1860: Thomas Hallam to Mary Hallam

This letter was written by Thomas Hallam who served as a butler to Lord Richard Lyons (1817-1887)—the British Ambassador to the United States from 1858 to 1865 during the American Civil War. Lord Lyons was a relatively young and inexperienced diplomat when he was appointed to the post in Washington D. C. which did not sit well with President Buchanan. On the other hand, Lord Lyons—a quick judge of character—concluded in short order that Buchanan was inept and described him as “too weak to wring his hands.”

Lord Lyon was famous for his “tact, equanimity towards foreign peoples, staunchness, stoicism, wit, and opulent dinner parties.” As the minister’s butler, no doubt Thomas assisted the ambassador in hosting many distinguished guests during his time in Washington D. C.

Unfortunately I could not find much information on Thomas Hallam who must have been at least in his thirties when he wrote this letter. He gives his mother’s name as “Mrs. H. Mitton” of Grantham, Lincolnshire, England—probably remarried. Neither can I find information about his Uncle Mathew Hallam who “drownded” in the Hudson river.

Thomas wrote the letter to his aunt, Mary Hallam (@1781-1879), the wife of Mathew Hallam (@1780-@1855), both emigrants from England. Mary may be found in the 1855, 1860, and 1870 Census Records residing in North Easton, Washington county, New York, with her son-in-law Hiram C. Rathbun’s family. She died in 1781 and was buried in the Methodist Stump Church Cemetery in Cambridge, NY.

Thomas Hallam’s letter with a CDV of Secretary of State William Seward, far right, and Bristish Minister Lord Lyons, sitting third from right. Others are assumed to be international diplomats. Picture taken at Trenton Falls in New York (National Archives)

Addressed to Mrs. M. Hallam, Hiram C. Rathbun, North Easton
Washington County, State New York

British Legation
Washington D. C., United States
Wednesday afternoon, November 7, 1860

My dear Aunt,

I the undersigned Thomas Hallam, your nephew, now at the request of my dear mother, Mrs. H. Mitton of Grantham, Lincolnshire in England, now forward to you a few lines of which I hope will meet you and all the little cousins quite well as thank God these leave me at this present time. And I had a letter from home this morning and they was all quite well and they hoped that I had wrote to you before now. So I have now took the resolution to drop you a few lines to let you know that you have got a nephew in the United States of America.

My poor mother was very much cut up when she heard of the last of poor Uncle Mathew’s death and being drownded in the Hudson.

I believe dear Aunt, I have been now at Washington D. C. since April 1859. I come over from England with Lord Lyons, the British Minister, and am still with him. I am fulfilling the situation as under butler and if you or any of my cousins should feel inclined to drop me a few lines, why I should feel delighted to hear from you or any of your children. My dear mother and all at home sends their kind love to you and mother says that she should very much like to see you and your family and so should I too.

Dear Aunt, I hope if you get these few lines safe, you will acknowledge it or let me know in some way that you have received it safe for my dear mother is so anxious to hear something about you. This is the first time I have wrote to you so you see I am as the saying is, quite a stranger to you as far as knowing each other. But still, I am your nephew, and as my mother wished me to write you a few lines to let you know that one of your poor Uncle Matthews nephews was in the United States of America, why I thought it my duty to do so. And believe me to remain with my kind love to you and all my cousins, and believe me dear Aunt, your affectionate nephew. — Thomas Hallam

My address:

Thomas Hallam
Care of Lord [Richard] Lyons
British Minister
British Legation
Washington D. C.
United States

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