MY FORTY SECOND YEAR – 1821
With the half pay
officers, and indeed most of those who had been in the army, I had at
times no little trouble. They expected to enjoy all the privileges of
the church, though they neither submitted to its discipline, nor
performed the duties of religion. Great offence was taken because I
declined to baptise the children of drunkards, profane swearers, Sabbath
breakers, and those who neglected religious duties. Generally, however,
those of them who came to church, behaved with external decency. But
there were at least two exceptions, and I am sorry to say that these
were among the ladies of the officers. One of them, a very foolish vain
woman, frequently behaved with so much levity, during preaching, that I
was forced one day to stop and rebuke her. This of course gave mortal
offence, not only to her and her husband, but to several of their
friends, and they absented themselves in future.
In the meantime Captain
McMillan, one of these delinquents, had a child by his own servant girl,
which he asked me to baptise privately. This I declined to do, which so
enraged him that he threatened vengeance. Mr Mathieson, the Captain’s
crony, happened to be in a similar predicament at the time; only his
servant was not yet put to bed. The two had always been very intimate,
but this circumstance made them more so. They could do nothing in the
settlement to injure me more than they had done.
But they resolved to
extend their views, and take a new method. They accordingly wrote to
the Governor General, Earl Dalhousie, complaining that I did not manage
the affairs of the church to their mind, and requested that the land and
buildings might be given to the Church of Scotland, and that they might
be appointed trustees. The governor’s answer assured them of his desire
to advance the interest of the Church of Scotland in the settlement, but
at the same time desired that they would not disturb me in the peaceable
possession of the church I had built. I have a copy of both the letter
and the answer, furnished me by one of the clerks in the Government
office, who detested the insidious and wicked course they were pursuing.
Our church being now
finished and trustees appointed, I prepared a constitution, which was
unanimously adopted at a full meeting of the congregation. This has
continued, with a slight alteration, to regulate our affairs ever since.
The first division of the
Lanark settlers came out last summer, 1820, the second came out this
summer. I still continued to visit them and preach among them, when I
could spare a day. On Sabbath 24 June, at 5 o’clock, I set out for this
purpose, accompanied by John Ferguson, one of my elders. The road was
bad and our progress slow. At the village I preached in the upper story
of Mr. Glass’ house. The congregation was large and the heat excessive.
After preaching and
examining the parents, I baptised ten children. I afterwards organized
the church, and made some arrangements for administering the Sacrament
at a future time. In the evening I walked back to the river and
remained all night at Mr. Griffin’s, but was sadly annoyed with swarms
of mosquitoes. On Monday I visited Drummond, on my way home, but was
sick all day with the heat, and fatigues of the previous day. I had now
completed four years in the settlement, in midst of many difficulties,
but “hitherto the Lord had helped me”.
At this time wagons with
settlers and their baggage were almost every day passing through Perth,
on their way to Lanark. Some of these people suffered great affliction;
the Dick family for instance, in which were eleven children. They lost
both mother and father on the way out, and yet they were all provided
for, and decently brought up. During the hot weather, in July and
August, I was often sickly; for I stood the cold in winter better than
the heat of summer. The heat in these months had been great, yet on the
morning of 26th August, we had a frost so severe that all
tender vegetables were destroyed. Next day it was as hot as before.
The loss of parents is a
great affliction at any time, but especially on a journey, and in a
strange land. On Saturday evening, just as I was going to bed, I was
called to visit a man who was suddenly taken ill. He died before the
morning, leaving a widow and nine children among strangers. He had
arrived but a few days before, and had worshipped with us on the last
Our burying ground had
been cleared off some time before this, and now we determined to have it
enclosed. For this purpose I opened a subscription, and raised about
£10. This was afterwards increased by Mr. Jackson’s exertions, he
having it in charge. A contract was made with Peter Kerr, for about
£20, to fence it with boards and cedar posts.
On Sabbath, 30th
September, I again preached in Lanark, in a new house of Mr. Fraser’s,
and baptised six children. In the following week I finished my “Letters
from Perth”, a work on which I had been employed, at leisure hours, for
some time before. Just after I had stitched up the manuscript, a young
man named Donaldson, called in. He stated that he was a doctor, and
that he came from Airdrie, and was now on his way back. Thinking this a
good opportunity, I determined to send home the M.S. by him. He was
even obliging enough to remain some days with us, till I had leisure to
write to a few friends in Scotland. These and the M.S. he took with
him, and proceeded to Montreal.
A short time after I had
a letter from a friend there inquiring if this Dr. Donaldson, Bell he
called himself then), was a nephew of mine. He had, it seems, money
from various of my acquaintances. I answered that he was no relation of
mine, that I had never seen him before the day he called at my house,
and I feared he was a great rogue. I requested Mr. McIntosh to obtain
possession, if possible, of the manuscript. At first he refused to part
with it, but being threatened with a public exposure, in the newspapers,
he at last gave it up.
The fall of the year was
employed, as usual, in visiting my congregation at their own houses,
which caused me to travel not less that 300 miles. But I reached the
end of 1821 in health, and some share of happiness, and began 1822 in
reviewing the past, and forming plans for the future. At the
congregational meeting, on the first Monday, an ineffectual attempt was
made by Mr. Fraser to hold from me, in future, the allowance of 20, in
lieu of a house. It was this man’s wife that was rebuked for laughing,
and trying to make others laugh in church.
About the middle of
January I made a journey to Prescott, to preach at the opening of Mr.
Boyd’s new church, and to assist at the administration of the Lord’s
Supper. The weather was dreadfully cold at the time. On Sabbath while
I was preaching, Mrs. Gates’ horse, becoming restless from the extreme
cold, got away, and broke a very fine cutter all to pieces. We had a
meeting at the Presbytery on Monday. On Wednesday I reached home, after
preaching at several places on the way.
During the winter I made
many journeys for the purpose of preaching, and holding examinations.
Some of these meetings were held in places affording very poor
accommodation. In Dalhousie, for instance, one very cold day I
preached, in a dark smoky shantie that had no window, to about 30
people, and afterwards baptised five children. Here too, Mrs. Bell and
I had to pass the night. Our journey out and home was no less
inconvenient. The ground was rough, hilly, and there was even fallen
timber in the way. We had several upsets, and had to walk part of the
way to avoid danger.
On the 7th
February I preached in Beckwith, and baptised nine children; after which
I agreed with the people to have the Sacrament administered among them.
On the 20th I preached at Lanark, and baptised ten children.
I afterwards married two couples, but a third I was obliged to refuse,
having heard that the proposed bridegroom had a wife in Scotland.
On Saturday, 23rd
February, I went out to Beckwith to organize the church there. After
preaching I proceeded to examine the certificates presented. Ninety
members were admitted. On the following day we met in the upper story
of the inn, at Franktown, that being the largest room in the village;
but the congregation was far too large for the place, and more came than
could get in. Though the place was crowded to excess, no accident
happened. Having the whole labour, I was very tired at night, but happy
to see the church formed, and the children of God united in church
At our communion, in
March, having the assistance of Mr. Boyd and Mr. Smart, we had a large
congregation, larger indeed than the church could contain. On Monday
our Presbytery had a meeting, which was opened by a sermon from Mr.
Glen. My son Andrew, having chosen the ministry of the gospel as his
profession, he was, by the ministers present, examined in Latin, Greek,
On examining the state of
the church at this time, I found that we had admitted, up to this date,
225 members. Of these, however, 46 now belonged to Beckwith, 20 to
Lanark; 18 had been subjected to discipline, 7 had been cut off from
communion, 6 had left the settlement, and 4 had died.
Next week I made a
journey to Beckwith, and Richmond, at both of which places I preached
and baptised children. Part of the way I travelled in a cutter, part on
horseback, and the rest on foot. No person can now imagine how
difficult it was travelling in the woods at that time. The ground being
bare, I got home with difficulty, my cutter being torn to pieces by the
numerous small stumps in the road.
On Saturday, 16th
March, I went to Lanark, organized the church, and baptised a few
children. On Sabbath I preached in the schoolhouse, dispensed the
Lord’s Supper to about 70 members, and baptised more children.
Early in May I received a
letter from Airdrie, informing me of the death of Andrew Bell, my
nephew, by consumption. It was gratifying to learn that he died
exercising the lively hope of a glorious resurrection, and eternal
happiness in Heaven. He had been brought under the influence of
religion some years before; and, though exposed to many temptations, had
maintained a walk and conversation becoming the gospel. Some of his
letters to me, written a short time before his death, breathe the pure
spirit of true religion, and of a soul ripening for glory. Blessed are
the dead that die in the Lord.
Next week I rode out to
the Missippi River to visit Mr. Cameron, one of my elders, who was ill,
and seemed to be dying. Before I left him I wrote his will, and
attested his signature. The duty of settling one’s affairs in health,
is one which far too many neglect. He died a few days after, and on the
following Sabbath I preached his funeral sermon to a numerous
MY FORTY THIRD YEAR – 1822
The first letter I had, after my birthday,
was one from Dr. Hall, in Edinburgh, informing me that the Rev. George
Buchanan had been engaged as minister to the people of Beckwith, and was
now on his way out. In a short time he arrived, and met with a very
favourable reception from his people, though they did not behave well to
him in the end.
At our communion, in
June, 93 members were present, and great harmony was at this time
enjoyed. But a storm was gathering, as we shall see. Before the end of
June I made a journey to Prescott, to assist Mr. Boyd at his communion,
preaching at various places by the way. Mrs. Boyd being very ill at the
time, I had all the duty to perform. This excellent woman died a few
days after. Mr. Smart came and preached on Monday, after which we held
a meeting of Presbytery. On our way to Brockville in the evening, being
very thirsty, we called at a friend’s house to get a drink. From
mistaken hospitality no doubt he gave us a compound of cream, rum, and
eggs, which soon sickened me, and made me very ill all night with a
bowel complaint. Even the next day I was so unwell it took me two days
to reach home.
It was on the 13 July
that Captain McMillan applied to me to baptise the child that his
servant, Janet McGregor, had born a short time before. Hoping to
conceal the matter, he had sent away the girl to an obscure part of the
country, 30 or 40 miles from Perth to lie in. But her mother having
heard that she was a missing, and no one could tell what had become of
her, thinking, or pretending to think that the Captain had made away
with her, came and raised such a storm about his ears that he was forced
to tell her where her daughter was. The old lady went and brought her
home, and revealed the whole plot, so that the affair was now more
talked about than if no concealment had been attempted.
In answer to the
Captain’s application I told him that I could baptise no child till one
or both of the parents were received as members, and in their case they
would have first to submit to the discipline of the Church. This put
him in a passion, and he used some very improper language. He said that
no minister of the Church of Scotland, where he came from, would have
refused. That he was very sorry he had asked me. Had I done this for
him he would have befriended me, but not I must expect to favour at his
hands. I told him that I wished the favour of no man on such terms.
But finding it vain to reason with him I left.
Mr. Mathieson, being in
similar circumstances, sympathised most heartily with his friend; and
these being joined by another, namely by him whose wife had been rebuked
for misconduct in the church, the three, from this time took every
opportunity to oppose and annoy me. Next week we had a meeting for the
division of the burying ground, which was now cleared and enclosed, when
the three punctually attended, and did all in their power, in the way of
making opposition, and raising discontent. They however met with no
support, so that they left the meeting somewhat disappointed.
Their next scheme was to
divide the congregation, by proposing to have a minister from the Church
of Scotland, who could preach in Gaelic. By this means they expected to
enlist the sympathies of all the Highlanders, who formed the majority of
my congregation. In this they were but too successful, though it was
merely a deception; for the minister they obtained could no more preach
in Gaelic than I could. The petition they had prepared was not only
carried through the settlement, with persevering industry, but Mr.
Mathieson waited in his sore, from day to day, for two months, asking
the signature of all that came in. Thus we find that the children of
this world are not only wiser in their generation, but more zealous and
persevering, than the children of light. Preaching the gospel from mere
contention, was not confined to the days of the Apostle Paul.
At our communion on 8th
Septr., the day was fine, and the congregation larger than the church
could contain. Many stood outside, at the open door and windows. Mr.
Boyd preached the action sermon, and I addressed the communicants, of
whom more than 100 were present. In the afternoon Mr. Buchanan preached
a Gaelic sermon, the first I believe ever heard in the settlement. On
Monday, after a sermon from Mr. Boyd, the Presbytery met and transacted
business. Among other things Andrew, my son, was examined on Moral and
Natural Philosophy, and read an essay on Logic. The fall of the year,
as usual, was employed in visiting my congregation, and preaching in
various parts of the settlement.
On the last day of
September a man named Malcolm Fisher, living in Bathurst, sent for me to
come and see him. I found him weak and apparently dying, but I could
get little information as the state of his soul. O that men were wise
enough to prepare for death before it come: for the sake of his poor
wife and children I wrote his will, and with some difficulty got it
signed, for even this matter he had not attended to, in the time of
health. He died about an hour after I left him.
On Sabbath, the 13th
October, 1822, I find the following remarks in my journal. “The day
being good I had a large congregation, I was happy in attending to the
duties of religion, both in public and private. It is 20 years this day
since I was married, and what changes have taken place since that time!
Then I desired to be a minister of Christ, though I scarcely dared to
expect it, but now my wish has been granted. I have had many
difficulties to surmount, and many enemies to resist, but hitherto the
Lord hath helped me. What shall I render to the Lord for all his care
and kindness to me and mine? O that I could love him more and serve him
better! Let me anew devote my life to his service. While I have life
and breath I will praise him here, and when my work on earth is
finished, he will, I trust, receive me to his glory.”
On the 24th
October I received the sad news of my mother’s death, but it was to be
expected from her great age and many infirmities. My father had been
dead six years before, at the age of 78, and she, at her death, was past
80. Mr. Mack, at the same time, sent me the account of the sale of the
last of my property at Airdrie, and the application of the proceeds.
The expenses he had incurred were enormous, so that, except paying a few
debts at home for books, nothing came to my share.
The Governor, among other
things, had given us a stove for the Church, but now that the settling
department here was to be broken up, our enemies found means to take it
from us. This they accomplished in the following way. To the new
Governor, who knew nothing of the circumstances, they applied for an
order to recall the stove, telling him that it was only lent. This was
of course given, and Col. Powell sent men and took the stove away; but
instead of taking it to the government store, it was taken to his own
house and put up there. This was quite in keeping with the other
transactions I have stated.
In the spring and fall,
when the roads were bad, I had often very unpleasant journeys. Take the
following as an instance. Mr. Shaw, one of the clerks at the
Superintendent’s office at Lanark was about to take a wife, and had
requested me to come out and marry him on Monday 28 October. Though
there had been no frost, there came such a snowstorm on that day, that I
could not venture out, the distance being 14 miles by the road then
travelled. On Wednesday morning, having had a letter from Mr. Shaw,
saying that he still expected me, I set out, though the road was the
worst I ever travelled. The snow had melted and made it an ocean of mud
and water all the way. Some of the mud holes were deep and almost
impassable. Going and coming took me all day, and it was dark long
before I got home, the horses and myself both very tired. For all this
I was paid three dollars, not much more than I received for a marriage
in my own house. But I had foolishly enough left the fee to the
discretion of the bridegroom and this was the result.
On the 1st of
January 1823, I find the following in my journal:
“I have now entered upon
a new division of my time; in comfortable circumstances. O for more
humility, and more gratitude, to the Author of all my mercies. The past
year has been full of favours from my heavenly Father. My enemies have
been active, and full of malice, but God has set bounds to their wrath,
and said, Hitherto shalt thou come and no further. What shall I render
to the Lord?”
On the 10th I
set out for Brockville with my son William, who went to Mr. Beeck, of
the Recorder, on trial to learn the printing business. My principal
object on this journey was to assist Mr, Smart at his sacrament, which I
did on Sabbath. We had a meeting of Presbytery on Monday, at which Mr
Green's license was withdrawn. On account of his joining the Episcopal
On the second Sabbath of
February, I preached at Lanark to a large congregation, and baptised
twenty children. At various other places I was employed in like manner,
and the examinations were gone through in the winter. Most of these
exercises were held in dwelling houses, and often in very inconvenient
circumstances. One day I preached at Mr. Malloch’s, and baptised two
children. During the sermon we were much annoyed by the crowing of a
cock, on the loft overhead. The singing at first disturbed him and he
began to crow. As he still persisted, after the sermon began, I
requested Mr. Malloch to go up and drive him out. He made the attempt
but did not succeed. The rogue flew from side to side, making more
noise than before, but out he would not go. Finding it vain to contend
with him, he was left alone, and in a short time became quiet.
One day, in the following
week, I left home in the morning and preached at two different places,
besides holding an examination. It was 11 at night when I reached home
very fatigued. Here I found a young man waiting for me to arrange about
getting married. He had come on foot about 30 miles, through deep snow,
and had waited all day for my return, having called about five minutes
after I left home in the morning. But in matrimonial affairs I have
found people discover a degree of patience and punctuality that would be
very creditable to them were they equally punctual in all other matters.
Next Saturday I preached
at Lanark, and baptised 8 children. In the evening Mr. Glass introduced
to me the Rev Dr. Gemmill, who had come out as one of the Lanark
settlers. I was glad to meet with him, having the sacrament of the
Lord’s supper to administer the following day. Next morning the sun
rose with dazzling brightness upon the snow which was now more than two
feet deep, and seemed to smile upon the labours of the day. Beaten
footpaths in the snow, from all parts of the settlement, led into the
At 11, the congregation
being assembled, the services of the day began. No church being yet
erected, our place of worship was a large dwelling house, not yet
finished. After the sermon and other preparatory exercises, we
proceeded to the large upper room fitted up for the occasion, which
forcibly reminded me of the place where the sacrament of the supper was
first observed. The number of communicants was 92, at three table
services. One of these was addressed by Dr. Gemmill, and the other two
After the communion I
made two addresses, the first to those who had communicated, and the
second to those who had not. It was near night when I left the village.
On my way home I met a drunk man, in a narrow part of the road, who
narrowly escaped being run over. He staggered and fell across the road,
just when I was about to pass him. This frightened my beast, and she
started off the path, but went off at a gallop so that the cutter passed
within a few inches of his head, but did not touch him.
About this time ghosts
were often seen, if we are to believe those who said they
saw them. That of O’Connor, who was hanged for murder, was often met
with; and that of Mr. Tommis, who died in a fit near his own house, was
said to take many a solitary walk about the farm. Witches too, were no
less troublesome to the Highlanders here, than they had been in their
own country, among their native hills. These mischievous beings not
only deprived them of their milk and butter in summer, but even of their
maple sugar in spring.
A decent old man told me
that, last March, when the sap began to run, he set up a kettle and
boiled sap for several days, but never got a grain of sugar from it.
And what thank you, said I, was the reason you got no sugar from it?
Indeed, said he, I ken the reason vera weal, I had a neighbour that was
na counted vera cannie at home, and I think she is nae better here.
Surely, I said, you do not mean to say that your neighbour is a witch?
If I sud na say that I may at least think it, for I’m sure my sugar coud
na dang awa without somebody who had a connection with witches. I told
him not to allow such nonsense to enter his mind, for the poor woman he
suspected was as free of the crime of witchcraft as he was himself. But
though he became silent he was not convinced.
At our communion, in
March, I had several ministers to assist me. The church not being large
enough for the congregation, Mr. Buchanan preached to a part of them in
another place. Upwards of 120 members were present. Dr. Gemmill
preached in the evening to the full church. In the last three months I
had baptised 56 children, and admitted 16 new members, examined all my
congregation, and preached four times every week.
On March 15, William came
home from Brockville, and, on the following Monday, he went to Mr.
Norris as a clerk, on trial, to see how he would like store keeping.
The divisions among Christians gave us much pain, and I had some
conversation one day with Mr. Jackson about a general union among
Christians. Could good people meet together simply as Christians, take
the Bible as the rule of their faith and practice, in weighty matters,
and their own judgement, guided by common sense, in matters of less
importance, they might live together as brethren in one communion.
Having received about 200 tracts, I stitched them up in small parcels of
35 pages, and lent them out to all whom were disposed to read.
Our son Andrew, being now
ready for college, left us on Monday 16th June, for Glasgow,
where he remained three years, attending the university. He took home
with him the manuscript of my Letters from Perth, which he
published in Edinburgh soon after. The profits of the work assisted him
while at college.
From some of the discharged soldiers, who
were foreigners, I sometimes had curious applications. One day a person
of this description called to tell me something about his wife. He was
a native of Poland, and spoke English very imperfectly, so that I had
some difficulty in understanding him. However the following was the
substance of what he said.
My wife is no Christian.
Dey call he Pig. I tell her I speak to the minister to make her
Christian. She be villing to be Protestant, Presbyter, or Catolic -
anything if she be Christian, and I no care what. She have four fault.
She takes feets and fall down, dat is von. She had a child when I not
know, dat is two, but I no call dat any fault. She have a bad hand, dat
is tree; and she no be Christian, dat is four. But I no say noting
about de child, so she have tree fault.
By putting a few
questions to him, I learned that his wife was born of American parents,
that she was about 20 years of age, that she was subject to fits, but
that she was industrious, and a good wife. I further learned that she
had never been baptised, and that this was his principal objection to
her. I told him that the fits and lame hand were no faults of hers, but
afflictions, which he ought to alleviate by kindness and attention.
With regard to the child he himself admitted that was no fault; and the
last objection could be easily obviated, seeing she was desirous of
being a Christian.
He then asked, with some
earnestness, if I could make her a Christian. I told him that she
could become a Christian if she wished it, and that if she would call upon
me I would examine her, and if I found her views on that subject correct,
she might then be baptised. This satisfied him, and he said she
would come and see me next week. This man was a Roman Catholic, yet
he had no objection to his wife being a Protestant, if she was only a
Christian. All the Catholics I have met with discover some
liberality, except the Irish. They are the most savage and intolerant I
have found anywhere.
This precious 236 page book by William Bell
and his son Andrew, originally 25 LETTERS FROM PERTH was designed to
acquaint people back in Scotland with the advantages of emigrating to
Canada. The first 5 letters are an account of their voyage to Quebec,
but 8 weeks of the trials that Rev. & Mrs Bell and their 6 children
endured would hardly be encouraging. However, his purpose was to
describe the Military Settlements of Upper Canada that he had visited
during a residence of 6 years. His descriptions are very factual
including the churches, schools, many lakes, distances between towns and
settlements and the populations of the different counties of Upper
Canada adding up to 103,980 to date. Finally he encourages any emigrant
possessed of health, industry, perseverance, a small stock of money and
especially religion. Andrew Bell took this book to Scotland in 1822 to
have it printed and to help with the cost of his studies. He added an
Appendix of 3 letters which are very practical and informative,
describing the land in Upper Canada, how it may be cleared, instructions
for building a log house, for starting crops, and how not to get lost in
MY FORTY FOURTH YEAR – 1823
The routine of my labours
was now much the same from year to year. In July, as usual, I assisted
Mr. Buchanan in Beckwith at his communion; and, as he was somewhat
infirm, I performed most of the services. The weather was hot, and the
journey both out and home very fatiguing, especially as I had to travel
the worst part of it on foot. A swamp, a mile wide, could not be passed
by a horse, and even a foot passenger had to wade deep in black mud and
water, while annoyed with myriad of mosquitoes.
Though many in the
settlement made a profession of religion, yet it gave me great pain to
see how little of vital goodness their religion contained. I determined
to preach in every part of the country, and earnestly call the attention
of all to the salvation of their souls. In the village, I called a
public meeting, and had a Sabbath School Union formed. Each
congregation furnished 6 teachers, 3 male and 3 female. We met in the
courthouse, and near a hundred children attended. Mr. Harris and I
acted, in turn, as superintendents. This went on well for some time,
till he, in a freak one morning dismissed the whole, telling them to
attend at his church next Sunday morning. This left the
Methodists and me no alternative but to follow his example and form a
My son William, having
been with Mr. Harris some time as a clerk, and being satisfied with his
situation, a permanent engagement was made. He was to be provided with
board, lodging, washing, and clothing, till he was 21, and then to
receive a sum of money equal to his services, but this to be at the
discretion of Mr. Harris. When William went to him he was 17. So that
he had to remain four years.
Some time after this
John, his twin brother went to Mr. Mathieson, another merchant in the
town, in the same employment, upon the same terms. Robert too, in the
fall, went to Mr. Buell at Brockville on the same terms, to learn
printing. These changes reduced both our family and our expenses, for
hitherto the boys had earned nothing for themselves.
Wet weather had made the
roads very bad, and as I had many calls to the country, I had much
unpleasant travelling. One day, when I was returning from a journey
into the country, I observed a dense column of smoke rising from near my
house, which greatly alarmed me. It was evidently a house on fire, but
I could not tell then whether it was mine or not. With breathless
anxiety I hurried on, and found that the house of Mr. Jackson, my next
neighbour, was reduced to ashes; but, there being an opening between our
houses, mine was safe. While I heartily sympathised with my less
fortunate neighbour, I was truly grateful for our own preservation.
In reference to our
communion, in December, the following is from my journal of that date.
“Bad roads, yet the
church was crowded. I preached the action sermon, and Mr. Buchanan
addressed the communicants. I gave the concluding address, and Mr.
Buchanan afterwards preached in Gaelic. In the evening we had a prayer
meeting. All the exercises of the day afforded us much real enjoyment.
O blessed day when I first entered into covenant with my heavenly
Father, and sweet are the returning seasons of renewing that covenant
with him who had ever been my best friend, and the supreme object of my
affections. Created enjoyments are often pleasant and always necessary;
but, O my God, thou art the portion of my soul, and the source of
all my happiness, temporal and spiritual.”
On the last day of the
year 1823, I find the following:
“O my God forgive my sins of the past year,
and enable me to be truly grateful for the many mercies I have received
from thy bountiful hand. Last year, at this time, our children were all
at home; now three of them are gone from us, but I have hope they are
all well and happy. Many the blessing of God, and the grace of Christ,
ever attend them. When they and we have finished our course on earth,
may we all meet in Heaven, to enjoy the love of God, and to celebrate
the praises of our dear Redeemer for ever and ever.”
On the first day of the following year,
these were my first recorded thoughts.
“Bless the Lord, O my
soul, for His goodness to thee in past time, and trust him without
reserve for the future. The storehouse of His grace and goodness is not
yet exhausted, neither is He weary of doing thee good. Yes, O my God,
thy goodness to me, in the past year, I will consider as a pledge of thy
care and protection of me during the present.”
Next week I went to
Brockville, and assisted Mr. Stuart at the communion. On Monday we had
a meeting of the Presbytery, and much consultation as to the best means
of reviving religion, which at this time seemed to be in a languishing
condition. Being invited to spend the evening with the Sheriff, we went
out to his house, which was about a mile from town.
Mr Elms, a young dandy
clergyman of the Church of England, at that time teacher of the District
School came in soon after us, escorting two young ladies, Misses Hayes.
The trio seemed all equally foolish, and they behaved so ridiculously
that I was not sorry when they left us.
When Mr. Stuart and I
were returning home, about 9 o’clock, they passed us at the end of the
village driving very fast; but a minute afterwards they ran against a
heavy lumber sleigh, drawn by oxen, by which their carriage was knocked
all to pieces, and the whole party scattered upon the road, all hurt
more or less. Mr Smart jumped out and ran to their assistance. Mr.
Elms had got to his feet, but his face was cut, and covered with blood.
The face of one of the ladies was cut, and her side bruised. The other
was more frightened than hurt. They were all conducted to the nearest
house, and a surgeon sent for, in whose hands we left them.
One very cold Sabbath
morning, in February, John Robson called to inform me that he had seen a
female Indian at the river side, very sick, and likely to perish from
exposure to the storm if not taken care of. He had been to the warden,
who are the proper guardians of the poor, both of whom pitied her
with all their heart; but neither of them would do any thing for her and
her. I advised him to get a train and take her and her two children, a
boy and a girl, to Mrs. Cameron’s; which he did, and they were lodged
and fed there till the mother got better.
Times of refreshing
sometimes come from the lord, unsought and unexpected. On Sabbath, 15
February, I was in a happier frame of mind than usual all the morning.
I was glad indeed in the prospect of going up to the house of God. The
graces of love, gratitude, and joy, were all in lively exercise. The
time had been, in the days of my ignorance, when the return of the
Sabbath produced no pleasure; but now it was welcomed with the liveliest
joy. Happy is the people whose God is the Lord, for every movement of
their affections toward Him is attended with pleasure. Did the sons of
dissipation and folly know how far my present enjoyments and future
prospects exceed theirs, they would no longer feed upon husks with the
swine, but at once return to their Father’s house, where there is bread
enough and to spare.
In the end of February
and beginning of March, I was much in the country, at examinations and
visiting the sick. At one place in Bathurst I had, as an arbitrator, to
assist in dividing the property among the family of my deceased elder,
John Campbell, to prevent their going to law. At another place, on
visiting a very old man, William McNaughton, on his deathbed, I had also
to write his will, and thus secured his property to the widow during her
In one of these journeys
I took cold, and became very unwell, on the week before the communion.
It was fortunate that I had engaged the assistance of both Mr. Smart and
Mr. Buchanan; for, as it turned out, I was not able to be present
myself. On Saturday, though very ill, I went over to the church while
Mr. Buchanan preached, but I had better remained at home; for, on my
return, I was much worse, and was forced to go to bed. Mr. Smart
arrived in the evening, but I could scarcely speak to him.
During the night I had
little sleep, and the pain in my head was excessive. On Sabbath morning
I found that all hope of going to the church on that day was at an end.
This was painful to my feelings. I had never before been prevented by
illness, from administering the sacrament at the usual time. I had been
looking forward to this occasion with more than ordinary interest. I
had enjoyed much of the divine presence in my preparations, and there
was a greater accession of new members than usual. But how soon the
brightest prospect may be overclouded! Much against my will, I had to
remain at home, while others enjoyed the happiness of going up to the
house of God. But it was a comfort to reflect that God delights in the
dwellings of Jacob as well as in the gates of Zion. Mr. and Mrs.
Morris, and 12 others were on this occasion admitted to the communion of
Mr. Buchanan and Mr.
Smart conducted the public services between them. The congregation was
larger than the church could contain, and many had to go away for want
of room. My sickness was severe all day, and all the following night.
The medicine I took was of no avail, being followed in every instance
with severe vomiting. On Monday Mr. Buchanan bled me, in order to ease
my head, but I remained in a restless condition all day.
Many in the meantime
called to see me. Among them was the Rev. F. Metcalf, who, at my
request, prayed with me. In the afternoon the Rev. Mr. Harris sent
his compliments, and to enquire how I was. Thus he behaved like a
gentleman, but the other behaved like a Christian. He came
himself, enquired into the nature of my disorder, spoke of the
Christian’s consolation under affliction, and prayed for my recovery.
On Tuesday I was a little better, and sat up two hours. During the week
I recovered so far, that next Sabbath, though in a feeble state, I
preached as usual.
Early in April widow
McNee called upon me one morning and requested me to write her will,
which I did accordingly. While so employed I felt the strong smell of
fire, which caused me to enquire into the cause. On going into the back
kitchen I found it full of smoke, and a heap of shavings and chips on
fire. Water being at hand, it was soon extinguished. Had this fire
happened in the night, the whole of our building, without doubt, would
have been burnt down. Betty, we found, had in the morning taken out hot
sheets and put them down close to the shavings.
On the last Sabbath in
April I baptised Mary Davis, servant to Col. McMillan, and afterwards
his wife. This was the first adult I ever baptised upon the profession
of her own faith in Christ.
MY FORTY FIFTH YEAR – 1824
Summer and winter in
Canada seem sometimes to be mixed. On the 4th of May we had
frost and a fall of snow, though the trees and bushes were then green.
During the night the railing in front of our house had been pulled down
and destroyed. At first I suspected some of the Irish Ballygiblons, who
had been liberated from jail the evening before. But in the afternoon I
received information that Mr. Pitt, in a drunken spree, had done the
deed. When I charged him with the offence he positively denied it; but,
on finding that I had proof against him, he acknowledged his guilt and
sent me a written apology. On the 14th the snow was six
inches deep, and the frost was so severe that the snipes at the eves of
our house were three feet long. Vegetation was greatly injured.
On the 28th
May our John went to Mr. Mathieson as a clerk, to remain 2 years eleven
months, that is till he was 21 complete.
One day when I was
assisting the men to put up a fence on my land at Sweetbank, an idle
vagabond, who lived by begging, in a genteel way, came along, and
expressed some surprise to see me hard at work. I told him that we had
it upon the best authority that he that did not work should not eat. He
seemed to understand me, and walked off with a frown on his face.
On the evening of June 5
our house again narrowly escaped being burnt down. Merely by accident,
I observed smoke coming from the end of the house. On examining the
place, I found that one of the posts, and some of the clapboards were on
fire. By removing one of these, and dashing in plenty of water, the
fire was extinguished. Many instances of the care of divine Providence
we experienced, and this was none of the least. What destruction,
misery and loss must have ensued, had this fire been unobserved a few
At our communion in June,
having no assistance from man, I had much labour to go through. The
Sabbath was fine, and the congregation larger than the house could
contain. Never, on any former occasion, did I enjoy greater comfort in
my own soul, or greater liberty in preaching to others. Comparing this
communion Sabbath with that in March, when I suffered so much from
sickness and pain, I could freely saw, Bless the Lord, O my soul, who
forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases, etc.
Schools were now becoming
numerous in the settlement, and among the calls I had to public duty,
were the examinations of these, both in town and country.
Among the evils with
which I had to contend, the vice of drunkenness was none of the least.
It prevailed in the settlement to a great extent; for such was the
influence of the custom that nothing could be done without liquor.
