Pioneers of Old Ontario
Within reach of the St.
GRINDING CORN IN A HOLLOW
While the last century
was still young, immigrants from beyond the seas were attracted to
Canada. For many interesting stories of the immigrants of that period I
am indebted to Walter Riddell, father of Judge Riddell of Toronto. Not
only had lie a fund of information furnished him by his neighbours, but
his own memory went back to the early days of Central Ontario.
When Mr. Riddell came to
Canada from Dumfries in 1823, he crossed the Atlantic on a two hundred
ton sailing ship, the Whitehaven, and was seven weeks and two days in
making the voyage to Quebec. From Quebec to Montreal the journey was
continued by steamer and from Montreal to Prescott in a "Durham boat".
[A Durham boat was about thirty feet long with an enclosed space at each
end.] Passengers who had a few shillings to spare could obtain sleeping
quarters in the tubby holes forward or aft, while those who could not
pay slept in the open space in the centre. When the wind favoured and
there was no current, such boats were driven by sails; over shallows
they were "poled" along by the voyageurs; and up the Long Sault they
were hauled by thirteen Yoke of oxen and a team of horses walking on
the bank. From Prescott
to Cobourg the journey was made by steamer.
"At that time," said Air.
Riddell, "William Weller ran a stage line from Kingston to Toronto.
During the summer, while boats were running, there was little business
for the stage, and the horses were turned out to pasture, but in winter
the owners of horse transport did a eapacity business.
"The first considerable
influx from the old land began about 1820. Among the earliest arrivals
from that quarter were the Coverts, Jeffreys, Wades, Plews, Spears,
Dales, McCormicks, Powells, and Rowes. When this migration was at its
height in the thirties, Rice Lake Road was a stirring highway.
Immigrants landed at Cobourg and were carried over the road to Sully on
Rice Lake and from there by open boats to the country further north.
Before the railway was built to Harwood on Rice Lake, large quantities
of flour, lumber, and other supplies were hauled over the same road to
Cobourg for shipment across Lake Ontario to the American market.
"The first store in
Cobourg was built by Elias .Tones in 1802. Mr. Jones later on built the
first grist-mill in the township of Haldimand. The first wagon in the
township was made by Elijah Buck about 1808. Oliver Stanton, born about
the first year of the last century, is said to have been the first white
child to see the light of day in Haldimand township.
"The first settlers in
the township ground their corn by pounding it in a hollow stump or log,
and such as had wheat were obliged to take it by boat to Kingston to be
made into flour. On one occasion boats carrying grain were driven into
Presqu'isle by a storm and frozen up there for the winter. During the
winter season it was a common thing for a settler to have to carry flour
on his back for twenty or thirty miles through the woods.
"The year 1816 was a particularly trying one
on the young settlement as there was frost every month in the year. None
of the corn ripened and the whole community was on short rations. Even
at a much later date serious hardships were suffered, the springs of
1836 and 1843 being particularly trying. At that time most of the farm
animals, save horses, were sheltered in the lee of strawstacks, and, as
shelter and feed were both scarce, cattle died by the hundreds.
"As soon as a young man had erected his
shack in the woods he was considered ready for marriage, and the bridal
tour was made from the parental home of the bride over a blazed trail to
the new abode. In the home the Bible was read by the flickering blaze of
a pine knot, as even candles were unknown to the first settlers.
Preachers travelled on horseback and carried their belongings in a
saddle-bag. Sometimes, when night overtook them in the woods, they slept
in the shelter of an overhanging pine. When a preacher arrived in a
settlement, messengers were sent far and wide to announce that service
would be held in a certain home.
"It was difficult to obtain teachers of any
kind, and those chosen were generally men who were unable or unwilling
to do any other kind of work. Payment for teaching was made by the
parents, the charge never being less than two dollars per quarter for
each child sent to school.
"Municipal taxation in 1826 was at the rate
of a penny in the pound for district purposes and a fourth of a penny
for the services of the district's representative in the Legislature.
The assessment varied according to the character of the house, whether
it was built of squared
log, frame, brick, or stone. The highest tax
paid by one person in that year was fifteen dollars and thirty-seven
cents and the lowest, three cents. Twenty-eight ratepayers paid eight
cents or less.
"Everything in the way of clothing was manufactured at home. Linen
clothing was made from flax grown on the farm, and home-grown wool' was
transformed into woolen clothing; all the operations from sheep-shearing
and flax-pulling to spinning and weaving being carried out on the farm.
Tools and implements used in cultivating the land and harvesting the
crops were made, for the most part, either by the farmers themselves or
by local blacksmiths. Wooden harrows were fashioned in the shape of
a V so that they would more readily pass
between stumps, and the teeth were slanted backwards to facilitate
passing over roots. Iron forks and hoes were made by local blacksmiths,
and plows of the same material were also the product of township smiths.
These plows had single handles with crossbars to hold them by. The first
plow of the form now in use was called the `Dutcher' and was made in
Toronto, the 'Norton' plow following soon afterwards. The `Dutcher' cost
from six to eight dollars and was made of cast metal. Nearly all the
local blacksmiths tried their hand at making the new kind of plow, but
the best was made by John Newton of Cobourg. It cost twenty dollars as
compared with fifty dollars for one imported from Scotland. The 'Lapfurrow,'
which sold for seven dollars, was the first
American plow imported. The first reaper in
the neighbourhood, and I believe the first in the province, was imported
from Rochester by Daniel McKeyes in 1843. The horses used in operating
it were driven tandem and a man stood on the platform to throw off the
sheaves. This reaper would cut twelve acres in a day and did as good
work, so far as cutting was concerned, as the self-binders of to-day.
