These four letters were written by H. C. Rayman, the captain of a brig carrying lumber from Bangor, Maine, to the West Indies, down the coast of South America, and probably into the Pacific.
Rayman wrote the letters to his employer, merchant ship owner Jones Perkins Veazie (1811-1875) of Bangor, Maine, whose family was in the lumber business.
The first and second letters are datelined at Wilmington, North Carolina.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 1
Addressed to Jones P. Veazie, Esq.
Wilmington [North Carolina]
January 4th 1855
Jones P. Veazie, Esqr.
I mentioned in my last that I would inform you when my cargo was bought &c. I have bought the lumber at $17.00 — all round. Payable 90 days. The small parcel of Tar Rosin & shingles I shall have to give an order at 30 days. Tar can be bought for $1.50. I get $4.00. Rosin $1.50. I get $3.00. On the shingles 100 M. I don’t expect to make much but I shan’t lose by them. Mr. Davis thinks I have made a first rate contract for the times.
Vessels are leaving Wilmington daily in ballast nothing at all doing here and I am afraid things are going to be dull this winter. But we must hope for the best.
My calculations for the future are when I leave Trinity, I shall probably call at St. Thomas, send some money home, and see if anything is to be done there. If not, run down to Porto Rico and in fact run until I get something that will pay.
How is sugar freights going to be this winter? I have just hauled into my loading berth. They commence sawing for me tomorrow. Shall use every exertion to get away as quick as possible.
If you have anything to suggest as regards future operations, please let me know what it is.
I have had a touch of the fever & ague. It gave me considerable of a shaking but I am in hopes it has now taken its departure.
As regards my crew, my mate is a man that will take rather too much at times but take him always. He is not a bad man. My second mate & cook I discharged upon my arrival. The second mate knew nothing and the crew are first rate sailors and they did not like they said to sail with a man that was no more use than a passenger. The cook I had had to be everlastingly watching or else I should not have had a bit of provisions on board the vessel. I knew the crew would not go in the Brig again if the 2nd mate & cook did and I knew if I lost my crew here I should probably be detained a week waiting for a crew from Charleston. You have got to humor sailors these times. There is a Brig in the stream here has been waiting 10 days for a crew.
The Brig looks well. She is pained inside & out. Her decks are well varnished and her rigging is in good order. In fact, she looks as well as ever she did. I have got my old top gallant mast down and the new one all ready to send aloft and when that is up she will look up some.
My wife is quite well and wishes to be remembered to you. My respects to Mrs. Veazie and Samuel.
Sir, I remain yours very respectfully, — H. C. Rayman
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 2
Addressed to Jones P. Veazie, Esq.
Wilmington [North Carolina]
January 11th 1855
Jones P. Veazie, Esqr.
My Dear Sir,
Your welcome letter of the 5th inst. has just come to hand in which you mentioned your receipt of mine of the 15th from St. Thomas enclosing draft &c. I hope you are not vexed at not hearing from me sooner for nothing, believe me, would afford me greater pleasure than keeping up a continual correspondence with you when we are out of hailing distance but it is almost useless to write from Martinique — the chances are so uncertain of a vessel leaving for St. Thomas or United States and there is no Steam Communication between it and any other island. Rest assured, sir, I shall write you every opportunity.
This is the third letter I have written since I arrived. My health is now perfectly good, thank God. My crew are by me and work at last like men. I have stevedores employed to stow for which I pay 30 cents per ton. If I had not my crew by, it would cost me 72 cents. Labor is $1.75 per day. Better to humor my crew a little at $20.00 per month. I have got in about 50 metric tons lumber and I must say it is as good article I have got the privilege of rejecting anything which is not merchantable. I am bound to have a good cargo. I tend right up to my business and they know I am always on hand. Give yourself no uneasiness, sir. I shall get along very well. Mr. Davis assures me I do about two-thirds better than any vessel in port, but there I am bragging and that won’t do.
Your suggestion regarding a freight to Quebec shall be remembered — and your thoughts regarding long voyages for the Brig exactly meet my own views without, as you say, large pay.
I expect to hear from you again tomorrow.
Believe me to remain yours very respectfully, — H. C. Rayman
P. S. My wife enjoys first rate health and has become quite domesticated. She and myself send our best respects to yourself and family. — H. C. R.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 3
Addressed to Jones P. Veazie, Esq., Bangor, Maine
March 27th 1855
Jones P. Veazie, Esq.
I arrived here on the 22nd inst. from Martinique and find the times extremely dull as I suppose you are aware of at home. I am now awaiting the arrival of the steamer from Porto Rico which is expected tomorrow. I was a long time discharging my cargo of hard pine at Trinity owing to the tempestuous state of the weather. For five days I didn’t discharge a stick.
