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
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
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
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