At the time of which I write Upper Canada had been settled about forty- five years. A good many of the first settlers had ended their labours, and were peacefully resting in the quiet grave-yard; but there were many left, and they were generally hale old people, who were enjoying in contentment and peace the evening of their days, surrounded by their children, who were then in their prime, and their grandchildren, ruddy and vigorous plants, shooting up rapidly around them. The years that had fled were eventful ones, not only to themselves, but to the new country which they had founded. "The little one had become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation." The forest had melted away before the force of their industry, and orchards with their russet fruit, and fields of waving corn, gladdened their hearts and filled their cellars and barns with abundance. The old log house which had been their shelter and their home for many a year had disappeared, or was converted into an out-house for cattle, or a place for keeping implements in during the winter; and now the commodious and well-arranged frame one had taken its place. Large barns for their increasing crops and warm sheds to protect the cattle had grown up out of the rude hovels and stables. Everything around them betokened thrift, and more than an ordinary degree of comfort. They had what must be pronounced to have been, for the time, good schools, where their children could acquire a tolerable education. They also had places in which they could assemble and worship God. There were merchants from whom they could purchase such articles as they required, and there were markets for their produce. The changes wrought in these forty-five years were wonderful, and to no class of persons could these changes seem more surprising than to themselves. Certainly no people appreciated more fully the rich ripe fruit of their toil. Among the pleasantest pictures I can recall are the old homes in which my boyhood was passed. I hardly know in what style of architecture they were built; indeed, I think it was one peculiar to the people and the age. They were strong, substantial structures, erected with an eye to comfort rather than show. They were known afterwards as Dutch houses, usually one story high, and built pretty much after the same model; a parallelogram, with a wing at one end, and often to both. The roofs were very steep, with a row of dormer windows, and sometimes two rows looking out of their broad sides, to give light to the chambers and sleeping rooms up-stairs. The living rooms were generally large, with low ceilings, and well supplied with cupboards, which were always filled with blankets and clothing, dishes, and a multitude of good things for the table. The bed rooms were always small and cramped, but they were sure to contain a good bed—a bed which required some ingenuity, perhaps, to get into, owing to its height; but when once in, the great feather tick fitted kindly to the weary body, and the blankets over you soon wooed your attention away from the narrowness of the apartment. Very often the roof projected over, giving an elliptic shape to one side, and the projection of about six feet formed a cover of what was then called a long stoop, but which now-a-days would be known as a veranda. This was no addition to the lighting of the rooms, for the windows were always small in size and few in number. The kitchen usually had a double outside door—that is a door cut cross-wise through the middle, so that the lower part could be kept shut, and the upper left open if necessary. I do not know what particular object there was in this, unless to let the smoke out, for chimneys were more apt to smoke then than now; or, perhaps, to keep the youngsters in and let in fresh air. Whatever the object was, this was the usual way the outside kitchen door was made, with a wooden latch and leather string hanging outside to lift it, which was easily pulled in, and then the door was quite secure against intruders. The barns and out-houses were curiosities in after years: large buildings with no end of timber and all roof, like a great box with an enormous candle extinguisher set on it. But houses and barns are gone, and modern structures occupy their places, as they succeeded the rough log ones, and one can only see them as they are photographed upon the memory.
Early days are always bright to life's voyager, and whatever his condition may have been at the outset, he is ever wont to look back with fondness to the scenes of his youth. I can recall days of toil under a burning sun, but they were cheerful days, nevertheless. There was always "a bright spot in the future" to look forward to, which moved the arm and lightened the task. Youth is buoyant, and if its feet run in the way of obedience, it will leave a sweet fragrance behind, which will never lose its flavour. The days I worked in the harvest field, or when I followed the plough, whistling and singing through the hours, are not the least happy recollections of the past. The merry song of the girls, mingling with the hum of the spinning-wheel, as they tripped backward and forward to the cadence of their music, drawing out miles of thread, reeling it into skeins which the weaver's loom and shuttle was to turn into thick heavy cloth; or old grandmother treading away at her little wheel, making it buzz as she drew out the delicate fibres of flax, and let it run up the spindle a fine and evenly twisted thread, with which to sew our garments, or to make our linen; and mother, busy as a bee, thinking of us all, and never wearying in her endeavours to add to our comfort—these are pictures that stand out, clear and distinct, and are often reverted to with pleasure and delight. But though summer time in the country is bright and beautiful with its broad meadows waving before the western wind like seas of green, and the yellow corn, gleaming in the field where the sun-burnt reapers are singing; though the flowers shed their fragrance, and the breeze sighs softly through the branches overhead in monotones, but slightly varied, yet sweet and soothing; though the wood is made vocal with the song of birds, and all nature is jocund and bright—notwithstanding, all this, the winter, strange as it may seem, was the time of our greatest enjoyment. Winter, when "Old Gray," who used to scamper with me astride his bare back down the lane, stood munching his fodder in the stall; when the cattle, no longer lolling or browsing in the peaceful shade, moved around the barn-yard with humped backs, shaking their heads at the cold north wind; when the trees were stripped of their foliage, and the icicles hung in fantastic rows along the naked branches, glittering like jewels in the sunshine, or rattling in the northern blast; when the ground was covered deep with snow, and the wind "driving o'er the fields," whirled into huge drifts, blocking up the doors and paths and roads; when
"The whited air Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven, And veils the farm-house at the garden's end;"
when the frost silvered over the window-panes, or crept through the cracks and holes, and fringed them with its delicate fret-work; when the storm raged and howled without, and
"Shook beams and rafters as it passed!"
Within, happy faces were gathered around the blazing logs in the old fire-place.
"Shut in from all the world without, We sat the clean-winged hearth about, Content to let the north wind roar, In baffled rage at pane and door, While the red logs before us beat The frost line back with tropic heat."
The supper has been cleared away, and upon the clean white table is placed a large dish of apples and a pitcher of cider. On either end stands a tallow candle in a bright brass candlestick, with an extinguisher attached to each, and the indispensable snuffers and tray. Sometimes the fingers are made use of in the place of the snuffers; but it is not always satisfactory to the snuffer, as he sometimes burns himself, and hastens to snap his fingers to get rid of the burning wick. One of the candles is appropriated by father, who is quietly reading his paper; for we had newspapers then, though they would not compare very favourably with those of to-day, and we got them only once a week. Mother is darning socks. Grandmother is making the knitting needles fly, as though all her grandchildren were stockingless. The girls are sewing and making merry with the boys, and we are deeply engaged with our lessons, or what is more likely, playing fox and geese.
"What matters how the night behaved; What matter how the north-wind raved; Blow high, blow low, not all its snow Could quench our ruddy hearth-fire's glow.
* * * * *
O time and change! with hair as gray As was my sire's that winter day, How strange it seems, with so much gone Of life and love, to still live on!
Ah brother! only I and thou Are left of all the circle now— The dear home faces whereupon The fitful fire-light paled and shone, Henceforth, listen as we will, The voices of that hearth are still."
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.
The settlement of Ontario, known up to the time of Confederation as the Province of Upper Canada, or Canada West, began in 1784, so that at the date I purpose to make a brief survey of the condition and progress of the country, it had been settled forty-six years. During those years—no insignificant period in a single life, but very small indeed in the history of a country—the advance in national prosperity and in the various items that go to make life pleasant and happy had been marvellous. The muscular arm of the sturdy pioneer had hewn its way into the primeval forest, and turned the gloomy wilderness into fruitful fields.
It is well known that the first settlers located along the shores of the River St. Lawrence, the Bay of Quinte, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie, and that, at the time of which I speak, this coastline of a few hundred miles, extending back but a very short distance—a long narrow strip cut from the serried edge of the boundless woods—comprised the settlement of Canada West as it then existed. Persistent hard work had placed the majority in circumstances of more than ordinary comfort. Good houses had taken the place of log cabins, and substantial frame barns that of rude hovels. Hard fare and scanty raiment had given place to an abundance of the necessaries of life, and no people, perhaps, ever appreciated these blessings with more sincere thankfulness or more hearty contentment. The farmer was a strong, hardy man, the wife a ruddy, cheerful body, careful of the comforts of her household. One table sufficed for themselves and their servants or hired help. Meat was provided twice and often thrice a day; it being more a matter of taste than economy as to the number of times it was served. Fruit was abundant, and every matron prided herself upon preserving and putting away quantities of it for home use. So that at this time the world was moving smoothly with the people. An immense track of wilderness had been reclaimed, and waving fields and fruitful orchards occupied its place. It may have seemed to them, and indeed I think it did to many, that the sum of all they could expect or even desire in this world had been attained; while we, who remember those days, and look back over the changes of fifty years, wonder how they managed to endure life at all.
