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The Pioneers of Old Ontario
When Oakville rivalled Toronto


THE SUMMERLESS YEAR

Some fragmentary references have already been made to "The Summerless Year" of 1816. But the real story of that season of want and nightmare was related to me by Benjamin D. Waldbrook, whom I interviewed near Oakville in the first year of the present century. Mr. Waldbrook's father came to Canada in 1817, when memories of the event were still fresh, and his own recollections went back to the beginning of the third decade of the last century.

"The spring of 1816," Mr. Waldbrook said, "opened with as fair prospects as have ever appeared at the same season since. But the sunshine of the year's morn was followed by a long night of black despair. Snow commenced falling in June, and until spring came again the whole country was continuously covered by a wintry blanket. Practically nothing was gathered in the way of a crop. Everything rotted in the ground. There was no flour, there were no vegetables; people lived for twelve months on fish and meat—venison, porcupine, and ground-hog being varied with the thin meat of cattle slaughtered because there was no vegetation to sustain them. Hay was sent from Ireland to save the stock of the starving people of Quebec; and some brought here sold for forty-five dollars per ton. Even when father carne in the following year, flour was seventy dollars per barrel at Quebec, potatoes were a penny a pound, and the country was full of stories of the horrors endured during the winter of a year's duration.

"Happily the year 1817 was as prolific as the year before had been barren. Happily, too, there was a considerable migration in 1817 from Nova Scotia, which had escaped an affliction that appears to have been confined to Ontario, Quebec, and the Eastern States. The newcomers from Nova Scotia brought with them potatoes, that provided seed not only for themselves but for neighbours in Ontario who were without seed. These potatoes had a blue point and our Ontario people gave them the name of `blue-noses.' From the potatoes the name passed to Nova Scotians themselves. I am told that the people of Nova Scotia do not like the title. They should be proud of it. The name recalls the time when help from that province by the sea proved the salvation of sorely stricken Ontario.

"Even I have been witness of afflictions little less grievous than those of the 'summerless year,'" continued Mr. Waldbrook. "About 1833, army worms came in countless millions. They literally covered the ground and trees were left bare of foliage as in mid-winter. At the doors of houses they swarmed like bees at the entrance to a hive.

"About the same time a deluge of frogs fell upon the land. In the blazing heat of noonday sun these rotted and filled the air with poisonous vapors. For a time this province was cursed with a West Indian climate; cholera developed, and people died by hundreds.

"Some ten years before this, and prior to the time covered by my recollection, I have been told that a tornado swept over a section half a. mile wide about Milton. The tornado was preceded by a roar like that produced by an unbroken roll of thunder and the earth itself seemed to quiver as with a convulsion. Cattle, warned by instinct, rushed from the woods to clearings and crouched close to the ground. The storm broke with an indescribable fury; logs were whirled from the ground like straws and in a moment the air was filled with flying debris and dust. A neighbour, Kennedy by name, had three hundred bushels of ashes in a bin ready to haul to an ashery. Ashes and bin wholly disappeared together and went off in the common wreckage.

"There was one humorous episode during the storm, which narrowly escaped being a tragedy. A young woman, named Eliza Harrison, was hanging out a washing as the storm broke. The next thing her mother saw was Eliza and the line of clothes whirling in the air above the tree-tops amid a cloud of branches and dust. Strange to say the girl landed in a field several hundred yards away, very little hurt. Eliza was the pioneer in aerial navigation in America."

Mr. Waldbrook told a couple of bear stories typical of the times. "In 1829," he said, "when my father was passing along King Street, Toronto, a bear came out of the woods north of where St. James' Cathedral now stands. Near Weston a man named Elliott was attacked by another bear, and in the struggle Elliott choked the bear to death by forcing his fist down the brute's throat. Elliott's arm was so badly lacerated that it had to be amputated, Dr. Widmer, whose name was honourably connected with the early, hospital history of Toronto, performing the operation."

