Samuel Strickland.

Twenty-Seven Years in Canada West The Experience of an Early Settler (Volume I) online

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Produced by E.D. (Tedd) Brien






Author of "The Queens of England,", etc.

And when those toils rewarding,
Broad lands at length they'll claim,
They'll call the new possession,
By some familiar name.

Agnes Strickland. - _Historic Scenes_.



Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty.
Printed by Samuel Bentley & Co.
Bangor House, Shoe Lane.


No one can give an adequate view of the general life of a colonist,
unless he has been one himself. Unless he has experienced all the
various gradations of colonial existence, from that of the pioneer in
the backwoods and the inhabitant of a shanty, up to the epoch of his
career, when he becomes the owner, by his own exertions, of a
comfortable house and well-cleared farm, affording him the comforts and
many of the luxuries of civilization, he is hardly competent to write
on such a subject. I have myself passed through all these grades. I
have had the honour of filling many colonial appointments, such as
Commissioner of the Court of Requests, and Justice of the Peace. My
commission in her Majesty's Militia, and my connection with the Canada
Company, have also afforded me some opportunities of acquiring
additional information. I was in the Company's service during the early
settlement of Guelph and also of Goderich, in the Huron tract. I am,
therefore, as intimately acquainted with those flourishing settlements
as with the townships in my own county of Peterborough.

Upon my return to my native country in August, on a visit to my
venerable mother, I was advised by my family to give my colonial
experience to the world in a plain, practical manner. I followed the
flattering suggestions of relatives so distinguished for literary
attainments, and so dear to my affections, and "Twenty-seven Years in
Canada West; or, The Experience of an Early Settler," is the result of
my compliance with their wishes.

The subject of colonization is, indeed, one of vital importance, and
demands much consideration, for it is the wholesome channel through
which the superfluous population of England and Ireland passes, from a
state of poverty to one of comfort. It is true that the independence of
the Canadian settler must be the fruit of his own labour, for none but
the industrious can hope to obtain that reward. In fact, idle and
indolent persons will not change their natures by going out to Canada.
Poverty and discontent will be the lot of the sluggard in the Bush, as
it was in his native land - nay, deeper poverty, for "he cannot work, to
beg he is ashamed," and if he be surrounded by a family, those nearest
and dearest to him will share in his disappointment and regret.

But let the steady, the industrious, the cheerful man go forth in hope,
and turn his talents to account in a new country, whose resources are
not confined to tillage alone - where the engineer, the land-surveyor,
the navigator, the accountant, the lawyer, the medical practitioner,
the manufacturer, will each find a suitable field for the exercise of
his talents; where, too, the services of the clergyman are much
required, and the pastoral character is valued and appreciated as it
ought to be.

To the artizan, the hand-loom weaver, and the peasant, Canada is indeed
a true land of Goshen. In fact, the stream of migration cannot flow too
freely in that direction. However numerous the emigrants may be,
employment can be obtained for all.

That the industrial classes do become the richest men cannot be denied,
because their artificial wants are fewer, and their labours greater
than those of the higher ranks. However, the man of education and
refinement will always keep the balance steady, and will hold offices
in the Colony and responsible situations which his richer but less
learned neighbour can never fill with ease or propriety.

The Canadian settler possesses vast social advantages over other
colonists. He has no convict neighbours - no cruel savages, now, to
contend with - no war - no arid soil wherewith to contend. The land is,
generally speaking, of a rich quality, and the colonist has fire-wood
for the labour of cutting, fish for the catching, game for the pleasant
exercise of hunting and shooting in Nature's own preserves, without the
expense of a licence, or the annoyance of being warned off by a surly

The climate of Canada West is healthier and really pleasanter than that
of England or Ireland. The cold is bracing, and easily mitigated by
good fires and warm clothing; but it is not so really chilling as the
damp atmosphere of the mother-country. Those who have not visited the
Canadas are apt to endow the Upper Province with the severe climate of
the Lower one, whereas that of Western Canada is neither so extremely
hot nor so cold as many districts of the United States.

Emigration to Canada is no longer attended with the difficulties and
disadvantages experienced by the early settlers, of which such
lamentable, and perhaps exaggerated accounts have frequently issued
from the press. The civilizing efforts of the Canada Company have
covered much of the wild forest-land with smiling corn-fields and
populous villages. Indeed, the liberal manner in which the Company have
offered their lands on sale or lease, have greatly conduced to the
prosperity of the Western Province.

