Life in Canada Fifty Years Ago
by Canniff Haight
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"Ah, happy years! Once more who would not be a boy?"

Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.





When a man poses before the world—even the Canadian world—in the role of an author, he is expected to step up to the footlights, and explain his purpose in presenting himself before the public in that capacity.

The thoughts of the world are sown broadcast, very much as the seed falls from the sweep of the husbandman's hand. It drops here and there, in good ground and in stony places. Its future depends upon its vitality. Many a fair seed has fallen on rich soil, and never reached maturity. Many another has shot up luxuriantly, but in a short time has been choked by brambles. Other seeds have been cast out with the chaff upon the dung heap, and after various mutations, have come in contact with a clod of earth, through which they have sent their roots, and have finally grown into thrifty plants. A thought thrown out on the world, if it possesses vital force, never dies. How much is remembered of the work of our greatest men? Only a sentence here and there; and many a man whose name will go down through all the ages, owes it to the truth or the vital force of the thought embedded in a few brief lines.

I have very little to say respecting the volume here with presented to the public. The principal contents appeared a short time ago in the Canadian Monthly and the Canadian Methodist Magazine. They were written at a time when my way seemed hedged around with insurmountable difficulties, and when almost anything that could afford me a temporary respite from the mental anxieties that weighed me down, not only during the day, but into the long hours of the night, would have been welcomed. Like most unfortunates, I met Mr. Worldly Wiseman from day to day. I always found him ready to point out the way I should go and what I should do, but I have no recollection that he ever got the breadth of a hair beyond that. One evening I took up my pen and began jotting down a few memories of my boyhood. I think we are all fond of taking retrospective glances, and more particularly when life's pathway trends towards the end. The relief I found while thus engaged was very soothing, and for the time I got altogether away from the present, and lived over again many a joyous hour. After a time I had accumulated a good deal of matter, such as it was, but the thought of publication had not then entered my mind. One day, while in conversation with Dr. Withrow, I mentioned what I had done, and he expressed a desire to see what I had written. The papers were sent him, and in a short time he returned them with a note expressing the pleasure the perusal of them had afforded him, and advising me to submit them to the Canadian Monthly for publication. Sometime afterwards I followed his advice. The portion of the papers that appeared in the last-named periodical were favourably received, and I was much gratified not only by that, but from private letters afterwards received from different parts of the Dominion, conveying expressions of commendation which I had certainly never anticipated. This is as much as need be said about the origin and first publication of the papers which make up the principal part of this volume. I do not deem it necessary to give any reasons for putting them in book form; but I may say this: the whole has been carefully revised, and in its present shape I hope will meet with a hearty welcome from a large number of Canadians.

In conclusion, I wish to express my thanks to the Hon. J.C. Aikins, Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, for information he procured for me at the time of publication, and particularly to J.C. Dent, Esq., to whom I am greatly indebted for many useful hints.





The prose and poetry of pioneer life in the backwoods—The log house— Sugar making—An omen of good luck—My Quaker grandparents—The old home—Winter evenings at the fireside—Rural hospitality—Aristocracy versus Democracy—School days—Debating societies in the olden time—A rural orator clinches the nail—Cider, sweet and otherwise— Husking in the barn—Hog killing and sausage making—Full cloth and corduroy—Winter work and winter amusements—A Canadian skating song.


The round of pioneer life—Game—Night fishing—More details about sugar-making—Sugaring-off—Taking a hand at the old churn—Sheep- washing—Country girls, then and now—Substance and Shadow—"Old Gray" and his eccentricities—Harvest—My early emulation of Peter Paul Rubens—Meeting-houses—Elia on Quaker meetings—Variegated autumn landscapes—Logging and quilting bees—Evening fun—The touching lay of the young woman who sat down to sleep.


Progress, material and social—Fondness of the young for dancing— Magisterial nuptials—The charivari—Goon-hunting—Catching a tartar— Wild pigeons—The old Dutch houses—Delights of summer and winter contrasted—Stilled voices.


The early settlers in Upper Canada—Prosperity, national and individual— The old homes, without and within—Candle-making—Superstitions and omens—The death-watch—Old almanacs—Bees—The divining rod—The U. E. Loyalists—Their sufferings and heroism—An old and a new price list— Primitive horologes—A jaunt in one of the conventional "carriages" of olden times—Then and now—A note of warning


Jefferson's definition of "Liberty"—How it was acted upon—The Canadian renaissance—Burning political questions in Canada half a century ago— Locomotion—Mrs. Jameson on Canadian stagecoaches—Batteaux and Durham boats


Road-making—Weller's line of stages and steamboats—My trip from Hamilton to Niagara—Schools and colleges—Pioneer Methodist Preachers— Solemnization of matrimony—Literature and libraries—Early newspapers— Primitive editorial articles


Banks—Insurance—Marine—Telegraph companies—Administration of Justice—Milling and manufactures—Rapid increase of population in cities and towns—Excerpts from Andrew Picken


Early schools and schoolmasters—Birth of the American Republic—Love of country—Adventures of a U.E. Loyalist family ninety years ago—The wilds of Upper Canada—Hay bay—Hardships of pioneer life—Growth of population—Division of the Canadian Provinces—Fort Frontenac—The "dark days"—Celestial fireworks—Early steam navigation in Canada—The country merchant Progress—The Hare and the Tortoise


Paternal memories—A visit to the home of my boyhood—The old Quaker meeting-house—Flashes of silence—The old burying ground—"To the memory of Eliza"—Ghostly experiences—Hiving the Bees—Encounter with a bear—Giving "the mitten"—A "boundary question"—Song of the bullfrog— Ring—Sagacity of animals—Training-days—Picturesque scenery on the Bay of Quinte—John A. Macdonald—A perilous journey—Aunt Jane and Willet Casey


"I talk of dreams, For you and I are past our dancing days." —Romeo and Juliet.


I was born in the County of ——, Upper Canada, on the 4th day of June, in the early part of this present century. I have no recollection of my entry into the world, though I was present when the great event occurred; but I have every reason to believe the date given is correct, for I have it from my mother and father, who were there at the time, and I think my mother had pretty good reason to know all about it. I was the first of the family, though my parents had been married for more than five years before I presented myself as their hopeful heir, and to demand from them more attention than they anticipated. "Children," says the Psalmist, "are an heritage, and he who hath his quiver full of them shall not be ashamed; they shall speak with the enemies in the gate." I do not know what effect this had on my father's enemies, if he had any; but later experience has proved to me that those who rear a numerous progeny go through a vast deal of trouble and anxiety. At any rate I made my appearance on the stage, and began my performance behind the footlights of domestic bliss. I must have been a success, for I called forth a great deal of applause from my parents, and received their undivided attention. But other actors came upon the boards in more rapid succession, so that in a few years the quiver of my father was well filled, and he might have met "his enemies in the gate."

My father, when he married, bought a farm. Of course it was all woods. Such were the only farms available for young folk to commence life with in those days. Doubtless there was a good deal of romance in it. Love in a cot; the smoke gracefully curling; the wood-pecker tapping, and all that; very pretty. But alas, in this work-a-day world, particularly the new one upon which my parents then entered, these silver linings were not observed. They had too much of the prose of life.

A house was built—a log one, of the Canadian rustic style then much in vogue, containing one room, and that not very large either; and to this my father brought his young bride. Their outfit consisted, on his part, of a colt, a yoke of steers, a couple of sheep, some pigs, a gun, and an axe. My mother's dot comprised a heifer, bed and bedding, a table and chairs, a chest of linen, some dishes, and a few other necessary items with which to begin housekeeping. This will not seem a very lavish set-out for a young couple on the part of parents who were at that time more than usually well-off. But there was a large family on both sides, and the old people then thought it the better way to let the young folk try their hand at making a living before they gave them of their abundance. If they succeeded they wouldn't need much, and if they did not, it would come better after a while.

My father was one of a class of young men not uncommon in those days, who possessed energy and activity. He was bound to win. What the old people gave was cheerfully accepted, and he went to work to acquire the necessaries and comforts of life with his own hands. He chopped his way into the stubborn wood and added field to field. The battle had now been waged for seven or eight years; an addition had been made to the house; other small comforts had been added, and the nucleus of future competence fairly established.

One of my first recollections is in connection with the small log barn he had built, and which up to that date had not been enlarged. He carried me out one day in his arms, and put me in a barrel in the middle of the floor. This was covered with loosened sheaves of wheat, which he kept turning over with a wooden fork, while the oxen and horse were driven round and round me. I did not know what it all meant then, but I afterwards learned that he was threshing. This was one of the first rude scenes in the drama of the early settlers' life to which I was introduced, and in which I had to take a more practical part in after years. I took part, also, very early in life, in sugar-making. The sap- bush was not very far away from the house, and the sap-boiling was under the direction of my mother, who mustered all the pots and kettles she could command, and when they were properly suspended over the fire on wooden hooks, she watched them, and rocked me in a sap-trough. Father's work consisted in bringing in the sap with two pails, which were carried by a wooden collar about three feet long, and made to fit the shoulder, from each end of which were fastened two cords with hooks to receive the bail of the pails, leaving the arms free except to steady them. He had also to cut wood for the fire. I afterwards came to take a more active part in these duties, and used to wish I could go back to my primitive cradle. But time pushed me on whether I would or not, until I scaled the mountain top of life's activities; and now, when quietly descending into the valley, my gaze is turned affectionately towards those early days. I do not think they were always bright and joyous, and I am sure I often chafed under the burdens imposed upon me; but how inviting they seem when viewed through the golden haze of retrospection.

