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HINTS TO EMIGRANTS: LETTER XII

LETTERS FROM PERTH,
UPPER CANADA.
BY THE
REV. WILLIAM BELL


LETTER  XII


THE SETTLEMENT AT Lanark was formed in the year 1820, under the following circumstances: the distress, arising from the want of employment and low wages, induced a number of manufacturers, mechanics, and others in Glasgow, Lanark, and other places in the west of Scotland, to form societies, and petition government to convey them to Canada, grant them lands, and assist them till they could raise a crop for the support of their families. The whole of their petition it appears could not be granted; but, through the influence, it is said, of Lord Archibald Hamilton, Kirkman Finlay, Esq. and other benevolent gentlemen, they obtained from government a grant of land, and £10 a-head in money, to assist them in settling themselves in Canada. Upwards of nine hundred individuals having accepted these terms, shortly after sailed for Quebec. In the course of the summer, a subscription of £500, raised in London, together with a smaller sum raised in Glasgow, enabled 176 more, who had not money enough to pay their own passage, to follow. On their arrival at Quebec, they were without loss of time forwarded to Perth, where the Earl of Dalhousie ordered them to be settled, in two newly surveyed townships, to the northwest of this settlement. One of these townships is called Lanark, that being the name of the county from which most of the emigrants came. It is watered by a considerable river, which now obtained the name of the Clyde. In a convenient spot on the banks of this river a village was laid out, and a government store erected. Captain Marshall was appointed superintendent of the new settlement, an arrangement to which it is indebted for much of its prosperity. This gentleman was not only distinguished for humanity, affability, and good management, but, in consequence of his long residence in the country, was well acquainted with the difficulties to which a new settlement is exposed. The other township was named Dalhousie, in honour of the commander of the forces.
           It was an unfortunate circumstance for these people, that they arrived so late in the season. Had they come two months earlier, they would have had good weather to go upon their land, erect huts and clear an acre or two for fall wheat before the winter set in; but the summer being over before they could make any improvement, or secure themselves from the severity of the weather, much distress and loss of property were the consequences. The prudent and industrious part of them, however, surmounted every obstacle, and are doing well. But the thoughtless and improvident part, of which the number was not small, squandered away the money they received from government, and spent their time in idleness, till poverty and want appeared, and awoke them from the dream of happiness and abundance with which they had been feasting their imaginations. They then discovered what they might have known before, that in Canada as well as in Scotland, they who will not work must not expect to eat.
           The accounts from the infant settlement, transmitted to the societies in Scotland, being generally favourable, thousands were anxious to emigrate; and, early in the following spring, made preparations for that purpose. A committee of persons of great respectability was formed to arrange the details of the business. They applied to government, and obtained permission for 1800 to go on the same terms as those that went in the preceding year. Upon examining the lists of the different societies, however, it was found that the applicants amounted to between 6000 and 7000. In the preceding year, many who applied in the first instance, found afterwards that they were unable to raise money to pay their passage, and other necessary expenses. The committee judging that it might be so now, did not use any other means for reducing the number, till they ascertained how many could comply with the terms proposed by government.
           Upon the presidents of the different societies making their returns, it was found that no more than 1883 had the means of paying their passage and other expenses. The necessary arrangements being made, this number embarked at Greenock in the spring of 1821, on board four transports, named the George Canning, the Earl of Buckinghamshire, the Commerce, and the David; and, after a prosperous passage, arrived at Quebec in safety.
           Great praise is due to the committee of gentlemen above mentioned, as well as to their secretary, Mr. Robert Lamond, for the pains they took to get the arrangements with government completed, and providing good accommodation for the emigrants on their passage, and at the lowest possible rate.
           This emigration produced very beneficial consequences not only to the emigrants themselves, but to the country in general. The distresses which the lower classes suffered had produced a spirit of discontent, which threatened to lead to very serious consequences. But the discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of emigrating to America soon engaged the attention of all who were not satisfied with their situation at home. Taxes and politics gave way to the more interesting subject of obtaining a freehold farm in Canada; and though the number that actually left the country formed but a small proportion of the labouring and manufacturing classes, yet those that remained found readier employment and better wages.
           The assistance granted to the emigrants by government, consisted of money, implements, and land. The amount of money was £10 each for every man, woman, and child. The sum charged for conveying them and their baggage from Quebec to Lanark was £2 a-head, but it cost government more, the distance being little short of 400 miles. Of the remaining £8, they received £3 on their arrival at the place of settlement, £3 more at the end of three months, and the remaining £2 at the end of six months from the date of their arrival. Each male settler above the age of twenty-one, besides a hundred acres of land, received most of the implements mentioned in the lists circulated among them before they left home; but their expectations of receiving potatoes, oats, wheat, Indian corn, beans, grass-seed, pine-boards, and paillasses, were not realised. What was the reason I have not been informed but the disappointment was not great, as the articles were purchased at a cheaper rate than that marked in the list.
