Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Backwoods of Canada
Being Letters From The Wife Of An Emigrant Officer, Illustrative Of The Domestic Economy Of British America by Catharine Parr Traill



Letter I.
Departure from Greenock in the Brig "Laurel".--Fitting up of the Vessel.--Boy Passenger.--Sea Prospect.--Want of Occupation and Amusement.--Captain's Goldfinch.

Letter II.
Arrival off Newfoundland.--Singing of the Captain's Goldfinch previous to discovery of Land.--Gulf of St. Laurence.--Scenery of the River St. Laurence.--Difficult navigation of the River.--French Fisherman engaged as Pilot.--Isle of Bic.--Green Island.--Regular Pilot engaged.--Scenery of Green Island.--Gros Isle.--Quarantine Regulations.--Emigrants on Gros Isle.--Arrival off Quebec.--Prospect of the City and Environs.

Letter III.
Departure from Quebec.--Towed by a Steam-vessel.--Fertility of the Country.--Different Objects seen in sailing up the River.--Arrival off Montreal.--The Rapids.

Letter IV.
Landing at Montreal.--Appearance of the Town.--Ravages of the Cholera.--Charitable Institutions in Montreal.--Conversation at the Hotel.--Writer attacked with the Cholera.--Departure from Montreal in a Stage-coach.--Embark at Lachine on board a Steam-vessel. Mode of travelling alternately in Steam-vessels and Stages.--Appearance of the Country.--Manufactures.--Ovens at a distance from the Cottages.--Draw-wells.--Arrival at Cornwall.--Accommodation at the Inn.--Departure from Cornwall, and Arrival at Prescott.--Arrival at Brockville.--Ship-launch there.--Voyage through Lake Ontario.--Arrival at Cobourg.

Letter V.
Journey from Cobourg to Amherst.--Difficulties to be encountered on first settling in the Backwoods.--Appearance of the Country.--Rice Lake.--Indian Habits.--Voyage up the Otanabee.--Log- house, and its Inmates.--Passage boat.--Journey on foot to Peterborough.

Letter VI.
Peterborough.--Manners and Language of the Americans.--Scotch Engineman.--Description of Peterborough and its Environs.--Canadian Flowers.--Shanties.--Hardships suffered by first Settlers.--Process of establishing a Farm.

Letter VII.
Journey from Peterborough.--Canadian Woods.--Waggon and Team.--Arrival at a Log-house on the Banks of a Lake.--Settlement, and first Occupations.

Letter VIII.
Inconveniences of first Settlement.--Difficulty of obtaining Provisions and other necessaries.--Snow-storm and Hurricane.-- Indian Summer, and setting-in of Winter.--Process of clearing the Land.

Letter IX.
Loss of a yoke of Oxen.--Construction of a Log-house.--Glaziers' and Carpenters' work.--Description of a new Log-house.--Wild Fruits of the Country.--Walks on the Ice.--Situation of the House.--Lake and surrounding Scenery.

Letter X.
Variations in the Temperature of the Weather.--Electrical Phenomenon.--Canadian Winter.--Country deficient in Poetical Associations.--Sugar-making.--Fishing season.--Mode of Fishing.--Duck- shooting.--Family of Indians.--"Papouses" and their Cradle-cases.-- Indian Manufactures.--Frogs.

Letter XI.
Emigrants suitable for Canada.--Qualities requisite to ensure Success.--Investment of Capital.--Useful Articles to be brought out.--Qualifications and Occupations of a Settler's Family.--Deficiency of Patience and Energy in some Females.--Management of the Dairy.-- Cheese.--Indian Corn, and its Cultivation.--Potatoes.--Rates of Wages.

Letter XII.
"A Logging Bee."--Burning of the Log-heaps.--Crops for the Season.--Farming Stock.--Comparative Value of Wheat and Labour.--Choice of Land, and relative Advantages.--Clearing Land.--Hurricane in the Woods.--Variable Weather.--Insects.

Letter XIII.
Health enjoyed in the rigour of Winter.--Inconvenience suffered from the brightness of the Snow.--Sleighing.--Indian Orthography.--Visit to an Indian Encampment.--Story of an Indian.--An Indian Hunchback.--Canadian Ornithology.

Letter XIV.
Utility of Botanical Knowledge.--The Fire-Weed.-- Sarsaparilla Plants.--Magnificent Water Lily.--Rice Beds.--Indian Strawberry.--Scarlet Columbine.--Ferns.--Grasses.

