Main content

Title: Tom Hay, N.W.T., Canada, to Anna Hay, Peterborough, Ontario
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FileHay, Tom/22
SenderHay, Tom
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationmanual worker
Sender Religionunknown
OriginNorth West Territories, Canada
DestinationPeterborough, Ontario, Canada
RecipientHay, Anna
Recipient Genderfemale
SourceD 1424/11/4D: Purchased from Mr. John A. Gamble, 44 Taunton Avenue, Belfast 15. #TYPE EMG Extracts from Tom Hay's letters from Survey Camps, North West Territories, Canada, to his mother Anna Hay, Peterborough, Ontario, September to November 1879, sent by
ArchivePublic Record Office N. Ireland.
Doc. No.9004006
Partial Date
Doc. TypeEMG
Log11:05:1990 SS created 10:08:1990 MC input 21:08:19
Word Count5580
TranscriptRevd [Reverend?]George Kirkpatrick
Craigs Co Antrim
Ierland [Ireland?]

No 6 Camp Sept [September?] 21st 1879

We are greatly disappointed at
not getting any letters last week
But I know dearest mother it
was not your fault as you promised
to write to me every week - But
the post office arrangements here
are so dreadfully unsysistematic [unsystematic?]
that some letters are lost
by every mail I fear we sent Rolly
down for the mail on Wendnesday
last & he came home next day
we all hurried home half an
hour earlier than usual from
work so that we might read our
letters before dark - But you can
not fancie [fancy?] our disappointment
when there were no letters for
any one but Uncle G [George Kirkpatrick?] - but after
a while uncle G [George?] found one for me
in his from aunt Dunlop - I never
was more glad in my life to get
a letter - as I had not heard one
word from home for so long
a time - The Mail only comes in
once in 3 or 4 weeks at soonest
you may be sure that I felt
left out in the cold I hope
to get them all safe by next time
for I know there are some for me
some where However Aunties
letter told the good news that all
dear ones were well at home
thank her for me please
we moved to this on Friday 19th Poor
Rollie is still laid up with his hand
but I hope will soon be better I
do not know how I have escaped so
well when every one in camp
have been laid up but me with
some thing - I am thankful to say
I am very well - The woods are begining
[beginning?] to look lovely now the leaves
have turned colour - and I shall
tell you of a ride I had to the
R M [Riding Mountaing?] House The weather is most
lovely & the mosquitoes are nearly
gone - no [not] so the Black flies - I started
on the pony early in a lovely morning
last week - The ride was very quite
nor do I think ever saw a more
beautiful sight than the woods
all along the river through the
Little Saskatchewan
Vally [Valley?] the road follows along the
banks of the river all the way
down 25 miles & on each side of
the river there is prairie land
In some places it is half a mile
wide in others only a few yards
wide then at the back of this the
woods slant gradually up to the
tops of the hills - the woods are
mostly spruce pine, with black
& white poplar mixed through
and it looks truly magnificent
with the river winding like
a silver thread through the
valley far away - I fear the
woods will soon be bear [bare?] as the
leaves will soon begin to fall
I do not know how the flies live
still for some mornings the
ice on small ponds will bear us - untill [until?]
the sun comes out in
mid day & then the brutes
come out as wicked as ever
but not at night now & we can
get good sleep - Mr Andy gave
me two small Bear's hides which
I have made a nice warm cap
off from one of them & am going
to make a pair of gloves from
the other - It will be good when
the hard frost comes on it not
too hard so that the marshes
& lakes will freeze hard enough
for us to walk in safty [safety?] on them
for it is very cold work wading
through it now - when
ice is formed then when snow
comes we can wear moccasins but
now a pair would not last a day -
when my foot was sore I wore a
pair & then I wore out 3 pair Our
boots are nearly gone now - but this
week we hope to have a good supply
which Mr Andy is getting from the
Mounted Police & they will last
I hope till the snow comes Most
of the party have had to get new
clothes from the Hudson Bay Co.[Company]
being so constantly wet is very
hard on clothes as well as boots
the water in these marshes is
so strong with alkali that it rots
every thing & is so unwholesome
to drink unless boild [boiled?] -T-A-H [Hay?]
Sept [September?] 28th Your most welcome &
much looked for letters came
yesterday dearest mother and my
thanks for them - they do refresh
me so - one written to me on
the 14th of August my birthday, &
one to uncle G [George?] the 26 his birthday
so you have not forgotten
us in this far off land - The
reason I did not get any letters
by last mail was that the
old Missionary at Riding Mountain
House brought them up from
Shoal lake 40 miles off &
seeing so many for the camp
he was afraid to undertake the
carrying of them all - so thought
he would only bring uncle G's [George's?] with
him- knowing he was the Head
man of the camp - but never
said a word about the others
he left behind - so the day the
rest of the letters came - one of the
men had gone down for flour &c
& brought them up last night - we
[keep?] a man & horse busy now all
the time carrying up provisions
he goes down one day & returns the
next he will continue this
till we get enough provisions for
a month supply in which time
we hope to leave this township
finished & be into the next
Mr Thompson is in great trouble
as nearly all of his men are leaving
him - his cook left him the
other day - for the childish
reason that he had gone to the
creek for water close to camp
& a bear chased him - he
must be a nice man to leave
for that - In spite of all
the sickness's [sicknesses?] &c we are getting
on nicely - Rolly came out one
day last week & hurt his finger
& had to go home it is very sore
poor fellow - it has been dreadful
sore as it turned out to be a [felon?]
the very flesh came off & no
Dr [Doctor?] to see it nearer than 200 miles
miles off so we did what we
could for him he has not slept
for two weeks only for a few minutes
at a time - but walked about all
night - I am happy to say that
the marshes are drying up at
last now & besides we are
gradually working towards the
top of the mountains & the land
is getting more broken by
hills - the timber is getting
larger & more plentiful and
we often see large boulders
sticking out of the ground
Sunday night our man
is going down early in the
morning to the House so I think
I shall send this letter by him
and answer your letters by
next chance - With much
love to all love yours T A H [Hay?]