If the facts and suggestions contained in the following pages should
prove useful and beneficial to the emigrant, by smoothing his rough
path to comfort and independence, my object will be attained, and my
first literary effort will not have been made in vain.


Embarkation for Canada. - Voyage out. - Sea-life. - Icebergs. -
Passage up the St. Lawrence. - Quebec. - Memorials of General Wolfe.
- Cathedral. - Hospitality. - Earthquakes. - Nuns. - Montreal. -
Progress up the Country. - My Roman Catholic Fellow-traveller. -
Attempt at Conversion. - The Township of Whitby.

Arrival at Darlington. - Kind Reception. - My Friend's Location. -
His Inexperience. - Damage to his Land by Fire. - Great Conflagration
at Miramichi. - Forest Fires. - Mighty Conflagration of the 6th of
October. - Affecting Story of a Lumber-foreman. - His Presence of
Mind, and wonderful Preservation. - The sad Fate of his Companions.

Inexperience of my Friend. - Bad State of his Land - Fall Wheat. -
Fencing. - Grasses. - Invitation to a "Bee." - United Labour. -
Canadian Sports. - Degeneracy of Bees.

My Marriage. - I become a Settler on my own Account - I purchase Land
in Otonabee. - Return to Darlington. - My first Attempt at driving a
Span. - Active Measures to remedy a Disaster. - Patience of my
Father-in-law. - My first Bear-hunt. - Beaver-meadows. - Canadian
Thunder-storms. - Fright of a Settler's Family

Canadian Harvest. - Preparing Timber for Frame-buildings. - Raising
"Bee." - Beauty of the Canadian Autumn. - Visit to Otonabee. - Rough
Conveyance. - Disaccommodation. - Learned Landlord. - Cobourg. -
Otonabee River. - Church of Gore's Landing. - Effects of persevering

Wood-duck Shooting. - Adventure on Rice Lake. - Irish Howl. -
Arrival at Gore's Landing. - General Howling for the Defunct. -
Dangers of our Journey. - Safe Arrival at Cobourg. - Salmon-fishing.
- Canoe-building after a bad Fashion. - Salmon-spearing. - Canadian
Fish and Fisheries. - Indian Summer. - Sleighs and Sleighing. -
Domestic Love

Employments of a Man of Education in the Colony. - Yankee Wedding. -
My Commission. - Winter in Canada. - Healthiness of the Canadian
Climate. - Search for Land. - Purchase Wild Land at Douro. - My
Flitting. - Put up a Shanty. - Inexperience in Clearing. - Plan-

A Logging-Bee. - Lime-burning. - Shingling. - Arrival of my Brother-
in-law. - Birth of my Son. - Sad Journey to Darlington. - Lose my
Way. - Am refused a Lift. - My boyish Anger. - My Wife's Death. -
The Funeral. - I leave Darlington

Return to Otonabee. - Benevolence of my Neighbour. - Serious Accident
to a Settler. - His singular Misfortunes. - Particulars of his Life

Preparations for my second Marriage. - Dangerous Adventure. - My
Wife's nocturnal Visitor. - We prepare for the Reception of our
uninvited Guest. - Bruin's unwelcome Visit to an Irish Shanty. - Our
Bear-hunt. - Major Elliott's Duel with Bruin. - His Wounds and

Canada the Poor Man's Country. - Disadvantages of Inexperience. -
Township of Harvey Settlement. - Pauper Emigration. - Superior
Advantages of the Labourer Colonist. - Temperance and Temperance
Societies. - A dry Answer to watery Arguments. - British and Foreign
Temperance Society

Want of Home-pasturage in Canada. - Danger of being lost in the Woods.
- Plain Directions to the Traveller in the Bush. - Story of a Settler
from Emily. - An old Woman's Ramble in the Woods. - Adventure of a
Trapper. - Fortunate Meeting with his Partner

Directions for ascertaining the Quality of Land in the Bush. - Site of
Log-shanty. - Chopping. - Preparation for Spring-crops. - Method of
planting Indian Corn. - Pumpkins and Potatoes. - Making Pot-ash

