Letters from P.E.I. - David Haystead, to William Douse, October 09 1840

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Royal Gazette 13 Oct., 1840

The following letter, addressed to William Douse, Esquire, Land Agent, has been handed to us for publication; and we readily give it insertion in our Paper, as a plain and simple statement, very well calculated to disbuse the prejudiced minds of some of our agriculturists, who, from heightened descriptions of the prosperity of the United States, and of the excellence and cheapness of lands there, on the one hand; and the industry and zeal with which certain interested political croakers have disseminated their principles, and sown the seeds of discontent throughout our beautiful Island, on the other; have given up the enjoyment of real and substantial good, to dwell upon the prospect of some imaginary land of wealth, or to follow the tortuous and never ending path of the pseudo prophets of Escheat:--

Charlottetown, P.E.Island,
9th Oct., 1840

SIR,--I was formerly a tenant under you, in the New Wiltshire Settlement, on the property of the Earl of Selkirk in this Island; and twelve months ago, from dissatisfaction with my condition, I disposed of my Leasehold Interest, with a view to bettering my fortune in the United States of America. To that land of promise I accordingly went; but I am now returned from it, with ideas greatly changed, both respecting that country and this Island.

Although in purse much poorer, I am returned something wiser than I was when I left you. I have indeed, paid rather dearly for my increase of wisdom; but, dear as it has cost me, I will not be so ungenerous as to withold the benefit of it from others amongst whom I mean to settle again, and who, as I was, are discontented in prosperity; and, as I mean to beg of you to be so good as to place me upon another farm on the property under your management, I think it is due to you, in the first place, that I should lay before you my altered views and the fruits of my late experience, to be made whatever use of you may think proper. Indeed, from the notice taken of my departure from this Island, by a correspondent of the Colonial Herald [see below], in a letter inserted in that paper, September 21st, 1839, (the whole of which letter, except the assertion that I was sent out to America at the expence of my Parish in England, is in the main substantially correct.) I think it would be well to give this admission and the following statement to the public, through the medium of the press.

Whilst in the United States, I travelled a good deal over the country in search of an advantageous situation in which to settle. In New Jersey farming is not so profitable as in this Island. The lands, in general, I found very rocky and very hot; and no where in that state, do I think the soil capable of producing more per acre than that of this Island. Here, (I mean in P.E.Island) the farmer, even among stumps, can raise as much per acre, as can be done on most of the farms in New Jersey; and what is more, he can do it with less labour. This I would fully explain, could I write with as much ease as I can speak; and, in conversation, I shall be happy to do so to any of the unreasonably discontented here with whom I may meet.

Around Philadelphia, for a distance of about sixty miles the country is in a state of high cultivation, and much like the finest agricultural counties of England; but neither is it any more than those English counties, a country in which a poor man may think to settle comfortably down as an independent farmer. the price of land there is from one hundred and fifty to two hundred dollars per acre. At a greater distance from Philadelphia, a poor man may do pretty well; but, even at that distance from the city, I found no farmers better off than most of the agricultural settlers in this Island, of twelve or fifteen years standing. In what are called the back settlements, the country, which is mountainous, has much iron and coal; but the soil is not suitable for the farmer; and the roads there are so bad in the fall and spring of the year, that, on them, three horses are not more than sufficient to draw one horse load.

In Ohio I found everything abundant, and the cultivation good; but neither is it the country for a poor man. A capital of from £600 to £700 would be necessary to enable a man to settle comfortably upon a farm there. The poor man must seek his settlement far back in the woods, where he may, very probably be from 100 to 200 miles distant from a mill, and obliged to make use of two stones, about the size of chair bottoms, to make a mush of his grain for food. In such back settlements, the Government price of land is 10s. per acre, with credit for four years to a man who is very poor; and, when a man has made a purchase of such land, and become located, it is very likely he may find himself four or five hundred miles from a market, and be obliged to send his produce to one, on what is called "the halves" that is, to give one half of the proceeds to the person conveying it thither. Last winter in Ohio, the price of wheat was 2s. 6d. and of Indian corn, 1s. 3d. per bushel.

Were it not that it would require a very long letter to detail all the observations I made while in the United States, you should have them without reserve; but it may now serve the purpose to say, that although I by no means wish to un- derrate the character of those States, all I saw and heard whilst there tended to convince me, that it is certainly not a country yielding the advantages to a poor man, which I had been led to believe it; and I honestly declare that, in returning to this Island I have done so under the conviction that it is the best country I have seen for the industrious agriculturist.

I forbear to speak of what I and my family suffered from fever and ague, in Newark, New Jersey; but I may say I consider the healthful climate of this Island as one of its very chief recommendations.

I am, sir, Your obedient humble servant,
William Douse, Esquire, &c. &c.

Note: David Haystead married Sarah Harvey on 18 July, 1821 at Diss, Norfolk, England; at the time of the taking of the 1881 Canadian census they were both still living, but at Dundas, Ontario, David, aged 80 and Sarah, aged 83.

A further note:

Colonial Herald Sat., 21 Sep., 1839, page 3:


Sir; You may have probably heard of, if not seen, the flourishing settlement of New Wiltshire, on Township No. 31 - the property of the Earl of Selkirk - and the extent of the improvements made by the industrious settlers who have so boldly located there. One of my neighbors has, however, lately left his farm, under feelings of discontent, to that land of milk and honey, the United States. A brief outline of his misfortunes, since his emigration, will not, I trust, be considered unworthy a corner in your paper. In the early part of 1837, David Haystead, a native of Little Burnham, Norfolk, in England, having been sent out to this Colony by his parish, located himself in North Wiltshire, on wilderness land, without having means directly or indirectly, to the value of £1. David, being possessed of industry, became prosperous far beyond any former period of his life - yet so natural is discontent to the heart of man, he became dissatisfied, determined on quitting the Colony, and, about a fortnight since, sold his leasehold interest & improvements, together with his stock for £130, which money was paid to him. This amount, therefore, be it remembered, was saved within the short period I have stated, independent of the support of himself and family. Now sir, can any one say this man had cause for discontent? Penniless he arrived from a poorhouse, yet though he has obtained a good living for himself and family, beside saving annually a large sum, he has left New Wiltshire as one discontented in prosperity. By inserting this in your next paper, you will oblige


New Wiltshire, September 17, 1839.

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