In Mr. Waldbrook's youth a large part of Halton was covered with magnificent white oak and the marketing of this timber gave the pioneers of the county their first start. The timber was cut into ten and five foot lengths and split with beetles and wedges into slabs varying from two to five inches in thickness. In spring the slabs were floated down the river to Oakville and shipped thence to England, where they were again split with saws in readiness to be sent to the West Indies to make hogsheads for the sugar trade. "Robert Sullivan," said Mr. Waldbrook, "was one of the chief operators in the Halton woods. He was given the name of `White Oak Sullivan' and in turn he gave Oakville. its name.

"While men were piloting the staves down the stream, they spent the night in shanties by the side of the river, and every night was a carouse. During one such carouse a member of the party was seen to he sitting quietly, taking no part in the proceedings. Next morning when the other men, even yet partially stupefied by liquor, got up, the silent one was still there, but little notice was taken of him. When, however, the men observed that he did not follow them down to the bank, they went back and found him stone dead. It was supposed that a blow given during the night's carousal had killed him, but the body was quietly buried and there was no inquiry.

"Another tragedy was connected with a survey party. A stranger joined the party one day, and next evening when the cook was cutting wood to prepare supper the axe glanced and sheared the stranger's head clear from his body. As no one knew anything about the man, the body was buried in the woods and thus the incident closed.

"Another tragedy of early days in Halton was connected with a one-time thriving village' of which nothing remains to-day. The village was located where Dundas Road crosses the sixteenth. At one time the village contained a distillery, brewery, saw-mill, store, and tannery. The decline of the place began when the principal owner, a man named Chalmers, while under the influence of liquor, signed a cheque for ten thousand dollars, and, in remorse for his act, committed suicide.

"Oakville was an Indian reserve until 1827. Although the place got its start from the stave trade, the boom came when the Russian war raised the price of wheat. Farmers from as far off as Garafraxa brought their grain here then, and I have seen fifty or sixty teams waiting at one time to unload.

"During that period new barns were erected everywhere, and, as saw-mills would not pay over twenty-five cents for the two first logs from a pine tree, the best of timber went into these. Barn-raisings were community events and whiskey was in abundant supply. I have seen half-tipsy men swarming all over the skeleton structures, but never saw a serious accident. At these raisings, the barns were christened like a ship at a launching, but whiskey instead of wine was used at the ceremony. Once, at a raising near Ancaster, I saw a man, bottle in hand, run up the peak where two rafters joined. There, balancing on one foot, he sang out:

"It is a good framing
And shal] get a good naming.
What shall the naming be?"

"When the prearranged name was shouted back the man on the rafters so declared it as he cast the bottle to the ground. Was the bottle broken? No, indeed! As it contained the best liquor supplied at the raising, care was taken to see that it fell on soft ground, and the moment it fell it was surrounded by a crowd of men, still thirsty despite the liberal libations already supplied."

Mr. Waldbrook, in dealing with conditions existing prior to 1837 said: "In our section people paid from a dollar and a half per quarter to six dollars per year, for each child sent to school. Their ordinary land tax amounted to twelve dollars per year in addition to this. That does not seem a great deal to-day, but it was a very heavy burden for men, starting on bush farms, who sold their wheat for three York shillings a bushel and dressed beef at a dollar and a half per hundred-weight. What made the situation more irksome still was the fact that the Canada Company was holding unimproved lands, on which no taxes at all were paid, at eight to twelve dollars per acre. When Martin Switzer of Churchville went to Toronto to pay his taxes to Treasurer Powell of the Home District, he entered complaint against these conditions. He figured up the tax paid in his own township and said that he could not see what the people were getting in return, since they were left without bridges even, save such as they built for themselves.

"`I think' said Switzer, `some of this money must be misappropriated in Toronto.'