The McCormack reaper, which appeared in 1847, was too light. Helm & Son
of Cobourg began making reapers about 1848 and secured first prize for
their machine at the Provincial Exhibition. In 1860, I was judge at
Dundas in a competition between self-raking reapers, but these did not
prove successful. The Marsh harvester, first used in 1868, worked well
in light grain, but in a heavy crop the two men who stood on the
platform to bind could not keep up with the cutting. The first
self-binder I saw was at a show at Rochester
in 1868. The mowing-machine did not appear
until 1850 or 1852. The first I saw was made by Ketchum of Buffalo and
cost one hundred dollars. It was heavy on horses and hard to manage.
`Ball's Ohio,' which was put on the market soon afterwards, was long a
revolving wooden horse-rake was introduced about 1840 or 1841, the first
one in our seetion being used on Angus Crawford's place. It sold at
seven or eight dollars, and I doubt if a greater labour-saver was ever
produced at less cost.
"The first threshing-machine in our
neighbourhood made its appearance in 1832. When moved from one farm to
another the horse power was loaded on the front wheels of the wagon
first and the thresher on top of that. Then the reach and front wheels
of the wagon were connected up with the rear wheels and the outfit
was ready to move. When the thresher was in
operation the grain was threshed by the cylinder beating the heads
against the bottom of the machine. Grain and straw came out together,
and one hundred bushels was a day's run, and the work was wonderfully
well done. The owner of the outfit received every fifteenth bushel for
his toll. John Livingstone introduced the Pitt separator in 1842, and
all threshing-machines that came later were simply improved Pitts.
"There were no stoves in the early days and
most of the fireplaces were built of a mixture of clay and straw. In the
chimney was placed a cross-bar of wood or iron, and from this were hung
the pots and kettles used in cooking. The pots were for cooking potatoes
or pork and the kettles for baking bread. These kettles were usually
about two feet in diameter, with an iron lid, and coals were placed
above and below for
baking. In some places brick or clay ovens
were built outside the house.
"But," continued Mr. Riddell, "despite all
the hardships of those days, and even if the larder was not always too
well filled, they were the happiest period in our lives. Neighbours were
always welcome in each other's homes to whatever the board could
provide. We had our simpie pleasures, too, one of these being found in
the `husking bee'. At these bees lads and lassies occupied alternate
seats. if one of the lads found a big red ear of corn lie had the
privilege of kissing the lass next to him, and it is surprising how many
big red ears were found. The husking bee, held in the evening, was
usually preceded by a quilting bee in the afternoon, which was attended
by women only, the men coming later for the husking. The latter was
followed still later by a dance at which home made cheese, cake, and
punch were served. (Whiskey was then only twenty-five cents a gallon.)
How late did we keep it up`? That depended on the company and the state
of the roads, but the boys generally managed to get to bed by midnight
after first seeing the girls home. John Grieves' place, lot twenty-seven
on the second of Haldimand, was a favourite place for these old-time
SUING FOR TRADE
Henry Elliott, long known as "The Father of Hampton" was one of numerous
Devonshire folk who settled in Durham county in the first half of the
shortly after Trafalgar, Air. Elliott sailed for Canada on the Boline,
in 1831. The size of the ship can be imagined from Mr. Elliott's
statement that her sixty-one passengers crowded her to the limit. Among
the passengers were Rev. J. Whitlock, at one time stationed at Port
Perry; Richard Foley, whose descendants for years lived west of
Bowmanville; and Thomas Courtice, whose family name was taken for it
roadside Hamlet east of Oshawa, where many of the connection still
England on the fourth of May, the Boline reached Prince Edward Island on
the fifth of June, and after spending ten days there in discharging part
of her passengers and freight, she arrived at Quebec ten or twelve days
later. From Quebec, Mr. Elliott was carried by the usual mode of
conveyance at the time as far as Kingston, and from Kingston to Port
Hope the passage was made by steamer. As there was then no dock at Port
Hope, the passengers for that point were landed in a barge known as the
Red Rover. This barge was owned by an uncle of Dr. Mitchell who
afterwards practised medicine at Enniskillen.
While at Port Hope, Mr. Elliott worked for a
time in a mill owned by John Brown. "Mr. Brown," said Mr. Elliott,
"owned a store as well as a mill and he adopted a novel method of
bringing business to the store. When he heard of anyone in the back
country of Clarke, Cartwright, or Alanvers who was not buying at his
store, and whose business was worth having, he promptly entered suit
against the prospect for an imaginary bill. The next stage, of course,
was a call at the store, in a state of indignation, by the party sued.
"What do mean by suing met?' the indignant
one would ask. `I don't owe you any money.'
`Of course you don't. I only sued so as to
bring you out where I could see you!'
"The caller as a rule saw the humour in the
situation. Ln any case he enjoyed the royal entertainment offered hint,
and the usual result was that he became a friend of Brown and a customer
at his store."
1840, Mr. Elliott decided to establish a milling business of his own at
Hampton. There was not a house in the place at the time, merely the
frame for a mill. Mr. Elliott purchased this, at the same time erecting
a shanty for his own residence, thus giving the place its first name,
"Shantytown." The capacity of the mill, when
it was completed, was only from forty to fifty bushels per day.