My first Shot at a Buck. - Hunting and Shooting Parties. -
Destructiveness of Wolves. - Loss of my Flocks. - Cowardice of the
Wolf. - The Lady and her Pet. - Colonel Crawford's Adventure. -
Ingenious Trick of an American Trapper. - A disagreeable Adventure. -
How to poison Wolves. - A stern Chase

Formation of the Canada Company. - Interview with Mr. Galt. - His
personal Description and Character. - Guelph. - Dr. Dunlop. - My
Medical Services at Guelph. - Dr. Dunlop and the Paisley Bodies. - An
eccentric Character. - An unfortunate wife

Porcupine-catching. - Handsome Behaviour of Mr. Galt. - Owlingale. -
Introduction to the Son of the celebrated Indian Chief, Brandt. -
Expedition to Wilmot. - Sham Wolves. - Night in a Barn with Dr.
Dunlop. - The Doctor and his Snuffbox. - His Bath in the Nith. -
Louis XVIII. and his Tabatiere. - Camp in the Woods. - Return to

A new Way of keeping a Birthday. - Lost in the Woods. - Kindness of
Mr. Galt. - Advice to new Settlers. - Unexpected Retirement of Mr.
Galt. - I accompany him to the Landing-place. - Receive orders to
leave Guelph for Goderich. - Whirlwinds at Guelph and Douro

The Huron tract. - Journal of Dr. Dunlop. - His Hardships. - I leave
Guelph for Goderich. - Want of Accommodation. - Curious Supper. -
Remarkable Trees. - The Beverly Oak. - Noble Butter-wood Trees. -
Goderich. - Fine Wheat Crop. - Purchase a Log-house. - Construction
of a Raft

My new House at Goderich. - Carpentry an essential Art. - American
Energy. - Agreeable Visitors. - My Wife's Disasters. - Hints for
Anglers. - The Nine-mile Creek Frolic. - The Tempest. - Our Skipper
and his Lemon-punch. - Short Commons. - Camp in the Woods. - Return
on Foot. - Ludicrous termination to our Frolic

Choice of a Location. - The Company's Lands. - Crown Lands. - Tables
published by the Canada Company. - Progressive Improvement of the
Huron Tract

The King proclaimed in the Bush. - Fete and Ball in the Evening. - My
Yankee Fellow-traveller. - Awful Storm. - My lonely Journey. -
Magical Effect of a Name

Visit of the Passenger-pigeon to the Canadas. - Canadian Blackbirds. -
- Breeding-places of the Passenger-pigeons. - Squirrels

The Rebel, Von Egmond, the first agricultural Settler on the Huron. -
Cutting the first Sheaf





A PREFERENCE for an active, rather than a professional life, induced me
to accept the offer made by an old friend, of joining him at
Darlington, in Upper Canada, in the year 1825. I therefore took leave
of my family and pleasant home, in Suffolk, and engaged a passage in
the brig "William M'Gilevray," commanded by William Stoddart, an
experienced American seaman.

On the 28th of March we left the London Docks, and dropped down the
river to Gravesend, and on the following day put our pilot ashore off
Deal, and reached down as far as the coast of Sussex, where we were
becalmed for two days. Here one of our cabin-boys, a German, met with a
very serious accident by falling down the after hatchway, and
fracturing several of his ribs. On this occasion I officiated as a
surgeon, and bled him twice, with excellent effect, for he quickly
recovered from the severe injury he had received. Before quitting
Suffolk I had learned the art of blood-letting from our own medical
attendant. Every person intending to settle in a distant colony ought
to acquire this simple branch of surgery: I have often exercised it
myself for the benefit of my fellow-creatures when no medical
assistance could be procured.

It blew so fresh for two or three days, that we made up for our lost
time, and were soon out of sight of Scilly: then I bade a long farewell
to old England. I had often been on the sea before, but this was my
first long voyage; every object, therefore, was new to me. I caught
some birds in the rigging they were of a species unknown to me, but
very beautiful. Being in want, too, of something to do, I amused myself
with cleaning the captain's guns, which I hoped to use for our joint
benefit before the end of the voyage.

The 18th and 19th of April were very stormy: the sea ran mountains
high; we had a foot of water in the cabin, and all hands were at the
pumps to lessen the growing evil. The gale lasted till the following
morning. In the night the aurora borealis was particularly brilliant;
but though the storm lulled, the wind was against us. On the 26th of
April, I saw a whale, and, boy-like, fired at the huge creature: the
shot must have hit him, for he made the water fly in all directions.

