No other letter in the collection gave me more pleasure to read than this one from John Kaine to Aunt Bess. Six months have passed since the letter in which his 25 year old sister Ann hoped that she could “coax” a man and to my surprise, she has not only found one but is now married! John gave many details to reassure Aunt Bess that Ann has found a good man! As he says, “Ann has got we think a kind young man and a good home with all our consent.“
- Kaine Letter Nov 1, 1861
Transcribed from the original by Kerrin Churchill October 28, 2019
John Kaine to Aunt Bess from McKillop, Ontario Canada to Freshford, Kilkenny, Ireland
I now take up my pen to address a few lines to you hoping that you will forgive me for my long silence. I would have written long since only I was waiting to hear in some of your letters to Ann if Mr. Mease received mine. I wrote to him about the middle of June last but if he has not received it I hope Dear Aunt that you will do me the favour to return him my heartfelt thanks for his kind remembrance of me in sending me his likeness. I had a good deal to do to get it as my father thought to keep it. I am writing this in my Fathers house. I came here on Saturday last which will be a week tomorrow but perhaps you will be surprised to hear what brought me down it was for to see Ann married. She was married on Thursday last the 29th Oct by the Rev. Mr. Graham to James Frazer. We were all here at the wedding except James Kaine wife and children. She was sick and could not come. James only stopped to see them married and returned home. I did not like to go home until I would see what sort of a home Ann got. My father, Eliza & I went to her place with her on Wednesday. My Father and I came back yesterday leaving Eliza and Ann behind as I could not delay any longer as I must be home tomorrow night if possible .Well I must tell you something about Ann’s home. It is twenty two 22 miles from my fathers and a northerly direction. There is a very good gravel road from my Fathers to within 2 miles of Ann’s.
that two miles from the gravel Road to Ann’s is a good mud or clay road. The place is yet new as Ann’s husband was about the first settler that went to that part . He bought one hundred acres of land 4 years ago. It was all bush or woods as you would call it. He has since then cleared away over 30 acres of the Mighty Forest. He has also erected a good frame Barn size 36×52 a log house 20×32. He has now in the barn about about 250 or 300 bushels of wheat, a bushel weighs 60 lbs some oats one cow 6 pigs two good oxen or bullocks two barrels of flour in the corner and one barrel of pork one cat and dog & 7 hens. I do not remember anything else I was only there for one night and part of the day I saw all I could and perhaps all that was to be seen. Ann has got we think a kind young man and a good home with all our consent. I was not well acquainted with him but my Father and Mother was acquainted with him since they came out. He clarked in the same store with James for three years. James speaks very highly of him but I must tell you Dear Aunt that you never saw the like of the way that some of Ann’s friends and the neighbours for three mile rounds respects Ann not only in words but by actions by giving her presents of almost everything she wanted such as knives forks spoons dishes etc. There was between 30 & 40 at the dinner and stopped all night. Just as I am writing my father is playing with my young ones and my wife wanting
me to let you know that it was not her fault for me delaying so long in writing to you as she says you have you never mentioned her in your last letters. She felt very bad about it and has often complained to me and my father for not writing but I hope Dear Aunt that for the future I will be more regular in my correspondence with you. I must now lay by writing as dinner is ready and Aunt Ann and husband is here to take dinner with us. There is some mutton and white cabbage on the table and you know that is my Fathers favourite. I must not delay him. Goodby for the present. Dinner is now over and I will try and say a few words more. Aunt Anns husband is after killing 6 pigs and they have 7 more with fat. They are very comfortable they have plenty of everything and they are just as kind as they are comfortable. My father has 4 pigs nearly fat and two more that is keeping over. Father Mother Charles Mary and I & family spent last night being November night at Aunt Anns. I must now tell you that I have had a very busy summer of it. I had charge of two steam sawmills and one of them we make lath shingles and lumber in the other it was all lumber. They are six miles apart and I had to be at both of them every day and sometimes twice a day but my horse will get a rest this week as my Master is doing all the business this week during my absence. He is very kind to me. I am getting along very well
Charles is working at the Carpenter business and is working pretty steady. He behaved very kind to Ann. He gave her more than any of us but James gave her almost the least but altogether Ann went away very well supported for which she is very thankful. Her husband wanted to take nothing but as he had a good share we tried to do what we could. They are all satisfied but my Father is afraid that he will not have as good an opportunity of hearing from you now as Ann is gone. Potatoes is getting very bad they sell for /3 a bushel that is 60 lbs wheat 4/- oats 1/3 for 34 lbs Peas 0/6 for 60 lbs Beef 25/- per 100 lbs Mutton 4? per lbs Pork 3? per lb We have a very togh??? time of it. It has been about the hottest season that has been here since I came. I must now conclude hoping that God who has so mercifully watched over and Protected us to the present will keep you in health and peace until we meet is my prayer as I may go next year to Ireland . With kind respects to Mr Mease except the ???from all and to all friends ????