It is true that the father, more from the force of habit than necessity, perhaps continued to toil in the field, and the mother, moved by the same cause, and by her maternal anxiety for the well-being of her family, still spent many a long hour at the loom. The son, brought up to work, followed the plough, or did battle with the axe, making the woods ring with his rapid strokes. And as he laboured he pictured to himself the building of a nest in the unbroken forest behind the homestead, wherein the girl of his choice figured as the central charm. The daughter who toiled through the long summer's day to the monotonous hum of the spinning wheel, drawing out and twisting the threads that should enter into the make-up of her wedding outfit, was contented and happy. The time and circumstances in which they were placed presented nothing better, and in their estimation the world had little more to offer than they already possessed.
It is more than probable that if we, with our modern notions and habits, could to-day be carried back into a similar condition of life, we would feel that our lines had fallen in anything but pleasant places. The flying years, with their changes and anxieties, like the constant dripping of water on a stone, have worn off the rough edges that wounded and worried during their progress, and only the sunny spots, burned in the plastic memory of younger days, remain.
The old homes, as I remember them in those days, were thought palatial in their proportions and conveniences, and so they were as compared with the old log houses. The latter often still remained as relics of other days, but they had been converted into the base use of a cow stable, or a shelter for waggons and farm implements during the winter. Their successors were, with very few exceptions, wooden structures, clap- boarded, and painted either yellow or red. The majority, however, never received any touching up from the painter's brush, and as the years rolled on became rusty and gray from the beating of winter's storms and the heat of summer's sun. The interior rarely displayed any skill in arrangement or design. The living rooms were generally of goodly size, with low ceilings, but the sleeping rooms were invariably small, with barely room enough for a large high-posted bedstead, and a space to undress in. The exterior was void of any architectural embellishment, with a steep roof pierced by dormer windows. The kitchen, which always seemed to me like an after-thought, was a much lower part of the structure, welded on one end or the other of the main body of the house, and usually had a roof projecting some distance over one side, forming "the stoop." In very many cases, the entrance to the spacious cellar, where the roots, apples, cider, and other needs of the household were kept, was from this through a trap door, so that in summer or winter the good wife had actually to go out of doors when anything was required for the table, and that was very often. It really seemed as though the old saying of "the longest way round is the shortest way home" entered not only into the laying out of highways, but into all the domestic arrangements. Economy of time and space, convenience, or anything to facilitate or lighten labour, does not appear to have occupied the thoughts of the people. Work was the normal condition of their being, and, as we see it now, everything seems to have been so arranged as to preclude the possibility of any idle moments. At the end of the kitchen was invariably a large fire-place, with its wide, gaping mouth, an iron crane, with a row of pothooks of various lengths, from which to suspend the pots over the fire, and on the hearth a strong pair of andirons, flanked by a substantial pair of tongs and a shovel. During the winter, when the large back-log, often as much as two men could handle, was brought in and fixed in its place, and a good forestick put on the andirons, with well-split maple piled upon it and set ablaze with dry pine and chips, the old fire-place became aglow with cheerful fire, and dispensed its heat through the room. But in extremely cold weather it sometimes happened that while one side was being roasted the other was pinched with cold. At one side of the fire-place there was usually a large oven, which, when required, was heated by burning dry wood in it, and then the dough was put into tin pans and pushed in to be baked. Sometimes the ovens were built on frames in the yard, and then in wind or storm the baking had to be carried out doors and in. Every kitchen had one or more spacious cupboards; whatever need there was for other conveniences, these were always provided, and were well filled. The other rooms of the house were generally warmed by large box stoves. The spare bedrooms were invariably cold, and on a severe night it was like undressing out of doors and jumping into a snowbank. I have many a time shivered for half an hour before my body could generate heat enough to make me comfortable. The furniture made no pretensions to artistic design or elegance. It was plain and strong, and bore unmistakable evidence of having originated either at the carpenter's bench or at the hands of some member of the family, in odd spells of leisure on rainy days. Necessity is axiomatically said to be the mother of invention, and as there were no furniture makers with any artistic skill or taste in the country, and as the inclination of the people ran more in the direction of the useful than the ornamental, most of the domestic needs were of home manufacture. I have a clear recollection of the pine tables, with their strong square legs tapering to the floor, and of how carefully they were scrubbed. Table covers were seldom used, and only when there was company, and then the cherry table with its folding leaves was brought out, and the pure white linen cloth, most likely the production of the good wife's own hands, was carefully spread upon it. Then came the crockery. Who can ever forget the blue-edged plates, cups and saucers, and other dishes whereon indigo storks and mandarins, or something approaching a representation of them, glided airily over sky- blue hills in their pious way from one indigo pagoda to another. These things I have no doubt, would be rare prizes to Ceramic lovers of the present day. The cutlery and silver consisted mostly of bone-handled knives and iron forks, and iron and pewter spoons. On looking over an old inventory of my grandfather's personal effects not long since, I came upon these items: "two pair of spoon moulds," and I remembered melting pewter and making spoons with these moulds when I was very young. Cooking was done in the oven, and over the kitchen fire, and the utensils were a dinner pot, teakettle, frying-pan and skillet. There were no cooking stoves. The only washing machines were the ordinary wash tubs, soft soap, and the brawny arms and hands of the girls; and the only wringers were the strong wrists and firm grip that could give a vigorous twist to what passed through the hands. Water was drawn from the wells with a bucket fastened to a long slender pole attached to a sweep suspended to a crotch. Butter, as has already been intimated, was made in upright churns, and many an hour have I stood, with mother's apron pinned around me to keep my clothes from getting spattered, pounding at the stubborn cream, when every minute seemed an hour, thinking the butter would never come. When evening set in, we were wont to draw around the cheerful fire on the hearth, or perhaps up to the kitchen table, and read and work by the dim light of "tallow dips," placed in tin candlesticks, or, on extra occasions, in brass or silver ones, with their snuffers, trays and extinguishers. Now, we sit by the brilliant light of the coal oil lamp or of gas. Then, coal oil was in the far-off future, and there was not a gas jet in Canada, if indeed in America. The making of tallow candles, before moulds were used, was a slow and tiresome task. Small sticks were used, about two feet long, upon each of which six cotton wicks, made for the purpose, were placed about two inches apart, each wick being from ten to twelve inches long. A large kettle was next partly filled with hot water, upon which melted tallow was poured. Then, two sticks were taken in the right hand, and the wick slowly dipped up and down through the melted tallow. This process was continued until the candles had attained sufficient size, when they were put aside to harden, and then taken off the sticks and put away. It required considerable practical experience to make a smooth candle which would burn evenly; and a sputtering candle was an abomination. The cloth with which the male members of the family were clad, as well as the flannel that made the dresses and underclothing for both, was carded, spun, and often woven at home, as was also the flax that made the linen. There were no sewing or knitting machines, save the deft hands that plied the needle. Carpets were seldom seen. The floors of the spare rooms, as they were called, were painted almost invariably with yellow ochre paint, and the kitchen floor was kept clean and white with the file, and sanded. The old chairs, which, in point of comfort, modern times have in no way improved upon, were also of home make, with thin round legs and splint-bottomed seats, or, what was more common, elm bark evenly cut and plaited. Many a time have I gone to the woods in the spring, when the willow catkins in the swamp and along the side of the creek turned from silver to gold, and when the clusters of linwort nodded above the purple-green leaves in the April wind, and taken the bark in long strips from the elm trees to reseat the dilapidated chairs.
If the labour-saving appliances were so scanty indoors, they were not more numerous outside. The farmer's implements were rude and rough. The wooden plough, with its wrought-iron share, had not disappeared, but ploughs with cast-iron mould-boards, land-sides and shares, were rapidly coming into use. These had hard-wood beams, and a short single handle with which to guide them. They were clumsy, awkward things to work with, as I remember full well, and though an improvement, it was impossible to do nice work with them. Indeed, that part of the question did not receive much consideration, the principal object being to get the ground turned over. They were called patent ploughs. Drags were either tree tops or square wooden frames with iron teeth. The scythe for hay and the cradle for grain, with strong backs and muscular arms to swing them, were the only mowers and reapers known. The hand rake had not been superseded by the horse rake, nor the hoe by the cultivator; and all through the winter, the regular thump, thump of the flails on the barn floor could be heard, or the trampling out of the grain by the horses' feet. The rattle of the fanning mill announced the finishing of the task. Threshing machines and cleaners were yet to come.
It will be seen from what I have said that both in the house and out of it work was a stern and exacting master, whose demands were incessant, satisfied only by the utmost diligence. It was simply by this that so much was accomplished. It is true there were other incentives that gave force to the wills and nerves to the arms which enabled our forefathers to overcome the numberless arduous tasks that demanded attention daily throughout the year. All the inventions that have accumulated so rapidly for the last twenty years or more, to lighten the burden and facilitate the accomplishment of labour and production, as well as to promote the comfort of all classes, were unknown fifty years ago. Indeed many of the things that seem so simple and uninteresting to us now, as I shall have occasion to show further on, were then hidden in the future. Take for example the very common and indispensable article, the lucifer match, to the absence of which allusion has already been made. Its simple method of producing fire had never entered the imagination of our most gifted sires. The only way known to them was the primitive one of rubbing two sticks together and producing fire by friction—a somewhat tedious process—or with a flint, a heavy jackknife, and a bit of punk, a fungous growth, the best of which for this purpose is obtained from the beech. Gun flints were most generally used. One of these was placed on a bit of dry punk, and held firmly in the left hand, while the back of the closed blade of the knife thus brought into contact with the flint by a quick downward stroke of the right hand produced a shower of sparks, some of which, falling on the punk, would ignite; and thus a fire was produced. In the winter, if the fire went out, there were, as I have already stated, but two alternatives—either the flint and steel, or a run to a neighbour's house for live coals.
