My guardians were good and
kind people, and I never can forget the interest they took in me, but they
believed in industry and thrift, and indeed had sore need to, for the salary
of a teacher on an Indian mission in those days was very small. My time was
spent in going to school, in carrying wood and water, and running errands.
During this time my guardians
made a trip to the Nottawasaga country, and I went along. Our mode of
transport was an open boat, and we coasted around Cape Rich and down the bay
past Meaford and Thornbury, and I remember one night we camped on the beach
where the town of Collingwood now stands. There was nothing then but a
"cedar swamp," as near as I can recollect. Finally we came to the mouth of
the Nottawasaga River, where we left our boat and made a walking trip across
country to Sunnidale, and while to-day the whole journey is really very
short "by rail" or "steamboat," then to my boyish mind, the distance was
great and the enterprise something heroic.
Those deep bays, those long
points, those great sand-hills, how big then, and long, this all seemed to
me; and yet, how all this has dwindled down with the larger "experience of
While at Sunnidale, I spent
some of my time fishing for "chubb" in a small mill-pond, and, one day to my
great surprise, caught a most wonderful fish or animal, I could not tell
which. It finally turned out tobea "mud-turtle." How to carry it home
puzzled me. However, eventually I succeeded in bringing the strange thing to
the house. Somebody told me to put it down and stand on its back, and it was
so strong and I so little that it could move with my weight.
Often since then I have seen
a big Indian, with a big saddle, and load of buffalo meat all on the back of
a small pony, and I have thought of my "mud-turtle" and my ride on its back.
Father did not remain very
long at "college." An opening came to him to go to Alderville and become the
assistant of " Elder Case," in the management of an industrial school
situated at that place.
Father in turn opened the way
for my guardian, Mr. Cathey, who became teacher at this institution, and
accordingly we moved to Alderville.
This was a great trip for
me—by steamboat from Owen Sound to Coldwater, by stage to Orillia, by
steamboat to Holland Landing, by stage to Toronto, and by steamboat from
Toronto to Cobourg. All this was an eye and mind opener—those wonderful
steamboats, the stagecoach, the multitude of people, the great city of
Toronto, for even in 1850 this was to me a wonderful place. To be with
mother and father once more, what joy! New scenes, a new world had opened to
my boyish imagination. I felt pity for the people away there in Owen Sound,
shut in by forests and rocks. I commiserated my little brother in thought,
left as he was on the bush farm, under the limestone crags. What did he
know? What could he see? Why, I was away up in experience and knowledge. In
vain, folks might call me "Little Johnnie." I was no's little in my own
conceit, for I had travelled; I was somebody.
Here I saw the venerable
Elder Case; I think I may safely call him the Apostle of Indian Missions in
Canada. He took me on his knee, and placing his hand on my head, gave me his
blessing. Then there was his sweet womanly daughter. She was as an "Angel of
Grace" to my boyish heart. She lifted me into the realm of chivalry. I would
have done all in my power at her bidding. How these memories have been as a
benediction all through life and kept me from going astray, many a time in
In the meantime a little
sister was born. We named her Eliza, after Miss Case. The Indians called her
No No-Cassa, or humming-bird, for she was a great crier; nevertheless, she
grew to womanhood, became the wife of a Hudson's Bay Company's officer, who
later on was made an Honorable Senator. To-day my sister is a widow, and is
living near the historic city of Edinburgh, overseeing the education of her
youngest son, who is attending one of the famous schools of "Old Scotland."
Father's life at Alderville
was a busy one: the boys to manage, and some of those grown into young men
were very unruly; the far in to run, coupled with circuit and mission work.
Many a ride I had with him to meetIngs in that vicinity. Elder Case had a
fine mare; no one else could handle her like father. She had a colt, now
grown to be a great big horse, black as coal and wild also. He had broken
all his halters heretofore, but father made one of strong rope which held
him, and then proceeded to break him in.
One day as father was leading
this colt, he called me to him, and lifted me on his back. Fear and pride
alternated in my mind, but finally the latter ruled, for I was the first one
to ride him. Many a broncho have I broken since then, but I never forget the
ride on Elder Case's black colt.