The letters were written by Edward Ffolkes, who at the age of eighteen, left England for Canada in 1880. After receiving an education in agriculture at Guelph Ontario, he moved west in November 1881 to take up farming in the Beaconsfield district in Manitoba. He thus became one of the early settlers in western Canada.
His family published the letters he wrote home until September 1882. Presumably more letters were written but they are not included in the book. The introduction to the book tells us that Mr. Ffolkes married Agnes Strachan in 1891 and that they returned to Toronto in 1895. "He died on 1 April 1916, at the age of 54, by accidental drowning in the Humber River, while helping Bell Telephone linemen repair damages which had occurred during spring flooding."
(This was made possible by the efforts of Mr. David Clark, whose father owns a copy of the book. David Clark obtained permission from the publisher and scanned the book, sending me the results which I have placed here. WSB)
To HIS MOTHER
Eastwood, October 6th , 1881 - I have been intending to write for some time but have put off writing each day, waiting for further particulars. A little time ago, I got an offer of board for work in Beaconsfield, Manitoba. I have just accepted the offer willingly, for the following reason. I shall have the whole winter to judge what a new country is really like. I am sorry to leave Bob, who is in moderate spirits, but doing his best to get me to stop till spring. Of course it will be rather rough work out there. Only the other fellow and myself in the house, so we shall take turns by weeks, in cooking, housekeeping, etc. But I am impatient to start. One thousand five hundred miles on my journey will be a good start for the northwest. I hope I shall have enough money for the journey. Bob and I go to Guelph tomorrow. He is the most amusing fellow I ever met.... My movements are as follows: Guelph, Friday to Monday; Eastwood, Monday to Thursday; Toronto, Thursday to Monday; journey to Manitoba, Monday 17th till Thursday 20th. I have taken on myself the responsibility of going without your and father's sanction, hoping that you will not be annoyed on account of the short notice which I must necessarily give you, only knowing it myself in the last few days. "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, if taken at its rise, leads on to fortune." I don't know exactly if it is a safe maxim to trade on, but in this case it seems to be a good one. Bob has already planned out his future career, but, like myself he has forgotten that there are two or three impediments of an objectionable nature in his way. He seems to have made friends with several nice people in the steamer - an easy task with him, since he is so light-hearted and gay; so I have no fears, as regards leaving him alone in Canada, though I am very sorry. He is the only person who has made me laugh, continually and heartily, since I have been in Canada, and his anecdotes made me die with laughter. I could not help crying a little when he described the Christmas dinner, and father proposing to my health. I think I was just then in the team travelling from Guelph to Toronto. When shall we all be assembled over the Christmas dinner again I wonder! and what a noisy lot we shall be - from austere pedagogue to noisy backwoodsman, from the old grey-haired father to the rising young engineer! A happy day to look forward to. I must go and pack Bob's things. I have not seen anything but his hat, which is squashed considerably out of its former shape. Love to all.
To HIS FATHER
Eastwood, October 19, 1881. - I telegraphed for money because the place I am going to is sixty-two miles from any railway, or registered letter office, and I shall be there till April at least. I have been seedy and out of sorts for the last month, and can't shake it off. * * Malaria fever had caused three deaths in the village, and all at Eastwood had been ill or unwell. He had escaped with sore throat only, and pain in his chest.
I don't know why, everything seems to be going wrong with me. I broke my watch glass twice, and a pipe I have had for three years, the same day. I could not go by the special to Manitoba today, for two good reasons - scarcity of cash, and my box, which Bob brought out, has not turned up; yet, after much telegraphing, it has been found, and I hope will soon be here. Bob seems to like College very much... both in mind and abode. I have felt too unsettled to write lately; indeed, at times, it was impossible, and sometimes if I had written, you would have thought either I was mad or on the verge of the grave. I feel being away from home more now, as have been used to being away for a year, but never more, and I think Bob's arrival has sent me into the dumps. I was very glad to see him, but he reminded me forcibly of home.... I determined to brighten up somehow, so I went the round of the exhibitions - the county exhibition at Toronto, the provincial exhibition at Hamilton, and the local exhibition at London. I saw many new Yankee inventions to economize manual labour. Now a man can cut hay, turn hay, load hay, unload it into the mow without touching it himself! Labour is scarce in some parts of the States, and necessitates these inventions. I wish I could invent something and make a fortune! With sincere love to all.
To HIS MOTHER
Eastwood, October 25th 1881. - I hope by the time you get this letter, you will be having a good rest after your fatigues.
November 7th.- I broke off to fetch something for Mrs. Smith, and did not resume quite so quickly as I meant to. Since I started this letter I have been in Guelph to get box and see Bob. I am now at Trinity College, on the eve of departure for Emerson. I go by rail to Emerson, sixty-five miles by stage afterwards. It is late in the year for business of this kind. I have been worried out of my life, for the last two weeks, by one thing and another, but have enjoyed my stay at Trinity College immensely, which, as you know, I always regard as my "Canadian home." I leave Toronto Tuesday. November 8th, 15:50 p.m. Arrive at Chicago, Wednesday, 9th, 7 a.m. leave Chicago, 10:50 a.m. Arrive at St. Paul's, Thursday, 10th , 5:50 a.m., leaving St. Paul's, 10th , 7:30 p.m. Arrive at St. Vincent, Friday 11th , 4:40 p.m.; Emerson, Friday, 4th , 10 p.m. I shall have to have my luggage examined twice. I left all my decent clothes and shirts at Eastwood, feeling they will be wasted up there. The kindness and forethought in packing by box was perfection itself though I did not want the shirts just now. Please thank Aunt Fanny for the revolver, which is very nice, and the little ones for the pen, of which, by-the-bye, I have only found the paper that enclosed it. Will for the deed! I will write directly I am settled in my new quarters.
To HIS MOTHER
Cyprus Lodge, Manitoba, November 23, 1881. Received, December 15th - Here I am. I am sure you are anxious to hear how I like the life.
First, Cyprus Lodge.
It is made of poplar logs with the crevices stopped up with mud. Inmates, Mr. Boulton and his sister. Half the inside is curtained off for bedroom. It has a floor (which is a curiosity in this part of the country) and a sort of ceiling composed of loose planks. Now I have a lot to say, and very little time to say it in. Two mails a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Boulton is a very nice fellow. His sister - his housekeeper. Boulton is at present in Emerson, 109 miles from here, fetching his mother, who has just come from down below, i.e. Ontario. As to my journey, I left Toronto 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday. On Tuesday afternoon we stuck on a grade, our train being very heavy, and had to wait, get up steam, back down and make a rush, which of course was fun. We crossed the St. Clair River at seven in the evening. The train being taken across in a steam ferry. After this our luggage was looked over, as we were now in the States. My trunks were not opened, however, when I showed my checks for Emerson. The cars here were both crowded and close. At Lafeen, on the Chicago and GPR we had to wait from 1:15 to 6:15 as a freight train jumped the track, just ahead of us. It was a cold night, but we made a good fire in the waiting-room, by tearing up some of the platform, and so were tolerably comfortable. This was all new country, rough, and hardly worth settling. We got to Chicago at eight in the evening, instead of eight in the morning, but I managed to catch my connection from Chicago to St. Paul's. We passed some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. Chicago is an enormous town, you know, - 600,000 inhabitants. St. Paul's is a rising place, with mud up to your knees in the main streets, with about ten thousand inhabitants. The prairies are on fire in a good many places. I got to Emerson at five on Friday evening. Emerson has about nine hundred inhabitants. A slow, quiet place. I had to spend Saturday and Sunday in Emerson waiting for the stage, which started on Monday morning. Saturday and Sunday were nice warm days. I got up on Monday with a joyful heart to finish my tiresome journey, and the agony began. First, a strong head wind 15°. Before I got to West Lynne, three miles distant, my nose, right ear, three fingers were frozen. With the help of another man, I rubbed the frost out with snow, and went into a store and bound my comforter round my whole face. I had my fur cap over my ears.
Emerson to Mountain City, fifty-five miles in twelve hours. We started from Emerson at seven in the morning, slept at a farm-house, and got to Mountain City at seven next day; and I did suffer again - the wind seemed to penetrate to my very bones, through great coat, pea-jacket and all. People all wear buffalo coats here, and moccasins. I have at present three pairs of thick socks on, and moccasins, which I have been given by a fellow here very kindly, and very fortunately, as my funds are run out.
Mail between Mountain City and Darlington Hotel, fifteen miles in three hours. Mountain City has about one house in it, a store, and a saw-mill. I forgot to say about twenty miles from Emerson we passed through about fifteen Mennonite* villages, and saw plenty of Mennonites, dirty people. Darlington Hotel is a house by itself, which contracts for the stagecart, and north of Mountain City.
*A religious sect, so called from its founder Simonis Menno, a Frieslander of the 16th century.
Mail between Darlington Hotel and Beaconsfield, forty miles in twelve hours. This last part of our drive was on wheels, with about one foot of snow, and numerous drifts. I got to Beaconsfield Post Office, which is a shanty smaller than our own, at three on Wednesday, having suffered in the last three days more than I ever suffered in any three years of my life before. I had boots and one pair of socks, whilst moccasins and three pairs of socks, walking, is only just enough. The highest I have seen the thermometer since I have been here, is 12° below freezing point in the sun. When I got up this morning to light the fire, it was 38° below zero. "He who tastes Red River water always returns." I can believe it. I enjoy the weather - well wrapped up, plenty of work to keep me warm, wood to chop, cattle to feed, etc. I have had a great deal of conversation with Boulton. I propose taking up a section, 640 acres, which will cost me, the first year, 160 acres, nothing: second, 160 acres, $10; third, 320 acres, $54. Boulton says £400 will start me fairly. I am learning to bake and cook now. It is impossible to raise anything but potatoes first year; but it is imperative to do as much breaking soil as possible, so as to be ready to plough next season. So if you can let me have some money, I shall take up land early next spring, when I can see the land. It is a good and safe investment for any money, since land is going up at a tremendous pace. Sections are sold at $2 an acre, with twelve years to pay it in, at six per cent, so if you would like any more bought for Bob, it is as safe as the Bank of England. And a railway is being built through Manitoba now, in five different places, and emigrants are crowding in by every train. The mail goes soon, and I have three miles to walk for the post-office. They are all English round here. I sleep on the floor with blankets and buffalo robe - too cold for sheets. With love to all..