Journal of T-A- Hay's continued

Camp 6th Oct 5th /79

you see dearest mother that
I take every opportunity of writing
to you our man, whom we
got lately has to take a trip to Rapid
City tomorrow, which is 100 miles
from here, he is to start very early
& I shall send this letter by him
to Post for me - he goes for a supply
of boots for our party as we are
completly [completely?] out of them & it will
take him & pony two days in going
& the same to return - Our old cook
left us yesterday, he said he could
not cook any longer for ten hungry
men that it was the hardest
work he ever did - I am
going off tomorrow to run a line
to the south end of one block
it will take us a week at least
I shall take Edward & Rolly Brown &
Walter Stewart with me & one tent
we shall have to move camp
every day as we go on till we get to
the end of our block which will
be very troublesome & be a delay too, but
we cannot help it - We shall
bring some provisions, pots, & pans
&c.We shall be ten miles from
our Home tent - I hope I shall
get some letters by this mail
which is due this week - Well
we are getting on as well as can
be expected in such a rough
country & I do hope we shall
get through by New Year G [George?]
Whitehead (cousin of
G Stewarts first wife) was lost in
the woods coming home from
work one day lately - so Rolly & I set
off to look for him - we took lantearn [lantern?]
as it was very dark in the woods
& he might see the light - we
took a gun too - After hunting
for him over some miles of forest
& for some hours, we found him
about 8.30 Oclock [o'clock?] & brought him
home, he got astray off the path
that we go to & from our work &
could not again find it in the
darkness which comes on here
very quickly & very early in the evening
Very fortunately we went near
enough to him to be heard when
we shouted to him & he answered us
each time, but could not tell for
some time where we were for the
echoe's [echoes?] were so clear in every
direction amongst the hills
We are now getting into quite a
different kind of country - we
came across some rocks yesterday
which shows that we are near the
mountains, & when we were crossing
a small prairie we could see the
mountains in the distance - It
is nearly 20 miles from here, but
we shall be working within 14
miles of them soon There are
hundreds of little lakes all over
these townships - some of them
are very marshy about the shores
others have steep banks with gravelly
shores & clear water & look lovely
but sad & lonely - the partridges
& ducks are very plenty - but we
never have time for shooting any
tho'[although?] they would be a treat to us
from constant pork p[?] - I must
now go off & help to look for pony
as the man cannot find him
so good bye for this time

