Submitted and transcribed by Carol Billingham.
Carol Billingham says about these letters:
“Most of the family tree that I have as well as these letters originally came, I believe, from a D. G. Dick who was a Notary Public in and for the Province of British Columbia. His work is dated the 30th of March, 1917. Credit must be given to him.”
John Dick to his uncle, 1821
11th July, 1821
I have the painful task to perform of informing you of the death of our dear father and that my mother and we all are proceeding forward to Upper Canada.
My father, the next day after we arrived at Lachine, went into the St. Lawrence at a part where there was a shelf on the shore; not knowing the nature of the river, he went over it and at once sank, and no person could save him. My two sisters, Margaret and Janet were at a short distance, washing clothes but out of sight. A farmer, looking to his cattle at some distance from the spot, alone was a witness of the fatal accident but by the time that he came forward, he had drowned. The accident upon the 29th of June at half past eleven o’clock in the forenoon.
Our mother, as well as the whole family was in a terrible state at first, in that state which is easier felt than described but now she seems much resigned to the will of God and to the disposition of his Providence. The commissary at Lachine, as soon as he was applied to by David Young, showed us much kindness and directly applied to the governor-general for the father’s grant to the family and which was immediately granted and assurance given that the family would be provided for in the same way and perhaps better than if their father were along with them.
At first, nothing was thought of by all the family — my mother and myself excepted but returning home; however, they are all now reconciled to go to our destination, all believing that our kind father not only risked his life, but lost it in the view of putting and leaving the family in a better situation than he could place them in at home; and now that he is gone to the place appointed for all living before seeing this end accomplished, we think it our duty to do our utmost to bring into effect what he so ardently wished, and we have every incitement and encouragement to do so, depending upon divine aid for success. We see the whole bank of the St. Lawrence thickly set with beautiful villas and farm-standings, the neat habitations of these who have settled in the same situate as we are in, a few years past and are already living in ease, enjoying all that can render life easy and comfortable by a few years of industry and exertion; and I hope by the blessing of God, along with our exertions, our family ere long may be placed in the same easy circumstances.
My mind is so troubled and so is the whole of our Bathgate society that we can give no description of this country; we must leave that for our next letter, which will be sent as soon as we are settled so that we can give you a direction how to send my father’s funeral money.
We are all as happy as circumstances can allow and more so to see our mother resigned to the will of Providence and so anxiously determined to bring my father’s purpose into effect.
David Young wrote some days since to his brother, Wm. Dick; if this comes first to hand we hope this most prudent way will be taken communicating this accident to our grandfather. My very heart bleeds to think how it must bear down his already shattered frame. He long since lost one to see him no more and now, in his age and infirmity, one that expected to be able ere long to solace the evening of his life with the happy report of being placed beyond the fear of want and in a land where oppression’s rod is never felt, and is beyond the reach of all earthly comfort, but we hope in the full enjoyments than those produced on thy soil by the dew of heaven or the fatness of the earth, beholding the face of his Father and his god in the full fruition of his love.
I am, Dear Uncle,
Your affectionate nephew,
James Dick to his uncle, 1822
Submitted and transcribed by Carol Billingham.
We received your letters, the one through Mr. Bell of Perth and the other directed to us, and are happy to know you were all well. By this be informed that we are all well, hoping this will find you, grandfather, grandmother, and all the rest of our friends and acquaintances in the same.
However, we have had a great deal of trouble among us since we came here. Margaret was scarce recovered from her illness at the Rideau when Janet was seized with the fever at Perth on her way up with Margaret. She had scarce got the turn when Jean and Agnes were seized with it the ferry over the Mississippi. They had scarce got the turn when Elizabeth, William and Robert were seized with it, also Catherine and Alexander at the same time. Agnes and Catherine were also seized with the ague which is very common here on the sides of rivers and near swamps, but it is not a dangerous disease in this country.
During all this time we had got little or nothing done; however we had got a little chopped and were preparing to get up our house when I was seized with the fever on my way down from the lot. However, I reached the ferry where the rest of the family were. John was seized with it the week following, and we were badly near ten weeks.
