Emigrant Letter from the Ordnance Survey Memoirs

This is a transcript of a letter, dated 17th August 1834, from an emigrant to Canada, James Ward, to his father, Bryan Ward of Cumber, near Claudy. This is an interesting letter that mentions the names of various relatives and friends of the writer who lived in this area. You can also look up many of them in the 1831 Census Returns database which can be accessed at the 1831 Census Returns link in the left-hand menu.

St John, New Brunswick, 17th August 1834.

Dear Father,

I arrived here on the 10th May, my sister Mary and me in good health thank God, and trust in the Almighty that you, my mother and my loving sisters are in good health also. My sister Mary is in Frederickstown, distant from here about 65 miles. She is in place there at 20s per month. I am now employed as second stewart [steward] of the Woodswick Steamboat, who plies from here to Frederickstown, at a sallary  [sallary] of 40s per month.

I found I was but a few days out of employ after my arrival here. I intend to go home again in the course of 2 years and I trust you will make no arrangement of parting with your land till then, at which you may be assured I shall return, God sparing me and my health and spirits.

Dear father, tho' I have no reason to complain since my arrival here, but one thing I must observe to you and for the information of all friends, that there is a long tedious winter here to what our countrymen at home is not used to, and that it takes great management to provide for the wet day.

However, all who take the journey upon them endeavour to get through pretty fair. This country puts an Irishman to his wits, every man to his fancy. I will neither advise persons of my own or any other family to come out, or yet stop. One deviation I must suggest that I would feel happy that my cousin Mary Kelly would endeavour to get coming here, as I have every reason to believe she might do very well here.

Dear father, I pray you will present my love to James Hassan and family, Uncle Michael and family and Rich Gamble and family, John Kennedy and family, my Uncle Denis O'Kane and aunt and Patrick Ward and family. I would advise cousin James Kelly to remain at home for some further time. I perhaps will be better able to apprise him when he might better suit him.

In order to inform you how provisions rate here, I will give you a very brief detail: first, boarding and lodging for a single man from 12s 6d to 10s per week; general wages of labouring class from 3s 6d to 4s per day; beef from 4d to 4d ha'penny and 5d; mutton much the same; potatoes (new) 4s per bushel, say about 4 stone; old potatoes 2s to 2s 6d; pretty good butter 8d, 9d; and salt 1s by retail. Flour 19s 6d: the super fine 40s per 196 lbs, and in some cases 35s; oatmeal 17s 6d per cwt; rye flour 22s 6d to 23s; Indian meal 20s to 21s per barrel, each 196 lbs; tea 2s to 2s 6d and 2s 9d and 3s per lb; sugar 4d ha'penny to 5d per lb; milk 3d per quart. Clothing in general very high, shoes in particular: if made by agreement, 1 1s to 12s 6d per pair; cottons, not to say, out of the way.

Dear father, since my arrival here I have met a number of very respectable acquaintances, [of] which I am happy to inform you. William Carlin is in St John and in good employ, and well liked by his employer, and his son George is in the employ of Mr Gilbert, a member of parliament, about 40 miles from here, and doing well and well liked by him. William Carlin sends his best regards to John Kennedy and family.

So I conclude, dear father, with my best love to you and all my loving friends and acquaintances, and trust in God to see you all again in 2 years. God willing, and remain your loving son till death, [signed] James Ward. I hope you will not omit sending an answer to this.

To Bryan Ward, Comer near Claudy. To the care of Mr Thomas Handcock of Cregg, Londonderry]

Copyright 2009 W.Macafee.