Camp No 6 Oct 17 /79

mother you must excuse a short
letter this time & likewise to have
it written with a pencil - when
I tell you the reason - I went down
on the boundry [boundary?] survey as I told
you with my party in my last
letter - but we were longer than
we expected & we did not get
back till tuesday - I forgot to take
writing materials with me - so that
we spent Sunday in the most idle
manner - as I always write on Sunday
- but we had our letters to read
which Walter brought to us. I
was most delighted to get so many
& to hear all the good news by them
especially that you were all well
at home & that Anna & her little
son whose arrival took place
two months after I left were well
I trust all her others were well
too I wish I had time to write
a longer letter, but we are
sending down tomorrow to the House
for provisions & I must send this
too - We hope to move again on
Monday the 20th - when I returned
to Head quarters the other day
I found a tremendous bundle
of news papers all the long lost
ones as well as some later ones
We were all amused at my
letters which you had published
in the Peterboro [Petersborough Review?] I have
no objection as you did not put in
any House parts - I got altogether
13 letters my share this time
there was a bushel bag full of
newspapers & letters for one Camp
party so you may be sure we
had a feast that day - If you
could only see me now you would
have a good laugh - I am
again out on the boundry [boundary?]
line with my party working
I am now standing writing with
my note book for table & desk
while waiting for the boys to
cut down a tree - but it is the
only way I can get a letter written
to send to you by tomorrow - I do so
enjoy your letters so full of home
news - In the "bushel bag" there
were some English papers and
some magazines which Dr Dashwood
sent me - was it not kind of
him - we are getting on now
as well as can be expected, the
weather is very showery & we always
get wet through before night
I hope the settled weather will
soon set in - as this constant wet
is very unpleasent We are going
to get some Indians to help to chop
if we can, so that the work will
go on faster - Mr Andy went
to Shoal Lake P O [Post Office?] the other day
for his letters & thought that he
would look for some of our missing
letters &c & there sure enough
he found all those which we
got Shoal Lake P.O. our only P.O. [Post Office?]
is 40 miles from here - they are
very careless there - I am very
sorry to say that we have lost our
good little pony & we miss him
very much as all messengers
have to go on foot- Mr Andy is
very kind & says he will now
send our provisions by his
Indians - The first load arrived
last Saturday - & we were in great need of some
we had been quite
reduced to [have?] one meal that
day - our supplies had but arrived
at "The House" when the messenger
went there so had to wait till
next day - that day we had to leave
off work earlier than usual
from hunger - & started for camp
hoping to see supper ready - but
great was our disappointment to see
that there was not even a crust
of bread to eat We warmed ourselves
& made our good fires & lit
our pipes for a smoke before
turning in for the night - we
were all sitting in thoughtful moods
when about 8.30 oclock we heard
great tramping & shouting coming
through the woods & up came
4 horses loaded with food & lead [led?]
by as many Indians - so then
a lively time for a while some
making cakes some frying pork
others making tea & getting all ready
for a good meal - we shall not
be on short commons again
for a while - as another supply
is to come next week - I do not
know what we should do without
Mr Andy he is so kind and
thoughtful - There will be
nothing in this letter for you
to publish - I fear it is both
uninteresting & hard to read being
written in pencil & having
to give my attention so much
to the work - The boys are ahead
of the Instrument & I have to
keep my eyes on them while they
are chopping to keep them on
the line - so this is all for
this time &c T H [Hay?]

