From Henry2 York. Original of a handwritten copy.
Dear Father and Mother, I received your letter last night dated Janry 9, 1848. I was very thankfull to hear from you again, and to find that you was raised up to a comfortable state of health, and that you have recovered from that fatal disease which has carried off so many of your aquaintance. I am happy to inform you that we are all in good health at present.
I received the letter you sent to Mr. Holt for me and two newspapers. They was very interesting to me, and I hope you will send me some more, as I have but little to read. Be sure to put the St. Vincent direction on them, for I am afraid my friends below have acted trecherous to me, Mr. Barber and others.
I will now endeavour to answer your various questions.
My lot of land is covered with heavy timber which is a sure sign of rich soil. The timber consists of beach, suggar maple, bass wood, iron wood, elm, ash and a little cedar, and a sort of pine called hemlock. There is some underbrush.
The suggar maples are fine trees. I cut down two, which was close to my house. One measured 68, the other 72 feet up to the forks. The cedar is a little like your red pine. They use it for fence wood, it being easy to split and never rots, and is very light.
Some plases the trees are ten yards apart, some not five. I can take out the saplings, and cut the underbrush of an acre in a day. A good choper can cut down an acre of heavy timber in seven days.
The way we proceed on wild land is to take up the saplings and underbrush close to the ground, and pile it up in heaps, then cut down the heavy timber about three feet from the ground. Then cut it up in twelve or fifteen feet lengths. Then haul it together with a yoke of oxen, 10 or 15 logs in a heap. Then it is ready for burning. A yoke of oxen, three men and a boy can log an acre a day.
We then sow the seed, and harrow it in with a harrow the shape of the letter A. The fire having run all over the land, and burnt the timber, and leaves and all the rubbish, leaves it in a loose state.
I intend to chop and fence ten acres every year. That will be good work for me. We do not chop in hot weather, as there is rails to split, crops to put in, and other things to attend to, and I intend to go mowing grass. They give a bushel of wheat for a day's work, mowing or reaping.
The top soil is rich and black, being composed of the decomposition of vegetable matter and old leaves that have fallen for centries.
The under soil on my lot is sandy loam with a mixture of clay. You must understand that heavy clay land is the best in this country. There are thousands of acres of sandy land in some parts that will not grow wheat, but will grow Indian corn, and good crops of rye.
I beleive the average crops of wheat here in this township is from 25 to 50 bushels per acre. It was stated at an agraculturist meeting in Prince Edwards district, that it was but fifteen, but I have often heard people declare they have grown forty, both here and there. But this is certainly the best wheat growing country of the two.
You must know that we are not at half the expence in raising a crop here as you are at home. They sow but one bushel of seed to an acre, then harrow it twice over. When ripe, a man will go with a fragle and cut down three acres a day in a light crop, then another man will rake and bind it up. That will be two dolors a day and their board. In a heavy crop, they cannot do so much.
In lower Canada they do not sow winter wheat, but grow spring wheat, about 10 bushels per acre. So that your farmers need not be afraid of their glutting the home market. Their thrashing machines go with spikes. They go easier than yours, and will thrash more corn in a day. There is generally less straw to the quantity wheat than with you.
They thrash 100 bushels, and take five for their trouble, but there is thousands of bushels thrashed with horses feet. They untie the sheaves, and lay them in a circle round a large barn floor. Then get a span or two span of horses and drive them round on the sheaves till they get the wheat out. It is easier to thrash here than with you. I did not mention this before because I know some would not beleive it but it is no less a fact.
You should make some little distinction between what I state myself from my own observation, and what I say I hear.
Indian corn is not a sure crop in Canada every year. If it is showery wet cold weather, it will not come to perfection, and is only fit for pigs and cattle, and will not keep. I have heard some say they have raised fifty bushels to an acre. I have raised some every summer since I have been here. The year I was at Picton, I had the best crop, but there was so much of it destroyed by Mr. Holt's cattle that I could not tell what I had to the acre. I suppose about 50 bushells of ears, which is 25 clear corn.
You want to know what I think of the country. As far as I am able to judge, it is a very good place for a working man, but every part has its advantages and disadvantages. In lower Canada there is a great deal the most trade, and they depend on the upper province for grain.
In the west, they have very severe frost in winter, and very hot in sumer. The lower province being flat and level, and the hot sun acting on the rich swampey soil produces fever and ague, but the more northwestern district is very healthy, being near Lake Huron.
This is where I have settled. My lot borders on Lake Huron. It is as fine a peice of land as any man walked over. The distance from Quebec, about 6 hundred miles. My last journey from Picton about 300, and am well satisfied with the change.
I have a hundred acres of excellent land, which I bought of the government at 10 and six pence per acre, and nine years to pay it in with interest. It is a very healthy spot, being close to Lake Huron, which is like a vast inland sea, and the land lying higher than the lake makes it very pleasant. The wind blowing over such a vast body of fresh water tempers the summer heat and winter frost.
We catch plenty of very fine fish in the lake. I have about 200 weight of salmon trout salted down. They are very fine eating, and weigh from 6 lb to 10 lb each.
I should think there is no country in the world burdened less with taxes than this. There is no poor rates, no church rates, no tithes, nor any of those 1000 and 1 expences which attend a farmer in your country. All property is rated very low. The taxes are about 9 shillings for 100 acres. All other property one peney in the pound, so that the products of a man's labour is left entirely for his own use. They pay more taxes in corporate towns.
With regard to wild beasts, I never had the happiness to meet but one fox and two racoons tho I have traveled through some dismal looking places. Last summer, I only saw two snakes up here. I have heard that there is rattlesnakes about Picton, but never saw one. There is some musquetoes flys in flat swampey places, as numerous as the sand on the beach.
I have seen thousands of wild ducks. We got some that came to the saw mill creek last year, and the innumerable flocks of pigeons are beyond my power to discribe. Our John knocked down several, and I and all the rest diverted ourselves for an hour together throwing sticks at them as they sweept over the ground, sometimes lower than our heads. There is plenty of partridges in the woods all the year. Most other birds migrate in the winter.
I have never received the box you sent me. You might send me a particular description of anything that you can remember that was in it.
I must now conclude with my love and the childrens to you all, and my respects all enquiring friends. From your affectionate son, H. York, Canada N.A.
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