My next recollection is the raising of a frame barn behind the house, and of a niece of my father's holding me in her arms to see the men pushing up the heavy "bents" with long poles. The noise of the men shouting and driving in the wooden pins with great wooden beetles, away up in the beams and stringers, alarmed me a great deal, but it all went up, and then one of the men mounted the plate (the timber on which the foot of the rafter rests) with a bottle in his hand, and swinging it round his head three times, threw it off in the field. If the bottle was unbroken it was an omen of good luck. The bottle, I remember, was picked up whole, and shouts of congratulation followed. Hence, I suppose, the prosperity that attended my father.

The only other recollection I have of this place was of my father, who was a very ingenious man, and could turn his hand to almost everything, making a cradle for my sister, for this addition to our number had occurred. I have no remembrance of any such fanciful crib being made for my slumbers. Perhaps the sap-trough did duty for me in the house as well as in the bush. The next thing was our removal, which took place in the winter, and all that I can recall of it is that my uncle took my mother, sister, and myself away in a sleigh, and we never returned to the little log house. My father had sold his farm, bought half of his old home, and come to live with his parents. They were Quakers. My grandfather was a short, robust old man, and very particular about his personal appearance. Half a century has elapsed since then, but the picture of the old man taking his walks about the place, in his closely-fitting snuff-brown cut-away coat, knee-breeches, broad-brimmed hat and silver- headed cane is distinctively fixed in my memory. He died soon after we took up our residence with him, and the number who came from all parts of the country to the funeral was a great surprise to me. I could not imagine where so many people came from. The custom prevailed then, and no doubt does still, when a death occurred, to send a messenger, who called at every house for many miles around to give notice of the death, and of when and where the interment would take place.

My grandmother was a tall, neat, motherly old woman, beloved by everybody. She lived a number of years after her husband's death, and I seem to see her now, sitting at one side of the old fire-place knitting. She was always knitting, and turning out scores of thick warm socks and mittens for her grandchildren.

At this time a great change had taken place, both in the appearance of the country and in the condition of the people. It is true that many of the first settlers had ceased from their labours, but there were a good many left—old people now, who were quietly enjoying, in their declining years, the fruit of their early industry. Commodious dwellings had taken the place of the first rude houses. Large frame barns and outhouses had grown out of the small log ones. The forest in the immediate neighbourhood had been cleared away, and well-tilled fields occupied its place. Coarse and scanty fare had been supplanted by a rich abundance of all the requisites that go to make home a scene of pleasure and contentment. Altogether a substantial prosperity was apparent. A genuine content and a hearty good will, one towards another, existed in all the older parts. The settled part as yet, however, formed only a very narrow belt extending along the bay and lake shores. The great forest lay close at hand in the rear, and the second generation, as in the case of my father, had only to go a few miles to find it, and commence for themselves the laborious struggle of clearing it away.

The old home, as it was called, was always a place of attraction, and especially so to the young people, who were sure of finding good cheer at grandfather's. What fun, after the small place called home, to have the run of a dozen rooms, to haunt the big cellar, with its great heaps of potatoes and vegetables, huge casks of cider, and well-filled bins of apples, or to sit at the table loaded with the good things which grandmother only could supply. How delicious the large piece of pumpkin pie tasted, and how toothsome the rich crullers that melted in the mouth! Dear old body! I can see her now going to the great cupboard to get me something saying as she goes, "I'm sure the child is hungry." And it was true, he was always hungry; and how he managed to stow away so much is a mystery I cannot now explain. There was no place in the world more to be desired than this, and no spot in all the past the recollection of which is more bright and joyous.

My father now assumed the management of affairs. The old people reserved one room to themselves, but it was free to all, particularly to us children. It was hard to tell sometimes which to choose, whether the kitchen, where the family were gathered round the cheerful logs blazing brightly in the big fire-place, or a stretch on the soft rag-carpet beside the box stove in grandmother's room. This room was also a sanctuary to which we often fled to escape punishment after doing some mischief. We were sure of an advocate there, if we could reach it in time.

The house was a frame one, as nearly all the best houses were in those days, and was painted a dark yellow. There were two kitchens, one used for washing and doing the heavier household work in; the other, considerably larger, was used by the family. In the latter was the large fire-place, around which gathered in the winter time bright and happy faces; where the old men smoked their pipes in peaceful reverie, or delighted us with stories of other days; where mother darned her socks, and father mended our boots; where the girls were sewing, and uncles were scraping axe-handles with bits of glass, to make them smooth. There were no drones in farm-houses then; there was something for every one to do. At one side of the fire-place was the large brick oven with its gaping mouth, closed with a small door, easily removed, where the bread and pies were baked. Within the fire-place was an iron crane securely fastened in the jamb, and made to swing in and out with its row of iron pot-hooks of different lengths, on which to hang the pots used in cooking. Cook stoves had not yet appeared to cheer the housewife and revolutionize the kitchen. Joints of meat and poultry were roasted on turning spits, or were suspended before the fire by a cord and wire attached to the ceiling. Cooking was attended with more difficulties then. Meat was fried in long-handled pans, and the short-cake that so often graced the supper table, and played such havoc with the butter and honey, with the pancakes that came piping hot on the breakfast table, owed their finishing touch to the frying pan. The latter, however, were more frequently baked on a large griddle with a bow handle made to hook on the crane. This, on account of its larger surface, enabled the cook to turn out these much-prized cakes, when properly made, with greater speed; and in a large family an expert hand was required to keep up the supply. Some years later an ingenious Yankee invented what was called a "Reflector," made of bright tin for baking. It was a small tin oven with a slanting top, open at one side, and when required for use was set before the fire on the hearth. This simple contrivance was a great convenience, and came into general use. Modern inventions in the appliances for cooking have very much lessened the labour and increased the possibilities of supplying a variety of dishes, but it has not improved the quality of them. There were no better caterers to hungry stomachs than our mothers, whose practical education had been received in grandmother's kitchen. The other rooms of the house comprised a sitting-room—used only when there was company—a parlour, four bedrooms, and the room reserved for the old people. Up-stairs were the sleeping and store-rooms. In the hall stood the tall old fashioned house clock, with its long pendulum swinging to and fro with slow and measured beat. Its face had looked upon the venerable sire before his locks were touched with the frost of age. When his children were born it indicated the hour, and it had gone on telling off the days and years until the children were grown. And when a wedding day had come, it had rung a joyful peal through the house, and through the years the old hands had travelled on, the hammer had struck off the hours, and another generation had come to look upon it and grow familiar with its constant tick.

The furniture was plain and substantial, more attention being given to durability than to style or ornament. Easy chairs—save the spacious rocking-chair for old women—and lounges were not seen. There was no time for lolling on well-stuffed cushions. The rooms were heated with large double box stoves, very thick and heavy, made at Three Rivers; and by their side was always seen a large wood-box, well filled with sound maple or beech wood. But few pictures adorned the walls, and these were usually rude prints far inferior to those we get every day now from the illustrated papers. Books, so plentiful and cheap now-a-days, were then very scarce, and where a few could be found, they were mostly heavy doctrinal tomes piled away on some shelf where they were allowed to remain.

The home we now inhabited was altogether a different one from that we had left in the back concession, but it was like many another to be found along the bay shore. Besides my own family, there were two younger brothers of my father, and two grown-up nieces, so that when we all mustered round the table, there was a goodly number of hearty people always ready to do justice to the abundant provision made. This reminds me of an incident or two illustrative of the lavish manner with which a well-to-do farmer's table was supplied in those days. A Montreal merchant and his wife were spending an evening at a very highly-esteemed farmer's house. At the proper time supper was announced, and the visitors, with the family, were gathered round the table, which groaned, metaphorically speaking, under the load it bore. There were turkey, beef and ham, bread and the favourite short cake, sweet cakes in endless variety, pies, preserves, sauces, tea, coffee, cider, and what not. The visitors were amazed, as they might well be, at the lavish display of cooking, and they were pressed, with well-meant kindness, to partake heartily of everything. They yielded good-naturedly to the entreaties to try this and that as long as they could, and paused only when it was impossible to take any more. When they were leaving, the merchant asked his friend when they were coming to Montreal, and insisted that they should come soon, promising if they would only let him know a little before when they were coming he would buy up everything there was to be had in the market for supper. On another occasion an English gentleman was spending an evening at a neighbour's, and, as usual, the supper table was crowded with everything the kind-hearted hostess could think of. The guest was plied with dish after dish, and, thinking it would be disrespectful if he did not take something from each, he continued to eat, and take from the dishes as they were passed, until he found his plate, and all the available space around him, heaped up with cakes and pie. To dispose of all he had carefully deposited on his plate and around it seemed utterly impossible, and yet he thought he would be considered rude if he did not finish what he had taken, and he struggled on, with the perspiration visible on his face, until in despair he asked to be excused, as he could not eat any more if it were to save his life.