There were many superstitious notions current among the people in those days. Many an omen both for good and evil was sincerely believed in, which even yet in quiet places finds a lodgement where the schoolmaster has not been much abroad. But the half century that has passed away has seen the last of many a foolish notion. A belief in omens was not confined to the poor and ignorant, for brave men have been known to tremble at seeing a winding-sheet in a candle, and learned men to gather their little ones around them, fearing that one would be snatched away, because a dog outside took a fancy to howl at the moon. And who has not heard the remark when a sudden shiver came over one; that an enemy was then walking over the spot which would be his grave? Or who has not noticed the alarm occasioned by the death watch—the noise, resembling the ticking of a watch, made by a harmless little insect in the wall—or the saying that if thirteen sit down to table, one is sure to die within a year? Somebody has said there is one case when he believed this omen to be true, and that is when thirteen sit down to dinner and there is only enough for twelve. There was no end to bad omens. It was bad luck to see the new moon for the first time over the left shoulder, but if seen over the right it was the reverse. It is well known that the moon has been supposed to exercise considerable influence over our planet, among the chief of which are the tides, and it was believed also to have a great deal to do with much smaller matters. There are few who have not seen on the first page of an almanac the curious picture representing a nude man with exposed bowels, and surrounded with the zodiacal signs. This was always found in the old almanacs, and indeed they would be altogether unsaleable without it and the weather forecast. How often have I seen the almanac consulted as to whether it was going to be fair or stormy, cold or hot; how often seen the mother studying the pictures when she wished to wean her babe. If she found the change of the moon occurred when the sign was in Aries or Gemini or Taurus, all of which were supposed to exercise a baneful influence on any part of the body above the heart, she would defer the matter until a change came, when the sign would be in Virgo or Libra, considering it extremely dangerous to undertake the operation in the former case. The wife was not alone in this, for the husband waited for a certain time in the moon to sow his peas—that is, if he wished to ensure a good crop. He also thought it unlucky to kill hogs in the wane of the moon, because the pork would shrink and waste in the boiling. The finding of an old horseshoe was a sure sign of good luck, and it was quite common to see one nailed up over the door. It is said that the late Horace Greeley always kept a rusty one over the door of his sanctum. To begin anything on Friday was sure to end badly. I had an esteemed friend, the late sheriff of the county of ——, who faithfully believed this, and adhered to it up to the time of his death. May was considered an unlucky month to marry in, and when I was thinking of this matter a number of years later, and wished the event to occur during the month, my wish was objected to on this ground, and the ceremony deferred until June in consequence.
It is said that the honey bee came to America with the Pilgrim Fathers. Whether this be so or not I am unprepared to say. If it be true, then there were loyalists among them, for they found their way to Canada with the U. E.'s, and contributed very considerably to the enjoyment of the table. Short-cake and honey were things not to be despised in those days, I remember. There was a curious custom that prevailed of blowing horns and pounding tin pans to keep the bees from going away when swarming. The custom is an Old Country one, I fancy. The reader will remember that Dickens, in "Little Dorrit," makes Ferdinand Barnacle say: "You really have no idea how the human bees will swarm to the beating of any old tin kettle."
Another peculiar notion prevailed with respect to discovering the proper place to dig wells. There were certain persons, I do not remember what they were called, whether water doctors or water witches, who professed to be able, with the aid of a small hazel crotched twig, which was held firmly in both hands with the crotch inverted, to tell where a well should be sunk with a certainty of finding water. The process was simply to walk about with the twig thus held, and when the right place was reached, the forked twig would turn downwards, however firmly held; and on the strength of this, digging would be commenced in the place indicated. A curious feature about this was that there were but very few in whose hands the experiment would work, and hence the water discoverer was a person of some repute. I never myself witnessed the performance, but it was of common occurrence. [Footnote: The reader will remember the occult operations of Dousterswivel in the seventeenth chapter of Scott's Antiquary. "In truth, the German was now got to a little copse- thicket at some distance from the ruins, where he affected busily to search for such a wand as should suit the purpose of his mystery; and after cutting off a small twig of hazel terminating in a forked end, which he pronounced to possess the virtue proper for the experiment that he was about to exhibit, holding the forked ends of the wand each between the finger and the thumb, and thus keeping the rod upright, he proceeded to pace the ruined aisles," &c. So it will be seen that we had Canadian successors of Dousterswivel in my time, but we had no Oldbucks.]
The people of to-day will no doubt smile at these reminiscences of a past age, and think lightly of the life surroundings of these early pioneers of the Province. But it must not be forgotten that their condition of life was that of the first remove from the bush and the log cabin. There was abundance, without luxury, and it was so widely different from the struggle of earlier years that the people were contented and happy. "No people on earth," says Mr. Talbot, in 1823, "live better than the Canadians, so far as eating and drinking justify the use of the expression, for they may be truly said to fare sumptuously every day. Their breakfast not unfrequently consists of twelve or fourteen different ingredients, which are of the most heterogeneous nature. Green tea and fried pork, honeycomb and salted salmon, pound cake and pickled cucumbers, stewed chickens and apple- tarts, maple molasses and pease-pudding, gingerbread and sour-crout, are to be found at almost every table. The dinner differs not at all from the breakfast, and the afternoon repast, which they term supper, is equally substantial."
The condition of the Province in 1830 could not be otherwise than pre- eminently satisfactory to its inhabitants. That a people who had been driven from their homes, in most cases destitute of the common needs of ordinary life, should have come into a vast wilderness, and, in the course of forty-six years, have founded a country, and placed themselves in circumstances of comfort and independence, seems to me to be one of the marvels of the century. The struggles and trials of the first settlers must ever be a subject of deepest interest to every true Canadian, and, as an illustration of the power of fixed principles upon the action of men, there are few things in the world's history that surpass it. It must be remembered that many, nay most, of the families who came here had, prior to and during the Revolutionary war, been men of means and position. All these advantages they were forced to abandon. They came into this country with empty hands, accepted the liberality of the British Government for two years, and went to work. Providence smiled upon their toils, and in the year of which I speak they had grown into a prosperous and happy people.
The social aspect of things had changed but little. The habits and customs of early days still remained. The position of the inhabitants was one of exigency. The absorbing desire to succeed kept them at home. They knew but little of what was passing in the world outside, and as a general thing they cared less. Their chief interest was centred in the common welfare, and each contributed his or her share of intelligence and sagacity to further any plans that were calculated to promote the general good. Every day called for some new expedient in which the comfort or advantage of the whole was concerned, for there were no positions save those accorded to worth and intellect. The sufferings or misfortunes of a neighbour, as well as his enjoyments, were participated in by all. Knowledge and ability were respectfully looked up to, yet those who possessed these seemed hardly conscious of their gifts. The frequent occasions which called for the exercise of the mind, sharpened sagacity, and gave strength to character. Avarice and vanity were confined to narrow limits. Of money there was little. Dress was coarse and plain, and was not subject to the whims or caprices of fashion. The girls, from the examples set them by their mothers, were industrious and constantly employed. Pride of birth was unknown, and the affections flourished fair and vigorously, unchecked by the thorns and brambles with which our minds are cursed in the advanced stage of refinement of the present day.
The secret of their success, if there was any secret in it, was the economy, industry and moderate wants of every member of the household. The clothing and living were the outcome of the farm. Most of the ordinary implements and requirements for both were procured at home. The neighbouring blacksmith made the axes, logging-chains and tools. He ironed the waggons and sleighs, and received his pay from the cellar and barn. Almost every farmer had his work-bench and carpenter's tools, which he could handle to advantage, as well as a shoemaker's bench; and during the long evenings of the fall and winter would devote some of his time to mending boots or repairing harness. Sometimes the old log-house was turned into a blacksmith shop. This was the case with the first home of my grandfather, and his seven sons could turn their hands to any trade, and do pretty good work. If the men's clothes were not made by a member of the household, they were made in the house by a sewing girl, or a roving tailor, and the boots and shoes were made by cobblers of the same itinerant stripe. Many of the productions of the farm were unsaleable, owing to the want of large towns for a market. Trade, such as then existed, was carried on mostly by a system of barter. The refuse apples from the orchard were turned into cider and vinegar for the table. The skins of the cattle, calves and sheep that were slaughtered for the wants of the family, were taken to the tanners, who dressed them, and returned half of each hide. The currency of the day was flour, pork and potash. The first two were in demand for the lumbermen's shanties, and the last went to Montreal for export. The ashes from the house and the log-heaps were either leached at home, and the lye boiled down in the large potash kettles—of which almost every farmer had one or two—and converted into potash, or became a perquisite of the wife, and were carried to the ashery, where they were exchanged for crockery or something for the house. Wood, save the large oak and pine timber, was valueless, and was cut down and burned to get it out of the way.
