Eight Valcartier Settlers Report to the Road Commissioners - 1829


Ferdinand Murphy

Jean Baptiste Noreau

Charles Savard

William Brown

Thomas McMullan

Owen Sullivan

Elijah Haney

Richard Ward



IN: Appendix to the XXXVIIIth volume of the Journals of the House of Assembly of the province of Lower-Canada, second session of the thirteenth provincial Parliament, sess. 1828-29




Saturday, 7th March 1829





Mr. Ferdinand Murphy, of Valcartier, having been called in, said: -

I belong to the Province in the South of Ireland. I came to this country in October 1821, with my sister. The badness of the times, high rent of land, and low price of produce which I found ruining me, and the excitement in the minds of different parts of the country, and the favourable reports I heard of Canada, induced my sister and myself to try our fortunes in this different part of the hemisphere. We had, when we arrived here, twenty-one shillings. I stayed in town about a fortnight without earning a shilling; I then went to Valcartier, quite in the bush, about three miles from the first settlement. I had taken a job for cutting down and chopping up five acres of land, at a rate of three pounds per arpent. I got an advance of provisions, clothing and other things I wanted, amounting to about half the whole for my undertaking. I completed my job previous to the spring, and cleared off the land after the snow was from the ground, and received the whole sum of Fifteen Pounds. I supported myself entirely with that during the winter, and had a balance due me in the spring. On my arrival in the bush I built a Log Hut about 12 or 14 feet square, high enough for a man to stand in, with a hole for the smoke, a a floor of split logs smoothed, and left a place without any floor for the fire. There being no road for the said distance of three miles, I had to carry my provisions on my back, sometimes over head in snow. My provisions consisted principally in biscuit, potatoes and pork, and sometimes I had tea and sugar. In the spring, as soon as the land was cleared, I planted 22 bushels of potatoes, which gave me in the fall, twenty-three bushels for every one sown; it was one of the luckiest crops I had. Having no family to support when my crop was in the ground, and having fenced in the ground which I planted, I went to different parts of the country amongst my friends for about two months: I was at no expense among them. In the fall I returned to gather my crop, and in that winter I took a job of £100 at St. Giles, which I accomplished with three men. I did not make much by that: I had not over £8 left to myself.  In the spring, I came to Quebec, and obtained from the Nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu, a lot of 262 acres of land in the Fief St. Ignace on the River Jacques Cartier: I went upon it at the end of next winter, chopped down about five acres upon it, which I cleared in the spring, and planted eighty bushels of potatoes, which gave me upwards of 600 bushels. I had also sown about one bushel of oats, which being eaten up by the squirrels, left me very little. I took another land from the Jesuit's Estates two years ago, consisting of about 90 acres. I have now about 56 acres of land cleared by myself and labourers which I employed when I had money to pay them. My crop this year is the worst I ever had, owing to the wetness of the spring which spoiled my barn. I planted 52 bushels of potatoes, and had only 552; I sowed 11 bushels of oats, and expect to have 100 bushels. I also expect to have 1000 bundles of hay. My crop in 1827 was 946 bushels of potatoes, the produce of 47 bushels; 100 bundles of oats, the produce of about 10 bushels; and 600 or 700 bundles of hay. Since I begun, I had the following hired men; Tow men for one month at six dollars, and fed during last year. In the preceding year I had a man and his wife for one month, the man at four dollars, and his wife at two dollars. Previously, I had not the means of paying labour. I am quite satisfied of this country. I love Ireland, but I will never go and live there, because the people are not unanimous. Out of the earnings from my farm I have bought furniture, and stock consisting of 7 head of cattle, and 1 horse, and expect to be able to buy two head of cattle in the spring, and to add to the little comforts of my house. The great difficulty for a new settler is the provisions for the first winter, suitable clothing, a good axe, and a grindstone among a few, to keep the axe in order, and Roads when they have anything to bring to market; as to provisions for one's self, a man can carry them on his back, but when they have any thing to export, the want of a Road is a great grievance.


What would be the effect of a loan made by Government to new poor settlers to enable them to get over the difficulties of the first year?-

If there was a settlement of not less than 8 or 10 families settled upon good lands, and they were determined to pay the loan, and of an industrious disposition, and maintain their health, a loan might be useful to them if it was not great, and they might refund it. Men who are not very wise, borrow money in hopes punctually to repay it, but find when the time comes that they cannot repay it.