Janet, at the time we fell badly, went up to the land, when she got a few of the neighbours gathered together and got up the house. The snow fell the week following, being the 15th of October, and the ground has been covered with it ever since, for the most part about three feet deep, and frost at times so severe that in the month of December the thermometer was reported to be as low as 36 degrees below zero, but I cannot vouch for the truth of it as we had not ours out till we came to the land, which was not till the beginning of January, when the sleighing came on. However, on the 24th ours stood as low as 12 degrees below zero at noon, but when the frost is so severe there is always a pure sky, and the sun had always a pretty good heat so that there was scarce a day but we could work without doors, and then at night the frost was so severe that although we kept on large fires, it was nothing uncommon to see the blankets frozen above us. We had a few days fresh weather about the end of February and on the 29th our thermometer stood as high as 85 degrees in the sun and 63 degrees in the shade, and we have had mild weather since and the snow was nearly all away in the clearances when a few days ago we had a fall of snow. It fell about nine inches deep but it is nearly all gone again.
We are very busy making sugar just now. We have made about 60 lbs. of it, and we expect to make as much more. We have also made some excellent molasses, which, had you it in Scotland you would scarce challenge it from your best virgin honey. It is only at this time that we can make it, when the sap is going up the maple trees, and we have a great deal of them on our lot. We have also a great deal of elm, ironwood, birch, beech and basswood (a very soft kind of wood, but in general pretty large). We have also a few pine, hemlock, cedar and butternut trees; the nuts are pretty large, being about the size of a pigeon’s egg and after lying about a while become very delicious. The trees do not grow so large as is is general believed by the Bathgate people; the largest we have chopped — and we think it the largest in the lot — was about 3 feet through, but there are a few above three feet in diameter.
We have got about seven acres chopped. We sold two acres at the fall of the year, and we have added another five to it ourselves. We have also got a yoke of oxen with a cow and calf along with it.
Through the influence of Mr. Bell of Perth we have got places for Jean, Agnes, Elizabeth and Robert. Jean is about a mile out of Perth, where she gets about two dollars a month. Agnes is with a Mr. Ferguson, a storekeeper in Perth. He is one of Mr. Bell’s elders and Agnes goes regularly to his Sabbath evening school. Elizabeth and Robert are both in one place, about three miles out of Perth, with a Mr. Adams. They take them regularly with them on Sundays to prayer-meeting and occasionally to sermons, and as they have no children of their own they use them every whit as well as if they were their own. Catherine is with Mr. Brice who came from West Calder about seven years ago. They have an excellent clearance and about twenty head of horned cattle besides sheep, hogs, etc., and as their family is all grown up she is just Mrs. Brice’s companion. They are all liking their places well.
Alexander Kidd, who came from Blackburn, has also a good clearance with a good stock of cattle but on account of having a large family they are extremely ill off for clothing.
William Bryce, who came from near Airdrie last year, is about twenty-six miles from the village of Lanark and about thirty-six from us. He is in the township of Sherbrooke. A township consists of twelve concessions and a concession is 26 1/2 lots long and two broad, and the lots are nearly square, being eleven acres long and nine broad. They are all in good health.
Dr. Wilson who was with Mr. Weir in Bathgate attended the most of us when we were badly. He was very attentive, and at the time we were at the worst came regularly every day although he was two miles from us. We have been nearly forty dollars for doctors and medicine, and had Dr. Wilson charged in the same manner the rest did that we were employed, we don’t know what it might have amounted to. My brother John saw Mr. Bell a few days ago, and he has his compliments to Mr. Brown of Longridge. His family are all well. David Young’s family are all well and David is in high spirits as ever he was. He is away down to the front just now for two cows. Henry Mungal, who came along with us from Torphicher, is well and is following after his own business, as wishes you, if you can get an opportunity, to let his parents know to direct his letters to us and we will get them forwarded to him.
Mr. Oliver, at whose house Margaret and Janet stopped while they were at the Rideau Lakes, was an English rider in Scotland about eight or nine years ago. He knew you well and has dealt with you at different times. He was also acquainted with Major Shairp, who stopped in Kirkton, and Mr. Johnston of Bathgate and most of the merchants there. He was very kind to them while they were at his house, and they were not away from it two weeks when his wife died. The death of his wife, with the conduct of his sons, drove him to despair, and he put an end to his existence by shooting himself about a fortnight ago. They were in very good circumstances.
The people in Scotland have formed very erroneous notion with regard to the Indians as they are as peaceable a set of people we have met with. No more from –
James Dick to his uncle, 1825
Submitted and transcribed by Carol Billingham.
