A letter home to England from John Thompson
The following letter was penned by John Thompson to a friend back in England in the late spring of 1819. Jeanne Bletcher wrote the following.
John Thompson from Eastrington was the eldest son of John Thompson and Elizabeth Bletcher. Elizabeth (born 1755) was the daughter of Thomas Bletcher and Mary Rudd, and the aunt of Barnabus Bletcher who came to Canada in 1818. John was the brother of the Rev. Joseph Thompson who married Barnabus Bletcher and Mary Smithson in 1819 in the Cavan Parish.
John married Elizabeth Belt 26 Nov 1798 in Eastrington, Yorkshire. He must be referring to his mother-in-law when he writes that his wife is thinking of mother Belt.
The sentence structure and spelling have been transcribed exactly as it was written 175 years ago. In its original form, it had no paragraph divisions nor punctuation, except for the occasional comma. Both have been added for clarity and ease of reading. However, in no way do these alterations detract from providing a personal window on the early days of Port Hope and a demonstration of how people communicated at that period in Canada's history.
Toronto on Smith Creek
June 23, 1819
uper Canada lake Ontario in the township of hope
In complyance with your Kind request when we parted in Eastrington Church yard, I gladly set down to write to informe you a little of our feelings.
When we entered on board of the Fame not knowing when or where we should land & our Friends bidding fairwell not knowing that we should ever meet again in the world there things with a many more that crowded in upon the mind was almost ready to counterbalace the desire that we had to see America but after the bustle was a little subsided, & the ship got on her way and a few reflections passing through the mind we became a little more composed, & a Desire sprung up that we might through the blessing of God be wafted safe through the wartere element & land safe on the shores of America & our desires was so far fullfilled. For while we was in great danger & striking first one field of Ice & then another & a large ship going down close by, from which we took the captain & crew & passengers he still made a way for our escape, a breeze sprung up & the Ice opened & we sailed out & left a fine ship & rich cargo for the boistrous waves to swallow up, I hope before the time you have received the few & little presents sent for Children & likwise I expect you have seen the letter wrote to my Father Thompson which gave a short account of our passage up the country to this place so I think its needless to say more about the passage so I shall give you a few hints about the climate country people & place and likwise what sort of Birds & Beasts inhabite the same.
This climate seams to me to be a great deal more productive to the vegitable creation then our native that is yorkshire for here the Farmer can grow anything he pleases & with half the labour, I have seen all sorts of grain grown here except beans & Pares these would be very valuable in this country, we wonder what sorte of weather you have had in England for we have had verry fine & very hot so that they can grow Melons & squashes & cucumbers to a very great size so you may judge the heat, the Thermomiter stood at about one 100 in the shade, about the middle of July & at this time it has been as low as 25 in our room, not more than than three yards from the fire, we have had some keen frosts but very little snow, I have been told by one of the oldest settlers of this place that he never knew the frost penetrate as deep in so little time since he knew the country & that is about 20 years.
This country chiefly consists of a light loamy soil & well wartered, for fine springs are numerous, it is rather ridgy but cant be called mountainious the little hills are in a general way covered with a blooms of darkish yellow about 12 or 14 inches thick & below that begins small pebles mixt with a rich greasy marbly earth, when taken & mixt with water it will be far tougher then lime morter & when dry very near as white I shall just mention one thing that came under my notice I went out into the new Township to look for land as here is 100 Acres for every old country man for nothing & meeting a country man of the name of Dawson a very nice old man indeed, he has 3 sons & 2 Daughters, the sons and himself has drawn 400 acres of good land & they only came into the woods in may month & they have got 6 or 7 acres of land cleared & a fine garden & one of the young men was under the ???sites of sinking a well here is not amany in this country & coming to some curious soil about 5 or 6 feet from the surface which was very marbly mixed with very rough gray sand & pebles on which he had planted some cabages & they then look very growing like, I have seen him since & he told me they had got too an immence size since that I have not noticed the soil so much only there be a soil for I considered that the Almighty made the climate & he had made the soil to suit it & he could make the cabages to grow.
Every thing growes here with more vigour then in England, trees & plants, & shrubs of the same kind that you have in England, make longer shoots & has larger leaves, I have seen an oak tree leaf not much short of 12 Inches in length & breadth in proportion here is the white thorne here but rather scarce & not so prickly as the English, it bears seed as large as the English cherry Apples are uncommon sweet but not as large as the English apples are, they never sweeten them in use they are sweet enough with out, the trees are all rais,d from the pippin here is no grafting as for Pear trees here are none I have not seen one all the way through the lower Province nor I do not know that there is one in all the upper Province therefore it would be wisdom to bring the seed of the Pear tree here is the wild grape in the woods, & I verily be live the true vine would grow to great perfection, here is the rasp & the strawberry in the woods & the black currant & the goose berry, here is no spices of the Plumb Kind exepting the wild horsegog(?) No Peaches nor Apricots therefore any person coming would do well in bringing the seed of the above trees, for after the Oarchard has been planted 8 or 9 years brings fruit to very great perfection.
