Irish Immigration and the Fever Sheds 1847

Fleeing disease, poverty, the failure of the potato crop and government indifference, over 100,000 Irish immigrants arrived in Canada in 1847. Of these, nearly 40,000 passed through Toronto, a city of some 20,000. Many thousands died on the “Coffin” ships on the journey from Ireland to Canada. Many more died at the quarantine station at Grosse Isle, a small island northeast of Quebec City. From Grosse Isle and Quebec City, immigrants came by steamship to ports along the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario. In the summer of 1847, 863 Irish immigrants died of Typhus in the fever sheds erected by the Toronto Board of Health at the northwest corner of King and John Streets. There were at least 12 sheds, 72 feet long by 25 feet wide. Immigrants landed at the foot of Simcoe Street. The healthy were assisted out of the city as soon as possible; the sick were treated in hospital or at the Fever Sheds. They were allowed to stay a maximum of six days, receiving a daily ration of three-quarters of a pound of bread and meat. Survivors were sent to the Convalescent Home at the corner of Bathurst and Front Sts. Most of the dead were buried beside St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church at Queen and Power Sts. Among those who died ministering to the sick was Toronto’s first Roman Catholic Bishop the Right Reverend Michael Power D.D. He contracted typhus and died on October 1st 1847 and is buried in St. Michael’s Cathedral. Prayers said at the unveiling by M. Pearse Lacey, D.D. Roman Catholic Bishop Emeritus of Toronto and Terence E. Finlay, Anglican Bishop of Toronto. Unveiled by the Ambassador of Ireland to Canada His Excellency Paul D. Dempsey October 1st 1997

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