It was the custom in those days for the hired help (the term servant was not used) to sit at the table, with the family. On one occasion, a Montreal merchant prince was on a visit at a wealthy Quaker's, who owned a large farm, and employed a number of men in the summer. It was customary in this house for the family to seat themselves first at the head of the table, after which the hired hands all came in, and took the lower end. This was the only distinction. They were served just as the rest of the family. On this occasion the guest came out with the family, and they were seated. Then the hired men and girls came in and did the same, whereupon the merchant left the table and the room. The old lady, thinking there was something the matter with the man, soon after followed him into the sitting-room, and asked him if he was ill. He said "No." "Then why did thee leave the table?" thee old lady enquired. "Because," said he, "I am not accustomed to eat with servants." "Very well," replied the old lady, "if thee cannot eat with us, thee will have to go without thy dinner." His honour concluded to pocket his dignity, and submit to the rules of the house.

I was sent to school early—more, I fancy, to get me out of the way for a good part of the day, than from any expectation that I would learn much. It took a long time to hammer the alphabet into my head. But if I was dull at school, I was noisy and mischievous enough at home, and very fond of tormenting my sisters. Hence, my parents—and no child ever had better ones—could not be blamed very much if they did send me to school for no other reason than to be rid of me. The school house was close at hand, and its aspect is deeply graven in my memory. My first schoolmaster was an Englishman who had seen better days. He was a good scholar, I believe, but a poor teacher. The school house was a small square structure, with low ceiling. In the centre of the room was a box stove, around which the long wooden benches without backs were ranged. Next the walls were the desks, raised a little from the floor. In the summer time the pupils were all of tender years, the elder ones being kept at home to help with the work. At the commencement of my educational course I was one of a little lot of urchins ranged daily on hard wooden seats, with our feet dangling in the air, for seven or eight hours a day. In such a plight we were expected to be very good children, to make no noise, and to learn our lessons. It is a marvel that so many years had to elapse before parents and teachers could be brought to see that keeping children in such a position for so many hours was an act of great cruelty. The terror of the rod was the only thing that could keep us still, and that often failed. Sometimes, tired and weary, we fell asleep and tumbled off the bench, to be roused by the fall and the rod. In the winter time the small school room was filled to overflowing with the larger boys and girls. This did not improve our condition, for we were mere closely packed together, and were either shivering with the cold or being cooked with the red-hot stove. In a short time after, the old school house, where my father, I believe, had got his schooling, was hoisted on runners, and, with the aid of several yoke of oxen, was taken up the road about a mile and enlarged a little. This event brought my course of study to an end for a while. I next sat under the rod of an Irish pedagogue—an old man who evidently believed that the only way to get anything into a boy's head was to pound it in with a stick through his back. There was no discipline, and the noise we made seemed to rival a Bedlam. We used to play all sorts of tricks on the old man, and I was not behind in contriving or carrying them into execution. One day, however, I was caught and severely thrashed. This so mortified me, that I jumped out of the window and went home. An investigation followed, and I was whipped by my father and sent back. Poor old Dominic, he has long since put by his stick, and passed beyond the reach of unruly boys. Thus I passed on from teacher to teacher, staying at home in the summer, and resuming my books again in the winter. Sometimes I went to the old school house up the road, sometimes to the one in an opposite direction. The latter was larger, and there was generally a better teacher, but it was much farther, and I had to set off early in the cold frosty mornings with my books and dinner basket, often through deep snow and drifts. At night I had to get home in time to help to feed the cattle and get in the wood for the fires. The school houses then were generally small and uncomfortable, and the teachers were often of a very inferior order. The school system of Canada, which has since been moulded by the skilful hand of Dr. Ryerson into one of the best in the world, and which will give to his industry and genius a more enduring record than stone or brass, was in my day very imperfect indeed. It was, perhaps, up with the times. But when the advantages which the youth of this country now possess are compared with the small facilities we had of picking up a little knowledge, it seems almost a marvel that we learned anything. Spelling matches came at this time into vogue, and were continued for several years. They occasioned a friendly rivalry between schools, and were productive of good. The meetings took place during the long winter nights, either weekly or fortnightly. Every school had one or more prize spellers, and these were selected to lead the match; or if the school was large, a contest between the girls and boys came off first. Sometimes two of the best spellers were selected by the scholars as leaders, and these would proceed to 'choose sides;' that is, one would choose a fellow pupil, who would rise and take his or her place, and then the other, continuing until the list was exhausted. The preliminaries being completed, the contest began. At first the lower end of the class was disposed of, and as time wore on one after another would make a slip and retire, until two or three only were left on either side. Then the struggle became exciting, and scores of eager eyes were fixed on the contestants. With the old hands there was a good deal of fencing, though the teacher usually had a reserve of difficult words to end the fight, which often lasted two or three hours. He failed sometimes, and then it was a drawn battle to be fought on another occasion.

Debating classes also met and discussed grave questions, upon such old- fashioned subjects as these:

"Which is the more useful to man, wood or iron?" "Which affords the greater enjoyment, anticipation or participation?" "Which was the greater general, Wellington or Napoleon?" Those who were to take part in the discussion were always selected at a previous meeting, so that all that had to be done was to select a chairman and commence the debate. I can give from memory a sample or two of these first attempts. "Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen: Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I rise to make a few remarks on this all important question— ahem—Mr. President, this is the first time I ever tried to speak in public, and unaccustomed as I am to—to—ahem. Ladies and Gentlemen, I think our opponents are altogether wrong in arguing that Napoleon was a greater general than Wellington—ahem—I ask you, Mr. President, did Napoleon ever thrash Wellington? Didn't Wellington always thrash him, Mr. President? Didn't he whip him at Waterloo and take him prisoner? and then to say that he is a greater general than Wellington—why, Mr. President, he couldn't hold a candle to him. Ladies and Gentlemen, I say that Napoleon wasn't a match for him at all. Wellington licked him every time—and—yes, licked him every time. I can't think of any more, Mr. President, and I will take my seat, Sir, by saying that I'm sure you will decide in our favour from the strong arguments our side has produced."

After listening to such powerful reasoning, some one of the older spectators would ask Mr. President to be allowed to say a few words on some other important question to be debated, and would proceed to air his eloquence and instruct the youth on such a topic as this: "Which is the greater evil, a scolding wife or a smoky chimney?" After this wise the harangue would proceed:—"Mr. President, I have been almost mad a- listening to the debates of these 'ere youngsters—they don't know nothing at all about the subject. What do they know about the evil of a scolding wife? Wait till they have had one for twenty years, and been hammered, and jammed, and slammed, all the while. Wait till they've been scolded because the baby cried, because the fire wouldn't burn, because the room was too hot, because the cow kicked over the milk, because it rained, because the sun shined, because the hens didn't lay, because the butter wouldn't come, because the old cat had kittens, because they came too soon for dinner, because they were a minute late—before they talk about the worry of a scolding wife. Why Mr. President, I'd rather hear the clatter of hammers and stones and twenty tin pans, and nine brass kettles, than the din, din, din of the tongue of a scolding woman; yes, sir, I would. To my mind, Mr. President, a smoky chimney is no more to be compared to a scolding wife than a little nigger is to a dark night." These meetings were generally well attended, and conducted with considerable spirit. If the discussions were not brilliant, and the young debater often lost the thread of his argument—in other words, got things "mixed"—he gained confidence, learned to talk in public, and to take higher flights. Many of our leading public men learned their first lessons in the art of public speaking in the country debating school.

Apple trees were planted early by the bay settlers, and there were now numerous large orchards of excellent fruit. Pears, plums, cherries, currants and gooseberries were also common. The apple crop was gathered in October, the best fruit being sent to the cellar for family use during winter, and the rest to the cider mill.

The cider mills of those days were somewhat rude contrivances. The mill proper consisted of two cogged wooden cylinders about fourteen inches in diameter and perhaps twenty-six inches in length, placed in an upright position in a frame. The pivot of one of these extended upward about six feet, and at its top was secured the long shaft to which the horse was attached, and as it was driven round and round, the mill crunched the apples, with many a creak and groan, and shot them out on the opposite side. The press which waited to receive the bruised mass was about eight feet square, round the floor of which, near the edge, ran a deep groove to carry off the juice. In making what is known as the cheese, the first process was to spread a thick layer of long rye or wheat straw round the outer edge, on the floor of the press. Upon this the pulp was placed to the depth of a foot or more. The first layer of straw was then turned in carefully, and another layer of straw put down as in the first place, upon which more pulp was placed, and so on from layer to layer, until the cheese was complete. Planks were then placed on the top, and the pressure of the powerful wooden screw brought to bear on the mass. At once a copious stream of cider began to flow into the casks or vat, and here the fun began with the boys, who, well armed with long straws, sucked their fill.

By the roadside stands the cider mill, Where a lowland slumber waits the rill:

A great brown building, two stories high, On the western hill face warm and dry;

And odorous piles of apples there Fill with incense the golden air;

And masses of pomace, mixed with straw, To their amber sweets the late flies draw.

The carts back up to the upper door, And spill their treasures in on the floor;

Down through the toothed wheels they go To the wide, deep cider press below.

And the screws are turned by slow degrees Down on the straw-laid cider cheese;

And with each turn a fuller stream Bursts from beneath the graning beam,

An amber stream the gods might sip, And fear no morrow's parched lip.

But therefore, gods? Those idle toys Were soulless to real Canadian boys!

What classic goblet ever felt Such thrilling touches through it melt,

As throb electric along a straw, When the boyish lips the cider draw?

The years are heavy with weary sounds, And their discords life's sweet music drowns

But yet I hear, oh, sweet! oh, sweet! The rill that bathed my bare, brown feet;

And yet the cider drips and falls On my inward ear at intervals

And I lead at times in a sad, sweet dream To the bubbling of that little stream;

And I sit in a visioned autumn still, In the sunny door of the cider mill.


