|Stewart, Frances to Beaufort, Louisa, 1822
|Revisiting Our Forest Home, The immigrant letters of Frances Stewart [J. L. Aoki]
|settling, description of the land
|1822: September 11
To Louisa [Beaufort], Ireland
Wednesday night Sept’r 11,1822
My dearest Louisa
By a letter which reached me on Monday the 9th from dear Harriet, I
find it probable that this letter may come to you at poor old 37.
This letter of Harriet's had a very quick passage. The last date was June
29. It was the most delightful, cordial to my spirits which were beginning
to droop at the length of time which had passed since I heard of or from
any one creature. Oh how I did devour it & how I have read and re-read
it. The excellent accounts it contained of Bess & of the improvement in
her own health are delightful. But my dearest Aunt Beaufort seems to be the stoutest of the 31 party now. This does truly rejoice my heart, & that she may be blessed with that strength of mind which helps to support herself, as long as she is permitted
to remain with those to whom she is so dear is my constant prayer.
What horrible accounts there are in the newspapers of the sufferings of
the people in the west of Ireland! I am sure a number of people will come
to this country which is truly a land flowing with milk & honey. There is
no such thing as poverty. We have had very good opportunity of judging
of this, as during our passage up from La Chine to Kingston, a distance of
173 miles, we slept every night, or at least several nights, at farm houses, & during the day, sometimes called at cottages to procure bread or milk.
The week which we spent in this part of our travels was I think the most
interesting of the whole voyage, & therefore I will give you a history of it.
The first day nothing particular happened, except that it was the hottest
day we had during our lives. No day has been half so hot since.
We were in 4 open boats, sitting perched on our luggage exactly as
soldiers wives sit in baggage carts. The Reid family filled two. We occupied a third, & a poor family who accompanied us from White Abbey
were in the 4th, so that we were a formidable party, 27 in number.
About 6 in the evening we reached "Les Cascades" 24 miles from La
Chine where the Rapids began. The scenery all along was very beautiful
but here it was magnificent, the water rushing over the great stones in
that great river & appearing between different wooded islands was most
beautiful and formed such a contrast to the smooth glassy Lake (I may
call it) through which we have been sliding all day. Our boatmen were all
French Canadians & could not speak a word of English & their language
was so different from the French we are accustomed to, that we found it
very difficult to understand anything they said, but they always understood
our French. Whenever they came to a shallow place they stopped
rowing & all took long poles with which they push the boats on by sticking
one end into the ground or against a stone. When rowing they sang
a great deal. Their songs had a very wild sound, not a bit like our old
"Canadian boat song."
There was an Inn at "Les Cascades" to which we all went & where we
dined. The Innkeeper was an Irishman but indeed his accommodations were very bad. He said his best bedrooms were engaged by an officer
& his family so our whole party were to divide two very small rooms
The female Reids 8 in number took one, we, the other. The male part
of the Reids went to the hay loft which they said was clean & cool. The poor
people slept in another hay loft. The officer who turned out to be Capt.
Melville, an acquaintance of Tom's, told us that the beds were swarming
with bugs, so we spread mattrasses of our own on the floor & lay down, but
not to sleep, for not one of our party, from Tom down to little Bessy, could
bear the bugs which we found crawling all over us & all over the walls &
floors. Tom said he would go to the hayloft, so I did the same & had all
the wee'ans carried out there, & never was a bed of down so delightful, nor
never was sleep more refreshing than ours that night, on nice clean hay
with our cloaks about us & the sweet air & the sound of the cascade which
lulled me to sleep in the most charming way you can conceive.
The next day we were to travel 4 miles by land as the Rapids were too
violent for us to remain in the boats. We hired a waggon in which Mrs.
Reid & four of her children, Tom & I & our 3 children, all stuffed. A cart
containing the rest of the children & servants followed & the men & boys
walked. Waggons are the sort of carriage generally used by gentlemen's
families in Upper Canada. They are just a very large four wheeled cart
with 2 seats like Gigs placed one before the other. The driver of course
sits in the foremost & takes as many beside him as there is room for.
We womankind took boat again at the end of 4 or 5 miles but the men
& even Tom walked the whole day as we had a strong current against us,
& the boatmen required to have the boats lightened. Tom walked that
day twelve miles & was the foremost of the party the whole way.
Our progress was very slow that day & we stopped at "Coteau du
Lac" where there is a Port. We were advised to apply to Col. Nicholl who
lives there for leave to spread our mattrasses in some military store room
or some such place. So Tom & Mr. Reid introduced themselves to him
& made their request. He was excessively civil & said that he could give
us a room in his house which had been built for a kitchen but which was
not used for one. So he shewed us into a nice clean light room more like
a parlour than a kitchen. Here we were settling ourselves & giving the children their supper
when Col. Nichol sent to beg that we would open a door which was
between our room & another & make use of that other room also, as he
saw how much too large our party was for one room. This was particularly
amiable of him, for upon opening the door, we entered a very nicely
furnished drawing room carpeted, curtained, sofa'd & book'd in a very
pretty manner. The gentlemen & boys slept there & we females kept possession
of the other room.
I always placed my Mattrass exactly at the door that little Bessy might
be cool, for she never could sleep unless the air was actually blowing on
her. She was very ill & feverish poor little dear & generally started crying
every half hour.
The next morning we got up at half past three & were glad to lose a
few hours of sleep that we might gain a few hours of coolness, for the sun
was very very hot though not half so bad as the first day. We had a heavy
shower about the middle of the day which cooled the air & drenched
us completely, though we covered ourselves as well as we could by lying
down under the tarpaulins that covered our luggage.
