A Sad Accident

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER VI (12) start of chapter

Returning on one occasion with the customary bag of flour on his back, the night overtook him while he was still far away from home. Blindly stumbling about in every direction, he fell, and, perhaps owing as much to the burden he carried as to the manner in which he came to the ground, broke his leg. Here was indeed a sad position!—in the midst of a lonely forest infested with wolves, away from all human assistance, and writhing in exquisite pain. There he lay for the whole night, moaning helplessly in agony of mind and body, as he thought of his young wife and his little children, far away from friendly assistance, and of the wild terror which his unaccountable absence would be sure to occasion. He was fortunately discovered next morning by a settler, who was attracted by his cries of distress, and who assisted in conveying him to his almost distracted family. For some months he lay helpless in his cabin, full of anxiety as well as pain; but no sooner was he once more able to be on his legs than he was again at work.

That man never ceased his hard toil till he had cleared his first lot, of 100 acres, and added time by time to his property; and he is this day the possessor of 900 acres of as good land as any in Canada, as well as the owner of saw mills and grist mills, in which the inhabitants of the neighbourhood may grind their corn. Toronto was over twenty miles distant from his log cabin, and when he first settled in the bush it was only at rare intervals that he had a visit from the priest. It was his custom to go to the city as often as he could, to perform his religious duties; and as, for the first years of his settler's life, he could not afford to purchase a horse, he was compelled to walk the whole of the way. When he brought one of his children with him to Mass, which it was his habit to do, in order, as he said, to make a strong religious impression on their youthful minds, he would divide the journey into two stages, and making the house of a friend his resting-place for the Saturday night, would set out at break of day on Sunday morning, holding his boy by the hand, or bearing him on his back. He would thus arrive some time before Mass commenced, so as to prepare for Communion, which he received with edifying piety; and after a brief rest and refreshment he would face towards his friend's house, his resting-place for the night. Nor was the good Irish father disappointed in his hopes of his children, all of whom grew up strong in the faith. Three of his sons received a collegiate education, and are now amongst the most respected members of the society in which they creditably move.

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