To HIS MOTHER
Cyprus Lodge, November 30, 1881. - Your letter is full of practical advice. I can milk, I can make butter, I can bake a little, etc.; in fact, I think I could bach it (i.e. keep bachelor's quarters) very comfortably, and with economy. Now to business. There is a lot (640 acres) close to here, the best land in Manitoba in a civilized spot, for sale, homestead, and preemption, 160 acres for nothing, 160 for $1 an acre, twelve years to pay it in; 320 acres, $2 an acre, twelve years to pay it in. The land is valuable for this reason - a railway will run through it in two years. Fellows are now selling their lots for $4,000, with about $300 worth of improvements on them. So it is a safe investment for money, at ten per cent. (the least possible calculation). If you can give me money to start on, I could buy the land this winter. Thirty pounds would do that, but then there are my logs for my house, stables, etc., this winter, before March, that I may build in the autumn; breaking about twenty acres this spring with oxen. One can put nothing but potatoes in, first breaking, which would give me time to break a nicer lot for next year. I have talked all this over with Boulton, who has been four years in the country, and was the first to settle in the district. I am now qualified to look after myself; and as for starting, it takes three years to make anything but cover expenses, so the sooner started the better. This year I should break as much as possible, put in one acre and a half of potatoes, build my house, and save hay for my oxen, and a cow, probably, and have two pigs. Digging a cellar to keep the potatoes, and a well for water, takes time. Poplar logs to be sawn up for lumber, for my house, probably sixteen feet by twenty; and teaming to Emerson for stores, tools, window sashes, etc.; so, you see, a good start in the spring would be necessary. This lot is not open for settlement yet, so I should have to be ready with the cash to pounce upon it; and they are nice English people around here, who would be glad to help me and advise. Besides, it is unheard of! In the middle of one of the best districts, well settled, with a railway already surveyed, and a bonus of $70,000 promised, it will save taking things twenty miles to a market, and having to go 110 miles to Emerson to buy anything. Portage La Prairie is thirty miles north of this. The Boultons are very nice people, Plymouth Brethren, Bible reading, and prayer every morning and evening. Graham Boulton is a very sensible, nice fellow; it is he who advises me to stop my wandering, and settle here. He also showed me how he lost a year by having no one to advise him. So I really think, if I settle now, it will be better than waiting till I am twenty-four. Boulton has just come back from Emerson, with his mother, and I have been managing his farm in his absence. He has two lots, 1,280 acres, but only farms one. The other is for speculation. He expects to get $20 an acre for it in four years. I should like to begin at once, if possible; so I trust to your powers, dear mother, to give me help, both in money and advice. The country here is splendid, they say, in summer, so I have hopes that if I take up a lot, when I get my shanty fairly comfortable, you will brave the voyage, and come and spend one summer with me before long. At Eastwood I used to work in the kitchen-garden sometimes, so I know something of it. I should not buy a team of horses the first year, by which I should save one year's oats, which are 2s. a bushel here now; hay costs the trouble of cutting and drawing in, and oxen thrive on it. I used to churn at Eastwood, and made the butter once or twice. Write and let me know your decision about the land as soon as possible. If you let me take up land at once, I should take up the whole lot, as I should not be able to get land adjoining, if I take less, when I wanted it. If I miss this lot, I shall start land-hunting directly the spring comes, and the snow clears. The land here is taken up at once, so the longer I wait the further west I shall have to go; in fact, this is the only lot for miles round, and this is vacant on account of a quarrel between the Syndicate and Government, as to whom it belongs. I will send my diary home as soon as the year closes. I shall anxiously await an answer. I can change Bank of England notes here, and registered letters are safe; and I shall perfectly understand the money is for land only. I meant to say a good deal more, but I have so little time. With love, etc.
To HIS MOTHER
Cyprus Lodge, Manitoba, December 4, 1881. - A merry Christmas to you all, and a happy new year. May the new year run in as happily with you as the old year is running out with me. There will be two absent ones from the flock this year at the Christmas dinner. I don't know where Bob will eat his, but I know where and what mine will be: roast beef (a great delicacy here) and prairie chickens, a bird with more flesh on it for its size than any other I know, domestic or otherwise. I remember wondering last Christmas where I should be this; and now I look forward a year, and wonder whether I shall have a house of my own next year. Two railroads will pass within a mile of this next winter. The South-Western, and a branch of the CPR. If only I could get lot nine, it will be worth eight or ten thousand dollars this time three years, besides being the best farming district this side the water, and the healthiest. I think I told you the Boultons are Plymouth Brethren, and we have prayers morning and evening, and grace before and after meals.... I can't tell you now how much better I feel with this, than continually hearing religion ridiculed and made light of - it used to weigh me down so. These people quiet me, nothing worldly about them, not ever ready to pick holes and find fault; Graham Boulton lively and energetic, always ready to tell me about the land and modus operandi, to show me my mistakes, and take an interest in my learning. Mrs. Boulton is a mother to me. It is indeed a change. How long will it be, dearest mother, before you can come across the water to unseen lands, everything new about you, from the earth to the beautiful sky above you? Poplar, and a few oaks, are the only trees here, with balm of gilead, wild hops interlacing the scrub; roses, plums, gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, sprinkled in myriads around. He who has once pitched his tent by the Red River always returns. Well, I can well believe it, though there are at present two feet of snow on the ground. For the last week the thermometer has ranged between 10° and 45°, for we have had a thaw, very unusual in this country, though it only lasted for an hour, and very nasty it is wet through the whole time; it is much nicer and more comfortable at 10° below zero, than 25° above. It seems warmer, because the air is dry, and the snow crisp. This morning I was wandering about in search of the cattle, with those heavy top-boots, a foot and a half of snow everywhere, and three or four feet in many places. It is too damp at present for moccasins, the heat of the foot thawing the snow; thermometer about 22°. I run the farm at present, as Boulton is threshing about the place from six in the morning till seven in the evening. You should see the evening! full moon, clear sky, every star like an electric light. There are about twenty settlers in this township; "Waymanasi" is its name. Four years ago there was not a human being. Whisky is not allowed on account of the Indians.... Good-night.
To HIS MOTHER
Cyprus Lodge, December, 15, 1881. - As I know you are athirst for knowledge of the settler's life, I will try and give you all the points worthy of discussion, so that you may be able to form both your plans and your advice for my future advantage.
I. As regards money; II. As regards time; III. As regards housekeeping.
I. Money. It is beyond the possibility of a doubt, that the first year the settler must have money enough to buy the necessities of life - oats for his horses, if he has any, (a wise settler will have oxen the first year, as it advisable to put nothing in but potatoes, as the ground never mellows properly with a crop the first year); also he has to buy tools, window frames, stove, cooking utensils, wagon sleigh, horserake for his hay, pigs, cow, lumber for the flooring of his house, etc. Shingles for his roof - they are like slates, only made of wood. Having told you, in a rough way, what he has to buy, I may now hint at the different methods settlers adopt of getting the necessaries. I know all the settlers around here, and they, without exception, have adopted one of three methods. 1. The older ones have some money of their own. The younger ones are given it by relations, who take an interest in their welfare. This is the easiest, and need I say it, as far as their farm goes, the best. 2. Are those who spend their summer up here, and have also some business down below (in Canada), either pig-smoking, or something of that sort. These are only the older people, who have a profession. 3. Are those who work in partnerships in twos. One goes and works on one of the railroads which are being made, in Manitoba, and the north-west, and makes money, which he sends to be laid out by his partner to their mutual advantage. This, I may add, is a method adopted by common labourers; no educated person could possibly stand the company of navvies, such as are employed in the far west, truly, the scum of the earth - Yankees, Irish, and Scotch, chiefly, who are used to spend their money, and any one else's they can get hold of in drink, and other articles as useless. I have met one or two this summer, who tried the experiment, and gave it up as hopeless. It pays to get your land cleared by someone else the first year - cost $4 an acre, - since oxen are useless, as far as ploughing is concerned, to those not used to managing them. This I have direct and unanimously from the settlers about here. The settler will have plenty to do - getting ready for winter, building his house, etc. The greatest amount cleared in the settlement for the whole three years, is thirty-six acres; and to me, who am utterly untutored in rough carpentry, house and stables and cattle-shed will take an enormous time to put up. Log to draw out and hew; the latter, of course, I could not do, though cutting them down and drawing them out of the bush I could. Hew, is to chop into a square. So I should take three years at least before turning over a cent to my advantage, and the fencing my land in will take some time. I can cut the rails out in winter, but of course I cannot stick them up, on account of hardness of the ground. Suppose I do get twenty acres broken, there are only two months, May 15th to July 15th , for breaking, and back set it in the fall. I can raise twenty acres of grain the second year; say 15 acres of fall wheat, 2½ of oats, 2½ barley -
|15 acres of wheat, at 20 bushels to the acre, = 300 bushels, at 75 cents per bushel||225|
|2½ acres of oats at 40 bushels to the acre, = 100 bushels, at 60 cents per bushel||60|
|2½ acres of barley, at 30 bushels to the acre, = 75 bushels, at 65 cents per bushel||48||75|
out of which I must feed my horse, buy my groceries and sundries, besides seed. I may have a calf, and some pigs; the latter I shall eat. I may have some potatoes to sell, but not many.
II. Time. There is little of this for a farmer to spare, on that which is not actual farming. In summer he is on the run all day. In winter the day lasts from eight till four; very short. He is employed in summer getting up his crop; breaking new land, and changing work with his fellow-settlers. There is very little hiring here; everybody changes work, i.e. settlers come and help you to do something - get in a field of grain, bind, shock, and draw it in; then you go and help these in their turn. In winter you are drawing out logs for new buildings, and for fencing new clearings, etc. I mention this, to show you it does not pay to raise butter, milk, etc.; you have not time. In summer you have to bake at night. The seasons are short here. It is light in summer from 3:30 till 9; and with so few hands, it is impossible to do a variety of things.