What do you consider the most economical and most advantageous mode of feeding a new settler in this Province?-

Provided Potatoes are not a too great a distance, for they are a very heavy article, and can be got at a cheap rate, they are very good. Many people speak of Potatoes and Salt Fish as a cheap mode of feeding a working man; I can say confidently from my own experience, that the cheapest food for a working man are potatoes, pork and pea soup; the pork is used principally for the purpose of giving a meat flavour to the vegetable; besides this food is much stronger than potatoes or fish. But I do not think that a man can live upon this alone for any stretch; he must have tea or gruel; it is cheaper, and is a change; milk would be better, but he is not yet able to buy or feed a cow.


How long does it take an able-bodied Irishman to learn the use of the Axe?-

From three to six months. It is with us as it is with trades; one man learns much sooner than another. I chopped as well at the end of three months as I do now, and I would not turn my back in chopping to any American born with an Axe in his hand.





Jean Baptiste Noreau, of Valcartier, having been called in said: -

I have been settled at Valcartier five years this Autumn. I am settled in the Fifth Concession. I have forty arpents of land cleared, a house and a barn, two horses, a cow and thirty fowls. I had no money nor household furniture when I first settled on my land. I got my living by selling wood for wheels and shingles and by exchanging horses and other kinds of barter. If I had the means of sowing my land next spring, I should be well of the remainder of my life. I have always put in seed from the first year I took my land. A good man can earn two shillings per day in summer, and one shilling and three pence in winter. I have had labourers working for me for their food.





Charles Savard, of Valcartier, having been called in, said: -

I have been three years at Valcartier. I am settled on a lot on the river. I have seven or eight arpents of cleared land, a small house and a barn. I had no money nor household furniture when I settled with my wife on the lot. I gained my livelihood as I could, very miserably. I worked for any one that would employ me: and sowed my land. The wages for a labourer at Valcartier are from two shillings to two shilling and six pence per day.





William Brown, of Valcartier, Farmer, called in, and examined:


What are the inconveniences to which Agricultural Emigrants are subject here? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the situation of the Emigrant when compared with his previous situation in Europe? What from your experience is the best mode of surmounting the disadvantages to which he is exposed?

The great inconveniency to which the Emigrant is subject to, is the general want of Roads; With good Roads the Emigrant would be better off. For my own part I think I am as well off as I would be at home. Perseverance is the main object, and by that alone can the Emigrant thrive.


What course of agriculture have you found from your own experience, best adapted to this country?

As far as my experience goes, I find that green cropping is the most advantageous.


When you first arrived in this country did you obtain any land, and with what means did you begin upon it?

I got a farm on halves from Mr. Wilson; it was partly cleared; I remained a year upon it. I then took a lot of ground from Mr. Neilson, at a rent of £5 per annum: - there were about 20 acres of land cleared upon it. I brought with me about £300 from Scotland, which I laid out in purchasing land. I have about 500 acres of land of my own at this time, of which about 130 are cleared. The expense of clearing the land fit to put in a crop, was from 10 to 12 dollars.


How many days labour do you find that it requires to cut down and clear off one acre of land?

I think that it takes, for one man to cut and cross cut an acre of land, about a week, and another week for piling, burning and clearing it off ready for seed.


Are you acquainted with any poor settler near you who went on wild land without possessing any capital; and state his proceedings as far as you are acquainted with them?

I know of many industrious men who began without means, and who, by working upon hire, during their spare days in the summer, and during winter, felling down, and in spring cropping it as fast as possible, and then returning to town till harvest time; and by these means procure a cow, and so on gradually, are now tolerably well off.


If any poor settler were to obtain land within two miles of your house, would you be able to employ him on the spare days, between the time of getting his seed into the ground, and the harvest season, and what wages could you afford him besides his board?-

During summer I could give employment to many hands, and especially during harvest, I could employ perhaps twenty hands. During the harvest and generally in summer, I give these men one shilling and three pence per day, besides their victuals, and for women, one shilling per day. I keep one servant man to whom I pay, besides his board, nine pounds a year. I have a large family, consisting of myself and seven children, the oldest a man of 24 years of age, and the youngest 9 years old; of these 4 are boys and 3 girls. With the aid of my family, and this servant, the whole business of the farm is carried on till the approach of the harvest, when I require extra hands.


