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New Country - New Life by Simon Lyons, Grand Forks City, Dakota

This account from the Dungarvan Journal 1883 by Simon Lyons of Ballinamuck Mills, Dungarvan, gives some detail about what life was like for emigrants in their adopted home.

The summer here is very warm, but not so hot as it is down South or East. Don’t you think the following scale of wages will make many a hard-worked, badly-fed, miserably housed, broken spirited man look across the Atlantic with longing eyes? – and small blame to them, God bless them: - Brick-layers, 16s to 20s per day; carpenters, 10s. to 14s.; painters, the same; labourers, 7s. to 10s. per day (a week’s wages often at home): servant boys with farmers, 1 per week, for nine months of the year, and all round the year, £35 to £40; girls, £20 to £30 per year; washerwomen, 5s. to 6s. per day; tailors, £2 for making a suit of clothes.

Now, against all these fine wages, there are six months of winter here. All through the winter there is not a day that passes but you hear of some one’s fingers, or feet, or ears being frozen, and when you part a friend for a day or two, you must not be surprised, when you see him again, if he has lost his nose. Many are frozen to death. The thermometer is 47 degrees below Zero – this is 79 degrees of frost. Men and women…have to pay £1 per week for their board, all this time, work or play. We have no hospital of any kind in this new frontier town.

The government of this country will give three farms of land for almost nothing, to all over 21 years old...in all, 480 acres to each individual. Well, you go to one of them [Land Offices] and make oath that you will become a citizen of the USA. The official will draw up a declaratory paper…Then you hand him two dollars. The farms are named as follows: Homestead claim 160 acres; a pre-emption claim 100 acres; and a tree claim of 160 acres. You will have to break or plow the five acres on each farm the first year. The second year you will have to put a crop in and break five acres more. The third year you are bound to sow the 10 acres on tree claim with tree seed or quicks. As to the Homestead claim: Build a small house, sink well or pump, live six months on it, and, if it meets your pocket…pay 200 dollars to the government, and it becomes yours. 

I ask all who are thinking of emigrating, to carefully study the foregoing. To some it may represent a brilliant future, to others it may be a warning off.



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