It was a universal custom to set a dish of apples and a pitcher of cider before everyone who came to the house. Any departure from this would have been thought disrespectful. The sweet cider was generally boiled down into a syrup, and, with apples quartered and cooked in it, was equal to a preserve, and made splendid pies. It was called apple sauce, and found its way to the table thrice a day.

Then came the potatoes and roots, which had to be dug and brought to the cellar. It was not very nice work, particularly if the ground was damp and cold, to pick them out and throw them into the basket, but it had to be done, and I was compelled to do my share. One good thing about it was that it was never a long job. There was much more fun in gathering the pumpkins and corn into the barn. The corn was husked, generally at night, the bright golden ears finding their way into the old crib, from whence it was to come again to fatten the turkeys, the geese, and the ducks for Christmas. It was a very common thing to have husking bees. A few neighbours would be invited, the barn lit with candles.

Strung o'er the heaped-up harvest, from pitchforks in the mow, Shone dimly down the lanterns on the pleasant scenes below; The growing pile of husks behind, the golden ears before, And laughing eyes, and busy hand, and brown cheeks glimmering o'er.

Half hidden in a quiet nook, serene of look and heart, Talking their old times o'er, the old men sat apart; While up and down the unhusked pile, or nestling in its shade, At hide-and-seek, with laugh and shout, the happy children played.


Amid jokes and laughter the husks and ears would fly, until the work was done, when all hands would repair to the house, and, after partaking of a hearty supper, leave for home in high spirits.

Then came hog-killing time, a very heavy and disagreeable task, but the farmer has many of these, and learns to take them pleasantly. My father, with two or three expert hands dressed for the occasion, would slaughter and dress ten or a dozen large hogs in the course of a day. There were other actors besides in the play. It would be curious, indeed, if all hands were not employed when work was going on. My part in the performance was to attend to the fire under the great kettle in which the hogs were scalded, and to keep the water boiling, varied at intervals by blowing up bladders with a quill for my own amusement. In the house the fat had to be looked to, and after being washed and tried (the term used for melting), was poured into dishes and set aside to cool and become lard, afterwards finding its way into cakes and piecrust. The out-door task does not end with the first day either, for the hogs have to be carried in and cut up; the large meat tubs, in which the family supplies are kept, have to be filled; the hams and shoulders to be nicely cut and cured, and the rest packed into barrels for sale.

Close on the heels of hog-killing came sausage-making, when meat had to be chopped and flavoured, and stuffed into cotton bags or prepared gut. Then the heads and feet had to be soaked and scraped over and over again, and when ready were boiled, the one being converted into head- cheese, the other into souse. All these matters, when conducted under the eye of a good housewife, contributed largely to the comfort and good living of the family. Who is there, with such an experience as mine, that receives these things at the hands of his city butcher and meets them on his table, who does not wish for the moment that he was a boy, and seated at his mother's board, that he might shake off the phantom canine and feline that rise on his plate, and call in one of mother's sausages.

As the fall crept on, the preparations for winter increased. The large roll of full cloth, which had been lately brought from the mill, was carried down, and father and I set out for a tailor, who took our measurements and cut our clothes, which we brought home, and some woman, or perhaps a wandering tailor, was employed to make them up. There was no discussion as to style, and if the fit did not happen to be perfect, there was no one to criticise either the material or the make, nor were there any arbitrary rules of fashion to be respected. We had new clothes, which were warm and comfortable. What more did we want? A cobbler, too, was brought in to make our boots. My father was quite an expert at shoemaking, but he had so many irons in the fire now that he could not do more than mend or make a light pair of shoes for mother at odd spells. The work then turned out by the sons of St. Crispin was not highly finished. It was coarse, but, what was of greater consequence, it was strong, and wore well. While all this was going on for the benefit of the male portion of the house, mother and the girls were busy turning the white flannels into shirts and drawers, and the plaid roll that came with it into dresses for themselves. As in the case of our clothes, there was no consulting of fashion-books, for a very good reason, perhaps—there was none to consult. No talk about Miss Brown or Miss Smith having her dress made this way or that; and I am sure they were far happier and contented than the girls of to-day, with all their show and glitter.

The roads at that time, more particularly in the fall, were almost impassable until frozen up. In the spring, until the frost was out of the ground, and they had settled and dried, they were no better. The bridges were rough, wooden affairs, covered with logs, usually flattened on one side with an axe. The swamps and marshes were made passable by laying down logs, of nearly equal size, close together in the worst places. These were known as corduroy roads, and were no pleasant highways to ride over for any distance, as all who have tried them know. But in the winter the frost and snow made good traveling everywhere, and hence the winter was the time for the farmer to do his teaming.

One of the first things that claimed attention when the sleighing began, and before the snow got deep in the woods, was to get out the year's supply of fuel. The men set out for the bush before it was fairly daylight, and commenced chopping. The trees were cut in lengths of about ten feet, and the brush piled in heaps. Then my father, or myself, when I got old enough, followed with the sleigh, and began drawing it, until the wood yard was filled with sound beech and maple, with a few loads of dry pine for kindling. These huge wood-piles always bore a thrifty appearance, and spoke of comfort and good cheer within.

Just before Christmas there was always one or two beef cattle to kill. Sheep had also to be slaughtered, with the turkeys, geese and ducks, which had been getting ready for decapitation. After home wants were provided for, the rest were sent to market.

The winter's work now began in earnest, for whatever may be said about the enjoyment of Canadian winter life—and it is an enjoyable time to the Canadian—there are few who really enjoy it so much as the farmer. He cannot, however, do like bruin—roll himself up in the fall, and suck his paw until spring in a state of semi-unconsciousness, for his cares are numerous and imperious, his work varied and laborious. His large stock demands regular attention, and must be fed morning and night. The great barn filled with grain had to be threshed, for the cattle needed the straw, and the grain had to be got out for the market. So day after day he and his men hammered away with the flail, or spread the sheaves on the barn floor to be trampled out by horses. Threshing machines were unknown then, as were all the labour-saving machines now so extensively used by the farmer. His muscular arm was the only machine he then had to rely upon, and if it did not accomplish much, it succeeded in doing its work well, and in providing him with all his modest wants. Then the fanning mill came into play to clean the grain, after which it was carried to the granary, whence again it was taken either to the mill or to market. Winter was also the time to get out the logs from the woods, and to haul them to the mill to be sawed in the spring—we always had a use for boards. These saw mills, built on sap-streams, which ran dry as soon as the spring freshets were over, were like the cider mills, small rough structures. They had but one upright saw, which, owing to its primitive construction, did not move as now, with lightning rapidity, nor did it turn out a very large quantity of stuff. It answered the purpose of the day, however, and that was all that was required or expected of it. Rails, also, had to be split and drawn to where new fences were wanted, or where old ones needed repairs. There were flour, beef, mutton, butter, apples, and a score more of things to be taken to market and disposed of. But, notwithstanding all this, the winter was a good, joyful time for the farmer—a time, moreover, when the social requisites of his nature received the most attention. Often the horses would be put to the sleigh, and we would set off, well bundled up, to visit some friends a few miles distant, or, as frequently happened, to visit an uncle or an aunt, far away in the new settlements. The roads often wound along for miles through the forest, and it was great fun for us youngsters to be dashing along behind a spirited team, now around the trunks of great trees, or under the low-hanging boughs of the spruce or cedar, laden with snow, which sometimes shed their heavy load upon our head. But after a while the cold would seize upon us, and we would wish our journey at an end.

The horses, white with frost, would then be pressed on faster, and would bring us at length to the door. In a few moments we would all be seated round the glowing fire, which would soon quiet our chattering teeth, thaw us out, and prepare us to take our places at the repast which had been getting ready in the meantime. We were sure to do justice to the good things which the table provided.

Many of these early days start up vividly and brightly before me, particularly since I have grown to manhood, and lived amid other surroundings. Among the most pleasing of these recollections are some of my drives on a moonlight night, when the sleighing was good, and when the sleigh, with its robes and rugs, was packed with a merry lot of girls and boys (we had no ladies and gentlemen then). Off we would set, spanking along over the crisp snow, which creaked and cracked under the runners, making a low murmuring sound in harmony with the sleigh-bells. When could a more fitting time be found for a pleasure-ride than on one of those clear calm nights; when the earth, wrapped in her mantle of snow, glistened and sparkled in the moonbeams, and the blue vault of heaven glittered with countless stars, whose brilliancy seemed intensified by the cold—when the aurora borealis waved and danced across the northern sky, and the frost noiselessly fell like flakes of silver upon a scene at once inspiriting, exhilarating and joyous! How the merry laugh floated along in the evening air, as we dashed along the road! How sweetly the merry song and chorus echoed through the silent wood; while our hearts were aglow with excitement, and all nature seemed to respond to the happy scene!