III. Housekeeping. May be divided into three divisions: 1. Marry; 2. Sisters or young brother well versed in such things; 3. Bach it. I have to do with the third. The bachelor lives on pork and bannocks, as a rule; never sweeps his house out, or very seldom; generally hoes the floor once a month. It is the most expensive way, because he has no time to make bread often, or even butter, in summer, or puddings, or soups with vegetables, which saves the meat - and meat is expensive, pork being 11 cents per pound; and he also has to eat syrup instead of butter. I am now quoting incontestable truths; therefore my advice to the settler is, marry. Every girl is pounced on directly she puts her face inside the settlement. Young fellows get so sick of the monotony of baching. I hope to get Frank out, after a year or two, to help me; or marry - some young lady well versed in scrubbing, washing, baking, dairying, getting up at 3:30 in summer, 5:50 in winter; strong nerves, strong constitution, obedient, and with money. Where can I find the paragon? Ever since I have been up here, I have been studying the whole thing; walking a mile and a half after tea, to have a talk with one settler and another, to get advice, and gain information, with the full intention of starting on my own hook, by hook or crook, in the coming spring. Now to come to the point. The universal advice is, if you have the money, buy some discontented man out, and start where he left off, thus gaining three years. Now, here is the curious part of it: everybody round here declares he has the best farm in Manitoba; he would not part with it, or trade, for worlds; everyone seems as content as possible, with one exception. About a mile and a half from here, is the best, but it costs $ 1 an acre more to clear, either in hire or trouble, which makes $5. He has a house, 24 ft. by 20 ft., staircase, five windows, upstairs room, etc., not finished yet, but when finished, which he agrees to do before spring, $450; stable, to hold two teams, $100 cow-stable, to hold cow and calves, $80: total, $790; besides fences, etc. He will get the deed and hand over with the property. He has been on the land for four years, and wants $2,500 - about £520. Now for the reasons I tell you this. Four years' start would be worth £500 at least; and I find there are no lots now, which have not been granted to the different railways, within a reasonable distance of markets. Another fellow wants to sell half his lot, 320 acres, with improvements, for $4,000, which is the current price of land here now, in fact what some has actually been sold for. But to return: $2,500 - half now, half this time next year, i.e. £260 on the 1st of April, 1882, £260 on the 1st of April, 1883, without interest. The property here increases in value monthly, on account of the railways coming through; and all the lots were handed over to the railway the week before last, I hear, and they are going to charge $5 an acre. It seems to me a pity to go far west, if it possibly can be helped, when the land can be got safely here, with the value rapidly increasing. Now, is it possible to borrow £500 at 6 per cent and give the deed as security with leave to recover it when the money is paid in full, plus the interest from date of borrowing - interest paid half yearly? Now, the deed is, of course, more than security, as the value of land always increases. I should be able to put in crops enough to pay the interest and my second half-year's living, thus making the business pay the first half year, having the advantage of another man's four years' work. The man is about to marry, if he can sell out, for the wife won't come up to Manitoba. Directly I heard of this extraordinary bargain I told Boulton, who merely said, "The man always was a fool," and also said that the land is as good as any he has seen. He helped to get off the crops, this year, and saw the place thoroughly, and advises me to buy it, if I can possibly raise the money; he also added that if he had the money he would buy the land for speculation. Now I don't really suppose that I can get enough money, but this will show you, and give you an instance, how a settler can turn over money and double it, with money at his disposal to pick up a chance at the right time. The settlers here range from English gentlemen to common labourers; all nations, sects and classes. Write and tell me your plans as regards myself, as soon as possible. If you don't wish me to start on my own account just yet, I shall employ my time from spring outwards at some trade, in a town such as Winnipeg, where wages are high; since one can't get steady wages on a farm out here, as nobody has enough money to hire men, even if they had enough steady employment for a man to work at. I have now spent a year and a half at farming, and I feel sure I could pull for myself. I am afraid you will find this letter rather unamusing, but I hope you will reflect on what I have said. I meant to have put in some news of my daily life, but it is ten o'clock, and I must go to bed, my only time for writing being after tea. Mail goes to-morrow. I am very anxious to hear about Aunt Mabel, and I have not had a letter for two weeks; they are forwarded from Eastwood to Bob, then he reads them, and forwards them. I hope, dear mother, you are recovering your late fatigue, for I know it is no light work planning for a lot of thoughtless boys. Some day I hope you will stand at the door of my house, with the stock wandering harmlessly round you, and the yellow grain, glistening in the morning sun, bending in the light breeze. What a happy visit it would be! Always remember me, dear mother.
To HIS MOTHER
Cyprus Lodge, December 29, 1881. - I got your letter of November 21st before those of the 3rd and 12th , owing to Bob's slowness in forwarding them. I am in the very best spot of land in all Manitoba. Land is running up like wildfire. The man whom I spoke about in my last letter has withdrawn his land from the market. If I get lot 9, 1 hope to start a grain-wharf close to the station, and buy up all the grain round. I am not working for wages, but for board. Work in winter is scarce, and what there is, is very unpleasant, such as driving the mail, steaming across prairie, and so forth. One takes three or four years to get thoroughly toughened into being out, doing odd jobs, in all weathers, with no one to mend one's things, when one gets in, in the evening. No farmer has enough work to require hiring for more than two weeks in hay, and in harvest; and then, as I said in my last, they change work. I should like to buy a whole lot if possible, with a view to mixed farming, i.e. wheat and stock. I could manage all my stock myself for eight months in the year; and I could then afford to keep a man to help me the other four, in breaking new land, haying, harvest, and ploughing. But, of course, I cannot possibly tell you my plans till I have an idea of the foundation I am to build on. The above is what I should like. The first year I should have to live on money; the second year would just perhaps pay my grub, but no more, the third year would pay my grub and taxes, and the year's allowance of what my farm costs. Here it is as near as I can come to it, first year.
|Household effects, stove, blankets, plates, etc||$75|
|Tools, pails, etc.||50|
|Waggon, Bob sleigh and apparatus for same||100|
|Cow and two pigs||35|
|Fine flooring, window frames, etc., for house||75|
|Taxes, and cost of land||210|
|Ploughs and harrows||35|
|or £173 10s|
And supposing I hire 25 acres, broken at $4 an acre
So it would cost £200 to start. The second year one has to buy a team of horses for about $250, and also his cattle. He buys a little more stock according to his means, and probably a mower and reapers and other implements that are necessary. In fact, the more capital one has the more quickly one can make money, and a few hundred dollars' capital will be very apparent in a sensible man's income in three years. Of course I should like to start in the spring if possible, but if not I can put it off for a year and go further west, because the tide of emigration is enormous now, every train bringing crowds up to Winnipeg; and if I can get land tolerably cheap and near a railway, and in a civilized part, it will be an immense advantage. Every acre of land along the river was taken up by the half-breeds, long before this emigration was thought of; and the land along the CPR is all in the hands of speculators, who charge enormous prices, and get it. I don't think I can do better, as far as I can hear from fellows who have been land-hunting this summer, and from surveyors. They say the Saskatchewan valley is nothing compared with the Red River valley (this part of Manitoba). My plans are stock-raising, and wheat-growing for a certain time. My land will be increasing tenfold all the time, and then, when I am older and wiser and see a good opening, I can sell out and start it. But a fellow cannot farm and do something else, the seasons are too short. If I don't start this year I shall hire out the end of March, either shingle-packing in a mill, or some other steady employment, which one cannot get farming. So much for plans. Now for news. Aunts Mabel and Emma sent me £5, a most useful present: the duty on anything else is thirty-five per cent., and the carriage from Toronto to Beaconsfield enormous, something like £3 for a small parcel by express. The £5 was accompanied by a very kind letter from each. Your letter, a little time ago, about _______ frightened me. It reminded me of the time I went to see dear Aunt May's grave with her, and I could not push back the thought however much I tried, the whole scene coming upon me every time. I always keep the little locket on my chain, and when I get tired or angry when working, directly I look at it I always feel better; somehow it seems to have a soothing effect on me and to give me energy. I got father's money, too, and now I wish I had trusted to luck and not asked for any more. I am sadly in want of moccasins and mitts, so this money will come in handy next time I hear of anybody going to St, Leon, twelve miles off the nearest shop of any kind. We kept Christmas here on Saturday evening, but being "Plym's" there was not much "merry" about it. Prairie chicken pie, plum pudding, and candies.
Extract from diary, December 25th. 1881. Got up at eight. Fed the horses, and had breakfast. Then Mrs. and Miss Boulton drove off with a neighbour to distribute their Christmas presents. Boulton and I cleaned out the stable, fed the pigs and cows, and watered the live-stock. Washed up the breakfast things. Read a book. Mrs. and Miss Boulton got back at one. Had some Johnny cake and syrup, and cold plum pudding. Read a book. Chopped firewood till four. Watered, fed, and housed the live-stock. Ten, Bible reading and prayers. As a rule we are in the bush almost all day. We get up at 5:30, light the fire, feed the horses and pigs, and clean out the stables. Breakfast, chop firewood for the day, and water the livestock, then start for the bush. Boulton takes his dinner with him. I come back for dinner to feed and water the animals; then I go back to the bush till 4:30. We come back, water the cattle and feed them, and chop some more fire-wood. Tea, letters, etc. Bed at about 9:30. We are getting out logs for a new stable, and have just completed a contract for a bridge. Today the thermometer has not been above zero, the whole day. This is what I did: Got up at 5:30. Fed the horses and pigs. Breakfast at six. Then put the bridle on Indian pony, and took a pair of whiffle-trees four miles to be mended. The drifts were deep in some places after yesterday's storm, and the wind was blowing across the open like anything. My eyes were the only part of my body uncovered.
By-the-bye, could you send me some woollen socks by post? We have to wear three pairs at a time under our moccasins. Costume: fur cap; woollen comforter round my head, mouth, and nose; ditto round my neck; coat, woollen jersey, knitted waistcoat, cloth waistcoat, flannel shirt and under jersey; three pairs of mitts, one under the other; cloth trousers, and woollen drawers; three pairs of socks, moccasins, gaiters. When I am working I gradually strip, as I get warmer; and directly I have done, I pile the whole lot on again. A Manitoba bed is on the same plan. Straw tick, and on that seven blankets (not sheets). If it is very cold, one sleeps between the sixth and seventh blanket; not so cold, between fifth and sixth, and so on. We are short of bedding in this house, as I am an extra; and I have no bedstead, but sleep on the floor. Straw tick and blanket under me; and over me, blanket, quilt, and buffalo robe. One has to sleep with one's head completely covered, or one's nose freezes on a cold night. I could not do it at first, but when I woke I always found myself buried underneath the blankets. Instinct, I suppose.
Well, I was telling you what I did today. Got back at 9:30, got the team out and went to the bush. Boulton had gone after finishing the chores. We shielded up twentyfive logs, which we had cut down before, and brought home a load to build a granary - which requires sixty logs, ten on each side (twenty-two feet long), and twenty rafters. Fed and watered the animals. Dinner. Then Boulton went down to the bush, to draw up the rest of the logs we shielded this morning. A shielding is two logs resting on the ground, with others placed upon them, ready to put on the sleigh. I cut some firewood, then went down to the bridge we were building, and spotted down some of the covering. Nothing in this country has any iron about it; everything is done with poplar, pegged together with oak, and worked entirely with the axe. I am getting so used to the axe now, that I can hew poplar so level that you would almost think it had been planed. But of course I am using the axe almost the whole day, and I had a good deal of practice last winter in the bush. I finished the bridge by 5:30. Moonlight night. Came up, cut some more firewood, fed the animals and watered them. Tea, and then wrote letters. Yesterday was one of those days known in Manitoba as "stormy days." Thermometer 20 , blowing a gale, snow drifting so that you can't see anything. It is the first of its kind I have seen. We only did just what was absolutely necessary out of doors, and were heartily glad to get in again. I cooked the dinner. Boulton is tired of "baching" it, and would have nothing to do with cooking it; and Mrs. and Miss Boulton were writing letters, so I volunteered for the practice of doing it. Well, I fried the ham, and boiled the potatoes, and made a splendid treacle pudding, and baked it, and everyone allowed it was a success. The top was ornamented with the highest art. Next stormy day I am going to bake. I know how to theoretically. Yeast we make out of the wild hops. A servant is a thing not to be got further west than Winnipeg. Land by the Rocky Mountains is $1 an acre, Government obliging every settler to have twenty head of cattle on every hundred acres. I think one gets the land at a nominal rate really. A cousin of Toronto friends have 100,000 acres up there, and is starting a large ranch, and they advised me to go up there. In fact, if I don't settle in the spring, I have a good mind to get into some cattle-party, and work my way up there, and have a look at it, as wages are good up there. Time flies; this time twenty-seven hours we shall be in 1882, and it seems only yesterday it was going to be 1881. This year with all its changes has flown, bringing its petty cares and joys, and leaving no trace behind it. I started this year with $4 in my pocket, I shall start next year with $49, and if it would only increase every year in that proportion, I should soon be rich! Where shall I be this time next year? and what shall I be doing? How many people ask themselves that question every New Year's eve! Now I must say good-bye. Love to all.