"`Look here, my man,' Powell insolently responded, `your business is to pay taxes. It is for the gentlemen here in Toronto to say how they shall be spent, and if I hear any more such seditious language from you I shall have you put in York jail.' "

Switzer spread the story on his return home, and anger, savage enough before, was fanned into a white heat. It is no wonder that the people rose in arms. They would have been less than men if they had tamely submitted to the insolence and incompetence of office to which they were being daily subjected.
Mr. Waldbrook told me that lie knew the names of those who had sheltered Mackenzie in his flight through Halton after the affair of Montgomery's Tavern, and that he even knew the woman who gave the leader her dress for disguise. But, despite my gentle pressing nearly seventy years after the event, a request for names was refused.

A. CHINGACOIJSY VILLAGE

Few men witnessed more varying stages of the pioneer period than did Abraham Campbell, whom I met at lot twenty-eight on the first concession of Chingacousy in July, 1899. Mr. Campbell spent his life on the farm on which he was born when Chingacousy was the farthest settlement north of the lake. As a child and youth he saw other pioneers pass his door on their way to the virgin forests of Dufferin, Grey, and Bruce. He was witness of the annual summer pilgrimage of the men from the newer lands of the north to the older settlements of the south in search of employment in which they might earn bread for the winter. As the forests of the northland were pushed back before the attack of the axe-men, he viewed the winter procession of teams by which the gain of the north country was hauled toward lake ports. To all this Mr. Campbell was able to add what his father had told hint of days prior to the period covered by his own recollection, the period when even the Niagara district was young. His father as a youth was at Queens-ton Heights, Stoney Creek, and Lundy's Lane, and one of the most prized possessions of the Campbell homestead, when I was there in 1899, was an iron pot, eighteen inches in diameter, captured from the American forces at Stoney Creek, and still doing duty in the Campbell homestead over eighty years later.

Mr. Campbell's father and six brothers took up one thousand acres in Chingacousy about 1820, after having Journeyed from the old family home in Lincoln County by an ox-team. From Cooksville to their locations, the way led over a road made through the bush with their own axes. A quarter of a century later Campbell's Cross, on the highway connecting north and south, was a scene of bustling life.

"There was a tavern there containing eighteen rooms," said Mr. Campbell, "and in those rooms I have known twenty or thirty people to be accommodated over night. As late as two o'clock in the morning I have seen the bar-room so full of people that one could not get near the bar itself. There were three stores in the village at that time, and they were all busy places. Whence did the business come? Largely from the north country, which by that time had begun to produce a surplus. I have seen as many as one hundred teams arrive with grain in a single day. Part of the grain was bought by local merchants and teamed by them to Port Credit for shipment by water. Some of the farmers hauled their own grain all the way to the lake port.

"Teaming this grain was real labour. Between Chingacousy and the north, hauling was possible only in winter, and even then twenty-five to thirty bushels made a load. In coming down the Caledon mountain it was necessary to put a drag on the sleighs. Those who did their own teaming to Toronto or Port Credit frequently used ox-teams and sleighs to Campbell's Cross and then borrowed wagons for the journey to Toronto. On some of these journeys the snow was up to the backs of the oxen when north of the Caledon mountain, while south of our place the animals wallowed to their bellies in slush and mud. Some of these northern farmers came from as far back as Owen Sound with grass seed, venison, and pork for sale, the round trip occupying well over a week.. At times the nights were spent in the bush while sleet or rain beat in through the partial covering afforded by the forest. But the people were happy with it all. Return cargoes usually consisted of groceries and a half-barrel of whiskey, and as long as the latter kept the interior warm, exterior cold did not matter much to the hardy men of that day.

"At the period covered by my earliest recollection bears and wolves were common in Chingacousy. I have more than once seen cows come home with flanks and udders so badly torn that the animals had to be killed. During the 'thirties, 'forties, and 'fifties, the father of Kenneth Chisholm, who for years represented Peel in the Legislature, made staves from the oaks that then covered a good deal of the township. The staves were hauled to the Credit by oxen, floated down the stream to the Port, and thence shipped to England. About 1860, while I was assisting in removing an old oak stump, we unearthed a tool that had been used in splitting staves.

