Immigrants to Canada

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1837 Voyage

(The following is taken from A Gentlewoman in Upper Canada from the journals of Anne Langton and her mother. Anne travelled to Canada, via New York, with her mother and father, to join her brother, John who lived in the Peterborough, Ontario area.)

Ship Independence sailed on May 28, 1837, for New York and Anne wrote:

I will give you a few hints in case you or any of yours cross the Atlantic. Bring a small mattress with you, for the aching of the bones when obliged to toss upon a hard, uneven surface for some days is no trifling inconvenience. My cold may have made mine more tender than usual. In the next place, bring a few basin cloths, for one is apt to look upon one's wash-hand basin with perpetual mistrust. Do not be quite dependent upon the packet's library for reading. I am glad that we are not so. There are odd volumes, pages torn out, and the key sometimes not forthcoming. But I should strongly recommend avoiding a crowded packet-ship and therefore one of great repute, or perhaps a packet-ship at all. A person should have health and spirits to stand the noise, the confusion and the merriment. Go where you will, there is no quiet except on a day like this, when the wildest appear subdued. There is certainly a great advantage in being able at all hours to call for anything-gruel, tea, lemonade, sago, or anything you can well think of. I do not say all good of their kind; our tea, for instance is neither good nor hot; coffee better. Your dinner when brought to you may often be cold, and when your appetite is most delicate a great, big, fat slice may be sent to you. These evils would diminish when you could sit at table, but the dreadful length of the meal would be worse. I said to one lady, who had been at the table at least two hours, "I am sorry for you having had such a tedious sit." "Oh, I like it," said she, "and I have been eating all the time." The dinner benches having backs you cannot move without distrubing several, unless you can get to one end. I wish these backs were on some of the stools, for unless you are lucky enough to get one of the sofa corners there is no rest for the head except such as the elbow and hand can afford, and rest for the head is often indispensable on board a ship. We have great comfort from the spare pillows.

I generally contrive to perform the great task of dressing myself in time for breakfast, which meal appears about nine o'clock. The transatlantic ladies eat cold and hot meat, fried or pickled fish, or oysters, to this first meal, which seems with them a substantial one. A cup of coffee and a cracker is generally mine. The eggs are dubious, and your basket was a most wise and acceptable addition to our sea store on my father's account. (Pp. 8-9)

They arrived in New York on June 18 and Anne makes the comment, "Shall I give you a chapter on American Hotels? I think not-this is more particularly a journal of the sea. Suffice it to say, that I find reason in some respects to rejoice that we have been hardened by previous travel." (p. 9-10)

After a few days in New York, where Mrs. Langton could recover from the voyage, the family began the journey to Canada via the Hudson River and Erie Canal. They left on July 3, and Mrs. Langton wrote about this part of the trip:

3rd: Embarked in the Steam Packet which goes to Albany, but we determined to stop short half-way at West Point, a beautiful station, and rest there a day or two. The banks are very fine-some striking rocks and palisades, indeed all are fine. The river too (the Hudson) we admired, the Point has beautiful scenery. The Hotel commanded it on all sides, but we were taken aback by hearing we could only have one bedroom, though two had been spoken for the day before. The house quite full, many military, as tomorrow is the anniversary of American Independence, always observed, and this place is where the military college is situated. The mountains are fine which surround the view of the river. T.L. [her husband Thomas Langton] thinks it one of the most lovely spots he has ever seen: its view offers Anne some sketching: a most numerous public table. T.L. got a small room and we did very well with out two beds. The weather not very hot.

After a few days at the Point they continued on:

6th: ...We embarked for Albany in a New York Steam packet about eleven. ...We found the Eagle at Albany very near where we landed-a most comfortable-looking house, the rooms very spacious, beds with beautiful linen, and after lying down to rest my poor head I enjoyed a cup of tea with some fresh strawberries....The Hudson continued fine, the banks less bold but richly wooded down to the water. Many beautiful elegant-looking villas with openings down to the river showing their light fronts, which reminded us of Italy. They were all of pure white. The woods were of the freshest green and appeared not of old growth. We stopped at many towns to take up or set down passengers-at all a busy shipping appearance. Several towing steamers passed which appeared to have on every side of them different sized vessels and crafts, most of them bulky concerns; we are now at Albany.

After a few days in Albany the family continued on their way.