To HIS MOTHER
Cyprus Lodge, January 5, 1882. - I am afraid I must write rather shortly this evening, as I owe two or three letters, and time is scarce. I got your letter of December 11th , last mail. The chief point in that letter is settling in the spring. Now I will tell you what are my final plans. By the time you get this, I shall (I hope) have got a homestead close to here 160 acres. It costs merely the registration fee of $10 (£2). When I am certain of that, I shall pay my board, and immediately begin cutting logs for house, stables, and granary, and lumber, and rails for fencing. I have enough money to do this for the present, i.e., till you get this letter, since I have £5 of father's, and £5 of Aunt Mabel and Emma's; and directly Lot 9 comes into the market, I shall buy it up at $ 2« an acre, at six per cent, with ten years to pay it in, in half-yearly installments. If I can pay for it at the end of first year, all the better. I shall farm my homestead for the necessary three years, at the same time, putting buildings and breaking land on No. 9. By that time I shall thoroughly understand my work. I shall be able to sell my homestead for about $3,000 and get a thorough start on No. 9. If I can have £300 in March to start on, it will be plenty (if judiciously spent) for the first start, i.e. two years. I hope when I am older and wiser, to go in for buying up grain when the steamers run into Hudson's Bay, which they will do when the trade in the north-west makes it worth their while. No land has started to rise with better prospects than this. The greatest wheat growing and stock-grazing country in the world, it will be. No better climate, no better soil, can be found on the space of the earth, combined with so many natural advantages. Plough the land up, and you have a garden richly manured, to grow whatever you want. Every kind of fruit, almost, grows wild. Beautiful hay for the trouble of cutting and carting. Dig nine feet into the ground, and you have your well of spring water. No stumps, roots, or stone to break your machinery. The only drawback is that the seasons are unequally divided. Days too short in winter, too long in summer - winter too long, summer too short. This is the only one objection the most prejudiced person can bring against this magnificent country. Of course the winter is cold - no doubt of it. I have got the nail off my finger on account of the frost. Both my ears have been frozen, and on a cold day my nose freezes as fast as I can rub the frost out of it, in the open; but then I am working almost all the time in the bush, where it is as warm as toast, and, as you know, my circulation is like father's, very slow, but when once I do get my blood going, I can gradually slip off coat, and waistcoat, and mitts, and work bare arms; which other people could not do. I was thinking what a grand idea it would be if you were out here: with your knack of turning pence into pounds, and your rich ideas, we should coin money. But I do not think a mill would answer. I am sick of the thought. The grain here is often not properly dried, and spoils the stones and clogs the smutter; besides, I know nothing of milling, and Manitoba is crowded with mills now.... Energy and perseverance, patience and determination, steadfastness and regularity, fair and square and above board, makes the model emigrant. Small beginnings and large endings. I want to begin slowly and surely, and not take one foot up till I get the other down. Mill! opposition may kill you at one blow! It costs a large amount to bring it from Ontario, and if it fails I am a ruined man, or rather boy. If my money is in land and improvements, it can't run away; every day's work I put into it makes it more valuable, and my money is safe. Then when I am twenty-five or so, and am sharper and wiser and more keen sighted, if I see a better investment, I can sell out and go in for it. So if you can send me £300, as soon as possible, I will be working in the mean time, to have everything ready to start at once. The snow clears, and "Time is money." I have been doubly losing for a long time, both time and money*. The best way to send out money, is a draft payable to my order, in Winnipeg, on the Bank of Montreal; it has an agency in London, which it would be easy to find out, as it is the Government bank in Canada. I will write to Uncle Shadworth on Sunday, I only hope that I shall some day be able to give some substantial proof that he has not thrown his money away. I have written to the land-agent to apply for the homestead. It was taken up last year by another man, but he has not come up again since, so I may get it without trouble, if he gave it up to the land-office again; if he did not, I shall have to "jump-it," - that is, take two witnesses down to Nelsonville, forty-six miles, where the land-office is, to swear that he has not been on for six months, and that he has made no improvements in it. Neither of which he has done. It is a good quarter section, and will do well to start on. A notice will be up in the land-office for one month, asking whether fit cause or reason can be shown why he has done neither; and then I shall have the papers. This man's brother is on the next lot, and that is why nobody has taken it; now he is down below in Ontario. I am afraid my other letters will not be written, as it is very late now - that is, for a farmer. I have seen the thermometer 15 and 54 the same day. The lowest since I have been here is 33 below zero; but the most annoying weather is between 20 and 30 as the snow is two feet deep, melts on one's clothes, and makes one wet through; cracks one's hands badly. Now I must say good-night. Tell Everard, Frank, and Peg, to write. I will write to them when I can, but my only spare time is after tea, and that is chiefly taken up, mending my mitts and moccasins, which is a necessity. *In his school days.
To HIS MOTHER
Cyprus Lodge, January 15, 1882. - I am just out of bed after one of those horrible abscesses, which I had just before I left England. It came on from riding bare-backed. One can't ride with a saddle in this country, it is too cold. And I had to ride to the blacksmith's, a distance of four miles, to get some whiffle-trees mounted with iron for the day's work, so I jumped on to the Indian pony directly after breakfast, at 6:30, one very cold morning, and rode off at full gallop, as merry as a king, little dreaming what I should have to pay for it. I have been in bed just a week; the abscess, from its situation, causing at times terrible pain; it was an enormous one, and I really don't know what I should have done if it had not been for the unexampled kindness of Mrs. Boulton. I shall in future be more careful. Fortunately, Boulton had cultivated some flax this year, so he brought some into the house and thrashed it out, which, mixed with bran, made a good poultice. Mrs. Boulton washed and dressed the place for me herself - always, and read to me in the day, which was so kind. But the nights were the worst parts, as in no way could I lie comfortably, as the weight of the blankets always pressed upon the sore, and made it throb horribly. However, I am convalescent and as happy as a king again, though very weak. My blood must have been in a very bad state, and I wish I had given myself a good dose of something before I came up. I was treated with belladonna at first, to try and put it back; then, when it was found that it was too far advanced, I was given sulphur to bring it to a head, and now I am taking china to strengthen me. Homeopathy has certainly done me a great deal of good, and I hope this is the last of illness I shall have for some time, as I have had a boil somewhere almost ever since I have been here. But the abscess was so enormous, I think it will settle matters for a time. Now, having done, with the history of my woes, I will tell you something else. Mrs. Boulton has done me a great deal of good in other ways. The beautiful simplicity of her faith, the stories she has read, and the Bible reading every evening after tea, with the accompanying conversation on the same, have, I hope, done me much good too. And it is a great change after France, etc. In my sleepless nights I also thought of my future. And I want to know what you think of this as an immediate plan. I myself want a lot, besides my own homestead, so that when I sell my homestead, I shall be thoroughly fit to work on a larger share till I find employment on a larger and grander scale altogether, which time and events will show. My own land will therefore be 16o + 640 = 8oo acres. The 16o acres I get for $10, the registration fee; 640 I get for $2« an acre: which makes $1,6oo = £330. Now for the other addition. Supposing I buy another lot, which for convenience we will call "Harry's lot," it will cost £330. Now, listen; Harry won't be going to school for three years. One hundred and sixty acres improved - that is a house and, say, twenty acres cleared - is worth $2,000 = £400. The land does not count so much as the improvement. Now, suppose you want £8oo for Harry's education. In three years I shall get the deed of my homestead. I shall sell it and go into my other lot, having got my buildings up in the meantime, and get for it £400. The two other lots will cost £66o besides taxes, which comes to $1 a lot per annum. So if you give me £700 down to buy these lots at once, one for Harry and one for myself, I will buy them up before they are taken. With Uncle S______'s £300 I shall have enough money to go on with, on my own homestead, for two years at least, and another £100 the third year will buy the necessary machinery for the crops of the improved land and increasing work I shall naturally have to do, which will make the sum total for the three years, £1,060 - £660 for the two lots, £300 for farming expenses, £100 for machinery. Now, in the course of the next three years I should be able to get at least one of Harry's quarter lots improved, besides my own work, which makes $200; now I take $8oo, say for expenses incurred in improving this quarter, and send you $1,200 for Harry's first year and a half's schooling. Thus I am paid for my work, and Harry reaps the profit of his lot. I would improve the other quarter lots as required, or have it done - whichever pays best. Anyhow, I shall always have time in winter to build the houses for them, and do the over- ground work; and it would pay me well, and give ample returns for money expended. Only if you wish me to do this, you must send the money as soon as possible, as speculation in land in Manitoba is past imagination. These calculations are based on present prices, and I am morally certain (as every one else is) that land will be far above these prices in a very short period. The Government has already raised its prices $1 an acre. So now you have my great plan, which will give me a pleasure in the performance, ample remuneration, and Harry as good a dousing of Latin grammar as he can possibly wish for. This is the final plan on which I build my hopes. To-day, being convalescent, and not good for too heavy a strain all at once, I drove Miss Boulton to see a friend about some business. Conveyance, Indian pony and jumper. Jumper is a vehicle made by the settler himself, with no iron about it except at the bottom of the runners. Trails in Manitoba are the tracks in the snow made by traffic, which tracks are filled in as soon as beaten down till trail and snow are one height; but the trail is solid, while the snow all round is comparatively soft underneath the top crust. Well! going, we slid off the trail, on account of the pony shying, and of course capsized in hopeless confusion of buffalo robes, mufflers, etc. However, we did not suffer any hurt; only it seemed so absurd, calmly reposing in two feet and a half of snow. Coming back, I said I was certain the pony could get under a clothesline which a bachelor settler had hung from his house to his stable. The pony is nervous, and one of the clothes touched his ear. Away we went, slid the trail again, scattering robes, rugs, and Miss Boulton broad-cast, and leaving me triumphant in the jumper. When I drove back to pick up the bits, the tears were running down my cheeks with laughter, I could not speak, much less apologize. Miss Boulton could not laugh - I did not expect her to; but she was not angry. I yelled with laughter the whole way home. Miss Boulton could not see the joke. "All's well that ends well." Best love to all.
