Main content

Title: From Thomas William Magrath, Esq., Upper Canada,
CollectionAuthentic Letters from Upper Canada [Rev. Thomas Radcliff]
SenderMagrath, Thomas Wm
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationsuperintendent for settlers
Sender Religionunknown
OriginErindale, Toronto, Upper Canada
RecipientRev. Thomas Radcliff
Recipient Gendermale
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count2792
Genreliving expenses, settling, income
Transcriptto the Rev. Thomas Radcliff, Ireland.

Erindale, Toronto, December, 1831.
My dear Sir,
I mentioned in my last the necessary expenditure in
settling a family of nine, and also that, for an individual.
The next consideration appears to me to be, whether
it would be most advisable for the emigrant boldly to
encounter the difficulties and privations of the Bush or
at once to establish himself on a farm partially cleared,
and ready for the immediate reception of his family?
This must, in a great measure, depend on the extent
of capital, as well as on the number, age, and internal
resources of the family.
It should, however, be a chief object of inquiry, and I
will furnish you with information on this important point,
by specifying the expenditure and respective circumstances
of each method of location, so as to give a fair comparative
view of both cases, and the course the settler should pursue
in either.
In order to make this comparison, the farms may be
considered equal in extent, and at equal distance from
the town of York.
Number of acres 200; distance from York 30 miles.
I shall begin with the uncleared lands, and will suppose
the settler landed on the wharf of York, the capital of
this province, whose first visit is to the office of the Commissioner
of Crown Lands, to inquire what lots are to be
disposed of.
Being there informed that he can purchase certain lots
of wild land in an unsettled part of the country, at from
five to ten shillings an acre, he next proceeds to inspect
their situation and quality. And with this view he travels
in a public conveyance as far as is practicable, say 15
miles, and hires a waggon to carry him from thence to the
settlement nearest the land he wishes to inspect, say 5
miles, and there procures an intelligent person acquainted
with the township, lots, &c. to act as his guide, with whom
he sets forward for the land on foot; and finding, that
instead of performing the remaining ten miles, and of reaching
it, as he may have expected, in a few hours' walk, he
will, perhaps for the first time in his life, be obliged to
dispense with the luxury of a good bed, and dispose himself
to rest as he best may, upon one composed of the
boughs of the hemlock in the small shanty of a new settler.
On getting up next morning, not perfectly refreshed;
after drinking his tea without the agreeable accompaniment
of cream, or even milk, he proceeds with his guide, who,
instructed by the index posts of the surveyor of the township,
at length exclaims "this is the lot;"—when, the weary
emigrant, seating himself upon a log and looking round
him, ponders upon the impracticability of bringing his
family so far into the Bush, and to a lot perhaps badlv
supplied with water, and covered with pines, (an invariable
indication of inferior land,) he decides upon further inspection,
and at length fixes on a lot, under more favourable
circumstances, upon which to found his future habitation
and his home.

