Saturday, February 19, 2011

Immigration Chaos

Settlers often had a very long and stressful journey;
things didn't always work out according to plan...
[Click to enlarge]
From a traveler's observation of an immigrant train arriving in St. Vincent comes this account...
It was a dull rainy evening when we bade farewell to Pembina, and were ferried across the shallow muddy river to St. Vincent. I suppose it is called the Red River because the water is of a whitey-brown color. At the railway station confusion reigned. A large party of immigrants had just arrived with through tickets by the steamboat line to Winnipeg. But owing to the lowness of the water, and an accident which occurred a few weeks before, there was no boat ready to go down the river. The party must go on by rail, and the officers of the branch line from St. Vincent to St. Boniface, opposite Winnipeg, refused to make any allowance for the steamboat tickets. Despair ruled in the crowded, murky car into which we were packed. Many of the poor immigrants could ill afford the additional cost. We had to pay $3.25 for riding over sixty-five miles of wretched track at the rate of ten miles an hour. The road-bed is so rough that when they run at higher speed, the engine bell is rung by the oscillation.

Long after midnight we were landed in the mud at St. Boniface. Here we fell into the hands of the custom-house Philistines. Never have I seen courtesy and intelligence so successfully concealed under the veil of rude stupidity...
From: Harper's Magazine (May 1880)