Several of the half-pay officers died of this disease. One of these in
particular, Mr. Alston, gave me much trouble by his irregular conduct,
before he came to his miserable end. One day his wife called me to
inform me that he had become quite deranged, and had attempted to kill
both her and his own child. On going to see him I found him in a
dreadful state. He said he had been a bad man, and would soon be in
hell. It was evident he was suffering from delirium tremens. He
thought the devil was coming to take him away, and often saw demons
about his bed.
Near the end of July our
second election, for a Member of Parliament, began. On the first day,
the fun of the morning was turned to sorrow before night, by a fatal
accident. John McLaren, our church officer, having done with some
others to the river to bathe, was unfortunately drowned. On the
following Sabbath I improved the circumstances with these words, Boast
not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring
During the Assizes, in
August, I was invited to dine with the Judge, Chief Justice Campbell,
one evening, and on the next with the Grand Jury. On the following
Sabbath the Chief Justice, the Sheriff, and various other strangers,
attended public worship in our church, Mr. Harris not being at home.
In the fall of the year I
had, as usual, much travelling and visiting. At communion, in
September, and also at the one in December, we had a large addition of
new communicants. At the end of the year I was able to say, “Another
year is ended, and I am still alive and well; and so are all my family.
I bless God that our circumstances, in all respects, are as comfortable,
at the end of the year, as they were at the beginning.”
The year 1825 began, as
the last had ended, in the exercise of thankfulness to our heavenly
Father for the comforts we enjoyed. After expressing my gratitude to my
best friend for the mercies of the past year, and entreating His
blessing and direction in the one now begun, I called the family
together for worship, and spoke to them seriously on the duty of
improving time, of reviewing their past life, and especially the past
year, and of comparing their improvement with their privileges and
enjoyments. I reminded them that, were much is given, much will be
required. That they ought to consider what had been their shortcomings
and failings during the past year, and carefully guard against them in
the present; and that they should anew devote themselves to the service
of God, and resolve to be His only, wholly, and forever.
At 11, the annual meeting
of my congregation was held in the church. It was opened by a sermon,
in which I pointed out the mutual sympathy and assistance of the various
members of the human body, and showed that the members of all societies,
and especially religious societies, should follow their example, and
assist and comfort one another. When the accounts were settled, it was
found that all the church debts had been paid. A contract was then made
with Mr. Kid to erect the gallery without delay.
The early part of this
winter was mild, but it became colder as it advanced, and the snow
became deep. In my anxiety to visit every family, even in the most
retired corner of the settlement, I made many unpleasant journeys. One
of these was on the 2nd day of February.
I had given notice of an
examination at the house of Wm. Anderson in Burgess, an out of the way
place, and far from any public road. When the day arrived a snowstorm
raged over the land. The first half of my journey was difficult, even
on the ferry road, but after I got upon the Otty Lake it was more
difficult still, as I had no track, and the snow was at least two feet
deep. My progress was slow, and though the day was cold Kate was very
warm, being to the belly at every step.
On reaching the place she
had no shelter, but the side of a wretched shantie, the only building
yet erected. Indeed I was little better off myself, for a more
miserable hut I never was in; and it smoked so abominably that we had to
sit with the door open all the time. Even when the gass from the green
timber on the fire brought tears from my eyes. The roof being covered
merely with hemlock boughs, the heat of the fire melted the snow, which
came down over us in rain, so that a dry spot to sit could not be
found. The inmates of this wretched hovel were much to be pitied. Mrs.
Anderson was at the time in delicate health, and after long illness,
died no doubt from cold and exposure in this hut.
Next week I held an
examination at Donald Campbell’s, in Drummond, which, as usual, was well
attended. On setting out in the afternoon, for home, Kate being very
cold set off at full speed, and before I could bring her up, she beset
the cutter and threw me out with great violence, dragging me some
distance on the ground, as I held on by the reins. My right arm and
face were bruised, but on the whole I was not much hurt.
What sufferings that
noble animal the horse has sometimes to endure! One day as I was
returning from the country I came up to one brute beating another. The
former was named Wm. Matheson, who had two horses in a sleigh heavily
loaded with wood. One of the animals was a poor old beast little better
than skin and bone. He was unable to draw the load, and his brutal
owner was beating him with a great stick sufficient to kill him. One
blow on the head nearly brought him to the ground. I remonstrated with
the savage, and he gave up beating the poor beast till I left him, when
he began again, I think it could scarcely survive the treatment it
When people speak in a
joking manner about death, they little think themselves how near it is.
One day, three years before this, returning home from Lanark, I was in
some doubt about the road. I asked a young man, named Black, if I was
in the right way for Perth. He said I was not, but he would put
me into it. Observing that he had made a considerable improvement on
his farm, I asked him if he was still unmarried. He said he was, but
that he was now looking out for a wife.
I commend you for that,
said I, for it must be very uncomfortable living here in the bush
alone. And besides, I added, you have no person to whom you could leave
your farm, should it please God to call you out of the world. O, said
he, in a jocular way, I shall leave it to the church, if I die before I
am married. If that is your intention said I, make your will without
delay, for you know life is very uncertain. Yes, said he, I know it is,
but I shall take care to make my will in time. Knowing him to be
somewhat dissipated, I gave him some advice on that subject, and then
Though I did what I
believed to be my duty, I little suspected, more than himself that his
death was so near. A short time after he was drowned in the river, in a
state of intoxication, before he had made his peace with God. He was
crossing the Mississippi in a canoe, and went down head foremost. It
was somewhat strange that the body never rose till it was accidentally
dragged up two months afterwards.
The more faithful
ministers are, the more they are hated by those they find it necessary
to reprove. The truth of this I have often proved in the course of my
life, but particularly at this time and from the conduct of one of my
elders too. He had lately lost his wife, at which he seemed to be
overwhelmed with grief. Seeing this I did all I did all I could to
comfort him. I wrote his wife’s obituary, preached her funeral sermon,
and to him I often suggested the considerations best fitted to allay his
But al the while he was
deriving comfort from a source of which I was ignorant, namely from Miss
Buchanan, then teaching a girl’s school in the town. She attended Mrs.
Ferguson, his former wife, in her last illness, superintended the
funeral, and was very assiduous in affording consolation to the bereaved
husband. Indeed their affections were mutual, and it was evident to all
who saw them, even before Mrs. Ferguson’s funeral, that her place would
not be very long vacant. After I was informed of these proceedings, I
hinted to both my disapprobation of their conduct. This gave great
offence, and they soon discovered a degree of malice truly astonishing.
In a few weeks, or
perhaps days, after the first wife’s death, the match was all settled;
but for the sake of decency the marriage was deferred till a half a year
had expired. At the new year their union took place, when the young
people in the neighbourhood treated them with a charivari. To get quit
of this troublesome company the bridegroom gave them ten dollars, and
requested them to apply it to some charitable use.
The next day they gave
nine dollars, (for they had spent one on whisky,) to Mr. Watson,
Treasurer to the Sunday School Union, to buy books for the children.
But he hesitated to apply it to that use without Mr. Ferguson’s
consent. On referring to him he had the meanness to take back the
money, which he had pretended just before to give freely for a
charitable purpose. Mr. Stewart was so indignant at this conduct that
he got up a subscription of a penny each, to make up the dollar that had
been spent by the mob.
As some may not know what
a charivari is, a short description of this one may throw some light on
the subject. From half a dozen to a dozen young people, personating
ghosts, and dressed in the most grotesque and fantastic style, entered
the house about ten at night, with the rude music of bells, horns, tin
kettles and dancing and singing in strains suited to the occasion. The
one who personated the ghost of the dead wife led the band, and would
have been very difficult to lay, had not the ten dollars acted as a
sovereign charm. This being obtained, they all drank the health of the
newly married couple, and departed peaceably.
Next Sabbath morning a
scene was presented in the Sunday school, not of the gravest
description, in which Glassford, our church officer, acted a conspicuous
part. Professing to be pious, though rather weak minded, he usually
came early and made a fire in the stove; and when there were not
teachers enough present, he took charge of a junior class. This morning
being very cold, and the teachers all late, he was ready to begin before
any of them had arrived. Thinking this a good opportunity to show what he could do, he began the business of the school at once, but in
a way altogether new.
He first arranged all the
boys and girls in two ranks facing one another, and then directed the
boys to come and kiss the girls. And to prevent the latter from backing
out, he held them one by one till the kiss was given.
At this moment Miss Park,
one of the teachers, came in, and was much surprised to find the school
in a state of confusion and uproar. Order being in some degree
restored, he read out a hymn, and asked Miss Park to raise the tune,
which she did. This being finished he, with a grimace peculiar to
himself, said, Come, let us pray, which set all the children to
laughing; for the idea of his leading their devotions had never crossed
Miss Park rebuked them
and restored order, which was no easy task, for the off appearance of
their chaplain amused them exceedingly. The prayer being ended, he told
the children he feared some of them were going to hell, indeed there was
some reason to think he was on the way to it himself. But if any of
them got there before him they might say that he was coming, and that he
would make the fire as usual.
Though we had always
considered him a simple and foolish man we had never till now seen
anything like actual derangement. But being a Methodist he, like most
of his brethren, was fond of saying and doing out of the way things.
On the 7th of February
we had one of these sudden changes of temperature for which this country
is remarkable. The morning was very mild and the snow melting.
I had gone to attend the funeral of Miss Adams, a young woman who had died
at the age of 18 years. On her deathbed she greatly lamented that
she had not, in the time of health, made a public profession of religion,
and partaken of the Lord’s supper. The people being assembled to
attend the body to the grave, I made an address to them on the duty of
preparing for death in the time of health.
As we were leaving the
house Mr. Clarke’s horse, a mischievous beast, became restive, broke the
reins, galloped off, upset the cutter, threw out the riders, demolished
another sleigh with which he came in contact, alarmed the whole company,
and nearly killed a young woman by running her over, when he was at last
driven up against a fence and secured.
Ten sleighs, besides
cutters, all well filled, carried the attendants. Never had such a
sight been seen here, though it would have been nothing strange in the
old settlements, where sleighs are plenty, and such things common. Our
progress to the burying ground being slow, we were almost frozen by a
Northwester, which had just sprung up and lowered the temperature
more than twenty degrees. Soon after the coffin was laid in the grave
the wind blew most piercingly, which made the people run to their
sleighs and gallop off without loss of time.
Though it was attended
with much labour, yet the pastoral visitation of my congregation was a
duty I never neglected. It extended over four townships, and was
performed regularly every year. None of my services, I am satisfied,
was attended with more pleasure to myself and profit to my hearers. The
annual examination of my congregation was another duty - which was never
neglected. It afforded me great satisfaction to observe that these
exercises were uniformly well attended. Many told me that the plain and
simple explanations, both of doctrine and duty, which I gave them on
these occasions, were of more real benefit to them than sermons I
preached to them from the pulpit.
Those of my elders, who
had never been in that office before, I found had, in some instances,
imbibed very erroneous notions respecting some of their duties. Two of
them, in particular, instead of assisting, greatly embarrassed me. They
denied my authority to exercise any part of my ministerial office
without consulting them, though this was impossible in many cases when I
was called upon to officiate 10, 15, or 20 miles distant from them.
Just before the sacrament
in March, when I had met about an examination of all the communicants,
these men not only found fault with what I was doing, but endeavoured to
make others discontent. Yet at the communion I was surprisingly
supported, and enjoyed much of the divine presence.
On Saturday evening I
felt uncomfortable, and everything around me seemed to have a dark and
gloomy aspect. Yet joy came in the morning of the Sabbath, and the day
turned out to be one of the most delightful I had ever experienced. Nor
was this all. For some days afterwards I enjoyed a happier frame of
mind than I had done for months before. This caused me to sing,
The Lord can clear the
Can give me day or night,
Make streams of sacred
To rivers of delight.
About a week after,
namely on the 17th of March, the snow being all gone, I had a
walk in the garden for the first time since spring commenced. The day
was fine, my health good, and my mind in a cheerful condition. I
gratefully adored my heavenly Father, the source of all my happiness,
and the object of my warmest affection. What a heaven upon earth, could
I always entertain such feelings! The troubles of life, and even death
itself, could not then disturb our mind, or destroy our peace.
In Scotland it is
reckoned very unlucky to have a dispute with the minister, and no one is
ever expected to thrive who has injured any of them. Though no way
superstitious, yet it is too remarkable to pass unnoticed, that every
person in this settlement, who has injured me, has come to ruin.
A case of this kind
occurred in the summer of 1825. The elder who had been most guilty in
vexing me, and disturbing the peace of the congregation, had 30 acres of
hay burnt by a spark from the pipe of one of the men. He lost horses
and oxen, some by accidents and others by disease, to the amount of
£100; a number of law suits, in which he was involved, went all against
him, involving him in ruinous expenses; a valuable raft of timber, on
its way to Quebec, was seized by the government, and, though last not
least, such were his domestic troubles that for relief he turned his
children out of doors.
The applications made to
a minister are very various, and sometimes perplexing. On the first of
April I met a man who told me that he was in trouble, and that of a
peculiar kind. His son, who was our precentor, was proposing to marry a
young woman whom he, the father, did not like, and whom he called a very
ugly name. He also objected to his son being recognised as a member of
the church, on account of his disobedience to his father; and presuming
to fall in love without his consent. He said he would, with pleasure,
follow his son to the grave sooner than he should form a connection with
the person in question.
As the son was of age to
judge for himself, and I knew the young woman to be a very suitable
match for him, I felt shocked at this observation of the old man. I
told him that this was a very unfeeling expression sometimes used by
foolish parents, influenced more by false pride than a desire to promote
the happiness of their children. I reminded him, moreover, that he had
lately followed one of his children to the grave, and might have to
follow another to the same place sooner than he either wished or
expected. That if he would preserve parental authority from contempt he
must be aware of stretching it too far, as the young had rights and
feelings as well as the old.
MY FORTY SIXTH YEAR – 1825
The want of rain was much felt this summer.
In harvest the ground was so dry that every fire, lighted out of doors,
ran over the ground in any direction the wind happened to carry it. Mr.
Jackson, one of my neighbours, had all his crops burnt, besides about
thirty cords of firewood. Fires were running in all quarters; but it
fortunately happened that, at this time, there was little or no wind; so
that the damage was not so great as it might have been; for the wood
were on fire from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. So dense was the
smoke for more than a week, all over the country, that the steam boats
would not make their regular trips, and both man and beast became sick.
But a dead calm prevailed, or the country might have been ruined.
The province of New
Brunswick was less fortunate. While the fires were in the woods there,
a hurricane rose, which carried the flames, like a fiery deluge, over
the country with incredible rapidity laying everything combustible in
ashes. Houses, stores, barns, lumber, ships, crops, standing
trees, and even the vegetable soil were consumed. The number
of persons destroyed or wounded was great, amounting to several
hundreds. Even those spared had lost their dwellings, cattle, clothing,
furniture, food, and at the commencement of a long and rigorous winter.
But the nature and extent of their calamity touched the heart of the
benevolent, and in almost every part, not only of the British colonies,
but in the United States also, liberal subscriptions were made in money,
clothing, and provisions, both by the government and by individuals.
Though we suffered no such calamity, yet our
gardens and fields were ac dry and parched that many plants died, and
vegetation was at a stand. When the soil was turned up a cloud of dust
ascended as from a heap of ashes. The fences and woods around us were
so frequently on fire that we were kept in state of continual alarm.
My next neighbour, Mr. McKenzie, having
thoughtlessly put fire into a rotten stump to burn it out, a gust of
wind spread it over the field, by which he lost ten acres of hay and as
much of oats, besides fence and fire wood. The fire had just reached my
fence when the neighbours turned out, and, with hoes and other
implements, arrested its progress. At the same time Mr. McKenzie put
his oxen to the plough and drew a furrow round the outside of the fire,
by which it was prevented from spreading farther.
A day or two after this, a breeze having
sprung up, the fire on Mr. McKenzie's land again broke out, and
destroyed the greater part of his crop. I had two men clearing in a
swamp, and burning the brush, when the fire began to run, in a short
time the greater part of the swamp on fire, by which I lost many cedar
posts and besides fire wood.
The men repairing the log-bridge on the
Mississippi road, having fire in a stump to light their pipes, it began
to run, and set the adjoining cedar swamp on fire. The sight was
terrific. The flames flashed and crackled, and dense volumes of smoke
soon darkened the air in all directions. In the following night the
fire took into the log-bridge, and before morning a large part of it was
destroyed. All that day the fire raged in the swamp, which extended a
mile to the north. Huge masses of dark smoke could be seen at Perth,
three miles distant, like mountains piled on each other, spreading over
the sky, and giving a murky hue to the light of day. Showers of white
ashes and half burnt leaves were falling over the town at this time, and
fires were springing up in all directions there is no saying what
destruction might have followed had not a kind Providence interposed in
our behalf. But just when the danger seemed greatest, dark clouds of a
different description were observed gliding over the sky, and in a short
time it began to rain. Never was a shower more needed both to refresh
the parched fields and to extinguish the fires, which were now raging in
all directions, and threatening destruction to buildings, fences, and
crops. The rain fell thick and fast, so fast indeed that the earth, dry
as it was, could not receive it as fast as it fell. Three hours this
rain continued, refreshing vegetation, and spreading universal joy over
the land. It was delightful to see the happy effects of this seasonable
supply on the fair face of nature.
But what brought safety to some brought
death to others. The storm, which brought benefit to the thirsty land
here, appeared along the west bank of the Otty lake in the shape of a
hurricane, which destroyed crops, buildings, and prostrated the largest
trees as if they had been corn stalks.
A Mr. McDonnell and his son were mowing near
the lake when the storm began. Hail as large as pigeons eggs beginning
to fall they ran towards the house, while trees were falling in all
directions. The young man reached home first, and expected that his
father would soon follow. As he did not make his appearance, after
waiting some time, the mother and son went in search of him. They had
not gone far when they found him, crushed to death, under the trunk of a
large tree. What they felt, on finding his mangled remains, I shall not
attempt to describe.
The sectarian zeal abroad in the world is
sometimes carried even to the bedside of those about to be launched into
eternity. One night after I was in bed my servant came to inform me
that Mr. McEachron wanted me to visit his wife, who appeared to be
dying. On going to the house I found the woman in a very melancholy
condition. She had been delivered of a child about a week before, and
was now very ill and quite deranged. She had been quite furious during
the day, but at this time was more composed. I talked to her some time,
and at her request prayed with her.
While this was going on Dr. O'Hare came in
and said he hoped there would be no prayers offered there, as he feared
it would make her worse. This surprised me, for though he had been a
notorious drunkard, he had lately joined the Methodists; and as such I
expected he would care for the soul as well as the body of his patient.
But I afterwards learned that it was his newborn zeal for the sect he
had joined that occasioned the remark he had made. He wished his
patients attended, in their dying moments, by none but Methodist
On the last day of July, during the assizes,
I attended the Chief Justice, at his request3 to visit our
Sabbath school. He expressed himself highly pleased with the appearance
of the children and the report of their progress.
At this time I was suffering great pain from
a large tumor under my right arm. The inconvenience it gave me was
excessive, and even in the night I could not sleep. But patience is the
only remedy for evils of this sort. It was a fortnight before it came
to a head, but when it broke I found great relief.
On the night of the 9th August, not being
able to sleep from pain, I had an opportunity of seeing a splendid
phenomenon. At first my attention was attracted by the room being light
and dark alternately. The light was so clear that I started up, fearing
that some house might be on fire. On looking out at a south window I
beheld a scene truly grand. Every other second the whole hemisphere was
lighted up with a splendor of a dazzling brightness. The air was still
and the night dark, except during the flash, when the whole landscape
was seen as in the clearest day.
After admiring the scene for half an hour I
retired to bed. The light continued to play some time longer when
distant thunder began to roll. It approached nearer and nearer, and
waxed louder and louder, till it actually shook the bed on which we
lay. The night was now shrouded in pitchy darkness, except when lighted
up with the flashes, which still appeared at intervals. The air, which
before had been still, was now agitated to a state of fury, and raged
and roared as if threatening to overturn everything in it’s way. This
war of the elements soon wakened all in the house. Some lay still
trembling, while some of the children jumped out of bed and came running
into our apartment. Even the brutes were terrified. Silvia, the
housedog, howled with fear, and a kitten two months old screamed aloud.
On the evening of Sabbath, 25th August, when
the Session met in the church, after the congregation was dismissed, we
observed a man sitting, apparently in a pensive mood, in a corner of the
back most pew. On going to him to see what was the matter we found him
fast asleep; so that we had to shake him well before he could be
awaked. He had walked ten miles in the morning, under a fervid sun, and
being greatly fatigued he had, during the last sermon, sunk into a
profound slumber. Judge of his surprise, on awaking, to find himself
surrounded by the Session, and to hear the advice given to him on the
occasion. He made no apology but left us without delay, seemingly
ashamed of the error into which he had fallen.
In this world we are surrounded with
dangers, and are never more unsafe than at those moments when we fear no
evil. One day as I was leaving town, to visit part of my congregation
in the country, I had a fall from my horse, the first I had for twenty
years past. It was very unexpected, for I dreaded no danger at the
time. Passing Mr. Rutherford's house, the day being warm and the
win-dews open, a gust of wind blew the end of a white curtain but so
suddenly as to frighten my beast. She started to one side so hastily
that I came to the ground head foremost. Though I fell upon my head I
was not much hurt. I gave thanks to God for my preservation. This was
not the first time I had escaped safe, when exposed to imminent danger.
Up to this time the settlement had been
remarkably healthy, but during the summer, cases of fever and ague began
to appear. The summer had been dry and hot, yet few were sick in the
country; but in the village, few families escaped without having one;
two, or more sick. This was supposed to be occasioned by the
laying dry the millpond, close by the village, in hot weather.
Three of my family were laid up for some
time; Ebenezer for two months; William, then a clerk with Mr. Morris,
for three months, and Mrs. Bell for a still longer period. Hers was the
worst case of all. It was painful even to witness the distress to which
she was subjected every second day. But relief came at last; and it was
a relief to us all as well as to her.
In the fall of the year I learned that some
enemy, with a view to injure me, had circulated a report that I had no
right to celebrate marriages. Upon inquiry I learned that it had come
from Mr. Stewart, teacher of the District School. Without delay I
called upon him3 and asked upon what authority he had made
such a statement. He denied the charge, as far as I was concerned, but
admitted that he had said so of Mr. Boyd. He was a person upon whose
word no dependence could be placed, and I cautioned him to be a little
more careful what he said. A few days afterwards, as he was getting
over a fence, he fell to the ground, head foremost, and his tongue
happening to be between his teeth at the time, he bit it so
badly that Dr. Wilson had to sew it. When he was thus employed, knowing
the infirmity of his patient, and the reproof I had given him, he
laughed so that he could scarcely perform the operation. Roderic
Mathieson, one of our half pay gentry I found had also been concerned in
circulating this report. When I called upon him I did not find him at
home, but next day I wrote him a letter on the subject.
A short time after he set out one morning,
with a sleigh load of goods, for Lanark, where he had a store. In
crossing the Mississippi River, the ice not being strong enough, he
broke in, and both he and his horses were nearly drowned. Both were got
out alive, but the harness was cut to pieces, and the load, consisting
of tea and broad cloth etc., was greatly damaged.
One night, between twelve and one, I was
awakened by a loud knocking at the street door. It was a crazy man as I
afterwards found. As the servant was not easily awakened I went to the
door and inquired, who is there? His Majesty, was the answer. What
does your Majesty want? I want a night's lodging. At the head inn,
over the way, you will find good accommodation. I have been at all the
taverns in town, said he, and cannot get lodging at any of them; but
tomorrow I intend to ascertain why I am treated in this manner. I had
often been amazed at the little respect shown to ministers in this
place, but now my surprise ceased when I found that even the King
himself could not get a night's lodging.
Some evenings after this a ragged dirty
looking man, about 30 years of age, called and said he wanted to see
me. On going to him he told me that he had appointed a meeting with the
gentlemen of Perth that evening, and not having any decent clothes with
him, he wished to borrow a suit from me of the best I had. I asked who
He replied I am the King, or rather I am the
Emperor, and having called a meeting of all the gentlemen this evening,
I wish to be decently dressed. I said the wish was a very natural one,
but as I had no clothes suitable for a person of such exalted rank, I
must refer him to some of his own officers, one or other of whom I had
no doubt would be happy, if they believed him, to be the King, to supply
He replied that he had already applied to
all the gentlemen in town, and not one of them would let him have a
suit; and unfortunately all the tailors in town were so busy that not
one of them had leisure to make the clothes he wanted. I told him that
this was a very unpleasant situation for a king to be placed in, but as
there appeared to be no alternative, he could not do better than hold
his levee in the dress he had. This seemed to satisfy him, and he
At our communion in December, my mind was
much disturbed by the factious and rude conduct of Mr. Rutherford, one
of my elders, who from a mistaken sense of duty generally
found fault with everything that I, or the session, did. His opposition
was quite systematic, and was usually most violent about the time of the
sacrament. A few words I said to him at this time, on' the
unreasonableness and indecency of his conduct, were taken so much amiss
that he withdrew from the session altogether. But we were better
On the last day of December, when taking a
review of the past year, I found that I had experienced some
trials, yet I had enjoyed many comforts. My enemies, though full of
malice, had not been permitted to hurt me. Goodness and mercy had still
followed me, and I determined still to trust in the unlimited power, and
in the bountiful Providence of God for the time to come, as I had done
in times past.
I entered upon the New Year with similar
feelings. I was still thankful and happy under the care of divine
Providence. My wants were still supplied and my health was preserved.
Though some of the family had been afflicted, they were now all restored
to the enjoyment of health. We had food to eat and raiment to put on,
and what was better than all these, a good hope through grace.
After getting up in the morning, my first
employment was to bless God for his goodness to me during the past year;
to pray for his direction during the present; and anew to devote myself
to his service. This being Sabbath I preached a sermon in the church
suitable to the occasion. In the evening I preached in the courthouse,
and made a collection for the benefit of the Sabbath School Library. By
this means we were enabled to add a number of useful and interesting
books, well fitted to engage the attention and to improve the minds of
During the winter I was generally engaged
two days in the week examining my congregation, or preaching at a
distance from home; and many a disagreeable journey I had, when the
roads were bad, and the weather stormy. At one place, I had to engage
in a public dispute with a person, on the subject of baptism, who had
formerly been favourable to that ordinance but now opposed it. He had
become acquainted with Baptists, who had persuaded him that it was wrong
to have his children baptised. His wife, however, held a different
opinion, and presented her child to receive baptism.
Rev. Mr. Smart of Brockville, having gone to
Britain in the fall, I had to preach occasionally to his congregation in
his absence. On the 22nd January, 1826, I set out for that place,
taking Mrs. Bell and daughter with me. At Major Reade's, on our way, I
preached and baptised several children, and two young women on the
profession of their own faith. Next day we reached Brockville, and had
a very pleasant meeting with our friends. On Sabbath I preached three
times to attentive congregations.
On Tuesday, we set out on our way home,
leaving Isabella a few days with Mr. Smart. A snowstorm, directly in
our faces during the whole day, rendered our journey very unpleasant. I
had made an appointment to preach at a farmhouse on the Rideau in the
evening, but could not reach it in time. From erroneous information we
took a wrong road3 and after a long, wearisome, and fatiguing
journey, of 40 miles, half of it in the woods where no human face was to
be seen, we stopped at sun set at a tavern to refresh ourselves and
After resting an hour we set out be
moonlight having still eight miles to travel. The storm had been
boisterous all day, but now it became tremendous, and made travelling
not only difficult, but dangerous, from the falling of trees or rotten
limbs. To add to our misfortunes, having no one to direct us, we again
took a wrong road, and traveled five or six miles out of our way before
we discovered our error.
After many difficulties we at last, almost
frozen, reached our destination at 9 at night just three hours after the
time I had appointed to preach. The people had waited two hours, but
now they were all gone, so that the only thing we could now do was to
make ourselves as comfortable as possible for the night. Our
accommodation was homely, but few I believe, after such a day as we had
experienced, would be very fastidious, if under a hospitable roof. I
was chiefly concerned for poor Kate which, after so long a journey, had
to pass the night under the shelter of an open shed, in a dreadfully
cold night. Next day we finished our journey home, over a very bad
road, and in a very cold day.
Before the winter was over I made a journey
to Montreal, preaching at various places on the way. In Glengary I had
the pleasure of lodging with my former pupils at Rothesay, Messrs.
McIntosh. I found them comfortably settled, both there and at Montreal,
as merchants, and experienced much kindness and hospitality while I
remained at their house. On the Sabbath I preached for the Rev. Mr.
Christmas in the American Presbyterian Church, and spent the evening at
his house in friendly conversation. On the way home I preached at
Brockville, and administered the sacrament of the Lord's supper to Mr.
Smart's congregation. At other places I preached and baptised children
on my way to Perth.
The harvest before this I had a fine crop or
wheat, but it cost me more than it was worth; for servants wages,
besides all my own trouble. The difficulty at that time of getting
servants, their high wages, but above all their insolence, made farming
in my case no way desirable. I therefore resolved to give it up and
keep to my own profession.
I shall conclude this chapter with an
anecdote worth recording, though it forms no part of my history. The
Hon. Wm. Morris, at this time a member of our church, and a magistrate,
was much afflicted with a pain in his ears. He had tried various
applications without effect, when an old Irish woman recommended the
following, as an infallible remedy. To put a bridle on his head and the
bit in his mouth, and cause the servant to drive him every morning to
the river, for six days in succession. Each time he was to drink
thrice, when the cure would be complete. He told me that the very idea
of such an odd proceeding put him in so good humour that he was greatly
MY FORTY SEVENTH YEAR – 1826
On the 20th May 1826, I entered upon my
forty seventh year. God in mercy had spared my life, while many others
had been called to their final account. Some spend their birthday in
feasting and rejoicing; I do not always remember when mine comes, but,
when I do, I feel more inclined to retirement and meditation, than to
noise and company.
During the summer we suffered much from
fever and ague. Whole families, in some cases, were laid up at once;
and most families had some sick, one or more. Not one of my family
escaped. So discouraged were some that they talked of selling out and
leaving the place. It is a vexing disorder though it seldom proves
fatal. When it continues months which it sometimes does it leaves the
suffering a very debilitated state.
Till the introduction of quinine, I had
baffled all medical skill that could be procured. But in the latter part
of the summer it began to be used, and seldom failed to afford relief.
I escaped for a while, but my time came at last. For more than a year I
suffered either from the disease or its effects, till I was reduced
almost to a skeleton. Yet all this time I continued to preach every
Sabbath, though often in a weak state.
In July I made a journey to Beckwith to
assist Mr. Buchanan at the sacrament. The weather being hot, I thought
it best to set out early in the morning. The distance was 18 miles, and
the road bad, if road it could be called; but nobody in a cultivated
country would call such a line of hillocks, stones, fallen trees, mud
holes, and deep swamps, a road.
In these circumstances, and attended with
swarms of mosquitoes, my ride was as pleasant as I could expect. Six
miles on my way I called at John McPhailts, and raised the
family out of bed. They were happy to see me, but much surprised at my
early and unexpected visit. Five miles farther on I called at James
Robertson's, to inquire about the state of the long swamp; a bog about a
mile across, which no horse could go through.
On arriving at this swamp, which is a dead
level of black mud, covered with bushes and small trees, I sent back my
horse with a boy I had taken with me from J. Robertson's3 and
proceeded on foot. But this was no easy matter from the mud and water
through which I had to pass, and the myriads of mosquitoes with which I
was attended. The heat at this time was excessive, and though I carried
my coat over my arm, I was drenched in perspiration. Small trees had
been cut and laid along the line of march, to keep the passenger above
the mud and water, but these formed a very ticklish pathway, and a false
step sent one to the knees in the mire.
Before 12 I reached Mr. Buchanan's, and at
that hour I preached to about 300 people. Being fatigued I went early
to bed, expecting to get a sound sleep; but never was I more
disappointed. Between bugs and fleas I suffered like an Indian captive,
when his patience is tried by his enemies. Being heartily tired of
their company, I got up early, and walked about in the woods,
comfortably employed in devotional exercises. At 11 public worship
began; and though we had some heavy showers they did not prevent a large
congregation from assembling. Besides preaching twice I had most of the
services to perform.
Though I was greatly fatigued I returned
home in the evening being resolved not to spend another night among
vermin. On reaching home, at midnight, I found that some of the
wretches with whom I was surrounded had, during my absence, destroyed a
great part of the board fence in front of my park lot. Next day I had
it repaired; but during the summer it was repeatedly pulled down, and
generally on Saturday night.
One evening John Robson called and asked me
to go with him to visit widow McTavish, who was supposed, he
said, to be dying. I went with some reluctance, for it was near night,
and I suspected it was nothing more than a fit of the ague, which turned
out to be the case; for before I got there she was better, and about as
well as I was. The distance was four miles, and the sun had set before
I reached the house.
After spending some time with the family in
conversation and prayer, I had to return home through the woods in the
dark. None but those who have made such a journey can form an idea of
the encounter I had with fallen timber, stumps, and deep mud holes,
before I reached Perth. Yet all these services were performed for
persons who, on the first opportunity, treated me most ungratefully.
In August, my son Andrew returned from
Glasgow, where he had been attending the university for some years
past. On the following Sabbath we had the pleasure of seeing him in my
pulpit, not indeed to preach, but to perform the introductory services.
After remaining a few days with us he went up to Albion Hills, in the
Gore district, where he had been engaged as a private tutor for the
children of John Secord Esqr., and where he remained till he was called
by the Presbytery to preach the gospel.
