THE rapidity with which
some localities fill up, after settlement has once begun, is truly
astonishing to those who are not acquainted with the causes that
lead to such results. Among these many causes there are four that
These are, family
connections, national distinctions, religious predilections, and
It is often the case
that families settle in the same locality, and give it the family
name. For instance, we have known a large settlement named after the
Merrit family, and a Kennedy's settlement, and a Minale's
settlement, a Pennel's settlement, and almost any number of
settlements named after certain families among the early residents
of the place.
Then it is often the
case that national distinctions have a good deal to do with giving
an impetus to settlement in certain localities. Perhaps no other
class are so much inclined to be influenced by this consideration as
the Germans are, hence you will find Dutch settlements here and
there all over the country.
The Highland Scotch
are a good deal influenced by this, too, so that Scotch settlements
are not at all an uncommon thing in the country. Other nationalities
sometimes have more or less to do in the direction of settlers in
the selection of a location.*
sometimes have a good deal to do with settlement. Roman Catholics
would not settle among Protestants, if they could just as easily
settle among their co-religionists. Nor would Protestants settle
among Catholics as readily as among those of the Protestant faith.
And there have been instances where coercion was used to prevent the
one sect from settling among the other.
It has been said
that, when the township of Wallace was settling, certain Protestants
took it upon themselves to prevent any Catholic from settling on
land in that township. Some of those guardians of the Protestant
religion were afterwards known in political circles as "Tom
Ferguson's Lambs"—a lot of men who feared nobody, and did not care
to be interfered with by anybody.
And even among
Protestants there is a denominational feeling that has its
influence, to a greater or less extent. A good staunch Presbyterian
would go a few lots farther back, if by so doing he could get beside
another good staunch Presbyterian. And so with a Methodist or an
Episcopalian, and more especially so with a Baptist or a Disciple.
But far stronger than
any of these is the attraction of a choice locality. Good land, good
water, and a situation that, from its surroundings, must, in the
nature of things, become in time an important agricultural and
commercial centre, constitute an attraction that will draw a good
class of settlers, and secure a rapid development. Such was the
condition of things around where John Bushman had chosen his home.
There were no strong
family attractions and no great national feeling, for the few
settlers already there were of different nationalities, and the
three families there represented three different sections of the
Protestant Church, so that local advantages was the only thing to
draw people to the vicinity of Sylvan Lake. But these advantages
were of no trifling character. Right at the corners of four of the
best townships in the Province, and where two lines of road that
must become leading thoroughfares crossed. And only a short distance
from the crossing of the roads a rapid stream, with high banks, ran
across the one road, and on a few rods farther, it made a bend and
ran across the other road. This would furnish three or four
first-class mill privileges, within a quarter of a mile. Not many
localities could present stronger inducements to the intending
settler than this could.
But while we are
talking of the excellences of the place, three waggons have come
into John Bushman's clearing, and are moving toward the house. And,
let us see, one, two, three, and three are six, and four are ten,
and two are twelve, and three are fifteen. There are fifteen
persons, big and little, in and around those waggons.
The men are William
Briars and his father, and Harry Hawthorn, and two strangers who are
driving two of the teams, that are hauling the waggons. The women
are, Mrs. Betsy Briars, Mrs. Sarah Beech, and Mrs. Bridget Hawthorn.
Three of the children are claimed by Mrs. Hawthorn, and four of them
call Mrs. Beech their mother.
John and Mary were
just getting ready for supper, when they heard the noise of the
waggons, and went out to see who and what it was. When they came and
found all these people, and teams, and waggons in the yard, they
were completely taken by surprise. They expected Will and Betsy some
time soon, but they had not heard a word from the other two families
since the men went away in the fall.
"Don't be after being
frightened, Misther Bushman, though our number is purty large, our
intentions are quoite paisable, and our falins towards you and the
missis are of the most kindly natur', and so they are.
These were the words
of Harry, as he came forward to shake hands with John and Mary.
"No, no, Harry, we
are not at all frightened; but are somewhat surprised and very much
pleased to see you all," said John.
By this time the
women and children had scrambled out of the waggons, and were coming
forward to where John and Mary were.
"Now, ladies, jest be
aisy a little till I tell Misther and Mistress Bushman who yez are,"
Then pointing to
Bridget, he said: "This is my own wife, and these are our childer,"
and then turning to Mrs. Beech, he said: "This lady, wid the yellow
hair, is our neighbour that is to be, Mrs. Beech, and these are her
childer." Then turning to Betsy he said: "This is a lady that I only
met a few hours since, and she has not told me her name yet. You'll
nade to be afther foindin it out for yourself."
"Mary," said John,
"you take the women and children into the house, while we see to the
Mr. Briars said to
John, "We will tie my horses to the fence, and give them plenty of
straw to lie on, and plenty of feed, and they will do for one night.
Those other horses are to start home to-morrow, and they will need a
good night's rest. If you can find a good place for them, do so."
