GEORGE McDOUGALL was a native of the City of Kingston, in the Province of Ontario. His parents were Scotch; his father was a sailor by profession, who, becoming connected with the British navy, found himself and his family stationed at Kingston, which was at that time a naval depot.
While George was very young, the family moved into the wild north country of Ontario, and located upon a portion of land near Penetanguishenc road, and not far from the Georgian Bay.
Here in the primitive condition of this forest country, the subject of our sketch began really his struggle in life, for, in common with very many of his compatriots, poverty, as regards the things of this life, surrounded him on every hand.
At this time wild and semi-savage Indians roamed the country, wild animals abounded, and settlers were few.
The sailor-life of the father kept him away from his home the most part of the year, which inspired George with the feeling, while still very young, that upon him devolved the duty of bestirring himself for the support of the family. He, though only a boy, cleared the forest, worked on the farm, hunted deer and bears, and in the season trapped the fur-beating animals, and in every way possible to him worked in the interests of his mother and the rest of the family.
There were no common schools in those days in that country, or if any, only for a short time in the winter ; thus George in early life was debarred the blessings of even an ordinary education. All his early surroundings partook of the wild freedom of frontier life.
An occasional visit to the neighborhood of some pioneer missionary who had picked his way across the corduroy road, or had been guided thither by the blaze on the tree, was the only connecting link between these early settlers and civilization; notwithstanding, in the heart of the boy there were yearnings after better things, but the opportunity for his acquiring an education was slow in coming.
In the meanwhile, he became a first-class pioneer; his knowledge of woodcraft became great, he became renowned as a hunter, many a deer fell, shot by his unerring rifle, many a bear was either shot or trapped by him. He could handle a birch canoe or a pair of snowshoes like the natives. Without his knowing it, he was, in the hand of Providence, going through a course of education, which would pre-eminently qualify him for his life work, as this developed.
The following copy of a document still extant, will show how little he knew of ordinary schooling, not as yet being able to sign his own name, and yet, while very young, in stature and in other requirements fitted to do battle in the interests of loyalty and order:
MAJESTY'S REGIMENT OF ROYAL FORESTERS
Whereof Arthur Carthew Esquire, is Lieutenant-Colonel.
These are to certify, that Private George McDougall, in Captain Armstrong's Company, in the Regiment aforesaid, residing in the first concession, forty-four lot, of the Township of Floss, in the District.... hath served in the said Regiment, for the space of months and sixteen days, and that he is now discharged from further service in that corps, by order of His Excellency Sir George Arthur, Knight Commander of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order, Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Upper Canada, Major-General Commanding Her Majesty's Forces therein, etc., etc., etc. And to prevent any improper use being made of this Discharge, by its falling into other hands, the following is a description of the said :—
He is about seventeen years of age, is five feet six and a-half inches high, dark hair, gray eyes, dark complexion, and by trade a
Given under my hand and seal at Toronto, this twelfth day of May, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight.
The aforesaid thereby acknowledges to have received the undermentioned clothing and pay to thirty-first instant inclusive.
One coat; one cap ; one trowsers; one shoes; one pair socks; one shirt; one mitts.
GEORGE X MCDOUGALL.
Witness, Robert C. Stewart,
Lieutenant, Royal Foresters.
Returning from the war, our hero alternated between the farm and the adjacent towns and settlements, finding employment wherever he could. He became famous as a chopper, and purchased for himself a horse by clearing a number of acres of a neighbor's farm in this way.
In the meanwhile a night school came within his reach. This chance the young man eagerly grasped. In his nineteenth year the grand event in his life took place. He was soundly converted. There were meetings held in a little school-house. One of the neigh-burs, a Mr. White, who was a local preacher, seemed to have been the instrument in the hands of God in bringing George to seek and find salvation.
Going home from one of these meetings, he entered the house, and his mother and the rest of the children were rising from their evening worship. They noticed that he was excited ; and after a while his mother said, "Well, George, what is the matter?" "Why," said he, "Mother, I want to tell you, I have given myself to -Jesus," and again the good old "Scotch matron" knelt in prayer with George and the others, and together they praised God.
After this, George took his part in the family worship of the house, and presently he is heard witnessing in public, and before long is requested to conduct the public prayer-meeting in the neighborhood.
About this time he became acquainted with a family by the name of Williams. Three of these, brothers, later on, entered the ministry of the Methodist Church. Association with these Christian people greatly helped George in his new career, and also inspired him with a strong desire for a higher sphere of usefulness. Often have we heard him in later years speak of those who gave him such willing and much-needed help in the days of weakness.
In the meanwhile he became acquainted with an English girl—a member of a Quaker family who, a few years previously, had come across from England to cast in their lot with this new country. The family's name was Chantler. The daughter was keeping house for her brother, who was running a grist mill at a place called Tollendale, not far from Barrie, on the shores of Lake Simcoe.
This acquaintance ripened into ardent affection, and the result was, George McDougall and Elizabeth Chantler were married at Tollendale, in the autumn of 1842.