Lot 210 of 435:
Texas Revolutionary as British immigrant to New York, 1818 letter  

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Future Texas Revolutionary as British immigrant to New York, 1818 letter

Fennell, George

New York




 Autograph Letter Signed. Aug. 21, 1818. 4pp. incl. stampless address leaf. (Transcript available on request) To his brother Samuel Fennell, Bury St. Edmund, Suffolk, England.  

Writing in the Houston History Magazine in 1985, James Glass described “An Englishman in the Texian Service” in 1835-1836, British immigrant George Fennell, who, “like so many other disillusioned, broke and desperate men”, was “lured by $8 per month and the promise of free land to join the Georgia Volunteers in the Texas war against Mexico”, barely “escaping with his life, having quit the Georgia battalion just before it was wiped out” by Mexican troops – most notable because he left behind a  diary of his military service in the decisive Battle of San Jacinto.  Glass attempted to trace Fennell’s antecedents after his birth to Quaker parents in England, but found most of his early life, including his immigration to America, a “mystery”. This letter by Fennell, newly-arrived in New York, answers some of Glass’ questions, even though it was written more than a decade before he appeared in revolutionary Texas.

The young and very iterate Fennell of 1818 was enamored of New York City – “this flourishing and beautiful City so justly admired by all Europe” which enjoyed “very superior privileges to any other Cities in the World, on the same scale of magnitude”, in particular, “her internal navigation which extends itself in almost every direction thro the vast territories of the United States and her approximation to the Ocean…advantages infinitely beyond the calculation of human foresight.” Unfortunately, Fennell had himself “experienced inconceivable difficulties” in trying to make a living in this fine city, while “the Emigration from Europe to this County continues unabated…” 6,000 Settlers had arrived at Quebec on their way to America, “many of whom I fear are by this time grievously disappointed in their expectations. The ingress of Europeans into this City is still in a much great proportion, most of whom I presume are scanty in their funds and how they are all to support themselves thro the inclemency of the approaching winter where the necessaries of life are so exorbitantly high – I am totally at a loss to discern.”  He had taken a temporary job in the Counting House of a recent German immigrant, a Produce and Ship Broker, but “my salary… is so small that is quite impossible I can long continue in his service, being obliged to pay $4 per week for my board and lodging which with my expences for washing, scarcely leaves me a sufficiency for [shoes?]. Being likewise miserably deficit in clothing. I am prevented from offering myself in respectable situations where appearances are so much attended to. Should my exertions meet with no better encouragement I have almost decided on proceeding to the Southern States…” When and how Fennell proceeded to the South and, 17 years later, found himself in joining in the quixotic campaign to free Texas from Mexico, remains a mystery, as does his subsequent life in Texas after statehood, when he apparently married a free Black woman n the years before the Civil War. But this letter offers a starting point to continue Glass’s speculative research.

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