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Our Children in Old Scotland and Nova Scotia
Part II - Chapter XII - Various events in 1889-90

AT the close of the last year I had bought, to great advantage, a wood lot of fifty acres, with a view to building the new barn; and after the Christmas holidays the men and big boys set to work to chop timber for it. This they did so energetically that while some of our neighbours were lamenting they could hardly get cordwood out of the woods, by the spring we had it nearly all down in the yard, ready for the portable saw-mill which I intended to hire; but finding the terms so high and time required so uncertain, I decided it would be cheaper to buy one and continue sawing on my own account.

My share of preparing for the new barn was drawing the complete plan of it and arranging dimensions of timber required with the master carpenter who had undertaken to frame it, Mr. Collins, so as to give the exact size of every stick required to the sawyer when the mill began work the first week of June. That this was somewhat of an undertaking you will understand, when I tell you the barn is one hundred feet by sixty, and everything (except piggery and sheep house added next year) is under one roof— stabling for six horses, including excellent loose box, stalls and boxes for over thirty head of cattle, coachhouse, into which we drive in bad weather, and harness-room above, granary, silo, root cellar, and large space for farm implements; besides, of course, large storage for hay and straw on the second storey. The improved plan in Nova Scotia is to drive into the barn floor at one end and out at the other, after unloading the hay and grain by a patent fork worked by a horse, which saves time enormously; but it is some work to build these driveways of stone. I planned the barn to use as much stone as possible, as we had more than we wanted on the place in the shape of old stone fences, neglected heaps, etc., which have now all (or very nearly so) been put out of sight in good stone drains, cement floors, and roads to barn and mill. There was also a great deal of good building stone used for the barn basement, nine feet high and sixteen inches thick, which I preferred to the cellar plan usual in Nova Scotia, as I do not see the good of keeping the manure underneath the stables, and thus converting a good barn into an unsavoury manure shed. I am glad to see my ideas on this subject lately advocated by some of the leading farming journals in Canada. The stables, cowhouse, and piggery are kept perfectly dry by the water from the stalls being run into a tank outside and pumped into the water-cart at the proper season for the crops. The only defect in our barn site is the lack of a sufficient water-supply. That I have remedied by three large tanks, one at each end of the barn proper, and one in the boiler house of the piggery. They are eight feet by ten, to ten feet by twelve, and eight feet deep, built solidly and cemented so as to be thoroughly watertight, and into these all the water from the immense roofs is led. It is perfectly clean soft water, having no smoke within reach, and has been amply sufficient for our large stock of animals, with the advantage of never freezing.

The stables, cowhouses and piggery, as well as sheephouses, are thoroughly lighted, and ventilated by small boxes on the roof, just above the stalls, and on the apex of each building are two large cupolas for the same purpose. In the glass turret in the middle of the barn roof I intend some time to make a little room, when we are rich enough in timber to make a staircase up to it! The view would be really splendid. I must do Mr. Smith, mason, the justice to say he made a good job of the basement, and the fine granite blocks split and hauled off our fields make grand corner stones, and certainly the farm generally has much benefited by the stones being thus put to good use.

Mr. George Macgregor has also great credit by the woodwork of the building, of which he was foreman. The wood required for barn alone was 115,000 feet of lumber, and this our men and boys, with very little help, cut, hauled, and sawed, since January, in time to have the barn finished by October, 1889. Of course, to collect so much stone and timber I had to get extra working oxen, and employ a few labourers for the summer, besides the carpenters required. When the frame was to be raised, we invited twenty-five neighbours to come and give us a day’s work. Twenty-five more came and offered their services; this, with ten men of our own, made sixty for dinner in the schoolroom that wonderful day, and I was truly thankful when it was all raised (like a great skeleton on some old-world animal, against the sky) without any accident ! Still more thankful when all those who had worked at the building met at a cheerful supper in the same place on the occasion of its completion, when K. Sutherland, Esq., Windsor and Annapolis Railway, took the chair, and Mr. Robert Graves came to meet us.

Our next year’s (1890) experiences of building the piggery and sheep-house were so similar, on a smaller scale, that I will not trouble you with them, except to remark that, as an illustration of how " every little helps," it was wonderful to see how much even very little ones of six or seven years old helped the building by picking up little stones for the stone drains and cement floors. I was often amused to see half of them running after the ox-cart which was to collect the stones, and the other half carrying them inside the building to the masons. I must say the patience and good nature of these men towards our children was beyond all praise—in fact, they spoilt them dreadfully, as I often lamented to them—but in vain ! Any way, the children were very happy.

There was another successful effort of a different kind carried through in 1889, which is, I believe, likely to be of use to many besides our children—I mean the passing, in the House of Assembly, New Brunswick, "An Act in Addition to and Amendment of Chapter 70 of the Consolidated Statutes of Minors and Apprentices" — which was introduced by the Hon. P. L. Hannington, and received the cordial support of Sir John Allen, Chief Justice of New Brunswick, and Hon. A. G. Blair, Attorney-General, New Brunswick.