In the autumn I was much employed visiting
the sick, who were at this time more than ordinarily numerous. At the
communion, in September, many were absent from sickness, and some were
taken ill in the church and had to leave it. In the evening I was taken
ill myself, passed a restless night, and was worse in the morning.
Every day I became worse till Thursday, when my disorder turned to fever
As few die of this disease the sufferers
receive little sympathy from others, yet their sufferings are great,
especially at the commencement. The previous symptoms are, a severe
pain in the head and back, with general debility. After the remittent
fever was formed, I had the attack only every second day. On my well
day, as it is called, I felt weak but had no sickness, and this
fortunately was on Sabbath, so that I preached without much difficulty.
On Monday I was sick all day, and able to attend to nothing.
Being confined the whole week, and the
Quarter Sessions being then, Captain McMillan embraced the opportunity
of my absence, and applied to the court for an order to have my fence
removed. But the chairman refused to grant this without a certificate
from a surveyor that it was wrong. This he could not obtain, the
surveyor having certified just the contrary. Thus the designs of my
enemies were frustrated once more.
After suffering about a fortnight I got
better, and continued so about a month, when I had a new attack, but not
so severe as the first. The prospect for the settlement was now very
discouraging. Hundreds were suffering from fever and ague, with little
hope of improvement.
In the course of visiting my congregation
this fall, the pain of my long and disagreeable journeys was increased
by my weak state, and a new attack of fever and ague, which lasted about
ten days. It was at last removed by the use of quinine, which had now
come into general use, being found to be the only effectual remedy.
On the morning of the 16th December, I
dreamt that our house was on fire, and that I was making great exertions
with water to extinguish the flames. This seemed to have some
connection with what took place, a few days afterwards, at the Quarter
sessions. Captain McMillan being determined to leave no means untried
to have my fence condemned, had applied to the Attorney General for his
advice, and now laid the result before the bench of magistrates. The
Captain’s warmest friend, Major Mathieson, was at this time chairman,
and though he could not do much, he did all he could to twist matters so
as to get me into trouble. But all would not do. Two surveyors were
examined, but their evidence being all in my favour, the fence had to
remain as it was, to the great mortification of my opponents. To add to
their affliction the chairman himself was indicted, by the Grand Jury,
for a trespass upon one of his neighbours.
At the meeting of my congregation, held at
the end of the year 1826, we found the church not only finished but the
debt all paid. On the first day of January 1827, I enjoyed much
happiness from the recollection of past mercies, and gratitude for
present enjoyments. In my God, who had fed me all my days, I resolved
to trust implicitly for the future.
On the 4th my son Robert arrived from
Brockville, to spend a few days with us, having just finished his
apprenticeship. He had served his time with Mr. Buell, as a printer, on
the Brockville Recorder. It gave us pleasure to find that he had
finished his engagement with credit to himself, and no less to his
master, who had used him well, and more than fulfilled all his
promises. He left us in a few days to take charge of the Gore Gazette,
which was started at this time by George Gurnett Esqr.
During the winter I had weekly examinations
in various parts of the settlement. Having no horse my journeys were
generally made on foot, and sometimes proved very fatiguing, and even
dangerous, as in the following instance.
Near the end of January I had appointed an
examination at a schoolhouse in the 6th Concession of Bathurst. The day
before, a great deal of snow had fallen; and the road was not tracked.
Yet I set out on foot, though the distance was six miles, for
I was loath to fail in fulfilling my engagement. The snow was drifted
in some places from two to three feet deep, and I had to break the road
at least one third of the way. I was greatly heated by my exertions,
and afterwards chilled in the cold schoolhouse, where few attended and
no fire had been made till after I came. Inflammation was the
consequence; and though I got a sleigh to convey me home, I was
dangerously ill for some days.
I was often mortified to find, on returning
home wearied from a journey into the country, that my fence had been
pulled down in my absence. I put up hand bills offering a reward for
the detection of the offender, but without effect; for the mischief was
done with great caution and at the dead of night, and being at a
distance from any house it could thus be done with impunity.
At our communion in March the number of
members present was greater than at any time before, and I had much
comfort in addressing them. But in the following week, having got cold,
I had a new attack of fever and ague, which was the most severe I ever
had. My sufferings were great, but quinine, as before, by the blessing
of God, in a short time, afforded me relief.
But this was only temporary, for a few days
after Mrs. Bell and I were both taken ill, she a great deal worse than I
was. In the evening, after the fever was somewhat abated, I tried to
read, but it would not do. But I was able to walk a little in the
garden, where I felt sweetly resigned to the God of all my mercies, and
was led to say with Job, Have I received good at the and of God, and
shall I not receive evil also? For many weeks we were seldom free from
MY FORTY EIGHTH YEAR – 1827
At the first of May, William and John, being
twenty-one years of age, were out of their time with their respective
employers. The former remained with Mr. Morris at a salary of £50 a
year, but the latter was engaged as a clerk by Mr. Peter McIntosh, a
merchant in Montreal.
On the 12th May I received a letter from
Mary McVicar, formerly one of my scholars in the Sabbath school when I
was in Rothesay, with the very gratifying intelligence that the
religious instruction which she had received from me had been, by the
blessing of God, the means of introducing her to the enjoyment of
religion. And not her alone, but some others whose names she mentioned.
This gave me great encouragement to
persevere in sowing the good seed in the youthful mind. For a while it
may lie under the clod, but in due time, if moistened by the Spirit of
God, and warmed by the sun of righteousness, it will spring up and bring
forth the fruits of righteousness to the praise and glory of God. This
information was not only gratifying to me, but it ought to encourage all
who are now sowing in hope, that in due time they shall reap abundantly,
if they faint not. The divine command is, In the morning sow thy seed,
and in the evening withhold not thy hand, for thou knowest not whether
shall prosper this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
Though I had suffered much from ague for
some time past, it was matter of thankfulness that it had never
prevented me from preaching on Sabbath. I either had no attack on that
day, or it was in the afternoon, after public worship was over, till the
13th May, when I was attacked in the pulpit. I felt the fit coming on
while I was preaching, yet I could not bring myself to omit any part of
the service. I hurried on and got through it in the usual way, but was
cold as ice, and began shivering before I had finished. I had much
difficulty to get home, and was very sick all the evening. I was at
this time reduced almost to a skeleton, as were many others afflicted as
Quinine being applied as before it had the
desired effect, and I was for a fortnight relieved from this dreadful
scourge. But near the end of the month I had another attack, still more
severe than the former. During the fever, in this instance, I was
insensible for some hours, and suffered dreadfully, in imagination, from
a struggle with certain invisible beings that crushed me to the earth.
This however was the last attack for some years, the quinine having
effected a cure. What a mercy that there is a remedy for such a
On Saturday, 14th July, very early in the
morning, accompanied by Mr. Holliday, one of my elders, I set out for
Beckwith, to assist at the communion. The first 12 miles we got along
very well. But the swamp at McLellan’s was very bad, and we got through
with difficulty by driving our horses before us. This swamp was only
half a mile, but the long swamp, a little farther on, was a mile across
and worse to pass. We were told however that at a particular place it
might be passed, but after making the attempt, and nearly losing our
horses, we were forced to turn back and leave them at the next
farmhouse. We then proceeded on foot and waded the swamp. The heat was
excessive, and the mosquitoes annoyed us exceedingly.
At 10 we reached Mr. Buchanan’s, and at 12 I
preached to a large congregation. In the afternoon the heat and fatigue
made me sick, so that I was forced to go to bed; but a cool breeze in
the evening revived me, and I got up. Next day at 11, I preached to a
very attentive congregation of 300 people. The other services Mr. B.
and I divided between us. The communicants amounted to 130. After
preaching the concluding sermon, on the excuses people make for
neglecting religion, we returned home, and reached Perth at 10, very
At this time our Union Sabbath School was in
a very prosperous condition. About 80 scholars usually attended. On
Sabbath, 19th August, the Judge of Assizes, Attorney General, and other
strangers in town, visited this school in the courthouse, and expressed
much pleasure at seeing the number and respectable appearance of the
children. Next morning, at the opening of the Assizes, the Judge, in
his charge to the Grand Jury, said it afforded him much pleasure to find
the jail without prisoners, and the district without crime. Such are
the happy effects of moral and religious instruction.
After our communion in September I made a
missionary tour to Kingston, York, Niagara, and other places in the
upper part of the province, in order to ascertain the state of religion
in these, and if possible to organize a Home Mission for the supply of
At York, now Toronto, a meeting of
Presbytery was held, at which Andrew, my son, was licensed to preach the
gospel, and then sent on a mission to Streetsville. After preaching at
a variety of places, visiting the famous falls of Niagara, and my son
Robert, then at Ancaster, I returned home to Perth. On the following
Sabbath I had a large congregation, and never did I feel happier to see
their faces and lead their devotions.
The annual visitation of my congregation was
now resumed, an employment I have always found both pleasant and
improving to all parties. The hearty welcome, and the kind treatment I
always met with, rendered the labour not only light, but pleasant. To a
minister, who loves religion, it is a delightful employment to offer
Christ and the blessings of salvation to perishing sinners.
The return of the anniversary of my
marriage, 13 October, reminded me of the flight of time. How swiftly
have twenty-five years passed away. How swiftly have twenty-five years
passed away. Changes have taken place and afflictions have been
endured, yet I can still say, Goodness and mercy have followed me thus
far, and I trust will follow me all my days, and that I shall dwell in
the house of God for ever.
It was about this time I learned that Mr.
Mathieson and Captain McMillan, inconsequence of my refusing to baptise
their illegitimate children privately, had been employed for some months
getting signatures to a petition for a minister from the Church of
Scotland. The highland people they engaged with the assurance that he
should be one who would preach to them in Gaelic. In every congregation
there are discontented people, and lovers of change, and the signatures
of these they readily obtained. But those who knew their motives for
all this zeal refused to support their project. Some thought that
though Mr. Morris kept in the background he was at the bottom of the
plot, for he had subscribed £100 for the building of the church, and £10
a year for the support of a minister.
At this time I had a numerous Bible Class,
which met in the church every Sabbath after public worship was over Mr.
Holliday, one of my elders, was one of those old fashioned folk who
think it a sin to sing anything but the psalms of David; and because I
used hymns in the Bible Class, he tried to raise a rel1ion in the
congregation. And strange to tell, he found some who joined with him in
a complaint to the Presbytery for using these hymns. But when it came
before them, it was not only dismissed as groundless, but the
complainants received a serious lecture on the mischievous course they
were pursuing. They were cautioned to beware how they disturbed the
peace of a Christian community, threw obstacles in the way of the
religious improvement of the young, or weakened the hands of a minister
in the discharge of his duty.
On the morning of 1st January,
1828, I rose early to review the goodness of God to me and mine during
the past year, and anew to devote myself to his service. Another year
had commenced, and my life was still spared. It was my fervent prayer
that it might be spent in promoting God's glory. At the meeting of the
congregation which followed, Mr. Holliday did all he could to promote
discord and division on the subject of the hymns; for which he was
severely censured afterwards at a meeting of the Session.
At the end of 1827 my son William, having
left Mr. Morris, went to Montreal and procured goods to commence
business on his own account. On the 13th January he returned with 13
loaded trains, and soon after opened a store in which he succeeded far
beyond expectation. In the following May John left Mr. McIntosh and
joined him, when they carried on business together.
This winter I had more marriages than any
winter before. But the examinations were what kept me most busy. The
congregation was now large and spread over a wide extent of country, so
that I had to labour much and travel far.
March 9th, our communion Sabbath, being a
fine day the church was very crowded. About 150 members were present.
I saw it would be necessary next time to exclude all but the members
from the floor of the church. During the last prayer a disturbance took
place in the gallery, by two dogs fighting, which caused a very
unpleasant interruption. In consequence of this, before dismissing the
congregation, I spoke of the impropriety of bringing dogs to the church,
and cautioned all to guard against it in future. We never admit any
other domestic animal to the church, and why should we admit dogs?
On the 21st March Mr. Stewart's printing
press arrived from Montreal. Next day he was telling his neighbours
that the instrument of destruction was come. It was the first
instrument of the kind that ever Perth contained, and in his
hands, a most mischievous one it proved to be.
Being invited to an evening party, on the
26th, by Mr. Fraser, a half pay officer, we agreed to go, not knowing
what occasioned it. After we got there we found that it was a
christening. The family belonged to the Episcopal church. The
christening was followed by a ball, a sequel we thought not the most
suitable. About 60 were invited, and the evening being fine, most of
them attended. Dancing was kept up with great spirit by the younger
part, while the older, among whom was the Episcopal clergyman, were
diligently employed at the card table. The supper was splendid, as no
expense had been spared. This I thought unwise, as our entertainers had
a large family, and were often in debt.
One day on going into my son's store I found
a man half drunk, who at once began talking to me about the Devil, in
such a way as induced me to ask if he had ever seen him. He said he had
not, but his grandfather had. But you must understand, said he, that
there are various kinds of devils in the world. There are cross
devils, obstinate devils, sulky devils, and I know not how
many others besides. And when these get into our wives, there is the
devil to pay, and that you know is no easy matter.
I observed that he spoke so feelingly on the
subject it was probable he knew some thing of it by experience. Laying
his hand on his breast, he heaved a deep sigh, and acknowledged that he
did. But, added he, you are not to suppose that I have a bad wife after
all. No, no; though she pulls my hair, and kicks my shins, when the
devil gets into her, yet, upon the whole, I believe I have one of the
best wives in the settlement. I told him to be thankful for the many
good qualities she possessed, and try to keep the devil at a distance
from her. He said it was customary in former times to send for a
minister to lay the devil, but he had generally found a good stick to
answer the purpose well, when all other means failed.
MY FORTY NINTH YEAR – 1828
The spring of the year was employed as usual
in the various duties of my office. In May, I commenced a series of
lectures on the Constitution, Discipline, and Unity of the Primitive
Church, which I continued for some time once a month, with a view to
have my congregation better informed on these subjects.
In July, having to assist Mr. Buchanan at
the sacrament, Mrs. Bell went along with me. We had to walk the whole
way, 18 miles, the road being still encumbered with trees the effect of
a late storm, so that a horse could not pass. The water too was so deep
in some of the swamps that we to take off our stockings and shoes and
wade through. On Sabbath I was sorry to find that the congregation was
smaller, and the communicants fewer, than on former occasions, in
consequence of some misunderstanding between Mr. Buchanan and them.
Most of them remained to hear the evening sermon, and I never preached
with greater pleasure, nor was listened to with greater attention.
On our return home on Monday, we found both
John and Isabella sick and in bed, with ague and fever, as it appeared
to us; but John's turned out to be a fever of a more dangerous nature.
He was restless, and during the following night he got worse. In the
morning Dr. Wilson bled him, and prescribed what medicine he thought
suitable. For more than a week we attended him day and night, suffering
severely. But more days were allotted him and after some time he
In August, when the weather was very hot,
the settlement became very sickly. The sickness however was not
confined to our neighbourhood; but over all the continent of North
America, it was the sickliest season I had ever heard of. One day I had
been attending a funeral, while the heat was excessive, and coming home
very sick, found all my family sick and in bed. The next two months
scarcely any of us was a day well.
But we were no worse than our neighbours, if
that was any consolation. Though there were some sick in every house,
all around us, I was seldom well enough to visit any of them. Yet I
preached every Sabbath, though reduced to a skeleton, and in a very
weak state. As soon as the hot season was nearly over, I began the
annual visiting of my congregation at their own houses. On this
occasion it was like visiting a hospital. In the Scotch line for
instance, I traveled and visited ten miles, and found only one family
all well. In some houses there was scarcely one well enough to attend
on the rest.
At our communion in September, not more than
80 members were present, and but a small congregation. Upon the whole
it was a very discouraging time. On the following day I went to visit
Mr. McPherson's family, now suffering under lake fever. As I
staid some time with them, there is reason to fear that I caught the
Next day both Mrs. Bell and I were confined
to bed. This was the commencement of a long and serious sickness to
both, not soon to be forgotten. Sickness, during harvest, prevailed to
such an extent, that on some farms, the crop rotted on the ground for
want of hands to cut it down. Most of our immigrant population were
greatly discouraged, and not a few of them talked of returning to their
My determination to maintain the discipline
of the church, without respect of persons, had given offence to some of
our gentry whose conduct was not so good as it should have been, and
consequently had exposed them to censure. The malice which a few of
these discovered gave strong evidence of the depravity of the human
heart. I might preach against vice in general terms as long as I
pleased, that is in terms that would touch nobody. But if I preached
against any particular vice, an outcry was immediately raised that I was
Such was the conduct of some of these
people, that it was impossible faithfully to discharge my duty, and at
the same time avoid giving them offence. Like Israel of old, if I would
only speak smooth things, they would be pleased, but if I dared to
reprove vice, they would not endure it.
Such were the persons who first formed the
plan of applying to the established Church of Scotland for a minister.
Two of these leaders, in addition to profane swearing, had
children by their own servants.
As the winter approached the health of the
settlement began to improve. At our communion in December, though the
weather was very unfavourable, we had 110 members present, and a large
congregation. At the end of the year we all found ourselves in better
health and circumstances than we either expected or deserved. From a
grateful heart I could still say, Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, etc.
At the beginning of 1829, to be still
spared, and to enter upon a new period of time, with a prospect of still
preaching to perishing sinners, and of making known to them the way of
salvation, appeared to me a new call for humility and self consecration
to the service of God. With a grateful heart I gave thanks to God for
all his kindness to me during the past year, and implored his protection
and blessing during that on which I had just entered.
I must here notice a little matter, which
led to a very important and, in some respects, painful consequences. A
wretched paper called the Independent Examiner, had for
some time been published in the village, by John Stewart, teacher of the
district school, in which articles of the most scurrilous character were
published, which produced much mischief and ill will among neighbours.
Among other things of a demoralizing nature,
an article had appeared purporting to be copied from an Irish paper,
openly advocating the profanation of the Sabbath. I had hitherto used
every means in my power to promote the proper observance of the Sabbath,
and not without good success. Still, however, there were a few in the
village that could scarcely be kept within decent bounds. After the
appearance of the above-mentioned article, which evidently had the
approbation of the editor, things began to get worse, and the profane
became more bold and impudent.
Take the following as a specimen. On the
afternoon of Sabbath, 8th February, a great number of sleighs, filled
with the irreligious part of our population, drove about the streets in
a shameless manner. At one time 18 of these carriages might be seen in
a row, producing noise and setting an example very annoying to the
peaceable and orderly portion of the community. Among the carriages
were those of Mr. Morris, our representative in the provincial
parliament, as well as that of the Sheriff, and several of our
magistrates. When the very men whose duty it was to suppress these
disorders set such an example, what could we expect from others?
Fearing what might be the consequence, if
so glaring a breach of decorum were suffered to pass unnoticed, I, on the
following day, wrote an article animadverting on the conduct of those who
thus profaned the Sabbath, and sent it to the Examiner for insertion.
On its appearance, next day of publication, it produced no small stir
among the Sabbath breakers. But instead of being ashamed of their
conduct, they sought revenge. Accordingly, in next week's paper,
there appeared two articles of a very abusive kind, but well corresponding
to the character of the vile publication which contained them. The
comments of the editor showed that, if he was not the author of these
articles, they had at least his hearty approval.
Early Artistic endeavors of William Bell and
his wife Mary Black.
MY FIFTYIETH YEAR – 182
In a letter to the Trustees of the district
school, I complained of this conduct of their teacher; but instead of
obtaining any redress, they gave him my letter and encouraged him to
prosecute me for libel. This he was very happy to do, and still more to
obtain a verdict in his favour with £ 5 damages.
The amount however mortified him
exceedingly. His damages were laid at £ 500, and to have them reduced,
and by his own friends too, to the hundredth part of that sum, was
anything but flattering. But it may be asked, How did he obtain a
verdict at all, I will tell you. He was an Orangeman, the sheriff, who
selected the jury, was an Orangeman, and they of course were Orangemen.
If ever there was a packed jury this was one. The result filled every
virtuous mind in the settlement with disgust, and showed that in wicked
hands the administration of justice may be converted into an instrument
Stewart would not have dared to act as he
did in this affair, if he had not been secretly encouraged by some, who
kept in the background. A friend, who had the best means of knowing,
told me that Stewart was only a tool in the hands of others, end that
those to whom I had looked in vain for redress, were in fact his
abettors in the whole proceeding. It now flashed upon my mind that a
great pert of those who had been reproved for Sabbath profanation
belonged to the families of the Trustees of the district school, or were
more or less connected with them. This will account for the treatment I
received through the whole affair.
Stewart being thus encouraged had, for some
time before this, in almost every paper he published, made some attack,
or bestowed some vile abuse upon me. But not satisfied with this, he
and his friends prepared and published a small pamphlet of a very wicked
and malicious character, a copy of which was sent to every member of my
congregation through the post office. The most diabolical part of this
transaction was the time chosen for their distribution, which was on the
evening before the sacrament in June, when it was expected to do most
mischief, end give most pain.
In this state of things I was advised to
prosecute Stewart for libel, which accordingly I directed Mr. Badenhurst
to do. By means of a demurrer which he put in, he got the case delayed
more than a year; but the judges of the supreme court having decided in
my favour, the trial was about to take place in the court of King’s
Bench when he offered, if I would stay the suit, that he would pay all
costs and put an ample apology in his paper, which accordingly he did.
The immediate payment of the costs, mounting to more then £200, showed
that he was backed by some person or persons more substantial then
himself. It had often been hinted to me that Mr. Morris was at the
bottom of the whole affair. Though I did not then believe this, I have
since had reason to think that it was probably the case.
In August, Isby, the murderer of his wife
and children, was hanged in front of the jail and courthouse. Never did
I see a criminal discover less contrition for his offence. He grew as
fat as a pig during his confinement. This is the only execution that
has taken place here during thirty years.
On Friday, 28th August, I set out for York
to attend a meeting of our Presbytery. While there we had an interview
with the Governor, Sir John Colborne, on the subject of obtaining the
support of government, both for religion and education. He was very
civil, made many inquiries, and appeared friendly to our object.
The same evening we dined, by invitation
with Archdeacon Strachan, afterwards Bishop of Toronto. What was the
object of his extreme politeness we could not exactly see, unless it was
to become acquainted with our plans, or to give us a hint that he would
be happy to take us under his wing; most of the Episcopal clergy in the
province, at that time, being deserters from other denominations, as was
the worthy Doctor himself.
On the following Sabbath I preached at
Streetsville, for my son Andrew, and spent two days among his people,
after visiting the Indian village upon the river Credit. After again
visiting Toronto, Niagara, Kingston and Brockville, I reached home in
safety. Our communion was on the following Sabbath, at which about 140
members were present.
For some weeks after this I was kept busy
visiting my congregation, an especially the sick, of whose at this time
the number was great. But the exercise did me good, and I met with
attention and respect wherever I went. Yet some of those whom I had
traveled far to visit, behaved very ungratefully to me afterwards.
Indeed, the trials, both personal and relative, which I had lately
endured, would have pressed more heavily had not the ministry of the
gospel at first been my deliberate choice, and I had never repented of
that choice. I could say with Paul, None of these things move me,
neither count I my life dear to myself, that I may finish my work with
joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to
testify the gospel of the grace of God.
In the course of my visiting X learned that
Roderick Mathieson had been at all my people, asking them to sign his
petition for a new minister. Some had signed it through persuasion,
some from a promise that he should preach to them in Gaelic, and a few
from the mere love of novelty.
On Sabbath evening, after preaching
at the schoolhouse in the Scotch line, I organised a Bible class; which,
like the one formerly established at the church, was very successful.
Abundance of young people came forward and the schoolhouse was crowded
every time we met. But party spirit had ruined many a good
undertaking. I could not always attend myself, and though I provided a
substitute, with him the people soon quarreled and the class was broken
up. About this time I also formed a Bible class in Miss. McFarlane's
schoolhouse, in the middle of Bathurst. The one at the church was now
Near the end of this year my son Robert was
visited with a disorder of an inflammatory nature, from which he
suffered severely for some weeks. So alarming was his case at one time
that, Dr. Wilson who attended him, called in the assistance of Dr.
Thom. They both attended him till he was well.
When the first morning of the year l820
dawned upon me, I found myself still in the land of the living, and in
possession of many precious blessings. Still I could say, Bless the
lord O my soul. The principal transaction of the day was the annual
meeting of my congregation at which every thing was amicably arranged.
There were no disputes and no changes proposed.
On the 22 January I went a few miles
into the country to marry Duncan Ferguson. The day was stormy, and the
snow fell thick and fast; but the wedding party having a warm house, and
the good things of this life in abundance, cared little for the storm
that raged without. On my way hose, the night being dark, and the new
fallen snow deep, I could not keep the road, and got upset among the
stumps by which my cutter was broken, so that I got it hose with great
Some time before this we had formed a
missionary society for the benefit of the back settlements where they
had no preaching. In the course of the winter I visited a number of
these settlements, preached repeatedly, explained the object of our
society, formed local associations, and made arrangements for future
meetings. But though many seemed pleased with our plans, yet few seemed
willing to assist in defraying the expense. After toiling about two
years, and making many fatiguing journeys, for which I received in most
cases no remuneration, I was at length forced to alter my plan, and
confine my attention to my own congregation.
In some of these journeys I suffered
severely from cold, the thermometer being sometimes from 20 to 30
degrees below zero. The excavation and building of the locks on the
Rideau Canal were going on at this time. One very cold night, soon
after passing Smith’s Falls, were a great number of mechanics and
labourers were employed, an impudent Irishman, under pretence of showing
me the way, got into the sleigh along with me.
After driving about a mile under his
direction, he told we were wrong, and must turn back. This was no easy
matter, the road being a narrow track between high banns of snow, and no
room to turn. Both got out, and he, taking hold of the cutter, said he
would help to pull it round. Suiting the action to the word, he pulled
with so great violence that he frightened my horse, and made him plunge
among logs concealed by the snow, so that one of the runners was broken.
This was provoking enough, in a cold night
and far from home. But the damage to the cutter gave me less concern
then my own situation, in regard to my fellow traveler, who I began to
suspect had done all to detain, and perhaps rob me before we parted.
It was now dark, and I was in the woods with
a savage Irishman, far from any human habitation. Besides, I knew he
had two companions coming on behind, no better looking then himself. On
getting into the path, I at once laid the whip to the horse, and took
French leave of my pretended guide, regardless alike of the broken state
of my cutter, and his calls to wait and take him up. At the first house
I came to, which was 20 miles from Perth, I stopped to get information.
Bore I was fortunate enough to find one of the persons of whom I was in
search. He took me to his house, about a mile distant, and treated me
with great kindness and hospitality.
Next morning I was detained some hours
getting my cutter repaired. Fortunately there was a blacksmith at no
great distance. In the meantime I had a meeting with some of the
people, who were glad to hear that I meant to make that (Edmond’s
Rapids) one of my preaching stations. At about 10 I started, traveled
most of the day in the woods, and reached Richmond late in the evening,
almost frozen. Next day I reached Bytown, where I was happy to find
that the object of my visit was already attained; Rev. Mr. Cruickshank
being expected in a few days.
On my return, I preached at a variety of
places, where I had left appointments. Before I got home my cutter
broke down, and I had some difficulty to get it repaired so as to reach
Perth. On reaching home on Saturday night, very fatigued after an
absence of near a fortnight, I was sorry to learn that my son John, at
Carleton Place, was dangerously ill; and that Mrs. Bell had gone out
with the doctor to attend him. Under these circumstances, home did not
prove as comfortable as I expected.
Before the winter was done I went over the
same ground again, but had some rough travelling, the snow being nearly
gone. On reaching home, after this fatiguing circuit, I felt happy and
thankful that I had been able to establish so many preaching stations,
in different parts of the country. At our communion, 14 March, the
church was very crowded, and about 150 members partook of the sacrament.
I have already hinted that I had some reason
to think that Stewart’s prosecution was brought about by underhand work
on the part of Mr. Morris. This winter he made a similar attempt in a
different quarter. During the time he was in York, attending his duty
in parliament, I received a letter in a disguised hand and signed
Timothy, the object of which evidently was to involve me
in a quarrel with the Hon. John Macauley of Kingston; whom it accused of
libeling me in a newspaper. At this time I had no suspicion of Mr.
Morris being the author. But after he returned from York I showed him
the letter, and asked if he could tell who wrote it. On looking in his
face, as I handed him the letter, I observed that he changed colour, and
appeared embarrassed. The truth flashed upon me at once, and I saw
through the whole affair. He thought that I bad suspected him, and had
come to charge him with writing the letter; and as the best way of
getting out of the scrape he acknowledged it, and pretended that
friendship for me had induced him to write the letter. But this was
too much for me to swallow. It opened my eyes at once, and showed me
the cloven foot. From that time I regarded him as a genuine descendant
As the spring advanced and the roads became
passable, I again resumed my missionary labours; and many a long and
wearisome journey I performed; often through bad roads and bad weather;
preaching generally two or three times a day to congregations varying
from 20 to 100; yet for all this labour I never received as much as
would pay for shoeing my horse.
MY FIFTY FIRST YEAR 1830
In my journal for May 20th, my birthday, I
find the following reflections. I have now lived half a century in the
world, not altogether uselessly I hope, tho' not to so good purpose as I
ought. But my hope of Heaven rests not upon my works, but upon the
mercy of God through Jesus Christ. The longer I live in the world, the
more need I see for adopting the publican's prayer, God be merciful to
me a sinner. Is it not strange that though I am the youngest, and was
once the feeblest of five sons, yet I am the only one that has reached
this age, or filled any public office? Thus the elder sons of Jesse,
goodly as they appeared, were passed by, and David chosen, though he was
then only a youth, and with the sheep. God's ways often pass our
comprehension. Man looks at the outward appearance, but He looks at the
heart. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to
behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. The
profession I have chosen is the joy of my heart; and I only regret that
I did not enter upon it sooner.
The sons of the Scotch here, were at that
time, applying to the Governor in Council for a grant of land, according
to the terms on which they came to this country. I advised my sons to
do the same, as their claim was equal, if not better than that of the
others. They did apply, and their request was readily granted. They
obtained 100 acres each.
In June I made a journey to Brockville to
attend a meeting of Presbytery preaching at various places, both going
and coming. My son Andrew returned with me to Perth, preached in
Beckwith and other places, and on the following Sabbath assisted me at
the communion. The day was fine and the congregation the largest we
ever had. The communicants amounted to 180, which was more by 30 than
at any former time. Many sat outside, the windows being open, and
others went away, not being able to obtain seats. The services were
solemn and refreshing to many, and on the whole it was a day long to be
remembered. In the evening my son preached again to a large
The different frames of mind which a
minister experiences in preaching are sometimes difficult to be
accounted for; but in some cases they greatly interrupt his comfort, as
well as the improvement of others. Ill health, or something vexing me,
has sometimes so influenced my preaching that it has been almost a
burden, though this was not often the case. For some days after my son
went away my spirits were low, and on the following Sabbath, during the
lecture, I felt so heavy and discouraged that instead of a pleasure, as
preaching usually is to me,' it was rather a burden. During the sermon,
however, which followed, I felt better, and preached with mare liberty.
In the course of this summer I made several
more missionary journeys, the particulars of which will be found in the
larger account of my life. In one of these I was severely hurt by my
horse falling with my foot and leg under him. Though no bones were
broken, the ankle swelled to a great size, and gave me much pain. Yet I
pressed on and fulfilled all my appointments and assisted Mr. Buchanan
at the sacrament before I returned home.
On Monday I was forced to keep in bed all
day, that being the only posture in which I could obtain any ease. The
thermometer at this time ranged from 90 to 95 in the shade, the heat
excessive, and the mosquitoes tormenting. On Wednesday I returned home
from Ramsey, by 24 miles of the worst road I ever traveled, preaching at
two places on the way. The difficulties in this journey of six days,
taking down fences and wading through swamps in my lame and sickly
state. I need not attempt to describe. At 10 at night I reached home
in a feverish state, my leg and ankle swelled to a great size and very
painful. For some days I kept in bed; being neither able to stand nor
A few days after this I was informed that
Stewart, who prosecuted me for complaining of his conduct, had lost the
power of his right hand by paralysis. He had a short time before lost a
part of his tongue by an accident. On the following Sabbath he sent for
me to come and see his wife, who was dying of brain fever, and expressed
a wish that I would come and pray for her. When I went to his house I
found him almost distracted, and crying like a child. My interview with
the dying woman was of little avail; for she was nearly past speaking,
but I prayed with her, and gave her such advice as her case required.
Two days after she expired.
In the month of August I visited all my
preaching stations in the country; and baptised many children. At
Smith's Palls I organized a church, and administered the sacrament.
From there I went to the front, where Mr. Smart met me, and we proceeded
in a light wagon on a missionary tour to onto, 250 miles distant, preaching at various places on the way. Our object was to visit
the Presbyterians in these parts, and ascertain how they were supplied
with the ordinances or religion.
On the Saturday afte4 we reached Toronto,
where we met some more of our brethren. Mr. Boyd and I went out to
Streetsville, 24 miles; and assisted my son with the sacramental
services. On our return to the city a meeting of Presbytery was held,
and among other business transacted, we examined and licensed Messrs.
Bryning and McMillan as preachers of the gospel. On our way home we
preached at various places, taking a different road, visited the Indian
settlement on Grape Island, and finally I reached Perth in safety after
about a month's absence.
After my return, and the administration of
the sacrament in September, at which 170 members were present, I devoted
the fall of the year chiefly to missionary labours, and the annual
visiting of my congregation. In these services I suffered much from wet
weather and bad roads.
