said, 'some fail from not having money to feed their families until enough land is under crop to maintain them, others from going on stony or sandy lots that yield only poor crops, and not a few from going where it is marshy and fever-and-ague prevail. Many go into the backwoods who have not the muscle for its hard work or who will not be content to live on pork and potatoes, until they can get better, yet even they might do had they perseverance and self-denial. The Scotch and the North of Ireland people, accustomed to hard work and spare living, seldom fail.' They were riding past much land in bush, generally without a strip of clearing. Jabez remarked the curse of Canada was giving land to people who would not go to live upon it, who had no intention of clearing it, but held it to sell. A deal of that land you see was given as grants to old soldiers. A colonel could claim 1200 acres, a major 800, a captain 600 acres, and a private 100 acres. Not one in twenty who drew their lots meant to live on them, and of the few who tried most of them failed and left. Speculators had their agents round taverns and stores ready to buy soldiers' tickets, and got transfers for a few dollars, sometimes for a keg of whiskey or a hundredweight of pork. If you want to kill a country, deal out its land as grants to old soldiers. It does the soldiers no good and keeps back settlement, for the grants they got are left by speculators unimproved, to the hurt of the genuine settlers, who want roads opened, fences put up, and ditches dug. You will find out this yourself when you begin to clear a lot. This giving away land to soldiers is well meant, but soldiers wont go on it and it is just a way to make speculators rich. No man should get an acre from the government unless he binds himself to live on the land and clear it. On the master saying he was told much land was got by politicians, Jabez grew warm in denouncing them. Whatever party was in office, used the land as a means of bribery. They bought the support of members by grants of land and, when an election came round, got the settlers to vote as they wished under threats of making them act up to the letter of their settlement duties or offering back-dues and clear titles in return for their support. No candidate opposed to the government can be elected for a backwoods county. With such talk Jabez relieved their journey until they came to a side-road, which was a mere bridle-path. Up this they turned, passing through solid bush. It was a bright, hot day in the clearings, but under the trees it was gloomy and chill, with a moist odor of vegetation which was grateful to the master, and this was his first experience of the bush. Fallen trees, which lay across the track, their horses jumped, as they also did on meeting wet gullies. Jabez said the path had been brushed by an Englishman, rumored the son of a lord, who had bought the block of land intending to stay on it. That was the only improvement he made. He came late in the Fall and society in Toronto was more agreeable than felling trees. He bet on horse-races that took place on the ice and spent the evenings at cards. In the spring his money was gone; had to sell his land to pay his debts, and returned to England. On reaching the end of the bridle-path the horses were hitched. Jabez searched among the brush until he found a surveyor's stake. Placing a compass on top of it, he cut with his jackknife three rods which he pointed. He pushed two into the soil on either side of the stake, and went ahead with the third. Posting the master behind the first, he told him to keep the three in range and to shout to him if he stepped on either side. Producing from the bag behind his saddle a hatchet, he went forward, cutting down the brush where it blocked his straight course. When some hundred yards away, he cried to the master to come on, it was all right. On joining him Jabez pointed to a scar made in the bark of a maple. 'That is the surveyor's blaze, made five years ago. I was in doubts where to find it, for the weather has blackened it. We are all right now, and will find another farther on.' So they did, several more, though they were so faint only the trained eye of Jabez could detect them. As he came to each tree, he used the hatchet to make a fresh blaze, while any branch that obstructed the view between the blazed trees was lopped off. Suddenly it grew lighter: they were again in the sunshine and before them was a sheet of water. It was too small to be called a lake; it was just a pond, set in the heart of the woods. The master was greatly taken with it and leaning over a log drank heartily, for the water was clear and sweet, though warm. 'We may as well rest and take our bite here,' remarked Jabez, producing from the pouch slung at his back some soldiers' hard tack, with thin sliced pork between instead of butter. He explained it was hard to tell the quality of the soil in the woods, and many were deceived, especially as regards stones. The forest litter covers them, and it is only when the plow is started that the settler finds he has a lot that will give him many a tired back in trying to get rid of the worst of them. When you find big trees, maple or any other kind of hard wood, it is a sure sign the soil is rich, but if the trees are scrub or of soft wood it is certain to be poor. Pine is not to be relied on as indicating good land for the settler. The tallest and finest pines are often on the top of stony ridges. Starting anew, they came to the streamlet that fed the pond and a short tramp beyond it Jabez spied another surveyor's stake. 'This is the western limit of Bambray's lot; between the two stakes he has 400 acres.' He asked the master if he wanted to cross the lot lengthways and see the two ends, but he saw no need, for so far as he could judge the land was all of the same quality. 'Supposing I buy the lot, how am I to get into it?' 'You will have to continue the bridle-path to where you place your house, and that is enough for an ox-sledge.' 'That means some work?' 'Yes,' replied Jabez smiling 'there is nothing to be had in the bush without hard work; it is hard work and poor grub.'