When the frosty nights set in, we were always on the qui vive for a skating revel on some pond near by, and our eagerness to enjoy the sport frequently led to a ducking. But very soon the large ponds, and then the bay, were frozen over, when we could indulge in the fun to our heart's content. My first attempts were made under considerable difficulties, but perseverance bridges the way over many obstacles, and so, with my father's skates, which were over a foot long, and which required no little ingenuity to fasten to my feet, I made my first attempt on the ice. Soon, however, in the growth of my feet, this trouble was overcome, and I could whirl over the ice with anyone. The girls did not share in this exhilarating exercise then; indeed their doing so would have been thought quite improper. As our time was usually taken up with school through the day, and with such chores as feeding cattle and bringing wood in for the fire when we returned at night, we would sally out after supper, on moonlight nights, and, full of life and hilarity, fly over the ice, singing and shouting, and making the night ring with our merriment. There was plenty of room on the bay, and early in the season there were miles of ice, smooth as glass and clear as crystal, reflecting the stars which sparkled and glittered beneath our feet, as though we were gliding over a sea of silver set with brilliants.

Ho for the bay, the ice-bound bay! The moon is up, the stars are bright; The air is keen, but let it play— We're proof against Jack Frost to-night. With a sturdy swing and lengthy stride, The glassy ice shall feel our steel; And through the welkin far and wide The echo of our song shall peal.

CHORUS.—Hurrah, boys, hurrah! skates on and away! You may lag at your work, but never at play; Give wing to your feet, and make the ice ring, Give voice to your mirth, and merrily sing.

Ho for the boy who does not care A fig for cold or northern blast! Whose winged feet can cut the air Swift as an arrow from bowman cast: Who can give a long and hearty chase, And wheel and whirl; then in a trice Inscribe his name in the polished face, Of the cold and clear and glistening ice.


Ho, boys! the night is waning fast; The moon's last rays but faintly gleam. The hours have glided swiftly past, And we must home to rest and dream. The morning's light must find us moving, Ready our daily tasks to do; This is the way we have of proving We can do our part at working too.




Visiting for the older folk and sleigh-riding for the younger were the principal amusements of the winter. The life then led was very plain and uneventful. There was no ostentatious display, or assumption of superiority by the "first families." Indeed there was no room for the lines of demarcation which exist in these days. All had to struggle for a home and home comforts, and if some had been more successful in the rough battle of pioneer life than others, they saw no reason why they should be elated or puffed up over it. Neighbours were too scarce to be coldly or haughtily treated. They had hewn their way, side by side, into the fastnesses of the Canadian bush, and therefore stood on one common level. But few superfluities could be found either in their houses or on their persons. Their dress was of home-made fabric, plain, often coarse, but substantial and comfortable. Their manners were cordial and hearty, even to brusqueness, but they were true friends and honest counsellors, rejoicing with their neighbours in prosperity, and sympathising when days of darkness visited their homes. Modern refinement had not crept into their domestic circle to disturb it with shams and pretensions. Fashion had no court wherein to adjudicate on matters of dress. Time- worn styles of dress and living were considered the best, and hence there was no rivalry or foolish display in either. Both old and young enjoyed an evening at a friend's house, where they were sure to be welcomed, and where a well-supplied table always greeted them. The home amusements were very limited. Music, with its refining power, was uncultivated, and indeed almost unknown. There were no musical instruments, unless some wandering fiddler happened to come along to delight both old and young with his crazy instrument. There were no critical ears to detect discordant sounds, or be displeased with the poor execution of the rambling musician. The young folk would sometimes spirit him away to the village tavern, which was usually provided with a large room called a ball-room, where he would fiddle while they danced the hours gaily away. At home the family gathered round the glowing fire, where work and conversation moved on together. The old motto of "Early to bed, and early to rise" was strictly observed. Nine o'clock usually found the household wrapt in slumber. In the morning all were up and breakfast was over usually before seven. As soon as it began to get light, the men and boys started for the barn to feed the cattle and thresh; and thus the winter wore away.

Very little things sometimes contribute largely to the comfort of a family, and among those I may mention the lucifer match, then unknown. It was necessary to carefully cover up the live coals on the hearth before going to bed, so that there would be something to start the fire with in the morning. This precaution rarely failed with good hard-wood coals. But sometimes they died out, and then some one would have to go to a neighbour's house for fire, a thing which I have done sometimes, and it was not nice to have to crawl out of my warm nest and run through the keen cold air for a half mile or more to fetch some live coals, before the morning light had broken in the east. My father usually kept some bundles of finely split pine sticks tipped with brimstone for starting a fire. With these, if there was only a spark left, a fire could soon be made.

But little time was given to sport, although there was plenty of large game. There was something of more importance always claiming attention. In the winter an occasional deer might be shot, and foxes were sometimes taken in traps. It required a good deal of experience and skill to set a trap so as to catch the cunning beast. Many stories have I heard trappers tell of tricks played by Reynard, and how he had, night after night, baffled all their ingenuity, upset the traps, set them off, or removed them, secured the bait, and away. Another sport more largely patronized in the spring, because it brought something fresh and inviting to the table, was night-fishing. When the creeks were swollen, and the nights were calm and warm, pike and mullet came up the streams in great abundance. Three or four would set out with spears, with a man to carry the jack, and also a supply of dry pine knots, as full of resin as could be found, and cut up small, which were deposited in different places along the creek. The jack was then filled and lit, and when it was all ablaze carried along the edge of the stream, closely followed by the spearsman, who, if an expert, would in a short time secure as many fish as could be carried. It required a sharp eye and a sure aim. The fish shot through the water with great rapidity, which rendered the sport all the more exciting. All hands, of course, returned home thoroughly soaked. Another and pleasanter way was fishing in a canoe on the bay, with the lighted jack secured in the bow. While there its light shone for a considerable distance around, and enabled the fishers to see the smallest fish low down in the clear calm water. This was really enjoyable sport, and generally resulted in a good catch of pike, pickerel, and, very often, a maskelonge or two.

Early in the spring, before the snow had gone, the sugar-making time came. Success depended altogether upon the favourable condition of the weather. The days must be clear and mild, the nights frosty, and plenty of snow in the woods. When the time was at hand, the buckets and troughs were overhauled, spiles were made, and when all was ready the large kettles and casks were put in the sleigh, and all hands set out for the bush. Tapping the tree was the first thing in order. This was done either by boring the tree with an auger, and inserting a spile about a foot long to carry off the sap, or with a gouge-shaped tool about two inches wide, which was driven into the tree, under an inclined scar made with an axe. The spiles used in this case were split with the same instrument, sharpened at the end with a knife, and driven into the cut. A person accustomed to the work would tap a great many trees in a day, and usually continued until he had done two or three hundred or more. This finished, next came the placing and hanging of the kettles. A large log, or what was more common, the trunk of some great tree that had been blown down, would be selected, in as central a position as possible. Two crotches were erected by its side, and a strong pole was put across from one to the other. Hooks were then made, and the kettles suspended over the fire. The sap was collected once and sometimes twice a day, and when there was a good supply in the casks, the boiling began. Each day's run was finished, if possible, the same night, when the sugaring-off took place. There are various simple ways of telling when the syrup is sufficiently boiled, and when this is done, the kettle containing the result of the day's work is set off the fire, and the contents stirred until they turn to sugar, which is then dipped into dishes or moulds, and set aside to harden. Sometimes, when the run was large, the boiling continued until late at night, and, although there was a good deal of hard work connected with it, there was also more or less enjoyment, particularly when some half dozen merry girls dropped in upon you, and assisted at the closing scene. On these occasions the fun was free and boisterous. The woods rang with shouts and peals of laughter, and always ended by our faces and hair being all stuck up with sugar. Then we would mount the sleigh and leave for the house. But the most satisfactory part of the whole was to survey the result of the toil in several hundred weight of sugar, and various vessels filled with rich molasses.

Now the hams and beef had to be got out of the casks, and hung up in the smoke-house to be smoked. The spring work crowded on rapidly. Ploughing, fencing, sawing and planting followed in quick succession. All hands were busy. The younger ones had to drive the cows to pasture in the morning and bring them up at night. They had also to take a hand at the old churn, and it was a weary task, as I remember well, to stand for an hour, perhaps, and drive the dasher up and down through the thick cream. How often the handle was examined to see if there were any indications of butter; and what satisfaction there was in getting over with it. As soon as my legs were long enough I had to follow a team, and drag in grain—in fact, before, for I was mounted on the back of one of the horses when my nether limbs were hardly long enough to hold me to my seat. The implements then in use were very rough. Iron ploughs, with cast iron mouldboards, shears, &c., were generally used. As compared with the ploughs of to-day they were clumsy things, but were a great advance over the old wooden ploughs which had not yet altogether gone out of use. Tree tops were frequently used for drags. Riding a horse in the field, under a hot sun, which I frequently had to do, was not as agreeable as it might seem at the first blush.