To HIS MOTHER
Cyprus Lodge, February 3, 1882. - I received your letter wishing me happy returns of my birthday which shot me effectually out of my "teens." I received the £50 all right, and would have written to mention its safe arrival, but no one went down to the mail. Since I wrote last, I have been down to Nelsonville. I forget how much of the surveying of Manitoba I have told you, so I will tell you the whole now, and you will be better able to understand. Here is a blank map of Manitoba. Each of these squares is 6 x 6 = 36 square miles, and is called a township. Lines running east and west are town-lines, north and south are ranges. I live in 6-9, i.e. town-line 6, range 9. There are eighteen ranges in Manitoba, fourteen town- lines, so you can tell exactly how big Manitoba is. Twelve townships make a municipality, and about six municipalities are electoral districts. Each township is divided into square miles thus, and is called a lot. Boulton's lot is 17. Until three years go a settler could take up any lot he liked, now he can only homestead even sections. He has a right to homestead 16o acres (a quarter of a section), and to pre-empt 160 more, payable when he gets his deed, $2 an acre. The odd sections in this township are saved for the railway company which runs through, and they are in most other townships, except in four sections, two being saved as "school lots" for a fund for schools, and two for the "Hudson Bay Company," to whom the whole of the north- west used to belong for hunting and trapping furs. The odd sections, according to the New Land Act of 1882, must be paid for, ready-money. I don't know how much they will cost when they are for sale. They were all for sale, $2 an acre, till last October; but that has been changed. Now to business. A certain man homesteaded and pre-empted the west half of No.22 in May, 1879, and he has not been on it since, and has made no improvements, contrary to the Homestead Act, which provides that every man should live on his homestead six months in every year; that he shall build a house 18 x 22; that he break fifteen acres per 16o. So I accordingly jumped the aforesaid 320; in other words, applied that his homestead should be cancelled in my favour. I hired a team, and two witnesses to swear that he had not been on it, or made improvements, and started for Nelsonville, where the land-office is, forty-five miles from here. Had an affidavit drawn up. A notice was then put up in the office, and also sent to the man, to say that if he did not offer a satisfactory explanation at this office one month from date, his homestead would be cancelled. If he sends an explanation it will be forwarded to Ottawa; so I shall not know for two months at earliest whether I get the lot or not. I had to deposit $20 as a sign of good faith to the Government. I could buy the east half of No.21, with house, stables, and twenty acres broken, for something under $2,000, which would make a complete section. Land is rising, and there is a regular fever in Ontario for Manitoba land.... I froze my feet, by foolishly wearing boots on a cold day, and the nails of my big toes are off, after horrible gatherings, the whole way along, which make me waddle rather more awkwardly than a Chinese lady, when I am at work. We had what would have been a blizzard on the prairie to-day. We are sheltered by the bush. It was a clear, nice morning when we went to work, but the wind got up, and the snow drifted so badly that we had to leave our load of rails, and make the best of our way home, with the horses. We went to look at them this evening, and nothing is to be seen but a pile of snow, which means a good deal of digging to- morrow morning. The average depth of the snow is three feet now, though in some places where there is underwood it is drifted seven and eight feet, but after the first sharp spell it gets so hard that a person can walk on the top, though tramping trails for the horses to go along is no joke. However, this only is but once in a winter probably, since it can only happen when a heavy fall of snow is directly followed by a very high wind, which is of extremely rare occurrence in winter. To-day is the first time Boulton has seen it in Manitoba as bad as this. I always cook the break-fast now - porridge or pancakes, fried pork and potatoes; so I shall be ready to bach it on my own account.... Good-night.
To HIS MOTHER
Cyprus Lodge, February 12th. - So that there may be no mistake or misunderstanding, I will again give you my plans, which I hope I made plain in my last letter. As to possibilities, I hope to get the north half of No. 22, but of course I shall not know just yet. If you send me the money, I want to buy the north half of No. 21 from its possessor, for something under £400, all told, including deed, oxen, carts, crops, stove, shanty and stables, and plough. Whether I get his oxen or not, I don't quite know; he does not want to sell them, as he wishes to keep them to go west with. However, that is not a matter of great importance, as they are very unruly, and I do not think I should be able to do much work with them. If I put in eight acres of oats, I should have enough to keep a team, if I can get one cheap in the fall of the year, and then I should have them to draw out my logs and do my winter work with, and of that I shall have plenty to do if I get the north half of 22 also. I shall have to cut out logs for house and stable, and rails to fence in the breaking. I hope Frank will come out this time two years. I think he would be exactly fitted for it, and I am certain he and I should get on together, and I also believe we should mutually benefit each other, in more ways than one. The only stumper in my plans is, who is going to keep house? It is an enormous drawback to a fellow to waste time over cooking meals. Besides, loitering round the stove cooking makes one lazy and disinclined to work. So all bachelors, as were and as are, say, and I quite believe them. I think I will write to a fellow next fall, if he is still at the college, and ask him to come up. The snow is over two feet now, and getting about is difficult. So I effected a trade with an Indian: I tendered the revolver Aunt Fanny gave me, for a pair of snow-shoes; they are worth about $5. I am not of a blood-thirsty nature, so I did not want the revolver, and I thought Aunt Fanny would not mind my trading it off for something more useful. So please tell her that I regard the snow-shoes as her present, and remember her every time I go down to the mail. One mile without snow-shoes really seems quite four miles, the walking is so terribly fatiguing, whilst one can run along on snow-shoes easier and more comfortably than on bare ground. They are six feet six inches long, and about fifteen inches broad, and when one comes to rough ground where there is no snow, one can slip them off as easily as slippers. They are made of ash with catgut string, a raw hide, and last a lifetime. I bought a rifle for $9, which cost at a store $25 and had never been used; and I had a shot at a wolf at three hundred yards, but missed it, as the wind was too strong. About the north half of 21. The bargain is only till seeding, i.e. the middle of April; so if I can have the money now, of course I should like it, as I could start at once. I must finish now. Love to all.
To HIS MOTHER
Cyprus Lodge, February 20, 1882. -.... Now as to immediate plans. I have given $10 as security that I will buy the half section for $1,800 (£370), with walls of house, granary and stables, twenty-two acres broken; which is cheap at current prices. Boulton has sold out, $6,500 (exclusive of rolling stock - a good deal of which I hope to buy at two-thirds the price, if you send the money before the 1st of April). So I shall have a crop starting, and I hope about $400 of grain. I have written to ______ offering to pay his passage up, and give him $10 a month during the summer months, and his board during the winter. Boulton goes west with the spring. Everybody here has sold out to an English insurance company speculating. They are giving $8 to $10 an acre for dead land. I should not have been able to get the land I am buying, for less than $3,200; but the fellow can't get his deed, as he has never lived on his place. So he will abandon it to me for $1,800, and I shall homestead and pre-empt, as if it had never been taken up, which will make no difference to me, as I shall live three years in it at least. The place I jumped, I did not get - bad luck of it. The land-agent, as I thought, had been heavily bribed; and so "worked" the thing for the other man. However, I shall get my security money back, so I only lose my expenses to Nelsonville. I shall buy Boulton's team, a couple of mares, one in foal; also three of his heifers, all in calf; and I have already bought two pigs, and a lot of lumber to finish the house and buildings in the spring before seeding - so you see I mean business. I hope I am not walking on air in all this. It is too good a chance to let slip, and so I hope the money, £500, will be forthcoming by April. The following is an estimate of the probable cost of starting.
|Dollars Land, 360 acres||1,800|
|Seed for crop||60|
|Team and furnishings - out for summer||325|
|Ploughs, breaking and stubble||30|
|Cow, heifer, and seven calves||180|
|Material for same||145|
|House furniture, stove, bedding||50|
which is close on £600. The deed of sale for the land is made out for the 8th of April, at which time at least $1,000 must be paid down, and if possible all. If I can get the money over, I want to buy some town lots in Norquay, eight miles from here. I hope to have got the lot of land before you receive this, on a joint note, as Boulton offers to back it for me. I am doing all this I hope with your concurrence, though I still feel a little nervous about the money being forthcoming at the required date. I think you can trust me, mother dear, to look after my own interests pretty keenly, and get the full value for any money entrusted to my charge.
To HIS MOTHER
Cyprus Lodge, March 1, 1882. - It is hopeless: this chopping and changing about will presently drive me mad. (1) Morpeth Place, N½, 22, 6, 9. He came up and claimed his place within the month; and of course he bribed the agent, or he would never have got it, after two years' absence, when six months is the outside of Government leave. (2) Hunter place, N½, 21, 6, 9. The man went back on me, because he was in a hurry to get away, and the fellow who bought it would be able to get his deed for him, which I could not, as I am not "in the ring." (3) Another place. I got out a deed of sale with affidavit duly attested, registered, and sworn, giving him $50 as deposit. Now for the circumstances thereof. This man, to begin with, is a very good fellow simple and honest as the daylight, and proud. His mother, an English lady, died at his birth; his father, a Canadian farmer, rich, but unkind, put him to work on a farm at ten years old, and never educated him. He would not send him any money to buy a team or finish off his house. The man waited a month, and then gave up in despair and offered the place to me for $1,800. It is far the best half section round here, W½, 26, 6, 9. We drew up the deed on the printed form, and got it sworn before the commissioners on Tuesday, and I was in high glee. On Wednesday I rode over for the mail. Got your two letters, 20th and 28th , and two for him, - one from his father, saying his uncle was dead, and left him $2,000, and adding that he (his father) had bought him a team, and was just shipping it, and also enclosing a cheque for $500 to finish his house with. I knew by instinct what the letter contained directly I got it at the mail. The poor fellow was terribly cut up, but too proud to ask it back; but of course I could do nothing but insist on his taking it. So, you see, here is casualty No.3. Bad luck to the whole business! There is nothing for it now but to go west, buy a pair of Indian ponies which can live without oats, a long buckboard, tent, tools and provisions for six months, and "get" directly the snow goes off. My foot is still too bad to think of getting a boot on, and all the flesh is off the great toe down to the bone, and the nail has only just started to grow again, which is a drawback. An entirely revised code of land laws comes out, at the termination of this session, which I am anxiously waiting for. There is no land to be got for a circuit of two hundred miles round here. So much for my sojourn here. The land fever is raging round here still - some land going for $12 and $15 dollars an acre. Boulton returns from Winnipeg next Saturday, so I shall hear from him the best place to go, etc., besides having to go to Winnipeg myself to buy necessaries. It keeps a fellow on the hop to look for new chances, as quick as the old ones fall through. I don't feel quite so confident as I did, but I know I can stand the roughing all right morally, if I can get through physically. Love to all.
To HIS MOTHER
Cyprus Lodge, March 15, 1882. - You will no doubt wonder why I have not written before this. The reason is simply there was no mail to carry the letters if I had written. Storms and drifting snow have rendered traffic impossible for the last three weeks, but the roads have been broken now once more. I have received your letter to-day of the - I don't know what date, as I have thrown away the envelope, and you don't always date your letters; it is the one mentioning the £6oo, part of which you say has been sent, and the other is to follow immediately. I will show you that not one penny has been misspent. My farm consists of 360 acres, which has cost me $2,150, and I have already been offered $500 on my bargain twice, but of course refused at once. My reasons for taking up land here are simple: I think I can do better on an improved farm than on the rough grounds, and land is going up rapidly in Manitoba. There is not an acre unsettled now, the papers say. I enclose my letter of the 1st of March, which I got out of the post-office on account of the stoppage of the mails and my change of plans. I got the present place by stratagem, and the aforesaid stratagem cost me the freezing of both my feet up to the ankles, which took Alfred and Boulton four hours to rub out, and caused me terrible agony. This happened twelve days ago, and I can only just walk now. Cause - wet socks, holes in my shoes, no dinner, and sixteen miles to walk in heavy snow, and snow-shoes. I thank God that I ever got home; and I never should if Boulton had not beaten me every time I stopped, I was so utterly exhausted. I laugh at the whole thing now, but I did not whilst my feet were being thawed out. Carelessness, nothing else, except perhaps a slow circulation. My farm, eighteen acres broken, a house, or rather shanty, and stable. I shall have to go down below almost directly, probably to buy a team; they are so expensive up here, and bad too. It will pay me, as I get the ride back for nothing, and I don't want to have my horses dying in the stable, as most of the teams for sale up here do. Boulton wants $350 for his two mares, one twelve, the other fifteen years old. I can get a decent youngish team down below for $225, and it costs $75 to bring them up. I know a party in Ontario, whom I can depend upon to choose a good team for me, so I shan't be swindled; and I can't depend on myself entirely, of course. I got a delightful letter from Eton to-day, a jolly letter, and so kind. Everard also wrote, short and pithy.... Love to all.
