Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mr. John Dixon's Letter from America (Canada)

In a further letter Mr. John Dixon describes the journey from Quebec to the Town of York (Toronto) in 1832 with William Hewgill (Hugill), my great great great grandfather, and then mentions William Harrison of the Gore of Toronto, my great great great grandfather.
To Mr. George Dixon, Darlington

Whit Church, Sept. 30th, 1832.

No doubt you are anxious to know where we are, and how we are doing ; we arrived at Quebec on Sunday, May 27th, but could not get on shore until we were examined by the doctor. Quebec is, I think, more than as large again as Whitby. Many of the inhabitants are French and Irish. There is the finest Catholic Church I ever saw. They would not take our farthings for half-penny, nor would they take two for a copper, which they call a half-penny, so I hammered them out, and they then paid for a copper. We got our things on board a steam-packet the following Wednesday afternoon, and at midnight started for Montreal, 180 miles from Quebec. We arrived on Friday, it looked like a very fine town, but we were not on shore more than a few minutes, and that only on the quay, for a Durham boat was soon along side to take us to Prescot, which is 127 miles. On getting on board this vessel, in the midst of hurry and bustle, we either left, or had stolen from us, a box which contained our hats, &c., also a cask of pots. The boat was like one of the Whitby fishing boats, but much longer. The passage is extremely difficult. The water was, in many places, very shallow, those who were able had often to get out and walk for miles; at other times they had to hire horses, and at times had even to drag the boat along. She was so very much laden, that we scarce had room to sit, even on deck. At nights we brought up in some creek, where we had to seek lodgings; if an old barn could be found to lodge in, it was thought a grand place for us, a few of us, two or three nights, got lodgings at inns,

We arrived at Prescot in six days. We landed our goods on the quay. Your mother, Jane, and Breckon, got lodgings at a private house. John and myself had to lodge with our goods. To our joy we met with Timothy Dowson, who left Glazedale last year; he was packing up his goods to go in the steam packet next day with us to York. There were about a thousand passengers. We stopped at Kingston an hour or two; it is a very neat town.

We arrived at York on June 7th. William Hugill, who went from Glazedale, and ourselves took a house to put our goods and to sleep in, until we could get situations; we paid five shillings a week, and a miserable hovel it was. York is about the size of Darlington, the houses are chiefly built of wood, but there are a few handsomely built of brick. A house, such as I last lived in when at Whitby, would be £60 a year here; and fire wood costs about 9s. per week in winter. I never saw so many shoe-makers' shops by one half in any town the size of York; the trade at present is dull, and the following are the prices -...... I soon found that York would not suit me. William Hugill has friends in the Gore of Toronto, about eighteen miles from York. One William Harrison, a distant relation of ours, lives in the same place. I went with William Hugill to see him; he was very kind to me, and wished me to settle there; he said they were in great want of a shoe-maker, and if I would take up my abode among them, he would build me a house on his own ground, and I might keep a cow, which could go in the woods so that I might be at no expense. It being a new settlement , and the road to it very bad I thought it better to look about me before I made any choice. William Hugill took up his abode there…..

John Dixon

source: Whitby Repository and Monthly Miscellany, Volume III, February 1833 (copy in the Whitby Museum, Whitby North Yorkshire)

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