Why The Township of Rawdon Came to Be

The British Government had good reasons to promote settlement in the Canadas for several reasons. The very real threat of invasion from the newly formed United States made it essential to increase British presence in the Canadas. These fears were justified in the American invasion of 1812.

Another important reason was the industrial revolution in Great Britain left many families jobless, moneyless, and starving. Many from the rural areas moved into urban areas seeking employment and shelter. Many found neither. Overcrowding in the urban areas created extremely unsanitary conditions. Cholera and typhoid were rampant. No one was safe.

Britain was also in a serious financial predicament; the government purse was empty after years of warfare in the American colonies.

In desperation, the government chose to promote emigration to the colonies not only to increase their presence but to increase their purse. It was estimated that settlers in the colonies contributed three times more to the government purse than citizens living in Britain.

The colonies also promised employment for all who applied, particularly in the Quebec City area which was in the process of being rebuilt after Wolfe’s bombardment had destroyed most of the city. Fortifications were also being built in the face of a possible invasion from the south.

Transportation for emigrants was readily available even to those unable to pay passage. Government, large landlords, and the shipping industry all profited from emigration. The government by ridding the streets of the poor, likewise, landlords were rid of unwanted tenants. Ships had a return cargo.

Britain imported more from the Canadas than they exported. Ships arriving from Quebec with furs and timber were often forced to take on non-paying ballast for the return trip across the Atlantic. (The Chateau Frontenac was built with bricks used for ballast and acquired free of charge, the only cost being the removal of the bricks from the dock to the construction site.) 

These empty ships were eager to take on government-funded passengers at reduced rates to supply ballast for the return trip. Although some refurbishing of the cargo hold was needed for the accommodation of passengers, this was a small investment to pay for a return cargo. 

The British government launched a campaign to promote emigration. Men such as George Heriot, who served as Deputy Postmaster of British North America, were encouraged to publish books citing the advantages of emigration.

Imaginative hucksters seeing the possibility of profit toured the countryside with printed pamphlets and talks on the benefits of emigration to the Canadas. Never having traveled to North America, the information was often less than true, even downright fraudulent. One promoter told prospective emigrants that in the Canadas there was no need to buy sugar, (a luxury which many could not afford) you only drilled a hole in a tree and the sugar poured out!

Moody and Trail, husbands of the Parr sisters, Catherine and Susan, were influenced by one of these traveling promoters when they attended a talk in their area.