To HIS FATHER AND MOTHER
Shore Lake Farm, April 21, 1882. - I have not written for a month: I plead guilty. I have received the sums, £600, Bank of Montreal, £50, Bank of England notes. I am not going to thank you for the above now, because I cannot; but I shall be back some time in the next four years, and then I will thank you. God grant I may repay you one hundredfold for your kindness to me, by leading a steady and upright life; showing that you have not misplaced your kindness. I will explain why I cannot get more than a certain amount of land. Manitoba is settled up. There is no more homesteading; I bought mine from a private individual. The great aim of the Canadian Government is to prevent speculation; and the laws are so framed that an individual cannot have more than 360 acres in his possession. A colonization company can take up 1,000,000 in D, if it likes, but a single individual can't. Dash made his money in town lots - a species of gambling; in fact I would rather sit down and play a game of Nap, at $5 points, because I might have some idea of what I was doing. I intend to farm steadily for two or three years, then when I am older I may possibly speculate in land a bit. I possess 320 acres, 15 of which are broken. I rent Boulton's place at a nominal cost, 38 acres of which are broken; so I shall have 53 acres in crop.
Wheat: Boulton's place. - Field across the river; 16 acres; 28 bushels; seed, gold drop. My place. - 9 acre field; 15 bushels; seed, Scotch pips, red. 4-acre field; 8 ditto.
Oats: Boulton's place. - Field in front of house, 8 acres; 24 bushels, black and white. Field behind house, 10 acres; 30 bushels, black and white.
Barley: My place. - I acre; 3 bushels, hulless.
Timothy Boulton's place. - 4 acres.
Now this was my line of argument. If I ran my own place alone I should have to do it by myself; it would keep me going pretty briskly, but would not keep an extra man. Now, by running Boulton's place, I can afford to hire a good and experienced man, and whilst keeping him occupied learn myself, as of course I am totally ignorant of breaking, sowing, etc. This summer I hope to build a granary and a house; a shanty and a stable I have already. Possibly I may turn the present stable into a hog-pen, and build another stable instead of a house, - I have not settled yet. It is 9.30 p.m., and I have just been out to give the horses their oats, and see that they are all right before going to bed. Can you picture me all alone, no one nearer than three-quarters of a mile? Cook for myself, bake for myself wash for myself and eat my meals, go to bed, get up, all by myself. This is Friday. Next Tuesday, Bob Irving, my hired man, a jolly, hard-working labourer comes; I have known him for the last five months, and have never seen him without a smile upon his face. I expect we shall get through our summer's work in style. I got a nice letter from Frank, and another equally nice from Aunt Emma last mail. By- the-bye, I have never told you why I have not written for so long. I was in Winnipeg for four days, and it took me six days to get there, and six to come back; and every place was so full. I could not get a place to write in away from home. I could not find Palmer. I found a batch of emigrants who knew him, but they did not know where he was lodging. You see that, on account of the storms, no mail either arrived here or left, for three weeks; indeed, we had only one mail for five weeks: the roads were blocked up with drifts, so I did not get your letter till Palmer had been in Winnipeg a week, so I could not catch him. He must have been out at a farm twelve miles from here. I hired a horse and cutter, and after great difficulties got six miles: the snow was so soft that the horse sunk down to its belly (a vulgar but proper term) every step it took, so I had to give it up, and come back. I thank you very much for sending out the things; I only hope I shall get them all right. I enclose a letter I wrote a month ago, but on account of the irregularity of the post never finished. I was obliged to put Cannon off when I hired Boulton's place and a skilled labourer: I wrote with many apologies. I think I can do what carpentering I want myself as I remember something of my carpentering at Haileybury, - "and something of your bad writing, too," you will say; but I am in a hurry, and I want to get to bed, as I have to start to Norquay early to-morrow with a grist. It was snowing for a change to-day. I hope to start seeding on Wednesday next, if I have luck, and then my letters will be short and sweet, as I shall be on the hop till next November. Indeed, I have been hopping pretty lively for the last week, because when one has to do all the indoor work as well, one has not much time to meditate on the changes and chances of life. I want to break twenty acres, and hire twenty acres broken this summer; and then I can afford to have a hired man again. Bob, I hope, will stay with me till this time next year, if he comes. He will learn just as much with me as with an ordinary farmer; I don't mean to say he will learn from me, but from what he sees done on my place. I only hope he will earn his board, as living is terribly expensive now; pork, eighteen cents per pound, which very soon makes a hole in a man's pocket. Now I must go to bed. With love to all.
To HIS MOTHER
Shore Lake Farm, May 18, 1882. - It is a month since I wrote, and now I am scribbling in a hurry, and as fast as possible, to let you know how I am getting on, before I go to bed. I think I have probably got N½, 22, for a homestead and pre-emption. Luck! makes me 640 acres. I bought the other place from a private individual. There is no Government land round here. Might just as well try and take up land round my old home in England! If I do get No.22, it will be through a combination of consummate cheek (a thing a fellow must have in this country) and luck. I got a letter from Mills, saying Bob was working at South wood, Ontario, and returning me my money. I wish you would explain to Mrs. Cannon, that when I determined to take Boulton's place it necessitated my having a thoroughly experienced and hard-working man with me, so I could not have her son. I also got a letter from Palmer. He is working near Winnipeg. His luggage has not arrived yet. I also got a letter from Uncle Charlie, enclosing what he called "a trifle," but what I call "a nice little pile." I find I shall have to buy a self binding reaper; cost, $320; three years' payment. This summer labour is scarce. I shall have plenty of money to run me on till Christmas, and for another two years, if you like; but if I had money enough to buy another team, I could rent Boulton's place again next year, and by that time I shall have forty-five acres broken on my own place, which would keep them both going. I should go down below at Christmas, and get the team and some good stock (cows and pigs) to bring up with me. I should want £150 in December for that, and I would give you my note at eight per cent (payable in December, 1883) for it, out of my crops; but we can talk over that between this and Christmas, and you have already done far more for me than I deserve. You would naturally like to overhaul my accounts, so I will make them out, and send them the first time I have a minute to spare. I have not missed a day in my diary, or a cent in my accounts, since January 1, 1881; so I can always tell you what I am doing and spending. The winter of 1884 I hope to spend in England once more. It is a long time to look forward to, but I can't leave my place before then. I shall come home for nothing, as I know one of the large cattle-exporters well, and he offered to give me $15, and intermediate passage back, to take charge of a cargo for him. I shall soon have been out two years, and it seems like a few days, everything rattles past so quickly, - always getting out of and into bed, with no time to look round hardly between. Grandmamma wrote a very nice letter to me, which I must answer by this mail if I can, but it keeps me up so late at night, and then I don't get enough sleep to rest myself thoroughly. I remember the time when I could not get up after ten hours' sleep, and now I roll out of bed directly the alarm sounds five. How father will enjoy his trip out here, if he comes. No worry and bustle, except the bulldogs and mosquitoes, and they are getting bad now. A little later and we shall get up at three, and lay over in the middle of the day, as the bull-dogs (large flies) worry the horses so much. By-the-bye, if I don't marry before I am thirty-two it will be a miracle. I come in awfully hungry at noon, and by the time I have cooked the dinner over the hot stove, my appetite is gone. Baking, washing, mending, leave no time to write or do anything. It is now 11:30, and I have to be up at 4:30 to-morrow to sow my last four acres of oats before the wind gets up; so I am afraid I must say good-night. The saw and grist mill at Norquay was burnt down in ten minutes last week, and my lumber won't be sawn this summer, I am afraid. I must say good-night.
To HIS GRANDMOTHER
Shore Lake Farm, May 18, 1882. - Thank you so much for your kind letter and present, although I am afraid the beer is impossible, because there is none nearer than Emerson, 107 miles distant, and it would sour on the way out, since the rainy season is coming on, and this is the worst country in the world for thunderstorms. But my feet are healing rapidly now, and there is no fear till next winter, when I shall have to be very careful with them, to keep them from decaying. I shot a couple of minks the other day, and I have tanned the fur, which I shall sew inside my moccasins, and that I think will keep them all right. I hope you will excuse my not having written before, but twenty-nine acres of wheat and eleven of oats, with one team and two men, and only four months and a half to sow and harvest it, erect fences, and break thirty acres of new land and take the scrub off, besides all the cooking, washing, and mending, does not leave me much time for many things which ought to be done. I have not even found time to find the corner stake of my property yet; and then, you see, I did not complete my purchase till just before seeding, so I am a little behindhand. I have four acres of oats more to sow, and now it is raining, or I would have had them in to-day, so I have been fencing. The mode of fencing is peculiar to this country. There is no wood except poplars round here, and the bush is of two kinds, according to age - rail-timber and logs. The fires which come along in the fall sometimes kill a whole bush. Three years ago a fire came through here and killed a good many, leaping half a mile at a time, burning everything in its way. The way to stop it is by ploughing three furrows ten yards from the object to be saved, and five furrows twenty yards from these, thus arresting its course. The rails are cut fifteen feet long, the pickets seven feet. The pickets are jammed into the ground two feet with the hand, and by pouring a little water in after starting the hole. The pickets are bound together with willow. The rails are put eighteen inches from the ground with a stake. The only objection is that the poplars rot so fast. But when the railroad comes we shall be able to buy cedar posts and put up bushed wire fences, which will of course be much better. The mosquitoes are beginning to sing, and bite too. The grass is getting green, and the dreary-looking poplars are donning their scanty foliage. I am afraid this letter is very "shoppy;" but farming is occupying all my thoughts just now. I will try and write a more interesting letter in the course of the next three weeks. Pray tell Mrs. Blaxter I noticed two or three Hillington postmarks, and mentally thanked her. Give my love, etc.
