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Title: Tom Hay, Big Bend Prairie, Canada, to His Mother [Anna Hay?]
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FileHay, Tom/20
SenderHay, Tom
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationmanual worker
Sender Religionunknown
OriginBig Bend Prairie, Canada
DestinationPeterborough, Ontario, Canada
RecipientHay, Anna
Recipient Genderfemale
SourceD1424/11/4C: Purchased From Mr. John A. Gamble, 44 Taunton Avenue, Belfast 15. #TYPE EMG Letter From Tom Hay at Big Bend Prairie, Canada, to His Mother [Anna Hay?], [Peterborough?], [Canada?], August 31 1879.
ArchivePublic Record Office N. Ireland
Doc. No.9004005
Partial Date
Doc. TypeEMG
Log11:05:1990 SS created 13:08:1990 MC input 14:08:19
Word Count1974
TranscriptTom's journal resumed from
August 31st 1879
Big Bend Prairie

I am going to take my party
down to the R.M. [Riding Mountain?] House on thursday
for a load of Flour, Pork, &c to last
us untill [until?] we return from the N.[North?]
E. [East?] township - I see you have had
a very warm summer - Here we
have the advantage over you in
that respect - having only had one
or two very hot days - the nights being
always cool indeed even frost
sometimes - I fear my letters are
not what they should be my dear Mother
but you must know that it is
very difficult writing in camp
from sitting in a comfortable quiet
room - Here we often have a great
thunderstorm raging - with water
dripping down through the canvas
& the whole tent shaking like an
earthquake with the wind & millions
of all kinds of horrible flies biting &
bothering the life out of you & every
thing in the greatest confusion
this is a little picture of camp life in
this wild country - Tho'[although?] we are highly
favoured in today - being one of the
most lovely days - we have had yet
Thank you for the news papers you
sent me - I have got some of them
but there are a great many that we
should have got & did not - Thank
you for remembering me when you
were making your Raspberry vinegar
I wish we had some of it here now
we should enjoy it or any of the
good things of life For our food
is of the plainest in every respect &
if we have only enough we are
thankful & can live well enough
on it untill [until?] we get home Rollie
& I have moved our seats from the
tent out to the River Bank & are
sitting in a nice little grove of
Balsams & spruce trees which over
hang the river it is very pretty
the river takes a great bend just
at our camp - from which the prairie
takes its name of Big Bend Prairie
& the bush where we are sitting is
very high - just through an opening
in the trees below us - we can see
down to the water where dozens of
Marsh Rats are at work building
houses & swimming about collecting
stuff for their work they seem such
busy little fellows

