A Piece of Tyrone in Canada. SOURCE D3561/A/18: The Papers of E.R.R. Green, presented by Dr P. R. Green.
ARCHIVE Public Record Office, Northern Ireland. KEYS #SERIAL=9307082 #DATE=22:01:1971 #TYPE=NWP TAGS LOG
The following article by Barney McCool is from The Tyrone Constitution dated January 22, 1971, and gives details from letters that he received following a previous article he wrote about life in Canada in [the?] 1840s.
A Piece of Tyrone in Canada
Hello there! How are ye all doing? Some of you may remember that about a year ago I wrote an account of life in Canada in the 1840 period, based on some old letters from a settler to his relatives in this country. In the letters the writer said he had settled in wild country near a place called Goderich, near Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada. Well what do you think - now I get a letter from a William Tigert who lives near there and whose forebears came originally from Fermanagh. Believe it or not, he's living near a small town called Dungannon which must have been called after our own town of that name because some of his ancestors over there originally came from Donaghmore, near Dungannon, in Tyrone. As a further connection with Ulster he tells me that he served on convoys during the war years and was often laid up in Londonderry for a week at a time, and naturally enjoyed the time ashore. What little he saw of the country he really liked, and hopes to come back here for a holiday some day. he has fond memories of a lady member of a choir that he heard singing in the Guildhall, in Derry: says she sang like an angel and looked like one too! Another letter from the same area, Goderich, is from a lady bearing a truly Tyrone name. Carrie O'Neill. Her grandfather also came from Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, but emigrated to Dungannon, Ontario, in the year of the famine, 1847. So now we know how the people and the places over there managed to get the same names as the people and the places over here. In a newspaper cutting which she enclosed there are plenty of names which are commonplace over here; Jack Anderson, Jim Black, Ben Crawford, Jim Davidson, Charlie Elliot, Bert Fowler, Johnny Gray, John Hamilton, Bob Lowry, Beth McConnell, Willie Sproule, Robert Thompson, Jim Wilson and Sam Young. Sure you might as well be reading the Con! [Tyrone Constitution?]. After all, there are almost as many reading the Con over there as over here, and plenty more eager to read it if only the friends at home would send it out to them. So, a nod's as good as a wink! I understand that Dungannon over there is only a small place of about 250 inhabitants but that Goderich has almost 7,000. It is the county town of Huron County and was built about 1830 after a design in which the streets radiate from an octagonal civic park built by a Dr. Wm [William?] Dunlop - another name not unknown in Tyrone. It has been greatly developed since the end of the last war and in addition to grain stores, flour mills and salt works etc., it has the largest harbour on the Canadian side of Lake Huron.
I'm telling you all this because I've unearthed another letter, dated July 29, 1844, sent from Goderich to Fermanagh, not in an envelope but simply folded over into three and sealed with red sealing wax, as the custom seems to have been at that time. In it, the writer, who originally hailed from near Enniskillen said that: "Pat and John got two lots of land - 200 acres for 200 pounds, from the Canada Company (I'm sure they're worth a penny or two more out there nowadays!) "Partly cleared land can be bought - 100 acres with about 40 cleared and fenced fetches about 10 to 16 dollars an acre. You could get 100 acres for as low as 16 pounds but it must be cleared of timber etc. This is the sort that would suit a man with a family of young strong boys who could chop down trees and clear the woods, but the work is hard - make no mistake about that! There are some men who take on job work and who will clear an acre of land for 30/- [shillings?] without board. "A pair of horses or a yoke of oxen to work the farm would cost 30 pounds; a plough will cost 2 pounds, a wagon 15 pounds, a harrow 1 pound and a sleigh for the winter 5 pounds. Harness for the horses will be 4 pounds and a yoke chain for the oxen 1 pound. A milk cow will cost 4 pounds and a sheep about 10/- [shillings?]. The cost of making a new set of shoes for the horses and fitting them will be about 15/- [shillings?], and they should last a year. "A servant man for the year will cost 18 to 20 pounds plus his board and lodging, a servant girl 10 pounds plus board and lodging. These servants are fed on the very best; home-baked bread, pork, beef or mutton twice every day - and tea both morning and evening." In those days, when tea was so expensive that it was served usually on Sundays only at home, the prospect of getting it twice a day must have been very tempting.
