Letter #2 – JUNE 3, 1856  



SUMMARY

Thomas Jackson's new rope making factory
The heavy rope leaves the building at roof level and is wound into coils by three men prior to being dispatched to clients.

2
Winding Heavy Rope Into Coils

Winding Heavy Rope Into Coils

1
Detail showing third ropeworks near a railroad

Detail showing third ropeworks near a railroad


The new (1851) Jackson Rope Works had a 700 ft rope walk which was active for over 50 years



SOURCES

1

Historicmapworks.com - with permission

2

Thomas Jackson Collection

3

The Passing Scene: Stories of Old-Time Reading and Berks By George M. Meiser and Gloria Jean Meiser. Vol 3. p. 36

Letter was sent to TJ's cousin, Caleb Slater, in England and was written on note paper from the new "Reading Steam Cordage Manufactory" with an impressive engraving of the replacement ropewalk . This is a typical letter giving updates on family and business prior to any thoughts that there might ever be a civil war.

First TJ gently criticizes Caleb Slater for not replying to earlier letters because, among other reasons, TJ was nostalgic for news of his old homeland. This letter also reports on the state of all of TJ's close family in America along with numbers showing the rapid growth of the population of Reading. It also reports on the size of TJ's rope making business as a measure of it is now thriving in its new quarters after the flood just 6 years previously.

The Location of Thomas Jackson's Third Ropeworks. He clearly had had enough of being flooded so moved up town.

































TRANSCRIPTION

TRANSCRIPTION (Edited into paragraphs for easier reading)

Letter head has a lovely engraving of the third building used by TJ's business

Reading Steam Cordage Manufactory.
Reading Pennsylvania June 3, 1856


Dear Cousin Caleb
I think it is now about two years since I wrote you a long letter enquiring about my English friends and relations, from whom I had not heard for about five years. I requested you, or one of your sons, to answer that letter & I waited long in expectation but no answer ever came. At last, about a year after, I had a letter from my brother John & since then I have heard from him about two or three times a year. I heard that you had received my letter, but, as I never got an answer I presume none was ever sent. Now my dear fellow I think this was rather unkind of you towards your mother's brother's son, whom you had so seldom seen and who was removed from you so far away. If it had been your lot to be driven by misfortune from your native country in










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your early manhood as I was, and gone through what I have gone through, you would have perhaps thought, as much as I do, of the land of your birth, the home of your childhood and all the well remembered scenes of boyhood. The familiar haunts, the green fields, the shady lanes and the fine old trees, where I strolled and rolled and climbed so often when a lad. And a letter from an old friend and relative, telling you of old scenes and old faces, things not forgotten but still fondly thought of, would perhaps have been doubly and dearly welcome. But I will not scold thee cousin Caleb. But only, as it were, affectionately chide. So let it pass and now talk of other things. My oldest son, Tom, being in rather delicate health, and my daughter also, I thought a trip across the ocean would do them good. So they have both started on a visit to dear old England. They saild from Philadelphia on











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27th of May. exactly a week ago. In the Liverpool sailing packet, "Wyoming" of Philadelphia. I expect they would reach England in about 20 days, so will be about there when you receive this letter. They expect to stay in England about 7 or 8 weeks. My daughter, Matilda, now 18 years old, will be among her Mother's relations and you may not see her. But my son Tom, now nearly 24 years old, intends to take a long ramble over England for his health, and I particularly requested him to visit Ilkestone and see my Aunt Turton (?) (who I heard was still alive a few months back] and also call up and see you. He has always been a very steady boy and is now a first rate business man, & has been a great help to me. But he has been in poor health about 9 months, and the Drs say he must have sea air and change of climate. When he comes home, he will go on another voyage to India to escape our cold winter, & be away about a year, which I hope, will fully reestablish his health. My other son Henry now 17, is at home with me now & we are doing a large business. generally employ about 20 men and eight boys. Make up all the rope with 2 men 2 boys and the steam engine. We have a 20 horse engine and roll rope together fast. Annexed is an engraving of our wheel houses, Hackle lofts, and engine house & a part of the walk & the office. We have a very nice place here now and fast improving. Reading had but 5000 inhabitants when I first settled here. It has now over 20,000 and still increasing fast. We have one double track railroad leading through it and they are now making two





