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Among the Forrest Trees
Chapter XX - A Neighborhood of Strangers


Now that the lot at the bend of the river was taken up, every lot that in any way touched John Bushman's lot was taken up, and had some one on it, or was to be occupied in a short time. So that John's isolated condition was already a thing of the past. At the east end of his lot, and butting against it, was the Crautmaker family. These were an industrious and well-doing class of people; a trifle awkward in some things, perhaps, but, on the whole, a very safe and respectable acquisition in any settlement. On the north of these, and cornering John's lot at its north-east angle, was the Greenleaf's home. Richard Greenleaf. and his wife were an intelligent and well-brought-up couple, who had been trained to industry and economy from childhood. They had got married and come right off to the bush on what now would be called their wedding trip. Read if you like between the lines, that few wedding trips last as long or prove as successful as theirs did. Martha Greenleaf was the first white woman in her township.

Then at the south-east corner of John's lot was a family of Gaelic people, by the name of McWithy. They had only been a few days on their lot. They came in from the east, and lived in a tent made of blankets until they got up a shanty. They are a hardy-looking family, made up of father and mother and a number of children. Some of the children are nearly men and women. They are more accustomed to backwoods life than those who come here directly from the Old Country. They lived a few years in the country before they came to settle here.

On the lot that is the east hundred acres of the one that Mr. Beech is on, there is a single man, a Nova Scotian, his name Timberline. He is a nice, steady young man. But he seems to be very bashful, especially when there are any young women around. On the whole, however, he is a promising settler.

Mr. Beech and his family we have already heard about. They are English people, of the industrious and well-doing class.

Then on the west John has for a neighbor the Irish family, Mr. Hawthorn and Bridget. They are a hardworking couple, and for a real, genuine, free-hearted, unbounded hospitality you can't beat them anywhere; in fact, Harry would take the shoes off his feet and give them to one who needed them. And Bridget would take the handkerchief off her head and give it to a bareheaded woman.

Then, as we have already learned, the lot that touched the north-west angle of John's lot was to be occupied by Messrs. Millwood and Root; and at the south-west angle is the lot occupied by Mr. Woodbine and family. They are Lowland Scotch, and they are not much accustomed to life on a farm, having been living in one of the manufacturing towns in Scotland.

But Mr. Woodbine is, perhaps, the best read and most intelligent man, on general subjects, among the settlers around the four corners.

On the south side of Bushman's is Will Briars' lot of two hundred acres, running across the concession.

Now, if we should divide this little community into distinct nationalities, we would find one family of Irish; two of Scotch; one of English; two Canadian, of English descent; two Canadian, of German descent; one Nova Scotian; one American, of German descent; and one Canadian, of Irish descent. And taking Moses Moosewood into the number, we have one man who is a Canadian, of Scotch descent. Then, if we go one lot north of Mr. Beech, we find a Mr. Baptiste Shelebean, who is a Frenchman, from Lower Canada.

This is a fair sample of the mixed origin of the race of people who are making this Canada of ours what it is, and in whose hands is the destiny of this Dominion.

This reminds us of a statement that has been attributed to the late John Hilliard Cameron, which is as follows:

"If you take the cool, shrewd, calculating head of a canny Scotchman, the stern, unbending will of the German, the warm heart and ready wit of an Irishrnan, the vivacity and activity of the Frenchman, and put all of these into the robust, healthy frame of an Englishman, you then have a Canadian."

Being a Canadian myself, I shall not say anything about the correctness of this portraiture, but every one must draw his own conclusions in regard to it.

And if we classify them religiously, we will find a diversity equally as great.

Mr. Beech and Mr. Timberline hold to the Church of England; Bushman, Briars, and Greenleaf hold to the Methodist; Harry Hawthorn and Shelebean are Roman Catholics; Crautmaker is a Lutheran; McWithy and Mr. Millwood are of the Baptist faith; while Mr. Woodbine, Moses Moosewood and Mr. Root are Presbyterians.

This is a great variety for such a small community. And here we have an exhibition of the mixture that enters into the religious life of this country. Whether this is an advantage or not must be determined by wiser heads than mine.

Moses Moosewood and Katrina Crautmaker decided to get married at once, as he had got his house ready to occupy, and he had no notion of trying the Bachelor's hall arrangement. The old people gave their consent, and the only difficulty was to find some one to marry them. There were few clergymen in the country who could marry, as the law then stood. And so far as they could learn there was not a qualified minister within fifty miles of them.

Their only chance seemed to be to go and find a magistrate, who could marry under certain conditions. They resolved to do so. But there were no horses to ride, and to go with oxen and cart would not be pleasant over the rough roads. So they decided to go on foot. They were to go to Mapleton. They persuaded young Mr. Timberline, and Katrina's sister Fretzina, to go with them, as they were the only unmarried people in the settlement who could be got to go.

