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To Chatham by Canoe
By Miss Annie McLeod, Chatham Daily News, April 18, 1941


I was born April 22, 1841, on this homestead where Iíve lived all my life. Jam the daughter of the late Alexander McLeod and Jane Coutts. They were sturdy Scottish pioneers. They are gone now as are my sister and half brother. My father was from the Isle of Skye and he came here with his son following the death of his first wife. My mother was a native of Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

When my father settled at this place, Valetta, the whole country was bush. I can remember what it was like when I was quite a young girl. My father took over this land from another man when it was partly cleared. The original home was a log house and near it were some excellent peach trees. My sister and I built our present house after my half brother died in 1892. My sister died a little more than twenty years ago.

I can remember when the Middle Road was put through here, and it was a great thing for the settlers. That was before there was the settlement known as Henderson which later grew into what is now Tilbury. The closest places of any size were Windsor and Chatham.

I would go to Chatham occasionally in the early days, the greater part of the trip being made by canoe. My father hauled his grain with an oxen team a couple of miles to a creek where he loaded it on a canoe. He would then paddle to the Thames and up the river to Chatham.

Horses were scarce things in those times and we had to use oxen. Few people had wagons and the hauling was done with sleds.

Despite the hardships and handicaps we recognized the importance of education and! recall that the first school in the district was located at lot 21. The children however, never knew how long the course of study would last. That depended on the finances of the pioneers. In one year the settlers could afford a teacher for six months. In another they could only afford her services for three months.

When I was in my teens I was urged to take up teaching but I must confess that I did not have the spunk to do it. Besides, I had plenty to do on the homestead. We had a lot of chores to do before we went to school and more when we returned. We helped to plant corn and potatoes and weed the ground. We were tired at night.

I remember the first church being built at Valetta, one and a half miles from the homestead. The first edifice was a log building. With a passing of years the residents replaced it with a frame structure which is the predecessor of the present structure. Before we had a church we had a Presbyterian preacher come from Chatham once a month and conduct services in one of the homes. Everybody made a point of attending church in those days.

I account for my long life which is now at the century mark by way of hard work. If hard work would kill anybody I would have been dead long ago. I worked hard as long as I was able and I believe it kept me well. I never drank intoxicating liquors or smoked. They tell me that women smoke quite a bit these days but they do not have to work like I did.

I have good hearing and fairly good sight, although I canít read without glasses. The youngsters broke my glasses some time ago and I havenít any at the present time so I canít read. I lost the use of my limbs when I was eighty years of age and since that time I have moved about my home in a wheel chair. But my infirmity does not keep me from going out and about and when the weather warms I hope to take a few more rides in a motor car. Iím looking forward to it.

People of this age do not know how to get the maximum amount of joy and happiness out of life. They have fine homes with electric lights, motorcars, and motion picture shows as well as many other comforts in their lives but for me, I would just as soon attend an old-fashion logging bee, a quilting party or a church social as they were conducted when I was a young girl. People were more sociable in the old days, and this is why, despite the hardships they had to endure, they got more out of life. People were alike, they were all engaged in wrestling a living out of the land. There was no jealousy. They helped one another with their work, and to solve their problems. If a man was going to build a barn, the settlers from miles around would come to lend a hand. Their families would gather when the work was done for a celebration or a dance. At harvest time there were threshing bees. They were enjoyable affairs.


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