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Letter from Thomas Lineham describing conditions in early Karamea

This letter was written by Thomas Lineham to his parents and published in the English Labourer newspaper on 13 November 1876

THE ENGLISH LABOURER - November 13 1876

DEAR FATHER AND MOTHER, - we received your kind and welcome letter. We was glad to hear you was as well as you are, and I am glad to tell you that by the kind providence of god, I am restored to health and strength again, and our children are all well, and they grow and get fat and strong, because God in his goodness as put us in a land of plenty; for I fetch my own sheep, and kill them and dress them myself; so you see that I am a butcher. and I must tell you that I have just entered the bush life. I and George started from Nelson about four months before Mary and the children came to us. So you see, by the kind providence of God, I have a house of my own and plenty of wood to burn, and it is a better house than our old one at Lidlington. It is rather inconvenient to our feelings having no public means of grace, but we find God in every time and place the same. I feel thankful where there is a heart to pray God has an ear to hear; and I am glad to tell that none of us feel any lingering after the old country, only we should very much like to see you all again, I must tell you if this is bush life I don't mind it a bit. We have fifty acres of grant land, and we work some of our time for ourselves; we work by the piece, and our pay averages 10d. a day. We don't receive any money, as it costs us a great deal of money for tools, as we have out things on credit. They let us have as much as £30 or £40 worth at once, but they would not give us a start in England. They find us plenty of food; certainly we was short of meat for a week or two, but we lost our sheep in the bush, It makes us think about the poor empty bellies in the old country, when God so kindly spreads our table. I killed a sheep last Saturday night. Mo and another man had it together - a fine fat sheep - and we had as much suet as we had in six months in England, and that will last us about a fortnight; and we have our provisions from the stores; sometimes we have two hogsheads of sugar, about fifty or sixty pounds each, and flour any amount, and butter and tea any quantity. If you could but have seen me and George pitch our tent in the Karamea; we had to cut the wood down before we could pitch our tent. It makes us think about the patriarchs of old pitching their tents. We had to work some days before we could see anything beside the sky above our heads. The trees were so high, some of them were thirty yards long. But now we have a house built and opened so as the sun can get at us all round, and the streets cut out straight a mile long or more. Now we are making the roads and the ditches, and all in six months. There are about twenty families in our settlement! but there is another settlement about two miles off a little larger than ours. We live about 200 feet above the level of the sea, and we can see the wide ocean any time in about five minutes walk. Ours is table land, and there is mountains above us. The mountains are very high; your hills are like molehills to them; they rise all at once. You can go on the level til you get to the foot of them; then they seem to rise all at once. This is Saturday night again. We have killed another sheep, and we have another quarter of mutton, and wish you all could come to dinner with us to-morrow. There is no venomous reptiles here, nor no wild beasts. It is as the bible says, we can worship God under our own vine and fig-tree, none daring lawfully to make us afraid. We can lay down here in the open, and not afraid that anything will molest us here, with only the old gnats to trouble us. I must tell you that I have a chimney big enough to lay logs five feet long across the fire place, so you may guess we are not cold. I should like my brother John to be here; he would fell and build to his heart's content. Please to give our love to all our brothers and sisters, and I hope you will be so kind to let my brother John have this letter, and I hope he will have it published. I would send him some money to have it done, only we do not take any money yet; because those are not high coloured statements, only as they happen to us as we pass along. We must tell you that we can get plenty of wearing clothes and bed clothes. I must tell you that a kind lady sent us two nice windows, three feet wide and four feet six inches long, and she is going to send us some fruit trees, and we have some fowls; so you can see the Lord sends us some kind friends. I must tell you that our land is next to Richard Allen's, who came from Ridgmont, and we are not far from Alfred and Harry. We have another little girl, and her name is Mary Ann. She was born a week before Easter, and she was a month old when she came to Karamea. Georgie is stopping at Nelson for the present. We was glad to hear that you had such a comfortable Christmas. We are glad to tell you that we never had such a Christmas in our lives. One kind friend gave us fifteen to twenty pounds of beef and a large plum pudding and a bottle of wine and we had green peas and new potatoes. Instead of decorating the shops out with holly they had cherry boughs; so you see that we have not to regret leaving the old country. We shall be glad to hear from you, for we often think of you when the Lord deals so kindly with us, and we can not get at you to help you a little. Please to tell my brothers and sisters that I will write to them in turns, if we can get their address, as we are so busy a felling and building, and we should be glad to know how they are a getting on both in body and soul. I hope I shall never cease to pray for them. So I must now conclude with our kindest love to you all.

We remain your unworthy son and daughter.


Karamea Settlement, Nelson Province, New Zealand.

Linked toThomas Lineham; Mary Osborne

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