He retraces his steps with altered feelings; his thoughts
occupied by pleasing anticipations of the future improvement
of his Estate, and is received at the shanty he had
left, with all that hospitality which characterises the new
settler, who will share his last loaf with his expected neighbor.
The emigrant returns to York, concludes the purchase
of his land, and hires, or purchases horses and waggon to
convey his family and baggage to the farm of another
comfortable settler in his vicinity, with whom he has bargained
for their accommodation, at a moderate rate, and
for a supply of excellent provisions for as many weeks
as he shall be employed in the formation of his own residence.
With this interesting object at heart, he hires as many
men as circumstances will permit; a yoke of oxen and a
sleigh, which is the only vehicle that should be brought into the woods until a road be regularly formed. The
master and his men start before the oxen, to prepare what
is termed a Bush-road, which is done by felling and drawing
aside all trees under five inches diameter, from the
line of march, and by cutting a pass through any fallen
timber of larger dimensions; thus leaving the great trees
standing, round which, the others being cleared away, the
oxen and sleigh can ply without difficulty.
About an hour before nightfall preparation is made
for sleeping, and what is termed a camp is formed for this
purpose, in a summary way, by placing a ridge pole of ten
feet upon two forked sticks six feet in length, and stuck
firmly in the ground. Against this ridge pole are laid, at
one side, a set of poles, obliquely; leaving the other side
which forms the front, entirely open, not only to admit
the heat of a large fire, which is lighted up before it, but
the smoke, also, to banish the musquetos. A thick coat
of hemlock boughs, or of bark stripped quickly from the
standing trees, and covering the poles, keeps off the rain
or dew.
By this time the oxen have arrived with the bed-cloaths.
provisions, &c. and then comes on the interesting scene
of cooking. The frying-pan ("contrived a double debt
to pay") not only supplies successions of savoury pork,
but also of bread or paste cakes, not less enticing from
the oily drippings of the meat with which they are fried.
After a hard day's work in the Bush, this is no unwelcome
supper. Your epicures sometimes bring biscuits.
The oxen are tied to a tree, having hay, or maple
branches as their provender; and each of the party having
composed himself, with his feet to the blazing fire, sinks
into repose, upon the floor of this temporary shelter,
strewn thickly with the small boughs or tops of the hemlock
Breakfast being over by dawn of day, the party move
on as before for FIVE MILES farther, and having at length
arrived at the selected settlement, a substantial camp or
wigwam is erected, to accommodate all who are to be
engaged in the building of the house.
The oxen are sent back, to return on a certain day to
draw the logs together, and the "Lord of this silent domain,"
commences active operations; not so very silent, however, as
the axe resounds through the wood, and the expert choppers,
have speedily made a sufficient clearance, furnishing, at the
same time, the necessary timber for the building. A wise
settler will take care not to leave any trees standing close
to the site of his intended mansion; a friend of mine Lieut.
who neglected this precaution, having just completed
his roof, was sitting under it, with the utmost complacency,
when a tremendous crash, from a falling tree
of great dimensions, laid the entire edifice level with the
ground; he himself, by a miraculous escape, was taken out
To return to our new settler. Having determined on
the plan, and proper scannings, he has the logs cut,
accordingly, to the right lengths, and drawn together where
the formation of the house is to take place.
The walls are contrived in the same manner as a
schoolboy makes a crib, except that they must be upright;
but, like that, they have corresponding notches, cut out of the ends of the respective logs that their adjoining
surfaces may close, with as little space as possible between
them, and that the coins or angles may be thus strongly
The elevation must depend on the room required within;
where upper apartments are intended, it must rise accordingly,
and proportionably higher in a log house, which is
generally finished with a shed, or pent-house, roof.
In the formation of this roof, however simple, much
accuracy is to be observed.
Black ash and bass wood are considered best adapted
to this purpose—the stems should be about fourteen
inches in diameter, straight, clean, and easily split. Having
cut them into lengths, corresponding with the pitch of
the roof, they are then to be cleft asunder and hollowed
out by the axe like rude troughs.
These are ranged in sufficient number from front to rere,
in the line of the roof with the hollow side uppermost; and
over them are ranged alternately, an equal number, with
the round side uppermost; so that the adjoining edges of
each two of the upper logs meet in the hollow of that
beneath them, whilst the adjoining edges of each two of the
lower logs are covered by the hollow of that which is above
them; thus forming a compact roof perfectly water tight,
as the hollows of the under logs effectually carry off all
rain that may fall through the joints of the upper surface;
and the roof continues staunch as long as the timbers
remain undecayed.
This being completed—means must be taken to admit
both" the family and the light. The openings for the doors
and windows (which are generally procured, ready made,
from the nearest settlement) are then formed in the walls
by a cross-cut saw or an axe.
The chimney is then built with mud, if stones be scarce.
The stubbing afterwards takes place, which means the filling
up the vacancies between the logs with slips of wood, mud
and moss; the floor is then formed of cleft planks pinned
to logs sunk in the ground, and smoothed or rather levelled
with an adze; the interior partitions &c, may be got forward
by degrees; but the oven, which is an essential, must be
completed before the arrival of the family.
Stones or brick must be procured for this, at any inconvenience,
for security against fire; but mud will serve
as mortar; it is always built outside the house, and stands
alone. It is heated with pine, or very dry hard wood split
into small pieces, and burnt in the oven to ashes, which
being swept out, the bread is baked as in the common brick
ovens at home, where dried furze are used to heat them.
Thus at the expiration of three or four weeks the preparations
are completed.
Having now brought our settler into his own log house,
with all the privation of former comforts that must of
course attend his enterprize, I shall close this settlement in
the Bush, with an estimate of the expense he must be
supposed to have incurred, from the day he set off from
York, to that of his first family dinner under his own roof. Items of expenditure in taking possession of a farm of
200 acres in the Bush; distant from York 30 miles—
open road for 20 miles.

