Among the Forrest Trees Chapter XXVIII - Twenty
Years of Progress
To say that
uninterrupted prosperity had attended the efforts of John Bushman
and his fellow-pioneers, would be to go beyond what is strictly
true. There had been many drawbacks. Sometimes the crops would be
light from the effects of drought. Sometimes the summer frost would
partly ruin some of their prospects. Sometimes the rust would strike
the wheat, or the blight and mildew would injure their other grains.
Sometimes accidents would happen to their stock. Cattle would get
killed by the fall of a tree, or die with some disease. The pigs
would go too far into the woods hunting the beechnuts, and the bears
would find them and eat them. And the sheep would be left out at
night, and the wolves would destroy them. The hawks and owls would
carry off the chickens; and the foxes would steal the geese and
And besides all this,
they had to contend with sickness in their families, the same as the
inhabitants of older localities, and in the case of sickness among
them, they had to be their own doctors. No medical man was within
reach, so that the people were obliged to exercise their ingenuity
and their judgment, and do the best they could for themselves and
for each other. And it would surprise the people of the present day
could they hear some of these old-fashioned doctors prescribing for
the sick. For a cathartic, they would give a tea made of butternut
bark. If the children were troubled with worms, they would be given
the ashes of dried wormwood, mixed with maple syrup. If any one
needed an emetic, they would give him lobelia tea. If a child had
colic, it was doctored with sage or thyme tea, in which milk and
sugar played an important part. For a sprain, the application of
wormwood, steeped in hot vinegar, was the best mode of treament. If
baby got the sprew, or other sore mouth, it was cured by using a
wash made by steeping gold-thread in water. If a healing and drawing
salve was needed, they took bitter-sweet bark, bairn of gilead buds,
a plant called life-everlasting, and pine turpentine, fried up in
mutton tallow. If anybody caught cold, they would sweat him over a
Iot of hemlock boughs steeped in hot water.
For almost every
complaint that backwoods flesh was heir to, somebody in the
neighborhood would think of a remedy, and it was wonderful what
success attended the use of these simple cures.. The absence of all
kinds of luxurious living and dissipation among the people, taken in
connection with their industrious and frugal habits, gave them an
inherent power to throw off disease that others do not enjoy. The
law of compensation carne in here. If these people were destitute of
medical assistance, they did not often need such help.
difficulties had to be encountered. The want of a market for their
surplus grain and other produce was a serious drawback to them.
Imagine a man who
clears his land, sows his seed, harvests the wheat, threshes it out
with a flail, cleans it with a hand-fan, carries it from twenty to
fifty miles with an ox team, and then sells it for less than fifty
cents a bushel, and you have an idea of what many a man has done in
the good Province of Ontario.
Think of a woman who
makes her butter and, along with her eggs, carries it on her arm ten
or twelve miles to the store, and sells the butter for a York
sixpence, or six and one-fourth cents per pound, and the eggs at the
rate of four dozen for a quarter of a dollar, and you will have an
idea of what the mothers and grandmothers of some of our
aristocratic families have done. Tons of maple sugar, made by these
early settlers, have been sold for six cents per pound. And these
prices were not paid in money. Store goods, at high prices, was the
exchange given for the produce of the farm, the dairy, the
sugar-bush, and the poultry yard. If men could get money to pay
their taxes, and a small amount for pocket money, they had to be
contented or take the difference out in fruitless grumbling.
They knew that in
this struggle circumstances were against them, and it takes a strong
arm to control circumstances. They accepted of the inevitable, and
bravely wrestled with their toilsome lot. And through all these
hardships and discouragements these hardy pioneers worked their way
to competence, and some of them to wealth.
In the space of two
years after the erection of the mills not less than twelve families
came to reside at Riverbend, and each family built a house to live
in. There were no tenement houses there to be rented. Then there was
the meeting-house, the store, the mills, and a blacksmith's shopall
of these together gave the place quite the appearance of a village.
