Wednesday, May 28, 2008

John Haig Letter 1835 Upper Canada

Gananoque (1)
Feb 8th 1835

Sir: (2)

I take the opportunity of writing you a few lines tho’ not the pleasure of informing you of good health. But still we have reason to thank God that we are still in the land of the living, when we have seen so many of his deliverances by sea and when so many of our countrymen have suffered by the hand of death this year. Death is awful in any form but more so on steam boats and wharfs in a strange land, not a bed to compose themselves on. (Note: There were cholera epidemics amongst the settlers in both 1832 and 1834).

As for my part I think if people saw the hardships I do not think so many would take the road if they saw five or six hundred packed on a steam boat like as many hogs. But it is wonderful how soon they forget all this, when they have good health afterwards. I received a letter from my brother Thomas (3) informing me of the state of health he is now in. He is now a little better. He has not shaked with the ague this two months but complains of pain in the small of his back and is swelled over the body. (This is probably a description of malaria, which was common in
southern Ontario in the early 19th century).

He is stopping with Thomas Haig (4) and his sister Margaret (5) at Coborg (6) and he says he has suffered much from the cold of the season and trouble. He has not done anything for 20 weeks. He was three weeks very bad and got something (7) from the doctor that removes the trembling and when we took our journey up the country (8) he thought that the changed air could do him good but he could go no further than Coborg and when we came back he was much worse and could not come back with us. I have not seen him since but he says little about the country. He is very dull.

He cannot advise James Purves (9) to come out. Miller’s wages are good if they can get them paid. Peter Haig (9) has 45 pounds per year but he was a month before he fell in. Places are not waiting on people here any more than at home. I received your letter on the 12th December at Gananoque and sent it up to Thomas (11) and George Mitchell (12) as he is there this winter and told him to answer it as I did not think of writing before I was a year in the country.

I am happy to hear that you are all well and was highly pleased with your arrangement of country news. I showed Alexander Lindsay (13) the letter and he was highly pleased with the news. I received in my brother’s letter a draft bill from George Mitchell (14) to be sure and write home immediately with this bill in my letter and tell them who I sent my letter to, and give it to his mother, Christian Mitchell (15). He says he wrote a month ago and sent one bill but as the Bank gives two this is the second and I hope this will reach you before she starts.

John Haig (16) wishes me to tell his brother Joseph (17) to send out with her a set of harrow teeth and sharp them, one set of best traces, and kitchen tongs. He has bought another farm of 50 acres for which he pays 6 dollars an acre, a good house and barn, mostly cleared, and 100 fruit trees on it. Near about where he is John Fish (18) has bought land in the London district (19) very cheap. I hear there is no fear of a man that has got money to spend here. He will get land for anything if you can let them see the cash.

I am to receive a letter from George Mitchell (20) in March to let me know whether I am to go up the country or them to come down concerning Christian Mitchell (21) coming out. I hope George will have given her proper directions. Bring plenty of flour (for the boat), you can bake it. It is better than so many biscuits, and pot barley, and if you sail from Berwick a few Swedish turnips is good for broth. Anyone coming on the halving system ought to bring a good spade and shovel with him as I have never seen any good ones here. Plenty good scythes here and axes are far better than the old country. I see nothing as much wanted as scythe stones. If Mitchell could bring out 3 of them and three straks they would be very useful.

I come now to give you my thoughts of America. There are a great difference betwixt those that go out to spend money and them that go to make it. You say that John Haig (22) still gives good accounts of the country but it is all about land buying. He spoke of his family all getting good wages but he will not have told you where your money is tocome from. His son Thomas (23) told me when I was up that he had not got
one pound of American money yet.

As for my part I cannot complain for I have had plenty work and as goodwages as any I hear of in the country and our money sure. But the work isvery rough here; a man has everything to find, clothes and lodgings arehigh 9/- and 10/- a week for board and you will wear as many againclothes here as at home. Besides you undergo a scorching sun in summer;you work from daylight to sunset, and a dreadful frost in winter. I haveseen it that strong this winter that the cup and saucer froze together
the time we were at breakfast.

We have not seen the face of the earth this 10 weeks. I like the climatemore than anything. I have not seen yet what place a working man can havehere. Robert Waddy (24) and I have been threshing a lot all winter, a jobI would not have done at home. We have the 8 bushel of wheat. It is 3/- abushel 2s cheaper than ever it was known so I conceive we are working for2s a day less than men did last year.

There are the good times in America so much spoken of. This is a goodplace for tradesmen. As yet their wages are much the same as they used tobe reported and women servants are well off here … 4 dollars a month arethe common wages. I have spoken on the men with money and the poor man,and will leave you to guess which gets best on at home.