"One of my earliest election recollections is connected with the contest in which Colonel Ed. Thompson defeated William Lyon Mackenzie in the year before the Rebellion. That was the most exciting electoral battle we ever had. The electors of Caledon, Chingacousy, and Toronto townships all went to Streetsville to vote. The polls remained open for a week or two and for most of that time my father was engaged in hauling Tories to the voting place. On the last day of polling five or six teams were massed and, headed by bagpipes, took the last of the voters to the poll.

"When the Rebellion came, it was real civil war, one neighbour watching another. From the shelter of a hedge father and I saw a dozen of Mackenzie's supporters passing in twos at night. The Government's supporters marched in daylight. There were no actual conflicts in this neighbourhood between the rival factions, but fighting was narrowly averted on some occasions. Captain Sinclair had a party of Mackenzie's partisans in his home at Cheltenham, when they were surprised and taken prisoners by a company under command of my father. Most of the arms of Sinclair's men were stacked in the middle of the room, and one of my brothers rushed in and grabbed these before the other party knew what was happening. Notwithstanding the surprise and loss of part of the arms, it required a good deal of persuasion to induce those who still retained weapons to give them up."

The excitement attendant upon Mackenzie's last contest before the Rebellion was paralleled by an election that took place in Peel about 1848. In this election George Wright and Colonel William Thompson split the Tory vote and Honourable Joseph Morrison (afterwards appointed a judge) slipped in between them. Bars were not closed on polling day then and whiskey flowed as freely as the waters of the Credit. Single fights occurred every few minutes while the battle at the polls was on. Sometimes these single fights developed into conflicts between factions, and when this happened men quit using their fists and started for the most convenient bush to cut clubs. One of the most serious of these rows took place at Caledon just before the polls closed. James Thompson was deputy returning officer and Mr. Campbell was poll clerk. When the place got too hot for the officials, they grabbed the poll books (it was open voting then) and bolted. A howling snob followed them for half a mile, but the deputy and poll clerk at length found refuge in Philip Chamber's tavern at lot nine, concession one, Caledon, and there they declared the poll duly and legally closed.

Robert W. Brock, whom I met at Belfountailn about the same time that I had the interview with Mr. Campbell, gave some further information of early days in Peel and Dufferin. ''At. the time of my earliest recollections,' Mr. Brock said, ''the Centre Road had displaced the first concession of Chingacousy as the leading highway to the north. In the late 'sixties, I have seen that road black with teams, and traffic going on day and night. This continued until the old narrow gauge T. G. & B. was built to Owen Sound and markets were opened at Orangeville, Shelburne, and Dundalk. Then the glory of Churchville and Streetsville began to wane.

"Many years before the opening of the railway, a man named Frank had a grist-mill at Belfountain and people from as far north as Meaford and Owen Sound brought their grists to the mill on jumpers or home-made sleighs hauled by oxen. Much of the way was over a blazed trail and the journey could be made only in summer, the roads being impassable in winter. My wife's brother, Samuel Eagle, was then living near Bay view, about nine miles from Meaford. He frequently walked to his father's place at Belfountain, spending three or four days on the road and sleeping at night in pine thickets with a fire at his feet to frighten away-wild animals. From Belfountain his father drove him to Toronto to purchase groceries, and these my brother packed on his back from Belfountain to Bayview. Eagle's nearest neighbour at that time was three and a half miles and the next seven miles distant.

"After a time one of the Bayview settlers secured a coffee-mill and neighbours came from miles around to use this in grinding their wheat. That was tedious work. I have heard Eagle say he would sooner chop all day in the bush than grind half a bushel of wheat in the old coffee-mill. In the course of time Eagle purchased an ox, fitted it with Dutch harness, and used this to haul his grists to Belfountain. At last an enterprising man arranged to erect a mill at Bayview, and the whole neighbourhood turned out to assist in the erection. Despite my brother-in-law's early poverty, he left an estate of forty-thousand dollars when he died at eighty. And notwithstanding his early hardships, his doctor said that be would have lived for a century had death not come as the result of an accident."