8th: I had not a bad night but felt scarcely up to 6 hours' railway travelling, but we set out about half-past nine and were so fortunate as to have the carriage to ourselves. The scenery in some parts is magnificent with the interminable forest which now becomes visible and reminded us that we are in the New World--the stumps remaining in some of the cleared ground told us what we wee to expect at Blythe. They have a sad disfiguring appearance. We arrived at Utica about two, and I have borne the six hours better than I expected--the sparks from the engine kept us on the alert, and poor Anne! From her gingham never having been washed I suppose it was more tinderish than my sister's and mine. It was sadly burnt; at times with all our care it was in a flame and the damage almost precludes repairing. It was too warm to keep the windows closed to prevent this annoyance--but we have not suffered inconvenience from the heat--the thermometer not being more than 82.... We went to look at the boat which is to convey us tomorrow on the Erie Canal to Syracuse. They are not so large, at least the cabins, as the Booth Boats--it felt close and hot but Madame was promised a mattress and the best places. We shall be at least 12 hours on the passage if we go to Syracuse, but we may, if we find it desirable, stop at some of the towns on the banks.
9th: I had not a very good night, but no hesitation in breakfasting at 7a.m. and we were in the boat at half-past. Very few passengers appeared--no females. We had the Ladies' Cabin to ourselves with only the exception of the stewardess...The scenery is very interesting, being chiefly through magnificent woods, I might say forests. I felt squeamish all day, but as we had no addition to our cabin we determined to go on through the night, which would be much gained; therefore we did not stop at Syracuse where we arrived about nine--and soon after the Cabins began preparing for the night. The seats opening in our Cabin, with mattresses laid on them, made comfortable beds--we did not undress more than putting on night caps and dressing gowns. We had some locks to pass which occasioned noise and some disturbance--but I believe we had all some comfortable sleep.
10th: I was ordered to rouse soon after 5 so that the beds might all be stowed away and the cabins arranged for breakfast...We arrived at Rochester about 9--very disagreeable disembarking at night with our various packages; the Eagle a very large Hotel.
11th:Breakfasted at the public table at seven; set out on a railway to join the Packet on Lake Ontario for the distance to Lewiston. As we have the wind against us it will occupy 14 hours. Dined at the public table a large party--the accommodations very good, very superior to English Packets--sat most of the day on the deck of the ship...We arrived at Lewiston nearly in the dark and the hotel was at some distance from the landing. I should remark that the town of Rochester is very considerable and with handsome streets, though in 1812 it was only a few houses in the wilderness.

The following day the family went to visit the falls, "on the railway drawn by horses." On July 13, they crossed to the Canadian side "in a rowing boat" which took but five minutes. Mrs. Langton did say, however, they got a little wet from the spray from the falls.

14th: ...we had one of the stages to ourselves to Queenston, where we were to take the Packet for Toronto. Dined there and embarked about 2: had a nice cool sail but noting interesting, the land so far away, scarcely visible till we came in sight of the city, which appeared flat and agueish. Our road to the Hotel, on a wooden foot-path, with unpaved street, gave one at first a poor opinion of the Capital of Canada, and our reception at the Hotel was most uncomfortable, as we were shewn into a little, dirty, unbenched room, and the lodging rooms offered us were up some stairs out of the yard....

The family remained in Toronto for a time seeing the sites, departing on August 4.

August 4. Though I was still weak we embarked about ten o'clock in the evening in the steam packet for Port Hope. No sleep during the whole night; at 6 o'clock we disembarked and went to a disagreeable damp old inn for breakfast, and found that we had some hours to wait for the stages which were to convey us for about nine miles to Rice Lake, but we had a most agreeable specimen of Canadian hospitality from Captain Kingsmill....

The stage is a kind of wagon with two seats slung across, the back bound with buffalo-skin--and over good roads would not be an unpleasant carriage. Some part of the road was good, other parts very shaking and uneasy, but no corduroy... We had two hours to wait for the steamer, which we tried to make less tedious by botanizing a little. The day was beautiful, not too hot yet bright. At last we saw a ponderous body slowly approaching us--it was certainly the most uncouth steam packet we had ever seen--it was the first on these lakes--its machinery of bad construction, and of slow motion. We dined on board, a comfortable clean dinner with few people. I was glad to get a sort of bed made up on a table with our pillows, bags, etc., for I began to be worn out...It was quite dark before reaching the place of disembarking, and we had then to be rowed up the river about a mile before reaching Peterborough... (pp. 11-19)

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