Dear Aunt from your nephew John Kaine
John Kaine was proud of how well his sister Ann has done for herself and related the good fortune of the rest of the family as well. Ann’s new husband, James Frazer, was known to the family as he had worked with her brother James Keane in a store for 3 years. James Frazer must have been a busy and industrious young man as he had cleared 30 acres of his hundred acre farm, built a log house and a barn in four years! I was touched that John felt the need to go and check the place out after the wedding and even listed “one dog, one cat and 7 hens” in his catalogue of the Frazer farm.
The Kaine family tintypes (no identifying names) below date from the 1850’s or 1860’s and I like to think that the first one is of Ann Kaine and her new husband James Frazer. Nice pink cheeks and beautiful Victorian finery! The other may be her brother James Keane and his wife.
From John’s description of the wedding celebration, it must have been a wonderful event indeed. The sibling rivalry between John and his brother James emerges again as John mentions that James did not stay for the party or give as much as the rest of the family in the way of gifts!
The ever entrepreneurial John has left his position as a teacher and now works for not one but two saw mills. Commuting was a problem even in the pioneer days as John commented on his 6 mile trip between the two mills on horseback sometimes twice in one day. And we think we have tough commutes!
I was left with the image of the family gathered together after their meal of mutton and white cabbage, or Irish stew as we know it, probably talking about Ann’s wedding while John finished his letter to Aunt Bess. As paper was a scarce commodity, people usually made sure they filled every space on the page with news.
The next post will catch up with the family 4 months later. I am currently developing a family timeline/ tree. Link to timeline/tree under development: https://acompellinglifeblog.wordpress.com/family-trees-and-timelines/
Irish stew (Irish: stobhach/Stobhach Gaelach) is a lamb or mutton and root vegetable stew native to Ireland. As in all traditional folk dishes, the exact recipe is not consistent from time to time, or place to place. Basic ingredients include lamb, or mutton (mutton is used as it comes from less tender sheep over a year old, is fattier, and has a stronger flavour, and was generally more common in less-affluent times), as well as potatoes, onions, and parsley. It may sometimes also include carrots. Irish stew is also made with kid goat.
Irish stew is a celebrated Irish dish, yet its composition is a matter of dispute. Purists maintain that the only acceptable and traditional ingredients are neck mutton chops or kid, potatoes, onions, and water. Others would add such items as carrots, turnips and pearl barley; but the purists maintain that they spoil the true flavour of the dish. The ingredients are boiled and simmered slowly for up to two hours. Mutton was the dominant ingredient because the economic importance of sheep lay in their wool and milk produce and this ensured that only old or economically non-viable animals ended up in the cooking pot, where they needed hours of slow cooking. Irish stew is the product of a culinary tradition that relied almost exclusively on cooking over an open fire. It seems that Irish stew was recognised as early as about 1800. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_stew