From Henry2 York to John Leeson. Original of a handwritten copy.
Dear Friend, Having received your letter yesterday, I perceive you have an inclination to come to this country, and as you wish me to give you information I will now proceed.
This country is a good one. For poor industrious persons here is plenty of work. You would get more wages and your board here than you would get at home without it, but as you did not say distinctly what you intended to do when here, I don't know how to advise.
If you intend to work as a day labourer, Picton, in Prince Edwards District, would be a good place, but I would not advise you to come 4,000 miles and sacrafice home and country to be a slave for other people all your life.
But go right up to Lake Huron to a place called Owen Sound or to St. Vincent which joins it. Last Septbr I took a real ramble in seach of land and went 300 miles. At last I came to the settlement of St. Vincent which is a thriving place, and as good land as a man ever set his foot upon. Here for the first time I saw as good sweet turnips and fat oxen as you have at home.
Here I was quite a stranger, but soon found friends when they found I had made up my mind to settle amongst them. They set out with me to make choice of a lot which was not a little trouble, for as I have always been determined to have good land or none, I was not satisfied till we had been all over the townships, which took us several days.
I had been to the land agents at the city of Toronto, and got from them a map of several townships, and list of the vacant lots for sale which was a great help. At last, I fixed on the 22nd lot in the 7th concession; it being a good lot with a run of water through it, and only one mile from the bay which puts up out of Lake Huron; two saw mills near, and a store or shop, and a school house between it and the lake.
The town plot is surveyed out in lots, there is a grist mill within two miles, and plenty of settlers who are both able and willing to hire labourers if they could get them. Next morning I borrowed an ax and threw of[f] my coat, set to work and cut down about 20 trees, then cut them in lengths for a house. In the afternoon I called out five of the settlers to help me build it up. One man sent his son with a yoke of oxen to draw the logs together. This I did to keep possession till I could move up to live there, which I intend to do about the middle of Febry, if I can sell my crop of wheat and rye which I have sown here.
If I was sure that you would come in the spring, I would take up 100 acres of land for you, as near to mine as I could. You would be allowed ten years to pay for it in, and you could work out part of your time to get in provisions and the other part on your own land, which is the best thing a man can do.
You will find it rather hard the first year no doubt, but after that you can get a cow for three pounds and a few piggs to run in the woods. You would find yourself more independent.
I know it would be the best both for you and me to go on land. A man may get a good living here by working for others, but then he will not get property for himself. I left home on purpose to get land in this country, and though I have met with losses and disappointments both here and at home, I still have the same independent spirit I always had, and hope by the blessing of God, to be on my own land.
You want now to know how to proceed, having made up your mind fully to come. Pack up your things tight in boxes, about a hundred weight in each will be the handiest. I had one weighing two hundred which was too heavy to lift about.
Be sure to get some tin ware to use on shipboard. Crockery will soon get broke. Bring a good spade and pick and turnip hoe, a dung fork and hay fork and scythe for yourself, and a flat tined fork for me, and a second hand cutting knife, if you can get one. You might take of the handle and pack it in the box. Bring any other good tool you have, with all your pots and kettles.
Let your wife bring plenty of cotton thread, tapes, pinns and needles, and as many soverings as she can get, and let her sew them up in her stayes that they may not be spent on the road. They would be usefull here to buy you a cow.
You had better try the generosity of your friends at leaving them. It will be the last call, and it will be your hardest trial to leave them. I found it so.
Having got to the ship, see that all your things are put on board, and don't be confused, but get a berth a distance from the hatchway, if you can. Mind and secure your boxes fast to the floor. I made mine fast with some hooks and staples I brought with me. They was safe while others were slashing about the deck in rough weather. Mind and put up your things directly they are done with else they are sure to be lost.
After sailing up the river St. Lawrence some hundred miles, you will come to Grose Island, where if you have any sickness on board, you will be put on shore to wash up your clothes.
If they bring a leaky boat to take your things ashore, have all your lugage ready. Let somebody else lower theirs in first, then put yours in the middle. Then you will keep them dry. That is the way I did, and never got a single thing wetted all the way up. This I done by keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut.