"We will do the best
we can for the teams," John said.
The two men were
surprised to find such hospitality in the wild woods, and they told
"Where is Mr. Beech?"
John asked one of the men.
"He is coming on
behind with a yoke of oxen and a cart, with a cow tied to the back
end of the cart. He don't expect to get farther than Mr. Ashcraft's
tonight," was the answer.
They went into the
house, where they found Mary and Mrs. Briars busily engaged in
preparing supper for the crowd. John's house had never had so many
people in it at one time before, but in the bush people are not
over-fastidious about little inconveniences. They were crowded, to
be sure, but then they will be neighbors, and they should learn to
be accommodating; and no better place to learn this could be found
than staying in one house for awhile together.
The night had to be
got through in some way. The new comers could not be allowed to go
into their shanties that night. There had not been any fire in them
during the winter, and they would be as cold as the North Pole, is
what Mary said about them. No, they must not think of going out of
John Bushman's house that night. "But what about the sleeping."
"I well attend to
that," said Mary, "if you will get some quilts out of some of the
waggons. We will make a `shake-down' for the men, and send the women
and children upstairs. In cases of necessity we must do the best
that we can."
Will and Betsy went
and brought in a lot of quilts and blankets out of their waggons,
and in a little while the arrangements were made for the night.
"Now," said John,
"since the little folks are all comfortably put away for the night,
we may indulge in a little friendly chat. Will, where did you fall
in with these other people?"
"Do you remember
where two roads come together, about two miles the other side of
Mapleton?" asked Will.
"Yes, I recollect the
place," John answered.
"Well, just as we
came to that place, we met the team that has Harry's things coming
from the other way. We all drove on to Mapleton, and there we found
Mr. Beech and his company put up for the night. We were all taken by
surprise, but we concluded to come the rest of the way together."
"Mr. Beech, you say,
is coming on behind."
"Yes. He has a heavy
load on a two-wheeled cart, and the cow that he is bringing is heavy
and goes slowly. I think he said that he had been four days on the
road, and last night was the first that he and his family staid at
the same place since he started."
"Going to the bush is
no child's play," said one of the teamsters, whose name was Elmsley.
"You're right there,
neighbor," said the other teamster, whose name was Ashtop.
"Have you two
gentlemen had experience in bush life?" asked Mr. Briars.
"I have had some
experience in that line. In the township where I live I was the
first settler in it," replied Mr. Elrnsley.
"I, too," said Mr.
Ashtop, "have had something to do with life in the woods. I was not
the first man in my township, but I was the second, and my wife was
the first white woman that ever stood in the township. Our first
baby was said to be the first white child born in the township, and
we rocked it in a piece of a hollow basswood tree, for a cradle.
Yes, my friends, I know something about the life of pioneers."
"And how did you like
that sort of life?" inquired John Bushman.
"Had to like it," was
the laconic answer of Mr. Elmsley.
"That is about the
way to put it," said Mr. Ashtop.
"How long since you
went into the bush?" inquired Mr. Briars.
years," answered Elmsley.
"Three and twenty
years," said Mr. Ashtop.
"I suppose you have
both made out well?" said John Bushman.
"I have done fairly
well," one said.
"I do not complain,"
said the other.
"How far apart do you
live?" asked Will.
"We have not talked
the matter over. We never met before last night, hence we are not
much acquainted," said Mr. Elmsley. Then, turning to the other, he
"What township do you
"The township of
Pineridge," said he.
"I Iive in the
township of Oakvalley. There is one township between us, that is
Spruceland," said Mr. Elmsley.
"We will be from
twenty-five to thirty miles apart," replied Mr. Ashtop.
"No doubt," said Mr.
Briars, "but you have seen some strange things, and some very trying
"That is true," said
"I move that the
company ask one of these gentlemen to relate to us some incident or
anecdote in connection with the early settlement in their
"I have no objection
to do so," Mr. Ashtop replied. He then spoke to the following
"The saddest thing
that has taken place in my settlement was the loss of a lot of
children. They went out to look for wildwood flowers in the early
summer. There were three children, two girls and one boy. The one
girl was about thirteen years old, and the other seven. The boy was
nine. They belonged to two different families. The older one
belonged to one family, and the two younger ones to another. They
went out to the bush a little after dinner. The bush was only a
short distance from the houses. The children often did the same
thing. They had not many ways to amuse themselves, and their mothers
allowed them to roam around the fields, and in the edge of the bush,
always cautioning them never to go out of sight of the fences or the
"They did not come in
by tea-time, and when inquiries were made, no one had seen them
since early in the afternoon. Uneasiness now began to be felt on
account of them. Then it was said that possibly they might have gone
to fetch the cows, whose large bell could just be heard in the
distance. The cows were sent for, but no traces of the children
could be seen.