In June came sheep-washing. The sheep were driven to the bay shore and secured in a pen, whence they were taken one by one into the bay, and their fleece well washed, after which they were let go. In a few days they were brought to the barn and sheared. The wool was then sorted; some of it being retained to be carded by hand, the rest sent to the mill to be turned into rolls; and when they were brought home the hum of the spinning wheel was heard day after day, for weeks, and the steady beat of the girls' feet on the floor, as they walked forward and backward drawing out and twisting the thread, and then letting it run upon the spindle. Of course the quality of the cloth depended on the fineness and evenness of the thread; and a great deal of pains was taken to turn out good work. When the spinning was done, the yarn was taken away to the weaver to be converted into cloth. As I have said before, there were no drones in a farmer's house then. While the work was being pushed outside with vigour, it did not stand still inside. The thrifty housewife was always busy. Beside the daily round of cares that continually pressed upon her, the winter had hardly passed away before she began to make preparations for the next. There were wild strawberries and raspberries to pickle and preserve, of which the family had their share as they came, supplemented with an abundance of rich cream and sugar; and so with the other fruits in their turn. There was the daily task, too, of milking, and the less frequent one of making butter and cheese. The girls were always out in the yard by sunrise, and soon came tripping in with red cheeks and flowing pails of milk; and at sunset the scene was repeated. The matron required no nurse to take care of the children; no cook to superintend the kitchen; no chamber-maid to make the beds and do the dusting. She had, very likely, one or two hired girls, neighbours' daughters. It was quite common then for farmers' daughters to go out to work when their services could be dispensed with at home. They were treated as equals, and took as much interest in the affairs of the family as the mistress herself. The fact of a girl going out to work did not affect her position. On the contrary, it was rather in her favour, and showed that she had some ambition about her. The girls, in those days, were quite as much at home in the kitchen as in the drawing-room or boudoir. They could do better execution over a wash tub than at a spinet. They could handle a rolling pin with more satisfaction than a sketch book; and if necessity required, could go out in the field and handle a fork and rake with practical results. They were educated in the country school house—

"Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,"

with their brothers, and not at a city boarding school. They had not so much as dreamed of fashion books, or heard of fashionable milliners. Their accomplishments were picked up at home, not abroad. And with all these drawbacks, they were pure, modest, affectionate. They made good wives; and that they were the best and most thoughtful mothers that ever watched over the well-being of their children, many remember full well.

Country life was practical and plodding in those days. Ambition did not lure the husbandman to days of luxury and ease, but to the accomplishment of a good day's work, and a future crowned with the fruits of honest industry. If the girls were prepared for the future by the watchful care and example of the mothers, so the boys followed in the footsteps of their fathers. They did not look upon their lives as burdensome. They did not feel that the occupation of a farmer was less honourable than any other. The merchant's shop did not possess more attraction than the barn. Fine clothes were neither so durable nor so cheap as home-made suits. Fashionable tailors did not exist to lure them into extravagance, and the town-bred dandy had not broken loose to taint them with his follies. Their aspirations did not lead into ways of display and idleness, or their association to bad habits. They were content to work as their fathers had done, and their aim was to become as exemplary and respected as they were. It was in such a school and under such masters that the foundation of Canadian prosperity was laid, and it is not gratifying to the thoughtful mind, after the survey of such a picture, to find that although our material prosperity in the space of fifty years has been marvellous, we have been gradually departing from the sterling example set us by our progenitors, for twenty years at least. "Dead flies" of extravagance have found their way into the "ointment" of domestic life, and their "savour" is keenly felt. In our haste to become rich, we have abandoned the old road of honest industry. To acquire wealth, and to rise in the social scale, we have cast behind us those principles which give tone and value to position. We are not like the Israelites who longed for the "flesh pots" they had left behind in Egypt; yet when we look around it is difficult to keep back the question put by the Ecclesiast, "What is the cause that the former days were better than these?" and the answer we think is not difficult to find. Our daughters are brought up now like tender plants, more for ornament than use. The practical lessons of life are neglected for the superficial. We send our sons to college, and there they fly from the fostering care of home; they crowd into our towns and cities— sometimes to rise, it is true, but more frequently to fall, and to become worthless members of society. Like the dog in the fable, we ourselves have let the substance drop, while our gaze has been glamoured by the shadow.

Early in July the haying began. The mowers were expected to be in the meadow by sunrise; and all through the day the rasp of their whetstones could be heard, as they dexterously drew them with a quick motion of the hand, first along one side of the scythe and then the other; after which they went swinging across the field, the waving grass falling rapidly before their keen blades, and dropping in swathes at their side. The days were not then divided off into a stated number of working hours. The rule was to begin with the morning light and continue as long as you could see. Of course men had to eat in those days as well as now, and the blast of the old tin dinner-horn fell on the ear with more melodious sound than the grandest orchestra to the musical enthusiast. Even "Old Gray," when I followed the plough, used to give answer to the cheerful wind of the horn by a loud whinny, and stop in the furrow, as if to say, "There now, off with my harness, and let us to dinner." If I happened to be in the middle of the field, I had considerable trouble to get the old fellow to go on to the end.

I must say a few words in this place about "Old Gray." Why he was always called "Old Gray" is more than I know. His colour could not have suggested the name, for he was a bright roan, almost a bay. He was by no means a pretty animal, being raw-boned, and never seeming to be in first-rate condition; but he was endowed with remarkable sagacity and great endurance, and was, moreover, a fleet trotter. When my father began the work for himself he was a part of his chattels, and survived his master several years. Father drove him twice to Little York one winter, a distance of over one hundred and fifty miles, accomplishing the trip both times inside of a week. He never would allow a team to pass him. It was customary in those days, particularly with youngsters in the winter, to turn out and run by, and many such races I have had; but the moment a team turned out of the track to pass "Old Gray," he was off like a shot, and you might as well try to hold a locomotive with pins as him with an ordinary bit. He was skittish, and often ran away. On one occasion, when I was very young, he ran off with father and myself in a single waggon. We were both thrown out, and, our feet becoming entangled in the lines, we were dragged some distance. The wheel passed over my head, and cut it so that it bled freely, but the wound was not serious. My father was badly hurt. After a while we started for home, and before we reached it the old scamp got frightened at a log, and set off full tilt. Again, father was thrown out, and I tipped over on the bottom of the waggon. Fortunately, the shafts gave way, and let him loose, when he stopped. Father was carried home, and did not leave the house for a long time. I used to ride the self-willed beast to school in the winter, and had great sport, sometimes, by getting boys on behind me, and, when they were not thinking, I would touch "Old Gray" under the flank with my heel, which would make him spring as though he were shot, and off the boys would tumble in the snow. When I reached school I tied up the reins and let him go home. I do not think he ever had an equal for mischief, and for the last years we had him we could do nothing with him. He was perpetually getting into the fields of grain, and leading all the other cattle after him. We used to hobble him in all sorts of ways, but he would manage to push or rub down the fence at some weak point, and unless his nose was fastened down almost to the ground by a chain from his head to his hind leg, he would let down the bars, or open all the gates about the place. There was not a door about the barn but he would open, if he could get at the latch, and if the key was left in the granary door he would unlock that. If left standing he was sure to get his head-stall off, and we had to get a halter made specially for him. He finally became such a perpetual torment that we sold him, and we all had a good cry when the old horse went away. He was upwards of twenty-five years old at this time. How much longer he lived I cannot say. I never saw him afterward.

As soon as the sun was well up, and our tasks about the house over, our part of this new play in the hayfield began, and with a fork or long stick we followed up the swathes and spread them out nicely, so that the grass would dry. In the afternoon, it had to be raked up into winrows— work in which the girls often joined us—and after tea one or two of the men cocked it up, while we raked the ground clean after them. If the weather was clear and dry it would be left out for several days before it was drawn into the barn or stacked; but often it was housed as soon as dry.

Another important matter which claimed the farmer's attention at this time was the preparation of his summer-fallow for fall wheat. The ground was first broken up after the spring sowing was over, and about hay time the second ploughing had to be done, to destroy weeds, and get the land in proper order. In August the last ploughing came, and about the first of September the wheat was sown. It almost always happened, too, that there were some acres of woodland that had been chopped over for fire wood and timber, to be cleaned up. Logs and bush had to be collected into piles, and burned. On new farms this was heavy work. Then the timber was cut down, and ruthlessly given over to the fire. Logging bees were of frequent occurrence, when the neighbours turned out with their oxen and logging chains, and, amid the ring of the axe and the shouting of drivers and men with their handspikes, the great logs were rolled one upon another into huge heaps, and left for the fire to eat them out of the way. When the work was done, all hands proceeded to the house, grim and black as a band of sweeps, where, with copious use of soap and water, they brought themselves back to their normal condition, and went in and did justice to the supper prepared for them.

In August the wheat fields were ready for the reapers. This was the great crop of the year. Other grain was grown, such as rye, oats, peas, barley and corn, but principally for feeding. Wheat was the farmer's main dependence, his staff of life and his current coin. A good cradler would cut about five acres a day, and an expert with a rake would follow and bind up what he cut. There were men who would literally walk through the grain with a cradle, and then two men were required to follow. My father had no superior in swinging the cradle, and when the golden grain stood thick and straight, he gave two smart men all they could do to take up what he cut down. Again the younger fry came in for their share of the work, which was to gather the sheaves and put them in shocks. These, after standing a sufficient time, were brought into the barn and mowed away, and again the girls often gave a helping hand both in the field and the barn. In all these tasks good work was expected. My father was, as I have said before, a pushing man, and "thorough" in all he undertook. His mottoes with his men were, "Follow me," and "Anything that is worth doing, is worth doing well;" and this latter rule was always enforced. The ploughers had to throw their furrows neat and straight. When I got to be a strong lad, I could strike a furrow with the old team across a field as straight as an arrow, and I took pride in throwing my furrows in uniform precision. The mowers had to shear the land close and smooth. The rakers threw their winrows straight, and the men made their hay-cocks of a uniform size, and placed them at equal distances apart. So in the grain field, the stubble had to be cut clean and even, the sheaves well bound and shocked in straight rows, with ten sheaves to the shock. It was really a pleasure to inspect the fields when the work was done. Skill was required to load well, and also to mow away, the object being to get the greatest number of sheaves in the smallest space. About the first of September the crops were in and the barns were filled and surrounded with stacks of hay and grain.