To vary the monotony of a sea-life, I sometimes played draughts with
the mate, whom I always beat; but he took his defeats in good part,
being a very easy-tempered fellow.

I awoke on the 21st of April literally wet to my skin by the deluge of
water pouring down the cabin. I dressed myself in great haste and
hurried upon deck to learn the cause of this disaster, which I found
originated in the coming on of a terrible hurricane, which would not
permit us to show a stitch of canvas, and found us continual employment
at the pumps; my chest in the cabin shipped a sea which did not improve
the appearance of my wardrobe. The following day we had calmer weather,
and pursued our course steadily, no longer exposed to the fury of the

On the following day I killed several birds, and saw two whales and
many porpoises. The weather was foggy, but the wind favourable for us.
As we were near the bank of Newfoundland, we got our fishing tackle
ready, with the hope of mending our fare with cod; but the water was
not calm enough for the purpose, and the fish would not bite. We passed
over the Great Bank without any danger, though the wind was high and
the sea rough.

On the 29th of April we fell in with some icebergs. A more magnificent
and imposing spectacle cannot be conceived; but it is very fearful and
sufficiently appalling. Suddenly, we found ourselves close to an
immense body of ice, whose vicinity bad been concealed from us by the
denseness of the fog. Our dangerous neighbour towered in majestic
grandeur in the form of a triple cone rising from a square base, and
surpassed the tallest cathedral in altitude. The centre cone being
cleft in the middle by the force of the waves, displayed the phenomenon
of a waterfall, the water rushing into the sea from the height of
thirty feet. If the sun had pierced the vapoury veil which concealed it
from our view, the refraction of his rays would have given to the ice
the many-coloured tints of the rainbow. We took care to keep a good
look out; but the fog was thick. We fell in with many other icebergs;
but none so beautiful as this.

We doubled Cape Ray, and entered, on the 5th of May, the Gulf of St.
Lawrence. The thermometer fell many degrees a change caused by the
vicinity of the ice. On the 5th of May we passed the Bird Rocks, three
in number, to windward, so called from the immense number of geese and
aquatic birds which resort thither to rear their broods. These rocks
rise to the height of four hundred feet, perpendicularly from the sea.
The fishermen, nevertheless, contrive to climb them for the sake of the
eggs they find there.

The 6th of May found us in the river St. Lawrence, between the
westernmost point of Anticosti to the north, and Cape Gaspe to the
south, in the middle of the channel, surrounded by ships tacking up the
stream, bound for Quebec and Montreal. We had plenty of sea-room, as
the river was more than ninety miles in breadth, and it is supposed to
be full a hundred at its _embouchure_.

The land was partially covered with snow, which fell throughout the
day. On the 8th of May we sailed as far as the Seven Islands. The day
was glorious, and the prospect most beautiful. Our vicinity to "the
cold and pitiless Labrador," rendered the air chilly, and we could hear
the howling of the wolves at night, to me a new and dismal sound. The
aurora borealis was particularly splendid, for the air was clear and

On the 10th of May we stood for the Island of Bic, and took on board a
pilot. He was a handsome young man, a French-Canadian, under whose
guidance we made the place, but we were becalmed before it for the
whole forenoon.

The beauty of the scenery atoned, however, for the delay. Nothing,
indeed, could surpass it in my eyes, which had then only been
accustomed to the highly-cultivated and richly-wooded tracts in Suffolk
and Norfolk, and therefore dwelt with wonder and delight upon the
picturesque shores and lofty heights that crowned the noble St.

The wind changing in our favour, carried us swiftly up the stream,
which was still thirty-six miles in breadth, though distant 280 miles
from the Gulf. We passed Green Island and the Kamouraska Island, and
Goose and Crane Islands. These beautiful islets, which stud the broad
bosom of the St. Lawrence, are evidently of volcanic origin. That of
Kamouraska displays vast masses of granite, which rise in the form of
conical hills, one of which attains the height of five hundred feet.
The same features are discernible in the Penguins, and even the strata
about Quebec still indicate the same mysterious agency.* [*
"Encyclopaedia of Geography," p. 1304.]

Our progress through the river continually presented the new continent
in an attractive point of view. The shores were dotted with farmhouses
and adorned with fine gardens and orchards, while lovely islands,
covered with lofty trees, rose from the river and delighted the eye. I
thought Canada then and I have never changed my opinion since the most
beautiful country in the world.

