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Title: Stewart, Frances to Beaufort, Harriet, 1826
CollectionRevisiting Our Forest Home, The immigrant letters of Frances Stewart [J. L. Aoki]
SenderStewart, Frances
Sender Genderfemale
Sender Occupationhousewife
Sender Religionunknown
OriginDouro Township, Newcsatle District, Upper Canada
RecipientBeaufort, Harriet
Recipient Genderfemale
Relationshipfriends (ex-pupil - ex-governess)
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count3071
Genrenews, family life, life in the colonies
Transcript1826: May 27

27th May, [18]26

A very unpleasant accident happened at Mr. Reids last week. John Reid
was ferrying over five of the Emigrants, two men and three lads. One of
the boys was very obstinate and ignorant and though John told him he
would upset the boat he would not mind him but went on to change his
place, put his foot on the gunwale. The boat upset and all tumbled into
the water in the middle of the rapids. John knew if any of the men could
catch hold of him they would, and that if they did they would all perish.
So he had presence of mind enough to dive under them so as completely
to disengage himself from them. When he rose again he saw one of the men trying to catch at a little branch. He knew it could not bear him and
he caught him by his hair and swam with him to the bank. The other man
escaped also but the three boys were lost. Three of the little Reids were
standing watching the boat coming over and when they saw it go down,
screamed out and ran to tell their father and mother who were in the
house. They expected Mary and Ellen Reid over and were sure they were
in that boat. You may have some idea of the agony they suffered for a few
moments. No blame can be attached to poor John for he is as careful as
possible in the management of boats and very expert, but it is at this time
of year an arduous undertaking to cross in the rapid part of the River. The
boat was carried down a little way past this house where it is now sticking
among some logs at the side of the River. You will wonder why I have written this letter so badly. I have been interrupted every two minutes, and now whilst I write, Bessy is jumping on the sofa behind me and catching
my shoulders and then springing round me on the table. Willy is creeping
about my feet and trying to climb up by holding the leg of the table.
Poor Anne McVitie is worse than ever, tho' I have consulted three
physicians. She is ill in one room and the boy Delany in another. All last
week Ned our other boy was in bed with ague.
I was greatly afraid that Tom was taking it. He was ill and feverish
and chilly one day. He looks bilious and thin and complains of headache
but he will not yield to my entreaties and take any kind of medicine.
God grant us a continuation of good health he has enjoyed and make
me thankful for his mercies. The children are all well and great wild racing creatures. Anna is up to my shoulders, Ellen about a head lower,
Bessy very amusing and engaging, Willy a great stout laughing fellow.
Give my love to all dear dear friends including the Meath branch
Ever and ever your own old
F Stewart

Douro May 27th 1826

I have been in a state of repentance my dearest Harriet ever since my last
letter was sent off, for I wrote in rather a disponding humour and am
sure you will all be in a state of misery about me thinking that we are very miserable. But I assure my dearly, loved friends that I am not very
miserable. I am only sometimes more prone to low spirits than I have
been, but I will not yet touch on this subject. I want to express to you
how acutely and deeply grateful I feel for all your exertions about the
Postmaster Gen'l. Indeed I give you constant trouble and plague, but I
hope I shall not do so much longer. I am not at all sanguine about this
appointment and have no hope about it for good luck seems to go in
particular currents and we are not placed so as to meet any thing which
the rapids may carry down the stream. However this does not make me
the less sensible of the kindness of those friends who have taken such
unwearied means to be useful to us.
31st. I began this on Sunday night but grew sleepy. Well, since I wrote
last we have had some variety, Mr. Strickland who is clearing within, or
rather less than a mile of us, and Mr. and Mrs. Armour.
On Sunday last I went to Church or rather to Peterborough intending
to go to church as we heard that Mr. Armour was to have service
in Mr. Robinsons Hall. After being so long, three years and a quarter,
without being any place of public worship you may judge of my feelings.
So I braved the musquitos which are tremendous this year. When we
arrived there, we walked up to the Big house, but behold! we found the
doors all shut and locked! We looked in at the windows, but could not
see anybody or receive an answer to our repeated knocks. We then went
to Mr. Armours and found his house also deserted. But there we learned
that old Mr. Thompson had arrived not having known that the Armours
had come and he had the service at a house in Smithtown two miles
off. So Mr. Armour requested that all the Peterboro' congregation would
go to Smithtown, for he thought it right to pay this attention to old Mr.
