H105, American History I

Richard Frethorne, letter to his father and mother (March 20, April 2-3, 1623).

Loveing and kind father and mother my most humble duty remembred to you hoping in God of yor good health, as I my selfe am at the makeing hereof, this is to let you understand that I yor Child am in a most heavie Case by reason of the nature of the Country [which] is such that it Causeth much sicknes, as the scurvie and the bloody flix, and divers other diseases, wch maketh the bodie very poore, and Weake, and when wee are sick there is nothing to Comfort us; for since I came out of the ship, I never ate anie thing but pease, and loblollie (that is water gruell)[,] as for deare or venison I never saw anie since I came into this land, there is indeed some foule, but Wee are not allowed to goe, and get it, but must Worke hard both earelie, and late for a messe of water gruell, and a mouthfull of bread, and beife, a mouthfull of bread for a pennie loafe must serve for 4 men wch is most pitiful. [You would be grieved] if you did knowe as much as I, when people crie out day, and night, Oh that they were in England without their lymbes and would not care to lose anie lymbe to bee in England againe, yea, though they beg from doore to doore,

[F]or wee live in feare of the Enimy everie hower, yet wee have had a Combate with them on the Sunday before Shrovetyde, and wee tooke two alive, and make slaves of them, but it was by pollicie, for wee are in great danger; for o[u]r Plantation is very weake, by reason of the dearth, and sicknes, of o[u]r Companie, for wee came but Twentie for the marchaunts, and they are halfe dead Just; and wee looke everie hower When two more should goe, yet there came some fo[u]r other men yet to lyve with us, of which ther[e] is but one alive; and our Lieftenant is dead, and his ffather and his brother, and there was some 5 or 6 of the last yeares 20 of wch there is but 3 left, so that wee are faine to get other men to plant with us, and yet wee are but 32 to fight against 3000 if they should Come, and the nighest helpe that Wee have is ten miles of us, and when the rogues overcame this place last [time], they slew 80 persons[.]  how then shall wee doe for wee lye even in their teeth, they may easilie take us but that God is mercifull, and can save with few as well as with many;

[A]s he showed to Gylead and like Gyleads Souldiers if they lapt water, wee drink water wch is but Weake, and I have nothing to Comfort me, nor is ther[e] nothing to be gotten here but sicknes, and death, except that one had money to lay out in some thinges for profit; But I have nothing at all, no not a shirt to my backe, but two Ragges nor Clothes, but one poore suite, nor but one paire of shooes, but one paire of stockins, but one Capp, but two bands, my Cloke is stollen by one of my owne fellowes, and to his dying hower [he] would not tell mee what he did with it but some of my fellows saw him have butter and beife out of a ship, wch my Cloke I doubt [not] paid for, so that I have not a penny, nor a penny Worth to helpe me to either spice, or sugar, or strong Waters, without the wch one cannot yive here, for as strong beare in E ngland doth fatten and strengthen them[,] so water here doth wash and weaken theis here, onelie keepe life and soule together.  but I am not halfe a quarter so strong as I was in England, and all is for want of victualls, for I doe protest unto you, that I have eaten more in [one] day at home then I have allowed me here for a Weeke.  you have given more then my dayes allowance to a beggar at the doore; and if Mr Jackson had not releived me, I should bee in a poore Case, but he like a ffather and shee like a loveing mother doth still helpe me,

[F]or when wee goe to James Towne that is 10 myles of us, there lie all the ships that Come to land, and there they must deliver their goods, and when wee went up to Towne as it may bee on Moonedaye, at noone, and come there by night, then load the next day by noone, and goe home in the afternoone, and unload, and then away againe in the night, and bee up about midnight, then if it rayned, or blowed never so hard wee must lye in the boate on the water, and have nothing but alitle bread, for when wee go into the boate wee have a loafe allowed to two men, and it is all if we stayed there 2 dayes, wch is hard, and must lye all that while in the boate, but that Goodman Jackson pityed me & made me a Cabbin to lye in alwayes when I come up, and he would give me some poore Jacks [i.e., fish] [to take] home with me wch Comforted mee more then pease, or water gruell.

Oh they bee verie godlie folkes, and love me verie well, and will do anie thing for me, and he much marvailed that you would send me a servaunt to the Companie, he saith I had been better knockd on the head, and Indeede so I fynd it now to my greate greife and miserie, and saith, that if you love me you will redeeme me suddenlie, for wch I doe Intreate and begg, and if you cannot get the marchaunts to redeeme me for some litle money, then for Gods sake get a gathering or intreat some good folks to lay out some little Sum of moneye, in meale, and Cheese and butter, and biefe, anie eating meate will yeald great profit, oile and vyniger is verie good, but ffather ther[e] is greate losse in leakinge, but for Gods sake send beife and Cheese and butter or the more of one sort and none of another, but if you send Cheese it must bee very old Cheese, and at the Chesmongers you may buy good Cheese for twopence farthing or halfepenny that will be liked verie well, but if you send Cheese you must have a Care how you packe it in barrells, and you must put Coopers Chips between everie Cheese, or els[e] the heat of the hold will rott them, and looke whatsoever you send me be it never so much looke what I make of it I will deale trulie with you[,] I will send it over, and begg the profit to redeeme me, and if I die before it Come[,] I have intreated Goodman Jackson to send you the worth of it, who hath promised he will; If you send you must direct yor letters to Goodman Jackson, at James Towne a Gunsmith.  (you must set downe his frayt) because there bee more of his name there;

[G]ood ffather doe not forget me, but have mercy and pittye my miserable Case. I know if you did but see me you would weepe to see me, for I have but one suite, but [though] it is a strange one, it is very well guarded, wherefore for Gods sake pittie me, I pray you to remember my love to all my ffriends, and kindred, I hope all my Brothers and Sisters are in good health, and as for my part I have set downe my resolution that certainelie Wilbe, that is, that the Answeare of this letter wilbe life or death to me, therefore good ffather send as soon as you can, and if you send me anie thing let this bee the marke.  ROT

Richard Ffrethorne
Martyns Hundred.