We have attempted in the
foregoing pages to give some idea of our Inverness ancestry. Our task was
forced upon us twenty years too late. The real inner story of our older
people was buried with themselves, and as a general thing we have no
marble, moat or manuscript, to help us tell it now.
In our search for necessary information
through the county we missed many, oh so many, "good gray heads" whom we
were wont to meet and enjoy in younger years. Never did we appreciate
their worth so keenly as when we felt the need of their help and found
"they were not there". The younger and smarter folk did not, we regret to
say, evince any special interest in a history of their forefathers. We
could only do our best in a position that was all but impossible: and,
unlike the great William Pitt, we were not able to "trample on
impossibilities." We do hope our readers will grant us some indulgence,
knowing the dark and lonely road we had to travel.
Some may think that we were representing our
ancestors as much too good. We honestly tried our best not to. We confess
at once our tender personal feeling for the friends that are gone, and we
have no apology to offer for any manifestation of that feeling that may
appear in this work. These hardy early settlers can not be judged by the
standards and conditions of our day. They lived in lowly circumstances and
were in the main, quite illiterate; yet, they possessed and practised, and
impressed upon their offspring, many of the finest qualities of humanity.
"Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, or destiny obscure;
Nor grandeur hear, with a disdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of the poor."
It is not our purpose either to praise the
dead or dispraise the living, but we feel justified in saying this:— to
the extent that we, of today disregard, despise or repudiate, the
christian qualities of our pioneer fathers, precisely to that extent we
degenerate, physically, mentally and morally.
However, lest it be supposed that we are
parading the best and concealing the worst of these old people let us make
a brief reference to their more prominent faults and failings. And first
of all their drinking habits.
All men know from experience that excess of
anything is hurtful. Our early settlers drank to excess at times. The
habit of drinking to excess is pernicious beyond expression, for it may
involve much more, and much worse, than a mere breach of temperance. Some
of our forefathers were in the habit of drinking to excess. Such a habit
is not to be defended but we think our early settlers are entitled to an
explanation concerning it.
That habit did not originate with our
forefathers in this country. It came to them without much rebuke from deep
down the centuries. All the aged civilized nations of the earth were
soaked in it. There was no organized public opinion against it. There were
no state laws forbidding it. In the olden times it was not considered
degrading to indulge in alcoholic beverages. Men of all ranks did it. The
King and his Jester got drunk together. In former centuries liquor was
believed to be a necessary stimulant; it was good and cheap then, and as
free and plentiful as air or water. Industrialism and commerce had not
then reached the stage at which the unauthorized use of strong drink was a
perilous source of inefficiency and loss.
We offer these comments as an explanation of
this habit of the old people. The explanation is not open to us of today;
nor is it an excuse for over-drinking at any time, in any place, under any
Another habit of the olden times was to submit all the sharpest personal
differences to the ruthless arbitrament of the naked fists.
Frankly that was a tribunal we could never
respect: perhaps, because we feared it. We always regarded it as the
essence and instinct of raw-boned savagery. But even as to that repugnant
custom the men of old have a right to a hearing.
All those men came from lands of perpetual
warfare, either international or internecine. Many immigrants came here
smeared with the boiling blood of battle. Physical force was the
determining test and logic of an old civilization. He who was too proud to
fight was a poltroon: he who fought well was lionized. In the days of the
pioneer settlers of Inverness there were no other tribunals to settle
urgent issues. Physical force became an arbiter of honor, a racial
distinction, and a necessary law of the wilderness. The habit is not now
so general, but "it lingers superfluous on the stage." It is a vicious
thorn of barbarism.
The habit of dancing and holding frequent frolics was another fault
imputed to our ancestors. In connection therewith we think they are
entitled to a special explanation. They were strangers in a strange land.
They lived in the forest thousands of miles from the homes of their first
impressions. Their labors were arduous and im perative. They had nothing
to read, and even if they had libraries only few could use them. They had
no clubs, societies, or moving pictures. It was essential that they should
preserve their fitness for the task to which their hands were set. How
could they preserve that fitness without those light amusements and
recreations which their lot imposed and the Lord permitted?
Their "frolics" were informal social
gatherings at which the chief functions were music, dancing and
story-telling. Their songs and music were but the harmonies of a past
history, as dear to them as life itself: their dancing was a beautiful
work of art as compared with the spavined and repulsive performances of
modern times: and their legends were the nepenthe of an old and turbulent
national life. Were these simple recreations things of evil? Honi soit
qui mal y pense.
We owe an immensity to our departed fathers. Common prudence as well as
natural affection would bid us cherish their memory and good qualities for
all time. One quality which our fathers showed notoriously was a wonderful
resignation to adversities. We should make it a study to imitate this
noble quality. Too often we develop a spirit of selfishness, unrest,
impatience and discontentment, Cui bono? Other prominent qualities of our
pioneers were their strong and simple faith, their invariable respect for
their superiors and all constituted authority. And what of their eager and
steadfast devotion to home and family? Verily, it were a wholesome and
useful practice for us to recall frequently the lives and sacrifices of
our worthy old men.
And now, after many days, we must take leave of our kind and patient
readers, very likely for the last time. We have lived among them long: we
shall wish them well for ever. Nothing would give us more joy in future
than to know that they are prosperous and happy. At the same time, in this
act of leave-taking, the last thing we should wish to do were to leave
them under any delusion. This world is sternly exacting taskmaster. It
abounds in pains and partings, sick-ness and sorrows, trials and
disappointments. These probationary penalties can only be met and mastered
by a supernatural fortitude of soul.
Wherefore, in this act of parting with our
friends, our sentiments are well reflected in the following counsel of a
standard, living, authority:—
"I would not bid you not to weep,
For tears of grief shall fill your eyes,
I would not bid you not to care
When you shall lose the thing you prize;
For hurt and pain are hard to bear,
And sorrow cuts into the soul;
But hold you fast, and serve the Truth,
And you shall come unto your goal.
There shall be days when hope is dim,
And days when joys seem far from you;
There shall be rugged hills to climb,
And dreary tasks for you to do:
It is no easy path you fare,
No light or simple game you're in;
Life shall beset and try your strength,
But meet its tests, — and you shall win!"