Passage and Arrival: Susanna Chooses a Path
Image 2.1 Canada East Formerly Lower Canada (1850). The circles mark Grosse Île, the the cholera quarantine station in the St. Lawrence river.
William C. Wonders Map Collection, Cameron Library, University of Alberta
Leaving England: Choosing a Destination
As citizens of the British Empire, John and Susanna were influenced by travel literature and lectures on emigration. John wanted to return to South Africa where he had owned property, but Susanna convinced him to “try Canada” because she was afraid of wild animals (Moodie, 1989, 221). In 1832, Susanna and John boarded the ship Anne towards Canada. Susanna was afforded a private cabin as she was three months pregnant with their first child, Katherine.
An Arduous Arrival
A lack of wind off the Newfoundland coast led to an unusually long passage of three months. John and Susanna landed in Quebec on September 2nd, 1832. The Moodies arrived in Canada in the midst of a cholera epidemic, a deadly and contagious disease, carried by the surge of immigrants from Europe. The Moodies’ upper middle class standing allowed them to bypass quarantine at Grosse Île, an island located 50 kilometres up the St. Lawrence from Quebec City. Officials hoped isolating immigrants would prevent the rapid spread of cholera. When the Moodies arrived in Upper Canada, cholera had already hit York, later called Toronto.
Image 2.2 A representation of what Susanna’s log cabin could have looked like.
Log house illustration from The Backwoods of Canada
© Public Domain. Source: National Library of Canada F5458 T7 1836
The “Untenable Tenement”
Upon arrival, the Moodies were granted 400 uncleared acres by the British government. Lieutenant John Moodie was allotted land as a military officer on ‘half-pay,’ which was similar to military reserves or retirement pension (Moodie, 1866, p. viii). Susanna and her maid, Hannah, were moved to tears of sadness by the sight of their log cabin, or the “untenable tenement”, as Susanna described it (Moodie, 1989, 91). She recalled the “dreary” prospect of “a fireless hearth; a room with but one window, and that containing only one whole pane of glass; not an article of furniture to be seen, save an old painted pine-wood cradle, which had been left there by some freak of fortune” (ibid). Susanna’s childhood did not prepare her for pioneer life in Canada.
“A fireless hearth; a room with but one window, and that containing only one whole pane of glass; not an article of furniture to be seen, save an old painted pine-wood cradle, which had been left there by some freak of fortune.” (Moodie, 1989, 91)
What does the Moodies’ decision to move to Canada tell you about Susanna’s relationship with her husband?
Despite having been given land upon arrival due to John’s position in the military, did the Moodies still struggle to make a home in a new place? How does their struggle differ from other stories in this exhibition?