John Nevin formerly lived in the townland of Kilmoyle, four miles north of Ballymoney, on the road to Portrush. At the time of the 1798 rebellion he was a captain in the United Irishmen. He went into hiding following the collapse of the rebellion, was supposedly smuggled through Coleraine in a barrel and fled to America where he died in 1806. Some of his friends were tied to cartwheels and flogged and a few were hanged. Many of their properties were burned down. His brother James, the recipient of this letter, had returned from America and no charge could be made against him seeing he was abroad at the time.
10 April 1804
Happy in an opportunity of writing and now embrace this. Your last favour I recd in less than two weeks from this date. I have also seen a Mr Stewart from the Garden a few days ago on his way to Natchez, who left Ireland in November last and informs me that troublesome times are not likely to be over yet. Oh! that I could have you all in this country with the value of your property. Here I enjoy equal rights and privileges with the Governor and I am an equal companion of our first-rank, whilst you must pour out your purse to Landlords and whipers-in and your hat in your hand at the same time.
You have desired to know my business in the Indian Nation and also in Charlestown South Carolina. I went down the Tennessee river with a boat laden with flour and a number of other articles which I sold to the Indians and bought steers off them, and after stall-feeding the oxen, drove them to Charlestown, and just now am awaiting the arrival of a boat I have bought to go down the river in and expect to go in three days. No doubt you think it is a dreadful business trading with the Indians but you are entirely misinformed respecting it. You expect that we, who go there, must have Indian wives. True, the white men who live in the Nation have mostly red women but that is their pleasure. I have my license from the Agent of war for one year and I can come and go as I please without either woman or man, or with what company I see cause to take along.
I had intended being home last spring but it was out of my power. But God willing I shall see you all this one coming. I am sorry to hear of so many of my countrymen being confined and some executed but the permissive will of God must be done. You are under the rod of affliction in a high degree and Oh! that it may be sanctified and improved. You must await with patience your deliverance (if not come before you receive this) it is fast hastening.
You complain of a declension of religion in me which I may, with shame, acknowledge in part, but such religion as we have here none of you have ever seen. I was yesterday at a Sacrament (and exercise as they call it) but not so bad as some other meetings I have been at. We have them here for days as if dead being struck down; Others break into the greatest raptures of prayer, the Minister being obliged to quit preaching; and at their meetings you can see them dancing, running, jumping, jerking and twitching like a person in a violent convulsive fit. With praying, singing, and shouting glory glory as loud as they can bawl, and wringing and clapping their hands and such conduct as is rarely seen in religious worship, and I wish it may be by the direction of Heaven. In my present attempt it is as far beyond my tongue and pen to describe as you may think I am beyond anything you have ever seen, and although it hath alarmed me yet I cannot approve of it as God is a God of order and not of confusion.
We are now in this country under a real Republican Government and the best in the world and have got into possession of a new and extensive country which Ireland would not be a garden to. The river Tennessee goes down South into it and perhaps I may visit it before I return. My situation in life is not changed yet, and what is still worse, no appearance of it. As for my health thanks be to God alone I have never known (I may say) what it is to be sick one hour. If you receive this in time and it is in your power please send me some linen this season that it may be an addition to my stock in going home.
Please remember me to Brothers, Sisters, Cousins, and their Families, Mr Steph Hunter, Mr Rodgers’ Family and Loughconnely people and all enquiring Friends. Please make my apology for not writing as the distance and few opportunities puts it out of my power to write to everyone.
I remain your tender and ever affectionate Brother till death.
Derrykeighan Tythe Problem 1758
Parish of Loughguile - an 1801 letter