Thompson, and we were left in the lurch.
I was tired and went and sat for an hour with little Dr. Reade who
returned last week ill of the ague, and then I came home quite disappointed
at having had my walk for nothing. Besides I was affronted at
Mr. Robinson who had invited us to go to his house and spend the day
and should have waited a little while to accompany us to Smithtown or
should have given directions to his Servants to admit me if he could
not wait. So you see I was huffed, and so I came home but Tom was obliged to stay for a meeting about school business. He saw Mr. and
Mrs. Armour and seems to like Mrs. Armour very much. She is, he says,
a very sensible clever woman, middle age and rather plain in appearance
with a good countenance and good natured manners. She has no
maid, a very common misfortune in this country and she is obliged to
clean the house, cook, wash, and do everything herself, and she had
seven children. She scours the floors and scrubs away just as all the
people here do. She says she would rather do everything herself than
hire any of the Emigrants for they are not fit for servants, all the best
having lived in the Towns.
I envy people who can do all those things. They are so much better
suited to this country than useless I am. Tom admires that sort of cleverness so much too, and he feels so much my want of it that I sometimes
feel a little melancholy, for I am not half clever enough for a farmers wife, and he has been so much accustomed to very clever English women that
he is rather hard to please on very [ ]. You know I never saw that mode
of life at all so that I am very ignorant and if we continue to live in this country I hope I shall improve and shall have now more opportunity of
seeing what others do. For all this time I have been so little from home
that I have only heard and have seen but little of the housekeeping of
this country and hearsay will never teach that art. Indeed latterly I don't
know why I feel great deadness over me, not laziness for I like to exert
myself when I can but a sort of stupidity and compression of mind which
I used not to have at all. Perhaps it is old age coming on for you know
I have just passed my birthday and have crept into another year. I have
many signs of age about me, so I may begin to do at. Mrs. Reid says I am
grown like old Aunt Smyth, and she not but in joke.
June 1st. Yesterday Mr. Armour and Dr. Reade dined here and
indeed I like Mr. Armour very much. When his countenance brightens
he has a look of great benevolence. If I might give an opinion on so slight
an acquaintance I should say that he seems a really religious man. On the
whole I am very agreeably surprised. I have not yet seen Mrs. A., having
no servant. The cares of a family prevent her leaving home. Dr. Reade I
do like. He is so constantly and unremittingly kind and is always on the
watch for any opportunity of obliging us. I must now tell you about Mr. Strickland. He seems to be twenty three or twenty four. He is an everlasting talker but between times he has
some drollery and on the whole is rather pleasant. Tom says he talked
very agreeably to Mr. Armour one day. They dined together and [shared]
some information. He gave us a description of an evening which he
passed at a Tavern or public house in this country where the Master and
Mistress wanted to pass themselves off as very fine folk and he acted their
manner and changed his voice for the man or woman and made himself
very diverting indeed. He is good natured and nurses Willy for me. He
has just got his Shanty built and is very busy fitting it up. He sleeps here every night. The mosquitos are so numerous that they make sad havoc
when they attack him. He comes here every night swollen and blistered
all over. Mosquitos always like strangers best and bite them a great deal
more than the old settlers in this country. I think the reason must be that
the skin is softer, before it has been weather beaten here, for I never do
see here such delicately skinned females as at home. Indeed beauty is very
scarce. Mr. Strickland lived in Norfolk and came out last year. I dare say
he may get on here as he says he has always been accustomed to hard work
but he little knows the work before him. However he has good expectations
as to property and hopes to be able in a few years to live at home. I
hear of many who say they wish to be at home, but having spent all their
capital here either are unable to return or think it better to go on trying a little longer. I do think we are deceived in this country, for one must bear many years of wearying difficulties before they gain comfort or are able to save or make anything. Therefore I am now come to the opinion that
people would do better at home, and that we perhaps might have done
better at home. Unless they mean to make their children actual labourers
I don't think people can make anything by farming. The land will do
one no good unless it is cultivated and in order to have it cultivated the
land holders must either spend a great deal of money or else work hard
and make all his family work hard too. This is what the Reids do, but they
neglect everything else, in manners, learning and appearance they are
exactly a labouring family. This I cannot bear for my poor dear children.