They started off early one morning in the month of July, and they found about the hottest day's walk that any of them ever had. But love and perseverance will take people through almost anything. They arrived in good time at the little hamlet, and went to the only public-house, and put up. On making inquiry, they learned that the only magistrate in the place was away from home, and would not return until evening.

There was nothing for it but to wait. When the Squire, as he was called, came home he was sent for. When he came and found what was wanted, and that the contracting parties lived in another district, a serious difficulty presented itself. The power of the magistrate did not extend beyond the limits of their own district.

Here was a dilemma. What could be done to meet the emergency? Some one suggests that they wait till morning, and then all go back as far as the first house in the district where the young people lived, and be married there.

But Squire Redwood said that he would be quite willing to do that; but he had an engagement for the forenoon that could not be put off. He was very sorry, but really he could not help himself. What could be done?

After a while a happy thought struck the Squire.

He said, "Now, look here, it is only one concession to the district line. It is early yet; we can take a lantern and go over the line, and have the matter all settled in a couple of hours. What say you all?"

They all consented and went, and the Squire performed the ceremony under a large beech tree. The romance of the thing seemed to set the whole party in a spirit of merriment. Even the Squire forgot his official dignity so far that he not only kissed the bride, but he also became poetic. He took Mose by the hand, and congratulated hire in verse in the following manner:

"Young man, I think you are repaid
For all the time you were delayed,
Since, 'mid the shadows of the night,
You got your wife by candle light;
In years to come, whene'er you see
The green leaves on the smooth beech tree,
Think of the joyful night, when I
Made one of two. Now, say good-bye!"

And the Squire went laughing to his home.

The next morning the four young people in good time started for their home. But not before the people of the hamlet had called to congratulate the energetic couple, and to pay their hotel bill as a mark of respect to the pluck and energy that converted the root of a tree into a hymeneal altar. The landlady settled for the entertainment of the bride.

The party got home before dark, and met a lot of the neighbors at Mr. Crautmaker's, who were invited to come to a sort of combination supper. After a good supper, gotten up in the old-fashioned style of that day, the party broke up, and each one went to his home.

The sly invitation to bring a present implied in the wedding-cards of our day had not yet come in vogue. Whether society has gained or lost, by the introduction of such a custom, it is not for me to say.

A few days after the wedding, Mr. Bushman came with Betsy Briar's outfit for housekeeping. Will had everything ready. But they had been waiting until their things came.

They were glad when their suspense was put to an end by the appearance of Mr. Bushman with a load of such a variety and such dimensions as would have supplied the material for the gossips to work upon for a week or more, had there been any gossips in the locality. But they had not got there yet. New settlements always have plenty of hard work. Gossips don't like hard work; therefore gossips don't like new settlements. And for that reason the Sylvan Lake settlement was destitute of gossips.

But to come back to Mr. Bushman's load. He had Betsy's furniture, and a lot of "dried fruit and groceries, such as tea, allspice and pepper (both being unground), some saleratus and root ginger, a pepper-mill, a big and a little spinning-wheel, a reel and a long-handled frying-pan. Along with other things too numerous to mention, these made up the list of Betsy's articles.

There were some things for John. There were a few yards of home-made full-cloth that mother sent, and some indigo for Mary to color her stocking yarn, and some flannel for a winter "frock" or "gown," for Mary, sent by Mrs. Myrtle. And, above all, he brought two long-nosed, lop-eared pigs for John, to start a drove of porkers, and a supply of bear-feed from.

When John lifted the two-bushel basket out of the wagon, and found the pigs in it, he started to laugh. His father asked him what he was laughing at. He answered, "I shall become a man of note in this township: I cut down the first tree, I put up the first shanty, I chopped and cleared the first field, I built the first house, I brought in the first cattle, the first sheep, the first fowls, and now I have the first pigs. And, besides all this, my wife was the first woman in the township."

"You, will be the oldest inhabitant, in years to come, no doubt. But be sure that in all things you prove yourself to be deserving of whatever distinction circumstances may give you. Try to be the best man in the township, as well as the first."

"My desire is to be a good man, and to do my best to make this a model township, socially and morally, as it is a good one in other respects."

William Briars and Betsy moved into their house in a day or two. They found that life in a new country was anything but children's play. But like thousands of other couples in this country they resolved to endure present difficulties and deprivations, in view of prospective comforts and independence in the coming years.

On the last day of the eighth month of the year eighteen hundred and a decimal fraction, the first white baby, in the township of Rockland, made its appearance at John Bushman's house. From the emphatic manner in which it declared its right to be heard in that house, it became evident, from the first, that it had come to stay.

