Pioneer Roots



Where did the Pioneers Come From?
In the Middle Ages, the people in Europe had developed a liking for the silks, spices and other luxury goods that came from China but found that only the rich could enjoy it as the journey back and forth from Asia was long, hard and dangerous.  It would take up to three years to make the journey and every country that the traders had to go through would charge a tax so it became a very expensive hunt for all these luxuries.  Many people at that time figured that there must be an easier way to trade with China and the surrounding countries so they decided to find a shortcut by sailing the ocean westward from Europe.  What they found instead was a land that they didn't even know existed and new doors opened for discovery.

Originally, it was just explorers and soldiers that came to what would be later named North America, but eventually regular people came over to seek a better life than what they experienced in Europe.  There were many waves of immigrants that came to North America but an especially large number of pioneers came in the Great Migration between 1815 and 1855.  Thousands of English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Germans, French and Spanish and many other Europeans crossed the Atlantic to what would later be called the Dominion of Canada and the United States of America.




The trip from Europe to North America was about 4,800 km (2,983 miles) which mean that most Europeans had to be willing to leave family members, their houses, any possessions that they could not carry and familiar surroundings.  The voyage itself was a challenge as most of the ships were overcrowded, very little food, no fresh air, unsanitary conditions and sickness would spread easily.  Many Europeans died before ever reaching North America.

Despite these obstacles, people continue to emigrate to North America.  By 1855, millions of people had found their way into both the United States of America and the Dominion of Canada.  They came to this new land for many reasons - unemployment, famine, city slums, farmers looking for their own land and, most importantly, the Industrial Revolution.  

Unemployment
In 1850, Europe's 25-year war came to an end so many soldiers and sailors found themselves out of work. They ended up joining the growing numbers of unemployed people (many of whom decided to take a chance overseas to find a new, more prosperous life).  The various European governments offered unemployed soldiers parcels of land in the new colonies to encourage them to emigrate to North America.  The idea was that they would be able to defend the new settlers in various ways.





City Slums
Thousands of unemployed people found themselves in factory towns searching for jobs and, as a result, they lived in terrible poverty crowded together in dirty dwellings that could not hold that number of people properly.  Anyone lucky enough to find a job had to work for a very low wage and horrible conditions.  Even young children were forced to work for pennies in factories and mines.  Emigrating to Canada and the United States seemed like a way out of this poverty, despite the harsh, unknown conditions they were yet familiar with in the new lands overseas.



Famine
Despite the horrible conditions in Britain, France, Spain and many other European countries, the situation in Ireland was even worse.  Potatoes were a main food source in rural Ireland and highly depended on.  In the 1840s, a disease called blight infected the potato crops for several years in a row.  Coupled with the damp weather, potato seeds were prevented from growing in soils and those there were able to grow ended up black and unfit to eat.  Starvation became rampant across Ireland with the famine since there was little else to eat.  Since the potato had provided the only real income for tenant farmers, they were suddenly unable to pay their rent and thrown off the land from the landowners.  Their houses were burned so they could not return and many of them ended up begging in search for food and shelter.  The chance to own land with healthy soil in North America seemed like a dream come true to many of the Irish people.

Private Land Companies
Upon the settlement of the new colonies in North America, private land companies were formed in cooperation with the European governments.  These private land companies were given large sections of Crown Land in return for the promise that they would bring settlers from Europe to the new colonies and a profit was made by selling lots to the settlers.  For example, the Canada Company was founded by John Galt in 1826 who received a grant of over 400,000 hectares called the Huron Tract which stretched from present-day Guelph to Goderich in Ontario.  The Canada Company built roads, a school and the beginnings of a village before settlers even arrived as a means of advertising what kind of exciting life they could leave Europe for.  In what is now the United States, corporate colonies were establish by private land companies known as joint stock companies.  The Virginia Company was an example of a joint stock company that helped to establish Jamestown.

