Monday, November 15, 2010

Grandmother Arrives In Canada: The Family Reunites

My Grandmother Elizabeth Haddow left Liverpool on April 6, 1910 aboard the SS Laurentic, bound for Montreal, Canada with her two boys Thomas age 6 and Arthur 3. Also on board was her brother-in-law Arthur Haddow, his wife Isabel and their two sons James and Bert. The cost of the fares for each family was seventy-five dollars.

My Grandfather John Haddow, who was at the time working in the gold mines in Virginiatown, in the District of Temiskaming, had sent money for the travel expenses from the savings that he had managed to squirrel away from his 65 cent an hour miners pay. From the $39 a week pay cheque, the company would deduct his room and board and even with the most frugal lifestyle, save for a pouch of tobacco and some soap, it would take him almost a year to save the $400 that he managed to send home.

In her 85th year, my Grandmother would talk about their trip to Canada. The 3000 mile trip was an adventure, to say the least.The rough seas caused long bouts of sea sickness. But there was plenty of food – if you had the appetite. After days on the rolling Atlantic, the rocks of Newfoundland– although not yet a part of Canada- was a sign that the ocean trip at least was coming to an end.

The immigrant ship steamed past Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and entered to St. Lawrence River. Before their trip ended at the Port of Montreal there was one stop to make at the Grosse Ile Quarantine Station operated by Canadian Immigration. The Island was located in the St. Lawrence about 30 miles before Quebec City.

Just before the stop the passengers and crew scrambled around getting themselves and the ship cleaned up. Everyone on board knew that their journey could be delayed or even terminated if disease or sickness was suspected or discovered. The doctors checked the passengers for any sign of typhus, cholera, beriberi, smallpox or bubonic plague. That particular year, almost 98,000 passed through the Inspection with 727 ending up being hospitalized and 14 buried in the simple cemetery at the other end of the island.

During my Grandmother’s stop over on the island she may have very well seen the huge celtic cross that had been erected the previous year in memory of the tragedy of 1847 when thousands died at the Island when typhoid swept through the immigrant ships.

Finally on April 14, 1910, the party disembarked at Montreal. From there it was a 450 mile trip by train that would take them through Ottawa, North Bay and New Liskeard, finally stopping at the small village of Dane, the closest railhead to Virginiatown.

The trip was uncomfortable and dirty. When the windows were opened for fresh air, the steam and soot from the engine would blow in. As the train made it’s various stops for coal and water, vendors would board the train selling refreshments. These stops gave the passengers the chance to stretch their legs, but no one dared go too far away for fear of getting lost and being left behind in this vast new land.

Once they reached Dane (now a ghost town) there was the horse drawn coach that would take them the 12 miles to the gold camp and the long awaited reunion of the family.