A serious question now forced itself on the attention of John and Mary. What were they to do with the self-asserting little stranger?

They remembered the old nursery song about Jacky and Jenny going through the rye, and finding a "little boy with one black eye." And after talking the matter over, Jenny proposed that the best thing that they could do was to raise the little foundling "together as other folks do." The conclusion that John and Mary came to was this: If Jacky and Jenny could bother with a little one-eyed boy, they might try to raise a little blue-eyed, two-eyed girl. So they said we will do the best we can and keep the little angel visitor. Mary said the only thing that troubled her was that the little thing would not be satisfied to stay alone very long. But it would, perhaps, be calling for company in the course of a year or two.

Then John answered, "Never cross a bridge until you come to it," is good advice, and "Never meet trouble half-way," is equally good.

"We must leave some questions to the future, you know, and this is one of them."

A new baby makes more or less of a sensation anywhere. But in a back settlement the first baby is a wonderful thing. Everybody carne to see Mrs. Bush-man's baby.

And so anxious was everyone to try and be of some use to the baby, that Mary sometimes was nearly at a loss what to do. One would bring a few sprigs of sage for colic, another would bring a handful of saffron for yellow jaundice. While still another came with half an armful of blackberry briar root to make an infusion for the diarrhoea, now called cholera infantum. Old Mr. Crautmaker came at last with a lot of a plant called gold-thread, to cure baby of sprew, or yellow-mouth, in case it should take a notion to try strength against that baby-torturing disease.

Fretzina Crautmaker was so afraid that the new baby would make its escape, and go back among the Indians, or somewhere else, that she came to help Mary take care of it for two or three weeks, until it would become sufficiently tamed down, so that one could manage it. But it was not long before all came right. Thins went on as usual, and the " baby" became an influential member of the family.

Moses Moosewood and his young wife moved into their home in the month of October, when the leaves on the forest trees were turning their color, and mixing the different shades of green and yellow and brown and red in such charming combinations that the tops of the trees had the appearance of great overgrown, beautiful chromos seen at a distance.

As has already been stated, the Catfish River ran through their lot. Their house was on the highest part of their farm, and stood so that from the door was presented a good view down the valley of the river for a mile or more, to where it made a turn toward the east. This valley was not very wide, nor the sides very abrupt. A gentle slope, of a slightly concave character, gave to the valley the appearance of having been scooped out at some time for a big watering trough for antediluvian monsters to slake their thirst, and, perhaps, wash the alluvial mud from their gigantic proportions.

Looking down this valley from the door of the house a view of surpassing beauty was to be seen, and the owners of the house fully enjoyed the scene. They were both well pleased with their new home. Most had got a nice stack of spring wheat, and a good-sized field of fall wheat sown. Besides, he had plenty of potatoes, and some other things that he raised that year. On the whole the prospects of Moses and Katrina were by no means discouraging.

This fall a number of new settlers came into the neighborhood. Some of them moved their families right in at the first, and found shelter among those already settled until they could put up shanties for themselves.

Others came and built a house or a shanty, and then waited till the next spring before bringing in their family. And others, like John Bushman and his two friends Will and Mose, came in single, and commenced to build up a borne before they had a helpmeet.

Between all these settlers, in such varied circumstances, the land was very rapidly taken up. Sometimes a man would take up a lot for speculation. He would do a little work on it and then sell out his claim to some greater speculator than himself, or to some one that wanted a house, and would rather pay for improvements than make them.

But the meanest kind of speculation that has ever been seen in this country, or in any other country, was carried on by men of means, who managed, by one dodge or another, to bet hold of large tracts of land, and then leave it unoccupied for the toils and struggles of other people to make it valuable.

The man who would get fat and rich out of the toil and sweat and suffering of the backwoods settler would be just as honest—a great deal more manly —if he would take his life in one hand and a pistol in the other and go on the road as a highwayman. In that case he would give his victim a little chance to defend his rights, but in the other case he throttles him at a distance, holds him at arm's length while he picks his pockets, and robs his children of their rights.

We are aware that this is strong language, but we have seen so much of the effects of this kind of greed that it is hard to speak of it with any degree of patience.

It was a wise thing for the Provincial Parliament to authorize the municipalities to place a high tax on these lands, so as to reach the consciences of their owners through their pockets. This is the only direct road to the conscience and judgment of some men.

But it would have been a wiser thing if the Government had passed a law that no one should be allowed to hold any more land than he could occupy, or than he needed for his own use, and for his family. Then the making of roads and the building of schoolhouses, and the supporting of schools would not have been retarded, as has been the case in many localities.

But it takes the growing experience and accumulated wisdom of three or four generations to learn how to manage affairs in a new country, and Ontario is no exception.


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