"Customers for the new mill came not only
from the neighbourhood but from Cartwright and Manvers," said Mr.
Elliott when telling his story in May, 1899. "There was then hardly a
horse in the whole surrounding country and oxen were used to haul the
grain. Some did not have even a wagon, and in that case a sapling cut
from the bush was made use of. The butt was fastened to the yoke and the
crotched end allowed to trail on the ground. On this crotch a board
platform was nailed and the grain placed on that. With such primitive
conveyances the settlers often drove fifteen or twenty miles, spending
two days going and coming, and sleeping in the mill at night while
waiting for their grists.
"About the time I established the mill John
Farley obtained eight hundred acres, with fifty cleared, in exchange for
a frame tavern six miles west of Port Hope. Dr. Ormiston, the well-known
Presbyterian divine of his day, `logged his way through college' by
helping to clear his uncle's farm. Later on a boom struck Hampton and
quarter-acre village lots sold for as much as three hundred and fifty
dollars; but the boom collapsed in the crash of the 'fifties, and forty
years later these same lots could have been bought for thirty-five
is still, however, a beautiful little village and Hampton people have
honoured themselves by creating one of the most attractive parks to be
found in rural Ontario as a memorial to the founder of the village, one
who served well his day and generation.
Durham County has been not inaptly described
by some enthusiastic Durhamites as "the mother of factories." Nor is the
claim without basis. The McLaughlin motor plant in Oshawa owes its
origin to a little shop erected by the first of the McLaughlins at the
cross-roads village of Enniskillen, a shop for making wagons and
sleighs, one such as might be found in almost any little hamlet in
Ontario at that time.
Mr. Allin, to whose memory I am indebted for
the story of the Millerites, given in a subsequent chapter,' told me,
too, that he remembered
when the shop of Hart A Massey's father, in
Newcastle, gave employment to just three persons. That was the period
when owners of little smithies all over the province were turning their
minds to the development of new forms of labour-saving implements for
the farm. After these inventions had begun to take shape, field contests
between rival builders of reapers provided excitement almost equalling
that caused by the Millerites.
As the Massey factory forged ahead,
Newcastle, a peaceful enough village to-day, began to assume
metropolitan airs, at one time boasting no fewer than three papers. "One
of the Newcastle journals of that time," Mr. Allin said, "was published
by Calvin H. Powers. Mr. Powers was a gifted speaker as well as a
convincing writer. He was a leading figure in electoral contests waged
by Munro, who represented West Durham before the time of Edward Blake.
Powers afterwards removed to the Western States and became a still more
prominent figure in politics there. He gave Abraham Lincoln able
assistance in his first Presidential campaign and was afterwards elected
Governor of Minnesota."
The numerous branches of West Durham
families were then as now widely scattered in America and frequently
distant relatives met in unexpected ways. Concerning the Allin
connection, Reeve Frank Allin of Clark told me: "A brother of mine moved
to California and some time after his arrival there, simply because of
his name, he was invited to an Allin family picnic in that State. In the
course of conversation it was discovered that the California Allins were
a branch of our common connection in England and that they were
descended from an Allin who had moved to California about the same time
that the first of the Allins migrated from England to Canada."
ACTIVE AT NINETY-TWO
The most remarkable feature connected with
the following story is that, although told me so recently as 1920, the
narrator remembered when the howling of the wolves could still be heard
in the swamp between Lake Ontario and where the Kingston Road cuts
through the little village of Newtonville, in the county of Durham.
Samuel Jones, from whom the story was
obtained, was only eight years short of the century mark at the time of
telling it. But time had dealt lightly with this veteran. He was at work
in his garden, in the afternoon of a hot August day, when the interview
began. As we walked towards the house his step was as firm as that of a
well-preserved man of fifty, and I found him able to read fine print
without the aid of glasses. Of all those whose stories are told in these
pages none had a clearer recollection of the events, not only of recent
occurrence, but of the remote past. Add to this the fact that Mr. Jones
was born on the farm on which I met him and the interest of the
information is still more enhanced.
"Even within my recollection," Mr. Jones
informed me, "Kingston Road was little more than a path through the
bush. I can remember when our grists had to be carried to Port Hope, and
in the time of my father, settlers about Newtonville, and from as far
back as Omemee, went all the way to Kingston to have their grain made
into flour. As a lad, when going after our
cows, I have heard wolves howling in the swamp at the lower end of our
place near the lake front. One night, on a farm owned by a man named
Charters on the fifth concession of Clarke, wolves tried to tear a hole
in the roof of a shed in which sheep were sheltered. I have speared
salmon in Drury Creek, which crosses the farm of John Barrie; a creek
that is now little more than a succession of puddles. It was a common
thing for settlers then to take a couple of barrels of salmon from the
lake in a night.
have seen the sky darkened by the flight of wild pigeons, and, when
these alighted in myriads on the ground to feed, it seemed as if the
surface of the earth was heaving as they moved about.. Indians carne
regularly in spring to make baskets in the adjoining woods, baskets that
were traded to the settlers for provisions.
"I have seen the sickle give place to the
cradle, the cradle to the reaper, and the reaper to the self-binder.