Concerning farming a man with a small family can make a living byindustry, but the land takes a deal of labour before it will grow much. Ithink it is 8 years from cutting before you can plow much of it. You canget hay off it all the time. The people here are mostly very poor. I donot think much of them at all. People does not think like George Mitchell(25); he lies the country well and I hope he will take good care of hismother when she comes out. He wishes to have a farm.

Isabel Waddy (26) wishes me to tell Abraham Waddy (27) to send her out aquantity of needles and a chamber pot as she can get none here. When Ihave told you all these stories you will say he has got that sicknessthat Robert Lister (28) speaks of, but give my best regards to R. (29)and Alistair (30) and tell them I am much obliged to him for his advicebut we have been up the country and have seen many of our acquaintancesthat have the sickness and knows the cure ( 7) that they cannot pay the
doctor for. But of that voyage I have said nothing as you had a fullaccount of it in Robert Waddy’s (31) letter.

Give my best wishes to my brother Joseph (32) and all my sisters (33) andthey are to think no more about America; to James Haig (34) in Duns andsay that they are as well at home for anything that I have seen. TellJohn Martin (35) that I think he could not drive oxen for they are mymaster-piece. I just had them one half day and I was that hoarse that Icould not speak. Give my respects to all my old neighbors and friends.Charles King (36) and family, not forgetting Jennet (37), and if youhave an opportunity of seeing her tell her that George Mitchell (38) andI drank tea with her old neighbor Mrs. Fish (39) at Coborg and had somechat about old country affairs.

We have never seen anything of Hugh Crow (40), but we hear that he is upthe country. We were surprised to hear of Andrew Waddell (41) in thiscountry. We saw a man last week who said he was working at the canalbelow Prescott (42). Thomas (43) has his best respects to you all, totell his old masters that he has had very little pleasure in this countryand to William Martin (44) and happy to hear that he landed safe. Waddey(45) has well wishes to you all. I can do no more as my candle is done
and my ink is hard frozen. I remain your friend and well wisher,John Haig (46)