My father was admitted to be the best farmer in the district. His farm was a model of good order and neatness. He was one of the first to devote attention to the improvement of his stock, and was always on the look-out for improved implements or new ideas, which, if worthy of attention, he was the first to utilize.

There is always something for a pushing farmer to do, and there are always rainy days through the season, when out-door work comes to a stand. At such times my father was almost always found in his workshop, making pails or tubs for the house, or repairing his tools or making new ones. At other times he would turn his attention to dressing the flax he had stowed away, and getting it ready for spinning. The linen for bags, as well as for the house, was then all home-made. It could hardly be expected that with such facilities at hand my ingenuity would not develop. One day I observed a pot of red paint on the workbench, and it struck me that the tools would look much better if I gave them a coat of paint. The thought was hardly conceived before it was put into execution, and in a short time planes, saws, augers, &c., were carefully coated over and set aside to dry. Father did not see the thing in the same light as I did. He was very much displeased, and I was punished. After this I turned my attention to water-wheels, waggons, boats, boxes, &c., and in time got to be quite an expert with tools, and could make almost anything out of wood. We children, although we had to drive cows, feed the calves, bring in wood, and all that, had our amusements, simple and rustic enough it is true; but we enjoyed them, and all the more because our parents very often entered into our play.

Sunday was a day of enjoyment as well as rest. There were but few places of public worship, and those were generally far apart. In most places the schoolhouse or barn served the purpose. There were two meeting- houses—this was the term always used then for places of worship—a few miles from our place on Hay bay. The Methodist meeting-house was the first place built for public worship in Upper Canada, and was used for that purpose until a few years ago. It now belongs to Mr. Platt, and is used as a storehouse. The other, a Quaker meeting-house, built some years later, is still standing. It was used as a barrack by the Glengarry regiment in 1812, a part of which regiment was quartered in the neighbourhood during that year. The men left their bayonet-marks in the old posts.

On Sunday morning the horses were brought up and put to the lumber waggon, the only carriage known then. The family, all arrayed in their Sunday clothes, arranged themselves in the spacious vehicle, and drove away. At that time, and for a good many years after, whether in the school-house or meeting-house, the men sat on one side and the women on the other, in all places of worship. The sacred bond which had been instituted by the Creator Himself in the Garden of Eden, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they shall be one flesh," did not seem to harmonize with that custom, for when they went up to His house they separated at the door. It would have been thought a very improper thing, even for a married couple, to take a seat side by side. Indeed I am inclined to think that the good brothers and sisters would have put them out of doors. So deeply rooted are the prejudices in matters of religious belief. That they are the most difficult to remove, the history of the past confirms through all ages. This custom prevailed for many years after. When meeting was over it was customary to go to some friend's to dinner, and make, as used to be said, a visit, or, what was equally as pleasant, father or mother would ask some old acquaintances to come home with us. Sunday in all seasons, and more particularly in the summer, was the grand visiting day with old and young. I do not state this out of any disrespect for the Sabbath. I think I venerate it as much as anyone, but I am simply recording facts as they then existed. The people at that time, as a rule, were not religious, but they were moral, and anxious for greater religious advantages. There were not many preachers, and these had such extended fields of labour that their appointments were irregular, and often, like angels' visits, few and far between. They could not ignore their social instincts altogether, and this was the only day when the toil and moil of work was put aside. They first went to meeting, when there was any, and devoted the rest of the day to friendly intercourse and enjoyment. People used to come to Methodist meeting for miles, and particularly on quarterly meeting day. On one of these occasions, fourteen young people who were crossing the bay in a skiff, on their way to the meeting, were upset near the shore and drowned. Some years later the missionary meeting possessed great attraction, when a deputation composed of Egerton Ryerson and Peter Jones, the latter with his Indian curiosities, drew the people in such numbers that half of them could not get into the house.

There were a good many Quakers, and as my father's people belonged to that body we frequently went to their meeting. The broad brims on one side, with the scoop bonnets on the other, used to excite my curiosity, but I did not like to sit still so long. Sometimes not a word would be said, and after an hour of profound silence, two of the old men on one of the upper seats would shake hands. Then a general shaking of hands ensued on both sides of the house, and meeting was out.

Many readers will recall gentle Charles Lamb's thoughtful paper on "A Quakers' Meeting." [Footnote: See Essays of Elia.] Several of his reflections rise up so vividly before me as I write these lines that I cannot forbear quoting them. "What," he asks, "is the stillness of the desert, compared with this place? what the uncommunicating muteness of fishes?—here the goddess reigns and revels.—'Boreas, and Cesias, and Argestes loud,' do not with their interconfounding uproars more augment the brawl—nor the waves of the blown Baltic with their clubbed sounds —than their opposite (Silence her sacred self) is multiplied and rendered more intense by numbers, and by sympathy. She too hath her deeps, that call unto deeps. Negation itself hath a positive more and less; and closed eyes would seem to obscure the great obscurity of midnight.

"There are wounds which an imperfect solitude cannot heal. By imperfect I mean that which a man enjoyeth by himself. The perfect is that which he can sometimes attain in crowds, but nowhere so absolutely as in a Quakers' Meeting.—Those first hermits did certainly understand this principle, when they retired into Egyptian solitudes, not singly, but in shoals, to enjoy one another's want of conversation. The Carthusian is bound to his brethren by this agreeing spirit of incommunicativeness. In secular occasions, what so pleasant as to be reading a book through a long winter evening, with a friend sitting by—say a wife—he, or she, too (if that be probable), reading another, without interruption, or oral communication?—can there be no sympathy without the gabble of words?—away with this inhuman, shy, single, shade-and-cavern-haunting solitariness. Give me, Master Zimmerman, a sympathetic solitude.

"To pace alone in the cloisters, or side aisles of some cathedral, time- stricken;

Or under hanging mountains, Or by the fall of fountains;

is but a vulgar luxury compared with that which those enjoy who come together for the purposes of more complete, abstracted solitude. This is the loneliness 'to be felt.' The Abbey-Church of Westminster hath nothing so solemn, so spirit-soothing, as the naked walls and benches of a Quakers' Meeting. Here are no tombs, no inscriptions,

—Sands, ignoble things, Dropt from the ruined sides of kings—

but here is something which throws Antiquity herself into the foreground—SILENCE—eldest of things—language of old Night—primitive Discourser—to which the insolent decays of mouldering grandeur have but arrived by a violent, and, as we may say, unnatural progression.

How reverend is the view of these hushed heads, Looking tranquillity!

"Nothing-plotting, nought-caballing, unmischievous synod! convocation without intrigue! parliament without debate! what a lesson dost thou read, to council and to consistory!—if my pen treat of you lightly—as haply it will wander—yet my spirit hath gravely felt the wisdom of your custom, when sitting among you in deepest peace, which some outwelling tears would rather confirm than disturb, I have reverted to the times of your beginnings, and the sowings of the seed by Fox and Dewesbury.—I have witnessed that which brought before my eyes your heroic tranquillity inflexible to the rude jests and serious violences of the insolent soldiery, republican or royalist sent to molest you—for ye sate betwixt the fires of two persecutions, the outcast and off-scouring of church and presbytery.

"I have seen the reeling sea-ruffian, who had wandered into your receptacle with the avowed intention of disturbing your quiet, from the very spirit of the place receive in a moment a new heart, and presently sit among ye as a lamb amidst lambs. And I remember Penn before his accusers, and Fox in the bail-dock, where he was lifted up in spirit, as he tells us, and the judge and the jury became as dead men under his feet."

Our old family carriage—the lumbering waggon—revives many pleasant recollections. Many long rides were taken in it, both to mill and market, and, sometimes I have curled myself up, and slept far into the night in it while waiting for my grist to be ground so I could take it home. But it was not used by the young folks as sleighs were in the winter. It was a staid, family vehicle, not suited to mirth or love- making. It was too noisy for that, and on a rough road, no very uncommon thing then, one was shaken up so thoroughly that there was but little room left for sentiment. In later times, lighter and much more comfortable vehicles were used. The elliptic or steel spring did not come into use until about 1840. I remember my grandfather starting off for New York in one of these light one-horse waggons. I do not know how long he was gone, but he made the journey, and returned safely. Long journeys by land were made, principally in summer, on horseback, both by men and women. The horse was also the young peoples' only vehicle at this season of the year. The girls were usually good riders, and could gallop away as well on the bare back as on the side-saddle. A female cousin of my father's several times made journeys of from one to two hundred miles on horseback, and on one occasion she carried her infant son for a hundred and fifty miles, a feat the women of to-day would consider impossible.

Then as now, the early fall was not the least pleasant portion of the Canadian year. Everyone is familiar with the striking beauty of our woods after the frost begins, and the endless variety of shade and colour that mingles with such pleasing effect in every landscape. And in those days, as well as now, the farmers' attention was directed to preparation for the coming winter. His market staples then consisted of wheat or flour, pork and potash. The other products of his farm, such as coarse grain, were used by himself. Butter and eggs were almost valueless, save on his own table. The skins of his sheep, calves and beef cattle which were slaughtered for his own use, were sent to the tanners, who dressed them on shares, the remainder being brought home to be made up into boots, harness and mittens. Wood, which afterwards came into demand for steam purposes, was worthless. Sawn lumber was not wanted, except for home use, and the shingles that covered the buildings were split and made by the farmer himself.