           When the emigrants arrived at Quebec they were forwarded to Lanark without loss of time; and reached that place early in the summer. This gave them a great advantage, and enabled those who were industrious to get houses erected, and some improvements made upon their lands before the winter set in. But the season being uncommonly rainy, and they being much exposed to the weather, a few were carried off by dysentery, leaving families in very destitute circumstances. The benevolent, however, have used every endeavour to provide for the orphans in the best manner they are able. Amongst these, as amongst the others who came the year before, there were several idle and dissipated characters, who were not likely ever to make good farmers. But most of them have now left the settlement, and those that remain are in general actively and industriously proceeding with the improvement of their land, well satisfied with the change they have made.
           In 1821, the townships of North Sherbrooke and Ramsay were added to the Lanark Settlement, so that the settlers who came that year had the choice of all the unoccupied land in four townships. The soil is in general good, and, where properly managed, has produced abundant crops. Many of the settlers being brought up in towns knew nothing of farming, and had every thing respecting it to learn. But necessity is the mother of invention; and, under its influence, these people have made surprising improvements. The face of the country is more diversified with small hills than in Perth Settlement, but where the soil is not encumbered with rocks, it is equally good. A saw-mill and a grist-mill were erected near the village soon after it was laid out, and timber being abundant in the neighbourhood, one inch boards can be procured at six dollars a thousand feet. Other mills are now building in different parts of the settlement, and will soon be in operation.
           Lord Dalhousie, taking a deep interest in the prosperity of the settlement, and anxious to advance its religious improvement, wrote a letter to the Duke of Hamilton, expressing a hope that His Grace, or Lord Archibald Hamilton, would countenance a subscription in Lanarkshire, for the purpose of erecting a church for the use of the settlers. Contributions were made accordingly, and the sum of £290 Sterling was transmitted to Quebec, about the beginning of 1823. In March following, Colonel Marshall received orders to proceed with the building. Contracts were immediately formed with masons and carpenters, and it is expected the church will be finished in the course of the summer of 1823.
           Good roads and navigable canals tend much to advance the interior improvement of any country. The want of these as been seriously felt in the military settlements; but we expect that, in a few years more, the difficulty will be removed. Roads are laid out in various directions; they are every year undergoing improvements, settlers being obliged to labour for least three days every summer upon the highways. In winter they drive their sleighs in all directions, and lakes and rivers form no obstacle.
           A canal has long been talked of between the Grand River and Kingston, and we hear that it is soon to be commenced, surveyors being employed in examining the different lines in order to determine which is best. It is probable it will ascend the Rideau River, pass through the lake of that name, as well as some of the smaller ones with which the province abounds. Its length will not be less than a hundred miles, and will probably be to cut about half that distance. This undertaking will greatly improve the country, employ a great number of hands, and afford a ready means of conveying the farmer's produce to market. At present, rafts of timber and staves are sent down our rivers to Montreal; but the numerous rapids in the way occasion both difficulty and loss of property.
           The military settlements of Perth, Richmond, and Lanark, are all in the county of Carlton, which contains about twenty townships or parishes, most of them ten miles square. Twelve of these are already partly settled, and the rest will be located as soon as a sufficient number of emigrants shall arrive. This county, besides a fertile and well-watered soil, possesses many local advantages, being bounded on the north by the Grand River, and intersected by the Tay, the Mississippi of Upper Canada, and the Madawaska, to say nothing of innumerable smaller streams. We are now represented in the provincial parliament by one member; but, at the next election, which will take place in June, 1824, we will be entitled to two, as the county contains more than 6000 inhabitants.
           Although it is only seven years since the settlement at this place was commenced, astonishing improvements have been made. Many of our settlers, it is true, have gone away to other places, but they were generally those who could be most easily spared, and their places were speedily supplied by persons of a more substantial and industrious character. The woods are gradually disappearing, and luxuriant crops rising in their stead. The roads are improving, and the means of communication between the different parts of the country becoming every year more easy. The habitations first erected by the settlers were of a very homely kind, but these are gradually giving place to more comfortable and substantial dwellings. The military superintendence of the settlement was removed on the 24th of December, 1822, and we have now all the civil privileges enjoyed by the rest of the province. Perth is the capital of the district; and the courts of law and justice are held in the town. It contains a jail and court-house, four churches, seven merchants' stores, five taverns, besides between fifty and a hundred private houses. The houses are all built of wood. I except the jail and court-house and one merchants' store, which are built of brick. There is also a stone house erecting this summer, by one of our merchants. The villages of Richmond and Lanark are not making great progress; but this is not to be wondered at, in a country where all must live by agriculture. Unless manufactories be established, the population of our villages will always remain small. When strangers arrive at Perth, and compare the number of churches with the population of the village, they conclude that either we are a very religious people, or, in building them, have taken care to provide accommodation for our country friends as well as for ourselves. There are in the county one Episcopal clergyman, four Presbyterian ministers, one American Methodist preacher, two Roman Catholic priests, besides a great variety of lay preachers in the remote parts of the settlement. But as I intend to devote an entire letter, or perhaps more, to the state of religion, I shall not now go into particulars.
END OF LETTER XII.          BACK TO START OF LETTER

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