2017 - a year for Canadians to celebrate
on many fronts
By Douglas Phillips
Welcome to 2017, the year we celebrate our 150th birthday
and a remarkable journey for a young country.
It is a milestone we can all be proud of - to live and work
in Canada, voted one of best places in the world to live.
There will be celebrations in every community across the
country. There will be new bank notes and coins, along with 150th
anniversary community projects to mark the event.
This new year will also mark the 100th anniversary of the
Battle of Vimy Ridge in April and the City of Montreal will be
375 years old.
But before the Fathers of Confederation agreed to create
Canada in Charlottetown, PEI, in September 1864, the settlement
of the provinces had to take place.
The Atlantic and Quebec had seen the first wave of immigration
that continued until the early 1800s, with the arrival of the
United Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. These
were the immigrants who first settled in Upper Canada (now Ontario).
second wave of settlers came after the War of 1812. Fearing another
invasion from America, the colonial government, with the promise
of cheap land grants, encouraged British, Scottish and Irish
families to emigrate and settle the back country of places north
of Lake Ontario.
British army regulars, known as half pay soldiers, were given
land grants to move to Canada and settle. Among the settlers
who came in the 1830s was novelist and botanist Catherine Parr
Strickland Traill, with her husband Thomas Traill, a retired
army officer. They settled in Peterborough County on the shores
of Rice Lake.
During Catherines lifetime, she wrote many books about
life in the back woods and the hardships of every day life as
a pioneer wife. One of her bestselling books was The Canadian
Settlers Guide, first published in 1855. The enlarged tenth
edition published in 1860 gives a comprehensive guide to life
as a settler, starting with questions for the men of the family:
Do you have sufficient energy of character to enable
you to conform to the changes that may await you in a new life?
Canada is not the land for the idle sensualist. To wives and
daughters, practical knowledge is highly valued, are you acquainted
with the art of baking, curing meat, making butter and cheese,
knitting and dressmaking. Everything that is done in the house
by the hands of family is so much saved towards the paying for
the land or building house and barns.
The book was a wealth of information and outlined in detail
all that a family would need to start their new life in Canada.
It covered from choosing the right ship to make the trip across
the Atlantic, noting that ladies must pack lots of country flannel
and good strong boots for the rough roads. Forget the silk stockings
and satin shoes unless they planned to live in the cities.
There was a chapter on the weather starting in January with
the snow and sleigh rides, February, the coldest month, to taking
care of cattle and drawing in firewood. It detailed annual temperatures
and rain falls, noting September being one of the most delightful
Agricultural was the backbone of the economy and information
was provided on the selection of land choosing the best quality
the greatest consideration. Earlier settlers said a good choice
was land timbered with oak, ash, elm and sugar maple trees. Good
healthy trees meant good crop soil. Avoid land full of boulders
as they were expensive to remove.
Hints on clearing the land was detailed and a good axe man
should be able to cut an acre in eight days. Most farmers started
with a log house or shanty made from the trees cut down and using
the stones from the fields for chimneys and a roof of hand-made
shingles. As the farm grew and prospered the family could afford
a good frame or stone house that we can still see today on our
rural travels. If pioneering was not a chosen path and an immigrant
had a trade, the book detailed wages for blacksmiths, carpenters,
tinsmiths to wheelwrights and shoemakers and for women, dressmaking
book also gave advice on furnishing a log house and recommended
simplicity. A stained pine table and a dozen painted chairs.
Cover the floor with straw over the rough floor boards before
laying out a good Scotch carpet, which should have come with
Intellectual luxuries, books, pictures, ornaments and vases
to hold flowers in the summer gave a pleasant finish and an air
of taste to the room. A necessity was a good, well-made cooking
stove large enough to feed a family of 10 to 12 persons. Cheap
stoves were apt to crack.
Once a family had decided to emigrate, a chapter of the book
advised which port to sail from - Liverpool or Glasgow. The choice
of ship was important for the Atlantic crossing. Sailing ships
were to be avoided as it could take a month to reach Quebec City.
A steamship was the best choice with a well ventilated single
sleeping deck, separate water closets for male and female passengers
and a captain and crew with a good safety record.
Once the chosen ship had been inspected, it was best for
the family to buy their own ticket at the shipping agents office,
avoiding dockside agents as they usually worked on commission
and the cost of the ticket would increase considerably. As today,
baggage was expensive and it was recommended the family pack
their clothes in a trunk, with strips of wood nailed on the bottom
to keep the trunk off the damp floor.
If passengers were not provided with meals during the voyage,
by British law each passenger was entitled to weekly provisions
and they used these to prepare meals in the cookhouse. On these
ships, passengers were advised to take cooking pots, a tin kettle
and deep tin plates. Upon arrival in Canada, the ship was met
by a government agent and medical officer who inspected the passengers
Once cleared, most families travelled to their chosen destination
by boat along the St. Lawrence and from Kingston to harbours
along Lake Ontario. To reach their lot required a difficult journey
along broken roads to begin a new life of two years of hard work,
continuously clearing the land. Upon full payment, they would
receive the hard-earned deed to their farm.
Catherine Parr Strickland Traill - 1802 to 1899, buried in
Hillside Cemetery, Lakefield, Ontario. Following her husbands
death in 1862, Catherine moved to Westove, a mid-1800s
farm house overlooking the Otonabee River in Lakefield, until
her death. Catherine was a descendant, through her fathers
line, of Catherine Parr, the last and surviving wife of Englands
Tudor King Henry VIII.
1 - Early settlers log cabin, Town of Pickering Museum
2 - Pioneer Cemetery and mural, Highland Creek, Ontario
3 - Early Trans Atlantic steamship, RMS Britannia 1840, Wikipedia