If the men had logging-bees, and other bees to help them on with their work, the women, by way of compensation, had bees of a more social and agreeable type. Among these were quilting bees, when the women and girls of the neighbourhood assembled in the afternoon, and turned out those skilfully and often artistically made rugs, so comfortable to lie under during the cold winter nights. There was often a great deal of sport at the close of one of these social industrial gatherings. When the men came in from the field to supper, some luckless wight was sure to be caught, and tossed up and down in the quilt amid the laughter and shouts of the company. But of all the bees, the apple-bee was the chief. In these old and young joined. The boys around the neighbourhood, with their home-made apple-machines, of all shapes and designs, would come pouring in with their girls early in the evening. The large kitchen, with its sanded floor, the split bottomed chairs ranged round the room, the large tubs of apples, and in the centre the clean scrubbed pine table filled with wooden trays and tallow-candles in tin candlesticks, made an attractive picture which had for its setting the mother and girls, all smiles and good nature, receiving and pleasing the company. Now the work begins amidst laughter and mirth; the boys toss the peeled apples away from their machines in rapid numbers, and the girls catch them, and with their knives quarter and core them, while others string them with needles on long threads, and tie them so that they can be hung up to dry. As soon as the work is done the room is cleared for supper, after which the old folks retire, and the second and most pleasing part of the performance begins. These after-scenes were always entered into with a spirit of fun and honest abandonment truly refreshing. Where dancing was not objected to, a rustic fiddler would be spirited in by some of the youngsters as the sport began. The dance was not that languid sort of thing, toned down by modern refinement to a sliding, easy motion round the room, and which, for the lack of conversational accomplishments, is made to do duty for want of wit. Full of life and vigour, they danced for the real fun of the thing. The quick and inspiriting strains of the music sent them spinning round the room, and amid the rush and whirl of the flying feet came the sharp voice of the fiddler as he flourished his bow: "Right and left—balance to your pardner—cross hands—swing your pardner—up and down the middle," and so on through reel after reel. Some one of the boys would perform a pas seul with more energy than grace; but it was all the same— the dancing master had not been abroad; the fiddler put life into their heels, and they let them play. Frequently there was no musician to be had, when the difficulty was overcome by the musical voices of the girls, assisted with combs covered with paper, or the shrill notes of some expert at whistling. It often happened that the old people objected to dancing, and then the company resorted to plays, of which there was a great variety: "Button, button, who's got the button;" "Measuring Tape;" "Going to Rome;" "Ladies Slipper;" all pretty much of the same character, and much appreciated by the boys, because they afforded a chance to kiss the girls.

Some of our plays bordered very closely on a dance, and when our inclinations were checked, we approached the margin of the forbidden ground as nearly as possible. Among these I remember one which afforded an opportunity to swing around in a merry way. A chair was placed in the centre of the room, upon which one of the girls or boys was seated. Then we joined hands, and went dancing around singing the following refrain:—

There was a young woman sat down to sleep, Sat down to sleep, sat down to sleep; There was a young woman sat down to sleep, Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho!

There was a young man to keep her awake, To keep her awake, to keep her awake; There was a young man to keep her awake, Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho-! Heigh-ho!

Tom Brown his name shall be, His name shall be, his name shall be; Tom Brown his name shall be, Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho!

Whereupon Mr. Brown was expected to step out, take the girl by the hand, salute her with a kiss, and then take her seat. Then the song went on again, with variations to suit; and thus the rustic mazurka proceeded until all had had a chance of tasting the rosy lips, so tempting to youthful swains. Often a coy maiden resisted, and then a pleasant scuffle ensued, in which she sometimes eluded the penalty, much to the chagrin of the claimant.



As time wore on, and contact with the outer world became easier and more frequent, the refinements of advancing civilization found their way gradually into the country, and changed the amusements as well as the long-established habits of the people. An isolated community like that which stretched along the frontier of our Province, cut off from the older and more advanced stages of society, or holding but brief and irregular communication with it, could not be expected to keep up with the march of either social or intellectual improvement; and although the modern may turn up his nose as he looks back, and affect contempt at the amusements which fell across our paths like gleams of sunlight at the break of day, and call them rude and indelicate, he must not forget that we were not hedged about by the conventionalities, nor were we slaves to the caprice of fashion. We were free sons and daughters of an upright, sturdy parentage, with pure and honest hearts throbbing under rough exteriors. The girls who did not blush at a hearty kiss from our lips were as pure as the snow. They became ornaments in higher and brighter circles of society, and mothers, the savour of whose virtues and maternal affection rise before our memory like a perpetual incense.

I am quite well aware of the fact that a large portion of the religious world is opposed to dancing, nor in this recital of country life as it then existed do I wish to be considered an advocate of this amusement. I joined in the sport then with as much eagerness and delight as one could do. I learned to step off on the light fantastic toe, as many another Canadian boy has done, on the barn floor, where, with the doors shut, I went sliding up and down, through the middle, balancing to the pitch- fork, turning round the old fanning-mill, then double-shuffling and closing with a profound bow to the splint broom in the corner. These were the kind of schools in which our accomplishments were learned; and, whether dancing be right or wrong, it is certain the inclination of the young to indulge in it is about as universal as the taint of sin.

The young people then, as now, took it into their heads to get married; but parsons were scarce, and it did not always suit them to wait until one came along. To remedy this difficulty the Government authorized magistrates to perform the ceremony for any couple who resided more than eighteen miles from church. There were hardly any churches, and therefore a good many called upon the Justice to put a finishing touch to their happiness, and curious looking pairs presented themselves to have the knot tied. One morning a robust young man and a pretty, blushing girl presented themselves at my father's door, and were invited in. They were strangers, and it was some time before he could find out what they wanted; but after beating about the bush, the young man hesitatingly said they wanted to get married. They were duly tied, and, on leaving, I was asked to join in their wedding dinner. Though it was to be some distance away, I mounted my horse and joined them. The dinner was good, and served in the plain fashion of the day. After it came dancing, to the music of a couple of fiddlers, and we threaded through reel after reel until nearly daylight. On another occasion a goodly company gathered at a neighbour's house to assist at the nuptials of his daughter. The ceremony had passed, and we were collected around the supper table; the old man had spread out his hands to ask a blessing, when bang, bang, went a lot of guns, accompanied by horns, whistles, tin pans and anything and everything with which a noise could be made. A simultaneous shriek went up from the girls, and for a few moments the confusion was as great inside as out. It was a horrid din of discordant sounds. Conversation at the supper table was out of the question, and as soon as it was over we went out among the boys who had come to charivari us. There were perhaps fifty of them, with blackened faces and ludicrous dresses, and after the bride and bridegroom had shown themselves and received their congratulations, they went their way, and left us to enjoy ourselves in peace. It was after this manner the young folks wedded. There was but little attempt at display. No costly trousseau, no wedding tours. A night of enjoyment with friends, and the young couple set out at once on the practical journey of life.

One of our favourite sports in those days was coon (short name for raccoon) hunting. This lasted only during the time of green corn. The raccoon is particularly fond of corn before it hardens, and if unmolested will destroy a good deal in a short time. He always visits the cornfields at night; so about nine o'clock we would set off with our dogs, trained for the purpose, and with as little noise as possible make our way to the edge of the corn, and then wait for him. If the field was not too large he could easily be heard breaking down the ears, and then the dogs were let loose. They cautiously and silently crept towards the unsuspecting foe. But the sharp ears and keen scent of the raccoon seldom let him fall into the clutch of the dogs without a scamper for life. The coon was almost always near the woods, and this gave him a chance of escape. As soon as a yelp was heard from the dogs, we knew the fun had begun, and pushing forward in the direction of the noise, we were pretty sure to find our dogs baffled and jumping and barking around the foot of a tree up which Mr. Coon had fled, and whence he was quietly looking down on his pursuers from a limb or crutch. Our movements now were guided by circumstances. If the tree was not too large, one of us would climb it and dislodge the coon. In the other case we generally cut it down. The dogs were always on the alert, and the moment the coon touched the ground they were on him. We used frequently to capture two or three in a night. The skin was dressed and made into caps or robes for the sleigh. On two or three of these expeditions, our dogs caught a Tartar by running foul of a coon not so easily disposed of—in the shape of a bear; and then we were both glad to decamp, as he was rather too big a job to undertake in the night. Bruin was fond of young corn, but he and the wolves had ceased to be troublesome. The latter occasionally made a raid on a flock of sheep in the winter, but they were watched pretty closely, and were trapped or shot. There was a government bounty of $4 for every wolf's head. Another, and much more innocent sport, was netting wild pigeons after the wheat had been taken off. At that time they used to visit the stubbles in large flocks. Our mode of procedure was to build a house of boughs under which to hide ourselves. Then the ground was carefully cleaned and sprinkled with grain, at one side of which the net was set, and in the centre one stool pigeon, secured on a perch was placed, attached to which was a long string running into the house. When all was ready we retired and watched for the flying pigeons, and whenever a flock came within a seeing distance our stool pigeon was raised and then dropped. This would cause it to spread its wings and then flutter, which attracted the flying birds, and after a circle or two they would swoop down and commence to feed. Then the net was sprung, and in a trice we had scores of pigeons under it. I do not remember to have seen this method of capturing pigeons practised since. If we captured many we took them home, put them where they could not get away, and took them out as we wanted them.

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