An unsigned letter, later attributed to John Vail. Published in the Meaford (ON) Monitor.
Letter from Manitoba/ From a letter received by C.R. Sing, Esq., from a former resident of St. Vincent, now of Manitoba, we have been permitted to publish the following extracts:
Pembina Mountains Manitoba, 1st January, 1880
When I wrote last it was not so unpleasant here, but since that time it has been the hardest winter I ever saw. Since the middle of October the ground has been frozen hard. Since the 1st November the thermometer has ranged from 30o to 60o below zero, with the most piercing winds I ever knew.
Snow two feet deep on the level or in the bush, but in piles all over the prairie. As for coal there is so much talk about in Ontario, there is very little said about it here; at any rate we would have to go 150 miles for it with carts and oxen over fearfully muddy roads, and to swim over the rivers the best way we could.
As for railroads through here, we hear very little about it this winter except we got a paper from Ontario.
As for the rise in value of lands here I think very little of that, the most of the people that came here last spring would willingly sell again if they could get what the land has cost them without making anything, except those who have large families and no other way to live.
I think there will soon be government land open for settlement again here, although once taken up, if it continues as cold for the next two months, for lots of the settlers will be frozen to death; there has been several frozen to death already.
One young man who came in with me and took up land has been frozen to death here this winter. Another a few days ago was found dead on the prairie. Another driving a yoke of oxen was found dead on the sleigh when the oxen came to the shanty of a settler. A woman near Emerson started to a near neighbors for her cows and was frozen to death on the way.
I saw John Laycock in July last; he said he had to wade through the water to get to his location. Did not seem well satisfied. I saw Purdys place when I first came in. Did not like it. They had not one stick of wood on their land, and to buy wood in this cold country is too much. Wright, I think, is doing well.
Some may think I am too plain about this place; I have not told anything but the truth, and not all that I might have told. This place will deceive any person coming in the summer. Had we been told the truth we would not be in Manitoba tonight. Could I Set before the public the disadvantages of this place, the suffering from hunger and cold, there would not be so many with the fever to come here.
I do not know when this letter will reach Meaford as the stage runs so irregular here; takes some ten or twelve days to get through. I am not like some people here that are wishing their friends to come. I think the country had better been left to the first settlers, the Indians.
I am writing beside the stove, my ink has frozen up; all the wells in this section are frozen and we have to melt snow.
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