Camp No 7 Oct 28 /79

I am very glad of an opportunity today
of writing to you to answer & thank
you for all your kind letters which
came by last mail - We had a
splendid snow storm last night
today it has turned to rain & as
the line we are now working
is a long way from camp & over an
exceedingly rough part of the country
part of the township - we thought
should have a holiday today, which
will enable us to answer some of
over due letters written & the
remains of our clothes patched together
to face the northwester once more
we have had some pretty severe
frost - at nights - the days untill [until?]
today have been delightful Indian
summer weather we have had
one or two nights of frost which
were as low as 12 degrees above
zero & the following morning the
marshes bore us on the ice - till
the sun had got up high
But this half & half weather is
disagreeable for the ice is not
quite strong enough & the
water is far from sultry I can
assure you - but we must
expect this state of affairs untill [until?]
the weather actually changes for
the season and then we shall
have it severe enough I dare say
we have rattled through most
of this our 2d [second?] township at a good
rate because there is a good deal
of level land with patches of
prairie, we have been very
much decieved [deceived?] in the extent
of one of the principle lakes which
enters our townships - I must say
tho' [though?] that it will materially shorten
our work although it will necessitate
our moving back westwards to our
old camp No 6 for untill [until?] the ice
forms strong enough on the lakes
we can make no possible use
of them, as we have no canoes
or boats of any discription [description] nor can
any be had in these parts - we
cannot even build a decent
raft either for the timber is all
poplar and spruce - the former so
heavy that it will scarcelly [scarcely?] float
its own weight & the other is so
hard to cut, and so full of knots as to
make it impracticable in its green
state - we have however at different
times wattled small rafts to hold
one or two persons, from dead dry timber
but their floating qualities are as
precarious as Railway [bonds?] and their
speed far too slow to please our progression
party so that we have put off our [lake?]
lines till the ice forms - Another
benefit to be derived from the frost
is that our shoulders & backs will be
much relieved at our moving times
by using "Junipers" (a light sliegh) [sleigh?]
instead carrying all our weary
backs for miles through woods we
have not seen any moose deer
yet, tho'[although?] we often see their tracks
quite fresh about the marshes so
that they cannot be very far off
They are very timid creatures &
are said to have such a keen
sense of hearing that they can distinguish
the difference between
the sound of a branch broken by
a human being or from a wolf
or that broken by the wind - we make
such a constant noise shouting and
chopping that they must hear us
for miles - I have often heard of the
clearness of the atmosphere out here
-but nothing can equal it as we
find by experience - when our two
parties are working (often at a distance
of two miles between) we can hear the
voices & the axes going as distinctly as
if but a few yards intervened, and
it becomes a nuisance sometimes
for the signals given by one party
are often mistaken for the other
The sunsets too are maginficent [magnificent?]
nothing can equal the variety
of brillant colours, which when the
sun happens to set in a bank of
clouds sends its ray almost to the
zenith & the different belts of clouds
shaded from violet to the deepest red
The days are getting very short, the
sun does not rise till 6.45 and it
sets at 4.45 so that when we have long
walks to and from our work, we have
only a few hours to work during the
day - we rise at 4 every morning
& breakfast at 5 off to work at 6 AM
& home at 6 PM and we are safly [safely?]
in bed at 7.30 Saturday evening is always
our concert night and on that occasion
we never retire before 9 all the songs
we ever knew are raked up & given
forth to the breeze - the more humorous
members of the orchestra accompanying
on tin pans - our only audience consists
in an occasional owl or two who usually
roost near us & add their mournful
"Hoot! Hoot!" by way of applause to the
end of each verse - we have appointed
G Whitehead our meteorological
observer & he has been dubbed
"Professor," his duties are to make notes
of the reading of the thermometer 3 times
a day & to note every change in the weather