Intermediate between the sickle and the cradle was a scythe with a hole
bored in the centre of the blade and connected with the snath by a wire
`hauled taut.' With that tool an expert could lay a swath as neatly as
swaths were afterwards laid by a cradle.
"Our first cradle, called the `Grape Vine,'
was made by Asa Davis, at Newcastle. It was a clumsy implement, but .Toseph
Moulton once out six acres of rye with it in a day. Our first reaper was
'The Woods,' invented by a wan of that name, and made at Newcastle by
the first of the Masseys. That was, in my opinion, the best reaper ever
in my time a wooden horse-rake was developed. When the rake was full, it
could be revolved on its axle and the rakings dumped. The same implement
was used in pulling peas. One man thought he would improve on this and
built ai steel rake of the same pattern; but, when this was used in pea
harvesting, almost as much
grain was threshed out as was gathered in
first threshing-machine in the neighbourhood consisted of little more
than a cylinder, and the threshed straw had to be raked away by hand. I
spent one winter operating this threshing outfit. Our practice, on
arriving at a farm at night, was to break the crust on the snow where
the horse-power was to be placed, and then to let the power down to
solid ground. Snow was next packed around the machine and water poured
on the snow. By morning the horse-power would be frozen solidly in place
and the necessity of staking avoided.
"Before we bought our first fanning-mill my
father cleaned his grain by laying a sheet on the ground and pouring out
the grain from a pail held at an elevation, the wind being relied on to
blow away the chaff.
"As grain production increased, Port Granby
became an important shipping point, and I have seen as much as ten
thousand bushels of barley loaded into waiting schooners in a single
day. To-day the Port is not even a remains. The piers rotted away years
ago and stone-hookers carried off the stone used in filling the cribs.
"Other `industries' came with increased
production. Distilleries were in my youth about as numerous as
schoolhouses are now. There was a distillery in Newtonville, another
between Bowmanville and Newcastle, and a third at Port Granby. With so
many stills in operation, drunkenness was rife. The first counter
influence was that exercised by Methodist missionaries who covered the
country on horseback. The missionaries I best remember were Douse and
was great excitement, and something more than excitement, in connection
with early elections. Newtonville had the one poll for the riding and
voting was continued for seveial days. On one occasion rival factions,
each led by banners and fife and drum bands, met in the middle of the
road. What might have been anticipated happened; banners were torn to
ribbons, drums smashed, and some heads were cracked as well. Something
worse occurred on one occasion, when one man voted, as another thought,
the wrong way. The offender was struck on the neck with a club and
dropped dead, and the `Cavan Blazers' prevented the immediate arrest of
story of Mr. Jones' father's selection of a lot is as interesting in its
way as is a story told by the Honourable Manning Doherty of the refusal
of his great grandfather to accept a farm located at the corner of Queen
and Yonge Streets, Toronto. The first of the Jones family had secured
the location on which the town of Omemee stands; but when he found this
could be reached only by travelling over several miles of blazed trail,
he traded the lot for fourteen bushels of wheat and bought lot eight, on
the first of Clarke, which was then part of the Clergy Reserves. Years
afterwards he was offered two hundred acres near by for one hundred
dollars, but, although having ample funds, lie refused to accept the
offer. The property afterwards sold for one hundred dollars an acre.
Dame Fortune, fickle jade though she is, and although her offers had
been twice spurnedonce at Omemee and again later onwould not be wholly
denied. Part of the Jones homestead forms a section of the site of the
village of Newtonville, and there has, therefore, been some unearned
increment, in that case.
The first house on the Jones homestead was
of Iog, but this was soon replaced by a stone structure. Even that was
grey with age when this story was told, although the narrator of over
fourscore and ten, born before the stone house was erected, was still
vigorous in mind and body. On the same homestead the first orchard in
the neighbourhood was planted, and
one of the trees, a Pumpkin Sweet, over one
hundred years old, was bearing fruit when I was there.
In company with one of the third generation
of the family I mounted the hill on which the village cemetery is
located, and there I saw, what I had observed in countless other
cemeteries, where the pioneers of the settlement lie. On the stones
above the graves were the words "native of" with the name of the
English village, Scottish glen, or Irish valley, in which those who have
passed away were born. On returning to the Jones home, the man whose
memory covered well nigh a century of time told me that fully two-thirds
of the names I had seen are no longer heard in the township of Clarke.
The first of those bearing the names have passed beyond the line
dividing time from eternity. The descendants are more widely scattered
than "The Graves of a Household." Why is it that the place of birth, so
fondly remembered by the first generation, as evidenced by the
inscriptions on the headstones in the old cemetery, has failed to hold
the children born here beneath the shade of majestic pines and amid the
autumn glories of broad-leaved maples
PUTTING .HIMSELF ON RATIONS
Samuel Billings, living north of Orono at
the time of my visit, also told of the early days in Clarke.
"Our first farm," lie said, "a mile south of
Orono, was purchased about 1831, from the Honourable Peter Jackson of
Toronto at three dollars per acre. Ten years later we moved to our
present farm, four miles north of Orono. This we purchased from Jeremiah
Orser, Port Perry, for eight hundred and fifty dollars. Even at that
comparatively late date we had to cut a road for half a mile through the
bush to reach the place. When we first came to Clarke there was only one
house, Dr. Herriman's, in the neighbourhood. Charles Bowman, after whom
the town was named, owned a grist-mill at Bowmanville. The late
Honourable John Simpson was an adopted son of Bowman. Abraham
Butterfield, Charles and John Bellwoods, John -Middleton, R. W. Robson,
and E. Gifford were among those who settled along the front of the
township about the time we came in.
