|Below are a selection of letters and
diaries concerning the migration to, and settlement of, the Cornish in Latin America. Where
possible these have been transcribed as
they were written and thus contain original spelling errors and some retain their Cornish dialect and
nineteenth century expression. Users are politely requested to
acknowledge this website as their source.
Letter of Captain Thomas Garby Jnr.
to J.T. Tregelles of St Agnes, from Guanajuato Mexico 1825.
of what was originally a much longer letter, was printed in the Royal
Cornwall Gazette in January 1825 and describes the town and
countryside of Guanajuato and the cost of basic commodities. Garby
writes of the detrimental effects of civil war on the mines of the
region, has some disparaging things to say about the Mexican people, and
notes that his party were politely requested to pass themselves off as
Catholics to as not to rouse the displeasure of the priesthood and so
avoid any impediment to future mining operations.
Fragment of the Ballad of
William Simmons of Redruth Highway, a miner recruited by the
Famatina Mining Company to work silver mines in Argentina in 1826.
Simmons' ship, the Marquis of Anglesea, was wrecked in the River
Plate after a tempestuous Transatlantic crossing that witnessed the
drowning of a Cornishman who was accidentally washed overboard. The
company failed to secure the mines it wanted to work and Simmons made
his way back to Cornwall to record his bitter experience in this ballad,
a fragment of which was published in
Quarterly Mining Review, London 1827.
from the diary of Thomas Merrett of Gwennap, who migrated to the
Gongo Soco Mines Brazil, 1830
Merrett of Gwennap was recruited in 1830 by the Williamses of Scorrier
under a five-year contract to the Imperial Brazilian Mining Company at
£102 per year. His diary describes in detail his transatlantic
the Duke of York from Falmouth to Rio de Janeiro, his impressions of the
Brazilian port and his subsequent journey through the tropical highlands of the state of Minas
Gerais to the
mines of Gongo Soco via Passegem and Mariana. It is thought that Merrett died at the mines of Gongo Soco and
his dairy was sent home among his possessions. It is likely that he was
a grandson of Thomasine Trevithick (sister of Richard Trevithick) who
married Andrew Johns. Mary, one of their five daughters, married a
Merrett and the diarist Thomas appears to have been their son.
Letter of Captain
Edward Roberts of Fresnillo Mexico to Nicholas Harvey of Hayle 1839.
Roberts was a Mine Captain born in Wendron in 1800 and had worked in Breage
prior to his migration to the Fresnillo
Mines in Mexico. He is writing to Nicholas Harvey of Harvey's Foundry,
Hayle in Cornwall, not just to place an order for sundry mining
equipment, but to enlist his help in recruiting men he wanted to bring
out to Fresnillo to replace those Cornish miners he was not happy with.
This letter captures the Cousin Jack network, the rate of wages and also the problems
drunkenness and insubordination among the Cornish workforce. It is
evident from the letter that Edwards had not received much schooling.
of William Nicholls of Ilogan dated December 1842.
Nicholls signed this contract as a miner for three years with the Royal
Santiago Mining Company based at Cobre Cuba, at wages of £120 per year
to commence on his arrival at the mines. The contract details his obligations to
the company, including a clause not to upset the civil and religious
institutions and customs of Cuba. Nicholls was required to maintain his
own quarters, not to indulge in liqour and arrangements were made for a
part of his wages to be remitted to Cornwall in regular quarterly
disbursements. The company would provide his passage out, and if he fell
ill through no fault of his own, would arrange for him to
return to England at their expense. If he failed to carry out the terms
of his agreement in any way, he would forfeit the sum of £100 as a
penalty, almost a whole year's wages.
from Tuckingmill miner resident at Tres Puntas Chile, to his
family in Tuckingmill 1852.
In this letter that was printed in the Cornish
Telegraph, 'J.G.' comments on the superiority of 'Tuckingmill safety' and of the
barrenness of the Copiapo mining district of Chile, prone to sudden
earthquakes. He grumbles about the dissipate behaviour of
Catholics and lack of entertainment, mentions his wages, and that he was glad to
receive letters and a newspaper from home, underlining the transnational
nature of life. He wanted to know whether his parents had received a sovereign sent by his
employers upon his departure from Liverpool and requested them to send
him some clothes should they hear of anyone leaving Cornwall for the
same area of Chile. The grammar
and spelling in this letter betrays an ad hoc
of W.R. Bateson
recounting his experiences on his journey to the Concordia Mine near
Salta, Argentina, 20 October 1899.
Bateson was a graduate of the Camborne School of Mines and this
letter was published in two installments in the Camborne School of
Mines Magazine. Bateson gives a detailed account of his
transatlantic voyage via Cape Verde to Rio de Janeiro, Monte Video and
then Buenos Aires. He describes the terrain and vegetation en route from
Buenos Aires to Salta via Rosario de Santa Fe and Tucuman by train, and
then the final arduous journey by mule through pampas, forests and snow
covered mountains with an Indian guide to reach the isolated Concordia
Mine high in the Andes mountains in the north of Argentina.