What is the smallest sum with which an Emigrant can venture upon a farm?-

Many go upon farms without any means but their own industry.


How do they manage to live?-

Just by working for other people for a day or two, now and then, to procure a loaf of bread or a few bushels of potatoes. With the exception of two families I do not know of any who are not tolerably comfortable in our Settlement.





Thomas McMullan, of Valcartier, having been called in said: -

I was born in the North of Ireland, and came to Canada in 1821. I came to this country induced by reports that this country was a fine one for a labouring man, where he could easily earn his bread. I heard that Emigrants would do well, but I have not, however, found it so favorable as I expected. I had a wife and four children when I came to this country, it was in the fall; the oldest of my children is now 14 years of age, and the youngest three years: - they are now five in number. I had not a shilling when I came here. I sold a few Carpenters' Tools I had, to get food during my first week's stay here. I then occupied myself with sawing wood, in Town, at a rate of two shillings per cord, for about three weeks; I could earn only about two shillings a day at this work. I then engaged myself to clear land at Valcartier for Mr. Stuart; I was allowed £30 for clearing ten acres; I arrived in Valcartier in November; I have always stayed there since. I cut down about four acres during that winter, and was paid for it at the above rate; I had nothing else to support my family with during that winter, except 10 or 12 days work which I procured from individuals at Valcartier, at a rate of one shilling and six pence per day. I went quite to the bush in the Fifth Concession of Valcartier, where, immediately on my arrival, I cut logs, and made a small house, 12 feet by 14 feet, 5 feet high, which I covered with shingles, with a hole in the shingles at one end to let the smoke out; I floored it with logs, excepting at the end where we made the fire. I was about two miles and half from the nearest settler; there was for this distance nothing but an Indian path. I carried my provisions on my back for this distance, sometimes up to the middle in snow; my provisions were potatoes and flour. I paid two shillings and six pence per minot, for potatoes, and about from ten to twelve shillings and six pence per quintal of flour. I bought potatoes for two years, except a few which I received in the summer following my arrival. I bought about one bushel and half a week during that time: I had some pork, but no fish; We consumed about 5 lb. pork a week; it was sent out by the Gentlemen with whom I had contracted; and delivered as wanted; we consumed about two quintals of flour during the winter, some of it we made into cakes and some in loaves; we used the potatoes boiled with salt, and sometime with pork; we made very little use of grog, except even by chance when we came in town; we had a little tea and sugar, sometimes once a week, on the Sabbath. In the spring I cleared off nearly all I had cut down, about 3 or 4 acres, and put in about five bushels of potatoes, but they were too late; I howed them, and picked them up in the fall; I put in nothing else. During that spring I worked a good deal for my neighbors at one shilling and six pence per day, which I received in provisions and goods bought from Town for me: I was the middling only. I supported my family entirely by this means. I did not get more than 16 or 18 bushels of potatoes from what I had put in the ground, which, although watery and otherwise not good, we consumed during the ensuing season. During the second winter I cut down about six acres of land, for which I was paid at the same rate; I got a good deal of employment this winter, I suppose 30 or 40 days labor at one shilling and six pence; my wife could afford me no assistance; I had not a shilling of cash. In the spring I cleared off three more acres, and sowed about 10 bushels of potatoes and 2 bushels green oats in good time: I got a good deal of day labour at the same rate, and paid in the same way. In the fall I gathered 150 bushels potatoes; cut my oats with a scythe and put them in small stacks; I had no cattle to consume them and no road to carry them to market, so they rotted on the ground. During the third winter I cut down and branched about three acres of land for one McCartney, a settler at Valcartier, at three dollars an acre; and worked for others. I found myself a little better off this third winter, but not a great deal. I had by this time finished the job I had undertaken. The second winter I applied to Mr. Belanger, the Agent of the Nuns, who have a Seigniory at Valcartier, and obtained a grant of 126 arpents; it is at the distance of about 30 arpents from my first clearing. The third spring I commenced clearing my own land; cut down about 5 acres and cleared about three, alone. I planted about 10 or 12 bushels of Potatoes and got a return of 200. I was cutting and branching on my own land during the whole winter. I got a pretty good barn about the 15th or 16th May; I removed on my own farm that same spring, and built a log hut larger than the first. My family and I were better found, but I had no money. I completed the clearing of four acres that summer, and next winter I employed myself cutting down and up, and occasionally got day labour. I have now about 16 acres of cleared land and five or six more cut down. I suppose I can clear about 4 acres a year. I got a cow in the fifth year, it was given to me in part payment of my work. My crop last year consisted of about 250 bushels of Potatoes, 30 bushels of Oats, and 900 bundles of hay. I am now getting a good deal better than I was. I never would have got a farm of my own in Ireland. I think I am better than I could expect in Ireland. I m not the least sorry that I came out, but was so at first. In the year before last I bought a second cow with the produce of my oats, which amounted to about ten dollars. I allowed her to run fallow in the bush, where she fattened I have killed her. I suppose that in the beginning of April I shall have her eat, we began in November; ˆ use the tallow for candles; I had the hide sold on the market for seven shillings and six pence.





