Immigrants to Canada

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1870 Voyage of the Clerkenwell Emigration Society on the Peruvian

The following voyage account, and journey inland to London, Ontario, is taken from the publication Letters From Abroad with Hints to Emigrants Proceeding to The New Dominion of Canada, by the Rev. A. Styleman Herring, published in May of 1871. Rev. Herring was the Treasurer of the Clerkenwell and Central Emigration Club and Society for London and the Provinces. The Clerkenwell Society helped many to emigrate from London to Canada. "The object is to help those who help themselves; by supplementing their payments to enable poor people to emigrate." The Society also was involved in the organization of Emigration Clubs in various parts of Great Britain and in Immigration Clubs in the colonies. This publication was prepared for prospective emigrants and contains some hints as well as some letters from emigrants who had already made the trip to Canada.

This letter was introduced in this way.

The following letter is from the wife of a carpenter, who went with the party of 170, per the steamship Peruvian, whom the Rev. Mr. Herring, through the Clerkenwell Emigration Club, assisted to proceed with him to Canada in August, 1870.

It gives a good description of a voyage across the Atlantic, &c. They are now doing remarkably well, she keeping school and he at his trade:

29th August, 1870,
Westminster, London,
Canada, West.

We arrived in Liverpool at 4 o'clock on Thursday morning, very tired; all was confusing with the luggage. The women and children were taken in vans to the harbour, and there we waited until we received our beds, cans, plates, knives and forks. The men walked. We saw the ship alongside, a splendid 400 feet long–and eight life boats round her–116 in the crew, 700 on board, cost £75,000 to build her, and burns fifty tons of coal a day. We had a kind Christian Captain, and Mr. Herring was very kind. About six in the morning a steam tug took us to the vessel; a good breakfast was soon ready for us–hot rolls and butter–which we very much enjoyed. It was a beautiful morning. We started at 4 o'clock on Thursday afternoon. I did not like the look of my sleeping place when I got in; I could not sleep at all; it was like a small box, and some sleep above you; dreadful hot; could scarcely breathe. I did not retire until past 12 p.m.; was very tired, not having been in bed the previous night. John slept the other end of the ship.