The repeated attempts of the turbulent
portion of the Presbyterians here, to get a minister from the Church of
Scotland, were at length crowned with success. It was an the 21st
October, we first heard of Mr. Wilson's arrival in Canada. The strict
discipline of our church had become disagreeable to those who wished to
live as they liked, and they were anxious to have a minister more
indulgent to their foibles. On reaching Perth and finding how matters
stood; he was somewhat discouraged; but for a while, he indulged his
friends in almost everything. Two days after his arrival I called upon
him in a friendly way. I told him that, if he had come to promote
division and party strife; we of course could not cooperate; but, if his
objective was to promote pure and spiritual religion, he would find me a
ready fellow labourer. I concluded our conversation with the words of
Abraham to Lot; let there be no strife between you and me for we are
On the first Sabbath after Mr. Wilson
arrived (October 31st) he preached in the courthouse to a
large audience. The love of novelty at this time being the order of the
day, some of my congregation went, but fewer then I expected. But even
in their case, it gave me pain to see those to whom I had discharged all
the duties of a minister joining another congregation, avowedly in
opposition, regardless of all the bonds of Christian affection, and all
the pains I had bestowed on their religious instruction; and that of
their children. All means, foul and fair, were used by the leaders in
Mr. Wilson's congregation to make proselytes; and; that there might be
no obstacle in the way; they were all received without certificates.
This made rogues of some who never before intended it; for no small
portion of those who left us did so without paying the arrears of their
seat rents then due.
For some time previous to our next
communion, which was on the 12th December, I felt somewhat
anxious, fearing that many might be drawn away by a new preacher, and
the incessant endeavours made by his supporters. But things turned out
not so bad as I feared. My congregation was indeed less then it had
been, but not so small as I had expected. About 90 members were present
on this occasion. No elder was absent but Mr. Holliday, and this no one
regretted, as he had been a pest while he remained; by stirring up
mischief and discontent in the congregation.
During the winter I continued my missionary
labours, and has some difficult and even dangerous travelling. One
Sabbath I preached for Mr. Buchanan who was in poor health and spirits. His people too were trying to get a minister from the Church of
Scotland, and it was painful to see how they neglected and even in some
cases insulted their old minister.
Of those who take leave or assign a left my
congregation not one called to reason, excepting John Robson. He gave
his reasons in writing; the principal of which was that he was
dissatisfied with some of his fellow worshippers; and yet, absurd as his
conduct may appear, these were the very persons going to his new place
of worship with him. While he freely censured others, he readily
admitted that he had been a greater sinner than any of them; and after
passing the most uncharitable judgment on the church he was leaving, he
concludes by recommending candour and Christian charity
to them!! Such is the inconsistent conduct of those who discover motes
in the eyes of others, but cannot see a beam in their own.
In one of my journeys, in February, I had
much difficulty from a deep fall of snow. I had left Mrs. Gray's in the
morning, intending to cross the concessions to Mr. McGregor's, in
Bathurst, a distance of about six miles; but after forcing my way half
the distance, I had to give it up, and direct my course homeward. Even
this was no easy task, as I had to break the road all the way, 12 miles,
with a high wind and the snow drifting in my face. The evil was
increased by having to get out at one place and repair part of the
harness, standing up to my knees in snow. After a new fall of snow
everyone is unwilling to be the first to break the road. But I had no
alternative; I was already out and must be home. The snow was drifted
smooth: on the top, nearly as high as the fences; and to steer my way
among the logs and stumps was no easy matter, and my horse could not
travel faster than a walk. Soon after noon I reached home, as cold as I
ever was in my life - indeed almost frozen.
At our communion in March the weather was
very unfavourable. New snow had fallen the night before to a great
depth, and travelling was very difficult. The congregation was
consequently smaller than usual, and we had not more then 50 members
present. At this time I was employed one or two days every week with
the annual examination of my congregation.
The change of temperature in Canada is often
great and sudden. When we got up on the morning of the 9th
of May we found the thermometer down to zero and the ground entirely
covered with snow, though it had been very warm the day before.
Mary (Black) Bell –
1846 Rev. William Bell – 1846
These daguerreotype photographs of William
and his wife Mary, are among the earliest examples of photography in
Canada. As shown, these photographs were taken in 1846 while
photography itself was only invented in 1839 – in the same year in
France by Daguerre and the Calotype in England. It is remarkable that
it should have reached the Canadian Frontier at such an early date.
Photo courtesy of the Perth Museum.
MY FIFTY SECOND YEAR – 1831
At our communion in June I had the
assistance of Mr. Smart of Brockville and Mr. Ferguson and my son
Andrew happened to be at Perth at the same time. The
congregation was very large on the Sabbath, and at least a hundred stood
outside at the open windows. About 120 members were present. On the
following Tuesday Mr. Ferguson and I proceeded to Brockville by the way
of Smith's Falls, preaching at various places as we went along.
The recent heavy rains had made the roads
very bad, and the heat was almost suffocating. Our object in going to
Brockville was to attend a meeting of Synod, the business of which
employed us for two days. On my way home I had an opportunity of being
present, for an hour at a Methodist Church meeting, near the road. It
was the first I had ever seen, and it certainly exceeded all
I had heard, or even imagined, for extravagance and rant. The following
is a small specimen of one of the addresses delivered.
"The prophet fell down before the Lord, and
I guess some of the sinners present will fall down before they go. Come
along then ye sinners and be converted, in spit of all the grog shops,
and all the devils in Hell! Some of you I have asked already, but you
still hold out. But if you want to go to Hell, no one on earth will
hinder you, no one in Heaven will hinder you, no one in Hell will hinder
you! Then you may live like fools and die like devils, and in Hell you
will lift up your eyes among fallen angels; fluttering their flaming
wings in the fiery pit!”
The heat had been excessive, about 90, for a
week past, and it continued a few days longer; but on the 22nd
it became cooler towards evening; and next morning there was a smart
frost which did some damage to our gardens. This however was of short
duration. In a few days it was as hot as before. From this I suffered
much in some missionary circuits I made in the month of July; in one of
which I assisted Mr. Buchanan at the sacrament in Beckwith.
By frequent preaching, in the Rideau
settlement, I had collected a considerable congregation in that place.
In the month of July, this summer, I organized a church, and
administered the sacrament to 26 communicants. The congregation vas
much larger than the schoolhouse could contain. After the communion one
of the members came forward to have a child baptised. I had just
finished when another came forward and requested the same privilege. I
had just concluded again when a third applied, so that I was detained
much longer than necessary by this mode of application. Indeed, before
night, I had to baptise two more. So that between the ordinance, and
the previous examination of the parents; I was kept busy enough.
I had scarcely time to eat a mouthful of
dinner before starting out for Smith’s Falls where, at 4, I preached to
a large and very attentive congregation. Leaving this I proceeded to
Nicoll’s schoolhouse, 6 miles distant, where at 7, I preached to about
50 people. The sun was now set, and I was still 13 miles from
home, 3 and very tired; but, as there was moon light, I resolved to
reach Perth before I slept; bad as the road was.
It was near 12 before I got there, and so
fatigued, both in body and mind, that I could not sleep for some time
after I got into bed. This was one of the most severe days’ labour I
ever had. I had preached 3 sermons, delivered 5 addresses, administered
the sacrament of the Lord’s supper once, and that of baptism 5 times,
besides all the other duties connected with them. Besides all these, I
had traveled 24 miles, in very bad roads. Few are aware of the labours
of a missionary here. This was the day on which Mr. Wilson first
administered the sacrament to his newly organized church in Perth.
Missionary labours, during the heat of the summer, proved so very
fatiguing that I suffered both in health and spirits. As the communion
in September approached, I felt somewhat discouraged. The efforts made
to draw away our members had been in some instances but too successful,
and yet I was happy to find that more than 100 still remained. Six new
members were admitted on this occasion. The congregation was large.
Next week I visited and preached to the new
congregation on the river Rideau, and other places in the neighbourhood,
and had elders elected. In the fall of the year, when I was employed
visiting my congregation, I witnessed some of the melancholy effects of
the spirit of division lately introduced among us. In some instances
the husband was divided from the wife, in others the children from the
In October our son William took to himself a
wife, but as he had neither consulted us nor given us any previous
intimation of his intention, we were somewhat displeased. But the
choice he had made turned out better than we expected, and we had good
reason to be satisfied.
In November I assisted Dr. Gemmill at the
administration of the sacrament in Dalhousie, at St. Andrew's Hall. But
the days being short, and the roads very bad, some inconvenience arose
from the doctor very lengthy addresses. The same thing occurred when
he, in turn, assisted me in December. His prolixity tired out
everyone's patience, and caused many to go home in the dark.
In the last week of December I made a
journey to Ramsay, to marry our son John, to Miss Wilson. The ground
was hard, but very rough, and the snow was too scanty to make good
sleighing. The last half of the way was across the country where there
was no proper road, but through clearings, where I had to take down
fences, and sometimes to get over logs or brush with no small damage to
my cutter, which was but frail at the best. Sometimes I lost the way,
and had to run back. Night came on before I got to Mr. Wilson's, and it
was with great difficulty I got there at all. After the marriage, John
returned home with his wife to his own residence at Carleton Place. My
journey home next day was both difficult and perplexing, and employed
the whole day.
On the following Saturday, which was the
last day of the year, our congregational meeting was held in the
church. I preached a sermon on the improvement of time; after which all
accounts were settled, and all arrangements made in an amicable manner.
The congregation was now entirely clear of debt.
The first morning of January, l892, being
Sabbath, many serious reflections occupied my mind. I attended the
Sabbath school as usual, preached twice in town, and once at Balderson's
in the afternoon, and held a prayer meeting in the evening.
At the beginning of the year I usually
examined all my letters and papers collected during the past year, and
destroyed those not worth preserving. This occupied my leisure hours
for some days.
This winter a Temperance society was
organized in Perth. It was the first, in this part of the province. At
our first meeting I was called to the chair, when Mr. Metcalf made an
address in favour, and Mr. Harris made one against the object of our
meeting. But the friends of temperance determined to persevere, a
society was formed, and 32 members gave in their names. This was the
beginning of that good work which has since been very beneficial to
many; but at that time no magistrate would give it any countenance.
Since that time I have used no alcoholic liquors, and I have found the
change beneficial to both body and mind.
During the winter, whenever I could be
spared from home, I was diligently employed in missionary labours, or
examining my congregation in different parts of the country. For some
years the Rideau settlement, and Carleton Place, with intermediate
stations, were generally supplied once a month. In some of these
journeys I had miserable weather and roads to contend with. Heavy
rains, deep falls of snow, and boggy swamps; had to be got through, that
appointments might be punctually kept. One time in crossing the
country, in order to save going a great way round, I had to wade some
distance in deep snow; without a track, to take down half a dozen
fences, and to cross a chopped field, where my horse was several times
thrown down among the logs. In winter the cold was sometimes from 10 to
20 degrees below zero; in summer the heat was at times from 90 to 95
On the 28 March a meeting of the inhabitants
of Perth was held to form a public library. I was called to the chair;
a constitution was adopted, and 42 members gave in their names. We sent
for books and a library was soon in successful operation.
On the 2nd April the first quarterly meeting
of the Temperance society was held, when the Secretary reported an
addition of 34 members, since last meeting. I was requested to deliver
an address, which I did on, the nature, the consequences, and the cure of intemperance. The meeting was closed with
prayer, after 12 new members had put down their names.
Early in the summer the cholera morbus made
its appearance in Quebec and Montreal, and soon spread alarm all over
the country. In each of these cities upwards of a 1000 lives fell
victims to this dire disease. In Perth every precaution was taken to
prevent its introduction. A board of health was established, including
all the ministers and magistrates in the place. Not more than 3 or 4
died in the village of this disease.
MY FIFTY THIRD YEAR – 1832
This summer the whole country was overrun
with caterpillars in an extraordinary manner. Not only were all trees
stripped of their foliage, but the field and fences, and
indeed the whole face of the country was covered with them in myriads.
Fowls and birds ate them with great avidity, and soon became fat.
One evening in July I met Mr. Harris, the
Episcopal minister, who, after shaking hands, complimented me on the new
dignity to which I was advanced. I was surprised, and asked what
dignity he meant. He replied, that of a grandfather! My son
William's first child having been born a few days before. Though I was
aware of this circumstance, the idea of my being a grandfather
had never once crossed my mind. After I left him I repeated the word
grandfather several times, and asked myself, am I then a
grandfather? If so I must be getting old; yet my health is good, my
mind active, and no grey hairs appearing. But a change is coming.
In July as usual, I went to Beckwith to
assist Mr. Buchanan at the sacrament. The road was good, the journey
pleasant; and the company agreeable. When near the place, I came up to
some of the worshippers on the road; and as we advanced the crowd
increased. Like the Jews of old, going up to the feast at Jerusalem, we
went from strength to strength till we finished our journey, and were
joyfully received by our friends.
By the mail of the 28 July we received a
letter from our son Andrew, informing us of his wife's death. How short
lived are all human enjoyments. They had not been married more than
three months, and we never had the pleasure of seeing her. She died of
At the Assizes in August I had the
honour of dining with Judge Sherwood, and a select party of friends.
The chief, McNab, was the butt of many jokes, especially from Attorney
At our communion in September, though the
day was fine, the attendance was not as great as usual, the fear of the
cholera having kept some at home. Eleven new members had been admitted,
and about 100 in all were present.
At the next meeting of the Board of Health,
Mr. Harris laid the accounts from Bytown before us. During the month of
August there had been, at that place, 90 cases of cholera, and 27
deaths. How easily had we escaped, with 3 cases, and 2 deaths, in the
same time. The Governor had placed £500 at our disposal. It was al1
expended, chiefly at Bytown.
For 12 years I had kept a horse; and
performed an immense deal of missionary labour. But as I had never
received half as much for this as pay for horse keeping; I found it
necessary to do without one, and hire or borrow one when I went into the
country, giving up of course some of my more distant preaching stations.
The Synod of Canada, in
connection with the Church of Scotland, had been organized in June 1831,
and in October 1832, the Rev. Robert McGill, of Niagara, having seen a
letter in the Watchman newspaper from me, on the subject of union among
Christians, wrote me in favour of uniting all Presbyterians in the
province. He proposed a friendly correspondence among ourselves; rather
than in the newspapers. Several letters passed between us, and these in
the end led to a more intimate connection.
Often do our seeming misfortunes turn out to
be blessings in disguise. The division of my congregation, by the
introduction of another minister; for that purpose, gave me great
uneasiness at the time; yet it eventually proved beneficial. It
relieved me from the presence of a number of restless and mischievous
spirits, who had kept both the congregation and me in a constant state
of excitement. It was painful to see a division, but it led to a state
of peace and quietness in my congregation; which we had not previously
enjoyed. This enabled me to pursue my studies; and to discharge the
duties of my office; with more peace and pleasure than formerly.
In December I had a severe attack of a
disorder to which I had long been subject. On a Friday I had been very
ill all day, and on Saturday the fear of not being able to preach on
Sabbath kept me very uneasy. When health is withdrawn all our other
comforts are tasteless. In the course of the day I tried several times
to sit up; but found I was not able. In the night I obtained some
sleep, and on Sabbath morning felt so much better that I went over to
the church and performed the usual services, though in a weak state.
The happiness I felt from this
contributed much to my recovery. The habitation of God's house, ever
since I have known the grace of Christ; I have loved well; and if at any
time I am prevented from meeting the people of God in public, I esteem
it a calamity. In consequence of my exertions, I felt worse on Monday,
and was forced to keep my bed all day, but before next Sabbath I was
A union with the Church of Scotland had been
proposed, and was still talked of. Mr. Wilson appeared more and more
favourably disposed, and even anxious to bring it about. On the 23rd
December I brought the subject before our session, and they determined
to submit it to the congregation at the next general meeting.
In review the events of the past year, I
found that it had passed more tranquilly than I had reason to expect. I
bad never enjoyed more liberty and comfort in preaching. Never was
there a more attentive congregation. I had ever trusted in the Lord and
endeavored to do good; believing that, while I did so, I should dwell in
the land and verily be fed. He has never disappointed my expectations.
Reflections on the course of Providence, and
the mysterious way in which I had been led, kept me awake from an early
hour on the first day of the new year. When the day began to dawn I got
up and gave thanks to my God for the comfort I still enjoyed, entreated
that the sins of the past year might be forgiven, and that if I was
spared another year, it night be spent more decidedly in his service.
At noon the annual congregational meeting
was held in the church as usual. After all the other business was
settled, the union with the Church of Scotland was discussed, and a
committee appointed to carry it into effect. Both our Presbytery and
theirs had been appointed to meet on the 9th January with a
view to an arrangement. The weather happened to be very unfavourable,
and both were very thinly attended. Messrs. Wilson and McAlister were
the only ministers present on the part of the Church of Scotland, and
they conducted themselves so haughtily, and made such unreasonable
demands, that we declined to unite with them at that time.
At a dinner, after one of my examinations
this winter, Mrs. McGregor told me that the kirk party laid all the
blame upon me for preventing a union, though it was prevented solely by
their own haughty and overbearing conduct. They had accused me also,
she said, of writing to my friends in Scotland, that only of the dross
of my congregation had left my ministry, though I wrote no such thing.
She told them, if I had said so, it would have been no lie, for the
leaders of their congregation could not have been received into any
decent Christian society where proper discipline was observed
At the annual meeting of the Temperance
society we resolved that a sermon would be preached on the subject every
quarter, all the ministers in the town taking the duty in turn. This
was continued ever after.
Our son Robert was now in business at
Carleton Place, as a merchant, and was doing well. His brother James
went to him this winter, as a clerk, accompanied with our fervent
prayers for his safety and welfare.
The winter was busily employed in
examinations, and preaching in various parts of the settlement, and on
the Rideau, and many a cold and unpleasant journey I had. Returning
from an examination at James Bryce's a one evening, coming down a hill,
some part of the harness gave way, and the cutter came forward on the
beast's heels. She ran off at gallop, kicking and plunging so violently
that she knocked the front of the cutter all to splinters. The danger
was increased by our being on the brink of a steep precipice, over which
we were every moment exposed to be thrown. By holding on firmly till we
got to rising ground, I at last brought her up, and was thus mercifully
saved from a perilous situation. At another time, in a very cold night,
I had two of my toes frozen, which caused me much pain before they were
On Sabbath evening, after I returned home
from the labours of the day, while reflecting on the past, it occurred
to me that lately I had felt more composure in my own mind, and preached
more comfortably than I did before Mr. Wilson came among us. Everyone
who now attended my ministry, did so from choice; and I was not annoyed
by the presence of any of those who used to come with a prejudiced mind,
and for wicked purposes.
The weather in February and March being
stormy, I was much employed in literary labours at home. On the 4th
March, while I was busy putting some papers in order, it occurred to my
mind that this was the anniversary of my ordination, sixteen years ago.
This brought up a crowd of ideas concerning the past – the scenes I had
passed through, the joys and sorrows I had experienced. I found much
cause for gratitude to my heavenly Father, whose Providence had supplied
my want, and delivered me from many dangers.
An amateur theatre was this winter got up in
the village. Some of Mr. Wilson's people being engaged in it, he
attacked it both from the pulpit and the press. This procured him the
most brutal abuse, both in private life and from the press, by the
persons concerned. Finding that he also was an enemy to vice, the
obloquy of the viler part of the community, which I had formerly to
bear; was now transferred to him.
Early in May, on an invitation from Rev. A.
Henderson of St. Andrew's, I made a journey to the lower province to
assist at the ordination of Mr. Shanks, a preacher lately from Scotland,
who had collected a congregation in the city of Montreal. This afforded
me an interview with friends from whom I had been long separated, as
well as a view of the Ottawa, and the country through which I passed, at
the most interesting season of the year. On my return, through means of
Dr. Cairns, I was introduced to Mr. Gordon, a respectable farmer near
Richmond, whose hospitality I often afterwards shared.
Andrew Bell was the eldest son of William.
and Mary (Black) Bell, born in London in 1803, and licensed to preach in
1828, pastor at Streetsville and Dundas congregations in Ontario and
later at L'Orignal, Ontario where he died in 1856. He married
three times having 2 daughters and 4 sons - Andrew, "William, a
minister, Robert and John. Quoting from -"Historical sketch of St.
Andrew's Congregation, Streetsville” Mr. Bell was an accomplished
scholar, and a zealous missionary, circling the country for
miles, blazing his own trail and ministering to the scattered settlers
in whose log houses he was ever a welcome guest. Combined, however with
scholastic attainments and missionary zeal, he had an indomitable will,
and is still remembered as "Priest Bell".
MY FIFTY FOURTH YEAR – 1833
On the afternoon of the day on which I
returned from St. Andrew’s, my son Andrew came to us on a visit, and
preached for me in Perth and other places, on the following Sabbath. On
Monday' morning we all set out for Prescott, 64 miles distant, to attend
a meeting of Synod. Ten ministers and five elders were present. The
grant of £700 a year, which had been made to us by government, was at
this meeting divided among eleven ministers; giving to each rather more
than £70. Mr. Harris, Mr. Jenkins, and I declined to have any part of
Next Sabbath being our communion in June, I
vas anxious to get home in time, and to have my son along with me for
assistance. This effected with some difficulty, from the length of the
way, and the heat of the weather. He performed most of the services.
We had a large congregation, and 103 communicants.
Before the end of June a painful event took
place, in which I felt some interest. John Wilson; since an eminent
lawyer, and warden of the London district, being at that time a student;
was publicly insulted and beaten by Robert Lyon, a far more powerful man
than himself. Complying too far with the false laws of honour, Wilson
But the affair would have been arranged had
it not been for Henry Le Lievre, Lyon's second, who wickedly urged them
to fight. At the second fire Lyon was shot through the body, and fell
dead. Le Lievre, who had fomented the quarrel, from a spite at Wilson,
immediately fled; but Wilson and Robertson returned to town and were
committed to prison. I visited them frequently till they were removed
to Brockville to take their trial for murder. They pleaded their own
cause, and so effectually, that they were both acquitted. On their
return to Perth they both called to express their gratitude for the
attention I had showed them. Wilson had not only been intimate in the
family, but was a member of our church, and possessed an amiable and
At our sacrament, in September, I was
assisted by Mr. Smart of Brockville. The church was very crowded and we
had about 120 communicants. Mr. Wilson's congregation, at the
courthouse, was also large. This was the first time that the communion
of both churches was on the same day.
At the last meeting of our Synod a
visitation presbytery had been directed to be held in each congregation,
to inquire into its condition. I had requested that they would begin
with mine. Accordingly, on the Monday after our communion, this took
place. Mr. Smart first preached a sermon suitable to the occasion. Be
then, after constituting the presbytery, explained the object of the
meeting, and put a number of questions, first to the congregation, next
to the elders, then to the trustees, and lastly to me.
Those questions were all answered in a
satisfactory manner, and showed that the affairs of the church were in
good order; and that minister, elders, trustees, and congregation, all
maintained a good understanding with one another. The Moderator
congratulated all parties on the prosperity and happiness they enjoyed,
and recommended that they should continue their exertions in advancing
the interest of religion, and the edification of the church. Thus the
meeting ended in a most satisfactory manner to all concerned.
In the fall, while employed visiting my
congregation, I had a happy escape from a serious accident. About two
miles beyond the Rideau Ferry, as I was riding smartly over a log
bridge, one of the logs; being rotten, gave way, when Jess legs being
entangled she fell and threw me forward on the bridge with great
violence. Falling on my side, on the round edge of a log, my hip was
much hurt. Jess too had been stunned, for she lay some time before
attempting to get up. Badly bruised as I was I felt thankful that my
thighbone was not broken, for it was in much danger. With some
difficulty I mounted and got to the next house.
On the morning of our communion Sabbath, in
December, when I went over to the church I was informed that Ab Ferrier,
the evening before, going home from Perth drunk, had been killed by his
wagon running over him. The night was very cold, and the road rough,
and there being no box to the wagon, his furious driving threw him off,
and the wheel passing over his neck killed him on the spot. I had often
tried to induce this man to become sober, but without effect. He even
told me one day, after Mr. Wilson came here, that he could now take a
glass in spite of me.
The same evening, just as we were sitting
down to tea, we heard the cry of Fire. On going out to the
street, I saw all the buildings belonging to Worday's brewery in a
blaze. Being all wood, they were soon burnt down, and the dwelling
house was only saved by pulling down a row of sheds between them. The
men had been at work all day, and one of the stoves, being very hot, had
set fire to the building. This was another warning to Sabbath breakers.
The first morning of the year l834 found us
in possession of health, and many other blessings. With grateful hearts
we acknowledged the goodness of God in times past, and cast ourselves on
his care for the future. The morning was spent in preparing for the
exercise of the day, and the annual meeting. At 12, I preached from,
Hitherto hath the Lord helped us, and gave an outline of the history of
the congregation from its original formation, exhorting all to place
confidence in God.
On the first Sabbath of February, Wilson' a
new church was opened and dedicated to St. Andrew! At our
communion in March we had an addition of ten new members, all of very
Dreams arise from a
variety of causes, but acme of them without doubt are intimations of
future events. One night in April, I dreamed that Captain McMillan made
an attempt to cut my throat with a razor. The agitation and struggle
woke me in time to save my life. With this man I had had no intercourse
for some time, but as he was my greatest enemy, the Devil only
excepted. I had no doubt of his being about to annoy me in same way or
other. I was not mistaken; for on the very next day he made an attempt
to get me: into trouble; but thanks to divine providence, with as little
success as on former occasions.
The deeds of our church property had been
long delayed, but I obtained them at last, through the agency of Mr.
John Wilson when at Toronto. Attempts had been made, by the holy alliance of St. Andrew's church, to obtain the property for
themselves, but all fear of their success was now at an end, for the
deeds were now in my possession, and in my own name.
In looking over my register I found that, up
to this date, I had since I cane to Perth married 240 couples, and
baptised 744 children.
MY FIFTY FIFTH YEAR – 1834
On the last day of May, the first barge from
Montreal, with a load of goods for the merchants, arrived. This was an
event of some importance to the settlement, and showed the benefit
likely to arise from the Improvement of the river. It returned to
Montreal with a load of wheat.
At our sacrament in June I had the
satisfaction of seeing my two youngest sons, James and George, received
into the communion of the church. All the rest of the family had
previously made a profession of religion. The day was fine, and a
hundred and twelve communicants were present.
On Monday morning Mrs. Bell and I set out on
a visit to our son Andrew, Toronto, and the Falls of Niagara. The
morning was hot, the road rough, and the dust end mosquitoes annoying.
At the Ferry we took the steamboat to Kingston, where were detained two
days in consequence of arriving an hour too late for the boat that left
on Tuesday. On Friday, however; we sailed in the Cobourg crowded
with emigrants; and at 3 p.m. on Saturday landed at Toronto, where we
found Captain Miller waiting with a wagon to take us to our sons house,
16 miles off, which we reached at 9 pretty tired.
Next day was fine, and I preached to my
son's congregation in his new church. He had only been a year married
and his wife seemed very young. On Monday morning one of the elders
took Andrew and me to Toronto, leaving Mrs. Bell a few days with her
daughter in law. At 10 A.M. our Synod met, in the Presbyterian Church,
end after a sermon from the Moderator we proceeded to business. This
was soon finished, excepting the proposed union with the other Synod of
the Scotch church. On this subject the want of Christian charity was
sadly apparent. Some, who had at first been most clamorous for this
union, were now against it. Consistency is creditable to all,
especially to Christians. On Thursday I was confined all day with
toothache, but Mrs. Bell being now come I took her to see the infant
school, which pleased her much.
On Friday morning having settled all our
affairs, we sailed in the Great Britain for Niagara and Queenston, where
we landed at 4 p.m. and by the coach proceeded to the celebrated falls.
The evening we spent in viewing the cataract and the scenery round it;
and, in the dusk of a fine evening, returned to the house of the Rev.
Mr. Russell at Stamford, where we remained for the night. Early next
morning walked down to Queenston, crossed at the ferry to the American
side, and spent part of the day at Lewiston. At 2 p.m. we again
embarked, calling at Niagara and Toronto, and next day we were landed at
Kingston. From this we made the best of cur way home, by the canal,
where we found all safe and well.
On the first Sabbath of July, in the
afternoon, I preached the quarterly Temperance sermon, in the
courthouse. The attendance was large, and it was evident from the
number of new members that the cause was prospering.
The weather at this time was very hot, and
the cholera was raging in the lower province, and along the line of
travel in the upper province. Quebec and Montreal had already suffered
severely, but this for some time was concealed, and even denied by the
newspapers of these cities, to prevent injury to trade. But at length
the truth had to be told, and alarm quickly spread over the land. In
the summer of l832 the number of deaths in Montreal was about 1200; in
Quebec 1400. In l834 the accounts varied from 1000 to 1200 in each of
these cities; at all places along the navigable waters in about the same
proportion. No decided case of cholera occurred in Perth, but there
were five or six deaths not far from it; two of them connected with my
congregation, on the Rideau Canal. Fears were entertained by many that
the disease would spread through the country, but happily this did not
Our comforts often destroyed by apparently
trifling causes, and the meanest insect may be commissioned to give us
pain, or even to take away our life. One night I was awakened by an
excruciating pain in my right ear, as if something were boring into my
very brain. The noise I made soon wakened the whole family, and Mrs.
Bell wanted to send far the doctor. I desired her to drop a little
spirit of some kind into my ear, as the best means of destroying the
creature that was tormenting me. She did so, and it soon became still;
but all attempts at that time to get it out proved abortive. After
daylight we renewed our endeavours, and it was at last extracted with a
pair of slender forceps, and proved to be a brown winged beetle, half an
inch long. So sensitive and delicate is the interior of the ear that
the scratching of its class gave me pain 24 hours after it died.
The improvement of the young has always been
with me a favourite object, and though my endeavours have generally been
attended with success, yet in every case I have had to contend with
opposition, not from the enemies of religion, but from its professed
friends. Our Bible class was in a prosperous condition; and numerously
attended, when Thomas Nichol, one of our elders, who had been an
Antiburgher at home, and very troublesome, took great offence at the
hymns and tunes we sung, and said we were introducing innovations into
religion, and using vain repetitions. This man for some years gave me
more trouble then all the rest of my congregation.
In the fall of the year, the ground being
very dry, fires were frequent all over the country, and many had damage
done to their fences, crops, and fire wood. The firewood we lost in
this way would have lasted a year. While visiting my congregation; so
great was the heat that I suffered much from sickness. One of these
days, travelling all the afternoon in a drizzling rain, my clothes were
wet through. Returning home late in a very dark night'. I became
chilled with cold. I had not been long in bed when I dreamed that I lay
upon a brush heap, with a sharp pointed stick hurting my side.
As the pain increased, it soon woke me to
the reality of my situation. Inflammation had commenced, attended with
a burning pain in my right side. My restless tossings soon awoke my
wife, who gave me all the assistance in her power. All remedies for
some time proved inefficient, as nothing would remain on my stomach.
For some hours I suffered severely. Towards
morning I obtained some relief, but more than a week elapsed before I
was as well as before. Next Sabbath being our communion in September, I
had fortunately engaged the assistance of Dr. Gremmill. I was however
preset all the time, and performed part of the services myself. The day
was fine, and we had a large congregation, besides 130 communicants.
A shower of rain had checked the fires in
the woods; but so dry had the ground been, that they soon broke out
again. One of these was raging in extensive cedar swamp close by our
house, and presented an alarming appearance. In the evening a breeze
sprung up, and carried a sea of fire over the whole swamp, destroying
the timber and bushes on more than a mile square.
The appearance it presented, after sunset,
was frightful. It blazed like an immense furnace; rolling up vast
masses of dark smoke to the sky. The crackling of the fumes was
terrific, and their sullen roar through the stillness of the
night, was like that of the ocean. Next day we found that the log
bridge was on fire, and much damage had been done.
About this time my old
adversary, John Stewart, teacher of the district school, had some
difficulty with the trustee, and lost his situation - a situation he had
long disgraced by his puerile and foolish conduct. Be had done more to
corrupt the minds and morals of the youth of the place, than any other
person that had ever been in it.
At this time I proposed to have the monthly
concert for prayer established among us. I spoke to the Methodist
minister on the subject, who readily gave his assent and co-operation.
But when we applied to Mr. Wilson he made excuses, and said he was not
at liberty, at present but he would not lose sight of it.
Our communion Sabbath, 14th
December, exhibited one of those sudden changes of weather for which the
American continent is distinguished. The former day had been as
remark-able for mildness as this was for severity. It was about the
coldest day I ever felt, and detained some of our people at home. A
few, who had to go against the wind, had their noses and ears frozen.
Mr. Cameron, the writer of the
scurrilous articles, attacking me, that appeared in Stewart's paper was
now upon his deathbed. He had been dissipated for years, but latterly
had become a confirmed drunkard. This ruined his health, and brought
him to the brink of the grave. His mother, who was a widow, invited me
to visit him. I did so frequently till his death, but he gave no
decided evidence of repentance.
For many years past I had preached
occasionally in a school house at Balderson’s corner, six miles from
Perth; but the people in that quarter had now built a church, and in it
Mr. Wilson and I preached alternately every Sabbath afternoon, though
all we received for our trouble was scarcely worth notice.
When the church under Mr. Wilson was first
organized, all who offered were received, good bad and indifferent, and
for a while all went on swimmingly. But by and by it became necessary
to exercise discipline, and then rebellion broke out in all quarters;
and those who brought the minister here were now most anxious to get rid
The New Year found us still happy, and
thankful for the numerous blessings we enjoyed. At 11 I preached as
usual to the annual meeting, and then we transacted our ordinary
business with good feeling on all sides. Among other things, we agreed
to establish a congregational library. In the afternoon Mr. Wilson
preached his famous temperance sermon on the sixth commandment, which
gave so much offence to his friends. At the meeting afterwards held, I
was appointed president for the year, and 30 new names were added to the
list of members.