"Just south of Orono was a little prairie
that had apparently formed over an old beaver dam. I have seen a dozen
deer sunning themselves there at one time. Indians came here from as far
away as the Credit to hunt them, and one halfbreed in a party killed ten
deer in one day."
Thomas Thornton, father of C. J. Thornton, ex.-M.P., and one of the
Thornton-Powers connection, also contributed to these Clarke
reminiscences. Mr. Thornton, born in Yorkshire, as a boy of six came to
Canada with his father in the 'twenties of the last century. He was
thirteen weeks and three days in crossing the Atlantic, and three weeks
more were spent on the journey by Durham boats between Quebec and
Montreal. "And," 1[r. Thornton told me, as we sat on his porch in Orono,
twenty-three years ago, "it rained on every one of those twenty-one
days, save three." That certainly was no pleasure trip for a boy of six.
In 1835, while still a lad, Mr. Thornton went to live with Thomas Best
on the eighth of Clarke. "On one occasion," he said, "when we required
to have some wheat ground, and having no horse of our own, it was
necessary to pack the grain to a neighbour's place. We divided it into
four bags, and Best and I carried two bags for a distance and then went
back for the other two, and so on, each carrying two bags alternately
until we had covered the two miles between our place and Bill
Livingstone's. Then Bill teamed the grain to Bowmanville to be ground
for us. At that time there were only three horses in the township north
of the sixth concession.
"When Mr. Best first moved to his farm, his
worldly possessions consisted of three pigs, an axe, and what he
considered sufficient pork, flour, and potatoes to see him through until
next harvest. During the following May he began to fear that, pork and
potatoes were going to run short and he decided to apportion what
remained to make sure of having at least some for each day until a new
supply came in. He weighed a pound of pork, cut it into slices, counted
the slices and from this calculated how many slices per day his
remaining stock would allow him. Next he filled a half-bushel measure
with potatoes and counted the number of potatoes per day he could afford
for each meal. In this way he managed to keep up a daily supply until
new sources were available. In order to hasten the fattening of the pigs
I had to go to the bush and hunt cow cabbage to feed them. And I assure
you fattening the kind of pigs we had then, by the means described, was
no picnic. The pigs were of the kind that required a knot in their tails
to prevent them from slipping through a hole in the fence.
"In the summer of 'thirty-seven, bears were
almost as thick as blackberries, and the tracks left by wolves were as
common as sheep tracks are now. One morning when I was trying to kindle
a fire under a sugar kettle in the bush on lot twenty-seven on the
eighth concession I looked up and saw a wolf eight feet away. He moved
off, and you may be sure I made no effort to interfere with his going.
One evening, again, when I was sitting up with a girl (we were all boys
once) I heard wolves howling in the bush and suggested to the girl's
father that the sheep had better be brought in. He said I might go after
them if I liked, and I did so. Meantime the owner of the sheep remained
comfortably in bed."
CHILDREN AND SHEEP IN THE CELLAR
When I spent a few days along the St.
Lawrence, between Prescott and Cornwall, in the fall of 1899, there was
still living a man who as an infant was present when the battle of
Chrysler's Farm was fought in November, 1813. There were a number in the
neighbourhood who had heard stories of the battle from parents or
grandparents and almost every home held mementos of the War of 1812-15.
Elias Cook, a brother of H. H. Cook, the
political rival of D'Alton McCarthy in North Simcoe in the 'eighties,
was a year old when the American army landed on the north shore of the
river and seized for headquarters the tavern kept by his parents. A mile
and a half westward the Chrysler homestead served as headquarters for
the British, and midway between was the Casselman House, that was still
standing when I was there.
"The whole thing came upon us so quickly,"
Mr. Cook told me, "that no time was allowed
for the women and children to escape, and my mother hustled me into the
cellar for protection from the cannon balls that British gunboats in the
river began throwing at the American headquarters."
Nelson Casselman, a grandson of the
Casselman who held the homestead in 1813, showed me the cellar in which
his grandmother hid the sheep and the little Casselmans together. "The
Americans," said Mr. Casselman, "took the family's horses for transport,
killed the cows for beef, and made soup for the officers' mess from the
loss of horses was not all one-sided. After the battle, a couple of
American horsemen on rearguard duty were suddenly confronted by a man
named Adams and ordered to surrender. The Americans, believing the
musket which Adams held could carry further than their pistols and that
his bayonet was more dangerous than their swords, promptly complied.
Adams then marched his prisoners back to the British commander, who was
so pleased with the exploit that he told Adams to keep the horses, and
for years afterwards the animals were used in his farm work. The joke
was on the Americans; Adams had not so much as a single charge for his
gun when he captured his two prisoners.
After the battle a number of American
wounded were carried into the Casselman home, one of these an old man.
Mr. Casselman told me the story of his death as he had heard it from his
parents. "He was an old man whose sands of life were nearly run out in
any case. As the setting sun changed the St. Lawrence into a ribbon of
gold his eyes turned toward the south and lie said lie would die in
peace if lie could but see the children and grandchildren who once
played about his knee. But death came with the night and next morning
his body was laid, with those of other American dead, in a trench east
of the house, where our orchard was afterwards planted."