5th August 6th
Weather rather rough, the ship rocking very much; sickness very bad; such a scene you never did see. John is running about the deck with medicine, his great coat on he looks like a quack, but the doctor is beginning to feel bad himself; 9 p.m. prayer and hymn. John very sick.
7th, Sunday
Baby and I have not been sick yet; lovely morning; service in the first cabin, a lovely place; seats covered with red velvet. The captain read the prayers, Mr. Herring the sermon; the text was, "Noah, make for thyself an ark." We should have had a service on deck in the afternoon by one of the emigrants, but the weather came on stormy. We had service in the cabin again in the evening, afterwards some beautiful hymns on deck; one of them was, "Shall we meet beyond the river?" My thoughts went back to the old friends at home, and I felt very sad.
John obliged to give up the doctor's place, so ill himself; the sea is getting very rough, obliged to take in the sails; towards evening it became worse; it was very cold, snowed quite fast, and the waves swept everything away that was loose on deck into the sea. The ship; when the sea is calm, stands twenty feet out of water; but it was so rough her sides went under, and those on deck were soaked with water.
Much worse; no one could stand on deck; down below we had to hold by a rope to keep from injuring ourselves; several were hurt; baby and I were dashed from side to side; I was screaming, "O my baby." You can imagine the scene; the sailors were very kind; I often thought of you, dear boy; they all seemed so happy, so well cared for; they had hot fowls and beautiful pies of all kinds for their dinner; they often gave me some, and they often came on deck and sang with us. We had generally fresh beef, potatoes and soup fer dinner; Friday soup and fish, because there were many Irish Catholics on board; we had as much as we liked to eat. Did not sleep Tuesday; the noise was awful; boxes rolling about, tin posts and cans in all directions, and we felt as if we should be thrown out of bed every moment. While trying to wash ourselves the water was thrown out of our bowls, and we had to do without; it became calm about 12 p.m. and we felt very thankful.
We went on deck again; the afternoon was calm and beautiful, so we sang some nice hymns. A gentleman played the concertina, such a nice gentleman. Some Canadian gentlemen, who, after a number of years, had been to England to see their friends and were returning, they gave some nice lectures, very instructive. In the evening we sang some more hymns, and an emigrant preached a good sermon; prayers and went to bed.
Saw land; it was Newfoundland, bitterly cold, but a magnificent sight. I shall never forget it; a tremendous iceberg, only 100 yards from us, the top covered with snow, the sun shining on it, it looked so grand, it fills one with admiration and wonder at the mighty works of God. If some parts of earth and sea are so lovely what must heaven be; it makes one long to be there, where we shall not have to part with those we love, but shall meet never to part again. Passing up the river it became very foggy, so that the vessel had to stop; they fired fog signals, and a vessel answered, and then they let off sky rockets; that was about 9 o'clock at night; it was one of the Montreal Steam Ship Company's own vessels. It started two days before us, but was detained fifty-four hours by the fog; our captain stayed on deck all night; he has crossed the Atlantic 230 times, so he knows his way well; we had praise and prayer and then went to bed.
When we awoke, rather foggy, but cleared up about 10 a.m.; the sun shone brightly; saw some small whales darting about the water, and around the water seemed to steam; everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. A young emigrant preached a sermon in the morning upon "the Brazen Serpent," and we had the concertina, and some hymns; there were some good singers on board, Christians; the singing sounded so nice upon the water; we saw land both sides of us. We had a birth on board–a son; it was one of the emigrants confined the first night; it was christened on our last Sunday on board, the captain and a saloon lady were sponsors. Was it not an honour? We had an accident on board–a poor woman fell down the hold and cut herself very much. I had my hand scalded; a person dropped her teapot of boiling water on it. It was blistered very much, and I had to go to the doctor with it.
13th, Sunday
Was a lovely day, the scenery was magnificent. Fishing-smacks all round; sea gulls flying in all directions. We had service morning and evening the last evening we were to spend on board. I cannot tell you how I enjoyed it; the sea so calm, and the moon and stars shone brightly; we stayed on deck until 12 p.m. singing hymns and watching the lovely sky. We were told that at 3 a.m. we should be in harbour–Quebec.
Arose about 4 a.m.; all was confusion and excitement. We were to be off the ship by 8 a.m.; I really felt sorry to leave the vessel. Once more we were to set our feet on strange soil, and I felt very lonely. We passed from the ship into sheds, and there our luggage wrs [sic] examined. After that we went for a walk round the country; it is called Point Levi. One side of Quebec is a beautiful place, plenty of farms, and most of the people are French Canadians. About 4 o'clock we started in the railway cars; wretched riding. We wre in them three days and two nights. We did not have our clothes off during that time, and the noise and shaking of the cars made baby and me feel quite ill. Baby was sick and cross the whole of the time. We changed trains at Toronto, and at the emigrants' shed a nice dinner was ready for us, which we needed, for we had scarcely anything to eat after we left the ship, which was then two days and two nights. After we had our dinner we started for New London, and arrived there at 10 p.m. All the shops were closed; no lamps like London. It was very dark; there was only the waiting-room at the station to sleep in. I was so tired and dear baby so ill, that John walked about to find us a bed. At last he got us one, for which I felt very thankful. On the following morning we looked about for a house; they are very scarce. We found one after a great deal of trouble; a nice house, four shillings per week. John got work the first time he looked for it. I like the country very much; it is beautiful. The people, as far as we can judge, do very well; most of them have a pig and some cows. You have to buy your own stoves. We had not enough money, so a person very kindly lent us one. The English people here are very kind. Provisions are cheap; I will tell you something about them next time I write. Do please write to me soon. I long to hear how you all are, it seems years instead of weeks since I saw you. It is when I think of home I feel sad, otherwise I feel very happy. I often look at your portraits, but it makes me long for the reality. It is very hot here; I never felt such heat in England, nor did I ever see such lightning. We have storms nearly every night, they are awfully grand. Baby grows a beautiful boy, and so saucy, he can say "Dada" quite plain. Give my lvoe to all the dear children, also to dear Elizabeth; tell her I will write to her soon. John desires to be remembered to all. And now I must convclude with kindest love to yourself, and, begging you to remember me to all who may inquire after me,
I remain,
Your humble servant,
Mary Lucy H-------

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© Marjorie P. Kohli, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 1997-2007
Last updated: February 14, 2007 and maintained by Marj Kohli