|From Mrs. Wm. Raddiff, Upper Canada, to the
|Authentic Letters from Upper Canada [Rev. Thomas Radcliff]
|York, Upper Canada
|Rev. Thomas Radcliff
|daughter-in-law - father-in-law
|account of passage
|Rev. Thomas Raddiff, Dublin.
York, July 27th, 1832.
My dear Mr. R.,
I have not been able to continue my diary since I closed
my letter at Quebec.—I was fortunate in being able to
send it by a gentleman sailing for Ireland the following
On the 17th of July, we embarked in the St. Lawrence
steam boat for Montreal; Captain Armstrong commanding—
a Canadian gentleman, exceedingly polite and accommodating.
The transition was almost miraculous from
the intense cold we suffered at Goose Island, to regular
West Indian heat, on board the St. Lawrence.
The charge for the passage to Montreal, 184 miles,
(performed from 24 to 30 hours.) every thing found
For each grown person . . . . £10 0
For children . . . . 0 10 0
For servants 0 18 9
Grown persons . . . . 0 7 6
Children from 7 to 12 years . . . . 0 3 9
Ditto under 7 years . . . . 0 2 6
We were two nights on board; the attendance was
admirable, and the fare excellent.
The men servants, French Canadians. The ladies' maid,
a remarkably nice person, was from the north of Ireland;
she recollected your son Stephen and his family there, and
paid us, in consequence, the greatest attention.
The passengers, it might be said, dined four times a day:
for they had fish, meat, and sweet-meats, at every meal.
The tea and coffee peculiarly good—the latter better
made than any we have yet had. The French always excelled
in the art, and the French Canadians inherit it.
We arrived at Montreal at a very early hour in the
morning. From my fatigue, and William's having been
very ill in the night, we were obliged to make use of the
only carriage in waiting to bring us to the hotel. This was
termed a calash; and resembles an old gig, with a cushion
for the driver in the place usually occupied by the knee
boot. It would have been luxury to us, but for the miserable
road we had to traverse.
How surprising that, where comfort, convenience, and
accommodation are carefully attended to in the chief
towns, a suitable approach, the most obvious feature of
civilization, should be altogether neglected.
So dreadful is that from the wharf to the hotel in Montreal,
that I really thought I should go distracted before we
arrived; but I thank God we did arrive, without having
broken down or been upset; I was, however, sadly shaken.
and poor William very ill—whether from the water of the
St. Lawrence, the fogs of Newfoundland, or the general
change of climate, I cannot say; his immediate recovery is
anticipated by Dr. Phillips, who is now our regular family
physician—the kindest of the kind, quite like a brother
to our gentlemen, and determined to settle wherever they
do. This will be of great advantage to us, and to the
neighbourhood around us, as his professional skill is equal
to his goodness of heart.
The proprietor of the hotel at Montreal is an Italian.
my sister recollected him at Lord Lorton's, as butler. His
wife is an Irish woman, whom Dr. Phillips had known.
From both we received more than common civility.
We are fortunate in meeting so many that know who we
are, and are the more disposed to show us attention.
It is very agreeable, in a foreign land, to meet even with
those whom we have known merely as acquaintances;
what, then, would be the delight at again seeing those dear,
dear friends we have left so far away? There is a
pleasure in the anticipation, however improbable, that J
can never abandon, nor consent to part with the cheering
hope that it will yet be realized.
At this excellent hotel we were entertained for a dollar
a day, each; beds and every thing included, except wine—
an article, generally speaking, of very inferior quality, in
steam boats and at hotels.
We remained but one day at Montreal, and proceeded,
at five o'clock in the morning, for La Chine, (9 miles,)
by the public coaches; our party filled two.
They are of the most extraordinary construction—not
unlike the lord mayor's state carriage, except that in lieu
of its profusion of glass, are substituted curtains which are
occasionally looped up to admit the air.
The new coaches are very showy, and by no means ugly
in their appearance. There are three rows of scats in each;
the centre seat moves on a pivot so as to clear the doorway,
and allow of free ingress and egress, for those who occupy
the other two; for this a broad strap of leather, well
stuffed, is contrived to hook on, so that the mid-passengers
may have something to lean against. Each seat holds four
moderate persons, but, three Raddiffs.
I, in my ignorance, suffered myself to be placed on the
back seat, which in the course of the nine mile stage
fatigued me most dreadfully; profiting by experience, I
have latterly chosen that in the front, which is remarkably
easy, with an agreeable swinging motion. We were drawn
by six noble horses, that excited our admiration.
