The Golden Bridge

Young Immigrants to Canada, 1833 -1939

by Marjorie Kohli

Once our lessons were finished, Cliff and I leaned close to Mum as she read the story of the golden windows that told of a young fellow who on many evenings saw the windows in the house on the side of the mountain turn golden.  After much coaxing, his father allowed him to walk up there to have a look. I couldn’t wait for Mum to turn the page so I could hear what happened. I was certainly disappointed when the boy discovered the windows were made of plain glass. It was the sunset’s reflection that made them appear to be golden.

Probably many of the thousands of children from the United Kingdom and Ireland who were being sent to Canada believed they would be crossing the golden bridge to a life with a loving family. But upon their arrival some found their adopted parents simply wanted a “worker” with no thought of accepting them as a family member.

When these children grew up, many tried to put behind them the stigma attached to being a home child thus never talked to their family of the life they had endured.

This silence not only from the home child but the organizations who arranged their immigration has caused much frustration on the part of the family researcher.

Marjorie Kohli, who has been actively involved with juvenile and child migration issues, has with extensive research, meticulously documented the background details on agencies and key organizers in her 480 page book “The Golden Bridge - Young Immigrants to Canada, 1833 -1939" which gives the researcher a golden bridge to data that will facilitate the process whereby one can access home children records.

Agencies arranged for 100,000 children to come to Canada. But of particular interest to me are the agencies who sent children to New Brunswick. I  found the following information in “The Golden Bridge”:

* In 1852, Moses Perley, the emigration agent at Saint John applied for 100 male and 100 female children from the Poor Law Unions. According to his list, Carleton County needed 58 male and 47 female children. It seems requests for hundreds of boys and girls had been received by him.

* In 1869, a number of lads were reported to have been sent out from the Wellington Farm School, near Edinburgh and from Devonshire to New Brunswick to good places in the country.    
* In 1871, 50 of Maria Rye’s Children arrived in Halifax and were sent on to New Brunswick.

* John T. Middlemore, the son of a wealthy businessman of Birmingham, England brought his first group of children to Canada in 1873. In 1895 he bought some land outside of Halifax and by 1901, had placed 250 children in New Brunswick.

* The Kibble Institute, Paisley, Scotland placed through the immigration agent at Saint John, three boys there in 1901.

* Although the Park Row Certified Industrial School, of Bristol sent 42 children to Canada in 1883 and several others in the following years, children were mainly sent to New Brunswick between 1895 - 1906.    

* In 1906, with the help of the New Brunswick government, Mrs. Elinor Close, of England set up the Ellinor Close Farm Home in Nauwigewauk with thirteen boys and girls.

* In 1903, the Bristol Emigration Society was using the Sailors’ Home in Saint John in place of a receiving home.

* George Carter Cossar, Scotland purchased a 600-acre farm near Lower Gagetown in 1910 which became known as the Cossar Farm, Receiving Home and Distributing Centre for Scotch Lads but was called “Girgenti” by Cossar.                                       

* The hostel for female immigrants in 1924 was at 35 Union Street, Saint John.

Marjorie Kohli’s extensive research incorporates background detail on the Girls’ Family Society, London Ragged School, Carleton House Industrial School, Redhill Reformatory Farm School and other agencies, as well as key organizers such as Maria Rye, Annie Macpherson, Thomas Barnardo and William Quarrier, along with lesser-known ones.

The 480 page publication “The Golden Bridge - Young Immigrants to Canada, 1833 -1939" by Marjorie Kohli is available at the Gift Shop of the New Brunswick Museum in Market Square, Saint John and also from the Kings County Museum, 27 Centennial Road, Centennial Building, Hampton, NB, Canada, E5N 6N3. Telephone (506) 832-6009. Fax (506) 832-6409. E-mail

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