By the middle of 1848 things seemed to have improved around here, for in another letter the writer says : "We expect a railroad from Toronto to Goderich - the ground is already surveyed and passed by the Provincial Parliament - if the money can be raised. However, there is opposition - the route may be via Hamilton and London and Chatham to Sandwich opposite Detroit." (I understand they eventually got both lines and the route to Sandwich, re-named Windsor in 1836, became the terminus of the old Great Western Railway of Canada which later became part of the Canadian National Railroad network. Another claim to fame which Sandwich had was the home of the first newspaper in Western Ontario. "The Canadian Emigrant." I wonder if it is still in existence? Perhaps some of our Canadian readers could let me know about that.) In view of what I've already said about present day Goderich the following will be of interest : "The stores here now (1848) are as good as you have back home in Enniskillen and we can get almost any article and just as cheap too. You can hardly believe unless you see with your own two eyes the splendid articles you can get in the Goderich stores. "For instance, men's boots are sold at 15/- [shillings?] a pair and shoes at 10/- [shillings?], with women's about three quarters that. If you like you can pay partly in money and partly in farm produce. "There are two newspapers printed here. We also have two tanneries, two breweries and two distilleries. We also have four churches, a Court-house and jail," (necessry no doubt after a thirst of righteousness!) "Our little school is at the point where three roads meet and is attended by about 36 children. The Master is James Miller (another emigrant likely) who is paid about 20 pounds, I think by the Government, at the end of each year, but we have to board and lodge the Master in our turn, about one week in every 16 or so." Now a note about the eternal subject, the weather "Spring opened about the beginning of April and I planted some spuds, but frost after frost, even as late as 5th June, killed them all off. The best time to plant potatoes is the last week of May and the start of June. Even as late as that, we sometimes have spuds on 12th July as big as you would have at home on 12th August." (A hint there regarding which foot he dug with?) "Wheat is good this year, fetching about 4/- [shillings?] a bushel (a small tub like a milk tub. 14 inches over inside and about 7 inches deep, holding about 60 lb. [pounds] of wheat, potatoes or peas). Flour sells in Goderich at 17/6d. [17 shillings, 6 pence?] for a barrel of 196 lb. [pounds?], oats about 1/- [shilling?] a bushel, beef 1 pound for 100 lb. [pounds?] and mutton at 3d. [pence?] or 4d. [pence?] per 1 lb [pound?]. You can buy an ox hide at the rate of 2 1/2d [pence?] per pound weight! We had a hard winter beginning about the middle of November with about 18 inches of snow, and fierce frost. The people here seem to like that because then they can go to market in the sleighs and cutters easier than over the muddy cart tracks in the thaw? Each of these horse drawn sleighs or cutters has a string of bells (9 or 10 of them) around each horse's neck and on the straps and buckles. Each bell is about the size of a small apple and inside it there is a little metal ball, which as it rolls around, gives out a very pleasant sound. "The law is very particular about these bells and there is a heavy fine if a person drives into town without sufficient bells to give warning of his approach. You see, if you were walking in the snow with the wind whistling past your covered-up ears, you might not hear the approach of a sleigh and the horses might run you over and you'd be seriously injured." Evidently there were traffic problems, even then! Hasn't this old letter made very interesting reading? I wonder how many more old letters, equally interesting about one subject or another, are lying in drawers or old albums, maybe even in your house? Would you have a good look, please, and if you care to let me have a loan of them, perhaps between us we can share the interesting bits with readers all over the world. So long and the best of luck! BARNEY McCOOL