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Title: From Thomas Radcliff, Esq., Upper Canada, to the Rev. Thomas Radcliff, Dublin.
CollectionAuthentic Letters from Upper Canada [Rev. Thomas Radcliff]
SenderRadcliff, Thomas
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationsoldier
Sender Religionunknown
OriginAdelaide, Upper Canada
DestinationDublin, Ireland
RecipientRev. Thomas Radcliff
Recipient Gendermale
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count2825
Genresettling, emigration
TranscriptAdelaide, December, 1832.

My dear Father,
I am ashamed that this should be my first letter to you;
but having heard of us all, from others of the family, you
will make due allowance, and sympathise with us in the
melancholy loss with which it has pleased God to afflict
us. The despondency we suffered at having our dear little
girl taken off in a few hours by that fatal pestilence, and
our anxiety for the safety of the other children, caused our
difficulties, and privations, in settling, to be doubly felt.
We are now, thank God, in perfect health, our spirits
beginning to revive, and absolutely enjoying, if not a
luxurious, at least a comfortable residence in our own loghouse—
the timbers of which, about three months ago,
displayed their leafy honors in the wild forest. It consists
of a cellar, three rooms, and a small store-room, in the
principal story, and two bed-rooms in the roof, or Ruff,
as the Canadians term it. The edifice is thirty feet by
twenty-five, from out to out. For the five rooms, we have
three flues, and two stoves, and mean to be very snug and
warm. When perfectly finished, the whole expenditure will
be about £30 Hallifax currency, or £25 British.
I have discovered limestone, which my Connaughtman,
(an excellent servant,) has contrived to burn in sufficient
quantity for building the stack of chimneys, and plaistering
the interior of the house, all which he has been handy
enough to accomplish; and it may answer very well for
some little time, till I can build a frame-house, of greater
dimensions, which I mean to do. But I am most anxious
that you should know how this said mansion is situated.
In order to this, I must give you some idea of the land
My lot is beautifully undulated. A creek or small river
winding nearly through its entire length, between rich
flats, as they are here called, is bounded on each side, at
some distance, by high banks, upon which I am leaving
a belt of ornamental timber, which swells with the form
of the hills, and is, in general, about one hundred yards in
depth. Between those banks and the river, all trees are to
be removed, except a few maples.
At a short distance from the site of the town, the right
bank takes a bend, as it were, across the flats, and on that
my house is placed, commanding from its windows a
second smaller stream, with rising ground beyond, and a
handsome point of land, embellished by a considerable
clump of the best trees. The quality of the timber denotes
the richness of the soil. Ours consists of maple, beech,
butternut, elm, white ash, hornbeam, a sprinkling of oak,
and some cherry and bass wood; all indicating a prime
soil, and with great correctness, as I find it to be, in
surface, five inches of black vegetable mould, over a few
inches of clay loam, with a substratum of strong clay—
and almost all my land, of this description, is an extended
level of wheat soil, without the least unevenness. The
knowing ones who have seen it, say it will give wheat for
ever; and speak of fifty bushels to the statute acre. This
I think scarcely possible, as I saw a standing crop, which
I thought much better than any about you, and which
the Fingallians would say, was "the load of the earth," yet
I am told it produced but forty bushels; but this is a
wonderful return, upon the small acre, particularly when
you consider that the stumps, after clearing, occupy nearly
one fourth of the ground.
To so handsome an establishment, it is necessary to have
a suitable approach. I have laid one out with some taste,
useless, however, to man or beast, till the snow comes—
now knee deep, of glutinous mud, that would slip off your
Wellingtons like a boot-jack. This is one of our miseries,
and must be that of all new settlers for a short time. We
are in daily expectation of this much wished-for frost and
snow. These last three days have given some menace,
(promise, I should say,) of its setting in. A great part of
my furniture which lies at Kettle Creek, must remain there
till the sleighs can work. The waggon and oxen would be
swamped at present in the sloughs and mud-holes.
It snows lightly at this moment; and I have every hope
that I may have tables and chairs for a party of nineteen,
to dine under this roof, this day fortnight, being Christmasday.
Here we think nothing of the expense, the larder is
so cheaply and abundantly supplied. We are much worse
off, however, than we shall be next year, venison being our
chief article of consumption—brought to our door at one
halfpenny a pound. We have occasionally beef (not the
best) with mutton and fowls; potatoes bad, and dear.
