One project of the Digital Library is to make unique physical objects available to a wider scholarly and public audience by digitization. Letters and personal papers of Joseph McGarrity housed in Special Collections have begun to be scanned into a new digital collection. As these items of Joseph McGarrity are processed and transcribed new connections between photographs and texts can be made, telling a living story.
The year 1927 finds Joseph McGarrity, noted Irish-American, in the rural mountainous region of Columbia seeking to renew his fortune by mining emeralds. As McGarrity ranges across the countryside he keeps in communication with his family by frequent postcards and letters. Here is the text of a recently transcribed letter from McGarrity to his son Joseph written in April 1927 in which he described the rugged yet beautiful countryside and offers some parental advice:
April 14, 1927,
My dear Son Joseph
I was delighted to receive your very well written letter and to hear that you are getting along good at school. I advise you when you write letters to use a pen and ink and always try to write your very best and neatest in this way you will find that each time you write a letter it will be better than your previous effort and so on until you will find it as easy to write with a pen as with a pencil. I have been very lonely for you and all your sisters and Brother […] Mama and Gram. I was very sorry to hear of your poor Uncle Hugh’s death God Have mercy on him pray for his soul every time you Kneel He was a good friend to us when we needed a friend let us now repay his great Kindness by our prayers that God may be Kind to him and take him to His Bosom
Well Joseph I will tell you of my trip to Muzo a place where the beuatiful Green Jewelery Precious stones called Emeralds are dug up from the Earth. It was a weeks trip about 5 days on Horse back and the rest of the time by train. The scenery was wonderful flowers of various colors and shapes many of which I had never seen before, groves of orange trees you could help yourself from your Horses or Mules back, pull them and eat them as you went. Great hills and cliffs that made you dizzy to ride along. If your mule should miss his step you might roll a thousand feet to the valley below
[…]where no trains nor auto travels. For miles at a time I was forced to dismount and lead my mule along the cliffs and deep gorges. Sometimes the path cut away by fllod from the hill was so deep and narrow that you were forced to raise your feet and stirrups to the mules back or your feet would get crushed by the mules sides as he walked along. My mule climed cliffs of stairs fifty times longer and steeper than any stairs you ever seen Jumping like a good from one rock to another at one time with me on his back He jumped right into a great gulch filled with water down He went all you could see if you were there was the mules head and the upper part of my body I got off and by a great struggle rescued the mule we were covered with yellow mud and dirt and had to go to a pool and wash off and dry in the sun.
But the scenery was so beautiful the Hills and vallies so green and silent. I longed to have mother and you all near me to view and enjoy the beauties of Gods wonderful works Strange beautiful birds piped and sang as we rode along Streams gurgled down the sides of the hills and united with larger streams in the vallies travel and food so cheap that it is cheaper to travel than remain at a hotel […] cocoa and orange trees every where quaint beautiful and silent villages hid away in the hills beautiful Catholic Churches and plenty of good people praying in them. […]
Well Joe as I have a detailed description which I will mail to mama or bring home with me I will say no more of it now we were where the > tigers and lions abound and I hope to bring home the skins of some of the wild animals that I may kill before I return
Would not a big tiger or two make a wonderful coat for mama I know you would be proud to see her wearing one. Pray hard Joe for mama Gran your brother and sisters and for my protection and safe return and always for your uncle Hugh who was so good to us. God love and bless you my dear son Joe your loving father Js. McGarrity
McGarrity also documented his journey and explorations with photographs. In this photograph taken in the mountains of Columbia, he sits astride a mule [Digital Library original].
While in this photograph taken in 1927, McGarrity with walking stick nearby and hat pushed back, sits at the end of the day near Bogota, Columbia [Digital Library original].