You will have some idea of the times here when the only offer on hand is 300 Hhds Mollases at $3 and pay your own Port Charges. Were I sure of buying Molasses at a reasonable rate, but molasses by last account was fetching a high price in Porto Rico and a poor one at home. The accounts from leeward are discouraging. Vessels taking sugar at 33 cents and no deck load. Were I to leave this and run to a port (Spanish), I might possibly go in my boat but then I could not go on shore. I might talk to a merchant from the boat. They might tell me business was good [and] fetch my vessel in. As soon as my vessel’s anchor is down, I am liable for all port charges and I might then find out freights were not as represented. Would have to take going rates or leave in ballast. But I am in hopes when the mail arrives to get something that will pay. If I don’t, I am almost inclined to clear for Bangor. I think it would be better to do that than lose time here and cash, by taking such ruinous freights. Three vessels have left today in Ballast for U.S. — one for Washington, one for New York, and one for Philadelphia. I don’t feel the least cast down. I live in hopes. I am trying my best. I can do no more.
As regards my Dowloons [doubloons], I shall fetch them home. Paper I won’t take. American Gold is worth 2 ¼ percent. I have about $5,000 on board. As to my expenses at Trinity — very little difference from my last, except the caulking which was very reasonable. Caulking topsides — oakum included, waterways, stanchions, and two seams of deck — 180 fracas. It would have cost at home twice as much and the work is much better done. I have painted the Brig outside and in since I arrived. She looks well. I send this by the Tropic Bird ¹ of Philadelphia bound direct. Shall write again in a day or two by steamers when I am in hopes to let you know my conclusion.
Were I to go home and get a cargo of white pine early and get to W. Indies, I have no doubt I could get a good market. Remember me kindly to Capt. [Levi] Young. Hoping your health and that of your family are well as my wife & mine are at present.
I remain yours respectfully, — H. C. Rayman
¹ In 1858, the Tropic Bird, enroute from Port au Prince to Philadelphia carrying a cargo of coffee and logwood, was stopped at sea by the British gunboat Jasper and searched for slaves, much to the indignation of Capt. Foulkes and his crew.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 4
Addressed to Jones P. Veazie, Bangor, Maine, USA
September 14th 1855
Jones P. Veazie, Esq.
I arrived here this evening from Rio de Janiero at which latter port I touched for several reasons. In the first place, after been out 15 days from Bangor, in a head beat sea, brig laboring badly, she started to leak and continued leaking so badly that one pump gave out and on hoisting it out to see what was the matter, found it entirely rotten. Got some tarred canvas round it and sewed it with spungam and got it so it have water pretty well. And this being the season of heavy blows of wind, I did not thin kit prudent to pass Rio without trying to find out where her leak was. After I got to Rio, I found her leak and stopped it ourselves and the Brig is now perfectly tight. Again, I did not like the idea of passing a port like Rio which was right in my track without trying the market as originally intended. I found Rio gutted with lumber — no chance to give it away. Freights to Northern ports 87 cents to 90 per bag. I called this evening on Messrs. Zimmerman & Co. They say there is considerable lumber in market but has no doubts I shall realize a fair freight.
I have only been on shore about an hour — consequently I have not had time to learn correctly the true state of the market and I embrace this opportunity of sending the enclosed by a ship which leaves tomorrow morning for New York. But in a few days, I hope to be able to write more fully. I requested Messrs. Le Cos__ & Co. of Rio on whom I called to write me personally and let me know how return freights were for I thought of nothing was to be had here, I could make a decent return freight by going to Rio for coffee and secure it before leaving here, I suppose you will think it strange I did not write from Rio. Well Sir, I can hardly tell the reason I did not without it was I had no cheering news to impart and I did not wish to trouble you with a catalogue of disadvantages under which I labored. I thought you might have had plenty of them at home. Suffice it to say, I have arrived at Buenos Ayres all safe & sound, and as to business, the prospect is brighter than it has been heretofore. as to my passage, there is few vessels here that made a shorter one — one Smart Ship 110 days from New York & others 100, 98 & so on — and they in decent time for sailing. My passage has been 81 sailing days from Martinicus. Those youngsters Vose & Johnson behave well, are very good boys, and are getting pretty well initiated into the mysteries of seamanship & navigation. I have made it a practice to give them two hours instruction in navigation every other morning and they are advancing nicely and I think will make smart sailors. Present my wife’s and my regards to your family & accept the same yourself and believe me to remain yours very respectfully, — H. C. Rayman
My mind running on business I almost forgot to say I hoped yourself & family were in the enjoyment of good health. My wife’s health and mine are first rate.
I have not had any trouble with my Mates or crew. Things go along pretty straight but now is the time to find out how. My man likes his tea. I am on the lookout for it. — H. C. R.