14 June, 1825
Ever anxious to hear of your welfare together with that of our other friends and relations, and wishing to let you know how we are all, I sit down to address you a few lines. We are all (thanks be to the Author of our being) in good health, and sincerely hope you all enjoy the same. We received yours of the 17th, February, including also a few lines from Thomas Duncan last summer, but did not receipt it, having written you and Uncle John, Parkhead, only a few days previous to its arrival. We also received a letter from my cousin, George Brown, and one from William Dick by Walter Scobbie from Langrigg. Wm. Dick mentioned that you were writing by the same conveyance, which letter, however, we have not received. I intended to write you last fall, but always put it off from time to time in expectation of receiving a letter from you.
We are something similarly situated to what we were when I last wrote you, Margaret excepted, who was married on the 25th ult. to Robert Stead, a very industrious young man and in very thriving circumstances; his land is about three miles from us. He came out with his parents and the rest of the family about two years before us. They come from Yorkshire, England.
This place is labouring under great inconveniences at this time for want of ready markets. Last season, crops were excellent, and had there been anything like fair price for grain, settlers would have done well, but so far from it, good wheat was selling as low as 2 s. per bushel in Lanark, 3 F in Perth and 3/6 in Brockville in the winter season: and there is no such thing as a sale for it now all except for whiskey, which is getting a rapid sale just for the “bees”. A “bee” is a number of men collected together for the purpose of logging, raising houses, barns, etc., sometimes consisting of 40 men and upwards; and they are now become so very numerous that we are often three days in the week from home. We were at a logging-bee at my brother-in-law Robt. Stead’s about eight days ago, where were 36 men and seven yoke of oxen, which logged up four acres of land and were done early in the afternoon.
We have had a very mild winter. The snow fell in the month of November and continued to cover the ground, generally about two feet deep, until the middle of April, when the heat of the sun obliged it to disappear. The spring has also been very favourable, only we were a little troubled by a vermin of worms which ate up the most part of the peas in the settlement as also most of the garden seeds. However, the wheat is not damaged but is in general looking tolerably well. I think I mentioned to you in my first letter after our arrival here that we had drawn a lot for the family, which was a mistake for we were afterwards made to understand that it was my brother’s. We then drew out a petition in order to present it to the Earl of Dalhousie – Governor, stating the circumstances in which we were placed, and praying for a lot of land for the family. We then called on Col. Marshall to support it and get it conveyed to the Governor, which he refused, he said, on account of inexpediency and as it was putting the Governor to unnecessary trouble. As he was persuaded the prayer of the petition could not be answered, we were therefore obliged to withhold the petition; judging it needless to send it without the Colonel’s support.
I then applied for a lot of land and have got the 13th lot in the front of the 9th concession, Lanark, adjoining my brother’s. We have chopped six acres upon it this season and got part of it under crop. The weather this some time past has been very warm, but I cannot inform you particularly what degree of heat it was, our thermometer being broken. The frame in which it was got wet, swelled and broke the tube. The heat, however, must have been excessive. In my last, I mentioned that the Billy Gibbon Knights were raising a great disturbance here, but they are now very quiet indeed. I believe most of them are gone to the States. I am informed that out of 32 families which were settled in Huntly, only two remain. Those who were put in jail were tried and liberated after a short while’s imprisonment. There is a report spread just now that there are two thousand more of them on their way out but are going further up the country.
We had a visit about 12 months ago from Mr. Anderson from Bathgate who gave us a particular account of every circumstances which had taken place from the time we left Bathgate to last spring when he left it, which was very gratifying to our feelings. He left this for the States last fall along with John Young. He promised to write David Young, and let him know where he was, but David has got no letter from him yet, nor any intelligence of him whatever. John Young sent a letter stating that he was working at the loom near Niagara on the States’ side but did not know what had become of Mr. Anderson.
David’s people are all well. Alex Kidd and family are also in good health, and James Bryce and family are enjoying the same. As for Henry Mungal, we don’t know how he is, not having heard from him these two years.
Thomas Duncan would probably mention to you that we had neighbours in the same clearance with us of the name of Wallace, descended from the great Sir Wm. Wallace but greatly degenerated. They have now left this to the great satisfaction of the whole settlement and gone to Carolina in the States. A family of the name of Muir now occupy their place, who make fine agreeable neighbours.