To HIS UNCLE
Beaconsfield, May 18, 1882. - I have just got your letter, which, as you may well imagine, surprised me. "The trifle" you so kindly sent surprised me, because it happened to be exactly the thing I wanted, to carry on my "work" satisfactorily, and for that I cannot thank you enough. But your letter was what surprised me more; it said so much in a few words, and I don't think I ever received a letter before which made me feel so happy as yours did, - the same feeling, I suppose, as a fellow has walking down the "big school" to get the prize at the end of the term. A "cork toe" I hope will not be necessary, as my feet are healing fast. I think I have also got the half section I jumped, in January which will make my little property two miles long and half a mile broad. I am sorry to say that I cannot write home so regularly now, as I am crowded with work (forty acres in grain), and all the fencing to put up, clothes to wash and mend: all these leave but little time for letter-writing. Up at five. Bob (my hired man) goes out, feeds the horses and pigs, cleans out the stable, and throws the harness on; meanwhile, I get the breakfast. After breakfast, about 6:15, we have a smoke to aid digestion, and wash up the breakfast things, then steady work till noon. I come in a little before, to put the potatoes on to boil, as they take so long, and then we give ourselves and horses an hour and a half's rest, then out again till 6:30 or seven, it depends whether we are pressed to finish something. Then tea, wash up dishes, mend things, set bread (if required), and then bed, and glad to get to it. On the jump the whole time. All the land within one hundred miles of here, worth taking up, is now under cultivation; and I believe I am in about the best farming part of Manitoba. Floods have been bad in Emerson, everybody living upstairs, water five feet in the streets. The fellow who brought my waggon out from Emerson, had to bring each wheel, axle, etc., over the Red River, separately in a skiff, and it cost him $4, the bridge being washed away by the flood. The prairie round the Mennonites is three feet in water, so I am afraid they will not get much crop in this year. We are in the hills, where no floods can reach us. However, I will not enter into a description of the country, because I hope that when you are tired of the old world for travelling, you will come over and see the new one, and all its novel labour-saving arrangements. I find I can save money by buying a self-binder, i.e. a machine which reaps the grain and binds it into sheaves at the same time, with wire. It will cost me $340, - January 1, 1883, $120; 1884, $120; 1884, $100: but then I shall cut for other people at $2 an acre, and I can cut ten acres a day; wire four pounds to the acre, at eleven cents per pound. Labour is already very scarce round here, and during harvest prices will be terrible, and men will not be able to be got for love or money. I shall be independent of much help, as my man will be able to shock up most of the grain, and I can give him a hand in the evening, after reaping. I have four more acres of oats to sow. The wheat I have sown looks well, and is coming up nicely. I am a little behindhand, but then I have a large crop for one team to put in, and I have put it in more carefully than most round here, and harrowed it oftener; and besides that, I had so little time to prepare for it before seeding, on account of buying my place later. Good seed had to be picked out and drawn over, implements bought, and one thing and another; so I don 't blame myself for being a little behind. The fellows round here are mostly sons of English clergy, and a rough lot at that; the nicest fellows being the common rough "bunks," always good-natured and ready to oblige, which the former by no means are. I am sorry to say I have not answered Aunt Mabel or Aunt K.K.'s last letters, but I will as soon as I can. With love to them all, and sincerest thanks to yourself for your extreme kindness. I am your very affectionate nephew, - EDWARD
To HIS MOTHER
Shore Lake Farm, June 29, 1882. - Business, business, business! Going on rapidly. Down to Winnipeg two weeks ago. Saw Palmer, who is getting on well; luggage not arrived yet. I bought another team for the following reason: my present team is not nearly strong enough for the excessively hard work of breaking with a 14-inch plough in scrub, and Jessie has one of the strongest, healthiest, and prettiest bay foals you ever saw. I hope both Jessie and Queenie will have foals next year. Bill and Jack, my new team, are two bright bays, very big and strong, and run along with the 14-inch breaker as if it were a plaything. Our working hours through breaking have been - 3:00 a.m.; breakfast, 3:30 to 9:30, breaking; 9:30 to 10.30, chores and dinner; 10:30 to 4, sleep; 4 to 5:30, tea; chores 5:30 to 10:30, breaking. The reason for this is the bull-dogs (horse-flies, I think, in England) are so thick and annoying, that the horses go nearly mad in the day. The mosquitoes are bad at night, but that can't be helped; last night they were like a cloud of dust, and made a noise like a swarm of bees, into one's nose and ears, and biting like fury. However; the grass is getting long now, so breaking will soon be over. I shall have twenty acres broken - not so much as I intended, but I could not hire anyone. The scrub is too hard for stray comers to get out. As a matter of curiosity, I went, when in Winnipeg, to the chief loan-office, and tried my luck. $4,000 cash was the highest bid for N½, 21; or a $2,000 mortgage, nine per cent. for three, five, or ten years. Now for the reason of this. Ever since I bought this place, which I think is one of the best in Manitoba as regards situation, I intended to put up a saw and gristmill (portable), but I had not intended putting one up for two years; reasons, lack of cash, and lack of custom. Now, if I can, I will put the saw-mill up at the end of October. People are flocking past my house every day, to take up the rough but well-wooded lands in 6, 11; 7, 8; 7, 9; 7, 10, and all north of me. Now the nearest mills are St. Leon, fourteen miles south. Norquay mill, 8, SW, burnt down with very little hope of building up; so I should get all the trade north of me, and south of the Portage, and for eight miles south-east and west. Now is my chance. People are beginning to shingle (wooden slate) their buildings instead of thatch, and are putting up frame houses instead of log. Go gently. Saw mill before the winter sets in. Hire a good sawyer. Grist-mill, next summer, with the proceeds of the saw-mill. This is the plan I hatched a long time ago, but kept quiet; and this is the scheme I intend to carry out. If you can furnish me with £300 or £400, at seven per cent., payable half-yearly, by October of this year, either on my note of hand, or a mortgage, which you like, I can buy a 15 horse-power engine, and saw-carriage frame and rigging, by paying $1,200 cash, and the rest on my note which I could pay during the winter. There you are. I have made my inquiry quietly, so that no one shall get a hint of what I am at, so, if you can't furnish me with the cash, I shall not have to bear the sneers people are so ready to heap on failure. Crops are looking splendid. My self-binder has arrived, and I have got orders to cut 100 acres at $1 75 cents an acre. The wire costs 50 cents an acre, 12 cents per pound, so I shall be able to pay off my first note with it. I am a little hard up for cash just at present, so I am sending one team out to Emerson with a load, for which I get 60 cents per 100 lb., and I take 2,500; and for the load I bring back I get $1 35 cents per 100 lb.; and that's how I replenish my purse when it gets temporarily low. Work, and sleep, eat, and work, is the daily routine, on the dead run the whole time; and every now and then I look round and imagine I see a saw - and grist-mill looming up on the hill, at the border of the lake. You will all be coming out to have a look at me and mine some day. I am young and hopeful, but at the same time I think I can look at both sides of the question; and the earlier a man begins, the earlier he wins, and I am afraid someone else will get ahead of me if I don't look sharp; so, my dear mother, as usual I leave it to you. I know you know my weaknesses, but also my strong points: if I say that $2,000 shall be paid back in full at the end of three or five years, as you like, with seven per cent in the interval, you know as well as I do that it shall be paid by hook or crook, even if everything went against me, which I don't think is likely. I should add a chopping machine for grain at once if you concur in my views, and hope to have the grist running by next July, and meditate enlisting Palmer's services, as he seems a nice fellow, and his wife is a nice quiet refined woman. Live-stock as follows -
First team: grey mare, "Jessie" and foal; cream, "Queenie." Two dogs, "Collie" and "Syndicate." Second team: bay, 'Jack"; dark bay, "Bill." Setter, "Rover"; one cow, one cat, four sows, two borrows, one thoroughbred boar and one thoroughbred sow. Total 19.
Roller, harrows, waggon. Dermont, two ploughs. McHorrwich's wire-binder. Two bob sleighs, two sets of harness, farm tools, household furniture, etc.
To HIS GRANDMOTHER
Beaconsfield Post Office. - I am afraid it is some time since I have written, but I hope you have seen some of my letters home, and thus know tolerably well how I am getting on; it is rather hard these busy times to squeeze in a letter. I suppose the summer climate of Manitoba is almost unexcelled - at least I know England, France, Germany, and Ontario cannot compare with it, - not too hot, and always a wind. But the mosquitoes, they are indeed terrible in the evening; no rest for man or beast. We always keep a stove, full of straw and stuff, burning all night with the pipes off; and I have not come to any satisfactory conclusion yet, which is best, or rather worst, the mosquitoes or the smoke. I have had an addition to my household in the form of a young Englishman, aged sixteen. Poor fellow! he came out to a fellow near, and could not work hard enough for him; so he went to another man, and the same thing occurred again, and the man gave him a day to find new quarters in the middle of Manitoba! Nobody would have anything to do with him; I was asked to take him when first he came in, but refused, knowing he would be more comfortable where there was a woman. However, he came over to me in despair, and asked me to drive him to Smart's landing, to catch the steam-boat for Winnipeg. I found out he only had $8 (£2) in his pocket, so I told him it would cost more than that to get to Winnipeg, besides what he would have to pay for board whilst looking out for office work. He asked me in despair what he was to do: "If I can't work hard enough for one man, I can't for another"; so I told him to go and give my hired man a hand for a couple of hours, and in the meantime I drove to his former place and got all his luggage. I never saw a fellow look so surprised and happy in all my life, as he when I called him in to dinner, and he saw all his luggage stowed away about the house. Poor fellow he was as happy as a king, and has worked away splendidly ever since, and seems quite happy. He came up this morning and meekly asked whether he might go and bathe. How I laughed. I explained to him that in this country, where wages are so terribly dear, and men so hard to get, that, as he was only working for his board, I did not expect him to consider himself bound to work from six in the morning till eight at night; and considering he has to ride two miles to feed the pigs on my own place, before breakfast at six in the morning, and after supper at seven, I think he does remarkably well, and seems to enjoy it. Haying is the order of the day, and I hope by the time you get this letter we shall have begun harvest. I can boast the best field of wheat in the township, I am glad to say. Last Sunday my best horse died, and none of the magnates of the township can assign any reason except poisonous grass, which has frightened them all very much. It is a great loss to me, and a great disappointment, and it takes off the pleasure of farming considerably. He was a beautiful bay horse, and my favourite; and I am not ashamed to say that my eyes were decidedly moist as I hitched the other team on to draw him away to be food for the wolves. Poor Jack!! bought him cheap, because he was said to be balky - that is, he would not pull when it did not suit him. He was a very powerful horse, and though I had some very heavy loads over rough boggy country, to use a Cannock expression, "He never went back on me"; which convinced me the former teamster had given him a bad name by his own ignorance and bad treatment, and that kindness goes a long way with man and beast. Poor Geoff seems to be in low spirits, and I fear in very poor health; I shall soon be recommending a "year in Manitoba." I had a delightful dream last night. It was Christmas night: all were at the Christmas dinner except Frank and myself, as we were supposed to be toiling in young Beaconsfield. Father got up to propose our health and success - and we walked in, and I woke. I am afraid this letter will be terribly uninteresting to you; but farming, except to farmers, and sometimes even to them, is uninteresting. I am your affectionate grandson, EDWARD
To HIS MOTHER
Beaconsfield, August 17, 1882. - I have just got your two letters of July 22nd and 25th, both of which are peculiarly interesting in their way. Of course Bob is anti-Manitoba, but if he comes up here I will do my best for him. If I had £20,000 left me to-morrow, I would not leave this place, though farming, of course, is not always enjoyment. My hired man and myself alone have cut with the scythe, among briars, laying logs and dead grass, fifty tons of hay, and that was not exactly enjoyment! Thanks to my parents' kindness, I started half up the ladder, and under peculiarly favourable circumstances, and have every prospect of an exceedingly abundant harvest. My foal is allowed to be the finest in the township; one of my fields of wheat is without exception the thickest I have seen, and the envy and admiration of my neighbours, - Dame Fortune, of course, chiefly; but also because I did not try, like most of my neighbours, to be the first to get my seeding done, but harrowed and rolled my land well. On account of the exceeding drought when it ought to have rained - June, - and the heavy rain when it ought to have been fine - July, - hay is scarce. I had to scour all over my land to get enough, and everybody else is short. I have put up twice as much as I want myself, and hope to get rewarded for my pains to the tune of $12 a ton in the spring. The country is at present hard on horses, bad accommodation, and flies - bull-dogs or horse-flies - and mosquitoes go for them most unmercifully. I think I mentioned in a letter to grandmother the loss of my best horse, which was a great shock to me. Since that, two neighbours have both lost horses, and another of mine is just recovering. It had a terrible shave. It was on Saturday night the inflammation came on, and although I had just had a kick from a horse, I hopped on to him, and rode or rather drove him to the doctor's five miles off, and just in time. He seems to be recovering pretty well just now. I shall have to go and buy another the day after to-morrow, for harvest, as I cannot use Jessie, who has a foal. The advantage of the wire-binder is, the wire does not break, and the compression on the wire-binder will bind much tighter, which in the case of oats is necessary, since they have to be cut on the green side, and shrink when dry, consequently in the case of string there is very little left when it has passed the various stages and arrived at the thrashing-machine. We expect to begin harvest about the end of next week. Barley is being cut now; but, thank goodness, I did not put any in. Now for the most important part of the letter. I had given up hoping for my mill, and often upbraided myself for asking you, and raising hopes, and so you can fancy the pleasure it gave me, the pleasure that I can be depended on; and you shall not be disappointed, as I hope, by the brains nature gave me and steady work, I shall be able to show, you have not done wrong in placing the money in my hands. I feel in a way responsible to brothers, and sisters, and all, and a very pleasant feeling it is. Of course you will want money some day to bring Helen and Charlotte out, and I shall be able to give Harry a hand in the scholastic course; the pleasure of thinking of all this is worth double the common idea of piling up money for one's self. I have ordered the saw-mill. I hope to have it set up in two months, just before the frost sets in. Shingle and saw-mill complete, 20-horse power; capacity seven thousand feet per day. Prices $8 per thousand for sawing, or take half the logs - which the owner likes; lumber sawn $22 per thousand. Of course, you will all come out some day, and spend a year with me. How they would enjoy the free life! I shall be able to form an idea of how far my plans will be feasible, and how far they may have to be extended or reduced, by the winter, and what means I can get hold of to carry them out with. A railroad, they say, is to pass within three miles of here. I might be able to reduce that to a minimum by showing I could form a village and industries. There is no limit to man's capabilities, as long as he can keep the ball rolling, but that he must do, and keep control of it, as if once it gets beyond his reach, it is difficult to catch it up again. I think we are going to have a tough harvest, as the new moon has set in with a terrible amount of wind, and my binder will show its superiority to the single one-horse binder in one respect anyhow. At present I have a family, consisting of father, son, daughter, and son's wife in my house, and they go near to driving me mad. Airs!! "Never were in such a country." "Never used to this sort of thing," etc., etc. The commonest sort of English labourer, polished by twelve years' residence in Ontario. It makes a sweet mixture of the most contemptible airs and blow I ever saw - living mostly on me, on the strength of the wife cooking for me, and I could cook three times as well and as fast myself. and, of course, as the housekeeping things are not theirs, they use them freely, to say the least of it! However, I shall be moving over to my place soon, and then they will have notice to quit at short notice. The son is chawing away something like hay, close by me, so unless I stop in time, I might say something irreverent, so I must say good- bye, my dearest mother. My gratitude to you I cannot describe, but you know it without description. Tell Frank to sit down, and write me a letter, not a note; plans, etc., in a comprehensive form.
