Life on a Canadian Farm in 1849

A letter sent by Thomas Stavert to his brother-in-law Walter Boa describing life in mid nineteenth century Canada

Margaret and Thomas Stavert : Prince Edward Island

(The letter is transcribed beneath.)

Bedeque April 1849

Dear Brother,
I received your letter on September last. I was happy to learn that you were all in a moderate state of health which is earth's chiefest blessing and you make a comfortable living but as I told you before that the country was in a very bad state last year. The crops were very poor and by all appearance people will be as much in want this year as last. We have had a very severe winter but the very rapid disappearance of the ice and snow and the facilities for an early commencement of agriculture operation after a winter of unexampled severity afford cause of thankfulness to God and foster the hope that yet the labours of our farmers may be blessed, and our Island resume her wanton position as a self sustained country. I will now answer these few questions which you put to me.

1st - the country is as agreeable to a lowland Scot as any other kind of people.

Its summers are consequently hot and its winters cold. It is much the same as your country only we have a very long winter. As for my own part, I have been very healthy since I came to this country. As for the frost, I never had a piece of my flesh as big as a pea frozen.
2nd - The houses are very good in general. They are chiefly made of wood, they are plastered inside, the same as in your country. Furniture in this country is the same as with you.
3rd - People in general live more affluently in this country.
4th -I think there is no doubt but you can make a much more comfortable living in this country by labour, diligence and frugality than in your own country. There is a farm of 115 acres of good land to be sold which can be purchased for about 70 of your money which is about 105 of this island currency. It lies across a small river about a furlong from us, which would be a very suitable location for you if you come before it is sold, which I think you could. If not, there is plenty of land to be sold.
5th - There is nothing you could bring with you that would be more suitable.

6th - Hiring is plenty but it is a very poor business in this country. Women's wages are $5 per week in summer time and from 12 to 15 per month in winter. But any man in this country who has a farm has plenty of work at home for his family which in general have farms and are their own master.
7th - Shoes are from 8 to 15 shillings per pair. It is no use to bring any sort of stuff with you. Furniture is as cheap in this country as with you.
8th - We have almost all sorts of wood grows with us. It is in general Beech, Birch, Maypole, Spruce, Hemlock and various other kinds. We have no market for timber. We have 100 ton of hemlock timber that has been lying on the bank two years and no market for it. But if you intend to come, take shipping about June or July, not later than August, for sailing is very dangerous in this coast after that time. An old countryman of yours says if he was in your situation he would not be in Scotland one day.
I add no more.

This Robert Little is a single man enjoying all the comforts of life. He is a plasterer by trade.
Direct Thomas Stavert, Bedeque Bay, To the care of Mr John Townsend, Travellers Rest, Prince Edward Island.

Jim Stavert, a descendant of one of Thomas and Margaret's thirteen children, has researched very thoroughly the Stavert family tree.
He has kindly not only sent me details of these Prince Edward Island families, but has also gone out - in the snow - to take the following photographs:

Thomas and Margaret lie buried in North Bedeque Cemetery, Prince Edward Island.

Thomas and Margaret's grave

Below are beautiful Canadian houses owned by descendants of Thomas and Margaret.

How proud Thomas and Margaret would have been to see a road named after the family.