In the letters from 1858 that I shared in my previous post, John and James Kaine related how they were settling into their lives as married men and responsible members of the pioneer community in Huron County. This letter written two and a half years later, is from their younger sister Ann who had emigrated from Ireland with their parents, Charles and Bess Kaine. I assume there was other communication in the time between this letter and November 1858 when the last ones were written, however I will never know why some were saved and other ones were not.
This letter has the first mention of “likenesses” or as now we know them, photographs. New developments in the photographic process in the early 1850’s made it possible for average people to afford to have pictures taken of themselves. It must have been very exciting to share these likenesses with family members like Aunt Bess who were so far away. The following Kaine family tintype had nothing on it to identify who the rosy cheeked young men were, but I like to imagine they are John and James.
I was enchanted by the light hearted and affectionate tone of the letter written by 25 year old Ann to her Aunt Bess. As Ann was a proper Victorian young woman, the letter was full of formal phrases similar to the ones written by John and James, but her playful spirit came through to me when Ann wrote , “I suppose she feels to big to write to me now but if ever I get a man I will not tell her a word about him as I am in hopes I will get one as she has got one. Tell her to send me word how I can coax one.” I also was charmed by the information that Ann was sending her aunt a silver ring made out of a dime. There was obviously a great deal of affection between them.
- Kaine Letter April 3, 1861
Transcribed from the original by Kerrin Churchill October 27, 2019
Ann Kaine to Aunt Bess from McKillop, Ontario Canada to Freshford, Kilkenny, Ireland
I received your long expected letter which gave us great pleasure to here that you are well as this leaves us at present. It seems to me that you do not understand my letters you say I do not say anything about John. Sure there is not a letter I send to you that I do not say something about him. I did not send the letter to him yet we were expecting him to come but he has not come yet. If he is not here in a few days I will send it to him. Dear Aunt we were all very glad to see Mr Meases likeness it is such a good one I wish the one I have was as well done but we were very glad to get them. Mary has your likeness framed she says that it is hers anyhow. I sure John will be delighted when he gets Mr Meases likeness. John is doing very well now. He is a Clark in a steem Saw Mill. He is four miles nearer to us then he was but if you were writing to him you could address it to Dungannon the same as ever. They have three daughters the last one was named for Aunt Merthew?? She had no boys but the one that died. James has another Daughter. He is going to call it after you. He is going to have his wifes and his oldest daughters likeness taken to send to you.
Dear Aunt you want to know how we are getting on, we are getting on well better then ever we were in Ireland, Father has worked all winter in a Shoemakers Shop. The work is getting slack now, but he is going to work at an English Ministers House now for a month or Six weeks. he has been there before and he liked the family very well. They are English they make no difference with him. They sit at one table with him. Father gets his health well he is as fat as, John Lee, We had four hundred and twenty three pounds of Pork for our own use for the winter and we sold Nineteen dollards worth besides what we kept for our selves and we sent as much wheat to the mill this evening as will make over four hundred of flour and we have plenty of Potatoes and a good cow that gives us plenty of milk and butter we have 1 year old Calve four sheep with lamb 1 Sow ready to pig and ten hens and Rooster as you want to know what we have you will see by this and I expect you will have a good laugh when you read this but we have great reason to be thankful to the Lord for all his mercies bestoed on us unworthy creatures as we are, Father and Mother was very sorry to here of Aunt Annes ill health we hope by this time she is getting better.