You, my dear Mr. R., taught me to observe something
about horses, in the many pleasant drives we have had together.
If our harness here be sufficient, yours is profuse;
for of the six horses, except the pair next the carriage, (and
they were without pads,) the remaining four had but
collars and traces, and yet there was really no deficiency.
The coachman drove the six in hand and turned into lanes
but little wider than the carriage, with wonderful dexterity.
The horses are particularly well trained, and
answer to their names. At the end of the stage it was agreed by all that they had never seen so good horses, or
The country was most beautiful all the way; not a
single point of view that did not afford rich and varied
scenery to the admirer of the picturesque.
At La Chine we deserted our land conveyance, and with
the appetite of morning travellers enjoyed a good breakfast
on board the steam boat under way for the cascades
—a distance of twenty-three miles—there we took coach
again for a village called Coteau de lac, (sixteen miles,)
and there embarked in another steamer, which brought us
(36 miles,) to the town of Cornwall.
How you would be delighted, dear Mr. R., with the
exquisite beauty of that scenery. This branch of the St.
Lawrence, I believe, is called the lake St. Francis. The
Ottawa comes in there, but their waters don't unite. I
was called on deck to observe this wonder; you never saw
any thing more perfect than the line of distinction, marked
by the colour of the respective currents; that of the
Ottawa being of a deep brown, and the St. Lawrence a
decided green. I have read that some great rivers of
South America rush into the sea, for many leagues, without
losing their freshness by any admixture with the ocean,
and it may be that the same principle of currents in a
minor degree may account for this apparent phenomenon.
All the rivers and lakes abound in islands of every size and
shape—some wooded and wild—others cleared and inhabited.
So brilliant is the effect of the fire flies at night
that the country is for miles like a scene of enchantment,
still more imposing from the fires of the Indian settlements,
on islands perfectly illuminated.
The hotel at Cornwall is a wretched place; bad attendance,
worse rooms, ill furnished;—vile beds, and no rest;
—not a very good preparation for a long day's journey
by land to Prescott, (50 miles,) commenced, however,
before five o'clock, with a great delight at quitting our
uncomfortable station; and, as our gentlemen would say,
we set off at the rate of a hunt. Our carriages were drawn
by four horses each, and very briskly, notwithstanding the
heaviness of the roads. A thick and sudden mist, however,
obliged us to slacken our pace. The road here was merely
a green field, stripped of its grassy surface, cut up by various
ruts and mud holes, and crossed by swamps and hollow
channels, impassable, except by means of loose planks and
timbers, which hopped and bounded under the wheels,
without the security of rail or battlement, making the
least nervous of the party glad to close their eyes and
curtains, against the danger.
Except on occasions of risk and alarm, we kept both
open to the most lovely scenery that can be conceived;
and were charmed with the native richness of the flowers,
and the brilliant plumage of the feathered tribe. Here the
Kingfisher frequents the banks, along which we were conveyed,
its plumage different from those of our clime, of
more vivid colours, and with tufted crest.
I forget what faithful lover was converted into this
attractive bird; but if possessed of any personal vanity,
the metamorphosis must have been highly gratifying.
We passed many pretty houses and comfortable settlements
This upper province is much more like dear home,
than the lower; which, being chiefly inhabited by French,
(who have imitated their own country in their buildings,
&c.,) presents to the English eye a foreign and characteristic
Notwithstanding all our delays and difficulties, we completed
our fifty miles, if not with expedition, fortunately
without accident, and reached Prescott at a very late hour
on the 21st of July.
At all the poorest taverns along the line of road, they
set out a plentiful dinner, not of the best quality of meat,
excepting veal, which is very good; the cooking but
middling. Pies and puddings abound, and uniformly a
dessert succeeds, of raisins, almonds, biscuits and wild
fruits. The red currants are large, but sour; the strawberries
and cherries scarcely eatable. The raspberries are
better, and served up in milk, with sugar.
To the exorbitant consumption of sweetmeats and
fruit by the Canadians, is attributed the early failure of
their teeth, particularly with the fair sex, who, from this
sad deficiency, appear like old women at the age of thirty.
Our luggage, which was very heavy indeed, was forwarded
from Montreal, by Bateaux, which are open boats.