When you get to Quebec and are too late for the steamboat that day, go to the government sheds where your family can stop free of expence.
Then go to Mr. Buchman the emmigration agent. Tell him you are poor, that you have a large family, and that you want to go up to Lake Huron to your friend there. Tell him you are short of money, and would be glad of a free passage. Try him hard, and if he sends you up to Montreal which is 180 miles, go to the agent that lives there. Tell him you have a friend up the country, and want to get to him.
He will send you on to Kingston. Then go to the agent at Kingston. Ask him for a passage to Toronto, and tell him you would be glad of some bread for your children. He gave me as many loaves as I could carry without asking.
There is another agent at Toronto. Ask him to send you up to Owen Sound. That is 14 miles from my lot in St. Vincent, and I will fetch you from there.
In case the Quebec Agent won't assist you, you must go to the steamboat wharf where you will see a steamer as long as your church, and half as wide. They will charge you 8 or 9 shillings. I paid 8 English up to Montreal which is 180 miles. There try the agent again. They set out of Quebec at 6 o clock night and will be in Montreal at 8 next morning.
Here, if there is no boat ready for Kingston, you must pay a carter a shilling to take your luggage to the sheds where you can stop free of charge till you can get a boat. This passage cost me to Kingston 12 shillings which is 200 miles and luggage free. Children under 3 years of age free.
At Kingston, you must take boat again for Toronto. The expence, I think, is about the same as the last. There is so much opposition on water with the steamers that they sometimes take them at half price. There are hundreds sent up free every year, and if you mind what I say, tell them you have a friend up country. They will send you to him.
It cost me from Quebec to Kingston, which is about 380 miles, one sovering for myself and 5 children and 600 half of luggage. I was sent from Kingston to Picton free, but have been sorry ever since that I did not go right on.
Be sure, don't listen to the agent about setting in the eastern townships which is lower Canada. If you do, you will repent. You will find it so exceeding hot in sumer, and exceeding cold in winter. They wanted to send me there, but I would not go, tho they promised me 100 acres of land; but they cannot grow wheat on it. It is a miserable place. Don't stop below Toronto on any account.
And, if all other means fail you, send or come to me, and I will have you up if possible for I have as good a horse as you commonly see.
If you pay your own fare from Toronto, go to the office at the corner of Wellington St. They keep stage waggons, and will take you up Yonge St, which is 36 miles long.(Notes) It is the finest part of Canada I have seen. Large orchards all the distance, and not a stump to be seen.
I would like to see John Townsend here with you, he would do well, or any sober working man. You say you have been told people are starving here, but I can assure that is false as far as regards this upper province. It cannot happen if a man is not a drunkard. If he is sick and can't work they will give meat, flour, and anything a man needs.
One thing I must tell you. You will not get all of your wages in money. They will want you to take flour or meat, pig, cow, or cloth.
Another thing I wish to say is that if you come, come wholly on your own responsibility and not on what I say, for this simple reason. If any unforseen circumstance should happen to any part of your family, the like which happened to me, I would not like to be blamed or held accountable for any casuality of that sort. But you may rely on what I say. It would be the best thing you could do for your family.
WIth regard to religion, they are all professions of some creed or other. They are more kind, and there is not that spirit of envy that exists amongst some professions. In the new townships, where there are no churches or chappels, there is preaching in the school house every sabbath.
I can't say all I wish to say for want of room, but I think my mother would show you my letters which I have sent home. If you can't make it out, Mother will read it for you.
[the following was written on the back of the third page]
Dear Father and Mother,
I am sorry to hear of the loss of my brother. You have been called to witness many painfull bereavements which none know but those that feel them. I hope you will be supported from above.
The children are all well and desire their love to you. I met with a bad misfortune from a load of wood about three weeks since. I have been obliged to keep my bed a week. Are now better, to go to work on Monday. I have not suffered for want of anything, but have been badly waited upon, children being little better than nobody to wait on a sick person.
The studs you gave me I could not find though we sifted the ashes over the next day. I think they were melted. I lost one sovering and a ten dollar bill. The bill was equal to fifty shillings. The rest I found.
I am going to send 2 papers today.
Excuse this bad writing. I have made my pen with a large knife. Shall write again soon.
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