The object of the Act is to provide more efficiently for the protection of emigrant and other poor children in New Brunswick, as has been for some years the statute in Nova Scotia. The need of such an Act was felt in the one case of difficulty about our children in New Brunswick, on which occasion I received the utmost help and sympathy from the authorities.

The following letter from the Hon. D. L. Hannington will show the estimation in which my work for our children is held in New Brunswick :—

DORCHESTER, N.B., Jan. 26th, 1892.


I am very sorry to learn that your health has not been so good as usual, and that you intend removing for a time from our sister province, but trust that any temporary change in your arrangements will not hinder that most laudable and charitable work you have been engaged in among us.

The children whom you have settled in these provinces, and who have been under your kind consideration and supervision, will no doubt generally be successful, and prove a blessing, we trust, to themselves, as also to the communities in which they live. They promise to be good citizens, and their comfort and success are undoubtedly due to your untiring care and generous liberality.

It affords me great satisfaction to know that at your suggestion I had the honour to introduce into the Legislature of this province the Bill (now law) passed in 1889, which provides suitable guarantees for the proper care, control and protection of those children whom yourself and others are bringing from "home" to become residents among us. The good conduct of those in our province taking these little strangers into their homes, has, I am glad to know, been such, that the provisions of the Act have not yet had to be enforced against them. We trust it may continue.

In the one case of difficulty in 1888, when you took the children back, your conduct elicited from the Chief Justice, Sir John Allen, the expression of his high esteem and appreciation of yourself in your good work; and when the Bill came before the Legislature, the statement of the work, and charity of yourself especially (and other of your co-workers),

in the interest of the unfortunate and suffering, won the unanimous support of our Legislature to your desired legislation. I sent you a copy of the Act when passed. Hoping that your health may soon be quite restored, wishing you rest and happiness during your stay at home, I have the honour to be, with great respect,

Yours very sincerely,


I wish I could speak only of joy and success in 1889—90, but in many respects these were years of peculiar trial. In April, 1889, there came the greatest sorrow we have had at the Hillfoot Farm, in the sudden illness and death of my dear boy R. H—, aged fourteen (he came to me at eight years old), who, from getting wet and heedlessly neglecting to change his damp clothes, caught rheumatic fever, and after an acute illness of three weeks, passed away early in May. When he was first taken ill I went over to nurse him at the Boys’ House, and watched him two nights there; but finding this too fatiguing, and the arrangements of necessity less suitable for sickness, I had him carried over in his bed by four men, who were most tender and careful in the transit, from which he did not seem to suffer. I put him in one of the visitor’s rooms to ensure quiet, and nursed him night and day, with the help of our best nurses, but at the end of a fortnight the doctor told me there was imminent danger. I could hardly realize that he would die. Among the many hundreds who had passed through the Homes, and whom I had nursed in all kinds of illness, I had never lost a child above two years old, and I could not expect it. But I thought, if the doctor was right, it was cruel not to tell R.— how near he might be to his journey’s end. I hardly knew how to begin, but in the evening, when as usual I helped him to pray at bedtime like the little ones, I mustered courage to say,

"My dear, the doctor thinks you are very ill; he thinks you may not get better. I think you will, dear; but IF NOT, if the doctor is right, and that the message has come for you to go, are you ready, my darling?"

Yes," said R—— very low. I said," You love Jesus, don’t you, R—? You would not be afraid to go to Him?" I had risen from my knees and bent over him. I am afraid I was crying.

The boy looked up in my face with such a bright sweet smile, and said in a steady and wonderfully strong voice, " Yes, I love Jesus; I have known Him a long, long time and I'm not a bit afraid to go home to Him. now." Then he drew my head down to him. and kissed me, saying, "Don’t mind, ma’am."

He liked very much to have us sing to him in a low tone; the hymn he liked best was that one of Sankey’s, "O land of rest, for thee I sigh," and often asked for it. And in about a week R—— was gathered home. The grief of the whole colony was most touching, especially the boys. His companions wept bitterly as we laid him to rest in the peaceful burying-ground at the Methodist Church, where the trees have been cleared away to give room for the white church and its peaceful God’s acre.

We had a short but impressive funeral service in the schoolroom, and all the women and girls, as well as men and boys, went to the grave. Truly the feeling manifested on this occasion proves how true it is that "the Lord setteth the solitary in families."

There were other trials in these years, of which 1 will speak in another chapter. But in 1890 a great help was given to me by my cousin J. H— coming to stay with me, and, finding the life suit him, stayed all winter, and in spring purchased the adjoining farm, so that we have now 650 acres to look after, which is a great field for our boys.

O land of rest, for thee I sigh,
When will the moment come,
When I shall lay my armour by
And dwell in peace at home?

We’ll work, we’ll work till Jesus comes,
And we’ll be gathered home!

To Jesus Christ I fled for rest,
He bade me cease to roam,
And lean for succour
on His breast,
Till He conduct me home.

I sought at once my Saviour’s side,
No more my steps shall roam,
With Him I’ll brave death’s chilling tide,
And reach my heavenly home.

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