Owen Sullivan, of Valcartier, Farmer, having been called in said: -

I have 160 arpents of land in Valcartier, in the Seigniory of St. Gabriel. My Father went to Newfoundland in 1802., and kept a dry goods store there, and in the year 1811 came out to this country with his family. He brought some goods from Newfoundland, and kept a dry goods store in Quebec. The year after his arrival, he took a lease of Mr. Desbarats' farm at the Little River St. Charles, which he kept for 10 years: the rent was £140 a year: nine years out of ten on halves. At the end of this lease he went to Valcartier on the River Jacques Cartier, in the Seigniory of Fossambault, and there purchased about 500 acres of land. I went upon this farm with, upon an average, 4 or 5 men, and sometimes 15 or 16 men. The second year we had about 50 acres under culture, and obtained sixteen pounds ten shillings from the Agricultural Society as a reward for our exertions in clearing new land. My father afterwards purchased another farm in Valcartier where I now reside. My father has now about 100 acres cleared upon his farm; and I have about the same. I keep two horses, a yoke of oxen, and three cows, and some other young stock.


What are the inconveniences to which Agricultural Emigrants are subject here? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the situation of the Emigrant when compared with his previous situation in Europe? What from your experience is the best mode of surmounting the disadvantages to which he is exposed?-

The greatest inconveniency to which the Emigrant is subject is the want of good roads. The want of these prevents his bringing the produce of his farm to market.


What means have the poor Emigrants of cultivating their lands?-

It is customary to collect their friends and neighbours in what is called a Bee, and chop down, and pile ready for burning, five or six acres; which they put under crop immediately after. This is customary in the new Settlements, and is done alternately with all new Settlers.


How many days labour do you find that it requires to cut down and clear off one acre of land?-

It takes, for one man to cut down an acre of land, about eight days. It is difficult for one man to perfect the clearing; but by means if the Bees, which I have before mentioned, the settler is enabled to finish the clearing and put in his crop.


Are you acquainted with any poor settler near you who went on wild land without possessing any capital; and state his proceedings as far as you are acquainted with them?-

I know of some men in our Settlement who began without any means, and who are now tolerably well off. They began by working upon hire for others for some months; and in the spring by means of what they had earned, they contrived to live, and chop down part of their lands, and cleared it after the fire had run over the chopping, by means of Bees.







Elijah Haney, of Valcartier, Farmer, having been called in, said: -

I came from Connecticut, and have been in the country above 30 years. I settled in Valcartier 12 years ago, and was the first who went to the Settlement. I borrowed £100, and with that settled. I had two lots granted me, and money advanced by Mr. Stuart and Mr. Neilson to their value, which lots I afterwards sold to reimburse the money lent.


How many new farms have you opened?-

If I had a few minutes to think I could tell. I have opened five new farms at Valcartier. On the River St. Francis I opened four new farms. In the United States, I opened one in Utica, Wethersfield, and one in Windsor. I am now 60 years of age; and I think it is time to shut up books and stop.