January 9th at this present time have very fine mild weather & the snow is all about gon for the sun has greater power than it has in England, on the shortest Day the sun rises 31 m after 7 oclock & sets 29 after 4, on our longest Day we have about 15 h sun, so of cource we are nearer the sun, but it is hotter.
Back in the woods than here as our place is situated on the mouth of a creek on the Lake Ontario famous for fish chiefly salmon, since we came there has been 100 caught in on night the instrument they have to catch them with is a spear fixt to a pole about 8 or 9 f long they allways fish in the night they say the Darker the better as they have a grate on the bow of the vessel where on they burn fat pine which casts such a light that they can see to dart the fish, a man can dart 50 in one night.
The old inhabitance of this place are most of them Yankys or Americans we have a many old country people & likely to have a many more as this place is the principal place on the Road betwixt Kingston & York & the nearest to the two new townships known by the name of Cavan & Monagin named after 2 towns in Irland on account of some Irish being the first settlers, the townships are laid out about 10 miles square & I believe the land is chiefly taken up so I believe we shall waite a while there is another township laid out as that will be this spring these townships are situated about 12 miles North of this place behind the Rice Lake which is famous for fish but not navigable for any vessel except canoes it is a bout 40 miles long & 5 in breadth.
Be hind these townships begins the Indian hunting ground where they kill great numbers of Beavers & other animals of the Forist here is one Indian we know him by the name of Captan Potash he killed in one season a bout 3 hundred Beavers, the skins he sould to the Indian trader who resides here for about 30 s each they go out in the fall to hunt & they are returning now, we shall have hundreds of them in a little time we see them in the day time & at night they run into the woods to sleep these Indians are known by the name of Massasoga tribe they are a stout race of men, & well beha,d & harmless but they are great lovers of whisky so that if they make ever so much money with hunting they spend it all in whisky & trinkets as the traders provide plenty of these articles such as nose jewels earrings & bracelets for the neck I have seen the said Cpt Potash wife or squa as they call them with 7 rings in each ear & the men such as Capitan & the other officers wear 2 or 3 nose jewels at one time & their faces painted two or three different colours, here they have one most horrid practice when there fathers or mothers get so old that they are not capable of traveling with them in the woods, they murder them & bury them head downwards with all there armour & jewels but the poor mortals generaly know when there glass is nearly run & if they have anything valuable they pawn it for wiskey or other piretous liquors.
Here is another tribe of Indians called the Mahawk Indians which are a little more civilized and they reside more back North east from this place & some of them have got large clearings & part land under cultivation, at the present I shall not say much more about these Indians excepting one thing & this you would like to know more a bout then I can tell you at present, for I have ingaged some of them on the subject & I find it avery hard matter to Cure any by them about it for I belive they strive to conceal religon things from white men but what I have learnt from a neighbour they have a moad of worship, as they belive in a bad spirit & likewise in a good spirit they pray to the bad spirit & they say the good spirit will do them no harme.
Sir I shall just leave this subject, & tell your young people sort of wild animals inhabite this part of America, here is the bear the wolf & the purcupine the Racoon the fox the Buffalo & the deer & a many more small animals too numerous to mention, but most of these animals go back Except the Wolf & she stops about the Door for here is a neighbour who had to 12 sheep kills in the night close by his door the Wolf is the only Wild animal of any consequence that I have seen & shes seames to be frightend of man, we have no dangerous serpents here though here is great numbers and some are very beautyfull the people say that very few are venomous thay have the Rattlesnake on the Bay of Cantay but that monster has not been seen here.
Sir as I have given you a short account of the country & things of a short duration & though this climate be ever as good & the country ever so inproving we shall have to make a voyage to a land unknown (not like this) unpearched by humane blood & may the Almighty grant we may more then ever be determined to get prepared for that voyage as we may have to sail when we little think but I will assure you we are much out of form for these preparations for this place or parts cames to be almost unknown to any Preacher of the gospel we have not heard a Methodist Preacher since we left Montreal I belive amany of the people would gladly set under the sound of a Methodist Preacher but they with us have not the oppertunity, Bibles & other good Books seam to be scarce hear, we bought 3 Bibles of Capt Minnitt as he was bringing some for sale & we have sold them, had we so circumstanced we would have given them, but the people seam,d glad to buy them.
Give our kind love to Robt & Mary Fielder & tell him if he has a spires of the perils of the Atlantic & come over as a Mission & preach the ever lasting Gospel how glad we should be I have no doubt but he would be the Instrumentality of saving some souls from distruction & if one single soul be saved through the instrumentality of his preaching great will be his reward in that day when all Nations shall stand before there God to give an account of the deeds done in the Body here the Inhabitans pay little or no regard to the saboath Day & the great reason is here is no one to tell them the consequence of breaking the saboath I am fully sensible here is as much need of a Mission been sent here as there is of being sent into the interior of Africa.
Now my paper is full & I must conclude, but my heart is not emty Pray Sir remember us to all relations & friends & favour us with a letter & say how mother Belt is for my wife is very unhappy about her & she wishes to know she is & where she is for she scarce ever goes to bed but she dreames about her.
John Thompson uper Can
Peter and Barbara Bolton - Port Hope, Ontario