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more railroads to this city, which must bring a great increase of trade to it. and I think my two sons will have a very good business here, after I shall have done with it, as long as they choose to carry it on, if my eldest son can only recover his health again. I often see some of the Watsons family. John and William with their wives and a son each making a party of six, came over to see us last October and staid a week. We had a very nice time of it, and when they went home I fetched Aunt Watson over to see us and stay with my mother awhile. She stai'd with us about 6 weeks and seemed very well and hearty for a woman of 80 years old. She has still a good head of nice black hair. Not a gray hair in it. Her son John looks to be a worn down old man. Looks much older than Uncle Watson did 20 years ago. They have both good farms of their own and seem to be very well off. My own mother is grown very old and feeble. Has had two strokes of the palsy and kept her bed nearly all last winter. But is better and up again now. Still she is slowly dying of old age, but suffers no pain & is very happy and cheerful. Sister Mary is still unmarried and does little else than take care of her mother. I hope all your family are well, prosperous and happy and your children a comfort to you in advancing life. I don't know whether any of you will trouble yourselves to write to me but I shall know all about you when my Tom comes back.

With affectionate regards to you all,
I am your cousin

Thomas Jackson























AMBASSADORS' NOTES

Thomas Jackson's new rope making factory
The heavy rope leaves the building at roof level and is wound into coils by three men prior to being dispatched to clients.

2
Winding Heavy Rope Into Coils

Winding Heavy Rope Into Coils

1
Detail showing third ropeworks near a railroad

Detail showing third ropeworks near a railroad


The new (1851) Jackson Rope Works had a 700 ft rope walk which was active for over 50 years



SOURCES

1

Historicmapworks.com - with permission

2

Thomas Jackson Collection

3

The Passing Scene: Stories of Old-Time Reading and Berks By George M. Meiser and Gloria Jean Meiser. Vol 3. p. 36

Who was this letter sent to?
This letter was sent to Thomas Jackson's first cousin Caleb Slater who we later learn was about 15 years older than Thomas Jackson. Caleb also ran a business making ropes but he stayed in England while TJ had left to seek a new life in America. We cannot be sure what was the "misfortune" that caused TJ to be driven "from (my) native country in (my) early manhood" but it may have been financial problems because TJ's father and his three sons Including Thomas, all came over at one time in 1829.

Complaints about not receiving letters from England
It is unfortunate that our first introduction to Thomas Jackson leaves an unattractive impression of the man because he is grumbling about his cousin Caleb for not writing to him. (In a way, it is perhaps surprising tht Caleb kept this letter at all and that I has finally been passed down to us!)

There is little here to suggest what a persuasive, focused and passionate writer he became while experiencing the civil war. Indeed, because of the bitter tone of the letter it is perhaps surprising that Caleb (or a family member) ever saved this letter rather than just throw it away!

Envelopes from Thomas Jackson
The original envelope for this letter still exists. At the end of its journey, it was finally postmarked Jan 19, 1857 in the city of Nottingham, England.

Sadly now, the stamps have been removed from all the envelopes in this collection. What might now be seen as an act of vandalism was carried out by one of us (JP) in a flush of boyish enthusiasm while seeking recreational activities during the rationing of during the second world war!

Family relationships
Thomas Jackson speaks of a brother called John who was actually only a half brother who seems to never have left England all of his life.

We learned that Thomas Jackson is Caleb's "mother's brother's son"

He has a sister Mary (still unmarried)

TJ has oldest son is named Tom (now nearly 24") who is in "rather delicate health" and he also "has a daughter " Matilda", now 18 years old.

Other son "Harry now 17 is at home.

Watsons are nearby,: John and William with wives and son each. There is an "Aunt Watson" now 80 years old. She has a son named John

Unfamiliar names
A steam packet is a ship sailing a regular service between two ports. Steam packets were boats that sailed across the atlantic at the time.





































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