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Rural Communities

Letters Home to Fermanagh from Nathaniel Carrothers,
near London, Ontario, 1839 to 1867

Cecil Houston
University of Windsor, Ontario

Glenariff, Ireland

Letters from emigrants to loved ones in Ireland are a great source of knowledge and sentiment about the nature of agricultural and rural life. They reveal the extent to which agricultural knowledge and technology were shared across the Atlantic. The letters of Nathaniel Carrothers, one of 17 Carrotherses who left Ireland, give glimpses of personal pride and the circumstances of his farm life in Canada. In his own spelling and punctuation, Nathaniel noted:

In 1839...We have had a fine summer and a plentiful harvest provisions of all kinds in abundance flower is worth 15S per hundred pork from 25S to 30S per hundred beef much the same potates 2S per bushel butter from 7d to 9d per pound all in your money hay is very Dear...owing to so many miletery been in this place... I want you to get some gras seed one kind I want which I dismember the name of but it is the softest and lightest of all the gras kinds I remember us to have it sown on the narrow strip of meadow below the kill [kiln]... also a pound of the Italian rye grass seed... gather me also a pound of common gras seed of your own stable loft...and send them

The Faraway Hills are Green: Voices of Irish Women in Canada, by Sheelagh Conway (1992)

In 1853...I have been cutting down timber and burning it in the clearing of the land as much as would make a man rich if it was in Ireland as you have heard so much about the clearing of land in Canady that I need not trouble you with a discripsion of it... we hav no rent Collectres coming half yearly to our door to a noy us no end to my leas; we pay tax yearly which goes to improvement of the roades... I have got a good deacent frame house deacently finished and barn with stabling for my cettel the barn is 50 feet long by 30 feet wide and 16 feet high in the side... our grain is all trashed by mashenerey ...I keep a span of horses mostley maires from these I raise foals this pays well as horses sell wel I keep also yolk of Bullockes [oxen] these are the best on a new farm


In 1866... the thing that is causing the greates excitement in this part of the country is the discovery of oil which is under the earth in large quantiteys in this part of Canada... when the strike a good vain the oil will rise to the surface and flow over and run away; is worth 10 dolars a barrel there is severel wells sinking in and neare London...

In 1867... I want you or some of the boys to write me a long letter with the account of all the friend and neighbours that you can think of: there has been no deaths among the friends of mine on any side but that of joseph since I last wrote to Yo William Gregston has gon Cresy and is in assilom; give my best respects to all my friends and old neighbours. Margaret and I sends our best respects to you and Bessy and all the fameley and I remain
  Yours Nathaniel Carrothers

He Left Them Laughing When He Said Good-bye: The Life and Times of Frontier Lawyer Paddy Nolan, by Grant MacEwan (1987)

Library and Archives Canada Note
The original letters are located in Linenhall Library, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Library and Archives Canada has microfilmed typescripts of the letters, 1830-1870, sent by Joseph and Nathaniel Carrothers, mostly from Westminster Township, to their brother William in County Fermanagh and to their mother. For more information see the Joseph and Nathaniel Carrothers collection.


Dr. Cecil Houston is Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Windsor, and has served as the President of the Canadian Association for Irish Studies. He has published widely on Irish-Canadian history and culture, including collaborative works with William J. Smyth.