I must say that his terms for different
subjects are rather unscientific & his
reports where published - his venerable
chief Prof. [Professor?] Kingston will be amazed
when he reads the extravegent [extravagant?] production
[our?] stock of newspapers has assumed
enormous dimensions - which during the
first few weeks after arriving here would
have been a great boon to us - we then
longed for news from the world of
the war & various other subjects
& how the first bundle was
devoured, would have delighted
the heart of our editor to any extent
could he have seen it we may safly [safely?]
say I think that the worst of our
work is over, (unless the cold when
it really sets in is very great) and
every move will bring us near to
civilization - After all we cannot go
home & say that we never enjoyed
ourselves out here, for in spite of
hard tack & sometimes short rations
we often make the woods ring with
a good hearty laugh, very often be
is said however at some ones expence [expense?]
I think that the air here has a very
beneficial effect on ones spirits as
well as constitution, of course I now
speak of the present time, for when
the flies & other torments were in season
they sorely tried the patience of the
meekest & most placid temper I
may add as an instance of the extremely
salubrious climate, that the flies were
out for a short time a few days ago after
severe frost the night before - we see
the reflection in the sky almost every
night of the enormous prairie fires
raging south & west of us - we have
several times had slight experience
of them near us - but the [?] are so
small that they burn off in a few
minutes I can easily understand
tho' [though?] the dangers of a person trying
to escape from one of these dreadful
fires his chances on horse back
would even be very small, for the
fire travels with the wind at a
tremendous rate - since the flies
have gone & the nights become cool
we have been camping in the
woods - There are some beautiful
little groves here of spruce with
small openings here & there just
large enough for our four tents
& fires - these openings are surrounded
by a perfect barricade of spruce so
thick as to be impassable untill [until?] a
path has been cut through they
make such good shelter for our camp
& just now with good fires they answer
nearly as well as tents when calm
The lake we struck our Maridian [meridian?]
lines is the most beautiful sheet of
water I ever saw - it is perfectly free
from marsh or weeds & had a wide sandy
beach & all the shores are formed of
abrupt spurs of hills - thickly covered with
tall straight spruce of the darkest green
a great feeling of loneliness comes
over us, when we stand looking out on
the deep calm blue sheet of water
where there is not the least sign of
life except a few gulls & herons
dipping up & down in the water
This lake is about six miles long by
three broad & is known by the Indian
name of "waw-say-gumee-saw-gigum"
which when interpreted to English means
"Clear Water Lake" There is another
lake in the south eastern township
of this block about the same size
it has a longer name still so long
that we call it Long lake for shortness
We are all looking forward to our
homeward trip & in our total ignorance
of winter affairs in this country
we have all sorts of sickness
It will be a tramp of more than
200 miles from where we shall leave
off work into Winniepeg [Winnipeg?] But if we
can only get our luggage carried for
us we can easily carry ourselves if
the snow will not be very deep & the
track will [?] - we should make
at least 30 miles a day - in which case
we shall require no guide for they
say all we shall have to do is to stick
to the main trails - Sunday Nov 2d
Thermometer down to zero the last two
nights (you wont have that to say) ice
fast forming on lakes & marshes we
have not had the usual length of
Indian summer weather belonging
to this country - there is at present four inches of snow
on the ground which for travelling & wearing moccasins
You need not dear mother feel frightened about the Indians for
they are not at all troublesome here it is only away West
near Battleford that they are giving trouble, here they have
enough to eat & there seems to be no scarcity for they never grumble
my letters often end very abruptly as I have many interruptions & some
one goes off to the House in a hurry now I am sitting close by the fire
keeping the ink bottle in the hot ashes to keep it thawed while I
am writing - Nov 5th have to finish up in a hurry good bye-