The land at the four corners was all cleared, but the stumps
remained to tell the new-corner how thickly timbered the land had
John Bush man's
buildings and those of Mr. Beech, as well as Harry Hawthorn's shanty
and stable, could all be seen from the corners. These all added
their quota to the general appearance of the landscape. And there is
a sort of charm around a back-country village that Iarger towns and
cities do not possess. The charm of freshness and the contrast
between the neat, new buildings and their surroundings, can only be
found among the forest trees or in the stumpy field. Where the
houses seem to spring up like the mushroom, and occupy the ground
recently covered by trees of the forest, there the effects of the
backwoodsman's energy and pluck shows itself in the most striking
and emphatic manner. The rapid development of some of our
back-country towns has been a source of wonderment to visitors of
all descriptions. Nowhere, perhaps, except in the United States,
have villages and towns and cities had such hurried growth.
The most eccentric
person about Riverbend was Mr. Sylvanus Yardstick, the
merchant-poet. He was subject to great depressions of spirit,
followed by wonderful ebullitions of feeling. He would sometimes be
entirely disheartened, then again he would be as cheerful as a
sunbeam and buoyant as the fleecy clouds that float upon the evening
zephyrs in the month of June.
Whenever one of his
cheerful spells came over him, he would mount his Pegasus, and fly
off into the regions of poesy. On such occasions, whatever object
had last made an impression on his mind, would give direction to his
thoughts and stamp itself upon his verse.
On one occasion, a
couple of his lady customers, who lived eight or ten miles distant,
came to the store. One of them had a basket of eggs, and the other
had a crock of butter. The women were tired, and Sylvanus had been
very busy all the morning, and he was somewhat jaded and felt a
little peevish. When he told the women that, since their last visit,
butter had gone down one cent per pound and eggs two cents per
dozen, they were sorely displeased. One of them let her tongue loose
on him, and said some very tantalizing words about grinding the face
of the poor and growing rich on the hard work of other people.
When she stopped,
Sylvanus started. He had just got to the middle of a very unsoothing
sentence when John Bushman came in at the door. Feeling ashamed of
what he had been saying, Sylvanus turned to Bushman, and said,
"These women have been abusing me because I can't give them more for
their butter and eggs than they are worth in the outside market."
"Tut, tut, Sylvanus,"
said John, "surely you would not quarrel with good customers about a
Both parties seemed
mollified, and there was no more contention about prices. But after
the women were gone the poetic spirit came upon Mr. Yardstick, and
he got off the following, and posted it up where everybody might see
"The women they came
with their eggs and their butter,
And will not be contented until they are sold;
But sometimes they set me all into a flutter,
When they get out of temper and turn to and scold.
"I hate to be
scoldedI don't know who likes it,
It is worse than a whipping the little ones say;
E'en a dog will get angry if anyone strikes it,
So I loose my temper and ugly things say.
"But still I am
prospering, and traffic gets better
As people grow richer and abler to pay;
My tongue in the future I will keep in a fetter,
And try to grow pleasanter every day."
It is now five years
since John Bushman cut the first tree on his place. During these
years many changes have taken place. And we have seen the early
settlers overcome one difficulty after another, so that now the
necessaries of life and some of its luxuries are within their reach.
While it would be
pleasant to keep in the company of such a fine lot of people as
those are in and about Riverbend, we must, for want of space to
record their doings, leave them to themselves for a number of years.
But we shall make them a short visit at a proper time in the future.
And in the meantime we will solace ourselves with the hope that
their future may be less toilsome than the past has been, and no
less successful. Cherishing this hope we bid these people good-bye
for fifteen years, and commend them to the protection and guidance
of Him "whose eye never slumbers, and whose tender mercies are over
all His works."
VISIT TO OLD-TIME
stage-coach, drawn by four spirited horses, was slowly moving toward
the north from the town of Mapleton. It was crowded with passengers.
The mud was very deep, and in places very sticky. This was why the
horses were going so slowly. As is often the case in this world of
change and contingencies, they could not help themselves.
As the stage started
out from the Half-way House, an elderly lady asked the driver the
name of the next stopping-place. He answered, "Our next stop will be
at the town of Riverbend, ten miles ahead. There we stop for supper
and change of horses."
"What sort of hotel
accommodation can be found there?" inquired a rather
dandyish-looking young man, as he pulled out of his side pocket an
old English bull's-eye watch, and held it up so that everyone could
"The accommodation is
all right, if you can do without whiskey," said the driver.
"What! is there no
liquor to be got there?" asked the somewhat astonished passenger.
"Plenty of liquid or
Iiquor, if that suits you better. But there is no wet
groceriesnothing that will make drunk come, only what is kept in
the drug-store for medicine," was the answer.
