The Irish in Upper Canada

John Francis Maguire

Upper Canada—Number of the Irish—How they came and settled, and how they got along; illustrated by the District of Peterborough—Difficulties and Hardships—Calumnies refuted—What the Settlers did in a few Months—Early Trials—Progress and Contrast — Father Gordon—Church-building in the Forest—An early Settler—A Sad Accident—A Long Journey to Mass—A Story strange but true—The Last Grain of Tea—Father Gordon on the Irish and their Love of the Faith

THE Irish form fully half the population of what still, Confederation notwithstanding, may be designated as Upper Canada. Of these the Catholics may be said to be nearly one half. Fortunately for the Irish in Canada, they have generally adopted the kind of industry best suited to their knowledge and capacity, and do not, as it is too much the habit of their brethren in the States, crowd into the large towns, for which, by habit and education, they are not suited. They are scattered over the land in great numbers, either in settlements, in groups, or singly; but in whatever manner distributed over the face of the country, they are, as a rule, doing well. The Catholic Irish are in many instances to be found in almost exclusively Catholic settlements; but they are also to be met with in the midst of Scotch and English, and mixed up with their Protestant countrymen, who have mostly come from the north of Ireland. There are Catholic settlements of every date—from six, ten, and twenty years, to thirty and forty years, backwards—generally in a . flourishing condition, and in every one of which are to be seen extraordinary examples of courage, energy, and endurance, such as may well make an Irishman proud and hopeful of his race.

It would not serve any useful object were I to ask the reader to accompany me through various counties or townships of Canada; my purpose is rather, by the aid of an occasional sketch, to show how and in what manner the humbler and poorer Irish emigrants have succeeded in making a home for themselves in their adopted country. In order to appreciate what they have done, it is necessary to afford some idea of the difficulties that lay in their path. That they have succeeded in rendering themselves independent, and in laying the foundation of a prosperous future for their descendants, is undoubtedly true; but we may profitably glance at the past, to see how all this has been accomplished. I prefer rather to deal with those who came out poor, without capital, depending for their daily bread on the labour of their hands, than with those who, emigrating under more favourable circumstances, were never called on for the display of the qualities essential to the rude pioneer, whose chief capital consisted in a strong arm, a keen axe, and a bold heart. I cannot better commence than with a brief sketch of the settlement of one of the most prosperous districts in Canada—Peterborough.

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