[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Strangers Within Our Gates

Jerry Frank FranklySpeaking at shaw.ca
Tue Apr 25 05:21:16 PDT 2006

At 11:42 PM 24/04/2006, Nelson Itterman wrote:
>I think it would be wise to investigate what the churches in
>Winnipeg were doing in assisting immigrants their way. I wonder of the
>newspapers of the time in Winnipeg might give some clues. Maybe the Baptist
>Conference and the Lutheran Conference may have some information. I think
>the churches had a great influence in immigration.

"Strangers Within Our Gates", James S. Woodsworth;  F.C. Stephenson, 
Mehtodist Mission Rooms, Toronto - 1911

This book is an excellent read about the early migration into the 
Canadian west.  Many of the immigrants, regardless of faith, were 
assisted by the Methodist Church upon their arrival.  I don't think 
it goes back to the early or mid 1800s though as far as description 
of that migration is concerned.  Woodsworth was a Methodist minister 
in charge of this ministry.  He later became a politician and one of 
the founders of the CCF (I think) party.

The book is an old one so may be difficult to find.  It may be 
available under inter-library loan

Here is a small excerpt from it.

"An immigrant ship in mid-ocean  --  here is more of human interest 
to the cubic foot than is to be found anywhere else on the face of 
the globe.  Alone on the rolling deep  -- shut off from all the 
world  -- a little world unto itself -- half way between the Old 
World and the New -- what a history lies behind  -- what possibilities ahead!

That speck on the waters is a Noah's ark in which are all peoples 
after their kind  --  male and female of all flesh wherein is the 
breath of life.  It is a seedpod being carried to unknown shores 
where the old life will be perpetuated with endless variations.  Here 
we have the fruit of the ages -- the germ of the time to be  --  an 
epitome of the older civilization  --  a prophecy of the coming days. ....

What a mixed multitude!  Watch them lying about the 
decks  --  propped against a sheltering wall  --  lounging on the 
great cables  --  gambling on the hatchways  --  the children rolling 
in the litter of the decks.  What a filthy lot!  ....  Here is a 
family of Poles;  one child has 'weak eyes'.  Of course, she must be 
deported.  But do we think what it means  --  the shock to the family 
when they learn that their little one is to be sent back and they are 
to go on.  Gladly they, too, would return, but they have no 
money.  The poor have no choice.  In spite of the father's and 
mother's grief the little girl is taken from them.  Poor 
people!  they will live in wretched rooms, on crusts till they can 
make enough money for the father to find and bring back his 
child.  But oh the long months of waiting!  But as yet out on the 
ocean they are unconscious of the trouble that awaits them.  They are 
thinking only of the little home that they will have in the new land. ...."

Woodsworth then goes on to describe their arrival and continuance on the train:

"First comes the medical examination.  Then all must pass through the 
'cattle pen'  --  a series of iron-barred rooms and passage 
ways.  They must go in single file, and each pass before various 
officials who question them as to their nationality and destination, 
and the amount of money they have in their possession.  All this is 
very necessary, but it is a weary, anxious time.  No one can tell 
what will come next.  Many fear they will be stopped.  Some are 
turned back  --  one taken and the others left.  Now, there is 
customs examination.  At last tickets are arranged for, baggage 
transferred, and the immigrants find themselves bundled into a 
colonist car.  This is another new experience --not altogether a 
pleasant one either, since they are not accustomed to cooking and 
sleeping in such small quarters.  Some have not made proper 
provision.  After several days, all are glad to get off the train at 
one of the large distribution points  [author's note: such as 
Winnipeg].  Here again are the Government officials who arrange 
everything.  Within a few days they are sent out on some new branch 
line, and with their belongings set down at a little 'siding' on the 
prairie.  They have some friends perhaps who drive them to their 
homestead, or who shelter them for a few weeks.  Now begins the new 
life in the strange land."

Jerry Frank

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