The Canadian Emigrant

The Yorkshire Gazette printed the following account in January 1852, received from an unknown emigrant to Canada.

He admitted to coming from Grewelthorpe. But declined to give his name. What a shame for us. However this account of life in Canada is very illuminating.

We had a long and tedious passage, being just 10 weeks from home to arriving here. The Yankees are the most ardent thieves I have ever met with. We were robbed in all directions in passing thro the United States. In paying our full fare at New York thro to Toronto the first place we came to namely Albany, they charged me £2 for luggage extra, and same like at Rochester, in fact it was nothing but pay all the way. I believe if we had come by Quebec we would have saved £10. A man should have a pocket full of money with a family like mine, particularly if he passes thro the states.

However we all arrived in good health, with just 8 shillings left, all the money I had in the world. But thank God, if I left no brothers in England, I found 2 or 3 when I got to Canada. I went to a friend from Liverpool, and when I arrived we had a house taken for us ready to go into with bedsteads, and plenty of firewood, and a large garden full of potatoes. The landlord supplied us with milk etc, we started to harvest for our landlord, a day or two after we arrived, so that now I have a good sum in his hands. I have been a few days by daywork at my trade of a painter, at a dollar a day and meat, but I believe the regular wages are a dollar and a half a day.

The writer goes on to say that he has put his children out to various trades, instead of paying premiums with them, their masters pay from £30 to £50 for their services for the period of their apprenticeship, extending over from 3 to 4 years. He then proceeds to give a description of the country in which he has cast his lot. and of the customs and habits of the people.

He says:- Canada is a fine country, and I shall have reason to bless God that I ever came to it, for the sake of my family. It has excellent land for growing wheat, I grow from 25 to 50 bushels per acre. Wheat is selling very low here now. From 2/3 to 2/6 a bushel. We get a barrel of flour that is 14 stones for 12shillings. Beef from 2d to 3d per pound. Mutton much the same. pork about 2d. Apples from 6d to 1/- per bushel. The mode of living is very bountiful. There are 5 meals a day in Summer & 4 in winter. They have for breakfast tea, bread, butter, apple pie, beef or mutton & potatoes. Dinner & supper much the same. They have tea and coffee to every meal. They send tea, coffee, bread & butter, apple pie into the field all summer forenoon and afternoon for drinkings, but no beer. Whisky is from 1/3 to 1/6 per gallon, brandy 4/6 per gallon, tobacco 1/6 per pound. Clothing is not dear. But the making up is very costly. They have all pole-waggons, and they ride and drive without reins, empty or laden. Horses are dear, but pigs, sheep and cows are very cheap. You may get a good milch cow for £2 or £3. We can get as much land as we like, from 5s to 10s an acre, by going 50 or 60 miles west of here, and have 10 years to pay for it in. They call it going to the bush, but I should call it going to the woods, for properly speaking there is no bush at all. There is no underwood, neither briar or thorn, so the woods don’t take so much clearing as I expected. An ordinary chopper will chop an acre down in a week. In some parts where there is plenty of pine, the timber more than pays for the land. If a man can raise a yoke of oxen, and keep himself for a year, he may venture to go to the bush. But he is better with £50 or £100. As soon as you have got your wood out and burnt, you may throw the seed on and harrow it in. And when you have reaped it you burn the stubble and sow it with wheat again and harrow it in again. Some do that 3 times with wheat and get a good crop. Ready money works wonders here, almost all traders turn out farmers, after they have been here a few years. We have no tithes, poor rates or highway rates. As for poor I think there is none. There is a small rate laid on the farmer to support the schools.

I am quite convinced a man may live here if he likes, and that very soon on his own property. They are mostly Yorkshiremen or Westmorelandmen who are settled about here, they are very generous, and are quite offended if you go into a house and come out without eating and drinking with them. If you call at a house on the road side to ask the way they will desire you to eat and drink with them. The method of preserving apples here so that they may have them all the year round, is simply that they pare them, cut them in quarters, string them on threads like beads, and hang them up to dry for a fortnight or so. They will then keep anywhere dry. You may give them a boil before using and this swells them to their former size.

Researched by Barbara Bradley December 2014.