A third story was supplied by Peter Spiers, of Mayfield, with Peter's maternal grandfather, John Bleakley, as the central figure in the tale. Mr. Bleakley was with Sir John Moore at Corunna, and with Wellington at Salamanca. Like a number of other old Peninsular and Waterloo veterans, Bleakley came to Canada when his fighting days were over, and lie was one of the first settlers in Chingacousy, locating on lot seven on the fifth concession.

"When my grandfather settled here," Mr. Spiers said, "it was a common thing for settlers to get lost in the bush, and to guide the lost ones in finding their way out of the forest, my grandfather was often asked to sound a call on the trumpet he had carried with the Royal Artillery in Spain. At a later date he used his trumpet for another purpose. When taking a load of chickens, butter, and garden truck to Toronto he would carry his trumpet along, and with this he would sound the `assemble' on nearing the old fort. where a British garrison was then maintained. The soldiers, thinking that it was their own trumpeter, would rush to the parade ground. Catching sight of the wagon they would shout: `Oh, it is our old friend Jack!' and the load of provisions was soon disposed of to them."

WHEN THE FROST CAME

"And then the frost came." To understand even partially the meaning conveyed in these words one must have a clear mental picture of the surroundings when the calamity occurred.

The time spoken of was three-quarters of a century ago. A young couple—James Buchanan and his wife—had established themselves on the fringe of the swamp which then extended up through Amaranth and Luther. Their home was a cabin in the woods. It was all in one apartment, barely as large as the dining-room in some of the houses you may find in the same section to-day. The walls were of logs, with the bark still on, and the spaces between the logs were partly filled with moss. The roof was made of basswood logs split in half. The floors were of split cedar. During the winter the snow lay in heaps here and there over the floor and even on the bed after a night's storm.

In the spring, after a winter spent in chopping out a clearing, the husband had gone down to "the front," around Brampton or Cooksville, to earn money by working for farmers whose holdings were fairly well cleared, leaving the wife at home to plant and hoe the potatoes and see that cattle were kept out of the little patch of wheat growing amid the blackened stumps of the previous year's clearing. The grain had almost reached the ripening stage; there was every promise of an abundant supply of bread at least for another year -

"And then the frost came."

What that meant only those who have been through the experience know. The wheat could not be sold; it was useless for bread, and there were no hogs available to turn it into bacon. The bears would have destroyed the pigs if any had been there.

"Did that occur in more than one season?"

The question was put to Mrs. Buchanan.

"In more than one year? The same thing went on for years, and years, and years," the voice ending almost in a wail as memories of the bitter days cane back in a flood.

"Not only was our own wheat ruined," said Mr. Buchanan, as he took up the thread of the story, "but the calamity extended over a wide neighbourhood. I have paid—from money earned by toiling in the fields of Peel—two dollars a bushel for wheat which, when ground, would not make bread that was fit to eat."

"And when we had bread we had nothing else in the way of food," continued his wife. "For a whole year the first settlers lived on bread without butter, and tea without milk or sugar. We had cows, but, when I was left alone, they wandered off in the bush and went dry. Hens we brought in again and again, but the foxes took them before we got any eggs.

"It was not so much the deprivation that hurt as the shame of our poverty when strangers came our way. One day, during the time conditions were such as I. have described, I was at the washtub when three men, who were hunting, called. One of them said that if they had dinner they could go on hunting until night. I thought it was a pretty broad hint, but I kept on washing and never let on, as I was ashamed to ask them to share such fare as we could offer. Then they came into the house, and once again said that if they had anything to eat with them they would not go back. But I said nothing, and at last they went away. I was sorry then that I had not offered them such as we had to give, but at the time I simply could not do it for shame's sake."