I bought a young milch cow and a calf for twenty-four
dollars—she gives a good supply of milk and cream—
butter from 71/2d. to 9d. per lb. I was taught to think that
all cattle would be well subsisted in the woods. In summer
they certainly will thrive, even to good condition-—not so
in winter. My teams of oxen are making the experiment;
but if they did not get bran mashes, they would have a
poor chance of seeing another summer. The first year is
to all settlers, and to all animals under their care, the most
trying and inconvenient; I mean with those who settle in
the Bush. The second year brings with it its produce, its
plenty, and its comforts.
Till this last week, the weather has been delightful. I
have been occupied in getting as many acres as I can
cleared and prepared for cropping. Sixteen are already
under operation, which will make a good open about the
house. If I can get choppers in time, I will finish a good
many more. The best management, in these new townships,
is to clear as much as possible in the first few years,
while you have a sure market on the spot.
The task price is very moderate for such heavy work.
My brother and I have set ours at £1 8s. per acre; the
brushwood to be collected and piled, and the logs cut to
the proper lengths. It will fall to ourselves to collect the
logs, and to bum all; but this, where we have our own
oxen, will pay well by the ashes, which are very profitable.
While on the subject of clearing, I will mention some of the
tricks to which new settlers are liable, and about which
they ought to be circumspect, as no trade is exempt from
a little humbug, here or elsewhere. It is easy, however,
to prevent deception and disappointment, by having the
contract made in writing, with a covenant that the work,
when finished, shall be inspected and approved by two or
three intelligent men. This agreement, with your own
superintendence, will put the choppers on their guard, and
will save much future trouble and altercation. I have
read frequently of the cost of clearing, but have not anywhere
met an accurate statement of the manner of performing
the work; and having already acquired some
insight, as to the necessary operations, you shall have the
details, in the progress of which, those surreptitious
methods to be guarded against, shall be noticed.
1st. The brushwood is cut away with a brush-hook, an
instrument constructed here for the purpose, or with a
light axe.
2nd. It is piled in heaps for burning.
3d. All trees, under six or eight inches diameter, are
next cut down, and their tops are thrown on the heaps of
brushwood—their stems are cut into such lengths as may
be removed by two men, without inconvenience.
4th. The chopping of the large timber commences, and
in this process different methods are practised.
One (a very bad one) is to notch a number of trees,
half way through, and then to fall a very large one against
them; when, giving way, and tumbling one against
another, they come to the ground in a mass, which it is
very difficult to chop up, as some of the logs may lie four
feet from the ground. To stand on those for the purpose of
chopping, is not only difficult but dangerous, for should
that upon which you are working happen to break, or a
branch of an under tree, (being freed from the incumbent
weight,) to spring up and right itself, you find yourself,
in the first case, capsized among the logs, and in the latter,
performing a summerset to some yards' distance.
Another method (and the best) is to cut down each
tree separately, by which means you can get about it without
difficulty to chop it into the proper lengths, which, in
large trees, should not exceed twelve feet. If longer they
will require more than one yoke of oxen to draw them
to the pile, where they are to be consumed.
In this instance young settlers are frequently imposed
on, by cunning choppers, who save much labour to themselves
and give much more to their employer, and his
oxen, by not adhering to the foregoing rule. This is one
of the tricks. Another is piling up brushwood over logs
that have not been cross cut, or at most but half cut
through; a third deception is piling brushwood over the
fallen tree tops, which ought to be cut up and carried to
the brush heap; and a fourth is making the heaps of
brushwood too numerous, and of course too small.
I have been told of settlers, who had more than the
wages of the first roguish choppers, to pay to other
labourers, to complete the work; for in a field, badly
chopped, the labour is more than doubled, when you come
to reduce the entire to ashes.
5th. The process of burning comes next—for this you
choose a dry and windy day, and kindling some of the
brush-heaps on the windward side of the field, the fire
is generally communicated to the rest, by running along
the dried leaves upon the ground, or catching from heap
to heap—you then, if disposed to expedition, employ four
men and a yoke of oxen, in drawing together the larger
trees to the most convenient places, and laying them side
by side, till a platform of sufficient dimensions be thus
prepared—upon this, other logs are rolled and placed, till
the pile is terminated by one log at top. The intermediate
spaces are then filled in by smaller poles, and the whole set
This is usually done about dusk; and, at night, when
many piles are in a blaze, the grandeur of the illumination
can scarcely be conceived. An anxious settler will stay out
all night, to see that the ignited logs of the pile are rolled
together as they burn away, and that the remains of each
expiring heap be removed to another, yet on fire, till all
be consumed.