On the first Monday in January we observed
the monthly concert for prayer. About 100 attended, and took a
deep interest in the exercises. Thus was fulfilled what had been long
the desire of my heart; and we joined with thousands of our fellow
Christians, in other parts of the world, in supplicating the throne of
grace for the success of the gospel both at home and abroad.
The dissentions in Mr. Wilson’s congregation
were now becoming worse and worse. He, from the pulpit, described the
church as corrupt, and containing members destitute of religion. The
genteel part of his congregation considered this as directed against
them, and loudly complained of his personalities. They told him that,
if improper persons were members of the church, he and his Sessions had
introduced them, and their duty was, without delay, to remove them.
On the 28th January, a
congregational meeting was held in the church, which proved the
stormiest ever held there. A constitution, prepared by Mr. Morris and
his party, had been condemned by the Presbytery; and this meeting had
been called, by Mr. Wilson and the Session, for the purpose of adopting
one prepared by them. After much contending between the parties, they
separated, worse friends then ever.
This winter I commenced writing a series of
discourses, all in Scripture language; on the doctrines and the duties
of religion; but as they took up much of my time, and being much
occupied with examinations, I got few of them finished.
One night, near the beginning of March, the
house of one Armstrong, an Irishman, four miles from Perth, was burnt to
the ground, with all it contained; the inmates barely escaping with
their lives. The evening had been very cold, and the stove had been
heated to a very great degree; and as the pipe passed through the roof
it set fire to the shingles, which were all in a blaze before the family
were aware of any danger. This was one of the packed jury, which found
me guilty of libel, in complaining of Stewart for advocating the
profanation of the Sabbath. Another of them, the one that was drunk at
the time, was, a few months afterwards, frozen to death in the wood, in
a state of intoxication. A third had his house, barn, stable, cattle,
horses and all he had, burnt in a cold night. A fourth became
deranged. Indeed, it was observed that all of them came to mischief,
either in their person, their mind, or their property.
The 8th March was our communion
Sabbath. The day being fine, we had a large congregation; and about 320
communicants were present. The services were pleasant and refreshing,
though the labour of performing the whole of them was rather too much
The Rev. George Buchanan, being now on his
deathbed, sent for me to come and see him. I went, not only at this
time, but at several times afterwards; for he lived some months under
his last illness. On the morning of Good Friday I was quite
unwell myself, but got better after taking medicine. After getting up,
I was led to reflect upon the great event, which this day commemorates.
Christ died that we might live; he drank the cup of wrath that we might
drink the water of life; he wore a crown of thorns that we might wear a
crown of glory. Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on
us, that we might be called the sons of God.
No part of my duty afforded me more pleasure
than attending to the Bible Class, which I always did myself when at
home. It always met in the church, on Sabbath afternoon, at the close
of public worship. From forty to fifty, including both sexes,
attended. The attendance was regular, and the interest of the
youths very encouraging.
On the evening of the first Monday in
May, the Concert for Prayer was more numerously attended than it had
ever before been, and we had very interesting exercises. The Rev. Mr. Wilson, for the first time attended, and took part in the
services of the evening. Up to this time he had held himself very shy
to us; but now that all the great folk of his own congregation had
forsaken him, he become more friendly to us.
This sketch by Rev. Andrew Bell headed a
descriptive letter to his Father, Rev. William Bell1 of his
visit to Niagara Falls showing a keen interest in geology and the study
of nature in his new home-land of Canada. His knowledge of geology was
such that he was known as the principal amateur geologist in Canada and
was consulted by his friend, Sir William Logan of McGill
University on the creation of the Canadian Geological Survey. One son,
Robert, later became head of the Geological Survey from 1901-08 and was
awarded many honours for his distinguished career. Similarly, a
grandson, J.A. Mackintosh Bell, held an appointment as Director of the
Geological Survey of New Zealand and later played a key role in Canada
in the field of geology and mining. Rev. Andrew Bell's youngest son,
John Bell M.D., made a remarkable collection of plants and herbs. This
Herbarium is now in the Botanical Department of Carleton University,
MY FIFTY SIXTH YEAR – 1835
In June I received a
letter from Mrs. Campbell at Rothesay, who had been one of my scholars,
when I taught the school in that place, giving an account of the happy
death of Mrs. Jameson. They had both attended my Sabbath school, and
had both acknowledged that the instructions they received there, were
the means of their conversion. They had been intimate companions for
many years, and never had there been friendship more warm, nor religion
more pure. The information which this letter brought me, greatly
encouraged me in giving instruction to the young still under my care.
The effect of Sabbath school teaching will, in most cues, never be known
till the day of judgement. But here was a case in which the benefit was
clearly established, in the present life, by the parties themselves.
In this month I attended a meeting of the
United Synod, at Brockville; and as it turned out, the last meeting of
that body I ever attended. The rude and overbearing conduct of some of
the Irish members, together with my growing dislike to schism, had led
me to think seriously of uniting with the Synod in connection with the
Church of Scotland.
The business being
finished, I left Brockville in the evening and travelled all night, in
order to avoid the excessive heat. But I found the journey dull and
wearisome, the mosquitoes annoying, and several times I fell asleep on
the saddle. The following Sabbath was our communion, and one long to be
remembered, for our gracious God made us joyful in his house of prayer.
I had little time for preparation, yet I felt so happy that, though I
had all to do myself, I had no difficulty.
My son George having expressed a desire to
prepare for the ministry, I had been conducting his education with a
view to that object. This summer he was employed in the study of Logic,
under my direction, which I found beneficial for reviving my
acquaintance with that science.
The new church at Balderson's corner being
now finished, I preached in it on the first Sabbath of every month, and
Mr. Wilson on the third; so that the people there had preaching every
second Sabbath. The congregation numbered from one to two hundred, but
they gave us very little for our labour.
On the 19th August, our only daughter,
Isabella, was married to John G. Malloch, Esqr., Barrister at law, and
afterwards Judge of the District Court. After the marriage they took a
jaunt to Montreal and other places, till their own house was fitted up
for their reception.
At our communion, in September, I had the
assistance of my son Andrew, and Mr. Smart of Brockville. On the
evening of that day David Buchanan came from Beckwith to inform us of
his fathers death on the previous day. This was a painful event though
we had long expected it, the family left very destitute. On Monday
Andrew left us for Glengarry to attend the meeting of Synod. On Tuesday
I made preparations for the funeral of Mr. Buchanan, who had requested
that his remains might not be buried in Beckwith, but conveyed to
Perth. As he had expressed a wish to be near his daughter Mrs.
Ferguson, I gave up to him, for that purpose, the ground I had selected
for my own family. At the grave I made a suitable address, and on the
following Sabbath preached his funeral sermon.
The rules laid down for the children they
think should be observed by all. On a Sabbath day my son William had
resolved to take his little daughter, Mary, to the church with him for
the first time. Her mother had strictly charged her not to speak while
there, as no one was permitted to speak in the church. She
obeyed her orders, and was very still and attentive. On her return
home, she took great credit to herself for behaving so well; but
observed that Grandpa did not behave so well, for he spoke though she
did not. As no exceptions had been made, she understood the rule to be
a universal one, to be observed by all.
On the 23 September, Stewart, the poor
wretch who had first libeled me, and then prosecuted me for complaining
of his conduct, had to leave the settlement. The holy alliance who had
made a tool of him, while he suited their purpose, now discarded him and
turned him out of office, so that he had to leave the place without
credit, and without employment. He had done more to corrupt and debase
the youth then all who had been before him.
Next day Andrew returned from the Synod, and
informed me that the way was now clear for our going into connection
with the Church of Scotland. Mr. Morris and Dr. Wilson had, on this
occasion, gone all the way to Glengarry to oppose, and to bring charges
against their own minister, Mr. Wilson, but found themselves held in
less consideration by the Synod then they had supposed.
On the evening of the following day we had
all the family, thirteen in number, present at tea. Some of them were
now residing far from the rest, yet every year, or every second year, we
managed to have a meeting. When I remembered how much our number had
increased, I remembered Jacob’s saying; with my staff I passed over this
Jordan, end now I am become two bands. At a meeting of Session next
day, we resolved to bring the subject of union with the Church of
Scotland before the congregation on the first opportunity.
As a specimen of the unpleasant Journeys I
had to make, in bad weather, take the following. On Sabbath, 4th
October, it rained all day. After preaching twice at home, end
conducting a prayer meeting, I prepared for an appointment, in the
afternoon, six miles in the country. I was unwell at the time, the road
was horrid, end it still continued to rain; but I was expected, and
therefore could not think of remaining at home. The soil was a stiff
clay, the weather had been wet for weeks, end constant travelling had
trod it into a mass of tough mire. The road was so bad that I was
sometimes on the point of turning back; but it was well I did not, as I
had a better congregation that I had expected. It was dark long before
I got home, wading through the mud, in no pleasant plight, both weary
end wet with the drizzling rain that fell all the time.
On Tuesday, 20 October, the Presbytery of
Bathurst met. Repeated notices had been given of a meeting of my
congregation on the same day, to determine whether we should unite with
the kirk party or not. The meeting being almost unanimous in favour of
union, the Session and I proceeded to Mr. Wilson’s, when the Presbytery
was sitting, and carried it into effect.
Next day the Commission of the Synod met in
Mr. Wilson’s church, to inquire into the cause of the divisions
that had distracted the congregation for some time past. The sittings
were continued for some days, and many witnesses were examined, but no
good result was obtained. It was however evident that those who had
brought Mr. Wilson to the place were now his greatest enemies, and were
determined to get rid of him if in their power.
Our youngest George had
for some time before this occasionally conducted the devotions of the
family. About this time he also began to take part in the exercises at
prayer meetings, and even to make remarks on a passage of Scripture. To
me these were gratifying, as I have always considered the practice
of public speaking, to a candidate for the ministry, no less important
than the theory.
Our communion in December being the first
since we came into connection with the Church of Scotland; and as I had
procured the assistance of both Mr. Wilson and Mr. Fairbairn, it was
looked forward to with some degree of interest. The congregation was
very large, and none of our members kept back, excepting Ben Kerr, on
account of what had taken place. Thus our union with our fellow
Christians was effected with less opposition and excitement than I had
expected. Our list of members at this time extended to l82, though
seldom more than two thirds of them, were present at one time.
The usual mass at the Roman Catholic chapel,
on Christmas Eve, was omitted this winter, as Father John said that on
former occasions he had been annoyed by heretics and blackguards
attending in great numbers.
The return of a New Year found me not only
in the land of the living but enjoying many of the comforts of life. My
first employment was to give God thanks for the enjoyments, and to
entreat his forgiveness for the sins of the past year; and to ask his
blessing and protection during that which has now begun. When we
surrounded the family altar I recommended the same course to the rest,
and that in the future we should watch against sin more carefully, read
the Scriptures more frequently, and love God more fervently, than ever
we had done. I then prepared for the public meeting, and at 10 preached
from Psalm 106,7. They remembered not the multitude of his mercies;
after which the usual business was transacted.
On the 6th January I attended at Lanark the
first meeting of Presbytery since our union. Much kindness and
attention were shown me by all the members present; and what business we
had before us was easily arranged.
On the 20th January I set out for the
country, to hold an examination at T. Barber's. Before I got a mile on
the road William's horse, which I had borrowed, became unmanageable, ran
sway, upset the cutter, and threw me out on the road. I held on to the
reins some time, he dragging me on the ground, but I was obliged to let
go, lest he should dash me against one of the logs at the road side.
At the moment I feared he might run over
some one, but fortunately he took off the road in deep snow, which
delayed him, and he was taken by two men passing at the time. My left
arm and shoulder were bruised, but otherwise I was not much hurt. By
the kindness of Providence I have often escaped from danger with very
little damage. The cutter being repaired, I set out again; but the
horse was so much excited that he kept me in a state of alarm all day.
The weather at the time was so cold that, the same morning at sunrise,
the thermometer stood at 20 degrees below zero, that is 52 degrees below
the freezing point.
On Saturday, 23 January, I set cut, by
appointment of the Presbytery, on a missionary tour; all of us having
agreed to perform part of this work. My first stage was to Smith's
Falls, where I arrived in the evening, almost frozen, the cold being
very severe. On Sabbath I preached two discourses in the village, in a
large schoolroom, to a very crowded congregation. The heat was past
enduring, though it was very cold out of doors.
In the afternoon Mr. Storey took me to his
house, four miles off, where I had engaged to preach in the evening. On
the way I was so chilled with the cold wind in my face, after being
heated in the schoolroom, that I caught a severe cold. At 6 in the
evening, the house being crowded, I preached again in a very
uncomfortable situation, being roasted on one side by a large fire, and
chilled on the other by the cold wind at a broken window.
On Monday morning, Mr. Storey having taken
me in his sleigh to Armstrong’s where I had left my horse and cutter, I
started for the north. In the afternoon I preached in the Methodist
chapel at Mr. Kerfoot’s, in Beckwith, to about 100 people, and baptised
three children. At 6 I reached Mr. Gordon’s in Coulburn, where I found
the house crammed full of people waiting for me. Here I preached from a
dark corner of the kitchen, not the most convenient for a pulpit. Every
room in the house was full of people, many of whom had no seats; but
those in the kitchen had a worse evil to endure, having before them a
raging fire, and behind them a stove almost red hot. Here I baptised
four children, and remained for the night.
Next morning Mr. Brennan, a young Methodist
preacher, came and breakfasted with us. He was pompous, affected, and
illiterate, but good natured, and communicative. At family worship I
asked him to pray, but was afterwards sorry I had done so. His pompous
manner was disgusting, and he screamed as loud as if he had been
addressing two thousand people, or as if we had been all deaf.
Leaving this hospitable house I went on to
Richmond, four miles farther, where I preached to a small congregation;
for the people there had little taste for weekday preaching.
My next journey was to Lowrie’s, in Huntly,
22 miles, where I preached in the evening to a crowded house, and
baptised seven children.
Next morning I walked a mile to visit a sick
family and baptise a child. I afterwards endeavored to reconcile two
families who had long been at variance. This object I fear was but
partially accomplished. On such occasions the pride of the human heart
is a sad obstacle in the way. Our situation would be dreadful, if God
were as backward to forgive us, as we are to forgive one another.
On my return to Mr. Lowrie's, I found a man
come to request that I would go and visit his wife, who was supposed to
be dying. I went with him, and after travelling about seven miles on a
very rough and crooked road, through a wild and uncultivated country, we
come to an opening in the forest, where were about a dozen shanties or
log huts, upon a tract of fine land. In one of these I was introduced
to the sick woman wasted by consumption. But I was pleased to find that
she was pious and intelligent, and that she was resting her hope of
Heaven on a sure foundation. After a long conversation and prayer, I
commended her to the grace of God, and then pursued my journey. I heard
a few days after that she died in peace. The incidents of the two
following days I shall omit. They may be found in my larger history.
On the first Sabbath of February I assisted
Mr. McAlister, at Middleton, after preaching for him on the fast day and
Saturday. In the Christian society which his family and friends
afforded, I spent a few days very agreeably.
During the county election which followed,
in order to be out of the way of the noise and nonsense usual on such
occasions, Mrs. Bell and I went on a visit to our friends at Carleton
Place. While there I attended and occupied the chair at a Temperance
Convention, composed of delegates from all the Societies in the
district. Next day we had an unpleasant journey home, in rain and
It was now time for the formation of a Bible
Society in Perth; and Mr. Wilson and I met and made the necessary
preparations. A meeting was called; and Mr. Wenham came from Brockville
to assist at the formation of the Society. About 80 dollars were
subscribed at the meeting, and Dr. Thom, the successful candidate at the
election, sent 20 dollars, on condition of being excused the ceremony of
For some time past Mr. Nicholl, a member of
my session, had given us much trouble by his odd and impracticable
notions on the subject of church discipline. He meant well, but was
altogether despotic and tyrannical in his views. He wanted to impose
unnecessary restraints upon me in the discharge of my duty, and
especially in reference to the baptism of children, which he would allow
no where but in the church. He would make no allowance for the sickness
of either parents or children, or for their distance, be it ever so
great, and he laboured so with the other members of Session that I had
to bring the matter before the Presbytery for their opinion on the
subject. After some conversation they decided unanimously that the
Session had no power to impose any such restraints.
At our sacrament in June I had the
assistance of Mr. Cruickshank on Saturday, and of Mr. McAlister on
Sabbath. Mr. Wilson and I had agreed that in future we should have the
communion, in both congregations, on the same day.
The house we lived in, being a wooden
building, was cold in winter and not very convenient, we had resolved on
building a new one of stone. During the winter we had collected the
materials9 and in the following summer it was erected, 42
feet long, and 30 wide and 2 1/2 stories high, I had long wished to have
a stone house, in which we could spend the remainder of our days in
William and John Bell were the twin sons of
Rev. William Bell who were born in London in l806 coming to Canada when
they were 11 years old. They were well known in Lanark County and Upper
Canada as astute businessmen involved in commerce, and the fur and
lumber trades. In 1828 they opened their own store in Perth and
Morphy’s Falls (Carleton Place) known as W.&.J.Bell selling general
goods; their business prospered with the building and opening of the
Rideau and Tay Canals in l832 and 1854. The commercial crisis of l837-38
left coins in short supply and William and John overcame this threat to
their business by printing their own paper money or Scrip. These notes,
known as 'shinplasters' were in circulation for 2 years and enabled the
brothers to ride out the crisis which was the result of financial panic
in 3ritain arid the U.S., crop failures and the political instability at
the time over the Mackenzie-Papineau rebellion. Unfortunately, this
business crisis, coupled with the death of his wife, Maria in
childbirth, caused a severe emotional breakdown in William's life.
Although his parents tried to help him, there was a moral conflict
between William and his austere Father, and William later died of
apoplexy leaving two daughters. We have little personal information
about John who died in 1847 leaving one son, Andrew.
MY FIFTY SEVENTH YEAR – 1836
On the 26th May the Commission of Synod
again met at Perth, to endeavor to settle the differences between Mr.
Wilson and the rebellious part of his congregation; but after various
meetings and proposals, it was found that no reconciliation could be
effected. The dissatisfied party then withdrew from his ministry, and
attended other churches, or gave up all profession of religion. One of
the charges they brought against him was, that he was severe, abusive,
and personal, in his preaching. James Condie, speaking on this subject,
said, "Mr. Wilson takes us for a set o’ reprobates. He is ower sair on
us. But we never heed him. We just do as we like, and let him talk
After our sacrament in June I assisted Mr.
Fairbairn, in Ramsay, at his also. His congregation at that time was
large, and in a very prosperous condition; and no one suspected the sad
reverses that afterwards occurred.
On the 13 July, I and Mr. Wilson went to
Smith’s Falls to attend a meeting of Presbytery, and returned late the
same evening. On reaching home, the first news I beard was, that in the
preceding night, all our garden gates, as well as William's, had been
carried off and thrown into the river. The pigs, in consequence, had got into our garden and destroyed it. The county election had
just ended, and the Orange vagabonds had done this out of revenge,
because we had declined to support their candidate, Sheriff Powell.
Next Sabbath I assisted Mr. Romanes, at
Smith's Falls, at his sacrament. On my way home, on Monday, the heat
was so excessive, and my horse was annoyed so with large flies, in the
woods, that he was almost mad.
About this time Mr. Wilson proposed that I
should always preach in his church when he was from home, it being large
enough to hold both congregations. To this I agreed, after consulting
my Session. This arrangement continued till he left the place, in 1844.
On the 3rd Sabbath of August, by appointment
of Presbytery, I went out to Lanark to preach to Mr. McAllister's
congregations, he having gone to Scotland. I was accompanied by Mr.
Cameron, our newly elected Member of Parliament. At Middleton I
preached very comfortably to a large congregation, and baptised two
children. In the afternoon, having returned to Lanark, I preached again
to a good congregation, but not so comfortably. The people appeared
more careless and inattentive.
It is no less strange than true, that a
minister can always tell, from his own feelings, what is the state of
religion among those he is addressing.
On Monday, 29, August, we had a visit from
the Lt. Governor, Sir Francis Bond Head, in a tour he was making through
the province. His traveling on the Sabbath gave great offence to the
religious part of the community. An address was hastily got up and
presented to him in the courthouse, to which he made a suitable reply.
We were then all introduced, individually by name, to his Excellency,
by Mr. Norris, who acted as master of ceremonies on the occasion.
The Governor was very polite and shook hands with all as they came
forward. After the levee he and his attendants proceeded to Carleton
Next morning after our sacrament in
September, the members of our Presbytery had arranged to meet in Perth,
and proceed to Kingston together, to attend the meeting of Synod. This
meeting was peculiarly interesting to me, being the first since I became
connected with the Church of Scotland. Mr. Glass sent his wagon to
carry us and our trunks to the Rideau ferry, where we were to take the
stem boat. At 8 we were to start, and just as I was getting into the
wagon the horses moved, by which I was thrown down, hurting my leg
considerably on the hook of the whipple tree. I proceeded
notwithstanding, but soon observed the blood coming through my clothes.
At the ferry we had to wait some hours for the steamer, so that I had
time to dress the wound, which now gave me great pain. To Kingston we
had the honour of travelling with the Earl of Selkirk. Though no way
assuming he was very reserved.
In 24 hours, after leaving the ferry, we
landed at Kingston, where we were hospitably lodged with Mr. Pringle.
During the Session, which lasted a week, I met with much civility from
all the ministers, though most of them I had never seen before. On
Saturday a letter was received by the Moderator, from the Warden of the
Penitentiary, requesting that two of our number might be appointed to
preach there on the following day. Mr. Alexander of Cobourg and I
immediately offered our services, which were accepted.
On Sabbath morning the Warden sent his
carriage for us, and carried us to the Penitentiary, which is two miles
from Kingston. Mr. Alexander preached in the afternoon. We never had a
more attentive and orderly audience. At the request of the Warden I
afterwards, in a private room, examined five of the convicts. In every
one of these cases I found that drinking was the cause of the crimes for
which they were punished.
Late on Tuesday evening, the business of
Synod being finished, the Moderator made an affectionate address to his
brethren, and closed the meeting with singing, prayer, and the apostolic
benediction. Next day we spent in a visit to the Penitentiary; to view
the buildings, and the various employments of the convicts, and
afterwards in taking leave of our friends.
Next day we returned to Perth. Our son
Andrew came along with us on a visit to his friends. On the following
Sabbath he preached for me; and for Mr. Wilson in the evening, to large
congregations. Robert and James came up from Carleton Place in the
morning, so that we had the pleasure of seeing all our eight children
together, both in the church and at the social board.
The United Synod were so much annoyed at my
leaving them, that they not only refused me a regular dissmission, but
it was proposed by Mr. Boyd, the greatest madcap amongst them, that I
should be deposed from my office, though my connection with them had
ceased some months before.
After this union with the Bathurst
Presbytery, I expected that Mr. Wilson and his congregation would be
more friendly, but I was mistaken. In most instances, when we attempted
to exercise discipline, the parties left us and went to them, where they
were received with open arms. Thus their endeavours to draw away our
members were continued as before; and in many instances were but too
successful. It was a temptation to the young, that with them they had
an opportunity of seeing and being seen more extensively than with us;
and one was often the means of drawing away others.
The Bible Society we had formed was
auxiliary to the British and Foreign Society. We had remitted £50
sterling with our first order for books. At the same time I had stated
the poverty of the people in the back settlements. This induced the
Society, besides executing our order, to send us a donation of books to
the mount of £50 sterling more, which amply supplied us for some time.
My son Robert, at Carleton Place, being in
want of a clerk this winter, engaged George. He had been pursuing
classical studies, but seeing no prospect of soon getting forward to the
ministry, he deemed it best to engage in some other employment for the
present; by which he could get a living. On the 25th December, which
was both Sabbath and Christmas, I preached the Quarterly Temperance
sermon, in the court house. A man in the street beastly drunk, rolling
in the snow as the congregation came out, afforded an illustration of
what they had been hearing.
On the last day of the year I attended our
annual congregational meeting. I had been all the morning employed
preparing the report of the Session, and the accounts for the year, for
I had long acted as their treasurer. At this meeting; in former years,
I had usually preached a sermon and taken a review of past events; but
at this time I found it necessary to warn all to beware of false
teachers; and especially of the Mormons who were now trying to gain
converts in the settlement.
In the evening, before family worship, I
made some observations on the proper improvement of time and the duty of
gratitude for past mercies. My journal of that date ends with these
words. Thus another year is gone, and I am still spared as an evidence
of the goodness of God. How many mercies I have received and yet how
insensible! O that I could love my God more and serve him better! He is
the source of all my happiness, and the God of my salvation.
The year 1837 began on Sabbath, and I
commenced it by gratefully acknowledge the goodness of God in the past
year, and fervently praying for his blessing and direction, in all my
affairs, in that now begun. The new fallen snow was deep, the cold
severe, and the day stormy, so that few could come out. We had to get
Willam's cutter to take us over to the church.
For the sake of brevity I pass over many
things that occurred this winter, but which will be found in my larger
history. Particularly the trouble and loss I sustained by Alexander
Cuthbertson, my tenant at Sweetbank, who turned out to be the greatest
rogue I ever had any dealings with; and an extensive missionary tour I
made towards the Grand River, by order of the Presbytery.
We had long enjoyed a share of prosperity,
but an event now approached that plunged our family into deep distress.
William's wife had been unwell some time, but nothing serious was
apprehended. On the 3 March she gave birth to a male child, and seemed
as well as usual; but in the following night she became worse and
expired before morning. I had been with her the evening before, and
some time before she died I was again called up, and went to her. I
found her sensible and composed, expressing her confidence in the mercy
of God, in the grace of Christ, and a lively hope of Heaven and eternal
happiness. At her earnest desire I baptised the infant in her
presence. He was very weak, and not likely to live. In my prayers for
her and the child, she heartily joined.
After this she lived about half an hour,
which was chiefly employed in prayer, and in committing her husband and
children to the care of her heavenly Father, when she calmly fell asleep
in Jesus without a struggle or a groan. The scene was affecting, and
for the moment at least softened the stoutest heart present. Even
doctor Wilson, although accustomed to such scenes, shed tears. She left
four children behind her, all young. They could not feel their loss1
but their father, as might be expected, was overwhelmed with
This event, of Maria's death, which took
place early on the morning of the 4th March, was the more felt by me
that it was the anniversary of my ordination, which took place just 20
years before at Edinburgh. The following day was the Sabbath, the
weather was fine and the congregation large, but our pew in the church
had a dismal aspect, being almost empty. On Wednesday the funeral took
place. It was the largest I had ever seen in Berth. After the coffin
was lowered into the grave, I made a suitable address to the assembled
multitude. On our return home I assembled all the family and friends,
and admonished them to bear their loss with Christian resignation; and
instead of indulging unavailing grief for the death of their friend, to
prepare to follow her. A wet nurse had been provided for the infant,
and every thing possible was done to preserve his life, but all would
not do. A week after his mother, he followed her to the to the tomb. A
black marble monument was soon after erected over their remains.
After all the company retired, William
proposed to his mother and me that we should shut up our own house, and
live in his, as he could not leave the house and children altogether to
servants. To this we agreed with some reluctance; for though it was a
better house than our own yet the same retirement could not there be
enjoyed. Besides, we had been nearly 20 years in the old house, so that
it had become almost necessary to our existence.
The illness of Mrs. Bell, all this spring,
occasioned me much anxiety. Her fatigue; watching, and grief, both
before and after Maria's death, together with the cares of a large
family, deprived her of sleep, and impaired her health. There were
abuses among the servants too, some of which we could not immediately
correct. The children had been spoiled by long indulgence, and we found
it no easy matter to bring them into proper order.
We had heard accounts of the Mormon heresy
in newspapers, but till lately knew little of its tenets. But this
winter Mr. Page, one of the teachers of that imposture, came among us,
and preached with a zeal worthy of a better cause. He was a strong
robust man, six feet high, very illiterate, with a thundering voice, and
Many attended his preaching, and some were
led by his zeal and apparent piety, to believe his assertion, that true
religion had been lost, and that Joseph Smith and his followers had
authority to revive it. A more barefaced cheat was never attempted to
be palmed upon mankind under the name of religion. Yet it made converts
even here, for there is no creed so absurd as not to obtain followers.
A few submitted to baptism as the hands of Page; he having assured them
that without this they could not be saved. The delusion was too gross
to last long. In less than a year it was not only all over but
In April the measles began to rage in the
settlement, and continued for six months. Though thousands had the
disease yet few died; but these were mostly grown up young people. J-.u
and George, our youngest sons, then both at Carleton Place, had a narrow
escape, but they were mercifully preserved. All William’s children, the
two servant girls, and one of the clerks were ill at the same time, so
that Mrs. Bell was worn out with care and toil. During the summer I was
much employed visiting the sick.
MY FIFTY EIGHTH YEAR - 1837
Amidst all the ingratitude with which
mankind are chargeable, there are some honourable exceptions. One of
these I am happy to record. Seven years before this a young man, named
John Wilson, came to Perth. He was in humble circumstances; and had no
friends in the place. He came to me to see if I would patronize him,
and assist him in getting a school.
I did so, gave him encouragement,
and placed two of my children under his care. He conducted his school
well, gave satisfaction to his employers, and soon became esteemed and
respected. By and by he felt a desire to be a lawyer; but in order to
do this it was necessary to acquire certain parts of learning which he
had not obtained, the Latin language especially.
On this account he applied to me for
assistance. At that time I was teaching some of my own children Latin.
So putting them together I spent an hour with them every day. Such was
Mr. Wilson's diligence and progress that, along with his teaching,
reading etc. he, in eleven months, acquired a sufficient knowledge of
Latin to enable him to pass his examination at the capital. I had
recommended him to Mr. Boulton, at that time the principal lawyer here,
who took him into his house on favourable terms, gave him charge of his
business, and the education of his son.
Of the unhappy duel in which Mr. Wilson was,
some years afterwards, engaged, I have already given some account.
During his confinement I paid him every attention. He expressed his
gratitude at the time, but it now appeared that be had determined to do
more, whenever it was in his power. His funds at that time were very
scanty, but on getting into business for himself, such was
his skill and ability, that he was well employed, and his prospects
brightened wonderfully. This summer he came from the London district,
where he is now settled, to see his father and mother. He paid me a
visit also, and very much surprised me by presenting me with a watch
which cost him 45 dollars. This was purely from gratitude on his part,
for I had no pecuniary claim on him of any kind.
Our son Ebenezer had been some years with
his brothers, William and John, as a clerk. He had lately expressed a
wish to go into business for himself, and Smith's Falls was selected as
the place. In the early part of June he went to Montreal with William,
and purchased a stock of goods, and soon after opened his store. But it
did not turn out a profitable speculation, and in a few years
he gave up the business and returned to Perth.
On the third Sabbath of July the Sacrament
of the Lord’s supper was administered in Beckwith, and I assisted the
Rev. Mr. Smith on that occasion. On the fast day I preached two
discourses suitable to the occasion, and felt happy in again addressing
a congregation to which I had often preached with pleasure many years
before, when Mr. Buchanan was their minister. After worship on Monday I
proceeded towards Richmond, having a missionary tour to make before I
returned to Perth.
Next Sabbath, after I reached home, at the
request of Mr. Wilson, I preached in his church in the evening, and
baptised his son David. From about this time he and I preached on
alternate Sabbaths in the new Bathurst church in the afternoon.
Our late treasurer, A. C. had made a more
than ordinary profession of religion, but we found him in the end to be
an Israelite in whom there was some guile. On resigning his office and
leaving the church, I found that he had slipped the books into the hands
of his successor without any examination or settlement. Having some
suspicion that all was not right, I examined the books and found that he
had retained about £7 in his own bands for which he had not accounted.
This was just so much out of my pocket, as I had not been fully paid
what was due me for two years past.
The remainder of this year was spent much as
former ones were. The principal public events were, the death of
William IV, and the accession to the throne of Victoria, the rebellion
in both provinces, and the disastrous result to the rebels.
On Saturday 30th December, at the annual
meeting of the congregation, I preached on the duty of giving thanks to
God for his goodness during the past year; especially in keeping civil
war at a distance from our part of the province. The Sabbath being the
last in the year, was improved accordingly. At 3 I preached the
quarterly Temperance sermon, in the courthouse, to a very numerous
audience. Thus ended another year full of goodness and mercy on the
part of God.
The year 1838 began as the former ones had
done. After addressing God my heavenly Father, through Christ the new
and living way, I took a review of the past year, its mercies and
enjoyments; its sins and its sufferings. I give thanks to God for his
goodness in the past year, and implored his presence and protection in
that upon which I had just entered.
In the afternoon I attended the meeting of
the Temperance Society, and heard Mr. Wilson's sermon in
behalf of total abstinence. He next brought forward his new
pledge, but few at that time signed it. By this more than half the
members were thrown out. I was proposed as President, but I declined
the honour, as I disapproved of reducing the Society so hastily, within
so narrow limits. The monthly concert in the evening was well attended,
the church being quite full.
The rebellion last month had rendered it
necessary to call out part of the militia. Bodies of volunteers had
also been raised in various parts of the province. My son John and his
company had come forward. Cold as the weather was they marched to
Kingston, were trained, and occupied part of the fort till spring, when
all being quiet, they were permitted to return home.
I had been directed by the Presbytery to
make a missionary tour up the Grand River and to preach one Sabbath in
Bytown; but a thaw and deep mud prevented me going at that time. Even
when I did go the cold was so intense, and the sleighing so bad, for
want of snow, that I had an unpleasant journey.