Then Mrs. Buchanan proceeded to tell of the conditions under which they first moved to their forest farm in Amaranth. Their old home was down in Lanark. The last part of their journey, from Cooksville to Amaranth, was made by stage to Orangeville, and from Orangeville to their new home, a distance of ten miles, on foot. Orangeville was then a mere opening in the woods. There were two little stores, ten feet wide by eighteen feet deep, and two taverns very little larger. From Orangeville to the location selected was bush all the way, and Mrs. Buchanan had to remain with a brother close at hand. Mr. Buchanan felled the trees out of which the cabin was built. Even the floor and the door, made of split cedar, were fashioned with an axe, and, when Mrs. Buchanan joined her husband on the twenty-first of December, there was two feet of snow on the ground. There the first winter was spent, the husband toiling during the day felling trees, and in the evening husband and wife sat together with nothing but the open fireplace to give light.

"When we came in," said she, "we brought webs of flannel and fulled cloth with us, and from these I made the clothes we wore. I took raw wool, carded it, spun it and made mitts and sold them, making dollars and dollars in this way. I plaited straw hats and sold them, too. When I wanted groceries I had to walk to Orangeville for them. Many and many a time have I walked that ten miles and back, leaving at nine in the morning and returning at three or four in the afternoon, without anything to eat in the interval. Even when we got better off, and had cows and oxen, things were hard enough. For butter, taken to Orangeville with an ox-team, we never got more than a York shilling in the early days.

"Fortunately there was little sickness then, and for such as occurred simple remedies sufficed. Catnip and tansy tea were available in every cabin, and for boils we had salve made from the ever-ready balm of Gilead. The greatest hardship was in the lack of schools and churches. For years we were wholly without schools, and church services, held at infrequent intervals, took place in the homes of settlers. Yet with all the periods of loneliness and all the scanty fare of the early days, I cannot say we were unhappy. There were compensations for the hardships. We were young, hope remained even amid the disheartening effects due to untimely frosts, and we were borne up by the fact that we were building a home."

The reward has come; homes have been created; killing frosts are no more; fruitful fields are seen where forests were. There are schools, roads, churches, and all other improvements incident to civilization. But do those who have come into the inheritance fully appreciate

the patient toil and determined heroism by which that heritage was won? Do they realize by what privations and suffering the foundations of Old Ontario were laid?

PUSHING THE WAGON UPHILL

"It really seemed when we settled down here in a hole in the bush, as if we could never make a home of it, roads could never be built, and we could never experience here even the measure of comfort enjoyed in England."

The speaker was the maternal ancestor of the Tuckers of Wellington County and the time July, 1899. It was no wonder that there was discouragement in the beginning. When the Tuckers moved into Wellington the townships of Peel, Luther, and Maryborough were solid bush. Their journey thence had included boat from Toronto to Hamilton, the Brock Road from there to Guelph, and through unbroken bush from Elora to Bosworth. Brock Road itself was but a mud highway, and when the team hauling the Tucker belongings stuck on a hillside, neighbours had to be called on to assist in pushing the wagon to the top. A wagon was used as far as Elora, but after that a jumper was all that could be hauled through the bush. The r1'uckers first crop was harvested with a sickle. At the beginning of the life on the bush farm, it cost a dollar a barrel to have flour hauled from Elora to Bosworth.

Equally toilsome were the experiences of the Donaldsons at Reading on the borders of Dufferin and Wellington Counties. When this family moved in about the middle of last century, there was only an odd clearing between Reading and Ballinafad, and Oakville, the nearest real market, was two days distant. Some villages between Reading and Oakville were, however, more prosperous then than now. Ballinafad had two hotels and a blacksmith shop; Hornby two hotels, two stores, and a smithy; and Oakville, where wheat from the north was loaded on schooners, was a rival of Toronto itself as a shipping port.