6th. Another method of felling timber is sometimes
practised, but cannot be recommended.
It is termed wind-row chopping and is performed thus
—you begin by falling the trees in a straight line, and
others upon them, from the opposite side, for a space of
fifty feet—and this process is followed up, till the field
presents to the view a number of grand ridges or windrows,
as it were, of fallen timber. These are set fire to when
they have dried a little, but the filthiness of the operation,
and great difficulty of cutting up the half burned timber,
cause this method to be seldom resorted to, a second time,
by the same person.
7th. That which is here considered the best time to
commence chopping, is, when the leaves are on the trees,
before the sap begins to return; as the stumps of the
timber then cut down, decay a year before those of the
winter clearing; the timber is sooner dry, and the leaves
also en crease the flame. By these means, in the Canadian
phrase, you "get a good burn," upon which the excellence
of your crop mainly depends. That part of the field which
is not burned black, never produces so good wheat, as that
which is.
8th. The succeeding work is that of fencing, easily
performed, and at the whim, taste, or discretion of the
proprietor. It the trees be felled in line, split timbers, of
suitable scantling, pinned from tree to tree will make a
good and economical enclosure—another method is, to put
rough rails across each other angularly, closed at top by a
running pole secured at certain intervals to posts or forked
sticks driven firmly in the ground. But there are various
modes to select from—for any paling about the house, I
shall adopt that which you invented.
9th.—The concluding process of clearing, now remains
to be noticed, viz. the collecting the ashes.—It must be
done before rain comes; one shower would make them
useless. They are to be safely deposited in a log-shed in
the field, made perfectly water-tight. There they will
remain safe till the winter, when your sleigh can transport
them to the next ashery, or store, where they produce from four to six pence per bushel, paid in goods; that is
to say, if the price be fourpence, fifteen bushels of ashes
will be purchased by one of wheat, at 5s. But the misfortune
is, that the bushel by which the wheat is sold, is
the Winchester; and that by which the ashes are bought is
double the size. This seems to require regulation, as the
pot-ash manufacturers have art exorbitant profit, and think
it well worth their while to follow and attend on new settlements,
for the advantage of this particular traffic.
An acre of hard wood, which is the quality of almost
all our timber, will yield, as I am told, (but cannot speak
from experience,) about sixty bushels of saleable ashes.
This would pay more than the cost of chopping; but
unfortunately for me, my land is not as heavily timbered,
as in other districts, and may fall short of that produce.
I think I have given you a minute detail upon the
subject of clearing, on which you desired me, at parting,
to be particular. You have the results of my short experience,
and that of older settlers, whom I have consulted.
Desire Maclin to send me out some gooseberry seed, with
the other things I mentioned before I left home. Tell him
I see no opening here for gardeners or nursery men; but
that any industrious man can do well, though he should
not have a shilling at landing.
If he has sons able to labour, he gets immediate employment,
for them and for himself, in the Government works,
at 2s. 4d. per day, with rations;—also, 100 acres of land,
with a house, at 10s. per acre, and he is allowed six years
to pay the purchase money. It costs a good deal for a
family to come out, but the Emigrant Society in Canada
will forward any who apply to them and find their own
provisions, free of expense to York; and from thence
the Government will send them on in schooners, supplying
them with rations; and when they arrive near the lots
to be distributed, they will have their goods conveyed in
waggons, free of expense, also.
This is peculiarly advantageous to the poorer emigrants;
and even the rich can have their luggage carried free, from
York, by an order from the Government.
We hope to have a good garden next season.
The Canadians call potatoes, vegetables, pickles, and
preserves, by the indiscriminate appellation of sace, and
think themselves badly off if they have not sace in all its
varieties, at every meal. In fact, there are no people who
live so luxuriously as the yeomen of Upper Canada. In
travelling, they pay as much for their dinners and suppers
as gentlemen do; and this prevails even among the
labouring classes.
We called at Erindale on our route, and met every
attention from your friend, Mr. M., who is an excellent
man, and whom I hope to know better hereafter. But the
miserable state of our children's health, and our own
spirits, made it impossible for us to enjoy his society, and
that of his fine family, as we otherwise would. I was, however,
greatly impressed and encouraged by the forwardness
of his settlement, and hope to return to it.
I have filled my sheet so full, that I fear you will be
indignant at the cross bar.

Believe me, my dear father,