James Keane(Kaine) was writing this letter to his Aunt Bess a day after the letter I shared from his brother John in my last post on June 5. Letter #6 written by James in his elegant script was feasted on by mice so there were many words missing. Luckily the rest of the letters survived the rodent attack in better condition!

James tells Aunt Bess that he got married and that his new wife is sending her a piece of wedding cake. It seems that the sharing of wedding cake with friends and family who could not attend the wedding is a very long standing tradition. I wonder if Aunt Bess ate the cake or just put it under her pillow for good luck?

Letter #6 November 16, 1858 James Keane to Aunt Bess

6 Kaine Letter Nov 16, 1858
Transcribed from the original by Kerrin Churchill February 9, 2020

James Keane to Aunt Bess from Clinton, Ontario to Freshford, Kilkenny, Ireland
Clinton 16th November 1858
Dear Aunt
I suppose that you had given up all hopes of ever hearing from me. But as the saying is better Late than never. Now that I am ….from saint Martin after been so long….p to him, I suppose you will be surprised to hear that I had courage enough to get a rib ….I have another possible booking north of Ireland Girl…I think so) I am nearly three months married? I have been living with my present master for three years. I am now entering on the fourth with a sallary of one hundred pounds or…..four hundred dollars (say four shillings sixpence sterling per day). I have not lost one day with ill health since I came to America thanks to God. Dear Aunt I suppose you never think of ….to this country a person with a capital can…If I had money to lend these two years past I would have made twenty-five per cent. It has been the hardest times for money ever known in Canada.

But we anticipate the hope that another year will bring things to the proper standing again. I seen my Father and Mother last week. They live nine miles from me and John lives eighteen miles from me, Father is at John’s at present. I have not seen John since poor Christies death , but he ….to see me.
Dear Aunt will you be so kind as to give my respects to Mr. Mease my more than kind tell him I hope I will never forget his kind well meant teachings to me.
If Mr. Mease or you will condescend to write to me (after my long silence) asking any question that ye would wish to know about this country I will feel happy in letting ye….as far as lies in my power or if you have time to write send me one of the latest news once in a while so I will know that you are living.

Dear Aunt I have nothing more in particular to say only we have very heavy snow here at present. Father, Mother Brothers Sisters Uncle Aunts & cousins are all well and in good health at present. Thanks be to God for his Blessings to us all unworthy though we be.
My wife sends you a piece of her wedding…..and wishes to be remembered to her aunt
Dear aunt I hardly know who is at home now……if Aunt Mary and Mary Tynan are alive give them my…..also all the rest that I used to know….nothing more at present from your
Affectionate Nephew
James Keane

…..my wife that I would tell you to send her some…..as she is in a longing condition JK

There are a number of comments in this letter that will remain a mystery due to the words eaten by mice. For instance, “…..my wife that I would tell you to send her some…..as she is in a longing condition ” Their first child was not born until 1861 so what was her “longing condition” and what did she want Aunt Bess to send?

My research revealed that James married Ann Eliza McSherry (1838-1898) and they went on to have eight children. Elizabeth (1861), Charles (1863), William (1865), Christopher (1867), Ellen (1873), Lucy (1873), Margaret (1875) and Maud (1877). And yes, Ellen and Lucy were twins! It must have been a busy household.

Birth record of Lucy and Ellen Keane 1873

The family lived in Clinton, a small town in Huron County. James was a store clerk, an occupation he maintained for the rest of his life as his death certificate in 1901 indicated that he was a retired merchant. He did not appear to have the same entrepreneurial spirit of his brother John but must have done well enough to support his large family. In 1858, Clinton became a stop on the Buffalo and Lake Huron Railway for a period of time so business must have improved after the financial hard times he mentions.

James Keane Death Record 1901

In 2020, Clinton is a town of under 3,000 people and is famous as the home for many years of the renowned Canadian writer Alice Munro. She is my favourite author and my copies of her books are among my most prized possessions. Many of her stories are set in Huron County which as I have mentioned previously is a special place for me personally.

Alice Ann Munro is a Canadian short story writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013. Munro’s work has been described as having revolutionized the architecture of short stories…
Many of Munro’s stories are set in Huron County, Ontario. Her strong regional focus is one of the features of her fiction. Another is the omniscient narrator who serves to make sense of the world. Many compare Munro’s small-town settings to writers from the rural South of the United States. As in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor, her characters often confront deep-rooted customs and traditions, but the reaction of Munro’s characters is generally less intense than their Southern counterparts’. Her male characters tend to capture the essence of the everyman, while her female characters are more complex. Much of Munro’s work exemplifies the literary genre known as Southern Ontario Gothic.

Postcard of Clinton Main Street 1910

I have been enjoying these hot, hazy days sitting under the wisteria in my back garden admiring the symphony of flowers that changes daily if not hourly. The cardinals, robins, yellow finches, nuthatches and other birds flitting past are more appealing to me than working at the computer so the posts may be less frequent this summer.

The next post will share a letter from Ann Kaine, the younger sister of John, James and Christy. One of the few times pioneer life in my family is related from the female perspective.

2 thoughts on “Letter #6 November 16, 1858: The Cake is in the Mail

  1. Dear Kerrin

    I don’t know if I can reply to your compelling life email address, so I’m also sending this to your regular email.

    Thank you once again for an instalment of family letters. What beautiful handwriting your ancestors had as well as letter writing skills! I enjoy reading it all and looking at the pictures and I am copying this to Alan. James Kaine obviously always remembered his aunt and his life back in Ireland. How difficult tit must have been to leave home never to return – not at the time perhaps, but looking back years later.

    I still write letters to one old friend, in Cumbria. They used to be in longhand, but these days we type. I can’t remember if I told you that I wrote a family memoir last year and included pictures. I had it printed and sent copies to relatives. It was a most enjoyable process. I am now writing a pandemic diary every day for a collection of diaries held by a university here. It’s called the Mass Observation Archive and has been going since the 1930s.

    I am imagining you sitting under your wisteria looking at the birds. We are having a lockdown spring and summer here which means enjoying the garden and lots of local walks.

    Hoping you and Ron are well.

    love from Andrée

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting how we feel compelled to try to feel these blanks. So many questions about St Martin or the North of Ireland Girl. What are they or where is it? Also, I find surprising that he never really talk about his wife except at the end. Could it be that he introduced her in another letter? No information either on the wedding. Also could it be scarves that he asked his aunt for? I can read “…rves”. Just a guess as it’s winter… I think earlier in the letter, he is saying “… up to him…”

    Liked by 1 person

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