The Industrial Revolution
The effects of the Industrial Revolution were being felt across Europe, particularly in Britain.  People were losing their jobs to machines that could do the work better and faster in many cases.  Once it was discovered that waterwheels could power machines and money no longer had to be paid for labourers, many skilled workers found that they were no longer needed and were forced out in the street to join the already large mass of jobless.  Before companies would have needed hundred of workers to make clothing and furniture items for their buyers but after the Industrial Revolution arrived, only a handful of workers were then needed to maintain the machines that made the same items faster and cheaper.  People had to find work to buy food and provide shelter so the free land grants provided in the New World without the intrusion of the Industrial Revolution in Europe seemed like a great opportunity.

Origins of Early Settlers in Upper Canada

United States of America
  1. People of African descent arrived either as slaves of other settlers (1628 - 1793), refugees running from slavery or racial oppression (1700s - 1800s), runaway slaves using the Underground Railroad to safety (1790 - 1870) or as Loyalists (1783 - 1790s).
  2. American Loyalists of many different backgrounds and religions immigrated to Upper Canada between 1749 - 1812.  Many Americans came to Upper Canada in 1790s to 1812 in order to take advantage of the available land and economic opportunity.
  3. The Amish people originally arrived in the United States from Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Netherlands in the 1720s and settled in what is now known as Pennsylvania.  In the 1820s, many Amish decided to emigrate to Upper Canada for land as well as an attempt to avoid religious and political conflict.
France
  1. In 1627, Lower Canada had about 85 French colonists who managed to maintain a small colony with the help of surrounding Aboriginal tribes.  However, their settlement was plundered by a couple of British privateers a couple of years later.
  2. In 1663, King Louis XIV made New France a royal province thus making it more secure for future French settlers.  The crown encouraged immigration to New France by paying for the transatlantic sailings and offering other incentives to greatly expand the French population.
  3. The 1666 census of New France, conducted by the intendant, Jean Talon, showed a population of 3,215 habitants in New France.  Out of this population, there was a great difference between the number of men (2,034) and women (1,181) in the colony.
  4. To strengthen the colony, King Louis XIV decided to send about 800 single women aged 15-20, known as les filles du roi (The King's Daughters), who found husbands among the male settlers with the promise of goods or money given as a dowry by the King himself.
  5. By 1672, the population of New France increased to 6,700 and it continued to prosper after the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.  By 1720, it became a fully self-sufficient colony with a population of 24,594.
  6. French settlers extended their territorial claim to the west and south of the Thirteen Colonies late in the 17th century and eventually naming the area "Louisiana" after King Louis XIV.

England (Great Britain)
  1. Before 1830, immigration consisted mostly of military or government officials.
  2. Between 1830 - 1850, a lot of British people immigrated to Upper Canada because the felt the need to leave the economic hardship and start a new life.
Germany
  1. In the late 1700s, German settlers arrived as Loyalists to the new British colonies.
  2. In the 1800s, German settlers arrived in Upper Canada because cities and industries were expanding so farming was becoming less important there.
Scotland
  1. Before 1815, there were 15,000 Scottish people that immigrated to Upper Canada.
  2. Between 1815 and 1870, as many as 170,000 Scottish people arrived in Upper Canada as a means of leaving economic hardship and general unrest.
Russia
  1. Between 1786 - 1825, many of the Mennonites that had originally settled in Pennsylvania decided to move northward to Upper Canada.
  2. Between 1825 - 1874, Mennonites from both Russia and Pennsylvania arrived in Upper Canada looking for cheaper and better farm land.
Source;  Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples, Ed. Paul Robert Magosci, University of Toronto Press, 1999

Census Data from 1851

As of June 1, 1850, the number of inhabitants in the United States totaled 23,268,488.  This was an increase from the 17,067,453 that was recorded in 1840.

It is interesting to see the growth of two individual cities in the United States:
  • Boston
1790 ................. 18,038
1810 ................. 33,250
1820 ................. 43,298
1830 .................. 61,391
1840 .................. 93,000
1850 ............... 135,000

  • New York City
1790 ................. 33,131
1810 ................. 96,878
1830 ............... 202,548
1840 ............... 312,710
1850 ............... 517,000


The first census of Great Britain was taken in 1801 at which time the population totaled 10,567,893.  In 1841, the population soared to 18,658,372 and still increased in 1851 with a population of 21,121,967.  

