THREE distinct epochs
have marked the migratory movements of the people of this Province
between the closing years of the last century and the last quarter
of the present. The first one is included between about 1780 and
1800, the second is between about 1815 and about 1830, and the third
reaches from about 1850 till 1875 or 1880.
The first wave of
immigration that struck the frontier of this Province was the U. E.
Loyalists, when they sought shelter, under the British flag, in the
wilderness of Canada. The second was mostly composed of the children
of the first settlers. When these carne to be men and women they
struck for the wilderness, as their fathers and mothers had done in
their day. This wave rolled itself further inland than its
predecessor had done. The Talbot District, the New Purchase, and
the country north of the eastern settlements constituted mostly the
objective points during this period. The third wave was made up of
both native and foreign elements. It spread itself over the Huron
tract, the Queen's bush, and the country between the Georgian Bay
Of the trials
endured, the hardships underwent, the privations suffered, the
difficulties overcome, the discouragements met with, and the
wearisome toils of many of those immigrants no one can form a
correct estimate, unless his knowledge is the result of personal
experience. If all the facts setting forth the sufferings endured
during, and as the result of, these migrations, could be written in
a book, there is no doubt but it would be one of the most absorbing
volumes ever read.
John Bushman goes to the woods with the
second of these migrations. He forms a sort of connecting link
between the first and third, and, to a certain extent, his
experiences are the counterpart of both of them. The position of the
fathers was like that of soldiers that invade a hostile country, and
tear up the roads and break down all the bridges behind them, so
that there is no chance for retreat, nor for reinforcements to
follow. With them it is either conquer or die—death or victory. The
pioneers of this country had no choice but to stand at their post
and fight it out. The Yankees had robbed them of their property, and
driven them from their homes, so that they had no place to retreat
to, and they had no kind friends behind them to send on needed
supplies. With them it was, either get for yourselves or go without.
Do or die. Produce or perish.
But with John Bushman and his associates
it was different. They had to face similar hardships, and do the
same hard work, in clearing up the land, in making roads, in
building school-houses, mills and churches, as well as homes for
themselves. But they had better facilities than their fathers had
possessed in doing these things. Most of the pioneers of John's day
had friends that were able and willing to help there in case of an
emergency, and if not, they could go to the front for a few weeks,
in haying anal harvest, and earn money to purchase what they needed.
And this is equally true concerning the
pioneers of the later migration. Many an honest backwoodsman has
gone to the front and earned the dollars needed to tide him over
some pressing financial difficulty. And when the task was done he
went to his rustic home with a light step, thankful that he had the
ability and opportunity to help himself. It is in this way that many
of the best homes of our land have been built up. The people who
come after us will never fully realize what the pioneers have done
and suffered to make this the banner Province of this wide Dominion;
and if the time should ever come when justice will be done to the
memory of these successive waves of immigration, there is no doubt
but the highest place will be given to the sturdy men who first sent
the sound of the woodman's axe ringing through the frontier
wilderness of Upper Canada.
The day before John was to start a young
man by the name of Moses Moosewood came to see him. He said to him:
"I hear that Will Briars is going with you to the Purchase. Is that
and I are intending to start in the morning. He will drive the cows,
and I am to take a load of stuff with the oxen. The horse teams will
come on the day after, so that we will all reach the place about the
same time," was John's answer.
"Well John," said Mose, as he was called
by everybody, "I have a great mind to get ready and go too. You know
I am old enough to strike out for myself. Father has plenty of help
without me; besides, if I am ever going to build up a home and have
something of my own, it is time that I began to lay the foundation."
"That is all true," said John: "but,
Mose, do you want to know my honest opinion about your going?"
"Yes, John, I do," he answered; "I know
you have not got a very high opinion of me, in a general way, but I
dare say it is as good as I deserve. But I would like very much to
know what you think of my chances in the bush. You know I have a
right to a hundred acres of land whenever I choose to settle."
"Well, Mose," said he, "if you could be
persuaded to give up your wild, reckless ways, and keep yourself out
of mischief, I don't know a young man that would be more likely to
succeed. You have in you the stuff' that men are made of; but I am
sorry to say that it is terribly warped and twisted. If you could
get straightened out and keep straight, you could succeed anywhere."
"John," said the young man solemnly, "I
thank you for your honest and friendly words. I have had these
thoughts myself before now. My mind is made up; time is too precious
to be frittered away as I have been doing. Life is worth too much to
throw it away on senseless and useless pursuits. I am going to
straighten up. I am going to turn over a new leaf. I am going to
start out on a new line of life."
"These are noble resolves," said John,
with great earnestness: "I am more than pleased, I am delighted,
Moses, to hear you talk like this; but there is only one way in
which you can carry these good intentions to a successful issue."
"What way is that?" inquired Moses.
"Go to the great Helper of the weak, and
seek strength and guidance from Him."