We stopped for shelter at a post office, I forget where, & found
shelter, but no fire was in the house at which we could dry our dripping
garments, so we read a parcel of Kingston & Montreal newspapers,
& when the rain ceased, returned to our respective batteaux
& when we got to Charlottenburg we stopped at an Inn & dried our
clothes, but there was great scarcity of fire every where, for in this
hot season people keep their fires lighted as short a time as possible.
Having dried ourselves we once more went to our batteaux & went on
& on till nearly dark in the evening, & the boatmen at last stopped, but,
alack a day, no house was near enough for us to sleep at. There was
one in sight, but there was a marsh between us & it, & it would have
taken up too much time to go round this marsh. So we determined to
lay our mattrasses on the grass which was nice & smooth & to keep
company with our batteau men who always sleep either in the boats or
just beside them on the shore. They had already a blazing fire at which
they were busily engaged cooking pea soup for their supper. Our party
had another fire, not for cooking, but to keep the flies & insects from us which by the way never annoyed us much except one day before we
came to Quebec. We laid our beds all round the fire. Over mine Tom
made a sort of little tent of a sail & 3 of the long poles the boatmen use.
This kept us quite dry & comfortable. But the Reids would not make
a tent though they might have done so as easily as we did, & I think
both Mr. Reid & James got colds which they still feel the effects of.
Poor Mr. R. has been ill which has greatly altered his animated keen
eye & energetic manner.
All the Reids have been ill more or less of the same complaint, but
nothing alarming. Thank God our family have escaped all sorts of illness.
Except little Bessy, we have all been perfectly well since we left Ireland
& she is now well again & regaining her good looks & spirits. But I must
return to our travels.
We all slept well & arose early to renew our tedious voyage of which
I began to grow tired. The next morning we went on as usual passing
along a country not so pretty or so interesting as that we had for some
weeks been accustomed to. The banks of the river about Cornwall &
for two or three following days was common land with a few loghouses
& comfortable farm houses & some fine walnut & Hiccory trees, but I
have not yet seen any of the magnificent trees I expected in this country
where everything is on so great a scale.
The day after our night spent on the grass grew very rainy & we were
wet through all our clothes. I never was so wet in my life, so completely
soaking with wet. However, the rain began towards evening & we had
not long to sit in the wet boats.
Even under us was all wet. I never saw such awfully heavy rain.
About 6 in the evening we came to a little village, the name of which I
forget. We found that the walkers of our party had gone into a house
to dry themselves, so we all fled to the same house in a great hurry
and found a most beautiful fire, but such cross people that they seemed
quite angry at our going in the way of their tea making & venison frying,
which occupied the entire attention of the very crusty old dame &
her maid. They pushed us away from the fire whenever they wanted
the kettle & did nothing but complain of the dirtying of the floor & the
noise of so many children. At last after waiting a tedious quarter of an hour our gentlemen came
with the good news that they had found hospitality & lodgings. It was
now very nearly dark & we had to walk a good way splashing through
the puddles & wet, & then up a lane full of cows & growling bulls. But
we at last got to the farm house of Mr. Marsh & here we found Oh! such
true hospitality. He was blowing up a fine fire to warm & dry us & was
so active & thoughtful about all our little comforts that he left us nothing
to wish for. He spread our bedding before the fire to air & his wife (who
seemed, poor woman, in the last stage of a dropsey) brought us pans
full of nice new milk & very excellent loaves of her own baking, the only
bread we had tasted since we left Montreal, for I own, though bread was
plenty in every house, it was not good in general.
I was the only one of the party whose clothes were still wet, & my
shift was clinging to my skin. So I retired to Mrs. Marsh's nice tidy little
closet within her bedroom & changed all my habiliments. They have
no family so the house is very small & they could only spare us the tiny
kitchen floor to sleep on. But it was given with such a good grace that it
made us all contented.
My mattrass was very wet so I left it airing all night & went with Tom
to the barn where there was plenty of clean straw upon which we spread
our blankets & cloaks, & lay down as usual, without undressing which
none of us has had the comfort of doing at night since we left Montreal.
Maria & her children slept in the kitchen & she said that good natured
Mr. Marsh got up every now & then to watch & turn the bedding at the
fire. The next day he insisted on driving as many as liked to go in his
waggon to the far end of the "Longue Saut." This is a rapid which lasts for
3 miles & very few pass up there in the batteaux. I preferred walking but
sent Betty & the children with Mrs. Reid &her squad in the waggon. This
day was not at all too hot. It was early & our walk was delightful, part of
it through cleared farms & part through the woods, where we gathered
quantities of nuts. When we slept in this manner at farm houses we had
nothing to pay except for milk & bread which were the only provisions
we required as we had cold meat with us & dined & lunched every day in
the boats, so that our lodging cost us nothing. In our walk we had peeps
of the river which were most beautiful. I find I am at the end of my paper long before I have come to the end
of my week, so I will keep the rest for Anne Nangle. It is impossible to put
so much in one letter so I will only say that we are all well this 13th Sept'r.
Tom & Mr. Reid are gone to Douro to see whether they like it enough to
settle there. I hope they are safe & well.
I am living alone without any companions but the children for the
first time in my life. I find every day much too short. I have often dined
& drank tea with the Fosters who are really the kindest people that can
be. Mrs. R takes me out to drive whenever I can join her & I have gone
3 or 4 times. I wish you could all have the pleasure of seeing how very
comfortably we are fixed & how very well & comfortably we live.
Oh how completely happy I should be if — you may guess that if
— but I know it is indulging weakness to wish for impossibilities, or to
expect perfect happiness here in this world.
God bless you all. Give my most affectionate love to all my dear
friends, beginning with the M party & extending any where that you
know I love.
Yours, F Stewart