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Among the Forrest Trees
or How the Bushman Family got their Homes, by being a book of facts and incidents of pioneering life in Upper Canada, arranged in the form of a story, by Rev. Joseph H. Hilts (1888)


Introduction

AVERSE criticism has sounded the death-knell of so many literary productions, that I felt many misgivings when I sent out my first book, "Experiences of a Backwoods Preacher," to seek a place in the arena of Canadian literature. But the favorable comments of the Press, and the hearty commendations of hundreds of the readers of these "Experiences," have encouraged me to try and produce a work that would be more worthy of public favor than my first effort can claim to be.

Acting on the advice of persons of large experience in the book trade, I have written "Among the Forrest Trees," in the form of a story. The book is really a narrative of facts and incidents, around which the imagination has been permitted to throw some of the draperies of fiction. But truth is none the less true because some fancy pictures are found in its surroundings. A good piece of cloth is no less valuable because, by coloring, it is made beautiful. And although a man may be as good a man in an outfit made of sail-cloth, or of an Indian blanket, as he would be if he were dressed in the finest production of the weaver's and the tailor's art, yet no one will say that he would be just as presentable in the one case as in the other. So facts may become more impressive, when nicely clothed.

In writing the following pages, three things have been kept steadily in view. 1st. The facts and incidents must be substantially true. 2nd. All the drapery and coloring must be in strict harmony with pure morality, and with the demands of a sound religious sentiment. 3rd. And the whole must be illustrative of pioneer life, in its conditions and surroundings, and calculated to show something of the toils, privations, hardships, difficulties and sorrows of the early settlers.

Keeping within these limits, I believe that I have produced a book that can with entire safety, and not without profit, be put into the hands of either young or old, since there is not one line from the beginning to the ending that will excite bad passions or mislead the judgment. And while this is true, there is much that will touch the finer sensibilities and sympathies of the reader.

It will be observed that the author has recorded the narrations and conversations as though they were the utterances of others. Hence the first person is generally left in the background.

This method was adopted, because by it a great variety of characters could be brought on the scene, and a larger diversity of style could be presented.

Another thing to which I would call the reader's attention is the fact that dates and localities have mostly been left out of the text of the book. Where these are given they are found in the explanatory notes. This plan was adopted to afford greater facilities for grouping together facts and incidents, that were separated by time and distance, so as to give an aspect of unity to the whole production.

The reader will also observe that the names of persons and places are mostly taken from trees and shrubs and plants and flowers, as these are found in the forest wilds. It may be a mere fancy of mine; but I thought that it would add to the inventiveness of the book, if the names found in it coincided, as far as possible, with the subject treated of in its pages.

John Bushman is a fictitious name. But he is by no means a fictitious character. If you asked me where he lived, I would answer, you might as well try to confine the most ubiquitous John Smith to one locality, as to settle the question where John Bushman lives, or more properly, to say where he could live. Every township and every neighborhood have, at some time, had their first man and first woman, their John and Mary Bushman.

Another thing that is to be noted is this: among the varied characters, and diversified actions described in these pages, there is not a wicked act, nor a vicious person mentioned in the whole book. All the actors are strictly moral if they are not pious, and all the actions are virtuous if they are not religious. I have no sympathy with that style of writing that gives more prominence to the bad than to the good, in human character. Therefore I resolved that, so far as myself and my book are concerned, the devil shall he left to do his own advertising.

And now as to why the book has been written. Since the thousands of refugees, known as the U. E. Loyalists, came to this country a little over a hundred years ago, wonderful changes have been effected. And these will continue in the future. In the race for ease and opulence, on the part of the people of this country, there is danger that the brave pioneers and their works may be forgotten, unless some records of their noble deeds are handed down to the future.

Not very few persons had better facilities than the writer to gain from personal experience a practical knowledge to pioneer life. Both of my parents were born on the Niagara frontier soon after the Loyalists came to this country. I was but three years old when my father cut his way to his shanty through seven miles of unbroken wilderness: and five-sevenths of my whole life have been spent among pioneer settlers. So that if a personal knowledge of the things written about be of any advantage. I have that knowledge.

One word more. To those readers who, like myself, make no claim to classical learning, I wish to say that I have tried to produce a book that would at the same time both please and instruct you. How far my effort has been successful can he decided only after you have read it.

To my scholarly readers, if I should be so fortunate as to secure any such, I wish to say, Don't use a telescope in searching for defects; you can see plenty of them with the naked eye. And when you find them, which no doubt you will, don't be too severe with your criticisms. But remember that the writer never saw the inside of a college in his life. Remember that he never attended a high school until he went as a member of a school board to settle a rumpus among the teachers. And remember that he never had twelve months' tuition in any sort of school. His book-learning has been picked up by snatches of time and while other people slept. No, don't be too severe in judging, nor too quick in condemning. Please don't!

J. H. H.

October 1, 1888.

From the "Toronto Mail."