I am enabled to give a list of prices current at that time of a number of things, from a domestic account-book, and an auction sale of my grandfather's personal estate, after his death in 1829. The term in use for an auction then was vendue.
A good horse $80.00 $120.00 Yoke of oxen 75.00 100.00 Milch cow 16.00 30.00 A hog 2.00 5.00 A sheep 2.00 5.00 Hay, per ton 7.00 12.00 Pork, per bbl. 15.00 12.00 Flour, per cwt. 3.00 3.00 Beef, " 3.50 6.00 Mutton, " 3.00 6.00 Turkeys, each 1.50 Ducks, per pair 1.00 Geese, each .80 Chickens, per pair .40 Wheat, per bushel 1.00 1.08 Rye, " .70 .85 Barley, " .50 1.00 Peas, " .40 .70 Oats, " .37 .36 Potatoes," .40 .35 Apples, " .50 .50 Butter, per pound .14 .25 Cheese, " .17 Lard, " .05 .12 Eggs, per dozen .10 .25 Wood, per cord 1.00 5.00 Calf skins, each 1.00 Sheep skins, each 1.00 West India molasses .80 .50 Tea, per pound .80 .60 Tobacco .25 .50 Honey .10 .25 Oysters, per quart .80 .40 Men's strong boots, per pair 3.00 Port wine, per gallon .80 2.75 Brandy, " 1.50 4.00 Rum, " 1.00 3.00 Whisky, " .40 1.40 Grey cotton, per yard .14 .10 Calico, " .20 .12 Nails, per pound .14 .04
Vegetables were unsaleable, and so were many other things for which the farmer now finds a ready market. The wages paid to a man were from eight to ten dollars, and a girl from two to three dollars, per month. For a day's work, except in harvest time, from fifty to seventy-five cents was the ordinary rate. Money was reckoned by L. s. d. Halifax currency, to distinguish it from the pound sterling. The former was equal to $4.00, and the latter, as now, to $4.87.
Clocks were not common. It is true in most of the better class of old homes a stately old time-piece, whose face nearly reached the ceiling, stood in the hall or sitting-room, and measured off the hours with slow and steady beat. But the most common time-piece was a line cut in the floor, and when the sun touched his meridian height his rays were cast along this mark through a crack in the door; and thus the hour of noon was made known. A few years later the irrepressible Yankee invaded the country with his wooden clocks, and supplied the want. My father bought one which is still in existence (though I think it has got past keeping time), and paid ten pounds for it; a better one can be had now for as many shillings.
The kitchen door, which, as I have already mentioned, was very often divided in the middle, so that the upper part could be opened and the lower half kept closed, was the general entrance to the house, and was usually provided with a wooden latch, which was lifted from the outside by a leather string put through the door. At night, when the family retired, the string was pulled in and the door was fastened against any one from the outside. From this originated the saying that a friend would always find the string on the latch.
Carriages were not kept, for the simple reason that the farmer seldom had occasion to use them. He rarely went from home, and when he did he mounted his horse or drove in his lumber-waggon to market or to meeting. He usually had one or two waggon-chairs, as they were called, which would hold two persons very comfortably. These were put in the waggon and a buffalo skin thrown over them, and then the vehicle was equipped for the Sunday drive. There was a light waggon kept for the old people to drive about in, the box of which rested on the axles. The seat, however, was secured to wooden springs, which made it somewhat more comfortable to ride in. A specimen of this kind of carriage was shown by the York Pioneers at the Industrial Exhibition in this city. I have a clear recollection of the most common carriage kept in those days, and of my first ride in one. I was so delighted that I have never forgotten it. One Saturday afternoon, my father and mother determined to visit Grandfather C—-, some six miles distant. We were made ready—that is to say, my sister and self—and the "yoke" was put to. Our carriage had but two wheels, the most fashionable mode then, and no steel springs; neither was the body hung upon straps. There was no cover to the seat, which was unique in its way, and original in its get-up. Neither was there a well-padded cushion to sit on, or a back to recline against. It was nothing more or less than a limber board placed across from one side of the box to the other. My father took his seat on the right, the place invariably accorded to the driver—we did not keep a coachman then—my mother and sister, the latter being an infant, sat on the opposite side, while I was wedged in the middle to keep me from tumbling out. My father held in his hand a long slender whip (commonly called a "gad") of blue beech, with which he touched the off-side animal, and said, "Haw Buck, gee 'long." The "yoke" obeyed, and brought us safely to our journey's end in the course of time. Many and many a pleasant ride have I had since in far more sumptuous vehicles, but none of them has left such a distinct and pleasing recollection.
The houses were almost invariably inclosed with a picket or board fence, with a small yard in front. Shade and ornamental trees were not in much repute. All around lay the "boundless contiguity of shade;" but it awakened no poetic sentiment. To them it had been a standing menace, which had cost the expenditure of their best energies, year after year, to push further and further back. The time had not come for ornamenting their grounds and fields with shrubs and trees, unless they could minister to their comfort in a more substantial way. The gardens were generally well supplied with currant and gooseberry bushes. Pear, plum and cherry trees, as well as the orchard itself, were close at hand. Raspberries and strawberries were abundant in every new clearing. The sap-bush furnished the sugar and maple molasses. So that most of the requisites for good living were within easy hail.
The first concern of a thrifty farmer was to possess a large barn, with out-houses or sheds attached for his hay and straw, and for the protection of his stock during the cold and stormy weather of fall and winter. Lumber cost him nothing, save the labour of getting it out. There was, therefore, but little to prevent him from having plenty of room in which to house his crops, and as the process of threshing was slow it necessitated more space than is required now. The granary, pig- pen and corncrib were usually separate. The number and extent of buildings on a flourishing homestead, inclosed with strong board fences, covered a wide area, but the barns, with their enormous peaked roofs, and the houses, with their dormer windows looking out from their steep sides, have nearly all disappeared, or have been transformed into more modern shape.
It would be difficult to find much resemblance between the well-ordered house of the thriving farmer of to-day and that of half a century ago: In the first place the house itself is designed with an eye to convenience and comfort. There is more or less architectural taste displayed in its external appearance. It is kept carefully painted. The yawning fireplace in the kitchen, with its row of pots, has disappeared, and in its place the most approved cooking-stove or range, with its multifarious appendages, is found. On the walls hang numberless appliances to aid in cooking. Washing-machines, wringers, improved churns, and many other labour saving arrangements render the task of the house-wife comparatively easy, and enable her to accomplish much more work in a shorter time than the dear old grandmother ever dreamed of in the highest flights of her imagination. Her cupboards are filled with china and earthenware of the latest pattern. Pewter plates and buck- handled knives have vanished, and ivory-handled cutlery has taken their places. Britannia metal and pewter spoons have been sent to the melting- pot, and iron forks have given place to nickel and silver ones. The old furniture has found its way to the garret, and the house is furnished from the ware-rooms of the best makers. Fancy carpets cover the floor of every room. The old high-posted bedsteads, which almost required a ladder to get into, went to the lumber heap long ago, and low, sumptuous couches take their places. The great feather tick has been converted into the more healthy mattress, and the straw tick and cords have been replaced by spring bottoms. It used to be quite an arduous undertaking, I remember, to put up one of those old beds. One person took a wrench, kept for that purpose, and drew up the cord with it as tight as he could at every hole, and another followed with a hammer and pin, which was driven into the hole through which the end passed to hold it; and so you went on round the bed, until the cord was all drawn as tight as it could possibly be. Now a bedstead can be taken down and put up in a few moments by one person with the greatest ease. The dresses of both mother and daughters are made according to the latest styles, and of the best material. The family ride in their carriage, with fine horses, and richly-plated harness. The boys are sent to college, and the girls are polished in city boarding-schools. On the farm the change is no less marked. The grain is cut and bound with reaping machines, the grass with mowing machines, and raked with horse rakes. Threshing machines thresh and clean the grain. The farmer has machines for planting and sowing. The hoe is laid aside, and his corn and root crops are kept clean with cultivators. His ploughs and drags do better work with more ease to himself and his team. He has discovered that he can keep improved stock at less expense, and at far greater profit. In fact, the whole system of farming and farm labour has advanced with the same rapid strides that everything else has done; and now one man can accomplish more in the same time, and do it better, than half a dozen could fifty years ago.