THE SCOTCH BLOCK

"Old Boston Church," in the Scotch Block of Esquesing, may be considered the cradle of Canadian liberty. At a time when England was in the grip of the reactionary forces developed during the Napoleonic wars, when the Family Compact ruled in Canada as barons of the old world ruled in the Middle Ages, when even in the young republic to the south something of the old spirit of aristocracy still survived, the most advanced principles of the democracy of to-day were written into the deed of gift conveying the site for the church that is the Faneuil Hall of Canada. The deed in question was granted by John Stewart, the father of The Scotch Block. It was made in favour of "The United Presbyterian Church, formerly the Missionary Synod of Canada, in connection with the United Secession Church of Scotland." The three first trustees under the deed of gift were William Michie, James Hume, and Peter McPherson. The instrument under which they were appointed provided, however, and here the spirit of democracy begins to reveal itself,—that the trustees should hold office only for a specified time and that on the expiration of the period the congregation should be free either to re-elect the retiring officials or to choose others in their stead. The only restriction placed on the choice of trustees was that such officers should be members,—"members" being defined as those "who had been admitted to the Lord's table and were on the communion rolls of the church." The deed went further than making provision for periodical elections; it provided also that any trustee could be deposed before the expiration of his term, at a meeting called for the purpose and on the majority voting yea. There you have, written in a church deed a century old, the principle set forth in the recall plank in the U.F.O. platform of to-day; a feature still considered radical by present day political organizations.

Nor did the declaration of the right of the people to govern themselves end even here. The grant specifically stated that the congregation might go so far as to change the form of worship in the church on a two-thirds majority calling for such change.

The spirit written into that deed, the clear enunciation of the principle of government by the people for the people, seems to have entered into the minds and hearts of the whole community. Certain it is, at least, that nowhere in the Upper Canada of that day did the champions of responsible government receive stouter support than in The Scotch Block; and, when hope of securing redress by agitation seemed at an end, The Block contributed its quota to those who stood ready with Lyon Mackenzie to give the final proof of fidelity to a cause held more important than life itself. It is not surprising that a son of the man who gave the site for "Old Boston" was among the prisoners confined in Fort William Henry after the collapse of the rising of 'thirty-seven. Neither is it surprising to learn that he was one of a number who dug their way out through a wall four and a half feet in thickness and, after securing a boat, made their way across the St. Lawrence to American territory.

For this story of The Scotch Block I had to depend, in the main, on the instrument conveying the site on which Boston Church stands and on the records carved in moss-grown headstones surrounding the sacred edifice. This is because the story was not written until 1918, a century after the formation of the settlement, and by that time even some of those of the third generation were in the "sear, the yellow leaf." But the parchment, yellow with age, and the lettering carved on granite or marble slabs are sufficient of themselves to enable one to form a mental picture of the men and women who blazed the trail into Esquesing. In every sentence written on the parchment there breathes the spirit of freedom first inhaled amid Scottish hills. Every headstone beneath the shelter of the church bears testimony to that heart-felt affection, ceasing only when life itself ceased, for the land of brown heath and shaggy wood beyond the sea.

Over the grave of John Stewart is recorded the fact that the father of The Block was born in Perth and was descended from the Stewarts of Drumcharry, Rossmount, and Duntaulich, that he migrated to Canada in 1817, and that he died in 1854.

Other stones mark the last resting-place of Isabella, wife of Alex. McQuarrie; Margaret Dillies, beloved wife of Duncan Stewart; of James Laidlaw and John Anderson. In not a single case did I fail to find beneath a name of the dead the place of birth in Scotland. "Native of Morayshire," "born in Ettrick Forest," "native of Appin," "born in Bradalbine," "born in Perthshire, parish of Canmore," were among the records noted.

The Stewarts, McColls, McPhersons, Lyons, Gillies, Murrays, Sproats, and others, who moved into the wilds of Halton in the second decade of the last century, rendered a great service in transforming a forest into fruitful fields. Infinitely greater was the service performed in lighting here the torch of liberty, a torch which, though growing dim at times, has never been wholly extinguished.


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