"I have done that already, and He has
heard and helped me. That is why I am here. I want to go with you,
John, that I may have the benefit of your counsel and example. And
another reason that I have for going is, that I may get away from my
evil associations. What would you advise me to do?"
"I would not like to persuade you in any
way to do what you might regret hereafter," John said. "But, so far
as I can see, no young man, who is able and willing to work, can do
any better than to go to the new country and make a home for
himself. And if you do as you say you will, there is every prospect
that you can do well by going with us to the bush."
"Whether fail or succeed, John, one
thing is settled, and that is, I am done with the old reckless life
that I have always lived," said Moses. "I am going to be a man, the
Lord helping me. I will go with you and try my fortune in the woods.
I only wish that I had gone with you last spring. I might have made
a commencement then, as you did, and now I would have a place to go
Moses, you can't recall the past," said his friend, "but you can
improve the present. Take this number of a lot to Squire Myrtle. Get
him to write, and find if it is still vacant, and send in your name
and certificate, showing that you are entitled to land. If the lot
is vacant you will get it. If it is taken up you will be granted a
lot in the immediate neighborhood."
"How far is this lot from yours?" he
asked. "Will Briars' lot is between it and mine."
"That is not so far but that we can be
neighbors. I will go to see the Squire at once, and then make my
preparations to start with the teams."
"I think you had better wait until you
get the lot secured, for two reasons. You would not know where to
commence work, if you were there, until you get your papers. And if
you go without them there is no telling how long you would have to
wait for them, as there is not a post-office within twenty-five or
thirty miles of the place," said Bushman.
"Well, can't you find something for me
to do until the papers come to hand? Why not hire me for a month,
and pay me by boarding me after I get my papers?"
"I would be very glad to do that. But
how would you get the papers?" was the reply.
"When we come to the last post-office,
as we are going out, I will write back to the Squire and tell him
the name of it, and he can send the papers there, and I will come
and get them. I would rather do that than to lose so much time in
waiting for them," said Moses.
"That is well thought of," said John.
"We will settle the matter in that way. You go to work for me until
you want to start for yourself. I will pay you in board, and perhaps
help you sometimes, if you wish it."
"Now for another thing John," said
Moses; "what will I need to take with me to the bush?"
"Well, the first thing is an axe or
two—better take two, in case one should break. You will want your
clothes, as a matter of course; beyond these, you would do well to
let our mother give directions and do the packing up, for, you know,
she will think of things that we could not. Remember there is no
need for superfluities in the backwoods. But if you have a gun you
had better take it along, and some ammunition, too, for there are
plenty of things to shoot at; and, in fact, a man is hardly safe
without a gun," said John.
"What kinds of game are there?" inquired
Moses. "Anything dangerous?"
"There are martins, minks, muskrats,
beavers, otters, foxes, deer, moose, wolves, bears, and, if rumor
may be credited, panthers have been seen occasionally. These are
rather dangerous customers, more so than the bear or the wolf.
Besides, there are wildcats and racoons in abundance, as well as
squirrels of all kinds. Then there are wild ducks of different
descriptions, partridges and blue pigeons in large numbers. Yes,
Moses, you will have use for a gun for many years to come if you
stay in that part of the country," John said.
"My stars, John, but that is a long
list. What would become of a fellow if all of these should come at
him at once? He could not climb a tree from the panther, he could
not hide from the bear, he could not run from the wolf, and he could
not dodge the wildcat nor stand before the moose," was Moses'
think," said John, "that you would be safer if you met them all
together than you would be to meet one of them alone. They would get
to fighting among themselves about which should have you, and which
was the best way of killing you. The bear would say, let me hug him
to death; the panther would say, let me claw him to death; the wolf
would say, let me bite him to death; the wildcat would say, let me
scratch hint to death, and the moose would say, stand back, all of
you, and let me stamp him to death.
"Then they would go into court to settle
the questions in dispute. Eloquent lawyers and astute judges would
focalize their legal lore upon the subject. One lawyer would put in
a plea, another lawyer would put in a counterplea. One learned judge
would say it was one way, another learned judge would say it was
another way. Then all the learned judges would say that it-was not
any way. One attorney would move for an enlargement, another
attorney would move to tighten thins up by giving the screw another
twist; one grave counsel would show cause, another grave counsel
would show contra. One month a point would be advanced a stage,
another month a point would be put back a stage.
"Now, while the snapping and snarling
pack was settling the matter, you could run away to a place of
safety, like a wise man ; or, if you were fool enough to wait for
the final decision, you would likely die with old age before you
found out whether you were to be killed by the bear or the panther,
or the wildcat or the wolf."
"Well done, John," said Moses, "I knew
you were something of a philosopher, but I did not know that you
were a painter as well. That is a fine fancy picture that you have
not all fancy, my honest friend," said he. "When I was a boy, two
men not into a dispute about the line between their farms. One
wanted it moved two rods one way, and the other wanted it moved two
rods the other way. They went into court, and laved each other for
thirteen years, until the case went through all the courts; and
Comfort v. Johnston, and Johnston versus Comfort, became like a
by-word among the lawyers all over the country. After they had spent
money enough in law to have purchased either of the two farms, they
settled the dispute by one buying the other out."