Musical instruments were almost unknown except by name. A stray fiddler, as I have said elsewhere, was about the only musician that ever delighted the ear of young or old in those days. I do not know that there was a piano in the Province. If there were any their number was so small that they could have been counted on the fingers of one hand. Now, every house in the land with any pretension to the ordinary comforts of life has either a piano or a melodeon, and every farmer's daughter of any position can run over the keys with as much ease and effect as a city belle. Passing along one of our streets not long since, I heard some one playing in a room adjoining a little grocery store. My attention was arrested by the skill of the player, and the fine tone of the instrument. While I was listening, a couple of ladies passed, one of whom said, "I do wonder if they have got a piano here." "Why not," said the other, "the pea-nut-man on —— Street has one, and I don't see why every one else shouldn't have."
I think all who have marked the changes that have taken place during the half century which is gone, will admit that we are a much faster people than our fathers were. We have jumped from change to change with marvellous rapidity. We could never endure the patient plodding way they travelled, nor the toil and privation they went through; and it is a good thing for us, perhaps, that they preceded us. Would it not be well for us occasionally to step aside from the bustle and haste which surrounds us, and look back. There are many valuable lessons to be gathered from the pages of the past, and it might be well, perhaps, were we to temper our anxiety to rise in the social scale with some of the sterling qualities that characterized our progenitors. Our smart boys now-a-days are far too clever to pursue the paths which their fathers trod, and in too many cases begin the career of life as second or third- rate professional men or merchants, while our daughters are too frequently turned into ornaments for the parlour. We know that fifty years ago the boys had to work early and late. West of England broadcloths and fine French fabrics were things that rarely, indeed, adorned their persons. Fashionable tailors and young gentlemen, according to the present acceptation of the term, are comparatively modern institutions in Canada. Fancy for a moment one of our young swells, with his fashionable suit, gold watch, chain, and rings, patent leather boots and kid gloves, and topped off with Christie's latest headgear, driving up to grandfather's door in a covered buggy and plated harness, fifty years ago! What would have been said, think you? My impression is that his astonishment would have been too great to find expression. The old man, no doubt, would have scratched his head in utter bewilderment, and the old lady would have pushed up her specs in order to take in the whole of the new revelation, and possibly might have exclaimed, "Did you ever see the beat?" The girls, I have no doubt, would have responded to their mother's ejaculation; and the boys, if at hand, would have laughed outright.
My remarks, so far, have been confined altogether to the country settlements, and fifty years ago that was about all there was in this Province. Kingston was, in fact, the only town. The other places, which have far outstripped it since, were only commencing, as we shall see presently. Kingston was a place of considerable importance, owing to its being a garrison town; and its position at the foot of lake navigation gave promise of future greatness. The difference between town and country life as yet was not very marked, except with the few officers and officials. Clothes of finer and more expensive materials were worn, and a little more polish and refinement were noticeable. The professional man's office was in his house, and the merchant lived over his store. He dealt in all kinds of goods, and served his customers early and late. He bartered with the people for their produce, and weighed up the butter and counted out the eggs, for which he paid in groceries and dry goods. Now he has his house on a fashionable street, or a villa in the vicinity of the city, and is driven to his counting house in his carriage. His father, and himself, perhaps, in his boyhood, toiled in the summer time under a burning sun, and now he and his family take their vacation during hot weather at fashionable watering places, or make a tour in Europe.
We have but little to complain of as a people. Our progress during the last fifty years has been such as cannot but be gratifying to every Canadian, and if we are only true to ourselves and the great principles that underlie real and permanent success, we should go on building up a yet greater and more substantial prosperity, as the avenues of trade which are being opened up from time to time become available. But let us guard against the enervating influences which are too apt to follow increase of wealth. The desire to rise in the social scale is one that finds a response in every breast; but it often happens that, as we ascend, habits and tastes are formed that are at variance not only with our own well-being, but with the well-being of those who may be influenced by us. One of the principal objects, it would seem, in making a fortune in these days, is to make a show. There are not many families in this Province, so far, fortunately, whose children can afford to lead a life of idleness. Indeed, if the truth must be told, the richest heir in our land cannot afford it. Still, when children are born with silver spoons in their mouths, the necessity to work is removed, and it requires some impulse to work when there is no actual need. But, fortunately, there are higher motives in this world than a life of inglorious ease. Wealth can give much, but it cannot make a man in the proper and higher sense, any more than iron can be transmuted into gold. It is a sad thing, I think, to find many of our wealthy farmers bringing up their children with the idea that a farmer is not as respectable as a counter-jumper in a city or village store, or that the kitchen is too trying for the delicate organization of the daughter, and that her vocation is to adorn the drawing-room, to be waited on by mamma, and to make a brilliant match.
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 STAGE COACHES—BATTEAUX AND DURHAM BOATS.
The American Revolution developed two striking pictures of the inconsistency of human nature. The author of the Declaration of Independence lays down at the very first this axiom: "We hold this truth to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." And yet this man, with members of others who signed the famous document, was a slave-holder, and contributed to the maintenance of a system which was a reproach and a stain upon the fair fame of the land, until it was wiped out with the blood of tens of thousands of its sons. The next picture that stands out in open contradiction to the declaration of equality of birth and liberty of action appears at the end of every war. The very men who had clamoured against oppression, and had fought for and won their freedom, in turn became the most intolerant oppressors. The men who had differed from them, and had adhered to the cause of the mother land, had their property confiscated, and were expelled from the country. Revolutions have ever been marked by cruelty. Liberty in France inaugurated the guillotine. The fathers of the American Revolution cast out their kindred, who found a refuge in the wilderness of Canada, where they endured for a time the most severe privations and hardships. This was the first illustration or definition of "liberty and the pursuit of happiness," from an American point of view.
The result was not, perhaps, what was anticipated. The ten thousand or more of their expatriated countrymen were not to be subdued by acts of despotic injustice. Their opinions were dear to them, and were as fondly cherished as were the opinions of those who had succeeded in wrenching away a part of the old Empire under a plea of being oppressed. They claimed only the natural and sacred right of acting upon their honest convictions; and surely no one will pretend to say that their position was not as just and tenable, or that it was less honourable than that of those who had rebelled. I am not going to say that there was no cause of complaint on the part of those who threw down the gage of war. The truth about that matter has been conceded long ago. The enactments of the Home Government which brought about the revolt are matters with which we have nothing to do at this time. But when the war terminated and peace was declared, the attitude of the new Government toward those of their countrymen who had adhered to the Old Land from a sense of duty, was cruel, if not barbarous. It has no parallel in modern history, unless it be the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV. The refugees, however, did not, like the Huguenots, find a home in an old settled country, but in the fastness of a Canadian forest; and it is wonderful that so many men and women, out of love for a distant land whose subjects they had been, and whose cause they had espoused, should have sacrificed everything, and passed from comfortable homes and dearly- loved kindred to desolation and poverty. It shows of what unbending material they were made. With their strong wills and stronger arms they laid the foundation of another country that yet may rival the land whence they were driven. This act no doubt occasioned the settlement of the Western Province many years earlier than it would have occurred under other circumstances; and notwithstanding the attempts that were made to subdue the country, our fathers proved, when the struggle came, that they had lost none of their patriotic fire, and though they were comparatively few in number, they were not slow to shoulder their muskets and march away in defence of the land of their adoption. There were no differences of opinion on this point. A people who had first been robbed of their worldly goods and then driven from the homes of their youth, were not likely soon to forget either their wrongs or their sufferings, nor to give up, without a struggle, the new homes they had made for themselves under the keenest privations and severest toils. As our fathers successfully resisted the one, so have their children treated the threats and blandishments that have been used from time to time to bring them under the protecting aegis of the stars and stripes. The wounds that were inflicted nearly a century ago have happily cicatrized, and we can now look with admiration on the happy progress of the American people in all that goes to make up a great and prosperous country. We hope to live in peace and unity with them. Still, we like our own country and its system of government better, and feel that we have no reason either to be discontented with its progress, or to doubt as to its future.
The year 1830 may be taken as the commencement of a new order of things in Canada. The people were prosperous; immigration was rapidly increasing. A system of Government had been inaugurated which, if not all that could be desired, was capable of being moulded into a shape fit to meet the wants of a young and growing country. There were laws to protect society, encourage education, and foster trade and commerce. The application of steam in England and the United States, not only to manufacturing purposes but to navigation, which had made some progress, rapidly increased after this date, and the illustration given by Stephenson, in September of this year, of its capabilities as a motor in land transit, completely revolutionized the commerce of the world. It assailed every branch of industry, and in a few years transformed all. The inventive genius of mankind seemed to gather new energy. A clearer insight was obtained into the vast results opening out before it and into the innumerable inventions which have succeeded; for the more uniform and rapid production of almost every conceivable thing used by man has had its origin in this Nineteenth Century Renaissance. Our Province, though remote from this "new birth," could not but feel a touch of the pulsation that was stirring in the world, and, though but in its infancy, it was not backward in laying hold of these discoveries, and applying them as far as its limited resources would admit. As early as 1816 we had a steamer—the Frontenac—running on Lake Ontario, and others soon followed. The increase was much more rapid after the date referred to, and the improvement in construction and speed was equally marked. Owing to our sparse and scattered population, as well as our inability to build, we did not undertake the construction of railroads until 1853, when the Northern Railroad was opened to Bradford; but after that, we went at it in earnest, and we have kept at it until we have made our Province a network of railways. In order more fully to realize our position at this time, it must be borne in mind that our population only reached 210,437.