Indeed the settlement in general is coming to a better understanding with one another. For some time after our settlement here, it wore truly contentious appearance. When two or three neighbours met together (news of the day being scarce), the conversation generally turned upon their absent neighbours, and the first questions put were — “Where do they come from? “What occupation did they follow?, and “Are they decent people for we are quite ignorant of them?” (Though perhaps they were sometimes a great deal more ignorant of those whom they were speaking to.) who were perhaps all the while gathering fuel for a disturbance, and would probably answer that he did not know them in the old country but had heard it reported that they were so and so and did not behave altogether fair, which when coming to the ears of the accused raised a great commotion. Such storms, however, have greatly subsided. I intend to take this about 230 miles on its way as I mean to go off for the States tomorrow, where I intend to stop a few months if I can fall in with weaving.
Present our best respects to all inquiring friends. I must now concede with intimating that we shall expect to hear from you soon.
I remain, Dear Uncle,
Your Affectionate Nephew,
Robert Dick “to relatives and friends”, 1887
Submitted and transcribed by Carol Billingham.
FROM BUFFALO TO NORTH BAY,
LAKE NIPPISSING AND BACK
THEN BACK TO WINNIPEG AND BACK
TO RELATIVES AND FRIENDS;
Wednesday, May 4th, 1887, I spent in Toronto, Thursday night and Friday with the Rev. W. K. Anderson and family in Lindsay. On Saturday morning reached North Bay and was taken by Thomas B. Smith to the farm home of Mr. G. Bartlett, son-in-law of Sister Catherine, whose appearing at the door awakened the question “Is it daughter or mother?” This solved, two days and two nights were joyously spent with Brother and Sister Bartlett and family, and in preaching to the neighbours on the Sabbath; Monday night in like manner with nephew Thomas B. Smith and wife. On Tuesday with Sister Catherine, took the cars for Buffalo and got home Wednesday evening, the 18th, and on Thursday, the 2nd of June, started for Davenport, Iowa where, on Friday evening, I led sister Catherine safely to the home of our octogenarian brother, the Rev. James Dick, their first meeting in full thirty years. On Saturday, Brother-inlaw, A. Brownlee, past octogenarian and daughters Christianna and Isabella, met us from Brooklyn and together we went out to Long Grove Homestead, now run by Alex Brownlee Jr. founded half a century ago by his father, and where lies his mother who became the father’s wife in 1839. In the double marble tablet which covers her grave, and that anticipated by her husband, he has honoured her memory, as his own. In the church, close to her grave, I preached twice on the Sabbath to solemn assemblies. On Monday two charming neighborhood gatherings, and in the evening returned to Davenport, which we left the next day for Minneapolis, Minn., with delightful recollections of Iowa. Leaving Minneapolis we reached Dominion City, Manitoba on Thursday and by appointment delivered Sister Catherine to the care of her sons, James B. and Robert D. then went north to Winnipeg, but returned and preached three times on the Sabbath, the 12th; then spent the night with Sister Catherine at the home of her sons. On Monday saw their fine prairie farms growing one hundred acres of charming wheat, and other assorted crops. There leaving sister with her children and grand-children, I returned to the General Assembly in Winnipeg, of which I had been elected a Corresponding Member. Of the proceedings I speak briefly in my note to the “Buffalo Express“. The intervals between meetings of the General Assembly I spent with nephew and niece David Dick and Mrs. Mary Campbell, who came in from their homes, 113 miles to meet me in Winnipeg. They remained till the General Assembly adjourned, and saw me leave on the cars for St. Paul. Their presence and that of Mrs. Campbell’s daughter, cousin Robert Dick and of many old friends, delegates to the General Assembly, made my eight days in Winnipeg ever to be remembered as days of benediction. Our Dakota friends we failed to see, as tickets to Dominion City, their way, could not be bought. On reaching Alexandria, on return at midnight, I stopped to keep the Sabbath; I went to the Congregational Church expecting there the two sons of Robert McFarland, to learn at the close that they had been to the Baptist Church and gone home six or eight miles away. Mr. Geo. Walker kindly took me in his carriage to their home to find that the brothers had gone to their Sunday School two miles off. Saluting Mrs. McFarland, the daughter of sister Elizabeth and her sister, we hurried to the school and addressed the children at the close; then told the friends we had to hurry back to preach in the town. As the McFarlands, came not, I lost a desired conference with Niece; but learned with joy that in reputation the McFarland’s were without reproach. In Buffalo found all well, and that all had gone correctly as well.
Yours in the best and highest bonds.