"Well," said the
dandy, "it must be a dogged, dull, doleful, domain of dunces."
"You were never more
mistaken in your life, my friend. It is the most go-ahead town in
all the country; and a more wide-awake and energetic lot of people
are not to be found anywhere," said the driver.
"Has there never been
any liquor sold there?" inquired one of the passengers.
"Not legally. There
may have been a little sold slyly, but none openly."
"That is a singular
circumstance, surely," said the man with the big watch.
When the stage came
to the town and drew up at one of the temperance hotels, the
passengers were politely invited to enter. Two neatly furnished
sitting-roomsone for ladies and one for gentlemenwere nicely
warmed and lighted for the comfort of the guests, until the ringing
of the bell called them to the dining-room.
When they entered
this room some of the passengers expressed their surprise at the
ample spread before then. They had not expected to see such a
display of table furnishings, and such a variety of wholesome and
well cooked food as they now saw ready to satisfy their wants, both
of hunger and thirst.
One of the men who
came in on the stage was John Brushy, who the reader will remember
as one of the men in Mr. Root's company of road-makers. As he took
his seat at the table he said to the landlord, "Great changes have
been effected here in twenty years."
"Yes, that is true no
doubt. But I don't know much about what this place was like twenty
years ago. I have been here only five years," said the host.
"I was here twenty
years ago. I helped to open out this road, and I helped to raise the
first house in the vicinity. We found a plucky young fellow in the
woods all alone, and we helped him to build a house on his lot near
a pretty little lake. I don't remember his name. I have often
thought that I would like to know how he succeeded. He was a brave,
determined young roan, and deserved success," said Mr. Brushy.
"He has succeeded
grandly," said the host. "His name is John Bushman. He has one of
the finest farms in the county. And he is one of the best men that I
have ever met with."
"Who owns the mills
here?" inquires some one.
"The mills belong to
Messrs. Root & Millwood," was answered.
""I wonder," said Mr.
Brushy, "if that could be the John Root that had the contract of
opening out this road."
"The identical John
Root that opened out the road," answered Mr. Redfern, the host. "He
is an American by birth. But he has been in this country so long
that he has become pretty thoroughly Canadianized."
"And who owns the
lots on the other three corners?" asked Mr. Brushy.
"John Bushman owns
the farm where the big store is on, and the one opposite to it
belongs to Mr. Beech. The lot on this side belongs to Harry
Hawthorn," was the answer.
"Beech and Hawthorn
were the names of two men who worked with Root when I was with him.
How are they getting along?" said Brushy.
"They are both doing
well; but one would hardly believe that Harry is doing the best of
the two. He is, however," said the host.
"Who keeps the large
store on the corner?" inquired a white-haired old man, who had also
come in on the stage.
"The store belongs to
Mr. Sylvanus Yardstick."
Yardstick. Where have I heard that name? It sounds familiar to me,
and yet I fail to remember where or when I knew its owner. Do you
know anything about his antecedents?" asked the stranger.
"Not much, but I have
heard him say that his first visit to this place was with a party of
surveyors, who passed through here some twenty years ago, and found
John Bushman alone in the woods, seven or eight miles from any
"I have it all now,"
broke in the stranger. "I was one of the party. The surveyor's name
was Rushvalley. The man we have been speaking of was one of the
company. He was a little eccentric sometimes. He had a turn for
poetry, if he got excited about anything. I remember how he looked
as he swung his arm and reeled off poetry, when he stood on the
border of the pretty little lake, near to which the young man
Bushman was at work."
"He makes poetry yet,
sometimes," replied Mr. Redfern. "He has a lot of his productions
posted up in and around the store and the post-office; but, after
all, he is a very honest and good man."
"And will you tell us
where your home is now?" asked the landlord of John Brushy.
"My home is some
seventy miles from here, on the shores of Lake Huron. There are but
few white people there, but I believe the Government is intending to
open up the country by making leading roads, and otherwise
encouraging people to settle up that splendid tract of country," he
We now turn our
attention to some of the homes of the first settlers around
Mr. John Root is a
magistrate, and one of three commissioners who manage the affairs of
the townshipexercising the power of a civil court and the
prerogatives of a municipal council.