Those whose recollection runs back to that time have witnessed changes in this Province difficult to realize as having taken place during the fifty years which have intervened. The first settlers found themselves in a position which, owing to the then existing state of things, can never occur again. They were cut off from communication, except by very slow and inadequate means, with the older and more advanced parts of America, and were, therefore, almost totally isolated. They adhered to the manners and customs of their fathers, and though they acquired property and grew up in sturdy independence, their habits and modes of living remained unchanged. But now the steamboat and locomotive brought them into contact with the world outside. They began to feel and see that a new state of things had been inaugurated; that the old paths had been forsaken; that the world had faced about and taken up a new line of march. And, as their lives had theretofore been lives of exigency, they were skilled in adapting themselves to the needs of the hour. Men who have been trained in such a school are quick at catching improvements and turning them to their advantage. It matters not in what direction these improvements tend, whether to agriculture, manufactures, education, or government; and we shall find that in all these our fathers were not slow to move, or unequal to the emergency when it was pressed upon them.
One of the dearest privileges of a British subject is the right of free discussion on all topics, whether sacred or secular—more especially those of a political character—and of giving effect to his opinions at the polls. No people have exercised these privileges with more practical intelligence than the Anglo-Canadian. It must be confessed that half a century ago, and even much later, colonial affairs were not managed by the Home Government altogether in a satisfactory manner. At the same time there can hardly be a doubt that the measures emanating from the Colonial Office received careful consideration, or that they were designed with an honest wish to promote the well-being of the colonists, and not in the perfunctory manner which some writers have represented. The great difficulty has been for an old country like the mother land, with its long established usages, its time-honoured institutions, its veneration for precedent, its dislike to change, and its faith in its own wisdom and power, either to appreciate the wants of a new country, or to yield hastily to its demands. British statesmen took for granted that what was good for them was equally beneficial to us. Their system of government, though it had undergone many a change, even in its monarchical type, was the model on which the colonial governments were based; and when the time came we were set up with a Governor appointed by the Crown, a Council chosen by the Governor, and an Assembly elected by the people. They had an Established Church, an outcome of the Reformation, supported by the State. It was necessary for the welfare of the people and for their future salvation that we should have one, and it was given us, large grants of land being made for its support. A hereditary nobility was an impossibility, for the entire revenue of the Province in its early days would not have been a sufficient income for a noble lord. Still, there were needy gentlemen of good families, as there always have been, and probably ever will be, who were willing to sacrifice themselves for a government stipend. They were provided for and sent across the sea to this new land of ours, to fill the few offices that were of any importance. There was nothing strange or unnatural in all this, and if these newcomers had honestly applied themselves to the development of the country instead of to advancing their own interests, many of the difficulties which afterwards sprang up would have been avoided. The men who had made the country began to feel that they knew more about its wants than the Colonial Office, and that they could manage its affairs better than the appointees of the Crown, who had become grasping and arrogant. They began to discuss the question. A strong feeling pervaded the minds of many of the leading men of the day that a radical change was necessary for the well-being of the country, and they began to apply the lever of public opinion to the great fulcrum of agitation, in order to overturn the evils that had crept into the administration of public affairs. They demanded a government which should be responsible to the people, and not independent of them. They urged that the system of representation was unjust, and should be equalized. They assailed the party in power as being corrupt, and applied to them the epithet of the "Family Compact"— a name which has stuck to them ever since, because they held every office of emolument, and dispensed the patronage to friends, to the exclusion of every man outside of a restricted pale. Another grievance which began to be talked about, and which remained a bone of contention for years, was the large grants of lands for the support of the Church of England. As the majority of the people did not belong to that body, they could not see why it should be taken under the protecting care of the State, while every other denomination was left in the cold. Hence a clamour for the secularization of the Clergy Reserves began to be heard throughout the land. These, with many other questions, which were termed abuses, raised up a political party the members whereof came to be known as Radicals, and who, later, were stigmatized by the opposing party as Rebels. The party lines between these two sides were soon sharply drawn and when Parliament met at York, early in January, 1830, it was discovered that a breach existed between the Executive Council and the House of Assembly which could not be closed up until sweeping changes had been effected.
The Province at this time was divided into eleven districts, or twenty- six counties, which returned forty-one members to the Assembly, and the towns of York, Kingston, Brockville and Niagara returned one member each, making in all forty-five representatives. Obedient to the command of the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir John Colborne, the members of the different constituencies were finding their way with sleighs (the only means of conveyance in those days) through snow-drifts, on the first of the year, to the capital—the Town of York. The Province had not yet reached the dignity of possessing a city, and indeed the only towns were the four we have named, of which Kingston was the largest and most important. It had a population of 3,635, and York 2,860. A member from Winnipeg could reach Ottawa quicker, and with much more comfort now, than York could be reached from the Eastern and Western limits of the Province in those days. [Footnote: Fancy such an announcement as the following appearing in our newspapers in these days, prior to the opening of the House of Assembly:—
"To the proprietors and editors of the different papers in the Eastern part of the Province. Gentlemen: Presuming that the public will desire to be put in possession of His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor's speech at the approaching Session of Parliament at an early date, and feeling desirous to gratify a public to which we are so much indebted, we shall make arrangements for having it delivered, free of expense, at Kingston, the day after it is issued from the press at York, that it may be forwarded to Montreal by mail on the Monday following.
"We are, Gentlemen,
"Your obedient servants,
"H. NORTON & Co., Kingston,
"W. WELLER, York.
"January 2nd, 1830."
The foregoing is clipped from an old number of the Christian Guardian.]
Marshall Spring Bidwell was Speaker to the Assembly, and the following formed the Executive Council:—J. Baby, Inspector-General; John H. Dunn, Receiver-General; Henry John Boulton, Attorney-General; and Christopher A. Hagerman, Solicitor-General. On the opening of the House, the address was replied to by the Governor in one of the briefest speeches ever listened to on the floor of the Legislative Assembly: "Gentlemen of the House of Assembly, I thank you for your Address." The expense of Hansards would not be very considerable if the legislators of the present day followed the example of such brevity as this.
Any one looking over the Journals of the Second Session of the Tenth Parliament will see that there was a liberal bill of fare provided. Every member had at least one petition to present, and altogether there were one hundred and fifty-one presented, some of which read strangely in the light of the present day. Among them was one from Addington, praying that means might be adopted "to secure these Provinces the trade of the West Indies, free from the United States competition." Another was from the Midland District, praying that an Act be passed to prevent itinerant preachers from coming over from the United States and spreading sedition, &c.; and another from Hastings, to dispose of the Clergy Reserves. "Mr. McKenzie gives notice that he will to-morrow move for leave to bring in a bill to establish finger posts;" and a few years later these "finger posts" could be seen at all the principal cross- roads in the Province. Among the bills there was a tavern and shop license bill; a bill establishing the Kingston Bank with a capital of L100,000; a bill authorizing a grant of L57,412 10s, for the relief of sufferers in the American War; and one authorizing a grant to the Kingston Benevolent Society, and also to the York Hospital and Dispensary established the year before. Among the one hundred and thirty-seven bills passed by the House of Assembly, nearly one hundred were rejected by the Legislative Council, which shows how near the two Houses had come to a dead-lock. In other respects there was nothing remarkable about the session. The really most important thing done was the formation of Agricultural Societies, and the aid granted them. But in looking over the returns asked for, and the grievance motions brought forward from time to time, one can see the gathering of the storm that broke upon the country in 1837-8, and, however much that outbreak is to be deplored, it hastened, no doubt, the settlement of the vexed questions which had agitated the public mind for years. The union of the two Provinces, Upper and Lower Canada, followed in 1841, and in 1867 Confederation took place, when our Province lost its old appellation, and has ever since been known as the Province of Ontario—the keystone Province of the Confederation.
It was in 1830 that the name of Robert Baldwin first appeared in the list of members, and of the forty-five persons who represented the Province at that time I do not know that one survives. The death of George IV. brought about a dissolution, and an election took place in October. There was considerable excitement, and a good many seats changed occupants, but the Family Compact party were returned to power.
A general election in those days was a weighty matter, because of the large extent of the constituencies, and the distance the widely- scattered electors had to travel—often over roads that were almost impassable—to exercise their franchise. There was but one polling place in each county, and that was made as central as possible for the convenience of the people. Often two weeks elapsed before all the votes could be got in, and during the contest it was not an uncommon thing for one side or the other to make an effort to get possession of the poll, and keep their opponents from voting. This frequently led to disgraceful fights, when sticks and stones were used with a freedom that would have done no discredit to Irish faction fights in their palmiest days. Happily, this is all changed now. The numerous polling places prevent a crowd of excited men from collecting together. Voters have but a short distance to go, and the whole thing is accomplished with ease in a day. Our representation, both for the Dominion and Provincial Parliaments, is now based upon population, and the older and more densely-populated counties are divided into ridings, so that the forty-eight counties and some cities and towns return to the Ontario Government eighty-eight members.
