How the Irish came and settled in Canada

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER VI (3) start of chapter

The voyage across the Atlantic was wonderfully prosperous. Heaven seemed to smile upon the poor exiles, and give them courage for what they had soon to meet. In a few weeks after their arrival at Quebec, they were found encamped on the shores of Lake Ontario, near Cobourg, waiting for means of transport to their intended settlement, in what is now the rich and fertile county of Peterborough, then mostly a verdant wilderness. These people were the pioneers of civilisation, for their future home was fully forty miles distant from the frontier settlement of that day. There was not then even the semblance of a track through the wooded country which they had to traverse, and a kind of road had to be cut from Lake Ontario to Rice Lake, a distance of twelve miles through the tangled forest. Rice Lake had then to be crossed, and the rapid and turgid Otanabee, for the distance of twenty-five miles, was to be ascended by this little army of settlers.

In order to cross the lake and ascend the river, three boats were constructed, and propelled on wheels over the rough track from the one lake to the other; but when this part of the difficulty was got over, and the baggage and provisions were brought so far in safety, it was found that, owing to the dryness of the season, and the consequent shallowness of the waters of the Otanabee, it was impossible to proceed without additional means of transport; so a great boat of light draught, sixty feet in length, by eight feet in width, had to be at once constructed, and with the aid of stout rowers, frequently relieving each other, this vessel was steered through the rapids, and got somehow over the shallows.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America