Meanwhile, in Upper Canada (now united with Lower Canada) the population was 465,357 in 1841 but rose to 952,004 in 1851.

Individually, the census of 1851 recorded the differences in population for several different cities that were established in Upper Canada and Lower Canada.

  • Upper Canada

Hamilton:  in 1836 - 2,846          in 1851 - 14,112

Kingston:  in 1841 - 6,292          in 1851 - 11,585

Toronto: in 1841 - 18,249          in 1851 - 30,775

  • Lower Canada

Megantic: in 1844 - 6,449          in 1851 - 13,835
Ottawa: in 1844 - 12,484           in 1851 - 13,835
Sherbrooke: in 1844 - 18,485    in 1851 - 20,014


What is interesting to note is that the population in Ireland actually decreased from 8,175,124 in 1841 to 6,515,794 in 1851.

Table of Population Growth in Upper Canada 
from 1811-1851


1811 ...................................   77,000
1824 ................................... 151,097
1825 ................................... 158,027
1826 ................................... 163,708
1827 ................................... 176,059
1828 ................................... 185,526
1832 ................................... 261,060
1834 ................................... 320,693
1835 ................................... 336,469
1838 ................................... 385,824
1839 ................................... 407,515
1840 ................................... 427,441
1841 ................................... 265,357
1842 ................................... 486,055
1848 ................................... 723,332
1851 ................................... 952,004


(Web)   http://eco.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.9_01608/17?r=0&s=1

Timeline of Immigrants Arriving in United States

  • Pre-1790
It is believed that the very first people to arrive in North America came across the Bering Land Bridge about 20,000 years ago.  These were likely the ancestors of the Native Americans (also known as Aboriginals) in Canada and the United States.  In the year 1000, Vikings discovered parts of North America and established a few settlements while discovering the new land but ultimately did not stay.  It wasn't until the 17th century when Europeans would decide to migrate to the New World in large numbers.  

According to the immigration information provided by the Liberty Ellis Foundation, immigration before 1790 looked as follows:
African .................... 300,000
English .................... 300,000
Scottish-Irish ........... 100,000
German ................... 100,000
Scottish ..................... 75,000


  • 1790 - 1820
During this time, the first census was underway and there were about 3.9 million people counted with the English representing the largest ethnic group.  However, nearly 20% were of African heritage as well as a good representation of Scottish, German and Irish residents.  Note:  Native Americans were not counted in the census at this time.


While it was officially called the United States of America at this point, the flow of immigration was quite slow as the battles between England (Britain) and France virtually stopped ships from crossing the Atlantic Ocean and the continuing hostilities during the War of 1812 slowed immigration even further.

However, the new immigrants that were recorded included the following:
African .................... 85,000
Scottish-Irish ........... 50,000
English .................... 45,000
French ..................... 40,000
German ................... 25,000
Irish ......................... 25,000


  • 1820 - 1880
The slave trade was ending during this time and the Industrial Revolution had begun.  American settlers were now eager to settle the West and many went to seek their fortune with the Gold Rush.  Thousands of immigrants were able to find work while building the trans-continental railroad and building new villages along the way.  

This was a time period of mass population growth from Irish immigrants as they suffered from the potato famine.  Other European peasants and simple folk decided to seek a better life in the United States of America due to rapid population growth, loss of the ability to work or own land and massive industrialization in Europe.  In the late 1850s, the Chinese people started looking for their own freedom and new opportunities by settling in new cities like San Francisco.


German .................... 3,000,000
Irish .......................... 2,800,000
English ..................... 2,000,000
Austrian-Hungarian ...1,000,000
Canadian ..................... 750,000
Chinese ....................... 230,000
African ........................... 50,000


(Web)  http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/immigration-timeline







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