Letter XV.
Recapitulation of various Topics.--Progress of Settlement.--Canada, the Land of Hope.--Visit to the Family of a Naval Officer.--Squirrels.--Visit to, and Story of, an Emigrant Clergyman.--His early Difficulties.--The Temper, Disposition, and Habits of Emigrants essential Ingredients in Failure or Success.

Letter XVI.
Indian Hunters.--Sail in a Canoe.--Want of Libraries in the Backwoods.--New Village.--Progress of Improvement.--Fire flies.

Letter XVII.
Ague.--Illness of the Family.--Probable Cause.--Root- house.--Setting-in of Winter.--Insect termed a "Sawyer."--Temporary Church.

Letter XVIII.
Busy Spring.--Increase of Society and Comfort.--Recollections of Home.--Aurora Borealis.


The Canadian Settler's Guide
Seventh Edition considerably enlarged by Mrs. Traill (1857) (pdf)

Preface To The Seventh Edition
The value attached to this little work may be estimated in some degree by its having already reached a Seventh Edition.

The testimony borne to its worth and utility to actual and intending Settlers, by persons so well entitled to give an opinion of its merits as William Hutton, Esq., Secretary to the Board of Agriculture and statistics; Frederic Widder, Esq., Resident Commissioner of the Canada Company, and A. 0. Buchanan and A. B. Hawke, Esq., The Government Emigration Agents at Quebec and Toronto, has doubtless given it an importance which it otherwise might not have attained.

The Appendix has been added by the Publisher, who has collated his information from the most authentic and reliable sources.

The matter in the other portion of the book is written by Mrs. Traill, after a residence of twenty-five years in the Colony, a considerable portion of which has been in those in Backwoods of Canada, so vivid and interesting a description of which she gave to the public through the columns of Knight’s volumes.

The growing interest felt in Canadian matters at home, and the prospect of an extensive Emigration to this Province in the approaching year, have caused a large demand for the work from Great Britain and other parts of and Europe: with a view therefore to make it more useful and acceptable, a very large and valuable addition has been made to it, selected from the works and “endorsed” by the opinions of some of the most eminent authorities in Canada.

The addition made consists of the following articles :

1. The Future of Western Canada.

2. The Railway Policy of Canada.

3. The Climate of Canada, as contrasted with that of the United States by H. Y. Hinde, Esq., Professor of Mathematics &c. in Trinity College.

4. The Conditions upon which the FREE GRANTS are offered by the Honble. P. M. Vankoughnet, M. L. C. and Minister of Agriculture.

5. Instructions to Emigrants as to Outfit, Choice of a Vessel, &c., &c. by Vere Foster, Esq.

6. A Description of the Lands in the Free Grants by B. Perry, Esq., Resident Agent at Kaladan

7. A Letter in answer to certain questions addressed by the Roman-Catholic Bishop of Ottawa to T. P. French, Esq., the resident Agent at Mount St-Patrick, as to the quality of the lands in Ids District, &c., &c.

8. Information to Settlers as to the necessaries with which they should be provided upon their arrival at their intended homes in the Backwoods, by the same well-informed gentleman.

These various documents comprise an amount of information, the result of actual experience, and bearing the stamp of official authority, upon which, the utmost reliance may be placed; and they are published with a view to the instruction and guidance of Settlers of all classes who may contemplate a residence in this thriving Colony, whose onward progress exceeds that of any other dependency of the British Crown.

It is proper to state that the Statistical Information given herein comes up to the last period to which official returns have been rendered, but the progress made in the five years which have elapsed since that time very far exceeds any similar period in every particular.

Then no Railroads were in progress, now there are fifteen hundred miles in full operation, extending from Portland to the extreme western boundary of Upper Canada.

To this brief notice the Publisher will only add his earnest advice and decided opinion that future Emigrants should, on. every account, avail themselves of the facilities for reaching Canada by the Canadian Screw-Steamers which hereafter will regularly sail from British Ports to Portland, Quebec or Montreal, from all of which places access can be had to. every part of the Province by the Grand Trunk Railway, by the Directors and Officers of which every possible facility will be given for their cheap and expeditious transit to their various destinations, every attention paid to their comforts, and the most, reliable information afforded.

The Publisher has carefully abstained from giving any account of the Province more favorable than the one borne out by official returns as to fertility and climate.

The Table of wages inserted in the appendix is rather under than over the prices now readily obtainable.

The prices of labour and provisions are all reckoned in Canada currency. A deduction of one-fifth brings them all as nearly as possible, into sterling value.

The Canadian Crusoes
A Tale of the Rice Lake Plains by Catherine Parr Traill (1881) (pdf)

Return to our Pioneer Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.