Fifty years ago the Post Office Department was under the control of the British Government, and Thomas A. Stayner was Deputy Postmaster General of British North America. Whatever else the Deputy may have had to complain of, he certainly could not grumble at the extent of territory under his jurisdiction. The gross receipts of the Department were L8,029 2s 6d. [Footnote: I am indebted to W.H. Griffin, Esq., Deputy Postmaster General, for information, kindly furnished, respecting the Post Office Department, &c.] There were ninety-one post offices in Upper Canada. On the main line between York and Montreal the mails were carried by a public stage, and in spring and fall, owing to the bad roads, and even in winter, with its storms and snow-drifts, its progress was slow, and often difficult. There are persons still living who remember many a weary hour and trying adventure between these points. Passengers, almost perished with cold or famished with hunger, were often forced to trudge through mud and slush up to their knees, because the jaded horses could barely pull the empty vehicle through the mire or up the weary hill. They were frequently compelled to alight and grope around in impenetrable darkness and beating storm for rails from a neighbouring fence, with which to pry the wheels out of a mud-hole, into which they had, to all appearance, hopelessly sunk, or to dig themselves out of snow banks in which both horses and stage were firmly wedged. If they were so fortunate as to escape these mishaps, the deep ruts and corduroy bridges tried their powers of endurance to the utmost, and made the old coach creak and groan under the strain. Sometimes it toppled over with a crash, leaving the worried passengers to find shelter, if they could, in the nearest farm-house, until the damage was repaired. But with good roads and no break-downs they were enabled to spank along at the rate of seventy-five miles in a day, which was considered rapid travelling. Four-and-a-half days were required, and often more; to reach Montreal from York. A merchant posting a letter from the latter place, under the most favourable circumstances, could not get a reply from Montreal in less than ten days, or sometimes fifteen; and from Quebec the time required was from three weeks to a month. The English mails were brought by sailing vessels. Everything moved in those days with slow and uneven pace. The other parts of the Province were served by couriers on horseback, who announced their approach with blast of tin horn. That the offices were widely separated in most cases may be judged from their number. I recently came upon an entry made by my father in an old account book against his father's estate: "To one day going to the post office, 3s 9d." The charge, looked at in the light of these days, certainly is not large, but the idea of taking a day to go to and from a post office struck me as a good illustration of the inconveniences endured in those days. The correspondent, at that time, had never been blessed with a vision of the coming envelope, but carefully folded his sheet of paper into the desired shape, pushed one end of the fold into the other, and secured it with a wafer or sealing-wax. Envelopes, now universally used, were not introduced until about 1845-50, and even blotting paper, that indispensable requisite on every writing-table, was unknown. Every desk had its sand-box, filled with fine dry sand, which the writer sprinkled over his sheet to absorb the ink. Sometimes, at a pinch, ashes were used. Goose quill was the only pen. There was not such a thing, I suppose, as a steel pen in the Province. Gillott and Perry had invented them in 1828; but they were sold at $36 a gross, and were too expensive to come into general use. Neither was there such a thing as a bit of india rubber, so very common now. Erasures had to be made with a knife. Single rates of letter postage were, for distances not exceeding 60 miles, 4 1/2 d; not exceeding 100 miles, 7d; and not over 200 miles, 9d, increasing 2 1/4 d on every additional 100 miles. Letters weighing less than one ounce were rated as single, double or treble, as they consisted of one, two or more sheets. If weighing an ounce, or over, the charge was a single rate for every quarter of an ounce in weight.
How is it now? The Post Office Department has been for many years under the control of our Government. There are in Ontario 2,353 Post-Offices, with a revenue of $914,382. The mails are carried by rail to all the principal points, and to outlying places and country villages by stage, and by couriers in light vehicles, with much greater despatch, owing to the improved condition of the highways. A letter of not over half an ounce in weight can be sent from Halifax to Vancouver for three cents. A book weighing five pounds can be sent the same distance for twenty cents, and parcels and samples at equally low rates. To England the rate for half an ounce is five cents, and for every additional half-ounce a single rate is added. Postage stamps and cards, the money order system, and Post Office savings banks have all been added since 1851. The merchant of Toronto can post a letter to-day, and get a reply from London; England, in less time than he could in the old days from Quebec. In 1830 correspondence was expensive and tedious. Letters were written only under the pressure of necessity. Now every one writes, and the number of letters and the revenue have increased a thousand fold. The steamship, locomotive and telegraph, all the growth of the last half century, have not only almost annihilated time and space, but have changed the face of the world. It is true there were steamboats running between York and Kingston on the Bay of Quinte and the St. Lawrence prior to 1830; but after that date they increased rapidly in number, and were greatly improved. It was on the 15th of September of that year that George Stephenson ran the first locomotive over the line between Liverpool and Manchester—a distance of thirty miles—so that fifty years ago this was the only railway with a locomotive in the world—a fact that can hardly be realised when the number of miles now in operation, and the vast sums of money expended in their construction, are considered. What have these agents done for us, apart from the wonderful impetus given to trade and commerce? You can post to your correspondent at Montreal at 6 p.m., and your letter is delivered at 11 a.m., and the next day at noon you have your answer. You take up your morning's paper, and you have the news from the very antipodes every day. The merchant has quotations placed before him, daily and hourly, from every great commercial centre in the world; and even the sporting man can deposit his money here, and have his bet booked in London the day before.
From the first discovery of the country up to 1800, a period of about three hundred years, the bark canoe was the only mode of conveyance for long distances. Governor Simcoe made his journeys from Kingston to Detroit in a large bark canoe, rowed by twelve chasseurs, followed by another containing the tents and provisions. The cost of conveying merchandise between Kingston and Montreal before the Rideau and St. Lawrence canals were built is hardly credible to people of this day. Sir J. Murray stated in the House of Commons, in 1828, that the carriage of a twenty-four pound cannon cost between L150 and L200 sterling. In the early days of the Talbot Settlement (about 1817), Mr. Ermatinger states that eighteen bushels of wheat were required to pay for one barrel of salt, and that one bushel of wheat would no more than pay for one yard of cotton.
Our fathers did not travel much, and there was a good reason, as we have seen, why they did not. The ordinary means of transit was the stage, which Mrs. Jameson describes as a "heavy lumbering vehicle, well calculated to live in roads where any decent carriage must needs founder." Another kind, used on rougher roads, consisted of "large oblong wooden boxes, formed of a few planks nailed together, and placed on wheels, in which you enter by the window, there being no door to open or shut, and no springs." On two or three wooden seats, suspended in leather straps, the passengers were perched. The behaviour of the better sort, in a journey from Niagara to Hamilton, is described by this writer as consisting of a "rolling and tumbling along the detestable road, pitching like a scow among the breakers of a lake storm." The road was knee-deep in mud, the "forest on either side dark, grim, and impenetrable." There were but three or four steamboats in existence, and these were not much more expeditious. Fares were high. The rate from York to Montreal was about $24. Nearly the only people who travelled were the merchants and officials, and they were not numerous. The former often took passage on sailing vessels or batteaux, and if engaged in the lumber trade, as many of them were, they went down on board their rafts and returned in the batteaux. "These boats were flat-bottomed, and made of pine boards, narrowed at bow and stern, forty feet by six, with a crew of four men and a pilot, provided with oars, sails, and iron-shod poles for pushing. They continued to carry, in cargoes of five tons, all the merchandise that passed to Upper Canada. Sometimes these boats were provided with a makeshift upper cabin, which consisted of an awning of oilcloth, supported on hoops like the roof of an American, Quaker, or gipsy waggon. If further provided with half a dozen chairs and a table, this cabin was deemed the height of primitive luxury. The batteaux went in brigades, which generally consisted of five boats. Against the swiftest currents and rapids the men poled their way up; and when the resisting element was too much for their strength, they fastened a rope to the bow, and, plunging into the water, dragged her by main strength up the boiling cataract. From Lachine to Kingston, the average voyage was ten to twelve days, though it was occasionally made in seven; an average as long as a voyage across the Atlantic now. The Durham boat, also then doing duty on this route, was a flat-bottomed barge, but it differed from the batteaux in having a slip-keel and nearly twice its capacity. This primitive mode of travelling had its poetic side. Amid all the hardships of their vocation, the French Canadian boatmen were ever light of spirit, and they enlivened the passage by carolling their boat songs; one of which inspired Moore to write his immortal ballad." [Footnote: Trout's Railways of Canada, 1870-1.]
