What the Irish Settlers did in a few Months

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER VI (6) start of chapter

Let us now see what were the results of the energy and industry of this colony of Irish settlers in the short space of a single year. Remember, these people were not what it is the strange fashion in some parts of America to describe as, and the shameful fashion to admit as being—'Scotch-Irish;' they were genuine Irish, in feeling as in blood. These 2,000 'Irish Papists,' whose path of exile was tracked by wicked lies, sailed from Cork in May 1825; and in November 1826 they were proved to have done this work:—they had cleared and fenced 1,825 acres of land, and raised off the land so cleared 67,000 bushels of potatoes, 25,000 bushels of turnips, 10,000 bushels of Indian corn, 363 acres of wheat, 9,000 pounds of maple sugar; and they had purchased, by their labour, 40 oxen, 80 cows, and 166 hogs; the total value of the single year's work, literally hewn out of the wilderness, by the sturdy energy of these Celts, being estimated at 12,524l.!

These figures represent amazing energy and marvellous success, but they do not do full justice to the people by whom this work was done; for while they were engaged in the novel labour of cutting down the lofty and ponderous trees of the virgin forest, they were assailed by those enemies to the first settlers—Fever and Ague—that seem to resent man's invasion of the solitudes of nature, and endeavour to drive back his daring footsteps. Dr. Poole, a resident physician, writing of the sufferings of these early colonists, says that the fever and ague assailed them almost from the first moment they arrived in the country; and many strong hearts were unmanned, and many vigorous forms prostrated, during the earlier seasons of their forest life. Scarcely a family escaped, and sometimes entire families were afflicted with the ague for months together; and such was the violence of the disease, and their utter helplessness, that, at times, they were hardly able to hand each other a drink of water! It is a wonderful instance of energy and perseverance; and it may be well doubted if a greater amount of work has ever been accomplished during the first year by an equal number of persons, under equally unfavourable circumstances, in any part of America. It must be also borne in mind, that not one of these settlers had ever felled a tree until he set his foot in Canada.

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