(1) Gananoque Town on St. Lawrence River, in Leeds County, Ontario,Upper Canada. Between Brockville and Kingston.
(2) Sir Letter was written and addressed to Mr. David Gray at Preston,Dunse (Berwickshire, Scotland), grandfather of the Miss M.D. Gray ofBarnton, Eyemouth who found it among family papers and published it inthe Berwickshire News (c1953) from which it was later picked up andpublished in the Gananoque Reporter (c1954). There is no trace of a DavidGrey in Berwickshire in the 1841 Scottish census.
(3) Thomas Thomas Haig born 17 Aug 1803 at Buncle & Preston,Berwickshire, Scotland, son of John Haig (b.1765) and Margaret Sligh(b.1769), married Margaret Woods (1818-1881), died 25 Nov 1887 in LeedsCounty, Ontario. Brother of letter-writer John Haig (#46).
(4) Thomas Haig Most likely the Thomas Haig listed in the Dictionary ofScottish Immigrants to Canada (Vol-1), born c1807, Berwickshire, brotherof James Haig (who also came to Canada), arrived in Seymour Township,Northumberland County, Ontario in 1836, discharged soldier. Later marriedMargaret Buchanan (b.1821 in Canada) at Burnbraie in 1841; Children -Samuel, John, Thomas Allan, William, Peter, James, David, Isabella,
This Thomas Haig (#4) was probably the son of John Haig and Agnes Craig(#16). If so, however, the 1836 arrival date would be in error as thisletter was written in 1835 and the Dictionary of Scottish Immigrants ToCanada records that Thomas Haig, son of John Haig (#16), arrived with hisparents in 1833.
No other possible Thomas Haigs have been indentified. Relationship toJohn and Thomas Haig of Leeds County unknown.
(5) Margaret Margaret Haig apparent sister to Thomas Haig (#4) livingat/near Coborg. Thomas Haig (#4) and his sister Margaret were probablythe children of John Haig (#16) and Agnes Craig.Relationship to John and Thomas Haig of Leeds County unknown.
(6) Coborg Town on Lake Ontario in Northumberland County, Ontario,Upper Canada.
(7) Malaria/Quinine The “Ague” referred to is malaria, common insouthern Ontario in the 1830s. The “something” provided by the doctor toThomas and the known “cure” is a reference to quinine. Quinine becameavailable in Upper Canada in 1825 but was at first available only throughdoctors and very expensive at 1/6 d per grain. Later, however, it wassold directly through shops and the price by 1832 had dropped to a pennya grain. Why John suggests quinine was very expensive in 1835 is unknown.
(8) Up the Country Refers to traveling west from Gananoque, Ontario,i.e. up-stream along the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes system.
(9) James Purves Unknown: Possibly a brother to Andrew Purvis (b. c1805)who married Agnes Waldie (1806-1892) and emigrated to Leeds County.
A James Purves was born to parents James Purves and Margaret Fish (#18)on 26 May 1769 at Foulden Parish, Berwickshire.
In the next generation a John Purves (b. c1833), the son of Andrew Purvesand Agnes Waldie, married Agnes Haig (1842-1928) the daughter to ThomasHaig (#3) in 1861.There was a large clan of Purvis/Purves familes at Duns & Puncle/Prestonin Berwickshire during the early 19th century. As this James Purvis seemsto be a miller by trade, he may be connected to Purvis/Purves familyassociated with a mill at Chirnside on the Whiteadder River,Berwickshire.
(10) Peter Haig Uncertain: Possibly Peter Haig (b.1811) son of John Haig(# 16) and brother to Thomas Haig (#4) and Margaret Haig (#5 above).Relationship to John and Thomas Haig of Leeds County unknown.
(11) Thomas Thomas Haig (# 3).
(12) George Mitchell George Mitchell (1799-1886), later settled in LeedsCounty. Married Jane Brown (1824-1908), daughter of George Brown (1796-1881) and Janet McDougal (1798-1869) and sister to Anne Brown (1818-1904)wife of John Haig (#46), the letter writer.
(13) Alexander Lindsay Alexander Lindsay (1775-1866), settled at LindsayPoint, on the St. Lawrence River, Leeds County, Ontario, Upper Canada.Married Marion Murray (1782-1847). Father of Isabella Lindsay (# 25).(14) George Mitchell See (# 12).
(15) Christian Mitchell Mother of George Mitchell (#12). She did emigrateto Upper Canada as discussed in the letter.
(16) John Haig John Haig, listed in the Dictionary of Scottish ImmigrantsTo Canada (Vol-1) as born c1780, probably from Preston, Berwickshire andemigrated to Colborne, Northumberland County in 1833 with children;David, Joseph, Thomas, James, Samuel, Alexander & John. Wife isidentified as Agnes Craig in the appendix to Vol-2 of the Dictionary ofScottish Immigrants.
In the IGI this John Haig (#16) is listed as the son of Thomas Haig andJulian Cowin, who were married 15 May 1778 at Westruther, Berwickshire.He was born 16 June 1779 and married Agnes Craig 19 Jan 1810 at DunsBerwickshire; Children – Margaret (b.????), Julian (b.????) Thomas(b.1811), Agnes (b.1815), Janet (b.1815), John (b.1818), James (b.1821)Peter (b.1823) and David (b.1826).