I have thought a great deal on this lately, but my thoughts have not
tended to comfort me much for I cannot decide what is best for us to do. I have no one to consult, for I am afraid of making Tom unhappy
by raising doubts in his mind. I suspect he feels as I do, by little things
he sometimes says, but he is frequently tired and bothered and I cannot
bear to add to his uneasiness, and if he thought I was unhappy, I know
it would make him wretched for he loves me most tenderly. His countenance
which used to look so placid has now more of care and anxiety
and his manners are not as gentle as they were. These are the effects of
the disappointments and vexations he has met with and I must regret it
greatly but don't know how to mend the matter. Mr. Reid says he does
not think this kind of farming will ever be profitable for Tom as he cannot
work nor can his children and that he would do better on a small
farm and that he makes no doubt Tom will return home in a few years.
I don't like talking of it to anybody but I should like much to have your
opinion. My dearest friend and Mammy, I have often intended to write
you about this but was prevented by the fear of giving you pain, but I
know it will relieve my mind very much for continually thinking and
pondering on a subject and having no creature to talk to about it is too
much to bear long. If we go on here as we have done, I know we shall
live to the extent of our income, without much comfort and seeing our
children vulgar and illiterate. If we remove to Peterboro' as every one
advices Tom, I don't like that, for we should be in a little gossiping village, and Tom would perhaps sink into indolence or lose his health besides the expense of building and purchasing, &c &c.
In removing to Cobourg I see fresh expenses. The Society would be
better and the children would have the advantage of it but there would
be a purchase to make and a house to furnish and we would still be as far
from all our friends. If we return home we must spend some money for
the passage. Our income is small and yet I dare say with good management
we might live on a very small scale at least with as many comforts
as we have had here, and it would be such a great thing to be near our
friends. It would balance many as privations and difficulty. We have the
greatest objections in the world to being a burden on the affections of
our dear and kind friends and feel this is one reason for not returning
home to G't Britain, that from affection our friends would do too much
for us. I now wish and so does Tom that we had taken the advice of our friends and not emigrated so hastily but it can't be helped now. I argued
and reasoned and entreated Tom as much as I could before we came but
his mind was bent on it and nothing would change it and I thought my
duty then was to yield. He thought right to come to Canada to try his
fortune and he never would have been happy if he had not done so. If we
had taken a cleared farm at first we should have got on well and saved an
incalculable deal of disappointment and hardship and I should have
had the pleasure of seeing the children gentle in their manners and their
minds improved. But Tom did not think it right to separate from Mr.
Reid's family and for them the woods were the best. But there is no use
now in giving way to useless regrets. He did so from kindness of his
brothinlaw's family and that was a good motive. I should be sorry to
encourage him to go home if I thought he had a prospect of succeeding
here, but I see no great prospect of that and I would rather live in a small way near my friends than here where if I want advice I must wait half a year to receive it and in many little dilemmas I could give anything to
have a friend like you to consult.
I am always happy when I can write my letters at night for then I am
with my friends, but work must be done, torn frocks and worn shirts
must be mended.
Now my dearest Harriet I have given you a plain statement of our
case. Tom is I am sure tired of the woods. My puzzle is, is it better to
persevere or openly encourage him to stop. I hope now my dear friends
you will not mistake me and think me discontented or changeable. Let
me assure you that I am glad we did come to Canada for Tom thought
it right to judge for himself. In all our trials we have been strengthened
and supported by the Almighty and I feel perfectly sure and convinced
that he never sends us a trial or affliction without good and wise reasons.
Therefore I do most humbly resign all to His will.
Will you answer all this fully and in such manner that I can have no
hesitation in shewing to my husband. He generally reads your letters
before I do or else makes me read them all to him after he has given
them a hasty glance. He is warmly attached to you my dearest Mammy
and my happiest moments are when I am sitting reading your letters
aloud to him. Capt. Stewart is to set out homewards on the 8th of this month. He has lived almost quite alone till this last month which he has passed at Cobourg.
He is remarkably good humoured. I could not help admiring him. When it
was the fashion to turn him into ridicule and quiz him, he bore it with such gentlemanlike forbearance and good humour. He has behaved with perfect
honor in regard to all money matters. Tell this to Catherine.
Tom has been walking with me to Mr. Stricklands and sitting and
talking a great deal with me today. He says that though this place is pretty his heart never warms to it, but that if nothing turns up to add to our income or encourage us to return home, he will go on here, and square
his clearing and then stop and go on afterwards on a small scale.