They are towed up the rivers part of the way by steamboats;
partly pulled on by horses, and sometimes having
sails to act occasionally, they, are wafted forwards by a
It is altogether a most tedious method of proceeding,
but the least expensive for heavy baggage. The faithful
Pat Mee went supercargo, and three of
our gentlemen most kindly assisted in the charge.
Prescott is the first town we have entered in the Canadas
where any attempt has been made at a flag-way in the
streets. The improvement is most striking;—but we had
no time to avail ourselves of it, farther than in proceeding
to the steam-boat for York, the morning after our arrival.
At this time, from the dread of cholera, all the steamers
have medical men on board. Ours was a Canadian, a very
elegant young man, of Irish extraction, his parents from
the north of Ireland; his father an officer, and settled in
the town of Brockville.—He is most anxious to pay a visit
to the Emerald Isle.
We arrived at York on Monday, the 23d July; were
well accommodated at the British coffee-house; good cookery,
very middling ale, and vile table beer. They are
obliged to use such a quantity of hops, to prevent it from
souring, that it is extremely disagreeable.
The following day, we were fortunate enough to procure
the only private lodging in York!—furnished, and
comfortable, for one pound a week.
Our hostess, Mrs. Hall, an English lady, and widow of
a Captain Hall, is exceedingly kind and attentive. Our
friends and Dr. Phillips have board and lodging, with an
officer, a very respectable man.
Our gentlemen, as a matter of course, waited upon the
Government Secretary, and you may conceive their surprise,
when they were presented to Colonel Rowan; who,
without their having heard of his appointment, now fills
that official situation. In consequence of this recognition,
and with every expression of kindness on the Colonel's
part, they were introduced by him to the Governor, Sir
John Colborne, without the necessity of producing the
letters of recommendation they had brought from home.
By both gentlemen they were treated with the most
polite and friendly attention, and a settlement pointed out
to them for their inspection, of the richest quality of land.
To this they go forward without delay, to approve, and
Mrs. Rowan has been most kind, in visiting my sister
and me. They left Liverpool but a fortnight before we
sailed from Dublin, and arrived here more than a month
sooner than we did. Mrs. Rowan considered the voyage
a party of pleasure, so agreeably and elegantly were they
entertained. She assures me that the accommodation on
board the Liner in which she sailed from Liverpool to
New York, was not only comfortable, but luxurious.-—
Drawing-room, eating-room, private cabins, good dinners,
variety of wines, male and female attendants, musical
instruments, books, &c.
Charge for each passenger, . . . . £35 0 0
Charge for servants, each, . . . . 17 10 0
Warn any friends that mean to follow us, to come by
New York. It may appear more expensive; but I believe,
in the end, when the cost, and great waste of private provisions,
is taken into consideration, the difference of expenditure
will be but trifling, that of comfort and health
William has not been well enough to go on the journey
of inspection, and indeed is unwilling to leave me, till I
am better able to travel.
His brother is gone, and till he returns, we can say
nothing as to our future destination. But we are told
that land is high, in great demand, and increasing in
value every month.
The numbers of respectable people coming out would
astonish you; and the wildest situation we may fix on,
will, in all probability, be fully settled within the year.
Indeed, from our own large party, and the friends we expect
will follow us, we shall be sure of having an agreeable
Physicians are very much wanting here, and apothecaries
still more. Ignorant persons act in that capacity,
who scarcely know the names of the drugs they sell. At
Niagara that most necessary branch is solely conducted
by a female, who compounds medicines and puddings, with
equal confidence, but not with equal skill.
Any young man who should come out, in that capacity,
with even a moderate knowledge of his business, would
make a fortune.
Nurse-tenders are in great demand. They might make
their own terms.
A gentleman, going immediately to New York, will be
the bearer of this.—I must close it forthwith.
A few last words: —
I am collecting garden seeds for you, and am promised
those of some very curious flowers. There is but little music in Canada; but wherever it
occurs, it is highly prized.
I have as yet scarcely seen anything of York.
We get excellent Teneriffe at . . . 5s. Od. pr. gal.
The best . . . . 7 6 do.
Fine lump sugar . . . . 0 7h do.
Brown sugar . . . . 0 4 do.
all Canada currency, which is 15 per cent, as I am told,
in our favour. Clothing and furniture are dear.
No letter has reached us yet from home. Do write, My
dear Mr. R.
Believe me your
Tell of us to all our friends, and assure them of our