Our kind love to you: a letter from an Upper Canadian Settler
Editor's Note: The following letter was written by a recent immigrant from Frome, Somersetshire, England. The route she describes was typical for the time, arriving by ship at Quebec City, and then making the long passage up the St. Lawrence River to the capital of Upper Canada, York (now Toronto). Most new immigrants went first to York to apply for land grants in the back country, and the immigrant office there often would give them free passage from there to the town nearest their allotted land, in this case, Peterborough. The "Ague" she describes is a kind of fever and chills that was common amongst new settlers in Upper Canada. When she says William "gave in his discharge," she is referring to the fact that retired British soldiers could use their discharge papers to trade their pensions for land. Return To Reprints
Dummer, September 6th, 1831
Dear Father and Mother,
This comes with our kind love to you; I hope you are well; myself and the children are well, but William has got the ague, he has had it these five weeks; it has been a very wet Spring and a great many have the ague this season. But for all this we do not wish ourselves in Frome again. I suppose you would like to know how we live, since William is not able to work; we landed in Quebec the 21st April, then went by a steam packet to Montreal, 180 miles. I cannot tell the distance from one place to another, you have heard of the river St. Laurence, which is about one hundred and thirty miles long, we do go up there by the Dummer boats, a tedious way to Prescot, then to Kingston (tell William Gregory we saw Robert Davis, he is well, he made us welcome) then we went to Little York to the Governor of the Upper Province, who lives there; now we had no longer to maintain ourselves we had our provisions found us and our passage paid back to Oberne, seventy miles down the river, again from there to Peterborough. William gave in his discharge there, which entitles him to one hundred acres of land, which we are now in possession of, we have forty-nine pounds of flour and seven pounds of pork every week for a twelve month, and axes to chop with, (the old Country axes are no good here) great numbers of emigrants have come out this Summer, you would be surprised to see them, they are all provided for the same as we are, only those that are not soldiers have to pay ₤20 for the land in six years. We are eighteen miles from Peterborough, the pork and flour is brought out in casks. By the blessing of the Almighty, we expect to do well; we thought to sow two acres of fall wheat, but William's having the ague we shall not be able to sow any before Spring, then, please God, we think to sow two acres of wheat, one acre of potatoes, half an acre of corn, peas, garden, etc. I suppose you think this too much to be true; I have not told you one word that is not true. We have to chop down the timber, put it in piles, and burn it, if you had it in England you would grudge burning it, fine, clean-grown timber. Sugar-maple here is fine and high, (that is what the Corsey man meant by the sugar bush). We have here a whole mass of woods, no one knows the bounds of it, they are all glad to see us come, Government pays for all, never a township filled so fast as Dummer, a house almost on every hundred acres. Every one here makes his own sugar, he makes a hole in the maple-tree at fall when the sap goes back, and in the spring when it rises, then boils it and it makes beautiful sugar; they make their own soap and their own candles. There are people here, who came out as poor as we did, who have now their cows and oxen, sheep, pigs, etc., in short, every thing heart can wish for. A great many Irish came out this summer, but they would sooner see English and Scotch. Shoes are dear here; there is no clothing business carried on; all iron tools are very dear, axes from 10s. to 12s. each. We have a Methodist preacher among us, and a gentleman from ------ twenty-five miles off, comes once a fortnight. As for money, we shall have but little yet, till our crops come round to have something to sell. Clothes are dear; if any of the party come out next spring, let them buy as much as they can, and let them beware, that the people all up the country, will cheat them in every way they can. A man that has a family, will do better than one without, for every child that can carry a stick is of use. The summer has been much like the summers in England, we do not know what the winter will be. We have our houses built of wood, not for want of stone, but masons; we have plenty of limestone; these are now settled places; Government pays for all our houses. Let any one see the letter that wishes it, they may take it for a truth. A man from Bradley is come back, it was too hard work for him, he will give it a bad name, don't believe him, his name is T---r. I forgot to tell you that William was lost, when he went to see the land, two days and two nights, I never expected to see him again, twelve men went in search of him, almost all his clothes were torn off, such a figure I never saw!
Your affectionate Son and Daughter,
William & Jane Grant
Direct to us, 3, 20 Lot, near Peterborough, in the Township of Dummer, Upper Canada