Notes and Observations

This series of letters from Carry (Caroline) O’Reilly to her husband Peter covers the time period from July 21, 1867 to September 23, 1867. The scene shifts from Yale to New Westminster to Victoria. There are some rare glimpses into the daily domestic life of a family separated at a “trying” time.

Names have been spelled the same throughout the documents, and the list shows the first time they appear.

The letters are numbered, so that the recipient could determine the order in which they were written. This technique is used when one or more of the parties are traveling and mail delivery is uncertain.

All the letters are written on monogrammed writing paper, the initials C.A.O.R. entwined.

All letters are cross written, a technique used to save paper and postage, but make for difficult reading.

Missing unreadable information is shown as _______.

The author of the letters uses ( ). Missing dates or information and artificial heading have been added and enclosed in [ ].

Pages of the letters are separated by blank lines.

“&” is used instead of punctuation marks and capitals, these have been added to make the letters easier to read.

“Mrs. S” or “Mr. M” are frequently used as short forms, either the person is well known to the author and the recipient or they have been mentioned by name in the first part of the letter. Example: Mrs. S is Mrs. Seymour.

People are referred to by their surnames, except for family, servants, or close friends.

H.E. occurs in both series of letters and my assumption is that it stands for His Excellency, and refers to the Governor Seymour at this date.

The O’Reillys maintained an establishment in Yale, as she speaks of putting things away before she leaves for Westminster. Later she is in Victoria, probably at “Cary House” with the Governor and Mrs. Seymour. There are a couple of references to “my carriage” indicating that they have some kind of home base in Victoria as well, possibly Fairfield (built and owned by Joe Trutch). The O’Reillys moved into Point Ellice House in December of the same year (1867).

How difficult it must have been for Carry to be left to cope with a small child, another on the way, the servants, the household management, and even some business concerns when her husband was working in the wilds of the vast territory we know as British Columbia. Transportation and communication at the best were very primitive to our modern standards.

Carry is pregnant with her second child. A daughter Kathleen Charlotte or better known as Kit was born in December 1867 just after they moved into Point Ellice House. There are clues and phrases used to describe her condition throughout the series:

  •  state of health
  • F.W. (family way)
  • delicate health
  • ennice (enceinte)
  • in my state
  • interesting state

Mrs. Seymour is also expecting (Letter No. 2).

“Julia” is family and I have assumed that she is the wife of Joe Trutch, Carry’s brother and with whom Peter O’Reilly works. Carry seems to disapprove of some of her sister-in-law’s ways (Letter No. 3).

Political climate, there are two significant events in the making:

  • amalgamation of the two colonies, Vancouver Island and British Columbia (the mainland) under one Governor.
  • the entry of British Columbia into Canadian Confederation in 1871, “Dominion Zeal” (Letter No. 3).

Carry is concerned that Peter will be sent to deal with the trouble in the Cariboo, the Grouse Creek War. The movement of the “steamers” could be changed without notice. They could not get into Hope due to wind (Letter No. 1). No freight, no boat (Letter No. 2).

There are a number of references to the telegraph being torn down. It must have been difficult to maintain given the terrain.

The spelling “Sooyoos” is used throughout the document.

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