1st Camp in the woods Sept 7 1879

I must dearest Mother write you
a few lines today to wish you many
happy returns of your Birthday the
12th although it will be at least a
month before you get this letter
still you will see your Boy did not forget
you dear Mother we have
made a strike into the woods at last
hitherto we have always camped on
prairies near woods so as to get fresh
air & avoid the flies as much as
possible - but now they are not so bad
quite as in summer & the nights
are more frosty, that we are very
glad to get into the woods - I must
now give you an account of our
move here this week - first of all
on tuesday morning Ted Brown Walter
Stewart & I were to start for Riding
Mountain House for flour Pork &c
we intended starting at 6 a.m. but
could not find the - pony we had
let him off for a rest of two weeks to
heal a sore spot on his back made
by the saddle - so we ran round the
prairie for two hours before we caught
him he had got so wild - well we
got off at last & were nearly tired
out from our run after him so
did not feel much like a walk
of 25 miles, However we took turns
at riding in the cart one at a time
along the good parts of the road
which was very little only across
patches of prairie between the
woods - the road which is only an
old Indian trail is very bad
in the woods from so much rain
- well we got to one of our old camps
& had dinner This place is about
half way from here to the R.M. [Riding Mountain?] House
we reached the house about 4.30 p.m.
got one load of about 800 lbs of flour
pork, beans &c & started at 5.30 p.m on
our road back to camp, we had to
ford the river which was just
shallow enough to keep the load
dry & these carts are very high concerns
& we got back to the half way camp
ground at 9.50 p.m. where we staid [stayed?]
got our supper cooked & camped under
the cart for the night we were
very hungry as you may suppose having
had nothing to eat from dinner
time till 10 at night & travelling all
day having gone 40 miles that day
we took our tea kettle & a frying
pan with us so we had some tea
fried pork & bread - then we
turned in each wrapped in his
blanket under the cart & slept
as sound as tops altho'[although?],there was
a hard frost that night but having
walked so far & pushed the cart
through all the mud holes we
from this slept rather late in the
morning for it was nearly 8 o clock before
we were on the tramp again
& arrived at camp at 10 o'clock just
in time for dinner - after dinner
we took on some stuff & took the
load up the road to where our
trail turned east & left it there
then on thursday morning we took
all the rest in one load on
the cart & every one carring [carrying?] a
pack - There we had to leave the cart
& make our own path through
the woods for about 3 miles &
each had to carry about 100 lbs on
our backs & the horse carrying
about 350 lbs we made two trips in
this way that day - did not get
into camp till about six o clock A M
next morning we finished one big
move in three trips - we have
& nice place for our tents now
I hurt my foot very much by
running a sharp spike into it but
it has healed up again very
quickly - for the first day or two
after hurting it, I could not get any
rest or sleep at night from the
pain - walking through the day
made it worse - and this week
has been very hard work for
this move has been the hardest
we have had When we got
home last evening from work
we found two men who had come
from Rapid City 100 miles from
here - to live with us - so Uncle
G [George?] took them at once being short
of hands by so many being still
disabled from the boils or cut
feet or hands & we have not for &
long time had one full party
at work at once - Poor Rollie has
been laid up for a long time
first he had a boil on his knee
& just got over that & was at work
one day when he got another
one on his finger there are five
laid up now from these nasty
painful things - caused the people
say from being so much in the
marshy water & drinking the water
uncle G [George?] & I are all who have not
had any yet & I hope never shall
poor uncle G[George?] has had to give up
for a day or two from his ankle
swelling in walking so much in
rough places - when he had his
leg broken some years ago -
I never felt better than I now
do - I have a superb appetite & sleep
like a top at night & if not for the
hard work I would grow to fat
Sept 14 Just one week today since
I began this letter & we have all
been at work except Rolly who is
still suffering very much from his
finger Our new men are rather
a failure as axemen - but one
of them an old man has been
made cook & he is a good one
so that all are at work the young
man is no good with the axe but
works at any thing he is put to &
seems ready & good natured young fellow
We intend to move to the boundry [boundary?]
of the next township, after that we shall
be divided into two camps for a
while till we get that township
nearly finished - Uncle G [George?] will take one
camp to the east side & I shall run
the western camp so that will help
to hurry the work on a little
I think we are getting on a little better
than Mr Thompson who is surveying the
next block of townships west of us we
heard that he had great trouble with
his men leaving him - he is not hard
man to get on with, but he does
not manage his men properly & he
did not bring the right kind of men
with him - a person coming out
on a survy [survey?] to this country should understand
that he is going to have
a rough time of it & that he must
not grumble, but make the best
he can of every thing & practice
self denial untill [until?] he is back in
the face, and his whole thoughts
must be concentrated in hurrying
along the work, at the same time
doing it as correctly as possible
I hope this week mail will bring
me a good packet of letters no
one knows how I hunger for home
letters - I wish I could write more
to you but we have not a moment
to spare ourselves - But I can
always find time to write to you
dearest mother & one else It some
times seems as if we had not much
to write about out here - for one days
work is so like another except that
sometimes one days work is a
little harder than another & it
is very disappointing to go out in
the mornings intending to do a certain
amount of work before night & then
have to come home without doing it.
& to have to acknowledge that although
we did our best we could not get so
far - then at others times we do more
a great deal than we expected & come
home in the evening blowing about
how much we did. When we come
home at night we are dreadfully
hungry & it is quite dangerous
for the cook if he has not got the
soup boild [ boiled?] & the pork fried & tea
made - but after tea when we
are having our evening pipes around
the fire we all tell one experience
of the day & all the little accidents
& adventures & ecapes we have
every day - altho'[although?] scarcely remembered
the next day - by us would make
& pretty story book - when the old
cook washes up the dishes & gets
every thing put away, he comes
along & sits down with us & tells
us yarns about his life - he lived
12 years in Australia & new Zealand
& has some splended stories
about his adventures there I
must now say good bye for this time
we have all been cutting each
others hair this morning & you would
laugh could you see us of course
none are cut very scientifically
cut - but we are clipped to the
skin - T.A. Hay