"'Among the Forest Trees; or, How the Bushman Family got their Home,' by Rev. Joseph H. Hilts, is a book of pioneer life in Upper Canada, arranged in the form of a story. The author, whose former work, 'Experiences of a Backwoods Preacher,' has had many readers, has spent five-seventh's of his life among the pioneer settlers of Western Canada. It is needless to say, therefore, that the book possesses much historic value as a picture of Canadian life in the early days of this western peninsula. The story, moreover, is interesting and most wholesome in tone, and as it will, no doubt, be widely read, it cannot fail to serve the author's purpose, which is to prevent the deeds of the pioneers from being forgotten."

Contents

Chapter I - Found by Surveyors
Commencing Life - The Little Shanty - Sylvan Lake - Sunday - Morning Alone with Nature and with God.

Chapter II - The Road Makers
Deer and Wolves -Solitude - Housekeeping - Mr. Root's Proposal - The Travoy - The Toggled Chain.

Chapter III - House-Building
The Dinner - Poetic Effusions - A Reminiscence - Wants to be a Poet - A Surprise.

Chapter IV - A Partner Found
John 'Makes a Discovery - Asking Consent - Coming Home - Squire Myrtle - A Glad Mother.

Chapter V - An Old-Time Wedding
Blunders - Practical Courting - A Wedding - Sister Betsy - A Thrilling Tale - A Plucky Boy.

Chapter VI - Talk About Wolves
Treed by Wolves - Good Luck - Wolf Scalps and Bread - Chasing the Deer - The Last Race.

Chapter VII - Some Oral History
The United Empire Loyalists - The Gourley Trial - A Befogged Jury - A Harsh Verdict - A Cruel Sentence.

Chapter VIII - Preparing to Move
William Briars - Life's Realities - Friendly - Offerings - Betsy's Poetry - The Old Man's Story - Little Bright Eyes.

Chapter IX - Homeward Bound
Migratory Waves - Moses Moosewood's Resolve - Picture of a Court - Take a Gun Along - A Mother's Vision.

Chapter X - Some White Gipsies
A Witch Story - Backwoods Welcome - Housekeeping - Exploring the Premises - Forest Aristocrats.

Chapter XI - Clearing Land
Hemlock Compass - Poor Grip's Fate - Log Rolling - A Mother-in-law's Question-- Philosophers in Petticoats.

Chapter XII - Sowing and Reaping
The Three-square Harrow - Tests of Character - Post Offices - Forty Miles' Walk - A Letter - Plenty of News.

Chapter XIII - Harvesting the Crop
Threshing-floors - Skilful Housekeeper - Beavers - Gathering Wild Fruit - Finding a Dutchman----A Fawn.

Chapter XIV - Mary finds a Friend
Being Isolated - A Glad Surprise - Canadian Girls - Cart Making - Dr. Ashgrove - Underbrushing.

Chapter XV - Winter in the Woods
Threshing - Cleaning - White Caps - Katrina - Mixed-up Dreams - John goes to Mill - Killing Venison.

Chapter XVI - Visitors and Callers
Familiar Faces - Backwoods Police - Woman's Intuitions - Making Sap-Troughs - The Big Store -Trough.

Chapter XVII - Sugar-Making
A Good Business - Sugaring-off - Moses Comes Home - The Hoot-Owl - A Sugaring Party - Dutch Pleasantries.

Chapter XVIII - More Settlers Coming
Rapid Settlement - A Crowded House - Lost Children - Harry Hawthorn - Mr. Beech - Shearing Sheep.

Chapter XIX - And Still They Come
A True Woman - A Bear Eats a Boy - A Bear in a Berry Patch - Matthew Millwood.

Chapter XX - A Neighborhood of Strangers
Canadian Society - Married Under a Tree - The First Baby - Neighborly Kindness - Mean Speculation.

Chapter XXI - Riverbend Mills
The Stolen Baby - White Squaw - Children Killed - The First Funeral - A Neighborhood Sensation.

Chapter XXII - A Boarding House Wanted
A Cook Needed - Backwoods Society - Wolves at Work - The Wolf Classified - He is a Sneaking Coward.

Chapter XXIII - A Backwoods Lyceum
The Old Mill - The Boy's Load - The Bear and the hunter - No Toll Allowed - The Bear and the Mill Saw.

Chapter XXIV - More Boarding-House Tales
The Lost Girl - The Lost Woman - Boys and Ghosts.

Chapter XXV - More Glimpses of Bush Life
A Tobacco-chewing Christian - A Strange Clock - A Big Scare - A Race for Life - Plucky Canadians - Killed by Indians.

Chapter XXVI - The Mills Completed
The First Grist - The First Preacher - The Meeting-house - The Post Office - The Store - Sylvanus Yardstick.

Chapter XXVII - Some Old-Time Customs
Seeking Information - The Logging-Bee - Husking-Bees - Red Corn and Kissing - The Spinning-Bee - How to Treat a Dude.

Chapter XXVIII - Twenty Years of Progress
Drawbacks and Discouragements - Cheap Butter and Eggs - No Whiskey - General Success - Johns Dream Realized.


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