Sensitive minds are sometimes unhappy, and
know not from what cause. This was sometimes the case with me. On
Saturday, for instance, when preparing for the pulpit, I felt greatly
discouraged; my prospect seemed dark and gloomy, and yet I could find
nothing in my circumstances of which I could complain. On Sabbath
morning I was still in the same uncomfortable condition, but soon after
I entered the pulpit, seeing a good congregation before me, and
remembering the promise, My grace shall be sufficient for thee, and my
strength shall be made perfect in weakness, the clouds dispersed, and
the sunshine of joy filled my heart; so that I preached in a comfortable
frame of spirit.
On the 9th February, our
daughter, Mrs. Malloch, had a son rather prematurely. Re was very weak
and died next morning. He obtained the fate that Job so earnestly
desired. The knees did not prevent him, nor did he suck the breasts of
his mother. He merely opened his eyes on this world, and closed them
forever. So brief is human existence, and so short lived our dearest
One day a young woman, who had lately
married, and left the settlement, being back on a visit to her friends,
called to see me. She had long sat under my ministry, had been a member
of the church, and though now living at a distance still remembered the
instructions she had received, and the attention I had paid her and the
rest of the family of which she was a member. This was the more
remarkable as well as gratifying to me, as some of the other members of
the family here had behaved very ungratefully.
On the 18 February, on the way to the
country to preach at Dr. McLean's, I was upset and bruised from Mr.
Malloch's cutter. The horse was young and wild. He shyed at a black
stump, ran off the road, upset us, and then galloped off towards Perth.
We were not much hurt, but had a heavy journey to make on foot,
encumbered with boots and great coats in deep snow.
Near the end of the month I and other
ministers attended a meeting of the district Temperance Society at
Lanark, and had the pleasure to find that the cause there was gaining
ground. We lodged with Mr. McAllister, and spent the evening discussing
the affairs of the church. On the following day we had a meeting of
Presbytery, and arranged our missionary services for the next
twelvemonth, at twenty preaching stations.
Towards the end of March I suffered much
from a disorder, arising from too close application to study, which had
occasionally given me great pain for many years past. This is what good
Mr. Boston would call “the croak in my lot”.
At this time many small congregations in the
upper part of the province being entirely destitute of pastors, I often
thought it might be my duty to leave Perth and go to one of them. I had
no temptation of a pecuniary nature to remain, for I never received more
than £ 20 a year from my congregation. But here I had a house of my
own, together with many conveniences and comfortable associations.
Besides, I was greatly attached to my congregation, for I had now been
more than twenty years among them. My family too were settled around
me, and no doubt I should feel lonely if removed to a distant part of
Yet so much sympathy did I feel for those
who were destitute of a minister to break the bread of life among them,
that I seriously thought of leaving Perth, and of engaging for a time in
missionary labours. With this view I corresponded with some of the
ministers in the upper part of the province, and made them acquainted
with my plan. I even applied to the Governor in Council and obtained an
assurance that my salary from government should still be paid, though I
removed to another congregation. Yet after all the steps thus taken, my
increasing infirmities, and the advice of my friends, prevailed upon me
to defer my design for the present.
In May, I received a very interesting and
affecting letter from a friend in Rothesay giving an account of the
happy death of his wife, who had formerly been one of my pupils, and who
ascribed her conversion, under God, to the instructions she received
from me, in the Sabbath school. For this I thanked God and took
No one can pass through the world without
trials, and of these I have had my share, and often arising from
quarters least suspected. Solomon says, Trust not a friend, put
confidence in a brother. Bad I followed this advice, at least in the
case to which I now refer, I might have avoided much trouble and loss.
Alexander Cuthbertson, a carpenter, came to Perth in the summer of l833,
well recommended as a pious young man. As such I treated him and showed
him every attention and kindness in my power.
After some time he proposed to rent my
25-acre lot, close by the village, for the use of his father and
mother. I had no objection to lease the land to him, but he wanted me
also to build a house. This I declined, but gave him leave to
build a small house, not exceeding the value of £50, promising to pay,
when it came into my possession what it was worth to me at that time.
There was a written agreement entered into between us, but it did not go
into particulars; for such was the confidence I placed in him that I
trusted almost everything to his honour and honesty.
Never was I more grievously disappointed.
He did not fulfil his engagement in a single particular. B. built the
house, not in the place agreed upon, cut down the best of my timber
without leave, and applied it to his own use, erected what out houses he
pleased, and at the end of three years presented me a bill for £147.
I had long before this found him to be a
worthless unprincipled vagabond, though he made a great profession of
religion. All the buildings he had erected being of the most flimsy
description, were declared by competent judges to be worth no more than
from £60 to £80; yet by a series of trickery and underhand dealing, I
found it necessary to satisfy his demand, or take the
consequence of a law suit which he threatened to bring against me. But
this was not all; by going about and industriously misrepresenting the
thing he so prejudiced the minds of ignorant people, who knew nothing of
the merits of the case, that I suffered in their estimation. The
unpleasant circumstances in which I was thus placed, made me not only
uncomfortable but unwell. Such is the influence which the state of the
mind has upon the health of the body.
SCRIP ISSUED BY WILLIAM AND JOHN BELL, PERTH
These notes, also known as “shinplasters”,
were beautifully engraved by Adolphus Bourne of Montreal in five
denominations up to a half dollar -–(30 pence or two shillings and
sixpence). They enjoyed quite wide circulation in the community for two
years during the panic of 1937-38.
MY FIFTY NINTH YEAR - 1838
During the summer of 1838 I suffered much
from sickness end depression of spirits. Our new house being flaw
finished and ready for painting, when well enough for the purpose, I
employed all my leisure hours in getting this part of the work
completed. The fall, as usual, was employed in visiting my
congregation. It proved a very pleasant service, for the weather was
fine and the roads good.
In October our youngest son, George, who had
been some time a clerk with his brother at Smith’s Falls was
taken ill. It turned out to be a very bad case of scarlet fever. We
knew nothing of this for five days, till Ebenezer sent up a boat with
three men to take his mother to see him. Near night, in a cold wet
evening, she went off; and after much hardship and fatigue reached the
end of her journey before midnight. Next day being Saturday, I could
not leave home, but two of his brothers, on hearing that he was
dangerously ill, went on horseback, and on their return somewhat
relieved my mind by the information that be was a little better.
As soon as public worship was over on Sabbath, I set out to see him.
Snow had fallen in the morning to the depth of three or four inches; but
it had now melted, and a heavy rain not only wet me to the skin, but
made the clay road almost impassable. On reaching the Falls I was happy
to find that our son was still improving, though very slowly. The death
of several young people, by the same disease, the week before, had
spread great alarm in the neighbourhood; and Dr. Acheson who attended
George felt some uneasiness on his account; as he had never seen a worse
case of scarlet fever. He could scarcely speak, but his mind was calm
and resigned to the will of his heavenly Father. As I had still several
days' visiting of my congregation to do I returned home on Monday, and
proceeded with the discharge of this duty. But his mother remained with
him a fortnight longer, till she thought he was out of danger.
But how fleeting and insecure are life,
health, and all human enjoyments. On the 3rd November, and only a few
days after Mrs. Bell returned home, a messenger on horseback came in
great haste to inform us that George had had a relapse, and was
dangerously ill; indeed worse than he had been before. Dr. Acheson at
the same time sent us word to send Dr. Wilson without delay. But he not
being at home we sent Dr. Nichol.
I procured a light wagon in all haste, and
his mother and I set out for the Falls, without a moment's delay. The
road was in a dreadful state, and at one of the worst places I was
thrown out of the wagon, head foremost, and had nearly fallen under the
wheel. The wrist of my right hand was so much hurt that it was lame for
On reaching the village late at night, we
found that the doctors, after consultation, had bled George and applied
two blisters. In the morning he had been so ill that all who saw him
thought he was dying, but he was now a little better, and our hopes were
again revived that he might yet recover.
As soon as he was able to speak, I was
anxious to ascertain the state of his mind; and put a few questions to
him with that view. Among others I asked him if, in the morning when
those about him thought him dying, he thought so himself. He said he
did think he was dying. Then how did you feel? Did the prospect alarm
you? He answered No; I felt quite happy. This satisfied me that he was
resting high hopes on a sure foundation. After giving him such advice
as his case required, I prayed with him, resigning him entirely to the
disposal of cur heavenly Father; at the some time earnestly entreating
him to spare his life, and restore him again to health.
This being Saturday night, I had to return
to Perth before the morning. The night was very dark and wet; but after
conversing with George some time, I left him in the care of his mother
and proceeded homewards, 16 miles, many an anxious thought occupying my
mind, both on his account and on account of the duties I had to
discharge on the coming day. I had not only the ordinary duties of the
Sabbath before me, but a funeral sermon on the death of one of my
elders, who had died a few days before; and the ordinary time for
preparation had been otherwise employed. The road was very bad, my
progress slow, and my journey in the dark seemed long and dismal.
On reaching home, an hour before sunrise, I
found a wagon at the door, and two more of my sons about to start to see
their brother, but I advised them not to go till the afternoon when
public worship was over. All day I felt resigned to the will of God,
but still prayed fervently for my son’s recovery. In the evening when
Dr. Nichol returned, he called to inform me that George was worse, and
that he had no hope of his recovery. Still I did not despair, believing
that with God nothing is impossible. Our prayers were answered; his
disorder took a favourable turn; and he was brought back from the very
brink of the grave. His recovery was gradual, but slow, and it
was some months before we could remove him to Perth.
It was this winter the rebellion in the
lower province broke out, but it was speedily suppressed. The invasion
of the upper province, at Prescott, by the Americans soon followed. But
the windmill in which they had taken shelter, after a desperate battle,
was soon taken and they made prisoners. This was in November.
The last piece of official duty I had to
perform at the end of the year was to prepare a list of the marriages I
had celebrated during the year, of which there were fifteen, which was
about the average number. This list I had to furnish and the end of
every year, for the purpose of having it recorded in a book kept by
the Clerk of the Peace.
At the end of the year, on looking
back on the past, I could still say, Hitherto hath the Lord helped me.
What shall I render to the Lord for all his kindness and care?
I entered the year 1839 in circumstances so
comfortable that I was filled with wonder at the goodness and grace of my
heavenly Father. Never did I feel more grateful for the bounties of
his providence, and the riches of his grace. In the course of the
day, according to custom, I visited most of our friends in town. In
only one house was I offered a glass of wine, such are the happy effects
of the Temperance reformation.
In January, by directions from the
Presbytery, I made a missionary tour through Kittey, Bastard, Crosby,
and Bedford, preaching at various places and baptising children. I had
very unfavourable weather part of the time, and a perilous journey on
the ice returning by the Rideau lake. But Providence brought me home in
safety. Next week, when the Presbytery met, I made a full report of all
my missionary proceedings, when arrangements were made for the following
Next day I went to Brockville, with some
more of our family, where I married my son Robert, to Miss Emeline
Jones. Be had now been in business sane years at Carleton Place, as a
merchant, and felt the want of a partner to manage his domestic
concerns. Brockville at this time was crowded with soldiers, not less
than 800, militia and regulars, ready to repel the threatened attack
from the opposite side of the river. During our absence George returned
to Perth, not being able to travel before since his late illness. He
was very thin and feeble; but taking gentle exercise every day in the
open air he recovered, to the surprise of every one who had seen him two
Before the winter was over I heard that
James Beveridge had his barn and stable burnt; with four good horses and
a cow. His wife was awake when the fire began, and she urged him to get
up and see what the dog was barking and scratching at the door for. But
he afterwards said he had no power to get up. Thus all my
persecutors appeared to be coming to ruin one after another. This man
was foreman of the jury, and decided them in Stewart's favour, and
against me. He had been expelled from the church for misconduct some
time before, and sought revenge.
Armstrong was another of the jury, and his
house was burnt soon after. McGregor was another, and so drunk at the
time that he had to be supported when he stood up to be sworn; he was
frozen to death, in the woods, when he was drunk. Captain McMillan also
had his house burnt to ashes. Stewart himself not only lost his
situation as teacher of the District School, but wandered about a long
time a fugitive and a vagabond. Col. Taylor, who circulated the printed
libels intended to ruin me, lost his situation as postmaster, his
property, character and respectability, became a besotted drunkard, and
died in a tavern. Harry Glass was soon after disgraced and
cut off from the communion of the church for fraud and drunkenness.
Robert Moderwell, another of the jury, seduced two servant girls, was
cut off from the church, and had to leave the place. Boderick
Mathieson, had his son killed in an awful manner in a moment, and his
wife has been deranged ever since. For a while the most guilty of the
whole seemed to escape with impunity, but his time was coming.
The month of April was very dry, and as
usual at that season, several fires took place in the country. Most of
the houses being built of wood, accidents of this kind were frequent.
On the 23rd April one occurred in the village of a more
destructive nature. George and I were at work in our garden, between 11
and 12, when we were alarmed by the cry of fire and on looking
across the river, we saw the flames and a dense column of smoke rising
from the back stores of the Honourable Wm. Morris, a member of the
Legislative Council, and the first and most extensive merchant of
Perth. In less than an hour both back and front stores were burnt to
As the day was warm, and no fire in or about
the store, the origin of the fire was a mystery. Some thought it arose
from spontaneous combustion, others, with more probability, from the
man’s pipe who was at work in the garden behind the store. Mr. Morris
had been my greatest enemy, and done what he could to ruin me, yet I was
sorry for his loss; for it was great, his insurance on both stores and
goods having expired a few days before. He was at Toronto, at the time,
attending his duty in parliament but came home on hearing what had
In the first week of May a violent storm had
leveled many of the fences around Perth, and among the rest one
belonging to my tenant Robert Gemmill, on the park lot. Next day George
and I went to assist him to repair the damage, and were busily employed
the whole day, the weather being very warm. Next night a dimness came
over my eye that I could not account for. After dark at night, sparks
of fire seemed to be passing down over the eye. After some months the
other eye began to be affected in the same way. This alarmed me
considerably, and I prayed fervently to God that my sight might be
spared, for I was well aware that he is the physician of the body as
well as of the soul. Gratefully would I adore the goodness of my God,
for that, after a few weeks, these spots were nearly all gone, and I
have been very little troubled with them since.
MY SIXTIETH YEAR - 1839
In the first week of June I suffered much
from inward pain. On the first Sabbath of the month I was so ill, after
preaching in the church, that I had to send George to the Bathurst
church in the afternoon, in my place to read a sermon, not being able to
go myself. Our communion being on the following Sabbath, my illness
during the week gave me the more uneasiness on that account. But on
Friday and Saturday I had the assistance of Mr. McAlister. On Sabbath
morning I felt very uneasy about the state of the weather, for it had
rained several days, and the roads were in a very bad state. Yet 98
members were present, and we had on the whole a very pleasant communion;
shaving that inward comfort may abound even in the midst of outward
At the end of June, my health being somewhat
restored, I went out to Beckwith to assist Mr. Smith at the sacrament.
I preached twice on Saturday, and twice on Sabbath, besides serving two
tables. Mr. Smith having taken the text in the morning, form which I
intended to preach in the evening, I had to choose a new one, which
threw me somewhat out of my reckoning, and made me uncomfortable. In
the evening I made a visit to my sons at Carleton Place, and remained
all night. At 12 I preached again in Beckwith, and after dinner
returned home. But delays are often dangerous as I found to my cost,
for having visited a family on the way, I was detained near an hour. A
thunderstorm in the mean time was preparing, and half an hour before I
reached Perth it burst over me, pouring down rain so heavy that I was
drenched to the skin in a few minutes.
Next week I went to Kingston; to attend the
meeting of Synod, and lodged at Mr. Everritt's. On Sabbath Mr. George
preached in the forenoon, I in the afternoon, and Mr. Cruickshank in the
evening, to large congregations. On Monday I brought forward a
proposal to address the Governor on the importance of establishing a
more general and efficient system of education, for the whole people, as
the best means of composing the troubles of the country, of healing
divisions, and promoting peace, prosperity, and happiness. And also of
paying more attention to the moral and religious character of persons
selected for the magistracy. The proposal was agreed to, and Mr.
Romanes and I were appointed to prepare the address.
The business of the Synod being over, we
returned home on Wednesday. It was near midnight before we reached
Perth. We had just got there when the thunder began to roll, and the
rain to fall in torrents. But we were now under cover. My first care
was to give God thanks for preserving me on my journey, and the family
at home, and bringing us together again in safety. On Saturday
Andrew and William came together. On Sabbath Andrew preached for me
during the day, and for Mr. Wilson in the evening, to large
congregations. On Monday when he went way,
George (now 19) went back with him, on his way to Hamilton, to join the
class of students under Dr. Rae, with a view to the ministry.
Mrs. Bell and William's children, with the nurse, went at the same time,
on a visit to their friends at Kingston and Bath.
Some days after they went way I spent very
comfortably in study, but before the end of the week I was involved in
trouble by the misconduct of a person in whom I had placed confidence.
O what misery drunkenness has brought upon the human heart? After a
fortnight’s absence Mrs. Bell and the children came home, at which I was
very glad, for I was heartily tired of house keeping alone.
At this time my daughter, Mrs. Malloch, and
John’s wife, being in ill health, took a jaunt to Rhode Island, and
remained some time at sea bathing; by which they were greatly improved.
When I began visiting in the fall, the weather being very sultry, I
suffered much from the heat.
For some time I had suffered much from the
misconduct of two of the members of the church. What griefs poor
mortals have to endure in their passage through this vale of tears, and
sometimes from a quarter where it is least expected. On the morning of
our communion Sabbath after an almost sleepless night, I arose to
discharge duties rendered a burden by the unpleasant circumstances in
which I was placed. Before going to the church; I sent for both the
delinquents and remonstrated with them; in strong terms, on the
wickedness of their conduct. The one went to the church, but the other
remained at home all day.
The day was fine and the congregation large,
but I felt oppressed and uncomfortable by the conduct of these men. Mr.
Wilson had requested me to preach for him in the evening, and baptize
his child Christian; which I did accordingly. When night came, though
still suffering from an aching heart, I was glad that I had been
graciously supported through the labours of the day. We little know
what we can bear till we are tried.
On the following Tuesday I went out with
some more to a meeting of Presbytery at Lanark. We met first in a
friendly way in Mr. McAllister’s house. Such meetings are refreshing to
one's spirits in the dry and thirsty land through which we are passing.
Two days afterwards, by appointment of the
Presbytery, I set out to visit our missionary stations in the county of
Carleton. On the evening of Thursday I reached the house of Mr. Gordon
in Coulburn, where, as usual, I met with a hearty welcome. On the
following days I preached at Richmond, Huntly, Fitzroy, Coulburn, and
On Tuesday I traveled to the Rideau River,
which I crossed on a cedar raft. In the township of Osgoode I traveled
20 miles by paths in the wood, over rough ground, and through swamps
almost impassible. I had been directed to the house of Mr. Cameron,
postmaster, which I reached soon after dark, and met with a very
friendly reception. Here I learned that post offices, in the woods are
sometimes queer places. This was merely a shanty covered with basswood
through, and half a mile from the road; if road it could be called.
Next day at 12, I preached in the church to
a large congregation, larger than I expected to see in a country so
thinly inhabited. That night I spent at the house of a Mr. Campbell,
and in the evening attended, by invitation, a prayer meeting of
Baptists, at a neighbouring farm house, and took part of the exercises.
Next morning Mr. McPhail came and breakfasted with me at Mr. Campbell's,
where we had much interesting conversation.
Two days more travel
brought me home, very tired, but thankful that I had enjoyed fine
weather and the care of divine Providence, so that no accident had
happened to me. Here I found a letter from Mr. Gale urging me to come
up to the Hamilton Presbytery and preach to some of their vacant
congregations, but I could not do it.
On the following Sabbath I felt pleased and
happy to preach again to my own congregation. I had to preach in the
Bathurst church in the afternoon, and on my way out I met with one of
the heaviest thunderstorms I ever encountered. The electric fluid; in
vivid streams, passed almost every moment between the earth and an
immense black could overhead, while the loudest peals of thunder burst
in terrific grandeur. I had still a mile to ride when the rain began to
pour down in torrents, drenching me to the skin in less than a minute.
When I got to Fraser’s the water ran out of my clothes in streams, not a
very fit state to preach in; but I got a change, and Mrs. Fraser hung
them by the fire till I came back. But this was of little use, for on
my way home I was drenched as before, and had to strip a second time.
Early in October Rev. Mr. Thomson, agent of
the B.F. Bible Society, paid us a visit. In our church a large meeting
was held, when he made an address on the Bible cause, and gave a very
interesting account of his travels in the West Indies and South America.
Next Sabbath I assisted Mr. Fairbairn at his
communion in Ramsay. On my way out I preached at Carleton Place, and
inquired into the nature and effects of a revival which had taken place
there. The account which some of the parties gave of their views and
feelings was very extraordinary.
In the fall of the year I had much visiting among the sick, and some of our old members were called way
by death. We were reminded of Christmas; by the preaching in the
Episcopal Church on that day. Though we paid no superstitious regard to
the day, yet I always remember the event it celebrates with the warmest
gratitude to the God of my salvation. The feelings of my heart accord
with the language of my lips when I say, Thanks be unto God for his
unspeakable gift. To us a Son is born and a Savior given.
We had just obtained from Montreal one of
the London Tract Society’s Sunday School Libraries, of 101 volumes. We,
and many others, have reason to bless God that he put it into the hearts
of the directors of that institution to prepare these libraries, and
furnish them to the public at so low a price. Things at this time were
moving on as they had done for years before, and to go into particulars
would be to make this short account more than an abridgement. The most
painful crook in my lot was W’s conduct; which had again driven us to
the point of leaving his house but a promise of amendment induced us to
defer it a little longer.
Thus ended another period of my time, marked
by some bodily, and still more mental sufferings. More still by the
tender mercies of my heavenly Father, for hitherto the lord had helped
On the first morning of the year l840; after
expressing to the God of my salvation the feelings of my heart, I
reminded all present at family worship of the improvement they ought to
make of the season, and of the circumstances in which they were placed.
At noon the annual meeting of my congregation was held, and all the
business was arranged in an amicable manner. During the winter, at each
of the examinations, I obtained from ten to fifteen names to the
Temperance Society. One day, when I was visiting in the town, I tried
to make a drunkard, who was ruining both soul and body, ashamed of his
conduct. He acknowledged that he had been a bad boy and that at
times he had a Hell in his own bosom. There are many cases of this
kind, if the truth were known.
On the 18th February the
annual meeting of the Bible Society took place, at which Mr. Wilson and
Mr. Kay discovered a very vindictive disposition towards some of the
other office bearers, finding fault with every thing done, and every
thing not done.
On Tuesday the 25th I set out on
a journey, by appointment of the Presbytery, to the country bordering on
the Grand River. After preaching on the way, in Drummond, Carleton
Place and Packenham, I met Peter McGregor who was to guide me to McNab,
20 miles. The road was narrow and crooked, and we were exposed to much
inconvenience, and even danger, from numerous teams we met, drawing
large masts to the river.
After preaching in MaNab, Horton, and
Arnprior, I reached Fitzroy Harbour, on Saturday night. On Sabbath I
preached there in the forenoon, and after travelling 12 miles in a thick
rain, preached in the new church at Packenham. The pulpit was just
finished, and I was the first to occupy it. Soon after I began to
preach a sudden flash of lightning was followed by a loud peal of
thunder, which made the whole house shake. On this the load of snow on
the roof, which had been softened by the rain, rushed down, first on the
one side and then on the other, with a force that shook the church to
its foundation. In the evening I preached again in the schoolhouse to a
good congregation. At all these places I baptised one or more children.
On Monday, on my way home, I bad just
reached Robert’s gate, at Carleton Place, when a couple of horses with a
sleigh ran away in the street, and came up to the place where I was at
full gallop. A wood sleigh and a yoke of omen were opposite me in the
street, which is very narrow, leaving less than three feet between the
sleigh and my cutter. Had the horses taken this narrow passage, my
cutter would have been smashed to pieces, and I probably lamed, if not
killed. But instead of this they jumped over the wood sleigh, upsetting
their own, and breaking the box all to pieces, close by me.
I was truly thankfu1 for this narrow escape,
as I have been for many others. I bad gone down the lake on the ice,
and coming up the same way, I got home at 4 in the afternoon, having
traveled 42 miles that day - the last three in mud.
Late in the evening Dr. Wilson sent me word
that John McKay Esqr., our District Treasurer, was dying, and wished me
to visit him. Mr. Malloch went along with me. The night was dark, and
the mud deep. I found him composed, and aware that he was dying. His
views of the way of salvation appeared to be correct, but he knew
nothing of the experimental part of religion. I earnestly entreated him
to look to the limb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. I
had one more with him before he died, but not more satisfactory than the
former. He had been a habitual drunkard, and lived a very licentious
life, so that his wife had been forced to leave him.
At our communion, in March, I was assisted
by Mr. Fairbairn. On Saturday we suffered much from the extreme cold.
I bad long wished to have a domestic mission
established but could obtain no co-operation from Mr. Wilson. One day,
having a larger congregation than usual, I spoke of the duty of
supporting home, as well as foreign, missions; and, at the conclusion,
asked those who believed this to signify it by rising up. The whole
congregation immediately rose up. I then intimated my intention of
calling upon all the ministers in the place, and asking them to unite in
doing something for the heathen in our own neighbourhood.
I did so in the course of the week; and
though all professed to approve of the plan, this was all I could ever
get them to do. The truth is that, though all denominations are willing
to do something to advance the interest or prosperity of their own sect
or party, they are willing to do but little for the benefit of religion
in general. The same may be said of foreign missions, which meet with
ready support; while nominal Christians around us are left to perish.
The charter for Queen's college at Kingston
had been obtained a short time before this, and great exertions were
making in both provinces to raise subscriptions for carrying it into
operation. Agents were appointed here, but they did not act. Feeling
sorry that a good work should stand still, I got Mr. Wilson to go along
with me, and called upon a few friends, and obtained subscriptions to
the amount of £380. It was a little mortifying however to find that the
richest man in the place, though a Scotsman would not give a copper.
CHURCH BUDGET FOR YEAR 1825
With revenues of £10, 14, 9, and total
expenses of £3, l2, 10, leaving an excess of Revenue over expenses of
£7, 1, 11, William showed himself as canny with the accounts as he was
formidable in the pulpit. He would be the envy of every STEWARDS
and TEMPORAL Committee today!
MY SIXTY FIRST YEAR – 1840
The 20th of May, being the
anniversary of my birthday; of which I had seen sixty returns, I
indulged many reflections on the goodness of God to me in times past.
May I ever number my days so as to apply my heart to heavenly wisdom.
At the meeting of Presbytery, on the 26th,
Mrs. Paton brought some heavy charges against Mr. Wilson, but her
petition was rejected as informal!
Early in June, in order to have it ready for
the meeting of the Synod in July, I prepared a historical account of my
church and congregation. This had been ordered by the Synod from all
the churches under its inspection.
The Synod this summer met in Toronto and
Mrs. Bell went with me in order to see her sons Andrew and George. On
Friday the question of the union of the United Synod with ours underwent
a long discussion, and was finally agreed to, by a vote of 35 for, and 3
against it. Dr. Mathieson entered his dissent, and Messrs. Alexander
and McIntosh joined him. On Saturday, after the business of the Synod
for the day was over, we drove out to our son's house, 16 miles from the
city. He had been married only a few months, and we were now introduced
to his wife for the first time. She appeared to be sensible,
industrious, and very attentive to the children. The heat at this time
was excessive; and the dust very annoying.
On Sabbath I preached to my son’s
congregation, and on Monday we returned to the city, finished the
business of the synod, and on Friday morning reached home.
The summer complaint from the
excessive heat, was at this time raging among children, and carried off
not a few. For some months this fall I was employed, at leisure hours,
writing two volumes, entitled “Letters to my wife”, being extracts from
letters sent to her during the two years I traveled as a Probationer.
But the visiting as usual occupied most of my time; so that they were
not then finished.
At the next meeting of Presbytery, 19th
August, the new members from the United Synod were to be received. They
all attended; subscribed the formula, and had their names added to the
roll. At our communion in September I was assisted by Mr. Smart, our
old friendship being again revived. About 112 members were
present and the church was crowded; especially on Sabbath evening.
Seven new members had been admitted.
At the Assizes, near the end of the month,
the old custom of giving dinners was revived, and I dined in succession
with both the Judge and the Grand Jury. At the former of these Mr.
Tennent, one of our magistrates, got drunk, and behaved very ill. At
the latter Mr. Wylie, another, behaved even worse.
The 13th October was the
anniversary of our marriage, 38 years ago. What a series of mercy and
goodness on God’s part, and of forgetfulness on ours! It is of the
Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, and because his compassion fails
It was about this time a
kind of revival of religion took place in the settlement. It turned out
to be merely a temporary excitement which soon wore off. In one week
several of the members of my congregation called upon me in great
anxiety, particularly Robert Shaw and John Smith, requesting me to pray
for them. They all obtained peace, and a good hope, in a short time. I
took this opportunity of establishing prayer meetings in various places
where there had been none before, and of reviving others that were
languishing. Thus ended the year 1840; in which I bad endured some
trials, but shared many enjoyments and many blessings, both temporal and
spiritual. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
On the first morning of a New Year, when I
thought of the goodness of God to me year after year, gratitude
compelled me to say, What shall I render to the Lord for all his
kindness to me and mine? The day was employed, as in former years, in
religious exercises, and attending the annual meeting.
During the whole of the sleighing season
this winter, I preached in some schoolhouse in the country, on Sabbath
evening, and once or twice during the week. The whole of my
congregation were examined as usual, and at prayer meeting I gave
exhortations. Very cold I often found the weather, and many a severe
storm I had to face. One of my journeys to Brockville, 42 miles, to
attend a meeting of Presbytery, was very difficult, deep snow having
fallen the day before. Another to Packenham, 40 miles, when the road
was very bad, was no less so.
In the third week of February I made another
journey to Packenham, to assist at the induction of Mr. Mann. After the
solemn service of the day was finished, we all dined at Mr. Mann's
house. At 5 I took my and after a cold and comfortless ride, in a
snowstorm all the way, I reached Carleton Place at 9, where I took up my
abode for the night. Next day I reached home, breaking the new snow
nearly all the way.
On the Saturday morning before our communion
in March, there was a fall of snow; so deep as to put a stop to
travelling. I preached at 12 as usual, but there were only 15 persons
present. These had come with great difficulty, their horses wading to
the belly. Still it snowed all day, and was three feet deep long before
night. On Sabbath morning, deep as the snow was, a few sleighs
struggled through it, and we had 55 members present.
Our county election, for a Member of
Parliament, took place on the following week, and kept the town in an
uproar for a few days. The contest was severe, and cost, it was
said, each of the parties about £400, verifying the saying of George
Buchanan, that a fool and his money are soon parted.
A. Cuthbertson; the vagabond who had behaved
to me in so rascally a manner, was at this time deprived of the last of
his children. One died of measles, and the other, which was born a
monster with a large lump between its shoulders, was suddenly taken ill
and died next day.
In order to be free from all interruption to
my studies; I determined to sell all my land. The park lot, the only
one I had ever cultivated, I sold at once to Mr. Malloch, that I might
be rid of all further trouble with it. We had at this time resolved to
retire to our own house; but upon William and John both engaging that in
future no intoxication liquors should come into their store or premises;
we agreed to continue a little longer, and make a farther trial.
In the first week of May, by appointment of
Presbytery, I made a journey to Richmond; and preached there and other
places, on the way. The road was still bad, and I had to go a great way
round to avoid bridges destroyed by the spring flood. The kindness of
friends compensated for every inconvenience.
MY SIXTY SECOND YEAR – 1841
At most of the places where I preached in
the country I had of late established Bible Classes and provided them
with books; which were changed every time I visited them. All who
attended these classes had leave to bring forward any passage of
Scripture they pleased to have it explained. I observed, however; that
some were much inclined to bring forward texts more puzzling than
At the end of June I, with five other
ministers; set out to the meeting of Synod, at Kingston. Finding no
boat at the Ferry, we had to proceed by Brockville. From heat; dust;
and a rough road; we found the journey very unpleasant; but the rest of
the way, by steam, was pleasant enough. On landing at Kingston we were
met by many of our brethren who had got there before us.
This being now the seat of government,
lodgings were both scarce and dear, and we had some fear about
accommodation. But very providentially I was taken into the family of
Mr. Masson, which turned out to be just after my own heart; and never
have I been in one that made me more happy. The business lasted a week,
and at the conclusion, I and three others purchased a family bible, and
presented it to our landlord as a token of our gratitude for the
kindness and hospitality we had received.
When the case of the students was brought
before the Synod, I requested that my son George might be transferred
from the Presbytery of Hamilton to that of Bathurst. This was granted,
and an excellent character was given him by Mr. Gale, under whose care
he had been for two years past.
Being engaged to preach for Mr. Machar next
Sabbath, I did not return home with the rest. During the week I made an
excursion and other places up the Bay, and visited William’s friends
there. On Sabbath I had the pleasure of preaching twice in
Kingston to a large congregation. I, on Monday, went up to Picton, 40
miles, where I preached twice to small congregations. There was a
handsome church, but I saw nothing else encouraging, excepting the
hospitality of David Smith, Esqr. who cheerfully received me to his
house. On my return to Perth I found that William’s daughters had gone
to Mrs. Wilson for education.
August 7th, our son George
reached home, from Hamilton. Here he pursued his studies, under my
direction; till he went to Queen's college, the following year. On the
8th September he was examined by the Presbytery; in Latin, Greek,
Logic, Mathematics, Moral and Natural Philosophy. He acquitted himself
well, and received much commendation from the Presbytery; and was
directed to proceed to the study of Divinity, and the Hebrew language.
