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John C. Miller to John Andrew Thompson

Contributed by Chris Hanlin on 7 Aug 2006

Letter by John C. Miller of Comber


The following letter was written by John Cairns Miller of Comber, County Down,

Ireland, to his nephew, John Andrew Thompson of Lauderdale County, Alabama.

John Andrew Thompson had been born in Downpatrick, Ireland in 1831. His father

died (an apparent suicide) when John was only nine; and his mother died when

he was 13; so John was sent to live with his uncle, John Miller of Comber. John

found his uncle to be eccentric, and very strict, and within about a year John was

on a ship to America.


John Miller of Comber was a wealthy distiller, a founder of the Unitarian Church

in Comber, a magistrate, a philanthropist, and “a fat old man with very short arms

which gave him the look of a porpoise with flippers.”


A few identities of people in the letter: Andrew McEvoy was a first cousin of John

Thompson (son of his aunt Margaret Miller) and lived in Ontario. “Aunt Eliza” is

Eliza (Miller) Cochran, who also lived in Ontario with her husband William Cochran.

“Mr. Kerr” is Henry Hogan Kerr of County Down, husband of John Thompson’s

sister Maggie Thompson. “Aunt Sheil” is John Thompson’s aunt Sarah Jane (Miller)

Sheil. “Madaline” is John Thompson’s sister Madeline Thompson, who married

Ansyworth A. Huddleston and died in Ireland sometime prior to 1866. William

Hurst was a close friend (and possibly a cousin) of John Miller.



Comber Septem 18 1867


My dear John. I returned from an excursion to the Paris Exhibition and a tour through Switzerland on Sunday last. Your letter of 12 Aug arrived the day before and I am sorry to find that matters have gone so unfortunately with you particularly as in the existing state of your Country there is not much prospect of you being able to replace the losses you have met with - This is the season I require all my spare cash or I would have sent you £100 but if I have till spring I will send you a letter of credit for that amt. I have been lending a helping hand to your cousin Andrew M:Evoy who is making a push to get forward under unfavorable circumstances as his Education was greatly neglected in his youth. He has now become a Lawyer and I think will succeed which is more than I expected as at one time I thought him not much better than a fool. Your Aunt Eliza also requires keep as her husband has become insane. Mr. Kerr died about the 1st Augt and left Maggie with Four children. He had a farm near Pertaferry for which 7 years ago he gave £1200. He greatly improved it and as your sister was not able to manage it, she has sold it and got £1900 for it. This with the crop and stock and after paying his debts and the costs of Probate will leave her about £2500. This sum will be put to interest and I will give yearly what will enable her to live in Belfast and give her children a good Education which is all that can be done for them at present. Your Aunt Sheil lives with me and is in good health. I suppose you know that one of Madaline's children has died - I believe if Wm. Hurst can get the other he will rear and educate it. He has been successful and no one better deserves his good fortune as he is a truly good kind-hearted man.


I am glad to hear you have got such a fine crop this season. We have a Tolerable one but as France and Spain are said to [b?]e […] off markets will […]e high and indeed it would require a good crop over all th[e?] w[orld?] to make cheap times here the consumption[?] is so enormous and we are so dependant on foreign countries for our supply. The frost you speak of seems to have extended over nearly the whole globe. We never had a finer appearance of fruit but the frost in May has left us without apple, Pear, or Plum.


I am glad to have so good an account of the Negro. Kept in ignorance as he has been and never taught self reliance it was to be feared he would make a bad use of his liberty but if not spoiled by unprincipled agitators who will try to use him for their own advantage I think he will turn out a good hard working man. What may his fate eventually in America is not easy to say but his lot for many years must be an unpleasant one.


I agree with you in thinking you would be much better off with a government such as we have. We have as much liberty as we want and to tell you the truth we dread such a government as America has as we are satisfied you have really less liberty and a much more unprincipled legislature than we posess. The Fenian craze has nearly worked itself out. In this country it was mostly confined to shop boys and ignorant peasants of the Roman Catholic persuasion. No man of standing of that denomination had anything to do with it and we looked upon it as a Yankee dodge got up by blackguards who would rather do anything than work.


While writing I received a letter from William Hurst. He and his family are quite well.


Your aff't Uncle

J. C. Miller



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