No 8 Camp Wednesday Nov 19th 1879

I do hope you are all well at home
dearest mother - It is so long between the times we get letters Today
uncle G [George?] & I have a holiday because there is nothing for us to
do - but all the rest are out correcting some lines at my last camp
which we had to leave - we moved here on Saturday last our last camp
was on the north side of Clear Lake - now we are on the south side of it
just on the shore in a lovely grove - all the lakes here are now hard
fBrozen & we were all working all yesterday on them - we are looking
forward to getting finished up about New Year but it may be longer
The Therm [thermometer?] has been about zero every night for a long
time & even in the day time it does not get much higher It
is very cold writing today & my attention is divided between
trying to warm my fingers & keep up a fire as the wind is high
today & blows the smoke into the tent & as
the ink is all gone I have to take
the pencils in writing - The last two Sundays
I have not been able to write atall [at all?]
because when all are in tent
it is very hard to get a place to sit
comfortably near enough to the fire
to keep warm - during the great
heat you speak of having in the
middle of Oct [October?] seems strange to us
here where there is about 12 inches
deep of ice on the lakes I may say
we have had winter since the
middle of Oct [October?]- we have plenty of
snow now - It would amuse you to
see our wardrobes now - they are sadly
in want of female skill & this just
reminds me that I have some
socks to mend today - How we talk &
plan every day now about our going
home which I do hope will be in
about six weeks and then good
bye to the great N.W.T. [North West Territories?] for me
I have a great many stories and
adventures which if I told you
now you would only fret about us &
I should have nothing to talk about
when I get home Our kind friend
Mr Andy sent us a present of nice
fresh vegetables from his own
garden - they were a great treat
I can assure you - but did not
last long amongst so many -
The first we have seen since
the middle of July - All this township
is composed of prairies & lakes
except a small strip on the west
side, so that we shall be able to do
twice as much in a day as we did
before - Oh how we long for home
This is really a most beautiful part
of the country - but every thing is
lonely looking no signs of life
except the tracks of wolves & foxes
& a few besides - we feel most thankful
for the good shelter these nice
groves give us from the high
wind - & the wood makes splendid
fire wood - we are now with the
limits of the old Indian tracts
we can now get our provisions
brought up to camp by dog trains
we are only 16 miles from Mr Andys
house now & his Indians bring
all our stores up now on toboggans
drawn by dogs or horses - We have
never found our poor pony yet
we can also now move camp
more easily on toboggans which we
draw by hand across the lakes
& prairies & do it all in one day
when it used to take us 3 days
when we had all to carry on our
backs through the woods - every
thing looks more cheerful now
like the end of a war - and above
all our prospects of soon getting
home keeps us all in good spirits
- When we look back on our hard
times we feel thankful that they
are over, but so far they have not
done us any harm, but a great deal
of good for this kind of work knocks
all the childishness & selfishness
& conceit out of us - we got a new man
about 3 weeks ago he is a splendid
fellow to work & never grumbles at any
thing he sleeps in a little tent by
himself, but otherwise we treat him
as one of ourselves as he is alone - The
other two turned out failures long ago any
one who shows any fears of work or
danger has a pretty hard time
of it in this crowd & they both showed
the white feather before they had
been long with us - Friday
night Walter & Rolly are going
down tomorrow to " The House" I
hope they will bring us lots of letters
they will also take this for the
post - so I must say good bye now
For the last two nights the Therm [thermometer?]
has been 13 & 14 below zero - rather
low for November you will say

Camp No 8 Wednesday evening
November 28th/79

I hear there will be a chance of
sending this to the P.O. [Post Office?] so shall write
you a few lines - you may be certain
that I was delighted to get your
three kind letters & Anna's with Charlie's
I shall only have time to write to you
now - for we are very much pressed
for time now the days are so short
& I am writing by fire light which
is bad for pencil work - I could not
write on Sunday - as I was laid up on
Sunday & for several other days from
Neuralgia - I was obliged to go to work
with my head wrapped up in flannel
I am now all right again - After
you get this I do not think you need
write any more as it takes this a
a month to reach you & your
answer the same time to come
here & we hope to be out of this
country by that time if we go on
as we are now - We intend to give
Mr Andy a grand [concert?] on our
way down - & have the programme
arranged already, & when we [are?]
sitting around the fire at night
we practice our songs - our axes
[?] tomorrow &
will take this letter down so I
must say good bye with much love
to all -

Poor fellows their disappointment
has been great not getting
their work finished [?]
in the winter - My hands
suffered much from frost bite
since these pages were written

- This is the 15th of March & they
are not home yet, we feel very
anxious about them poor poor fellows
Rolly Brown wrote on Jany [January?] 21st he had
his feet badly frozen the day before
- I hope this week will bring us news
of their soon coming home - I hope
dear uncle that you & all are well
with much love ever your affect [affectionate?] niece
Anna Hay