. Went to Grant’s Tomb on Riverside Drive, Rockefeller’s monies? (indecipherable) Church [Riverside Church, built by Rockefeller], fine building, also on the Drive. Passed all the notable buildings, Chrysler, and Empire building (stories 102 high) being the tallest. Then did the lower town, and the commercial, Wall St, etc, some marvelous buildings, Statue of Liberty, miles along the water front, and China Town, Jass House [James House Mansion], and Mission House, that was once an opium den. 300,000 coons [sic] here in N.Y. and 200,000 in Harlem City, Bowery, plenty of night clubs & Radio City.

Thirza Pidgeon’s 1937 World Tour – 13 September: A wet day at the pictures

Wrote letters

Monday, 13 September 1937

A very wet day, pouring so went to 2 pictures shows. Colbert in I met him in Paris and it was still very wet so went to Jean Harlow in Saratoga. Enjoyed both of them. Both shows cost 10 c each. Had hamburgers in the show. Later Floss went to the shops to get some food, and got lost for 2 hours, at last she got back when we had tea. Went to bed early, very wet and miserable.

Thirza Pidgeon’s 1937 World Tour – 12 September: Arrive in New York city

Sunday, 12 September 1937

Started off on our 250 mile trip to N. York, left the camp about 8.30, lovely driving, pulled up for lunch on the wayside. Had a good drive, arriving on the Riverside Drive, and the Hudson River on the other side, cars like ants, about 8 abreast could not move, could never imagine such thick traffic, and we struck it about 6 – New York is an eye opener, the buildings are terrific, after trying several hotels, came to the Empire on Broadway. 2 dollars a night, so we have booked in for a week, leaving next Sunday morning, the foreign legion arrives that day.

With the Spriggins and the Essex sedan, possibly 12 Sep 1937
Thirza Pidgeon (standing) with Florence Spriggins seated on the bumper of the Essex Sedan, New York registration 8XZ341

Hotel Empire, New York; March 2013
Hotel Empire, New York; March 2013
Hotel Empire, New York; March 2013

Thirza Pidgeon’s 1937 World Tour – 11 September: Montreal to Plattsburgh, then bought a car

Saturday, 11 September 1937

Left Ford Hotel for Plattsburgh. Passing the border, had our luggage all hauled out of the bus to pass the customs. Had to open all mine. Held the bus up for some time. Got to Plattsburgh. Jack [Spriggins] left us to buy a car, and in 2 hours, we were well on our way to New York, packed in a Essex Sedan for £15  – $75. Had a lovely trip, good country, roads fine. Did over 100 miles, so pulled up at an auto camp, stayed the night. 1 dollar each. 35 cents for use of kitchen. 2 bedrooms, nice furnished and very clean. Had a good tea and went to bed early. Car went well.

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