Rees Family Letters Contents Contents Letter2 Letter 1: 1857Caleb Rees on the Ship Circassian to his Diary

Caleb Rees, father of Catherine Rees Morgan, was 31 when he wrote the following in his diary in 1857. He was on board the Ship Circassian, on the way to America with his new bride. In Wales, Caleb Rees had worked on farms in his native Pembrokeshire, and in iron mills in Glamorganshire. He and Rachel were looking for a better life in America.

After arriving in America and settling in Ohio, they had four daughters. Margaret was the third of the four daughters; Catherine was the youngest. Margaret translated a portion of Caleb Rees' diary to produce this account.

Fathers Account of his voyage with Mother to America in 1857 translated from the Welsh by his daughter Margaret.

Our voyage to America on the Circassian

We came to Liverpool on the last day of April according to the direction given us, and with the understanding that we would sail on the 2nd of May: but when we reached Liverpool, the Circassian had not yet returned. Here we were rather uneasy because Lamb had disappointed us as to the arrival of the Circassian. On account of the delay, we were informed that we would receive 2 shillings, 6 pence from the 3rd of May until the vessel arrived. But on the 3rd of May it came on the 4th of May we were again informed that we were to receive pay for 2 days only, & were to board the ship & set sail on the 5th.

The morning of the 5th came. We went down on a run between 6 and 8 oclock in the morning. We were at the dock until 3 P.M. before we got our boxes on board the ship, and when we did get them on, it was impossible to get at them, altho we had obtained permission from some arrogant ship officer at the dock when they were being weighted and their transportation paid for.

As I have already intimated, it was 3 P.M. when we boarded the ship. After putting in the whole day getting settled, we were nearly famished for want of food. To supply our wants, there were brought meat & potatoes to those who were fortunate enough to make his way thro the crowd by trampling on one another to reach for what he could get, & to be cursed (till the place was aflame with oaths) by the waiter. Many of the passengers were without a bite to eat for that meal. It was the same way at the succeeding meals until the Rev Sam Roberts went to the ship master after diner the 6th of May. Every body knew that the 6th of May would be just the same as on the 5th. From any sustenance derived from the breakfast, many were almost famished from the ship's scanty fare. This, too, after they had paid a good price for their passage.

Where Margaret wrote "28 6 d" it probably should say "2s 6d," or 2 shillings and 6 pence.

To make amends for the poor fare of the 5th, we received 28 6 d just as we had received for the other too days.

Our plight would not have been so bad a piece of business had it not been that some (especially the Irish) got all the food they wanted without having to fight for it. We noticed that they got an allowance of meat for breakfast while others had nothing but hard dry bread. But none got 1/2 what his ticket called for.

Again, we could not get hot water with which to wash dishes or to shave our beards. Such were the accommodations of the ship. Our dishes were like those of the Gideonites & our beards like that of Mephiborrth when he was lamenting for David, when Absolem was in rebellion against him.

The toilet accommodations were abominable. The oder of the apartment was so offensive that one could scarcely enter it. I'm sure that a hog would hesitate to enter the place to refresh him-self. That is in short the truth about the "good accommodations" the system, & service carried out on the Circassian.

I'm sure that if women of the aristocracy were on board, they would greatly wonder, as we did, at the things we saw on board.

The Welsh word chwedl means a legend or tale, fobl (or pobl) means people, and Morganwg is Glamorgan, a county of South Wales, so the phrase may be translated as "a legend of the people of Glamorgan."

After diner on the 6th of May when some of us were about famished for food, & full of anger, we appealed to the Rev Sam Roberts and laid our complaints before him & to get his counsel & advise. He went at once to the chief. The result was we got a good meal. After this matters were much improved & we got plenty to eat but it was very poorly cooked. It was usually badly scorched. The potatoes were not peeled & many of them were bad. I have not the least doubt but that there would not have been the least method about the preparations & serving our food nor about anything else had not the good Rev. Roberts been with us. I heard that Rev. D. Price had interceded in our behalf also, but I am not prepared to say how true that is as I was not an eye witness to the fact. Indeed a man "hold fast" is the Rev. Sam Roberts (chwedl fobl Morganwy) He contracted for us to have our boxes carried from the house and James Lamb for a great deal less money than we ourselves could have it.

We witnessed many things on board that would be considered severe hardships by those who had never before experienced any trials. We saw cabbage, carrots, and potatoes prepared in the most savory manner but we had paid to little to have the privilage to enjoy them. We saw beef & fowls roasted most appetizingly. But we had not paid enough to enjoy them. We saw the best delicacies, but we had paid too little to get nothing more than a whiff of their savory aromas.

The light & heat of the great sun rising every morning on the just & on the unjust, on the rich & the poor, had matured these bountiful gifts of nature. One thing is certainly hard to understand. That the toiler is the last of all to receive the bounties of nature which he is the nearest to hand to Providence to receive the whole of the best over which man has control. The evil that Soloman saw was that man lords it over another to his hurt; and because of that, servants are seen riding horses while princess are walking like servants on the earth. (Exel 10-7 and 8-9 Many are the sons of women of whom the world is not worthy in any sense are being downtrodden. But God will judge the earth, & it is certain that he will be judge justly tho it may be long delayed.

"Well," do I hear you say, You certainly have regretted starting from home because of the hard treatment you get on the ship." No, indeed, not in the least sorry. I have lived too long under the hard & heavy hand of iron masters and coal masters of Glamorganshire to know what real suffering & privations mean. No, do not for a moment think that I regret leaving that kind of life behind.

Once when I was employed on a farm, I had but one small cup of tea for supper, after which I was to walk two miles, to watch that whole night. The next morning, I returned to the farm two miles without one bite to eat. Was that not hardship indeed?

The annoyance of the Circassian are not to be compared to the hardships endured in the coal & iron mines of Glamorganshire. The laborers at those mines are compelled to work through sweat and exhaustion, through fear of mine damp and caving in of the top. They work in fear of their stewards who are profane, drunken, partial, two faced, cruel; and through a thousand & one other things that the miner would oftentimes rather die than live. And worse than all, his earnings on the night of settlement are nearly always too small to pay his expenses, and this too, when his children 10 yrs old and up work side by side with the father without having one day of schooling.

In view of these facts, how could the harsh treatment of Circassian cause me to regret leaving my native land? Do not think that that is all I could tell of the hard life in Wales. I could write a leaf for every letter that I have written, but sea-sickness weights heavily & time forbids.

To bad we do not have the whole story down to the landing in Ohio.