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News and Highlights: From the Vault (July 2006)

Coming to America

Letter from Joseph Raynes to his family, July 6, 1831 

Joseph Raynes, a native of Bonsall, Derbyshire, England, embraced the hope of a new life and endless opportunity when he immigrated to Baltimore in May 1831. Joseph secured passage on a brig, the Russian, for his voyage to Baltimore. In late June 1831, the Russian sailed into the Port of Baltimore and deposited its passengers in Fells Point. Joseph's letters home detail his exciting journey and daily life in Baltimore, along with his conflicting desire to remain connected to his family despite the distance between them.

People leave the country of their birth and start a new life elsewhere for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they are escaping political or religious persecution, and often, they are looking for opportunities not available in their home country. The United States was built by immigrants, and in the first half of the nineteenth century, the Port of Baltimore was often a first stop for many people. The journey by boat to Maryland from Europe could take several weeks, or even months. Immigrants who chose to stay in Maryland, rather than head west to other destinations, had to depend on the kindness of relatives or friends already in the United States, and find work quickly. First-hand accounts, city directories, maps, ship's logs, and other documents all document the immigrant experience.

In a letter dated July 6, 1831, Joseph Raynes wrote to his family about his first views of Maryland.

Letter from Joseph Raynes to his family, July 6, 1831

... we entered into the into Chesapeake bay we had the pleasure of seeing land on both sides of the bay we had calm in the bay for two days one of the other gents and myself we prevailed on the captain to let down the boat for us to go in the woods the captain with us the first objects I had in view was two beautiful horses. They were very great. I went up to them. We went on further we saw two Negroes. They were loading a cask with tobacco. They led us to a house which was the planters. We have to go through the woods for two miles. The soile appeared to me to be of a sandy, sandy nature. Some of the trees were very thick and very high. Part of the land appeared to me as if it had been cultivated and grone [grown] wild again in the places they were thick trees cut down they were sawed about two feet from the earth they were decaying very fast when we got to the planters house we saw a lady of color. She very politely asked us in to take some refreshments. It was a pleasant situation they had a many very nice horses that sell for twelve pounds for in America would sell for twenty in England a cow that will sell for five pounds in America would sell for twelve in England We went about the farm and saw the slaves plowing with two horses English plows are of no use in America The laiday [lady] gave us some milk in some bottles and two bundles of cherries. We bid her far well then we proceeded to the ship again with our prise.

Additional Resources

The University of Maryland Libraries contain a number of collections and holdings that enable people to research and track immigration in Maryland during the nineteenth century.

Additional materials are located in a number of other Local Archives, Libraries, and Other Repositories in Maryland

See previous From the Vault entries.