Mr. Cook was able to point out the exact
position of an American four-gun battery, as the log and earth
breastworks still remained until lie himself removed them in the
'seventies to place the ground under cultivation. At the base of the
Casselman barn, which was standing when the battle was fought, I was
shown a round hole in a board. The hole, according to tradition, was
made by a British round-shot that killed three Americans. The Casselman
of 181.3 afterwards dug up the ball from where it had buried itself in
the ground and it was still preserved in the Casselman home at the time
of my visit. In the Cook home I saw what looked like a carpet ball
(painted red, white, and blue) but which, Mr. Cook told me, was a
cannon-shot fired at the house by one of the British gunboats in the
river. Mr. Casselman had a musket his grandfather found hidden in a
strawstack after the battle. He thought it had been left there by an
American, but as the piece bore the Tower mark this was hardly possible
unless the weapon had been captured from the British in a previous
engagement. Bullets were dug up by the hundred in the years following
the battle, a few being found at times right up to the close of the last
century. Another relic of the past was it small box that had been left
by Lieutenant Ingalls of the British forces, who was on guard at the
Cook place for some time after the battle.
The most interesting of all the reminders of
the past was the Casselman home itself. The heavy beams supporting the
floor had been hewn out of solid logs with a broad-axe one hundred years
before my -visit. The lumber forming the floor had been whipsawed by the
grandfather of Nelson Casselman and his neighbours. At one end of the
main room was a stone fireplace, nine feet wide by four feet deep, and
five feet high; but this had been bricked up and was no longer visible.
"I can remember, though, when all our cooking was done in that
fireplace," said Mr. Casselman.
The Cook tavern of 1813 was displaced in the
'twenties by an imposing brick structure, which at one time served as
the half-way house between Montreal and Kingston. Even the interior
walls were of brick. "The mortar used in laying those bricks," Mr. Cook
told me, "was made from lime burned on the premises. The stones from
which the lime was burned were broken by dropping on them
twenty-four-pound cannon balls that had been picked up from the field of
"In the old
staging days the tavern was a lively place. I have seen in the yard at
one time four stage coaches with horses ready to move. Priests and
bishops, lawyers and merchants were among the guests, and beds were set
as close together as that," said Mr. Cook placing his outstretched palms
side by side. "But it was when the lumbermen dropped off on their way up
or down the river that things really did liven up. As many as two
hundred of these were about the house at one time with enough fiddles to
furnish music for the whole party. British officers and soldiers stopped
there, too, on the way to or from Kingston. On one occasion a couple of
officers had ten thousand dollars in coin with which to pay the troops
at Kingston and other posts. The officers, when going to bed, put the
coin on the window-sill as they were afraid the weight would break
through the floor. They did not even lock the windows, but a sentry
stood outside the door and other soldiers slept in the yard."
The country about Prescott was the scene of
stirring events at a later date. I visited "The Windmill," with its
memories of 'Thirty-Seven. This structure, built of stone, one hundred
feet in circumference, sixty feet high, and with walls three feet thick
was no mean fortress at the time of the Rebellion of 1837.
"My father was engaged in the attack on the
raiders who had seized the windmill," David Reid told me. "He said that
even the big guns brought from Kingston were incapable of damaging the
building. The stones had been set in wedge-shape and the pounding of the
artillery seemed but to drive them more firmly into place. "
George Heck, who was on service at the time
of the attack, said that some of the buildings near the windmill were
set on fire. One of these was a bakery, and a couple of the enemy had
taken shelter in the oven. Their bodies, burned to a crisp, were found
after the action."
The man who told of this incident was a grandson of Barbara Heck, the
Mother of Canadian Methodism; and that opens up a more pleasing tale of
the days of old. "All the preachers that passed this way in the early
days of Methodism," said Mr. Heck, "stopped at our place. Rev. Dr. Bangs
was one of the first of these. He was stationed at Montreal in 1806, but
frequently travelled as far as Toronto, going all the way on horseback.
Dr. Green was Chairman of a district that took in Bytown, Gatineau, and
Rideau. He often spent four or five weeks in covering his mission. There
were some stirring revivals in those days. Forty were converted at one
meeting held in Augusta. Rev. Erastus Hurlbut and I were converted
together at the revival held there in 1835. During every summer
camp-meetings were held north and west of Prescott. The music was all
vocal, the Whitney family being among the most noted singers of the
time. Henry Hodge and Thomas Coates were among the other singing
leaders. All the old-time hymns were used, `OH, FOR A THOUSAND TONGUES
TO SING' being a prime favourite."
"The Little Blue Church" is a standing
memorial of these early days of Methodism. In the cemetery alongside
rests the body of Barbara Heck in company not only with other early
leaders in Methodism, but with those of other denominations as well.
"The Johnston cemetery was, I believe, the first in the neighbourhood,"
said Mr. Heck, "but the Little Blue Church cemetery was laid out shortly
afterwards. Six people, amongst them my father, undertook the clearing
of the ground."
cemetery is beautifully situated by the roadside with a gentle slope to
the south where the majestic St. Lawrence, emblematic of eternity's
flow, sings a nightly lullaby over those whose labours are ended.