What made you change your farms so often?-

When I was 24 years of age, my master who brought me up having made me a present of 100 dollars, with which I bought 50 acres of land I wen upon, with my wife, and cleared 40 acres, lived 2½ years, and sold for 1000 dollars and 40 crowns.  I went to Utica and bought 366 acres of land for 1000 dollars and 40 crowns, but I bought it from a man who had no right to it, and they held a freehold court and turned me out, so that I lost my money, land and all. I then came to Canada. I bought 200 acres from Dr. Longmore for 600 dollars, payable in 6 years without interest. I paid for the farm 13 years ago; I cleared 60 acres upon it and built a house and barn; I left it 12 years ago and came to Valcartier. I have since given this farm to my three boys. I gained by the sale of my first farm at Valcartier, 300 dollars. I then obtained a lot of land from the Commissioners of the Jesuits' Estates. On this farm I chopped 20 acres, and cleared 16, and afterwards sold it to one Bettie for £45. Five years ago I bought a farm from Mr. Stuart, upon which I built a house and barn; I have cleared 56 acres now under culture.


Could not poor settlers obtain a crop much more easily by underbrushing and girdling or by chopping and cutting up without logging?-

Chopping and clearing is the best way for a man to get his profit, the imperfect kind of clearing mentioned in the question does better in a hot country than in a cold one like this, you cannot expect a crop unless you let the sun in full. If a man girdles he must clear every year, and his land in never cleared, from the trees always falling. Half an acre well cleared off is better than two acres run over.


Do you make any Potash at Valcartier?-

They could not make Potash except near the River, because the land is too light.


So it's true, as it is sometimes said, that the first crop clears the clearing?-

It is generally thought so, and I myself have been more than paid by the first crop. Last year I cleared off 15¾ acres of land; from this I had 128 bushels of potatoes, 200 bushels of turnips, and I had green oats on the rest of it. I have 11 head of cattle, and I have wintered them upon those oats, and they are in as good condition as any in the Settlement.


How can a poor man manage to open a new farm?-

He must work one half of the time for his meat, the rest of the time for himself. When I began at Wethersfield I worked at framing and hewing, and got one dollar a day, when I got a little money together, I worked for myself. Since I have been at Valcartier, the work I got was principally job work.


Are you acquainted with any poor settler near you who went on wild land without possessing any capital; and state his proceedings as far as you are acquainted with them?-

I know people there who had nothing to bless themselves about four years ago, and now have cows, potatoes and butter which they bring to market at Quebec. They have also paid for their lands, but they bought them low, one paid £15, the other £12.


If any poor settler were to obtain land within two miles of your house, would you be able to employ him on the spare days, between the time of getting his seed into the ground, and the harvest season, and what wages could you afford him besides his board?-

I would rather employ them the year round at £13 a year, for a good hand.


What is the smallest sum you think necessary for an emigrant to settle himself upon a waste lot?-

An able bodied man ought to be able to clothe and meat himself with one half year's labour, for the whole year; - if a man could not do this a new country could never be settled.


Would it be of advantage, do you think, if the public advanced money to new settlers?-

If the purse was opened it would give too much indulgence to the settler; they would pick up their living for themselves, but if they had this to depend upon they would not work. I have practised being in debt sometimes, and do not find it particularly advantageous, time runs too fast when one has got interest to pay, it is like the canker-worm that eats up the principal.


What would you think of a plan whereby a company should advance to the actual settlers monies at interest, to be paid in produce delivered to Company's Agent, exported by the Company and sold by commission?-

I have considered upon it properly to enable me to give a correct answer; to some it would be good, to others it would not; because some would take advantage of this, and take the money without paying interest or principal; to good men, it would do good to the country, but there are counterfeiters it might leave the Company a loser.





Richard Ward, of Valcartier, Farmer, having been called in, said: -

I come from County Wexford, in Ireland, and I arrived here in 1816. I brought with me my wife and two children; my passage coast me £15, I brought out a little money with me, and worked at Quebec for a year before I went to Valcartier on a farm belonging to Mr. Fletcher. Mr. Fletcher provided me one half of the farm on condition of going on with the settlement duties and clearing. I have cleared 30 acres. I took a farm at Valcartier from Mr. Campbell having seventy-five acres cleared, at Twelve pounds a year. I lived by my work when I first went to Valcartier; there were many little jobs then in the settlement. When I was in the forest I had an opportunity of working out for my neighbours at my spare time: I got three shillings and nine pence a day for my work. I could employ a poor settler on his spare days, paying him one shilling and three pence a day, besides his board. I could employ him during the first winter at his arrival, at about ten shillings a month. I know several who went upon wild land without possessing any capital, who worked for other people as well as for themselves, and in this way sustained themselves.