Harry Hawthorn has a
fine home and an interesting; family growing up around him; but
there is one spectre that has haunted both him and his wife ever
since the loss of their two little ones so long ago. Whenever either
of them sees an upturned tree, the sight is too much for them, and
it sets them weeping.
Some wounds are hard
to heal, and this is of that character.
Mr. Woodbine is an
old man now. His family is off his hands. He is living with his aged
wife in peace and comfort. Their eldest son fills the office of
collector of taxes in their township.
The McWithys, by
honest industry and strict economy, have made themselves a good
home, and are in a fair way to become wealthy.
Old Mr. Crautmaker
has been dead four or five years. The children are all married. The
old lady lives on the old place with John, whose wife is a sister to
Richard Greenleaf has
succeeded in making a good home for himself and his family. Five
children gather around his table and share his affections. Mrs.
Greenleaf and Mary Bushman are the two leading spirits in all good
works and charities. Many blessings are invoked upon the heads of
these unpretending, self-consecrated women.
Mr. Timberline, years
ago, married Fretzina Crautmaker. They are living in comfort, if not
in affluence. Three children help to keep the stillness of the place
from making them lonesome.
Moses and Katrina
Moosewood have a fine home. They work hard. They are careful not to
allow more than two years to pass without the addition of a new name
to the somewhat lengthy family record.
William and Betsy
Briars have on the whole the most convenient arrangements in the
settlement. The spring that issues out of the rock has been utilized
in such an effectual way that water is carried from it in pipes into
the kitchen, and to the watering troughs of the stables. William is
the largest stock-raiser in the settlement, and it is said that his
wife makes and sells more butter than any other woman in the four
As John Bushman was
the first one to appear on the scene of our descriptions, he shall
be the last one to disappear at the close of our story.
He and Mary have made
many warm and true friends, by their kind hospitality and their
neighborly helpfulness. They are loved and honored by everybody,
both old and young. Both of them begin to show that life's meridian
has been reached: Here and there a white hair could be detected by a
close observer, where it seemed to be trying to hide itself among
its more youthful associates. But their step is just as elastic and
their energies are just as unflagging as ever.
When the first baby
made their home a visit, and let them know that it had come to stay,
it will be remembered that Mary told John that she was afraid it
would not be satisfied to remain alone. Her conjecture has been
proved to be correct. Not only has the baby found one playmate, but
another and another has come along, until no less than seven
playmates of different acres can be seen about the Bushman home, or
Sylvan Lodge, as it is sometimes called.
But the lob-house has
disappeared, and its successor is a nice, tasty brick one.
The seeds that the
old Quaker gave to John the day before he and Mary started for their
backwoods home, were all planted and carefully tended. The result is
a good orchard for himself, and a large number of trees, furnished
to his neighbors.
One day in October
Mrs Briars was in John's house talking with Mary; John came and
looked in at the door, and said, "Come here, Bet, I want to show you
She came out into the
yard to see what it was that he had for her to look at. He pointed
to the orchard, where two young girls and two boys were picking up
apples under the trees.
He said, "Do you
remember the day that Mr. Blueberry gave me the apple seeds?"
"Yes; he told you to
plant then and take care of them, and if you did so, by the time you
had children big enough to gather fruit, there would be plenty of
fruit for them to gather," she said.
"And that day you
came out and found me in a deep study, and asked me what I was
dreaming about. Do you remember it?"
"Yes, and you said,
'I see a picture. I cannot tell you now what it is like. But if we
are both alive in about twenty years, I hope I will be able to show
you the reality,"' she answered.
"Well," said John,
"there is the realization of my dream/ Those youngsters gathering
fruit. In imagination I saw them then; in reality I see them now."
"Well do I remember,"
said she, "that morning in April when, with your axe on your
shoulder, and your little bundle done up in a cotton handkerchief,
you shook hands with us at home and started off alone, to make a
home for yourself in the wilderness. We all stood at the gate and
watched you till you got over the hill and we could see you no more.
We all felt badly. But mother took it harder than the rest of us.
She went into the house to hide her tears.
"When we all went in,
father said to her, 'We have always tried to teach our boy manliness
and self-reliance. Now we should not complain at his first grand
exhibition of those qualities that we have so often extolled in his
"'I know it,' said
mother, `but it is hard for me to get my feelings to harmonize with
our teachings in this respect. I am so much afraid he will get
hopelessly lost in his wanderings among the forest trees.'
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