On the 13th of May we passed the Island of Orleans, which we no sooner
rounded than the Falls of Montmorenci burst upon my sight. I was
unprepared for the scene, which I contemplated in silent astonishment.
No words written down by the man, at this distance of time, can
describe the vivid feelings of the boy. I have since beheld the mighty
cataracts of Niagara, so finely described by its Indian name, "The
Thunder of Waters;" but I concur in the general opinion, that if those
of Niagara are more stupendous, the Falls of Montmorenci are more
beautiful and picturesque.

Quebec soon came in view, with its strong fortress crowning the
imposing height of Cape Diamond. No one can look upon the old capital
of Canada without remembering that the most gallant British soldier of
the age fell in the battle that added the colony to the other
dependencies of the English crown.

I remembered, too, with some pleasure, that the paternal dining-room
contained a looking-glass one of the fine old Venetian plates, framed
with ebony, which had once formed a part of the General's personal
property. It had been for two centuries in his family, but had since
become a valued heirloom in mine. His manly features must often have
been reflected on its brilliant surface, and that circumstance, which
had formerly endeared it to his aged mother, had made it prized by

We have also a bureau, very complete, but evidently constructed more
for use than ornament, which might have once contained the papers of
this distinguished soldier, while the book-case, to which it was
annexed, had probably held his little library. His cruet-stand, which
looks as if it had been made in the patriarchal times, is still in use
at Reydon Hall.

The reader must pardon this digression, since distinguished worth and
valour give an interest even to trivial objects.

Quebec consists of two towns, the Upper and Lower, and is adorned with
a cathedral, whose metallic roof glitters in the sun like a vast
diamond. Indeed, the tin-roofs of the churches and public buildings
give this city a splendid look on a bright sunshiny day, testifying,
moreover, to the dryness of the air. Captain Stoddart took me all over
this curious city, and kindly introduced me to one of the partners of a
great mercantile house, who invited us both to dinner. We regaled
ourselves on smelts, fillet of veal, and old English roast beef, to
which hospitable meal we did ample justice, not forgetting to pledge
our absent friends in bumpers of excellent wine.

The inhabitants of Quebec are very kind to strangers, and are a fine
race of people. French is spoken here not, however, very purely, being
a _patois_ as old as the time of Henry IV. of France, when this part of
Canada was first colonized; but English is generally understood by the
mercantile classes.

This city is visited, at intervals, with slight shocks of earthquake.*
[* Lyell's "Elements of Geology."] Nothing serious has yet followed
this periodical phenomenon. But will this visitation be only confined
to the mountain range north of Quebec, where the great earthquake that
convulsed a portion of the globe in 1663 has left visible marks of its
influence, by overturning the sand-stone rocks of a tract extending
over three hundred miles?* [* "Encyclopaedia of Geography."] Quebec
contains several nunneries, for the French inhabitants are mostly Roman
catholics. The nuns are very useful to emigrants, who have often been
bountifully relieved by these charitable vestals, who employ themselves
in nursing the sick and feeding the hungry.

The inhabitants - or _habitans_, as the French Canadians are usually
termed - are an amiable, hospitable, simple people, kind in manner, and
generous in disposition. The women are lively and agreeable, and as
fond of dress in Quebec as in other civilized places. They are pretty
in early youth in the Lower Province, but lose their complexions sooner
than the English ladies, owing, perhaps, to the rigour of the climate.*
However, they possess charms superior to beauty, and seem to retain the
affections of their husbands to the last hour of their lives. [* Mac
Taggart's "Three Years' Residence in Canada."]

Short as was my stay in Quebec, I could not leave without regret the
hospitable city where I had received from strangers such a warm
welcome. I have never visited the Lower Province since; but my
remembrance of its old capital is still as agreeable as it is distinct.
The next day our brig was taken in tow by the fine steam-boat, the
"Richelieu de Chambly," and with a leading wind and tide in our favour
we proceeded at a rapid rate up the river.

I shall not attempt to describe the charming scenery of this most
beautiful of all rivers, which has already been so amply described by
abler writers. I was delighted with everything I saw; but nothing
occurred worthy of narration.

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Online LibrarySamuel StricklandTwenty-Seven Years in Canada West The Experience of an Early Settler (Volume I) → online text (page 1 of 16)