Every home needs a cuckoo clock and fine china! In my research I discovered that cuckoo clocks made in Germany were all the rage in Europe in the 1850’s. Spode was a type of china that was very popular as well. John wrote to Aunt Bess that if she came to Upper Canada, “My Father wants you to bring your Cuccoo clock and your Spode and a pound of pitch“
The original letter from John Kaine to his Aunt Bess was written on both sides of a piece of paper folded like a book. The conclusion of the letter is next to the beginning on the first page. John also added more writing on top of his writing on the first page. This was done in Victorian times when paper was scarce. As always, I have included a transcription of the letter so it is easier to read.
14 Kaine Letter Aug 29, 1863 Transcribed from the original by Kerrin Churchill January 4, 2020 John Kaine to Aunt Bess from McKillop to Freshford, Kilkenny, Ireland
My Dear Aunt
I received your letter on the 24th. I would have written sooner however I was expecting to come see my Father. I got here last night and I now take the earliest opportunity to answer your note. I left all well at home. I was at James yesterday and they are all well and I find that Father and Mother are pretty well. Uncle William and Aunt Ann and family are well. As to what advice I should give you about coming to Canada, I really do not know what to say. If I thought that you would be satisfied with this place I would say come with all my heart. This is as fine a country as I know of any place and one that I prefer to any on earth but anyone that has spent the greater part of their life in the place of their birth, I am afraid that you would get homesick. But if you can make up your mind to bid farewell to the country of your birth and say that Canada the home of your adoption shall henceforth be the home, if you get this thought fixed on your mind, come in Gods name and we will give you a hearty welcome as we would give a great deal once more to see you. Uncle William and Aunt Ann tells me to advise you by all means to come. I have not seen Ann since I got your letter. James and I were in to see her about two months ago. They were all well. We were all very sorry to hear about poor Aunt Mary. May God help her. Father and Mother told me to say that they would be glad to see her and will give her a hearty welcome. I must now tell you that when some people are coming to Canada they do not think that the clothes that they ware in Ireland are fit for Canada but I must tell you that any clothes that is of service in Ireland is of service here so bring your clothes and your large cloke. You would find very comfortable in winter and feather beds are well worth bringing as you can sell them for more here and as to your money the best that you could do with it woud be to get a bill of exchange on the Bank of Upper Canada at Goderich unless what you want for expenses on the way and any loose money you bring let it be gold as gold is worth more in Canada than any other money
My Father wants you to bring your Cuccoo clock and your Spode and a pound of pitch and the best you could do would be to take a cabin passage on board a Stemer to take you to Quebec and take the Grand Trunk rail way from there to Stratford and the Goderich Railroad to Seaforth from there. You can manage the whole distance from Quebec in a day and night. My Father lives with 1 1/2 miles from there. Charles is now working within one hundred miles of Buffalo. He is getting 10? a day. Uncle William told me to mention the rout for you to take as he says you could be to Seaforth as soon as a letter and by stopping at McBrides Inn he would meet you there. McBrides Inn is at the Seaforth Station. Your afft
Nephew J Kaine
Note written on top of other writing: My Mother says that if you bring a large ????with a black centre ????and she will pay you for it when you come. Cotton and Calico of every kind is very dear here right now
It is clear from John’s letter that Aunt Bess was seriously considering emigrating to Canada after the death in April of her employer and dear family friend, the Reverend Mr. Mease. Previous letters indicate that the Kaine family was very fond of Aunt Bess and would have loved to have her join them in their new life in Huron County. John raised the idea in his letter to her in April 1863.
I enjoyed reading all the practical tips John gave regarding what Aunt Bess should bring to start her new life in Upper Canada. I can understand the need for her “cloke” and a “featherbed” but have no idea why she would bring a “pound of pitch”. Pitch comes from the resin of pine trees and we have so many of those in Canada. A mystery.
The note at the end of the letter mentioned that cotton and calico were very expensive in Upper Canada. This due to the ongoing Civil War in the United States and the effect on the production of cotton.
And of course, money is always useful!
The route described by John to Aunt Bess included travel on the railroad system that was rapidly being constructed in Upper Canada. I found a lot of fascinating information about the new rail roads on the following website: Charles Coopers Railway Pages. https://railwaypages.com/home
“The compelling economic urgency for railways in Perth and Huron in the mid-19th century was no different from that in any other part of Upper Canada of the day. With the land newly wrestled from the forest blanket, the tree stumps pulled and the wheat sown, the challenge was to get it to market. Before the railways, that part was almost as laborious and time-consuming as the clearing of the land in the first place, and agitation for a solution to that imperative became a strident chorus for the newfangled railway.
As elsewhere, it is a familiar story of pioneer initiative, rapid growth, financial distress, amalgamation, monopoly, renewed competition and eventual decline of the traditional network.” https://railwaypages.com/perth-and-huron-counties
It must have been daunting for Aunt Bess who had always lived in a small village in Ireland to consider booking a trip on a steamship to Quebec and then making her way all by herself via two different railroads to arrive in Seaforth to join the family. There was no way to contact the family except by letter. No quick phone call from the train station to say, “Hi John, I’m here!”
As 2021 has arrived, it is hard for me to believe that my own journey of transcribing, commenting on and posting these family letters has been underway for a year now! I am only halfway through because I have taken so many detours and side trips along the way pursuing intriguing facts and snippets of information in my quest to understand what I am reading about. Like any great voyage, it has been filled with many discoveries and has deepened my understanding of and connection to the past and the people who went before us. My dreams at night are often filled with the people in the stories I have been writing and thinking about during the day. They have become my new companions as the year of the pandemic has increasingly restricted our social interactions.