Note: Sons Joseph, Samuel & Alexander listed in Dictionary of Scottish Immigrants but not on the IGI list. Daughters Margaret, Janet & Julianon IGI list but not on the Dictionary of Scottish Immigrants list.Place of residence uncertain in 1835, but letter says has purchased landsomewhere in/near the London District (# 19).Son Thomas (b.1811) must be Thomas (#4) and daughter Margaret (b.????)must be Margaret (#5).Relationship to John and Thomas Haig of Leeds County unknown.
(17) Joseph Joseph Haig brother to the John Haig of Coborg (#16).John Haig (#16) was the son of Thomas Haig and Julian Cowin, who weremarried 16 May 1778 at Westruther, Berwickshire, and there is a “oneWorld Tree” record for a Joseph Haig (b.1784) to parents Thomas Haig andJulian Cowin, but no other documentary support.This is not likely the Joseph Haig son of John Haig (#16) because,according to the Dictionary of Scottish Immigrants, that Joseph Haig cameto Canada with his parents in 1833.
(18) John Fish Uncertain. Lives near John Haig (#16) somewhere in theLondon District (#19). Apparently married (see #39).No one named Fish is listed in the Dictionary of Scottish Immigrants toCanada nor in the Duns or Buncle/Preston OPRs. However this is probablythe John Fish, aged 91, born in Scotland, who appears in the Ontario census of 1871 resident in Burford Township, Brant County (near Brantford and about 70 Km east of London, Ontario) A James Purves (see #9) was born to parents James Purves and MargaretFish on 26 May 1769 at Foulden Parish, Berwickshire … confirming there
was a family named Fish in Berwickshire.
(19) London District The London District of Ontario in 1835 comprised the modern counties of Middlesex, Norfolk and Oxford. The town/city of London was the District headquarters.
(20) George Mitchell See (# 12).
(21) Christian Mitchell See (# 15).
(22) John Haig See (# 16).
(23) Thomas Probably Thomas Haig (b.1811), son of John Haig (#16).
(24) Robert Waddy Robert Waldie (c1803-1887), son of John Waldie &Elizabeth Hoggarth of Ayton Berwickshire, brother to Abraham Waldie
(#27), William Waldie (1798-1805) husband of Isabella Lindsay (#26) andAgnes Waldie ( 1806-1792) who married Andrew Purvis (see # 9). Waddy andWaldie are variations of the same surname.
(25) George Mitchell See (# 12).
(26) Isabel Waddy Isabel Lindsay-Waldie (1805-1893), wife of William Waldie (1798-1896), daughter of Alexander Lindsay (1775-1866) and Marion Murray (1782-1847). Waddy & Waldie are variations of the same surname.
(27) Abraham Waddy Abram/Abraham Waldie (1804-1892), son of John Waldie &Elizabeth Hoggarth of Ayton Berwickshire, living in Scotland, brother toRobert Waldie (#24), William Waldie (1798-1805) husband of Isabella Lindsay (#26) & Agnes Waldie (1806-1792) who married Andrew Purvis (see #9). Waddy and Waldie are variations of the same surname.
(28) Robert Lister Unidentified.
(29) R. Unidentified.
(30) Alistair Unidentified.
(31) Robert Waddy See (# 24).
(32) Joseph Joseph Haig (1793-1882), eldest brother of letter-writer John Haig (#46). Joseph was married twice, first to Mary Aitken and then Isabella Grey and is, therefore, most likely the Joseph Haig who appearsin the Scottish census of 1842 living at Bunkle with wife Isabella andchildren Christina, Margaret and Jane. In that census he is living nextdoor to a Peter and Margaret Sligh. According to his death registration,signed by his daughter Jane as reporter, Joseph Haig had worked as a carter.
(33) Sisters Sisters of letter writer John Haig (#46) – Isabel (b.1767) &Margaret (b.1770), living in Scotland.
(34) James Haig Unidentified living in Duns, Berwickshire. This could be letter writer John Haig’s (#46) brother James (1763-1840) but, if so, it is curious that he refers to him by his full name rather than as “my brother James” as in the case of “my brother Joseph”. This could be the James Haig aged 50 (b. c1791) who appears as resident at Duns in the Scottish census of 1841.
(35) John Martin Unidentified. Probably related to William Martin (#44).
(36) Charles King Charles King (1776-1846), married to Janet Sligh (1769-1846), sister to Margaret Sligh (b. 1769), mother to letter writer John Haig, and therefore his uncle. Most likely the Charles King aged 60 and Janet King aged 70 of Preston/Bunkle appearing in the 1841 Scottish census … and on the same page (apparently neighbors of) Joseph & Isabella Haig (#17). The 1841 census rounded ages to nearest 5 years.
(37) Jennet Most likely Janet Sligh-King, wife of Charles King (#36), the letter writer’s aunt. Alternately may be Janet King born 07 April 1807 at Duns, Lanton, Berwickshire, daughter of Charles King (# 36) and Janet Sligh-King. Janet King (b. 1807) married John Brown on 26 Feb 1836 at Duns, Berwickshire.
(38) George Mitchell See (# 12).
(39) Mrs. Fish Apparently wife of John Fish (# 18).
(40) Hugh Crow Unidentified. A Julian Crow (1751-1821) and her husband Thomas Haig (1753-1818) are buried in Preston Churchyard. A George Crow (1786-1843) and his wife Alison Purves are buried at Chirnside. (See Purvis # 9).
(41) Andrew Waddell Unidentified
(42) Prescott Town on the St. Lawrence east of Gananoque, Ontario. The canal in question would have been the Lachine Canal constructed around the rapids of the same name in the 1830s.
(43) Thomas Thomas Haig (# 3), brother to letter writer John Haig (#46).(44) William Martin Uncertain. May be the William Martin, age 40 (b.c1801), who appears as a bookseller resident at Shamble Wynd South Side,Duns, Berwickshire, in the 1841 Scottish census.
(45) Waddey Probably Robert Waldie (# 24).
(46) John Haig John Haig, born 17 May 1796, Buncle & Preston Parish,Berwickshire, Scotland, son of John Haig (b.1765) and Margaret Sligh(b.1769), emigrated to Leeds County, Ontario, Upper Canada 1834, married Anne Brown (1818-1904), died 02 April 1880 at Gananoque, Ontario.

Submitter: Ron W. Shaw

Letters & Postcards on E-Bay