Monday, March 16, 2015

A first fleet letter home - John and Elizabeth RUSSELL, 1788

I was reading the diaries of James SCOTT ( With the diary when it came to Dixson in the 1890s was a letter written by John and Elizabeth RUSSELL to Elizabeth's mother. The wonderful State Library of New South Wales has digitized it and included a transcript ( While I have been reading accounts of the First Fleet voyages (and subsequent records) this is an interesting letter home from Sydney ('Sidney') to a family in Devon.

As with Worgan, the RUSSELL/FOGNELL(sp) families were connected to Devon. It is frustrating to think of all the letters home from the First Fleet that wound up being discarded. 

As with my ponderings on the WORGAN family, I hope that there are a few more First Fleet lettesr sitting somewhere in a book or box in England.

The letter below is remarkable and in three written pages on two sheets (it could not be longer because of paper shortages). Mrs Fogewell is informed by her daughter and son-in-law that her family has arrived in Botany Bay/Port Jackson safely, of the events on their journey, that a new grandson has arrived and that her granddaughter is recovering after illness. Norfolk Island is mentioned and the indigenous peoples of NSW are described. Some leaves are included used by the settlers to sweeten tea (which reminds me of the "Leaves from Botany Bay used as tea" in the possession of James Boswell, given him by Mary BRYANT: and

I find it interesting that in the post script, it is noted that an Ann, Agnes or Elizabeth (difficult to read) LAMB 'came out on the same ship with me'. I have not found a convict that matches the name, perhaps she was the spouse of a Marine.

Addressed:- To Mrs Mary Fogewell Totneess Devon

Letter from Sydney
Head Quarters Sidney Town New South Wales July 10th 1788
Hon’d Mother This with our duty to you and Love to our Sister and all Friends hoping you are in good health as it leaves us thanks to God for it, Since we left England we have a son Born and blessed be God he remains in Good health and is About A Year Old he handles his feet bravely and can walk Alone a little. Our daughter have had A very trying fit of Sickness but thank God she also is recovered; I now Intend to give you A hint of our Passage to Botany Bay under the Command of Capn Arthur Phillips new Governor of New South Wales and its Dependancys. 1787 We Set sail from Spihead on the 13th May and on the 3rd of June made the Isle of Tenereif and Anchored the Fleet in St De Cruze Roads the Same day here we Stayd for 7 days and Compleated our water

Page 2
and wine and then put to Sea for the Isle of St Jagos but the wind but the wind being Against us Made Sail for South America and made the Brazilian Colonies on August 1st and on the 5th Anchored the Fleet in Rio Janerio roads, The portugees recieved us with Great Salutations and and feasted us for A Month on the best of the Land. All things here is very Plentiful and Cheap. After Compleating our duties with. About the Begining of Sepr (we) made sail for the Cape of Good hope and reached it on the 13th of October here also we was Supplyd as at Rio and Recruited Ourselves for 5 weeks. We the made sail for Botnay Bay. On this Passage I must remark the Different Climats also of the Prodigeous Large Whales seen here but for our Parts the Passage was very Good and we reached botoney Bay on the 26th Jany 1788. but the Comodore not Aproving of the Place removed us to Port Jackson where we still remain since our Arival the Supply Tender have found an Island About 3 days Sail from Head Letter from Sydney p.2.

Page 3
Quarters that Abounds with Plenty of Turtle and Tame Fowl this Country Abounds in all kinds of Birds & Fish but no tame Cattle The natives of this Country are A Straight neet Limmd People Entirely naked and almost Black They live on fish Roots & fruit & what the Country Produces of its own Accord Since our Arival we have found several Shrubs that serve as Teas Sweetining the rest which I have heare sent some Leaves as a sample As to the Pigs(?) Cattle and Poultry we brought with us they come on very well we have at Preasent Potatoes (Turn)ips, Lettice (gre)en Pease, Greens and the Corn coming in Ears I have many more things want relating conserning this new Settlement but the Limets of the Paper will not Admit I hope you will send me an Answer by the return of the fleet So with my Kind Love to all Enquiring Friends We Remain Your Dutiful Children Jno & Elizh Russell Please to remember me to Mrs folks and Mrs Basto Age Lamb came out in the same ship with me but she may have sent to her frends before now

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