We hope Mr Mease and Mr Fowler and family is well and Mother would be obliged to you if you send her word how how Mrs Smith and her family is. Father wants to know did Mr Mease and Mr Fowler get the papers he sent them. Please remember us all to them. uncle William and uncle James got the papers you sent them they are obliged to you for them, you can tell Mr Mease Bishop Cronan is our Bishop. John and him had a long chat about the old Country. The minister we have here is from Dublin. his name is Mr Kermichel. he got married last fall. his wife came from the old country to him. is Johney Kaine keeping the Church yet or how are they getting on. I am glad to here that Mrs Stone is getting on so well I suppose by this time she has an increase. I suppose she feels to big to write to me now but if ever I get a man I will not tell her a word about him as I am in hopes I will get one as she has got one. Tell her to send me word how I can coax one. Please remember me to her and to Aunt Mary. It is well for Mary she has her Mother to wait on her now. Father and Mother desires me to remember them to Mary and Aunt Mary . Aunt Ann and Uncle William desires to be remembered to you. This is the day they are beginning
to make the Maple Sugar and Aunt Ann wants you to hurry out to help them to eat some of the Sugar. You say you would not like to come by New York you could come from New York to Seaforth in one day and one Night and that is about two?? miles from us and the fare is thirteen dollards, and if you come to Quebec you would be two days and one Night and the fare is one Pound Sixteen Shillings Sterling. We all would be very glad to see you here. If you were here Mother thinks you and her would have one weeks Chat at least. Dear Aunt I am going to send you a Silver Ring. It is maid out of a dime . It is a token from me as I cannot send a gold one. I hope it will be no offence and Mary is sending a little cap to Marry Tynan. It is to let you see that she can do it only it would be to ???? she would crochet??? one that would be large enough. Eliza says she will send her likeness in the next letter. Father, Mother, Eliza and Harry??? sends there love to you and accept the same
from your fond Niece Ann Kaine when you are writing direct it is to Seaforth PO Huron Co Canada West. The PO is a mile and a quarter nearer to us than it was. If you are coming mind it is on the Cars that I told you the fare of
As Ann brings Aunt Bess up to date on the family events, it seems that her brother John who has already had many jobs is now working as a clerk in a saw mill!
Other things that I learned from what Ann wrote was that John and Mary likely had a male child that died though I could find no record of this child when I searched. It also seems that James must have had a son that died. Ann mentions that James is sending a likeness of his wife and oldest daughter to Aunt Bess. The historical records indicate that his daughter Elizabeth was born in 1861 and so there must have been a child born earlier and was his oldest daughter. I could find no other record related to this child.
These discoveries told me that the Kaine family suffered losses and hardships more than was indicated in the matter of fact tone in the letters they wrote to Aunt Bess. Losing a child is very sad indeed and maternal and infant death in the pioneer life was sadly a regular occurrence due to the conditions of the times.
Ann provides a glimpse into the social class system in Canada when she describes what her father Charles is doing and says, “he is going to work at an English Ministers House now for a month or Six weeks. he has been there before and he liked the family very well. They are English they make no difference with him. They sit at one table with him.” Obviously the Irish, whether Protestant or Catholic, did not have the same social standing as the British! That would eventually change but it would take many years.
“Because the Catholics were socially and politically disadvantaged in Ireland, they arrived in Canada with few advantages other than a familiarity with the English language and British institutions, and so had to begin further down the economic and social ladder than the other British groups. The Catholic Irish brought with them a strong connection with the Roman Catholic Church. It was a faith that they shared with the Highland Scots and French Canadians. The Church provided the Catholic Irish with a strong institutional and community base in which to ease their integration into Canadian society. Likewise the Church itself adapted to the large Irish presence, creating an English-speaking hierarchy that was largely Irish in its composition by the early 1900s.
The Protestant Irish, in contrast, generally had more money and found it significantly easier to re-establish themselves as farmers. Their earlier arrival in Canada when land was more easily accessible aided them in this process. They became one of the most agrarian of groups in 19th-century Canada. Because their religion made them more acceptable to the dominant society, they were able to move much more freely in Canadian society.” https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/irish
I had wondered in an earlier post why the price of crops was so important for the family to share with Aunt Bess. I can now see from what Ann wrote that they were reassuring her that things were going very well for the family in their new life. Not sure why she thought Aunt Bess would have a good laugh about it all?
I was interested to read about John’s conversation with Bishop Cronan (Cronyn) and discovered in my research that Bishop Cronyn founded a college that would eventually become the University of Western Ontario.
Benjamin Cronyn (11 July 1802 – 21 September 1871) Cronyn was born in Kilkenny, Ireland. A member of the prominent Anglo-Irish Protestant Ascendancy Cronyn family, and a relative of Robert Whitehead, he emigrated to Canada in 1832. He was posted to London, Ontario, where he completed the church building started by his predecessor. In 1844 he relocated the church to a better site, now occupied by St Paul’s Cathedral. When the new Diocese of Huron was created in 1857 he was elected its first bishop and travelled to London, UK to be consecrated, the last Canadian bishop required to go to Britain to do so.
A noted Low Church cleric, he distrusted what he considered to be the romanizing tendencies of Toronto’s Trinity College, in 1863, he founded Huron University College which in 1908 grew into the secularised University of Western Ontario.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Cronyn
I enjoyed the references to eating maple sugar, a true Canadian pastime and realized that the family had started to ask Aunt Bess to join them in their new land. Aunt Bess eventually leaves Ireland to be with her family but many years will pass before that happens. Stayed tuned for the next post in which we will get some exciting news about Ann!