To HIS AUNT
Beaconsfield, September 23, 1882. - Believing that I had performed all imperative duties, and resting in innocent security, I have thoroughly enjoyed my pipe every evening after tea, and then turned into bed, after thanking God for the bountiful blessings He was bestowed upon me, the magnificent weather He has given, and the abundant harvest, and the splendid health and spirits I at present possess to aid me in securing it. But, I have had my spell of bad luck; and thereby hangs a tale, which only unfolded itself last night, and annoyed other people as well as myself. As mother may have told you, I invested in a self-binder; as the only means of getting my harvest in, since labour is not to be got round here. It worked well the first two days, and then a casting broke, on account of a flaw, and I had to go to Norquay to have it mended, or rather to get another casting; and off I started at once, with a light rig and a team, eight o'clock at night, and cold, so I put on my great-coat, a thing I have only worn twice since I have been in the country, since it is too long to walk in. I put my own letters and the letters of three other people in my capacious pockets; among them was a letter to you and a receipt. At Norquay they had not the casting required. Off I started for Nelsonville, in very low spirits, forty-five miles from Norquay to Nelsonville, my crop waiting to be cut, and very hard on the team; it was a very hot day and the roads were very rough. I got to Nelsonville about 7:30 p.m. Had supper, went out to give the horses their oats, and found Bill off his feed. I suppose this, coupled with the shaking on the road and the disappointment of the delay, were too much for me, anyhow I went for a veterinary surgeon, gave my horse some scalded bran, and then fainted on my way from the stable to the hotel, which of course created a delightful bit of excitement for the natives of a little western town. When I came to, I was lying down in the bar-room, with a crowd round me, and the bar tender energetically emptying a bottle of whisky down my throat, which naturally made me more annoyed still. However, I requested to be woke at five, and slept soundly, got up next morning feeling all right, fed my horses and had breakfast, and then began kicking at the machine-agent's door. This did not have the desired effect till eight, and, after all, he had not the casting I wanted. Now Emerson is sixty-seven miles from Nelsonville, and I must go there, and my crop waiting, and half a dozen other crops all wanting cutting. I immediately went to all the stables to find whether there was a horse that could go to Emerson and back in two days; I found one that was guaranteed to do the journey. I promised to take every care of it, and, leaving my team as surety, I started with horse and buggy. I got into Emerson by nine at night of the second day from leaving home; got my casting; my horse ill, went to a veterinary, sat up all night administering the medicine, and then started out at 1 p.m. of the third day; got into Nelsonville after frequent stops, and walking most of the way myself by nine in the morning of the fourth day. Started out with my own horses, and got home at 8 p.m. of the fourth day, having gone 224 miles in four days; and I was very glad to get home, and my machine was spinning round the field at 6:30 next morning. Now, on Wednesday, I met a neighbour named Woods, and he asked me in rather an indignant manner if I had posted an Ontario letter he gave me. I said, "Yes! of course I did," and thought no more about it, till yesterday, when F_______ W_______ asked me the same question (he is an Englishman who is staying with me). He asked me during dinner, and I remembered Woods's question, and the coincidence struck me as curious, so I went to my great-coat, which had never been touched since it had been thrown out of the waggon, when I got home. There were two newspapers which ought to have been posted, but the letters were all gone. Now, through the muddle, disappointment, and excitement of the last month, I could not and cannot remember anything about the letters, except meaning to post them at Norquay, and then at Nelsonville when I found I had to go there; but whether they dropped out of my pocket or were taken out, and where, I cannot tell. I am more annoyed than I can say, because I feel exceedingly grateful to you, and your mind will naturally run to those black and yellow stockings, as mine did when I pulled out those newspapers. I broke the axle of one of my wheels, crossing from my place to Boulton's afterwards. Luckily, as I only use three horses on the binder, I had one doing nothing in the stable, and he took me to Nelsonville and back, seventy-four miles in twenty-one consecutive hours. In other words, I broke down at 11 a.m. on the Wednesday, and I was running at 9 a.m. on Thursday. Now all my magnificent harvest is cut, the binder is now over my head in pieces, and eight long stacks show what two teams and four men can do in a week's drawing in; three days more stacking and then the plough will be again scraping the ground. I have pitched the contents of fourteen waggon loads on to the stacks to-day, and as a considerable number of the sheaves had to go "scooting" a good distance through the air before they reached the required altitude, my arms ache and my back aches, and my eyes ache; and yet I say what a glorious life is this, with all its drawbacks. The letter I wrote before was a long one, and I cannot try to tell you more of my plans after these days of martyrdom and slavery. This is an apology for what I hope you will consider an excusable oversight; it is not intended to interest you particularly, or give you news. I have not written home for some time; it is impossible. When man or boy is working through harvest, he seizes every moment of peace as the miser clutches his gold. With my large harvest it is hard work, but in the long winter evenings letters long and happy I hope will come. My saw-mill, thanks to you, is now, I hope, wending its way up to Manitoba. With love to all, I am your very affectionate and grateful nephew, - EDWARD
P.S. If you happen to be writing home, will you tell mother that an early and comprehensive letter will shortly be on the road. Wheat will average thirty-two bushels per acre, fine sample; oats, fifty-five; barley, none sown. Potatoes, large crop and some bigger than an ordinary turnip, and, for flavour, they are as only Manitoba potatoes can be.
This is the last letter received from the lad, and brings us to the end
of his second year in America. Those who have read these simple,
straightforward letters can hardly think the results unsatisfactory. A boy
of eighteen leaves England, with no experience and no advantages beyond
average health and strength, and the courage and determination which are the
characteristics of Englishmen. He earns his experience for himself, through
considerable hardships certainly, but finding kindness and help always ready
to back honest endeavour. He was thus able to avail himself of the first
opportunity that seemed to offer a good chance of success, and start on his
own account. A small capital here was necessary, and indeed the letters seem
to show, that unless a young man can count upon a certain sum of money - not
less, we should say, than between £700 and £1,000 being forthcoming when
required - an emigrant's life must be hard and success slow. But with £1,000
at his command, the writer of these letters has been able, within two years,
to establish himself in a farm of about seven hundred acres, his own
property, and a fair proportion of it already under cultivation; he has his
house, two teams of horses, cows, pigs, etc., eight stacks of corn, and
fifty tons of hay, besides his ploughs, reaping and binding machine, etc. He
is now starting a saw-mill, to which grist machinery will be added in the
spring, and may fairly look forward to making a really good profit for the
next year, with the prospect of continually increasing and developing his
business as the country becomes more and more settled. Thus we may hope that
his time of real hardship is nearly over, and that he has before him a life
of great and varied interest, with every prospect of success from the merely
worldly point of view; but not only so. The emigrant's career need not be
only a continual hunt after the almighty dollar, everyone for himself, with
the devil on the heels of the hindermost. One of the points that struck us
most on reading the letters as they came, was the kindness the boy met with
from the first day on board the steamer, down to the time he set up for
himself. In fact, the obligation he owes, and feels that he owes, to those
excellent people at Shore Lake Farm is difficult to calculate. Such people
we fear must be rare in a country where the race for money cannot but harden
the exteriors of life at all events; but the remembrance of what he owes to
the good nature and assistance of friends will, we doubt not, keep him
always on the alert to do the same for young fellows starting as he did, in
a strange land. And then, so far from his life being one of selfish
excitement, we may fairly hope from the tone of these letters that while
money-making must be the outward gauge of success, yet the life before him
may be as useful, and present as many or more opportunities for the exertion
of the finer qualities of manhood, as almost any profession. The feeling of
relief we felt on reading each letter as it came, and finding that, so far
from hardening the boy's character, the hard work and excitement seemed to
develop the better side of his nature, has been our chief inducement to
publish them. Surely many a young fellow now hopelessly struggling with his
competitive examinations, might with advantage to himself exchange slavery
at his crammers for such a life with all its hardships. These letters at all
events give a true and unvarnished account of what he would have to expect,
and what he might fairly hope for, and, unless we are blinded by our
partiality, show that, however hard and uphill may be its course, there is a
bright side to the emigrant's life.