Our communion, in September, was on the 12th.
The day was fine, and 135 communicants were present. During the
week I preached and taught Bible classes in various parts of the
settlement. On Thursday, besides these exercises, I had
traveled more than 20 miles, and got home three hours after
sunset. The day had been warm, but the evening was very cold,
and I was quite chilled before I got to Perth. Next night I was
attacked with inflammation, and passed many sleepless hours in great
pain. The whole of Saturday, and the following night; I passed in the
same state. So great was the pain that I could neither sit up nor lie
in bed, but kept tossing about without a moment's rest. No medicine
would remain on my stomach a moment. Early on Sabbath morning, a change
of medicine afforded me partial relief, and though in a deplorable
condition, I determined not to disappoint my congregation.
So at 11, I went over to the church on
horseback. This unusual mode of travelling thither created some
surprise, for most were yet ignorant of my illness. But this was soon
discovered from my looks, and from my voice, which was weak and
tremulous. I gave only one discourse, and that with some difficulty.
On returning home I went to bed, but sent George in my place to the
Bathurst church, to conduct the service there. Though I had not slept
any for 48 hours, I could get no sleep during the night, but towards
morning I felt better, and during the week gradually recovered. This
mercy I gratefully acknowledged; for I had never suffered severe pain
for such a length of time on any former occasion.
In October we observed the period of 10 days
set apart for a general concert for prayer, and besides preaching on the
subject of prayer, meetings for devotion were held in various parts of
About this time Mr. Wilson and I made an
agreement to preach alternately in his church on Sabbath evenings, where
both congregations should attend. He and I had not, for some time past,
been co-operating in the temperance cause, though each was individually
doing what he could. But feeling both convinced that we could do more
good by uniting our exertions, we held a meeting in his church on the
evening of Monday 29th November, when the moonlight was
good. A report having got into circulation that my son George was to
preach, we had a very large meeting. Several animated addresses were
delivered, and 42 new names were obtained.
On the 3rd December we found it
necessary to remove to our own house; not at the most convenient time,
for the weather was rainy and the mud deep. Next Sabbath, from the same
causes, my congregation was small; yet I was made joyful in God's house
of prayer. I have often had reason to say, How amiable are thy
tabernacles, O lord of Hosts, as I had on this occasion. The favour was
the greater at this time that I had been uncomfortable all the morning,
but I was glad when it was said to me, go up to the house of the lord.
The next Sabbath was our communion, but the
roads being still very bad, the attendance was less than usual; only
about 100 communicants present. Though much depressed in spirit in the
morning, yet I enjoyed much comfort in the public services of the
The last temperance meeting having succeeded
so well, another was held at the end of the year. At this meeting the
office bearers for the following year were appointed; I was chosen
President, and my son George Secretary. He and three other young men
spoke in succession, and I concluded with a short address.
The church was crowded; and all seemed to
take a deep interest in the proceedings.
This year, as former ones, was begun by
giving thanks to my heavenly Father, by whose goodness I had been spared
in life till now. I entreated of my God, and the God of my fathers, the
forgiveness of all my past sins, and that he would protect, guide, and
bless me, through the year now begun. After 12, the annual meeting was
held, and the usual business transacted.
The first Monday was a busy day, being the
first election of officers under the new municipal act, when I and the
other ministers in town were elected Commissioners for the management of
all the schools in the township. In a few days I made a journey to
Richmond with Mr. Wilson; to assist at the induction of Mr. Evans, as
the pastor of the Presbyterian Church there. In the evening we had a
very interesting Temperance meeting; and many new names were obtained.
During the winter, besides my own congregation, the schools and
Temperance meetings engaged much of my attention.
The good effects of the Temperance cause had
induced me; for ten years past; to give it my cordial support. I not
only abstained from all intoxicating liquors myself, but like of old, I
commanded all my children to drink neither wine nor strong
drink. Had they all obeyed this injunction, their ruin would
have been prevented. But while the greater part obeyed, the rest did
not and so came to ruin.
On the morning of Tuesday, 1st
March, George left us by the stage for Brockville, on his way to
Kingston, to attend the opening session of Queen’s College. On account
of the progress he had already made, the Presbytery had agreed that this
should be considered his second year in the study of divinity.
On the communion Sabbath this month I was
unwell all day, which grieved me much for the sake of others. I took
medicine, but was no better in body, though in mind I was as comfortable
as could be expected. Many being sick at this time, I was much employed
visiting. On the last Sabbath of March I preached the quarterly
Temperance sermon, to a large congregation, in Mr. Wilson’s church. But
no warning will reform the drunkard, who will not listen to the voice of
conscience, nor even to that of God. On the evening of Monday a few of
those who scoff at Temperance societies sat in Montgomery's tavern till
past midnight, when all of them staggered home as they best could. One
of them, named Old Williams, an Irishman, was found next morning dead,
at his bedside. He had not been able to undress himself or get into
Though I generally enjoyed good health, yet
when illness came; it was often severe. Constitutionally I was subject
to inflammation more than any other disorder. On the fair day, in the
first week of May, I was attacked, and suffered severely for four days
but blessed be God that, on Sabbath morning I found myself so much
better that I was able to go up to the house of God and preach to his
people though in a weak state.
On next Sabbath, 15th May, in the
afternoon, on my way out to Bathurst church, on Mr. Malloch's mare,
going at a quick pace, she fell and threw me, head foremost, against a
log, by which my face was sadly cut and bruised, and my neck almost
broken. Yet I started up and mounted, scarcely knowing what I did, I
was so much stunned. After I got to the church I vent in to Alexr.
Campbell's, and washed the blood from my face, and brushed the dust from
my clothes. Ill as I was, the congregation being assembled, I
determined to preach, and accordingly did so. One present offered to
take me home in his wagon, but I declined it, and returned as I went on
horseback. Soon after I got home, Laverty’s boy came to tell me that
his mother was dying, and wished to see me; but as it was six miles off,
I was unable to go.
MY SIXTY THIRD YEAR – 1842
On the 7th June, the session at
Queen's college being over. George returned from Kingston, to spend the
vacation at home. The next Sabbath was our communion, and a happy
season it was. I was assisted by Mr. Romanes from Smith's Falls. At a
meeting of school Commissioners I had been appointed to prepare rules
for the government of the teachers. These were adopted, and we
appointed ten teachers for the township. One was rejected for
drunkenness; and he vowed revenge against Mr. Wilson; who had chiefly
The Synod this summer met in Montreal, but
the great distance, and the heat of the weather, prevented me from
attending. Andrew, on his return from it; came by Perth and preached
for me on Sabbath, and for Mr. Wilson in the evening.
A series of essays, signed “Scripturian”,
having appeared in the Bathurst Courier, attacking the Temperance
Society; I took the field against him; and in ten letters, under the
signature of “Monitor", answered his objections. He was very ill
natured at the time, but at a subsequent meeting of the Temperance
Society he acknowledged his conversion, and signed the pledge.
In the discharge of my duty as a school
Commissioner this year, besides attending meetings for business, I had
the oversight of two of the schools, which I had to visit once a month,
and see that they were properly conducted.
Mr. Kay, the teacher of the district school,
having left the place, a few young men, students of law and divinity,
applied to me to take charge of their studies in Latin and Greek. I
agreed to this on condition of their all reading together, and confining
their lessons to three evenings in the week. This was continued for
about a year, till they had all passed their examinations.
At our communion, in September, we admitted
eight new members, but I was so ill at the time that the services of the
Sabbath were somewhat beyond my strength. On the morning of that day
there was much thunder and rain, and the roads were very muddy, yet 118
members were present. It would have been a happy day, had not the pain,
under which I was suffering, rendered me very uncomfortable. It being
my turn, ill as I was, I preached again in the evening, in Mr. Wilson’s
church, to a large congregation.
On the following day I was visiting in the
upper end of the Scotch settlement. There had been a thunderstorm in
the morning, and much rain had made the road very muddy. In the
afternoon it began to rain again. About sunset, when I left Mr.
Bryce's; it was not very heavy, but before I got half way to Mrs.
Gray’s; where I was to remain all night, it was quite dark, and a
thunder storm and heavy rain coming on, I was in a few moments drenched
to the skin.
I tried to get into an empty log hut not far
from the road; but after taking down a fence to get at it I found the
entrance blocked up with logs, so that I could not enter. The rain at
this time was pouring down in torrents. The thunder was tremendous, and
the darkness complete, except when a vivid flash enlightened the whole
country round for a moment. I had only a thin dress, and no umbrella,
so that when I reached Mrs. Gray’s I was not only dripping wet, but very
cold. Such was the weather I had often to encounter when sway from home.
Next day but one our Presbytery met in Mr.
Wilson's house. Being ill in the morning; I had taken medicine, in the
hope of being able to sit up and attend to the business. But after
remaining some hours; in great pain; I was obliged to come home and go
Next Saturday I set out for Ramsay to preach
on the following day. On my way, I visited two families, and one of the
schools under my care, and remained at Carleton Place for the night. On
Sabbath morning I proceeded to Ramsay, and after preaching to a large
congregation, I, by order of the Presbytery, declared the church
vacant. Mr. Fairbairn their late pastor had gone to Scotland some time
On Monday, on my way home, having a lot of
land, part of my government grant, not far from the road, I resolved to
go and see it. So, after finding it out, I tied my horse to a tree and
entered the forest. Having gone on about half a mile, and thinking I
had seen enough of the land, I turned back, and as I thought directed my
steps to the place at which I had entered the wood. But the trackless
forest deceived me, and it soon became evident that I had lost my way.
As the sun was clouded; I had no means of judging which way I ought to
For two hours I wandered about in the
greatest anxiety, as well as uncertainty. Drenched in sweat, and
involved in swamps, I struggled on; though, as I soon found, I was only
diving deeper into the forest. I had, the day before, preached from
these words; He led them out by the right way, etc. and now most
fervently did I pray that God in mercy would lead me out by the right
way. And, blessed be his name, he heard my prayers, and sent me
relief. The sun shone out for a few moments, which enabled me to take
the right course. After travelling half an hour; I discovered an
opening, and a hut I inhabited by an Irishman, who conducted me to the
place where I had left my horse. At ten I reached home, by moon light,
On 13th October, we had been
putting up our stoves, and laying down our carpets for the winter, when
it occurred to us that it was the fortieth anniversary of our marriage.
What toils and trials we had endured in that time, end yet our God has
been very kind to us in the whole of our journey.
On the Tuesday after our sacrament in
December, I went out with Mr. Wilson and Mr. McKid, to attend a meeting
of Presbytery in Ramsay, to consider a call to Mr. McKid by that
congregation. The opposition made to his settlement led to a division
of the people, and serious consequences afterwards followed.
On the last day of the year we had a meeting
of School Commissioners, and a brush with the R.C. priest, who wished to
banish the Bible and prayer from the schools.
Sabbath, January 1st, l843
Blessed morning whose first dawning rays,
Beheld the Son of God
Arise triumphant from the grave,
And leave his dark abode.
Never had I more cause for gratitude to the
God of my salvation than I had this morning; and seldom if ever have I
felt more in my heart. Though in the past year I had not been without
trials and afflictions, both bodily and mental, yet I could still say,
Goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life. I thanked
God and took courage, trusting that he would never leave or forsake me,
but guide me by his counsel and at last bring me to his glory.
George had been home a few days from college
during the vacation. On Monday morning Professor Campbell and he set
out in a sleigh for Kingston; but the day proved so cold and stormy
that, after a; short journey, they were forced to take shelter till next
day, the storm being directly against them.
In the second week of January our Presbytery
met, when the Ramsay affair occupied our attention all day and all
night. Unfortunately, being Moderator at the time, I was obliged to
hear all the squabbling between the parties. At 12 at night, being sick
and wearied out, I got Mr. Romanes to take my place for a little, when I
went home and got a sleep, but the rest remained all night. Next day we
got through all the business, and I was heartily glad when it was over.
Two days after, Mr. Wilson and I went out to
the annual meeting of the Bathurst congregation. We had first a
temperance meeting; at which I preached a sermon, and we then transacted
the other business, and settled the accounts for the past year. It
snowed all the afternoon, which made our journey unpleasant.
In the evening a Temperance Soiree took
place in the Temperance House, and I had been asked to preside. All the
ministers in the place had been invited. The singing was excellent, the
addresses spirited, and all went on to the satisfaction of everyone
present. The assembly broke up at 11, and all went home well pleased.
My son James
having requested to be married on the 8th February, I went
with him to Brockville for that purpose. I lodged that night
with my old friend Mr. Smart, the bride's uncle. Next morning the whole
household was astir, making preparations. At 8, all being ready, the
marriage took place, followed by breakfast. That being finished, and
preparations for our journey made, at 11 we proceeded on our way home,
which we reached at 6 in the evening. The young couple remained with us
that night, and next day went home to Carleton
Place, followed by our prayers for their prosperity and
The congregation at Lanark, now vacant since
Mr. McAllister had gone to Sarnia, being placed under my charge for the
time, I had been requested to administer the sacrament before the winter
was over, which accordingly I did.
During the winter and spring we had monthly
temperance meetings in Mr. Wilson's church. They were well attended,
and many excellent addresses were delivered; so that the society
advanced to about a thousand members.
At the meeting of Presbytery in May, George
underwent a long examination, in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, Natural and
Moral Philosophy; and acquitted himself so well that he was taken on
trial for license.
The Rev. George Bell, L.L.D.
The work of the several classes is progressing favorably.
Our Professor 0£ Oriental Languages and Biblical Criticism is vigorous as
in days gone by. The lectures of
Rev. George Bell, L.L.D. on the relation of Science to Theology, now in course
of delivery, are admirable
productions. As the learned
Professor advances in his subject, and brings the light produced by scientific
research to bear upon the Word of God, the convincing testimony is sufficient to
satisfy all, that there exists the most beautiful harmony between the teachings
of science and the declarations of Biblical inspiration.
(from Queen's College Journal
November 17th., 1877
Dr. George Bell (1819 - 1898) was among the
first students admitted to Queen's College in March l842. He was
already ordained when he entered 2nd year Divinity studies and was the
first to graduate. He was very popular with the students and was chosen
by them when he was Registrar to give the address at the Solemn Service
and Convocation on December 15th, 1889. Dr. Bell retired as Registrar
and Librarian at Queen's in 1897.
MY SIXTY FOURTH YEAR – 1843
Soon after our own sacrament in June, I
again administered that ordinance to the Lanark congregation, at the
Middleton church, and baptised four children. The day was fine on
Sabbath, and the congregation larger than the church could contain.
Next Sabbath I preached on the subject of
infant baptism, at three different places, on the following account.
Mr. Fyfe, the Baptist minister, having made some unwarrantable and
erroneous statements to his people on the subject of baptism, I found it
necessary to refute them, and to give a true account of the matter,
which I did accordingly.
On Monday, 3rd July, Mr. Wilson and I set
out, by the canal; for Toronto, to attend the meeting of Synod. Though
the weather had been very warm before, it became so cold on Lake Ontario
that I was taken seriously ill. On Thursday at 3 we landed in Toronto,
where my son Andrew met me and conducted me to the house of Dr. Telfer;
where I was to lodge while I remained. On Sabbath I made a visit to my
son’s family, and preached to his congregation, but I suffered much from
the heat, which was again become excessive.
On Tuesday the church question
occupied the Synod most of the day, namely the mode of expressing our
sympathy with the Free Church; which had in May separated from
the established Church in Scotland. Mr. Gale’s motion prevailed by a
majority of two to one. On Wednesday the business was brought to a
close at which I was very glad, having been very unwell all the time, in
consequence of the severe cold on the lake going up, and the now
Though I reached home in time to preach on
the following Sabbath, yet I was too ill to go out to the Bathurst
church in the afternoon; I therefore sent my son George. In the evening
my disorder, inflammation, became quite alarming, and though, during the
night, I obtained some relief, it was a week before health returned.
Ebenezer, who was at this time studying law
with Mr. Malloch; left us on the 2nd August for Toronto, to
be examined and entered with the Law Society. His success was beyond
expectation; and he was placed at the head of the class. So strict was
the examination that; out of 15 students; 10 were rejected.
This summer I was appointed, by the Governor
General, a trustee of the District Grammar School. Under the old Tory
government I had been kept out of this office by the ill will of Mr.
Morris, but he had now lost his influence at headquarters.
At a meeting of Presbytery, on the Wednesday
after our sacrament in September; George; having given in all his
trials, was licensed to preach the gospel; and next Sabbath he preached
in my pulpit, to a large congregation with much acceptance. During the
winter he supplied both Ramsay and Lanark at that time vacant. I had
his assistance also at our communion in December; when he preached twice
on the fast day, once on Saturday; and twice on Sabbath. My feelings
all day were intense.
On Saturday; December 30, our annual meeting
was held, for settling the accounts of the congregation. I preached as
usual; after which I presented the accounts of the Session and reported
the state of the congregation. All the rest of them were soon settled.
The following day was very cold; yet we had
a large congregation. It was to me a very busy day; as I had to preach
four discourses; besides teaching the Bible class. In the after-noon I
preached the quarterly Temperance sermon; in Mr. Wilson's church, to a
large congregation. In the evening I preached again in the same place
from these words, Rejoice in the Lord always, and never did I enjoy
greater comfort or liberty in preaching. How it was with others I know
not but for myself I did truly rejoice in the Lord. He had ever been
kind to me, but I had at that time special cause to rejoice in his
goodness, both in temporal and spiritual things.
As the last year was concluded, so this was
begun, with a grateful heart to the God of my salvation. He who had fed
me all my days still supplied my wants; and even caused my cup to run
over. O my heavenly Father be thou ever with me, be thou my portion
both in time and through eternity. Let Heaven be my home, and saints
and angels be my companions for ever and ever.
In the evening the annual meeting of the
Temperance society was held in Mr. Wilson's church; when I was appointed
President for the year begun though much against my inclination. Three
excellent addresses were then delivered; the first by my son George; the
second by Mr. Fisher; teacher of a common school, and but lately come to
our part of the country. He not merely spoke well; but astonished us
all by his eloquence. The last was delivered by Malcolm Cameron
Esquire, our representative in parliament. All the speakers received
great applause, and 18 new names were added, making 940 in all.
On the l0th January the Presbytery met in
our house, when Mr. Wilson asked leave of absence, six months, to visit
his friends in Scotland. At the close of this meeting I was appointed
Superintendent of Missions within our bounds.
John McLaren, one of my oldest members,
seemed this winter to be dying, though slowly, and not suffering much
pain. One day, however, his son came to inform me that his father was
much worse, and wished to see me. On going to his house, which was four
miles from mine, I found him suffering dreadfully from gravel. But the
patience and composure he evinced amazed me. Though his body was in
pain his soul was happy, reminding me of the pleasing truth, Thou wilt
keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he
trusteth in thee. During his last illness I visited him often; but
rather to receive than to give instruction; to observe with what
composure a Christian can die. A short time before his death he
requested me to write his Will, which I did accordingly. He died as he
had lived, exercising the lively hope of a glorious immortality in
What I had often to endure from mere
carelessness may be seen from the following instance. The early part of
the winter had been mild, but near the end of January it became
dreadfully cold. In the afternoon of Sabbath I went out to preach in
the Bathurst church. On reaching the place I was almost frozen, but
expected to get warmed at the stove; but never was I more disappointed.
The church was cold as ice, and the stove was filled with green wood
just putin, producing plenty of smoke but no heat. Every one was
shivering with cold. After I got into the pulpit I shivered so that I
could scarcely articulate a word. I went through the service, but it
was the most painful I ever performed. I spent the evening at home, ill
from the effects of this severe cold.
On the evening of the last Monday in
January, we had a large Temperance meeting in Mr. Wilson’s church, at
which I presided Mr. Dougal, President of the Montreal Society, was
present, and gave an excellent address on the ruinous effects of the
traffic in intoxicating liquors. Mr. Fisher followed, and, as usual
delighted the audience by his powerful eloquence. At that time we
little expected what a scamp he afterwards turned out to be.
Near the end of February, the congregation
at Lanark being still under my care, I again administered the sacrament
of the Lord’s supper there. Having no one to assist me, the numerous
services fatigued me considerably; but the cause was good, and the
spirit was willing, though the flesh was weak.
Just before our own communion in March,
William’s severe illness greatly discomposed my mind. The Sabbath was a
fine day, and I had a large congregation. The communicants numbered
115. In the evening I preached in Mr. Wilson's church, to a numerous
audience. After I returned home I felt fatigued both in body and mind,
but well pleased and thankful that all had gone well, and that it had
been a good day for our souls.
Next Sabbath I went and administered the
sacrament of the supper, and baptised more than twenty children in the
vacant congregation of Osgoode. The journey was long, 60 miles, the
road very rough, and the weather stormy and cold. I went by Richmond,
Long Island, and Gloucester. The road was not only much about, but
intricate and difficult to find. Saturday was a busy day, for besides
preaching, I had to examine the parents, and baptize 18 children. The
rest of the day was spent in examining and admitting more than twenty
On Sabbath morning, when I went to the
church, I found it crowded, and the people still coming. Before worship
began, about 20 more members, who brought certificates, were added to
the church. The church was so crowded that, though there was no fire in
the stove, we had to open the windows to admit fresh air. After the
communion, of which near 90 partook, I preached again, and baptised more
children. All the services were interesting, and we went home at night
rejoicing in the goodness of God to our souls. My journey home took two
days, in very cold weather, but I called on several friends by the way.
Peter McPherson, one of my elders, had been
ill for some time, and on 25th March he breathed his last.
His illness had been severe, but he bore it with exemplary patience. He
had been one of our elders ever since I came to the settlement in 1817,
and never neglected his duty, nor was willingly absent from his place on
the Sabbath. His peculiar temper often annoyed me, but his piety could
not be doubted.
On the 5th April I received a
letter from the Osgoode congregation intimating that they were willing
to give George £100 a year, in the event of his becoming their minister,
but he declined their offer. When the Presbytery met in May, two other
calls for him were laid before us, one from Cumberland, and one from
Dalhousie. This caused some discussion which ended in sending him to
Cumberland. At this meeting Mr. Fraser was admitted a member of
Presbytery and sent to Lanark. This relieved me of that congregation,
which had been under my charge for two years past. Mr. Wilson, a short
time before this, had left Perth for Scotland, and never returned.
MY SIXTY FIFTH YEAR – 1844
On Monday, 27 May, Mrs. Bell and I set out
for Cumberland on the Grand River, to attend the ordination of our son
George. The journey was fatiguing, as we had to ride 52 miles to Bytown
in a wagon, over a very rough road. On the way we had heavy rain, which
soaked us effectually. We lodged with Mr. Malloch, Sheriff of the
District, who invited a party of friends to meet us in the evening.
Next day we visited the Falls, the Fort, jail and court house. At 12 on
Wednesday the Presbytery met, and took the rest of George’s trials, and
made all ready for his ordination on the following day.
At 10, on Thursday morning, we left Bytown
in the Porcupine steamer for Cumberland, 16 miles lower down.
Besides the members of Presbytery, about 30 ladies and gentlemen went
with us to see the ordination, a ceremony which most of them had never
before witnessed. At 11 we landed from the boat and walked about a mile
to the church, which we found crowded. Mr. McKid conducted all the
services with much dignity and solemnity. At the conclusion I baptised
As the people retired from the church they
shook their young minister by the hand with hearty good will. It now
rained, but we soon got on board the boat where we dined, and reached
Bytown at 7 in the evening. Great credit was due to the agent of the
Porcupine, for the handsome manner in which he not only furnished the
boat, but all our refreshments, free of expense, and even went along
with us himself to see that we were properly accommodated. Next day,
after taking leave of our good friends, we proceeded homewards, the road
both rough and muddy. As before we lodged a night at Mr. Gordon's, and
reached home on the following day.
At our communion in June we were sadly
disappointed in regard of the weather. Saturday being favourable there
was a good congregation, and I preached comfortably. But on Sabbath
morning early it began to rain, and soon poured down in torrents. Many
of our people in the country were prevented from coming in, and those
who did come were very wet. Not more than 70 communicants were
present. Though I had a sore throat at the time, and was a little
hoarse, I got through all the services as well as usual. The rain was
followed, two days after, with a violent storm of wind, which knocked
off much of the young fruit, besides stripping shingles from roofs, and
even demolishing a few buildings.
On the l9th June, our Presbytery met at
Lanark, for the induction of the Rev. Mr. Fraser. After the public
services, we all dined at his house during a thunderstorm, and heavy
rain, and yet we had a fine evening coming home.
Next Saturday I examined the District
Grammar School. None of the other Trustees attended, which surprised me
much, that men should accept an office for the sake of the honour, and
yet neglect Its duties.
My next journey was to Kingston, to attend
the meeting of Synod. Soon after we met it became evident that there
was a strong party desirous of cutting the connection with the Church of
Scotland. The subject was often and warmly discussed during the
session, but without either party convincing the other. All were agreed
about declaring the Synod independent but the majority were
opposed to renouncing all connection with the parent church. Much time
was spent in prayer, for wisdom and direction from the Spirit of God;
and more in conference on the subject in dispute, but without any
satisfactory result. On Tuesday evening; when the vote was taken, 56 voted for continuing the connection with the Church of Scotland, and
40 against it. All parts of the church were crowded with people,
waiting to hear the final decision. On the following day the seceding
party met by themselves and in the evening they gave in their protest.
On Thursday we all went home, much grieved at the division that had
A doubt now began to be entertained whether
the Rev. Mr. Wilson, who had left us in April, would return to Perth, as
there was a prospect of his obtaining a church in Scotland. Many of his
people had before this inclined to the free church, and the probability
of his not returning greatly increased the number. Ralph Smith too, one
of my elders, having betrayed his trust, was doing all in his power to
create disaffection in my congregation. In order to counteract his
efforts, I explained to them what had taken place at the meeting of
Synod, read the act of independence, and showed that we were now as free
as we could desire. This satisfied all reasonable persons, and we had
no farther trouble on the subject till the end of the year.
first week in August brought one of the severest afflictions we were
ever called to endure. Before this William had been visited with more
than one fit of apoplexy, but had always recovered. On Saturday 3rd he
had a severe attack, and we expected every minute would be his last. We
prayed with him, but this was all we could do, for he seemed to be
unconscious of what was said or done. Ebenezer and a man named Ross,
sat up with him all night. In the morning he seemed a little better, but
still could not speak. In the church I preached as usual, but with a
heavy heart. On visiting him; when we returned home, we found him
worse. Both when I prayed; and when I spoke to him, he seemed sensible;
but could not speak so as to be understood. At 4 P.M. he breathed his
Besides his own children, most of our family
were present. I did not preach in the evening, as I had intended to
do. Several of our friends and neighbours, that evening, and next day,
called to console with us. How we bore the affliction, I can scarcely
now tell. We endeavoured to feel; as well as to say, It is the Lord,
let him do what seemeth to Him good. The funeral took place at 2, on
Tuesday afternoon. The company was very large; and I made an address to
them at the grave, although it was a painful task.
As he died intestate; Mr. Malloch and I had
to take out letters of administration, and take the management of his
affairs, and the care of the children. Of these he left three, two
girls and a boy, Mary aged 12, John 10, and
Maria 8 years. The girls had been at boarding school with Mrs.
Wilson some years before this; and we now placed John with Mr. Morrison,
a teacher in Bathurst.
There being at this time no minister near
Carleton Place, my son James had requested me to preach there and
baptise his child. Near the end of August I set out for that place,
visiting several families by the way. Not having seen my good friends
in Coulburn for some time, I turned aside and spent a night with them
also. Next morning, after passing the village of Mount Pleasant, while
travelling alone in the woods, and in very bad roads, I began to reflect
on the goodness of God to me in time past. I poured out the desires of
my soul to him in fervent supplications, and enjoyed a time of
refreshing from his presence, which I shall never forget. I have often
been happy in communion with God, but nevermore so than on this
On the evening of that day I preached at
Carleton Place, in the Methodist chapel, and baptised two children.
Next morning, soon after I left the village, on my way home, it began to
rain, and I was in a short time completely soaked. This, with the
oceans of mud and water through which I had to wade, made my journey any
thing but pleasant.
At our communion, in September, we had fine
weather, and a large congregation. About 120 communicants were present;
no one but Ralph Smith being intentionally absent. I was in great pain
with my old disorder, but easier in the afternoon
Near the end of the month a sale of
William's effects took place. The furniture, plate, books, bedding,
etc. sold as well as could be expected. I bought part of the furniture
and plate, but more of the books.
This fall the free church folk made great
exertions to get preaching from ministers of their own party; and really
those who took pleasure in stirring up discord made great exertions to
supply them. It was curious to read the reports of these men,
concerning the state of religion in those parts of the country, which
they visited. They represented all those, not supplied by them, as
destitute of the gospel.
About this time a mechanic’s institute was
organized in the village. Wishing to give encouragement to the thing I
joined it, and during the winter, in conjunction with others, save
lectures on a variety of subjects.
I was at this time solicited to join the
free church party, but declined, being convinced that we were already
freer then they could make us. Divisions in the Christian being
directly opposed to the command of Christ, and the spirit of the gospel,
I was led to inquire into their causes. For the information of others
too I preached a sermon on the subject, from the text, one Lord, one
faith, one baptism. The causes of divisions, among the professed
followers of Christ, I found to be four. First, the want of Christian
charity; the description of which we have in 1 Cor. 11 chapter. Second,
spiritual pride; leading those who are under its influence to say to
others; Stand by thyself; come not near to me; for I am holier than
thou. Third; laying great stress upon matters of small importance, and
violating first principles; or positive commands; straining at a gnat
and swallowing a camel. Fourth, becoming the followers of men; as of
Luther; Calvin, Wesley, etc. instead of being simply the followers of
Jesus Christ; and lastly, Laying aside the name of Christ’s church, and
taking names of human invention as Church of Rome; Church of England;
Church of Scotland, etc. The best means of promoting union is to lay
aside all these names, and take that of the true Catholic Church. Then
might all real Christians from one community, and live in harmony with
one another. On the frees however; this reasoning had no effect,
for nothing is more obstinate than prejudice.
This year, like the last; began quietly and
comfortably. After transacting the usual business of the day, Mrs. Bell
and I dined and I dined and spent the evening at Mr. Malloch’s, little
thinking how near I was to a great affliction.
Two days after this, namely on Friday, it
rained all day, which froze as it fell, covering the streets with ice of
the smoothest kind, and most dangerous to walk upon. I had been out in
the afternoon, and got one or two falls, as did many others, but was not
much hurt; for in day light there is less danger. But about 8 in the
evening, having to go over to the store with some papers, I put on, for
additional security, worsted socks. I got there in safety, though I
found walking attended with great danger.
But on my way back, it being very dark, my
feet went from me in a moment, and I fell on the edge of a stone
breaking two or three of my ribs, and seriously bruising my head and
shoulder. With some difficulty I reached home, when Mrs. Bell assisted
in undressing and putting me to bed. It was now I discovered that my
ribs were broken, and in a recumbent posture I suffered most severe
pain. I therefore with some assistance got up, and sat in the sofa all
night. Being unable to lie down, I had to sit and walk alternately for
more than a fortnight. After the first week, in these postures, I did
not suffer much. I procured a rocking chair, and in this, wrapped in a
blanket, I sometimes got asleep. But it was a weary time.
On Sabbath, not being able to go out, I got
John Richmond to read a sermon to the congregation,' and, with the
elders, to conduct their devotions. At home I spent the day in a
solitary state, and in great pain; but in the evening a few friends
called to see me. On Monday evening the annual meeting of the Perth
Temperance Society, of which I was President, was held; but not being
able to attend, the Rev. Mr. Cooper was kind enough to officiate for me.
On Wednesday our Presbytery met in the room
where I sat, when I was chosen Moderator for the following year. I
requested to be excused, for the present, on account of my lameness.
But Mr. Cruickshank remarked that, though I was a lame man at
present, it did not follow that I would make a lame Moderator.
Sabbath, being still unprovided with
assistance, I resolved to endeavour to conduct the service myself,
if it should be the shorter. Mr. Malloch took me over to
the church in his cutter so that I had but a few yards to walk. I
preached as usual, and easier than I expected, but I was worse all the
My misfortune being heard of, all aver the
settlement, every day some of my friends were calling to see me, and
many brought accounts of similar accidents to my own. Walking had been
rendered so dangerous, all over the country, that not only had ribs been
broken, but legs and arms in some instances.
The Howard Temperance Society having
resolved to have a splendid soiree this winter, Mr. Lees, their
Secretary, called to present Mrs. Bell and me tickets, and to request
that I would preside at the meeting. I accepted the invitation, though
still infirm, this being only three weeks after the accident. The
soiree was held in a large new building, before the partitions were put
When the evening arrived I took the chair at
6, on a large platform at one side of the house, which seemed to
be filled in every part, and more still crowding in. I opened the
meeting with prayer and a short address. Ministers and other speakers;
who had been provided, afterwards delivered addresses; the intervals
being filled up by music, both vocal and instrumental, or with teas,
coffee, cakes; and fruit. The house was very crowded; above 400 being
present; but every thing went off well, and all retired well pleased
with what they had heard and seen.
It was now evident that Mr. Wilson did not
intend to return, and many of his people joined the Free Church. By
remaining in Scotland and sending out his resignation he avoided hearing
many ill natured taunts, as well as the pain of taking leave of a
congregation to which he had ministered about 13½ years.
In the first week of February we had a great
snowstorm all over the country, which blocked up the roads, and put a
stop to travelling for some days. It was the fiercest storm we had ever
seen in the country. It drifted the snow into such mountains that a
snowplow had to be employed to open a passage through our streets.
