May 1st 1849
My Dearest Sister Aine;
Oh Aine! I can scarcely believe that I have not found the time to write you since I left dear Ireland. Do you remember that day? It was a gray morning, as many were. The mist hung low on the ground, and the bells on the old church were just ringing for the morning service. Sometimes in my sleep, sister, I can hear the low peal of those bells. Mama was crying, and Da was trying so hard not to. I know that the departure of their youngest daughter, so shortly after that of our dear brother Liam, was so very hard on them. Besides, you are still near enough to manage their household and fill the role eldest daughter. Its just, Cahal and I had to get away from all the poverty and the death. I am but two and twenty, sister! There is so much I can still have, still achieve in my life. Ireland is no longer a land of opportunity.
We traveled in Jonah O'Hare's coach. (My, those were fine horses. Almost seventeen hands and a sleek chestnut.) As you know, Galway was the nearest seaport. We did not know, at the time, where exactly we were going to go. Cahal had decided on the Americas for sure. It was the promise of beautiful cheap lands that finally swayed our choice to a colony of Britain; Canada West. Securing passage was another thing. We actually waited in Galway for a fortnight before Cahal was able to find us a ship. She was christened The Irene, and was a timber ship It was the worst experience of my life, dear Aine.
There were roughly two and a half-score of us crammed into the tiny makeshift cabin. The Irene was fairly large, so the Captain (named Jon Russell) converted one of the timber-holds into bunks. It was dark, and smelled of wet, rotting planks, and that was by far, the best smell. There were twelve or so young rascals running about the ship day after day. They were dirty, lousy children. And many of our company was sea-sick. For five weeks we were pitched about on a dark, rough sea. I remember so clearly, one morning, when I was reminded so very much of home. Dawn was grey, behind the storm clouds of the night before. Fog and mist hugged the water and the horizon. It was raining, and an east wind urged us along. I even recall, sister, what I was wearing. Cahal came upon me later, and described the scene to me. My blue petticoat and grey shawl were soaking through, and my dark hair (oh Aine, its so beautifully long now!) was sticking to my face. The sea was wild. I wish you could have been there, standing beside me. You know how I love the untamed. (Which reminds me, how fare my mares? The wicked beasts! I do wish I could have brought them along.) And I must say that I am quite lucky to be here today, sitting at my study desk, writing you this letter. Such an awful disease as the cholera befell our passage. We lost nearly a half-score during the journey. The smells of sickness filled our cabin. I remember watching the passing of three children. They all contracted cholera, and all, sadly, belonged to the same mother. Poor babes. The eldest might not have been ten. And their poor mother. She wept and wept for her children, and would let none remove their bodies. Eventually the first and second mates on the Irene sedated her and the three wee bodies were buried at sea. What a terrible fate Aine! To rest forever in a watery grave. I admit I wept tears for her. But Cahal and I were determined to stay alive, healthy and together. I so do enjoy being able to call myself Mrs. Brady. (Though Cahal still laughs and says its Mac Brádaigh, I do believe he wont let go of his proud history!) I even once saw a rat (there were many) crawling into my pack! I stomped on the beastie and sent him scurrying. Can you imagine what could have happened? Those creatures are the reason we all get so sick, I'm sure of it!
Oh Aine! The feeling of seeing land! It was glorious. The sun finally decided to shine on our passage. But our trials were not over yet. Just as I thought we'd be coming into Montreal, we dropped anchor and doctors came aboard! I was so scared, sister, but I was able to face them square on as they checked for the cholera. Another eleven or so were set upon an Isle called Grosse. They said they would get better, but you could only see a lonely death in their eyes. Thank the Lord, both Cahal and I were able to continue our journey.
Montreal was like nothing I've even seen before! Oh sure, I've seen big cities like Dublin and Edinburgh, but this Canadian city was more than that! So many people were milling about, speaking in at least three different tongues and were all so diverse! It took us an hour and a quarter at least to find the Claims Office, which was on the river. They told us quite cordially that we should head west, towards the Simcoe district. Many Irish were settling there, he told us, and Mr. Simcoe would find us a nice piece of land for farming. But Oh the cost Aine! My Cahal had to find work clearing roads. I could not stay alone in Montreal without and escort, so I too found a job Aine! Me! Working! It was not as bad either. A Mrs. Maggie MacDonald, an Irish like ourselves, ran a boarding house in the city. She took me on as a helping hand. She was getting too elderly to be cleaning and serving food now (there was a hired cook too) so that's what I did. I have never scrubbed so many pots in my life, not even when I was in mischief at home and Mama would send me to penance with Mrs. O'Keefe in our own kitchen! Oh Aine, I was such I wicked child! I do hope my own are not the same. It was such fun, but unlike you darling, I never learned any obedience. (Shame.) After nearly a month of working on the road, Cahal returned to me in Montreal, saying he'd secured enough silver to last us a while, and a route to Simcoe land.
Travel in a rough wagon, even if it was bumpy and uncomfortable, was much more pleasant than the ship. It took us only four days to reach our destination. The Claims Office was relatively easy to find this time. Cahal went in to talk to the Mr. Simcoe and secured us fifteen acres to farm. We also decided that we would have a few cattle and chickens, once we got settled of course. And oh the surprise! This land is so very rugged and wild. Why, I couldn't see our land for the forest that resided on it! It was far in from the road that we built our cabin. For it was only that. And here, Aine, the women do not sit idle while the men work. Our neighbors brought over two oxen and a horse. They also brought a half-score of people. It's the wonderful laws of the back-country, sister. Class, marriage and ancestry don't hold sway here. Its all for one, and one for all. The three room cabin was made entirely of the wood we cleared from our land. Me! Leading a team of oxen to haul stumps from the ground! They were fearsome beasts. I shall never forget the lesson I learned with them years ago. Do not irritate! Oh Haha. After two years now, our land is fully cleared, and our crop of wheat is doing quite well. With the profits from our first crop, Cahal was able to get enough seed for two fields this year, and two cows. We also purchased a mare from Jonathan Dally down the way. He is one of the other Catholics here in our little settlement. Of nine families, four are Orangemen! I try so hard to be polite to them, but sometimes, dear Aine, there is trouble. It's the same no matter where you go in Canada these days, I hear. Catholics, Orangemen, Protestants, and Anglicans.
Over the year so far, there's been some interesting developments in the government of this colony. What they call 'responsible' government is being run here. There were rebellions about ten years ago here. Can you imagine! And now, the council has posted a bill to dear Mr. Elgin. Lord Elgin I should say. It was called the Rebellion Losses Bill. Apparently, during the said rebellions, there was much property damage! Those who suffered such damage will be reimbursed. Most of these people were the French-canadiens. Quite an issue broke out over this small thing. The lovely parliament buildings were burned by an angry mob! It was so thrilling, Aine. Everyone was on edge. I'm glad that things are beginning to settle down. I don't know how much more excitement this government can take!
During the next summer, you must, must, must come over Aine. You and Pierce are always welcome in our home, which is quickly filling with young ones! I have two rascals so far, and another on the way. Maggie and Seamus are squabbling once more over sweets sister, so I must bid you farewell.
Missing you dreadfully, your loving sister;
Written for school once more. Enjoyed it. Peace. Katt.
Aine - Awn-ya
Cahal - cay all
Seamus - shay mus
Catriona - cat rina