PIONEERS OF GANANOQUE AND VICINITY
[The material for this section was obtained
through the generosity of. Miss Edith M. MacCammon, of Gananoque, who
loaned the, editor the manuscript of a book she has in course of
preparation, "The Story of Gananoque." Miss McCammon is a descendant of
Charlotte Macdonald, a sister of the Charles Macdonald, who married
Mary, Colonel Stone's only surviving child.]
Immediately after the American Revolution
some ten thousand United Empire Loyalists settled along the north shore
of the St. Lawrence. The region was without roads, the only means of
communication with their nearest point of supply being by water. The
British Government furnished these first settlers with farming
implements, grain and potatoes for seed, and some clothing, sufficient
to tide them over the first three years of their sojourn in the
wilderness. On the heels of this first ten thousand came other refugees,
but for these no such provision was made, and for them, from the
beginning, bush-life was most trying.
The chief necessity of the pioneers was a
shelter for their families. The rudest of log cabins were the first
abodes, and these were built by the joint labour of the settlers.
Sometimes the cabin would be built around a stump, which could be used
as a hand-mill, or, by placing some basswood slabs on top, would serve
as a table. For these homes glass was not always obtainable and in many
cases light was admitted through oiled paper stretched over holes in the
walls. The household utensils were of woodwooden plates, wooden
platters, wooden forks, and wooden spoons. In some households forks and
knives were unknown and home-made spoons were used instead.
Wild fruit abounded, and this was gathered
and either preserved by using maple sugar or dried for future use.
Walnuts, hickory-nuts, butter-nuts, chestnuts, and beechnuts were stored
up for winter. Honey was obtained from
wild bees and maple sugar was made in large
quantities every spring. Game was plentiful and each settler had a store
of venison and squirrel salted down ini barrels made of the hollow
trunks of trees. Tea was scarce, a luxury to be used only on state
occasions. These first settlers used, as substitutes, sage, sassafras,
thyme, spicewood, hemlock, and a wild herb called the tea-plant.
"Coffee" was made from peas, barley, acorns, and roots of the dandelion.
Physicians were almost unknown, and these pioneers collected and dried
medicinal herbs and stored them for time of need.
But they were far from being in a land of
plenty. Three years after the arrival of the first group of settlers,
the crops, owing to frost, were almost a total failure. The British
Government was no longer doling out aid and famine stalked through the
land. This period of scarcity reached its height in 1788. In that year
money was sent to Montreal and Quebec for flour; but the answer came
back: "We have none to spare." In some places along the lower St.
Lawrence "corn-meal was meted out by the spoonful, wheat flour was
unknown, and millet seed was ground as a substitute. Here and there in
sheltered spots the wheat crop escaped the frost and ripened early. The
starving inhabitants flocked to these fields, even before the wheat
ripened, plucked the milk-heads, and boiled them into a kind of gruel.
Half-starved children haunted the banks of the river, begging
sea-biscuits from the passing boatmen .... Families existed for months
on oat porridge; beef bones were boiled again and again; boiled bran was
a luxury; ground-nuts and even the young buds of trees were eagerly
devoured. Fortunately rabbits and pigeons were plentiful, and these
saved many settlers from actual starvation."
Col. Burritt, the first settler north of the
Rideau, was one of the first-corners. Shortly after he made his home at
Burritt's Rapids, lie and his wife were attacked with fever and ague.
Having no neighbours, they were forced to rely on themselves. So severe
was their illness, that they were at length confined to bed and
helpless. For three days and three nights they were without fire or
food, and had made up their minds that they must die At this juncture a
band of Indians appeared on the scene The squaws tenderly nursed "their
white brother and sister, supplied them with food, and administered
simple but effective remedies. Meanwhile the braves cut. the corn in a
small field the colonel had succeeded in clearing, and stored it in a
log shack. The colonel and his wife made a speedy recovery, and ever
after kept open house for the red men. It was a common thing to wake in
the morning and discover a score of aborigines reclining in the hall and
other parts of the house. When proceeding up the river in the spring
they frequently left many articles with the colonel for safe-keeping,
not forgetting, on their return, in the fall, to present him with a rich
present of furs."
The Indians in this part of Canada were Mississaguas. They seem to Ihave
acted with equal generosity towards the settlers generally, and on
October 19th, 1787, they received a special grant of two thousand pounds
in goods as a reward for the aid they had given the United Empire
Loyalists. From the Indians the settlers learned the art of making maple
sugar, of spearing fish by torchlight, and of making clothes from
deerskins. From the Indians, too, they got moccasins, splint or Indian
brooms, and baskets of all kinds.
One of the most annoying things the pioneers
had to contend against was the prevalence of bears, wolves, and foxes.
It was almost impossible to keep sheep, pigs, or fowl from these
rapacious nocturnal prowlers. How common were wild beasts can be
gathered from the fact that Joseph Slack, an early settler near
Farmersville (Athens) killed on his farm 192 deer, 34 bears, and 46
wolves. As a bounty of four dollars was paid for wolves' heads and two
for those of bear, a skilful hunter could profit by the presence of
these pests. But sometimes they men-- aced the lives V of the settlers.
On one occasion a girl of sixteen was sent on horseback with a bag of
corn to have it ground at the mill in Yonge. It was
midnight before the coin was ground, but
this dauntless lass began her return journey along the blazed path to
her home. As she cantered along under the spreading trees she was
startled by distant yelps and barks, which grew ever nearer and nearer.