Next Tuesday, the first annual meeting of
the Mechanic’s Institute was held in their Hall, for the election of
office bearers. That of President was offered to me, but I declined it
in favour of our Sheriff, who had done much to get the thing
established. But I accepted that of first vice President; and proposed
some changes, which were adopted. The same week Mr. Boyd organized the
frees into a church, and on the following Sabbath Mr. Hamilton
administered the sacrament.
On the morning of the first Sabbath in
March, while reflecting on the wild and sectarian spirit which many of
the Presbyterians in this settlement had lately discovered, I felt my
mind in a gloomy and uncomfortable state. But the public exorcises of
the Sabbath, and a good congregation, soon put me into a more cheerful
mood. In the afternoon I visited a few sick people, and among the rest
Mrs. Glass, who had been seriously ill for some days. One being asked
to pray for her, I inquired what she stood most in need of. She
replied, more love to Christ. This was just what I wanted for myself
also, so that I could cordially join in the petition. During the rest
of the evening I could truly say, My meditations of Him are sweet.
On the following day the annual
meeting of our Auxiliary Bible Society was held, in the stone church. I
read the report as usual, and Mr. Milne, agent from the Montreal
Society, addressed the meeting at some length. The next day was the
anniversary of both my ordination and of poor Maria's death. This led
me to look back and reflect upon all the way which the Lord my God had
led me in this wilderness. What blessings and mercies I have received
from his hand! Even eternity will be too short to utter all his
Our communion, on the second Sabbath of
March, was attended with both pain and pleasure. Pleasure at observing
the faithful adherence of those who remained firmly attached to the
church of their fathers; and pain from the treacherous and unprincipled
conduct of those who had not only betrayed its interests; but now
slandered and misrepresented it; as foul and filthy. Sickness prevented
some from attending, and the bad state of the roads prevented others;
yet 70 communicants were present; and much comfort was enjoyed by both
them and me.
Next Tuesday our Presbytery met and received
Mr. Wilson's resignation of his charge in Perth, and Mr. Smith was
appointed to declare the church vacant. Unlikely as it might appear, I
had long felt that I should live to see that day not only without a
minister; but divided among themselves; and now I had seen both.
Soon after William's death we had placed his
son, with Mr. Morrison in Bathurst, as a boarder for the benefit of his
education. On Saturday, 17 April; I received a letter from Mr. Morrison
informing me that the boy was ill; and wishing a doctor sent to see
him. Mr. Malloch went out with Dr. Wilson, the same afternoon, and
brought him home to our house. Inflammation of the bowels was the
disorder under which be suffered at the time, but symptoms of
consumption had been observed for some time before.
During the first week he appeared better;
but though he complained of no pain, it was evident he was every day
becoming weaker. Dr. Wilson paid him every attention; but it was soon
evident that his disorder was beyond the power of medicine. He
gradually declined till the morning of the 29, when he expired; at the
age of 10; as calmly as if he had merely gone to sleep. Just before he
died, and after I had prayed with him; we asked him if he was afraid to
die. He said No; he wished to go to Jesus.
Some of our members having left us, for the
misnamed free church; I feared the number might be greater than it
turned out to be. From ten to twenty was all that left me, but a much
greater number left the other congregation.
MY SIXTY SIXTH YEAR – 1845
Our communion, in June; set the above matter
to rest. The day was fine and the church crowded; 98 members were
present, and both they and I enjoyed much comfort in all the services in
which we engaged.
Mr. Smith having neglected to declare Mr.
Wilson’s late charge vacant according to appointment of Presbytery, they
directed me to do it, which I did accordingly, on June 15.
On the last day of that month I set out for Kingston; to attend the
meeting of Synod. At this meeting I was, very unexpectedly, but
unanimously, chosen Moderator the coming year. This procured me
civilities from some that I had never experienced before. In the course
of the afternoon I had no less than three invitations to lodge at houses
where I had not been asked before. But I told them all that, I had
always been so happy at Mr. Mason's, I had no wish to change.
Business went on well during the week, as we
were all of one mind. On Tuesday evening late, everything being
arranged, I closed the meeting with a short address; and next day
returned home. George came at the same time, and preached for me on the
On the 2nd September I attended, by request,
the celebration of the Perth Howard Temperance Society of which my son
John was then President. It was held on Mr. Malloch’s farm at
Sweetbank, where a platform was erected, and seats set for 1000 people.
A band of musicians was brought from Brockville, consisting of more then
twenty performers. I opened the meeting with prayer and a short
address. Messrs. Parkhurst, Boyd, Goldsmith, and Cooper, in succession,
delivered eloquent addresses in favour of total abstinence from all
intoxicating liquors. The charge for admission was l/3d., and after
defraying expenses, the money was sent for the relief of the Quebec
sufferers by the late fire.
Next Sabbath we had a visit from part of the
deputation from the Church of Scotland. Mr. McLeod preached in my
church in the forenoon, and in the other in the afternoon, to large
congregations. I had prepared an address to be delivered to them on
their arrival; and which afterwards appeared in the newspapers both here
and in Scotland. On Tuesday Mr. McLeod delivered an admirable address,
in St. Andrew's church, to a large congregation. He spoke three hours,
and was listened to with breathless attention.
Having resolved to attend the meeting of the
Commission of Synod in October, I went out on the 6th to the Ferry,
where I spent a cold and comfortless night, waiting for a boat. Next
day I got away, but the Commission was met but had not transacted any
business when I reached Kingston. Next day I went to Belleville, where
I had to preach two Sabbaths. On landing, I found Mr. Lisle’s carriage
waiting for me, and at his house I met with a kind reception from all
the family. Here I remained during my stay. The congregation was not
large; for it rained nearly all the time, and the roads were very bad.
I found that here; as in other places; religious dissention had produced
On Monday, 20 October, I returned to
Kingston; and on the afternoon of Tuesday the Commission had another
meeting. On Wednesday we finished our business and in the afternoon
dined with Dr. Liddell. On Thursday, finding no canal boat, and being
anxious to get home before Sabbath, I went on board the Highlander, steamer, and in five hours reached Brockville. I had intended to
come home by the stage next day, but Mr. Boulton, the barrister, who had
come with me from Kingston, persuaded me to join him in hiring a light
wagon, and proceeding to Perth the same evening. The road was very bad,
and Mr. Boulton drove so fast that we broke down three times, and had to
come half the way in the darkest night I ever saw.
On the 29th October Mr. Bain was ordained
pastor of St. Andrew's church. Mr. Fraser preached, I, as Moderator
ordained Mr. Bain, and Mr. Smith addressed him and the congregation. We
all afterwards dined at the Temperance house, and Mr. McKid preached in
Our Grammar School, of which I was a
trustee, was examined at the end of every half-year; but so careless
were the others, that I had often to perform that duty alone. On this
occasion, the end of December, the Classical scholars did well; but I
had not much time to spend with them, having been invited to see Miss
Fraser’s school examined the same day. It was nearly over before I got
there; but I saw enough to satisfy me that the seminary was well
At the conclusion, being called upon by the
teacher to make an address, I had got nearly through it, when suddenly
all present were alarmed and thrown into confusion by a loud scream. It
came from Mrs. John Campbell, who was attacked with one of those
epileptic fits, to which she had been long subject. The room was
crowded with the scholars, their parents, and friends; and so great was
the alarm that some of the ladies fainted. The meeting broke up in
confusion before the sufferer could be restored.
In health and comfort, and my heart
overflowing with gratitude to my heavenly Father, I began the year
l846. At 12, as usual, our annual meeting was held in the church, when
we had all our accounts settled; and I reported the state of the
congregation. But the desertion of Mr. Fraser, our Treasurer, made me
Mr. Bain’s communion being on the first
Sabbath, I preached in the Bathurst church in the afternoon, and heard
Mr. McMorine, for the first time, in the evening.
At the meeting of Presbytery; on the 14th, I
was sorry to observe that much time was spent; and much ill feeling
displayed in the difficulty between Mr. Fraser and part of his
congregation at Middleton. Mr. Smith, a short time before this, had
sent me a very insulting letter because I had declined to call an
unnecessary prosre nata meeting of Presbytery at his
bidding. This letter I laid before the Presbytery, but he, being now
sensible of the impropriety of his conduct; made an ample apology.
George had been with us most of the week,
but left us on Friday for home. As he proposed attending the meeting to
be held in Montreal, to form the Evangelical Alliance, I wrote by him to
the Rev. Mr. McGill, approving of the project and requesting that my
name might be added as a member.
Wishing to promote the same object here, I
invited all the ministers in the place to a conference at my house;
where we agreed to call a public meeting. Mr. Melville indeed was
compelled to withdraw his name, by some of the bigots of his own church;
but this, as Mr. Cooper observed, only discovered a little of the free
On the evening of the 4th March the public
meeting was held, and a very large congregation attended. To the
resolutions which I had prepared six ministers spoke and every thing
went on well. We formed ourselves into a branch of the Alliance, and
many signed the constitution. At a meeting of the Committee, a short
time after, we resolved to have a prayer meeting once a month, and a
sermon in favour of Christian Union once a quarter, Mr. Goodson to be
the first preacher. At the same time our Secretary was instructed to
open a correspondence, both with the Alliance in Montreal, and London.
Mary and Maria, William’s daughters, had
been staying in Mr. Malloch's family till now, but on the 9th of March
they came to live with us.
MY SIXTY SEVENTH YEAR – 1846
On the 28 May Mr. Bain and I, by appointment
of the Presbytery, went out to Dalhousie, 20 miles, to induct the Rev.
John Robb into his new charge. Mr. Bain preached, etc. and I gave the
charge to both the minister and the people. After dining at Mr.
McIntyre’s, we returned to Lanark, where we took tea, and reached home
at 9, very tired, having walked or rode in a wagon over a very rough
At our communion, in June, we had
a fine day, and a good attendance. I was in a happy frame, and preached
with more than ordinary liberty. It was indeed a happy day to us all.
Mrs. Bell, on the evening of Sabbath, 28
June, was taken seriously ill, and had to keep her bed for some time.
She had gone to hear Mr. Melville's temperance sermon, and the day being
hot, the church crowded, and the sitting three hours, her health was
destroyed for the present; but, by using proper means, she gradually
On Monday, 6 July, Mr. Fraser and I set out
for Kingston, to attend the meeting of Synod. We both lodged at Mr.
Massons, where were three others of our brethren, whose society we found
very agreeable. On Wednesday evening when the Synod met; I preached
from Heb. 13, 17. They watch for your souls as they that must give
account. After a short address I proposed Mr. Romanes as my successor,
and he was unanimously elected. The period of my office of Moderator
being now at an end, I left the chair, well pleased to be relieved from
its duties. On the following day George
introduced me to Misses Greenshiels and
Whiteford, to the latter of whom I understood he was engaged.
Next Sabbath I preached at Brockville; while
George preached to my congregation in Perth. On my way out in the
stage; I observed with surprise; the careless way in which the mails
were treated. The bags were thrown in the open wagon, whence anyone in
the darkness of the night could have taken them with the greatest ease.
On our way back; on Monday; their danger was still more apparent.
Instead of being put in the chest, where they ought to be, they were
thrown on the top of the load, behind the passengers. Before we got
half way, one of them was lost. The driver took one of his horses and
rode back, at a gallop, three miles before he found it. I pitied the
poor horse; which after running 20 miles in the stage; in a broiling hot
day, had to gallop, with a heavy man on his back; to say nothing of the
bag. The latter half of the road being very rough, and the day close,
we were awfully knocked about; as well as drenched with sweat, and
covered with dust.
I had never in my life been sued for a debt;
but at this time both Mr. Malloch and I were sued; and in the Supreme
Court too; for a debt that did not belong to us and of the existence of
which we were not even aware. John having allowed his affairs to get
into confusion, some of his creditors became alarmed. Among these was
James Ferguson who had a claim of more than fifty pounds. He put his
note into the hands of McMartin, a lawyer of the shark species; who,
without giving us a hint that he had a claim against us, sued us right
off in the court of Queen's Bench, as Administrators of the estate of
the deceased W. Bell; the other partner.
No lawyer, having the least claim to
respectability, would have done this; but McMartin had no such claim.
The costs was the object, for these came into his own pocket. The loss
did not fall upon us; it is true, but upon the orphan children of the
deceased; but this shows his wickedness. To God, the Judge of the
fatherless, I leave him. How opposite are mankind in their
dispositions. While one part are doing all they can to lessen the evils
that are in the world; the other is doing all they can to increase
them. Of those it may be said, “The best of them is a briar; the most
upright is sharper than a thorn hedge.”
On the evening of Saturday, 8 August, I was
attacked with severe pains in my stomach, which for some hours resisted
all remedies, and reduced me to a very weak state. I was much better on
Sabbath, but felt the effects for several days.
On the 14th I received a letter
from the Rev. Dr. Holdick of Middletown, Connecticut, informing me that
their university had been pleased to confer the honorary degree of
Master of Arts and asking how the diploma could be conveyed to me.
The 19th was the anniversary of
our daughter’s marriage with Mr. Malloch;
and in the afternoon she and her husband had a picnic party on their
farm at Sweetbank. The day was fine, the party cheerfu1l and
the rural feast upon the grass was relished by all present. But little
did we think that it was the last of the kind we should ever enjoy
together. The day was interesting from another cause being the first
meeting of the Evangelical Alliance in London.
During the fall I suffered much from
Toothache. The doctor was very unwilling to remove the tooth, which was
still fresh and strong and the largest of the set. When he at last made
the attempt the tooth broke off and for some weeks gave me more pain
The Rev. Mr. Mann told me one day that a
Free Church minister lately preached in his bounds, near the Grand
River. (It was the fashion then with the frees to finish every
discourse with an attack upon the established Church of Scotland). In
concluding he said it was not necessary for him to say any-thing about
the dispute existing among them. It was easily understood and might be
stated in a few words. Some thought that Christ should rule in the
church, others that man should rule. In the Free Church Christ was
permitted to rule but in the Church of Scotland man only. By such
misrepresentations they led astray the simple people who knew nothing
but what they told them.
On the last Sabbath of September I preached
the quarterly Temperance Sermon in Mr. Bain’s church, to a large
congregation. It was pleasing to observe that the cause of Temperance
was steadily advancing in Perth and the country round.
Early in November I received a letter from
my son George informing me that he was about to be
married to Miss Mary Whiteford of
Montreal and requesting me to come down and perform the ceremony and
bring the rest of the family with me. Though we had no objections to
the match, the season of the year; the bad state of the roads, and the
great distance of Montreal prevented our going.
To promote Christian union in the settlement
we had appointed a quarterly sermon to be preached by all our ministers
in rotation in favour of the Evangelical Alliance. This fall it came to
my turn, and on the evening of Sabbath 15th November I preached in Mr.
Bain's church to a large congregation from Joseph's charge to his
brethren, See that ye fall not out by the way.
The weather was open and much rain fell in
this month, which made the roads almost impassable and kept many people
at home, so that my congregation on some Sabbaths was small. This,
together with the trouble I had in trying to save from ruin the property
of my two grand daughters (William’s children) produced, at times, a
depression of spirits, very painful in the discharge of public duty.
Our communion Sabbath in December happened
to be a fine day, and most of the members of the church were present.
This revived my spirits and I never performed the duties of a communion
Sabbath with greater pleasure.
On the 24th December Mr. Bain and I examined
the District Grammar School of which we were trustees and signed the
master’s certificate that he might receive his salary. On the following
day, which was Christmas, we dined at Mr. Malloch's with our daughter
with a party of their and our friends. Little did we then think it was
the last Christmas dinner we should ever eat together.
Just as we were sitting down to breakfast on
the morning of the 29th we were alarmed by the cry of Fire.
On going out, we perceived two new houses belonging to Thomson and
McDonnell, all in flames. Being framed buildings they were soon reduced
to ashes. They had been just finished and were about to be cleaned out
for the reception of the two families when they took fire. A boy had
been making a fire in the stove and it was supposed had dropped some
among the shavings.
I began the year l847, by giving thanks to
God for mercies received and; asking forgiveness for sins committed and
duties neglected. I then prepared the church accounts and at 12,
attended the annual meeting and had them all settled and the usual
One day F. McLaren, a reformed drunkard;
described to me the horrors of delirium tremens. He seemed, he
said, to be haunted with demons night and day. The disease seemed to
produce a malignant disposition toward all, friends as well as foes.
When under its influence, he cared not what mischief he
brought upon himself if he could only injure those about him. One day
he wanted to go to the river and drown himself, for no other reason but
to vex his wife; one of the best women in the world. Thus we find that
wine is a mocker; strong drink is raging, and whosoever is deceived
thereby is not wise.
Our only daughter,
Mrs. Malloch, had been in delicate health for some years before this
from a liver complaint. She had the best medical advice; and
everything that affection could suggest was done to prolong a life dear
to us all. But when death is in the cup all means will fail. For some
weeks she had been worse than usual; and though a slight improvement
gave us hopes of her recovery they were of short duration. After
suffering severely for a few days and nights, on
Friday 29th January at 11 A.M. she breathed
her last, surrounded by her weeping relatives. She had long
enjoyed religion, and died in peace and in the lively hope of a glorious
Her brother George who was greatly attached
to her had been sent for a few days before and seldom left her till she
died. At the grave when she was buried he delivered a suitable address,
for I was unable to do it myself. The funeral was the largest ever seen
in Perth, and the procession extended more than a quarter of a mile. On
the following Sabbath I preached to a full congregation from the
Christian's triumphant saying, O death, where is thy sting? O grave,
where is thy victory?
This affliction to Mr. Malloch was followed
by another of a different nature. Early on the morning of Friday 12th
February we were again alarmed by the cry of Fire. On getting
out of bed we found Mr. Malloch’s barn and stables wrapped in flames.
Being frame buildings they were soon reduced to ashes with all they
contained, namely four horses, three cows, some smaller animals, all the
hay, strew, grain etc. with a fine stock of farming implements. As
there had been no fire on the premises for some months before, and as
the buildings had been fired at both ends there was no doubt of its
being the work of an incendiary.
This was the more surprising as Mr. Malloch
was much respected in the settlement and had very few enemies. These
few however were of the most malignant description. Ever since he held
the office of District Judge and chairman of the Quarter Sessions he had
been envied and hated by a few disappointed end unprincipled persons.
It was not supposed that the incendiary in this case belonged to the
lowest class of society. On hearing of the outrage the Governor General
issued a proclamation offering a reward of £50 for the discovery and
conviction of the offender, but though a party was strongly suspected no
clear proof could be obtained.
Misfortunes seldom come singly, and so Mr.
Malloch found it. In addition to the loss of his property, an attempt
was made, by the same persons it was supposed to destroy his character,
especially as a judge. A small pamphlet of a libelous and scurrilous
character was printed and circulated to a great extent through the
district. This was an injury that could not be overlooked. Inquiries
were set on foot, when it was ascertained that the libel had been
printed at Bytown, but mailed at Kingston 150 miles distant, and that
John McDonald Clerk of the Peace and McMartin a Barrister were the
authors. They were arrested accordingly, examined by two magistrates
and bound over to take their trial at the next assizes. When that time
arrived; they were tried; found guilty and fined, the former in £10, the
latter in £30. Poor fines for such offences, but they met with much
sympathy on the bench.
On the 28th March; in going 12 miles to
Smith’s Falls to preach, I had one of the most difficult journeys I ever
performed. There had been a snowstorm on the day before, which had
completely blocked up the road in many places. Where the storm had been
in the direction of the road I had no great difficulty for there the
snow was not deep; but where it was across the road the snow was drifted
as high as the fences making it next to impossible to get along. So
fatigued was my horse that in the deep snowdrifts he lay down and
refused to proceed. At one place I had to get the assistance of a
farmer and a yoke of oxen to break the road for half a mile, for no one
had made the attempt before me. The struggle was severe but I
persevered and reached the village just in time for public worship.
The various duties of my office at home, the
examination of schools, and preaching at times in the country engaged my
attention till the sleighing season was over. On the 20th of
May I completed my 67th year which led me to serious
reflections. My end on earth must be drawing near. Lord, teach me so
to number my days as to apply my heart to wisdom. Though not without
trials I em still spared as a monument of mercy and in possession of
many enjoyments. The lapse of time is astonishing: I had now been 30
years in Canada but in looking back they seem only a few days.
Celtic Cross, marking William Bell’s grave
in the Perth Cemetery, erected by his descendants in the 1920’s.
MY SIXTY EIGTH YEAR – 1847
After examining the schools as the midsummer
vacation, I made a journey to Brockville by appointment and in the
courthouse preached two discourses on Christian Union. The journey
there was very fatiguing, the weather being hot and the road rough; but,
on my return, I fared still worse. By the reckless conduct of our
driver, our carriage broke down three miles from the half way house to
which I had to walk on foot. On arriving there, not being able to
obtain another carriage he took the mails on horseback and left me at
the inn 20 miles from home. Being unable to walk that far in boots and
in very hot weather I had to remain till next day; and even then had to
ride home in a rough lumber wagon covered with dust and perspiration.
About a year before this the University of
Middletown in Connecticut had conferred upon me the degree of Master of
Arts, but my diploma till now had not been sent. On the 23rd October
however I received it by mail, in good order, though it bad traveled
more than 300 miles.
On the 9th November I attended a meeting in
the court house and assisted at the formation of a public library
association of which I was appointed President. Some weeks after I
assisted at the formation of a Tract Society for Perth and its
neighbourhood, so that every family might be visited and supplied with a
new tract once a fortnight.
In December a dissolution of our Provincial
Parliament took place and a new election was ordered. Three candidates
were brought forward one of which was my son Robert. After a hard
contest he was elected by a large majority and was triumphantly chaired.
On the morning of the 1st January
1848 my first thoughts were what shall I render to my God for all his
goodness to me and mine? Gratefully will I remember all the way the
Lord my God has led me in the wilderness. Still I will trust in the
care of his Providence assured that he will never leave me nor forsake
me. The day was still as a Sabbath, for constant rain and oceans of mud
made travelling next to impossible; so that, though I should have
preached at Brockville on the following day, I could not go but held a
meeting at home.
Near the end of January John McDonald Esqr.
Clerk of the Peace who had been convicted of publishing a libel against
Judge Malloch my son in law, was, by the Governor General dismissed from
his office. Two days afterwards the District Council met when my son
Robert was re-elected Warden of the District and Chairman of the
At the annual meeting of our Temperance
Society, we revised the list of members made some new regulations and
signed the pledge anew. On the evening of the 8th February a Soiree was
given by the Juvenile Temperance Society at which I presided.
More than 200 were present but the arrangements were so excellent that
no confusion took place and all went home well pleased.
The church in Bytown being vacant at this
time I had occasionally to preach there in turn with my co-presbyters.
In a journey I made this month to that place in cold weather and rough
roads I was seized with a pain in my back so severe that every movement
for some weeks was distressing. This however was soon lost sight of in
an accident of a more dangerous nature.
A very old woman, eight miles from Perth,
who was seriously ill had sent for me to come and see her. On a Monday
morning early I set out for her abode intending afterwards to hold an
examination in another place. But all my plans were speedily deranged
by an accident which had nearly deprived me of life. I had got three
miles from town when, going down the steep hill at Stanley's my horse
became unmanageable, ran sway, and galloped down the hill at a furious
rate. All my power could not stop him till, at the bottom of the hill
the cutter struck a stump with such force that both traces were snapped
off like threads, and I was thrown in the air, falling on my head by
which the scalp was torn from my left temple to some extent. The wound
on my head was near six inches long, and bled profusely. Dr. Nichol and
another person happened to be just before me in a cutter, at the time.
They and three or four men at a smith's shop close by all ran to my
assistance not expecting to find me alive. They lifted me into the
doctor's cutter and took me to Armstrong's which was not far away.
By this time my face and breast were covered
with blood and the people urged me to take off my clothes and have the
blood washed off but this I decline to do till I got home. The doctor
wanted to sew the wound but I told him to replace the scalp and bind up
my head with my pocket handkerchief till I reached my own house. He
however contrary to my wishes clipped all the hair from my forehead and
covered it with straps of adhesive plaster.
My horse on getting free from the cutter had
galloped off toward Perth, but someone caught him and brought him back.
Finding that the cutter though terribly smashed, could be brought home I
borrowed traces from Armstrong and drove myself home, to the
astonishment of every one that I ventured again with the same horse. I
was ashamed to meet anyone on the road as the blood still flowed over my
face through the bandages. At home, my return so soon and in such a
state caused some alarm. But I soon got clean clothes and felt better
than could be expected.
My wounds kept me at home the first Sabbath;
but, after that I preached every Sabbath as usual. In three months the
cut was healed in appearance but the effects were felt for many more.
To the care of divine Providence I am indebted that I was not killed on
the spot, so great was the force with which I was thrown upon the frozen
earth. As the accident happened in a public place it was soon heard of
all over the settlement; and, for more than a week, people were
constantly calling to inquire for me. The sympathy felt for me was not
only gratifying, but far more than I expected. What surprised me most
of all was that the pain in my back was now entirely gone.
Attending meetings of Bible Societies, Tract
Societies, Missionary Societies, Temperance Societies, making addresses,
preaching temperance sermons, and examining schools, in addition to my
ordinary duties, for some time kept me quite busy, till I had completed
my 68th year in midst of many mercies and comforts.
MY SIXTY NINTH YEAR – 1848
Sometime in June an article appeared in our
village newspaper, signed Philos purporting to be a critique on
certain Hebrew and Greek words, which the writer wished us to understand
were erroneously translated in our English Bible. It was evident that
he was a Baptist from his asserting that baptism in all cases means
immersion. This might have passed as his own opinion; but he went
farther and charged our translators with having willfully and
knowingly made a false translation to please the King. This
was an attack upon the credit of our English Bible, which I could not
allow to pass with impunity.
Accordingly, next week, in the same paper I
met the charge with a flat contradiction, and exposed the absurdity and
even wickedness of this attempt to discredit our translation. It turned
out that the writer was the Rev. P. McDonald, a Baptist minister, who
having acquired a smattering of Greek and Hebrew wished the world to
know it, and especially to set them right on the subject of baptism on
which he believed them to be sadly mistaken. He answered my letter not
in the way of argument but in low scurrilous abuse, to which I paid no
attention. But such was the opinion of his conduct entertained by the
religious public that he was never again invited to attend any of our
Missionary or other prayer meetings. Even his own congregation were so
displeased with him that he had soon to leave the place.
In July Rev. Mr. Bain and I set out for
Montreal to attend the meeting of Synod. The weather was very warm but
we had a delightful sail down the broad waters of the St. Lawrence.
Running the rapids among the islands in particular was highly exciting.
At Montreal we observed two United States government steamers in the
harbour. The American flag floating conspicuously in midst of the
shipping gave evidence of the good understanding existing between the
British and American governments.
I soon found my friend Mr. Neil McIntosh
with whose hospitable family I resided during my stay in Montreal. But
I did not remain till the business of the Synod was over having to go to
Bytown to preach on Sabbath and make arrangements for the induction of
the Rev. Mr. Spence. On the following Monday I set out for home by the
Rideau Canal. As the country through which we passed was new to me I
remained on deck most of the day though it was somewhat cold and
cloudy. In the course of the day we passed 32 locks before reaching the
Rideau lake. At the Ferry I landed near midnight and leaving my trunk
with Mrs. Campbell I walked home, 8 miles, by moon light where I was
happy to find all well.
On the following Sabbath, as Mr. Bain had
not returned home, I preached in his church to both our congregations.
In the course of the week we were gratified with a visit from our sons
Andrew and George who spent a few days and preached for me next Sabbath.
On the l3th October I remembered that 46 years had now elapsed since I entered into the married state. What
a period of care, toil, and anxiety it has been! Yet mingled with many
comforts and many happy moments, for which I am ever grateful. Yet for
all the temporal enjoyments my God has bestowed upon me I would not wish
to live my life over again unless to avoid the errors into which I have
Tory government being now at an end in the
province, the position of parties was wonderfully changed. Reformers
began to be treated with consideration who a year before scarcely met
with common civility. At the Assizes this fall
my son Robert had the honour of a seat on the
bench as an Associate Judge, while his brother
James was chosen Foreman of the Grand Jury.
Judge Malloch, our son in law, being tired
of a single life had gone to Scotland this summer along with Dr. Wilson
to seek a mate. He succeeded, and late on Saturday 4th November he
returned to Perth with the lady he had chosen, having been married in
his native land. We were anxious to see her who was now to be a mother
to our grand children, for Mr. Malloch had
five children still alive. It afforded us much pleasure to find
that she was all we could expect both to them and us.
In connection with several ministers and
others I this winter delivered a course of lectures on scientific
subjects before the Mechanics Institute in the spacious schoolhouse
adjoining our garden.
The beginning of the year l849 found me as
usual busily employed in a variety of ministerial labours, preaching
both at home and in the country, examining schools, and attending
missionary and other meetings. In some of my journeys I suffered much
from cold the weather being very severe. At the request of a literary
society I went out one evening to Bathurst to give a lecture on the
evils of ignorance. The meeting was held in the church where everything
was cold as ice so that I was almost frozen in the desk where I stood.
I went home with one of the members for the night and glad I was once
more to get near a fire.
At the annual meeting of the subscribers to
our public library I was again re-elected President for the year. Mr.
Bain being at this time confined with sore throat, I preached two
Sabbaths in his church, that being large enough to contain both his
congregation and mine. The interest attending the lectures in the
Mechanics Institute was well sustained during the winter. The meetings
which were held every Tuesday evening were generally crowded and all
appeared to be both pleased and instructed. My last lecture was on the
Evils of War. At the time the pain in my back had returned so severe
that every movement was attended with a pang.
On the l9th
February the death of our third son John at the age of 42 again
plunged us in affliction. He had been in a declining state for about a
year but still hopes were entertained that he would get over it. Mr.
Malloch and I made arrangements for the funeral which was attended by
more than 200 of our friends and neighbours. On the very morning of our
son's death I received a letter from the Secretary of the Juvenile
Temperance Society, requesting me to preside at a soiree to be given the
same week. But in the painful circumstances in which I was then placed
I declined the honour and returned the tickets sent for the use of my
At this time great excitement prevailed
through the province respecting a bill then before parliament for the
payment of certain losses sustained during the rebellion in 1837-8. The
storm had been gathering for some time, but, when the bill received the
royal assent; it burst with fearful violence in the city of Montreal.
The mob pelted the Governor’s carriage, with
stones sticks and rotten eggs; and hooted him with the most insulting
language. They did not however, rest satisfied with these expressions
of their displeasure but attacked the Parliament House; smashed the
windows, drove out the members and set fire to the building which was
soon reduced to ashes with all its libraries, archives and other
valuable contents. Our son Robert being at that time a member of the
House we felt some alarm for his safety till we heard from him. But
excepting in the case of a few that were particularly obnoxious to the
mob none of the members suffered any personal violence. Soon after this
the seat of government was transferred to Toronto the capital of the
MY SEVENTIETH YEAR – 1849
On the afternoon of
Tuesday 10th July I set out, in company with two other ministers for
Kingston to attend the meeting of Synod. To avoid the intense heat we
travelled in the night to Brockville, 40 miles. But after getting on
board the steamer the breeze from the water made our sail to Kingston
Having an invitation from Mr. Pringle I
lodged with him in Queen's College during my stay in Kingston. Mr. Muir
the Moderator of Synod was also there and other ministers so that we had
very pleasant society. The heat had been excessive for some time but on
Friday we had thunder and rain which cooled the air, laid the dust and
gave life to vegetation which had been in a dying condition. On
Saturday we had one of those sudden changes of temperature by which this
country is distinguished for thunder generally cools the air.
On Friday the thermometer indicated 93 in
the shade, but in 24 hours it had fallen more than 30 degrees, so that I
shivered with cold. The effect on my health was soon felt.
After dinner I became sick, threw up all I
had taken, went to bed, and was ill all evening. The cholera being in
Kingston at this time some alarm was felt by all my friends and some of
them remained at the college all night. But next morning I was better
and able to go to church.
After a week’s stay in Kingston, the
business of the Synod being finished I set out for home. At Newboro, I
remained one day with my friends Mr. and Mrs. Tett, made an excursion to
Beverly through clouds for the heat was again excessive. On Saturday I
reached home and with much gratitude to our heavenly Preserver found all
the family safe and well.
Ill health for some months after this was my
lot, yet I never in a single instance failed to fulfil the duties of my
office, either in preaching, visiting, or attending public meetings.
Sometimes indeed I preached in great bodily pain, but this employment to
me has always been so agreeable that I could not give it up if able to
be out of bed. The year l849 ended as it had begun in peace and the
enjoyment of much goodness and mercy. To God even my God, be all
It seems a pity to come to the end of these
fascinating accounts of Rev. William Bell’s experiences in pioneer Upper
Canada with no knowledge of what happened in the remaining eight years
of his remarkable life. But, unfortunately, we have little information,
as we could tell from his last diary entries of 1848-49, his health and
energy were beginning to fail, especially after that accident with his
runaway horse. And, possibly, the sorrow of his son,
Andrew's, death in 1856 made him realize that
his time on earth might be drawing to a close.
In early 1857, he called the Sessions of the
First Presbyterian and St. Andrew's Churches of Perth together and
proposed that the two should unite. This was approved by the Bathurst
Presbytery and also by the Synod meeting in Hamilton in June.
During the summer of that same year, he
became too weak to preach and, finally, on the
16th of August, a Sunday, he passed away.
The obituaries of the time printed his last
wish that: “his friends at a distance, should be informed that he died
in the firm faith of that glorious gospel which he had, with so much
pleasure, preached to others, and in the unclouded hope and prospect of
a glorious immortality beyond death and the grave.”