"Now the little
settlement was all alarmed. In all directions search was made, but
to no purpose. As night was coning on, all the little ones, too
small to join in the hunt, were taken to one house, and a couple of
old ladies undertook to keep them, while the fathers and mothers
went to hunt for the lost ones. All night long, with torches and
with tallow candles, in old-fashioned tin lanterns, the hunt went
on. Over the hills and valleys; along the creeks, and among swamps;
around the little lakes, and in the marshy places, the hunt was
continued. With the blowing of horns, and the firing of guns-, and
calling one to another, by a score or more of voices, the hunt went
"Perhaps no sadder
company of people ever looked into each other's faces than those
were who met at the house where the children had gone from, at
sunrise in the morning, after the all-night's fruitless hunt. But
few words were spoken. They quietly dispersed to their homes, after
agreeing to meet again at one o'clock to renew the hunt.
"As the word of the
lost children spread from house to house in adjoining neighborhoods,
the settlers becanie deeply interested, and every one seemed to make
the case his own. By one o'clock that day men were there from ten or
a dozen miles away. And before the week was out men came forty or
fifty miles to hunt for those children. Days and weeks were spent in
the fruitless search. But no trace of the lost children was ever
"The country to the
north and west, for a hundred miles or more, was an unbroken
wilderness. Not a white settler in all that large country at the
The listeners were
greatly interested by the relation of this sad incident. When Mr.
Ashtop ceased speaking, Mr. Briars said, "It is possible that the
children were carried off by Indians, and taken into the Hudson Bay
"At first," replied
Mr. Ashtop, "this was the con-elusion that was generally arrived at.
But no Indians had been around the locality, and they could have no
motive for stealing the children, if they were in the vicinity. They
were on very friendly terms with the whites all through the country.
It is so long now, since the occurrence, and nothing has ever been
heard of any of the children, that the idea of Indians having stolen
them is about given up."
"Could it be that
they were devoured by wild beasts?" asked John Bushman.
question was pretty thoroughly canvassed at the time. But as not the
slightest trace of anything could be found, it was generally
believed that whatever had befallen the children, they were not
eaten up by animals," was Mr. Ashtop's answer.
"Well, Mister," said
Will Briars, "what is your opinion now about the children's fate?"
"My opinion is not
very decided," said he; "but I incline to the belief that the
children got into some of the numerous thick cedar swamps that are
in the vicinity, or else they wandered off into the almost
interminable swamp that commences not far from the place they
started from. Here they might get into some quagmire, and go down
into the yielding quicksands and disappear from sight forever."
"What a fate that
would be," said Mary, with a shudder.
"Sad, indeed," said
the narrator. "The families left the vicinity shortly after the loss
of their children. And who can wonder that they did."
"But could they not
get out of the quicksand before they went down?" inquired Moses.
"If they got into one
of those miry places that are found in some of the swamps, and if
they stood still for a few moments until they began to sink they
could never get out without help. And if they tried to do so every
effort that they made to lift one foot out would send the other foot
deeper into the yielding sand. So that if they struggled to free
themselves the faster they would sink. Strong men have perished in
Next morning the
loads were taken to the shanties and unloaded, and the teamsters
started home. Moses Moosewood went to help Harry and Bridget to put
things to rights at their place. John and Mary went to assist Mrs.
Beech, as Mr. Beech had not not along yet. By noon each family was
able to cook their own dinner at home.
Mr. Beech came about
eleven o'clock, and was pleased to find his wife and children
already at home in their backwoods residence. He said that the hotel
man at Mapleton told him that not less than twenty families had
staid overnight at his place in the last two weeks, who were moving
into the country to the places prepared the fall before. So, said
he, we can't be long in an isolated state for want of neighbors.
Bridget Hawthorn was
the most surprised at her surroundings, of any of them. She had no
experience at all with life in the bush. Everything was so different
from anything she had ever seen. And the children were so restless
and full of frolic, that between trying to look cheerful, just to
please Harry; getting everything in order in and around the shanty,
and keeping an eye on the little gipsies, as she called them, poor
Bridget had all that she could attend to for a while. But like other
people, who try to do so, she soon became reconciled to her new
Mr. Briars was well
satisfied with "Will's selection of a place to settle. He stayed
about a week, helping him at his house, and using his team to harrow
in some spring wheat. Then he started for home. It had been arranged
that Mr. Bushman would come and bring a load of stuff for Will and
Betsy, as soon as their house was ready to move into, or as soon as
he got through with the spring seeding.
After he was gone, things went on in the usual quiet and orderly way
at Sylvan Lake.
John got along with
his work, and when the hurry was a little over, he went and helped
the others with his team. So that, among them, they all got their
seeding and planting done in good time. John had finished his six
acres chopping, and was now ready to start at getting out the logs
and making the shingles for a barn. When the-time for shearing the
sheep came, John and Will had quite a time in doing that little job.
The water in the lake was too cold to wash them in, and the water in
Beech's Creek, as they called it, was not deep enough. They sheared
them without being washed, and then washed the wool afterwards, and
spread it in the sun to dry.