Coach hire 15 miles, (public road). . . . £0 5 0
Waggon hire to farm house, nearest to the lot,
5 miles, half a day's hire . . . . 0 12 6
Guide from thence to the inspection of lots,
3 days . . . . 0 15 0
Coach and waggon hire returning . . . . 0 17 6
Removing family to farm house . . . . 3 0 0
Transport of luggage and provisions to farm
House . . . . 4 10 0
Lodging for family of six at farm house during
twenty days . . . . 2 0 0
Provisions for do. Do . . . . 5 0 0
Hire of five men at half a dollar each, per
day, for building log house &c. and making
a road—twenty days . . . . 12 10 0
Provisions f or do. Do . . . . 6 5 0
Hire of Oxen—two days . . . .0 10 0
Iron work, frames, doors and window shutters . . . . 8 0 0
Clearing and fencing ten acres at 3l. 5s. per
Acre . . . . 32 10 0
Taking family from farm house to log house . . . . 1 5 0
Purchase of 200 acres at 10s. per . . . . 100 0 0
Total expenditure £178 0 0

We are now to give a comparative view, of the trouble
and expense of settling on a farm of similar extent partially
cleared—say ten acres (being the same number as in the
former case,) with house and offices prepared.
In this case as in the other we must suppose our emigrant
arrived at York, where, upon inquiry, he finds that many
farms of the foregoing description are advertised for sale,
in different parts of the country, and he determines upon
viewing some of those within his reach, as speedily as
possible. That, of which we are to suppose him to become
the purchaser, being, of the same extent and distance from
York, with the farm in the Bush, is to be approached with
expedition and facility by means of good roads and public
conveyances. Having found ten of the two hundred acres
cleared and in good heart to yield the necessary crops—
with the house and offices ready built—he returns at once
to close his purchase and convey his family to their new
home. A few years' previous occupation has produced
a dairy, wash-house, fowl-house, garden, and many convenient
appendages, which promote the good humour of
the lady of the house, as to her domestic arrangements,
whilst the gentleman cultivates his ten acres, (with judgment
it is to be hoped) so as to produce nearly enough
of the necessary articles of vegetation for the consumption
of the house and farm-yard; thus enjoying in his first year,
and of his own production, many necessaries and comforts,
that could not be grown, till the second in the Bush—and
being enabled to purchase others at a moderate rate in
an established settlement, which in a new one must be procured
at an advanced price. The attention bestowed on the cleared ground is not to prohibit his industrious efforts to dear more, or to make
such improvements as his capital may enable him to do;
but that does not come within the limit of our present
object in either case; which is, to compare the circumstances
and expenditure in both. Here then is the estimate of the
latter, to be compared with that in the former case.

Items of expenditure in taking possession of a Farm of
200 acres, with ten acres cleared, 30 miles from York,
in a Township already settled.

Coach hire, 30 miles, to view the farm, and
back . . . . 0 15 0
Removing family by coach to the farm . . . . 1 15 0
Transport of luggage by wagon . . . . 4 10 0
Purchase of 200 acres at 20s. per . . . . 200 0 0
Total expenditure .... £207 0 0

Purchase and expenditure in taking possession
oi the above farm . . . . £207 0 0
Do. do. of farm in the Bush . . . . 178 0 0
Difference £ 29 0 0

This would tempt many to determine in favour of the
cleared farm, which appears to be the most economical.
The comparison, however, is also to extend to circumstances
as well as to cost.
Those of the Busk which are favourable, are these—
Cheaper land—a choice of district—a clear title—and
the power of forming a neighbourhood of select friends.
Those of the cleared land which are favourable, are
The immediate accommodation of house and offices.
The prepared state of the cleared portion for the reception
of different crops.
The presumed facility of intercourse with mill and
market, with readier access to the physician, and place
of worship.
The unfavourable circumstances of the Busk are these—
Difficulty of access—the various privations to be encountered
in the solitude of the wilderness—the possible want
of society—the absolute want of roads—the great difficulty,
of intercourse with mill, market, physician or clergyman.
The unfavourable circumstances of the cleared land are these:
A dangerous title—liability to the debts of a predecessor
—an undesirable neighbourhood, fully settled, to the exclusion
of relatives and friends.
The settler has now an opportunity of deciding for himself
As I shall state nothing but what is strictly fact, as far
as my judgment enables me, I request you to make use
of what I write in any way you think proper, for your sons, or any other emigrants. My name also is perfectly
at your service in any manner you may please to use it.

I remain, my dear Sir,
Your's, faithfully,