The country squire, if he had occasion to go from home, mounted his horse, and, with his saddle-bags strapped behind him, jogged along the highway or through the bush at the rate of forty or fifty miles a day. I remember my father going to New York in 1839. He crossed by steamboat from Kingston to Oswego; thence to Rome, in New York State, by canal- boat, and thence by rail and steamer to New York.
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—WEEKLY NEWSPAPERS —PRIMITIVE EDITORIAL ARTICLES.
The people were alive at a very early date to the importance of improving the roads; and as far back as 1793 an Act was passed at Niagara, then the seat of government, placing the roads under overseers or road-masters, as they were called, appointed by the ratepaying inhabitants at their annual town meetings. Every man was required to bring tools, and to work from three to twelve days. There was no property distinction, and the time was at the discretion of the roadmaster. This soon gave cause for dissatisfaction, and reasonably, for it was hardly fair to expect a poor man to contribute as much toward the improvement of highways as his rich neighbour. The Act was amended, and the number of days' work determined by the assessment roll. The power of opening new roads, or altering the course of old ones, was vested in the Quarter Sessions. This matter is now under the control of the County Councils. The first government appropriation for roads was made in 1804, when L1,000 was granted; but between 1830-33, $512,000 was provided for the improvement and opening up of new roads. The road from Kingston to York was contracted for by Dantford, an American, in 1800, at $90 per mile, two rods wide. The first Act required that every man should clear a road across his own lot, but it made no provision for the Clergy Reserves and Crown Lands, and hence the crooked roads that existed at one time in the Province. Originally the roads were marked out by blazing the trees through the woods as a guide for the pedestrian. Then the boughs were cut away, so that a man could ride through on horseback. Then followed the sleighs; and finally the trees were cleared off, so that a waggon could pass. "The great leading roads of the Province had received little improvement beyond being graded, and the swamps [had been] made passable by laying the round trunks of trees side by side across the roadway. Their supposed resemblance to the king's corduroy cloth gained for these crossways the name of corduroy roads. The earth roads were passably good when covered with the snows of winter, or when dried up in the summer sun; but even then a thaw or rain made them all but impassable. The rains of autumn and the thaws of spring converted them into a mass of liquid mud, such as amphibious animals might delight to revel in. Except an occasional legislative grant of a few thousand pounds for the whole Province, which was ill- expended, and often not accounted for at all, the great leading roads, as well as all other roads, depended, in Upper Canada, for their improvement on statute labour." [Footnote: II.]
The Rev. Isaac Fidler, writing in 1831, says: "On our arrival at Oswego, I proceeded to the harbour in quest of a trading vessel bound for York, in Canada, and had the good fortune to find one that would sail in an hour. I agreed with the captain for nine dollars, for myself, family, and baggage, and he on his part assured me that he would land me safe in twenty-four hours. Our provision was included in the fare. Instead of reaching York in one day, we were five days on the lake. There were two passengers, besides ourselves, equally disappointed and impatient. The cabin of the vessel served for the sitting, eating, and sleeping room of passengers, captain and crew. I expostulated strongly on this usage, but the captain informed me he had no alternative. The place commonly assigned to sailors had not been fitted up. We were forced to tolerate this inconvenience. The sailors slept on the floor, and assigned the berths to the passengers, but not from choice. The food generally placed before us for dinner was salt pork, potatoes, bread, water and salt; tea, bread and butter, and sometimes salt pork for breakfast and tea;" to which he adds, "no supper." One would think, under the circumstances, this privation would have been a cause for thankfulness.
The same writer speaks of a journey to Montreal the following year: "From York to Montreal, we had three several alterations of steamboats and coaches. The steamboat we now entered was moored by a ledge of ice, of a thickness so great as to conceal entirely the vessel, till we approached close upon it. We embarked by steps excavated in the ice, for the convenience of the passengers."
The following advertisement, from the Christian Guardian of 1830, may prove not uninteresting as an evidence of the competition then existing between the coach and steamboat, and is pretty conclusive that at that date the latter was not considered very much superior or more expeditious:
"NEW LINE OF STAGES AND STEAMBOATS FROM YORK TO PRESCOTT.
"The public are respectfully informed that a line of stages will run regularly between YORK and the CARRYING PLACE, [Footnote: The Carrying Place is at the head of the Bay of Quinte.] twice a week, the remainder of the season, leaving YORK every MONDAY and THURSDAY morning at 4 o'clock; passing through the beautiful townships of Pickering, Whitby, Darlington and Clark, and the pleasant villages of Port Hope; Cobourg and Colborne, and arriving at the CARRYING PLACE the same evening. Will leave the CARRYING PLACE every TUESDAY and FRIDAY morning at 4 o'clock, and arrive at York the same evening.
"The above arrangements are made in connection with the steamboat Sir James Kempt, so that passengers travelling this route will find a pleasant and speedy conveyance between York and Prescott, the road being very much repaired, and the line fitted up with good horses, new carriages, and careful drivers. Fare through from York to Prescott, L2 10s, the same as the lake boats. Intermediate distances, fare as usual. All baggage at the risk of the owner. N.B.—Extras furnished at York, Cobourg, or the Carrying Place, on reasonable terms.
"York, June 9th. 1830."
I remember travelling from Hamilton to Niagara in November, 1846. We left the hotel at 6 p.m. Our stage, for such it was called, was a lumber waggon, with a rude canvas cover to protect us from the rain, under which were four seats, and I have a distinct recollection that long before we got to our journey's end we discovered that they were not very comfortable. There were seven passengers and the driver. The luggage was corded on behind in some fashion, and under the seats were crowded parcels, so that when we got in we found it difficult to move or to get out. One of our passengers, a woman with a young child, did not contribute to our enjoyment, or make the ride any more pleasant, for the latter poor unfortunate screamed nearly the whole night through. Occasionally it would settle down into a low whine, when a sudden lurch of the waggon or a severe jolt would set it off again with full force. The night was very dark, and continued so throughout, with dashes of rain. The roads were very bad, and two or three times we had to get out and walk, a thing we did not relish, as it was almost impossible for us to pick our way, and the only thing for it was to push on as well as we could through the mud and darkness. We reached Niagara just as the sun was rising. Our appearance can readily be imagined.
"In 1825, William L. Mackenzie described the road between York and Kingston as among the worst that human foot ever trod, and down to the latest day before the railroad era, the travellers in the Canadian stage coach were lucky if, when a hill had to be ascended, or a bad spot passed, they had not to alight and trudge ankle deep through the mud. The rate at which it was possible to travel in stage coaches depended on the elements. In spring, when the roads were water-choked and rut- gullied, the rate might be reduced to two miles an hour for several miles on the worst sections. The coaches were liable to be embedded in the mud, and the passengers had to dismount and assist in prying them out by means of rails obtained from the fences." [Footnote: Trout's Railways of Canada]
Such was the condition of the roads up to, and for a considerable time after, 1830, and such were the means provided for the public who were forced to use them. It can easily be conceived, that the inducements for pleasure trips were so questionable that the only people who journeyed, either by land or water, were those whose business necessities compelled them to do so. Even in 1837, the only road near Toronto on which it was possible to take a drive was Y'onge Street, which had been macadamized a distance of twelve miles. But the improvements since then, and the facilities for quick transit, have been very great. The Government has spent large sums of money in the construction of roads and bridges. A system of thorough grading and drainage has been adopted. In wet swampy land, the corduroy has given place to macadamized or gravel roads, of which there are about 4,000 miles in the Province. [Footnote: In order to ascertain the number of miles of macadamized roads in the Province, after hunting in vain in other quarters, I addressed a circular to the Clerk of the County Council in each county, and received thirty replies, out of thirty-seven. From these I gathered that there were about the number of miles, above stated. Several replied that they had no means of giving the desired information, and others thought there were about so many miles. I was forced to the conclusion that the road accounts of the Province were not very systematically kept.] Old log bridges have been superseded by stone, iron, and well-constructed wooden ones, so that in the older sections the farmer is enabled to reach his market with a well-loaded waggon during the fall and spring. The old system of tolls has been pretty much done away with, and even in the remote townships the Government has been alive to the importance of uninterrupted communication, and has opened up good central highways. The batteaux and sailing vessels, as a means of travel, with the old steamer and its cramped up cabin in the hold, and its slow pace, have decayed and rotted in the dockyard, and we have now swift boats, with stately saloons running from bow to stern, fitted in luxurious style, on either sides rows of comfortable sleeping rooms, and with a table d'hote served as well as at a first class modern hotel. Travelling by steamer now is no longer a tediously drawn out vexation, but in propitious weather a pleasure. A greater change has taken place in our land travel, but it is much more recent. The railroad has rooted out the stage, except to unimportant places, and you can now take a Pullman at Toronto at 7 p.m., go to bed at the proper time, and get up in Montreal at 10.30 a.m. the next day. The first railroad on which a locomotive was run was the Northern, opened in 1853, to Bradford. Since that time up to the present we have built, and now have in operation, 3,478 miles, in addition to 510 under construction or contract. [Footnote: This is exclusive of the C.P.R.]