She urged her horse to its utmost speed, but at times so close were the
wolves that on looking back she could see their baleful eyes gleaming
through the pitchy darkness. Nothing daunted she kept on her way, her
steed urged to its utmost speed by the menacing death at its heels- At
last, almost exhausted, she reached the door of her home, her bag of
precious food intact.
These early settlers were not without their
simple enjoyments. One of the first things they did was to set out
orchards. "When the trees began to bear, the best apples were kept for
winter use, and the rest made into cider. The apple-bees were much
enjoyed by young and old. The boys, with their home-made apple machines,
peeled the apples, then tossed them to the girls, who, with their
knives, would quarter and core them, while older women would string then
with needle and thread and tie them so they could be hung up to dry.
Then followed a supper and after that a dance .... A wandering fiddler,
usually an old soldier, would be called in. If there was no fiddler the
boys whistled, or the girls sang dance music through combs covered with
or Cadanoryhqua, as the name seems to have been spelled at the time of
the coining of the U. E. Loyalists, although not founded until nearly a
decade after the first settlers took up homes along the St. Lawrence,
became the commercial centre of the region between Brockville and
Kingston. This was due to the business foresight and energy of its
founder, Captain Joel Stone. Captain Stone had paid a heavy price for
his loyalty to the Crown. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War his
fine estate was plundered and he was forced to save his life by flight
to New York, where until the close of the war he was active in the
British interests, fighting both by land and sea.
In 1776, he was ordered to take up arms
against the British Government, but lie refused.
At the close of the war, he visited England,
where business kept him until 1786. In that year he sailed for Canada,
having been enrolled as a military pensioner with the rank of captain
and granted forty pounds a year. In 1787, he started out in search of a
location, and in a birch canoe with an Indian guide journeyed westward
until the Gananoque river was reached. The spot attracted him. He
decided to apply for a grant of the land on both sides of the liver and
had the land surveyed. But, when he sent in his application, he found
lie had a rival in no less a person than Sir John Johnson, who was
industriously acquiring grants for speculative purposes. However, the
difficulty was overcome by assigning the land on the eastern side of the
river to Johnson and that on the west, 700 acres in allto Stone.
In the summer of 1791, Captain Stone took
possession of his grant, landing at a point just west of the present
railway station. The only white person in the vicinity was a Frenchman
named Care, who, with a few Indians, was living on Tidd's Island
(Tremont Park). Stone got in touch with Care who came to the mainland
and built a shanty on the point at the end of what is known as Water
Street. Here he kept a house of public entertainment for all who passed
on the river, the only highway of travel at this time.
Stone went energetically to work in his new
home and before long had a well-built house, a grist-mill and saw-mill
in operation, and a general store. He had attracted settlers and brought
in workmen, and a thriving community was soon in being. It is worthy of
note that, as early as 1793, he built a substantial schooner of forty
tons burden, the Leeds Trader, which for many years was in use on the
river and on Lake Ontario.
Under the able leadership of Joel Stone, now
known as "Colonel," Gananoque grew rapidly. When war broke out in 1812,
it was in a flourishing condition and attracted the attention of the
American force at Ogdensburg. Colonel Stone took charge of the military
defences of his district, and when the Americans, under Major Forsyth,
landed on the Canadian shore they encountered vigorous opposition.
Forsyth's great desire was to capture Stone, and for this purpose
attacked his house. But the colonel had made his escape, and his wife,
as valiant as himself, defended their home. She was shot in the thigh,
but held on till help came. At the time there was a considerable sun of
money in gold in her possession. This she threw into a barrel of soft
soap,an effective safety-deposit vault,and it was overlooked by the
invaders when at length they succeeded in gaining entrance.
In his later years Colonel Stone was greatly
aided in his work by the Macdonald brothers, Charles and John, the
former of whom married Stone's only daughter, Mary. But to the end of
his long life he was the moving spirit in the community lie had founded,
with a keen eye to its material and moral welfare. As a Justice of the
Peace he at times played the part of a little autocrat. "Play-actors"
were a forbidden
thing in his little kingdom. He classed them
with "vagrants and vagabonds." In March, 1816, three "actors" appeared
in Gananoque and advertised a performance to take place at the Brownson
House, then recently built. The irate colonel waited on them and ordered
them to "pass on from this House quietly and not to perform the riotous
feats of tumbling, etc."
Eleven years later, in September, 1827,
another band of "play-actors" had the temerity to visit Gananoque. But
the leader of the company, James R. Millor, did not move on promptly
when ordered and the colonel issued this intensely interesting warrant,
indicative of the times and the man:
"Whereas James R. Millor, Master and
Director of several vain persons, calling themselves Playactors,
Tumblers, etc., did refuse to obey the Orders officially Delivered to
him by Joe[ Stone, Esq., one of His Majesty's Justices assigned to keep
the Peace, etc., in the said District, Requiring him, the said James R.
Millor to desist from Playacting, Tumbling, etc., in the village of
Gananoque as so doing would be considered a Great Insult offered to the
Legal Authority, and in that way of obtaining money from the vain and
thoughtless part of the Human family, is against the Peace of His
Majesty's Liege subjects in General."
If Millor did not obey he was to be confined
in Brockville gaol for "the space of Ten Hours." Millor may have
weakened, as there is no record of his having been conveyed to the gaol
Colonel Stone was a benevolent despot, and the prosperity of the village
he founded and the permanent strength it has as a manufacturing
community are due mainly to the start he gave it.
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