"Well, I shall take a gun and a good
supply of ammunition with me, anyway," replied young Moosewood, "for
I don't want to be killed by any of the snarling brigade."
Among the necessary articles for life in
the bush, was the flint and steel, to be used in producing fire,
when, as was often the case, the fire on the hearth went out.
Instead of striking a match, as we do now, people would lay a piece
of punk on some gunpowder. Then they would produce a spark, either
by snapping the gun over it, or by striking a flint with steel. When
the powder ignited, it would set fire to the punk. With the help of
a handful of tow, or some dry kindlings, our grandmothers, in this
way, made the fire to do their cooking, and our grandfathers could
beg or borrow or steal, from under the dinner-pot, fire enough to
burn their brush-heaps or log-heaps.
When Moses spoke of taking ammunition,
John was reminded that he had not yet provided for these
indispensable appendages to new country housekeeping. He went and
got a link of steel and a couple of dozen flints to take with him.
The rest of the day was spent in getting
things together, and in loading up the waggon, as John and Will
Briars were to start the next morning at daylight. The condition of
things at the two homes can be understood only by those who have had
personal experience in the matter. When the first permanent break in
the family circle is made, it seems to affect the whole household.
When the eldest son is going away to commence for himself, it seems
to throw a shadow over the old home. For some years his father has
been leaning upon him more than he would be willing to confess, and
he has been guided by his advice to a greater extent than he had
been conscious of. And now he feels as if some part of his strength
was leaving him, as though part of himself was going away.
The younger children have learned to
look upon their elder brother as a sort of over-shadowing
protection. He has been to them at once a brother, a friend, a
counsellor, and a guide. And now he is going away. How sad they
look. The smaller ones speak in whispers and walk on tiptoe, as if
they were afraid to awaken the spirit of weeping that they seem to
think is sleeping in some corner of the room.
And who can describe the feelings of the
mother, as for the last time she puts his things in place, and that
place the box in which they are to be carried from her sight and
from her home, perhaps forever?
How the deepest emotions of her soul
will be awakened, as memory reproduces some of the events of the
past. She will think of that night, so many years ago, when she
gained, by a painful experience, such a knowledge of some of the
mysteries of human life as she never had before. She will think of
the time when the girl-mother first looked into the blue depths of
the dreamy eyes of her baby boy. She will remember how, in the old
times, she rocked the cradle with her foot, while her hands plied
the needle. Then her mother-love would fly off down the coming
years, on the airy wings of fancy, painting beautiful pictures of
the future of her son. "And now," she says to herself, "he is going
from me a man—a married man. Another has come, and though she has
not crowded me out of his affections, she has crowded herself into
the warmest corner of his heart. But I do not complain. I don't
blame Mary; I did the same myself; and I hope that her married life
may be as happy as mine has been. I hope that John will be as good a
husband as he is a son." Unselfish woman! unselfish woman! So it has
been from the beginning; so it will be till the end.
The Myrtle home was no less agitated.
When the eldest girl goes out from the old home, she seems to carry
very much of the sunlight of that home with her. The young children
have learned to look upon her as a kind of second mother to them.
The older children look to her for counsel, feeling that in her they
always have a sympathetic friend.
The mother has come to look upon her as
a sort of superfluous right hand, or as a second self. The father
has always looked on her as next to the mother in importance to the
household. And in the Myrtle household all this was especially true.
No daughter ever filled all the positions above named better thin
Mary had done. She was leaving behind her four brothers and three
sisters, all younger than herself. There was sadness in that home.
The younger children had got so accustomed to have Mary hear them
say their prayers, and put them to bed, that they thought no one
else could do it as well as she could. When the last night came,
poor Mary nearly broke down, as the children gathered around her,
and at her knee said their evening prayers for the last time,
perhaps, forever. But she soon regained her composure, and went on
with her preparations for the events of to-morrow.
John and Will Briars were on the way,
and were one day's journey with the cattle.
Next morning early,
the two teams, with their loads, started. But early as it was, they
were not to get away without a surprise. As they came opposite the
school-house, where John and Mary used to go to school and to
meeting, they were hailed by a lot of young women, with Lucy Briars
at their head. They were carrying a box, and when they came to the
Squire's team, they asked him to take the box and put it where it
would be entirely safe. They said, "We have bought a set of dishes,
as a present for Mary, and we want you to take good care that they
are not broken on the way." The Squire promised to do as they
thanked them very sincerely, and gave them a standing promise, which
she said should last a hundred years, that if any of them, either
married or single, should ever visit at her home among the forest
trees, they should be treated to the very best that Sylvan Lodge
At noon the next day they overtook John and Will, with the cattle.
Then they all went on together, making but slow progress over the
new and rough roads.