John Burke Letter

The  following letter was sent by John Burke, age 53, to his son, Michael, age 25. The Burke's emigrated from Ireland  in 1881.

Tanners Falls  March the 1st 1886

Dear Son,

We received your letter yesterday and was happy to hear that you were well and in good health a Blessing which all of us enjoy here at present thanks be to God for his kind mercy to us all.

We were also glad to hear that the Flynn Boys were getting on so good.

Katie came home on the 18th and left here yesterday for New York. Oneil came here the next day after she came home and wanted her in the worst way to marry him but all to no effect. We all drove to Rileyville on Sunday and stayed there that night. Oneil came back here again and talked the thing over but no use. All belonging to her wanted her to marry him but no good. I hope she may do better but Oneil feels bad over it and told her she could be her own Boss it is supposed he is worth 3000 dollars he can get  plenty of girls around here with 1000 dollars cash.

J.J.'s foot is healing fast. I guess his temper was a little up after you sent that letter to Anthony as it was the next day he cut his foot he was lucky that it did not strike it a little higher and it should be taken off at the ankle they never let on when I was there but Anthony gave me the letter and I gave it to (Pete).  I (seen) a letter that came from (PH).  He is in New York he says there is a good prospect of next summer he has coal contracted for the summer.  Hughy and Herbert are Harboring steady.  Hughy bought another Northern Big Boat at 1200 Dollars cash only built 3 years.  Mrs McGinty gave him 700 dollars and P.H. gave him the balance. John (Dougherty) is going boating next summer  I had a  letter from him the day Katie came home  He says himself and the old lady is coming east in the spring if she sells  her farm.  I  like if they come you will be along with them I believe you and him can make more east than west.

I see John McCarty went out there with a good share of money and got free land  he came back penniless. I guess there is lots out there would come back if they were able. I am sorry when you left Kee Kuyk (?)  that you did not come home and you would find a job down the valley  if you wanted you could stay  home until the good day would come you have an idea how things are east and west  The Scranton Mills never ran so good as they are at present.

Anthony is thinking of going Boating next summer. Jim wants to know what he wants for his farm. Just what he paid for it. I am writing to Jim today he feels a little lonely since you left there. P.H. says he can get 1500 dollars for the Jeff Collins if JJ does not go boating but I guess it is better paying job than farming.

Katie had quite a time here. We had to go to Wm. Bears to a dance.  Old Bear danced the soles out of his stockings and if I did not swing Mrs. Arthur at every corner the devil is a witch.

Next night in Johns and was to be the last night in my house but it stormed hard and they could not get out.

Hoping to hear from you soon again we remain as ever your loving Father and Mother until Death.

John and Mary Burke

Comments from Mimi Steffen (October 2001):

Flynn Boys - No relation that is known;  possibly neighbors.

Katie is John and Mary's daughter, age 21 at the time of the letter. Her granddaughter, Anne Whiteman, says she was working for a
very well known New York family at the time. I wish we knew Oneil's first name. That area of Dyberry and Pleasant Mount
Townships are replete with O'Neils.  There are several ideas in this paragraph worth thinking  about. Think about the time.
Against the wishes of  her parents, Katie refuses Oneils proposal! And the money almost sounds like a reverse dowry. Were
women that scarce  in the  area that  gentlemen were bidding for their hands? And she could be her own Boss! How many  more
years would it be before women  got the vote? Many  men still have a problem with women being their equals! Two years after
Katie turned down Oneil's offer she married John Murray.  Anne Whiteman wonders if he topped Oneil's $3000. I  say true
love triumphed.

J.J. is James Doherty, son of Patrick and Mary Doherty. J.J. married Mary's daughter, Mary, in 1881. Mary was 24 at the time with a 13 year old step daughter, and two babies .  They owned a large farm at Rose Lake in Rileyville. Mary's, son, Anthony was married to J.J.'s sister, Rose. They lived on the adjacent farm on Rose lake. They had one two year old son. A second son  was born in 1886. Before or after this letter was written is not  known.  J.J. was involved in the Doherty Brothers Canal business.  We know that Anthony at some time was on the canal, since Rose died on a canal boat.

The shoe that J.J. was wearing at the time of the  above incident  has been passed down through the John Doherty family. The shoe is now in the  possession of J.J.'s  great grandson, Jerry Doherty. I had only become aware of the story very recently. The tale that family has passed down is  J.J. was angry about something or some situation. He wasn't being careful, swung, and cut off his toes. The axe went right through the upper and sole of the boot.

Who wants to speculate about the contents of  that letter!  Pete is most likely Mary Herbert Burke's brother Pete. PH is most likely another brother, Patrick. Patrick was based in New York City and later  moved to Jersey City.  Hughy must be Hugh Doherty. He married Mary McGinty in 1884.  At this time he was situated in Port Henry, N.Y. He managed the business there. Ice and other  goods were transported from Canada through Lake Champlain and transferred to canal boats at Port Henry for a trip down the Champlain or Northern Canal to its terminal just north of Albany. From thence down the Hudson to the bay.

John Dougherty is the oldest brother of J.J.  He married Mary Hughes. I'll have to ask that branch of the family if they can shine any light on the reference to the old lady selling her farm. Could John have married someone from the west?

John McCarty is the brother of Mary McCarthy Doherty. He made money in California during the gold rush era. He later owned a saloon  in Honesdale.  He  lived back in the east until at least 1896. He moved back west and died in Montana.

Mary certainly wants her son back home. All the other children settled either in this area or the New York City area. "The Valley" is the Lackawanna Valley including Scranton and Wilkes Barre.  It  is still called that today. Note that there is no enticement to work in the  mines. The John Burke's had lived in Scranton for a while after emigrating. My grandmother, Mary Burke Doherty's residence was listed as Scranton on her application for a marriage liscence.  Her second child, John, was born in Scranton. I have always assumed so that Mary could be with her own mother during her confinement.

There was a thriving lace mill in Scranton. Wool and silk mills were also plentiful. After the second world war they declined. Due to the availability of cheap labor in Mexico, mills and clothing manufacturing have departed from this area.

Is Jim Mary's son, James? We never knew that he had gone west.  He lived on the Bethany Road farmstead. Anthony never sold his farm and J.J. continued boating until his death.  The Doherty brothers and their extended relations seem able to purchase canal boats independently.  Most owners made arrangements with the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company. A certain amount  was taken from their amount due until the boat was paid off. And I imagine that interest would be a significant amount.

Wm. Bears is most likely the family we now know as Beeres. They have a reputation for being musical.  They lived adjacent to the Patrick Doherty farm on Bethany Road. Anne Whiteman comments that we all get our love of dancing quite naturally!

Would there have been a snow storm?  I have no idea who John was. Mary had a son John about whom we know nothing.

John Burke was killed on March 6, as he was driving from Honesdale to his home.