Coming back to the horses, they found they had finished the oats Jabez had brought, and were nibbling at the leaves within reach. On regaining Yonge street, the horses were watered at a tavern, Jabez dropping five coppers on the counter, the price of two drinks. 'You are expected to drink when you stop to water a horse, but I want no whiskey, I prefer to pay for what the horse drinks.' Arrived in Toronto the master said he would go and see Mr Bambray after supper. Jabez asked him to remember that Quakers do not dicker, so if the price was too high for him to pay to come away at once.
The master found Mr Bambray reading a newspaper, told him he was satisfied with the land and would buy it were the price within his ability. The Quaker took from a desk a sheet of paper; pointing to the figures written on it he said, 'I do not deal in land, believing it not to be agreeable with the teaching of the Gospel to make merchandize of what God intended for all his children. I do not consider it right to buy land you are not able or do not mean to make use of, but secure with a view to sell at an advanced price to the man who will cultivate it. These 400 acres were transferred to me for a just debt which the man could not otherwise pay. On this line is the amount of that debt, here are the legal charges paid by me in the transaction, and here is interest. The whole totals $472, which is the price.' The master was surprised, for from what he had heard of the prices asked for land so close to Toronto at least double would have been sought. 'My friends and I are able to pay that sum to you and we take the land.' The Quaker moved not a muscle. Taking up a quill he wrote out a promise of sale, and was given a bank of Scotland note for ten pounds as surety. Inquiring what steps he would next take, the master was advised to secure the services of Jabez for a month at least. 'Thee are ignorant of bush-farming and need an instructor, otherwise loss will befall thee and much trouble.' Arranging for the final transfer of the land, the master sought out Jabez. He and two brothers carried on a cartage business. Jabez said there would not be more calls than his brothers could attend to until August, and he would go if he was willing to pay two dollars a day for himself and an ox-team. 'That is settled,' replied the master. 'Now what is to be done first?' 'To cut out a sledge-road across your lot, so that you may get your freight in.' To help he was to hire a man, and it was arranged to start at daylight.
Next morning Jabez appeared at the door of the tavern with an ox-team, and seated beside him in the wagon was a youth. 'This is Jim Sloot, who can handle an axe with any man. You have that to learn. It is the axe that has made Canada.' Arrived at the bridle-path that led to their lot, they had a day's work on it brushing and prying off fallen trees. On reaching the lot master had bought, trees had to be felled to continue the path. These Jabez and Jim assailed, while master trimmed their branches off with a hatchet. On the evening of the third day they were in sight of the pond, when the master left, for the Kingston boat might arrive next morning, and he must be on hand to meet his family. How he met us I have already told.
FIRST DAYS IN THE BACKWOODS
Our freight, as Jabez termed it, filled three wagons and started up Yonge-street. A fourth wagon came to the door of the tavern for the women and children, I being left to help them. We were told to stop at Mr Dunlop's store for supplies that had been bought. He came out to see us and in a minute was thick in talk with the women about Ayrshire. On the team starting he declared meeting them was like a visit to Scotland. The driver pointed out to us how straight Yonge-street was; runs forty miles to Lake Simcoe straight as the handle of my whip. It was a jolty, hot drive but we enjoyed it hugely; everything was new to us and we were all in high spirits at the prospect of our long journey being about to end and in coming into possession of our estates, about which there was no end of jokes. Mrs Auld was in doubts as to what name they would give their hundred acres, while Mrs Brodie settled on Bonnybraes for hers. 'But we have not seen a hill since we left Montreal,' remarked the mistress. 'I dinna care,' rejoined Mrs Brodie, Bonnybraes was the name of the farm we left and it will make the woods hamelike.' When we spied at a distance several men standing by the roadside we gave a shout of joy and were soon reunited. The laughing and talking might have been heard half a mile away. Jabez now took the lead. As the wagons arrived he had caused them to be unloaded under a clump of hemlocks, the chests and packages being arranged to make a three-sided enclosure. In front he had started a fire, over which, slung from a pole resting on crotched sticks, was a pot, and soon the mistress was preparing supper. It was dark before we had settled for the night, which was so warm that sleeping under the trees was no hardship. Jabez covered the dying fire with damp litter, the smoke of which kept off the mosquitos, which pestered us dreadfully.
In the morning Jabez was the first to be stirring. Giving me two pails he directed me to go to a house I would find a bit down Yonge-street to get water, and, if they had it, some milk. The house I found and also the well, but how to draw water out of it I knew not. There was nobody stirring until my awkward attempts to work the bucket brought a man out. I told him who I was. 'You are an emigrant and this is the first sweep-well you have tried to work. Well, now, you have got to learn,' and he showed me how simple it was. He was much interested when he heard of our party and of their camping out. 'Stay a minute till I tell mother.' Coming back to the door he cried to me to go on with the water and he would fetch milk after a while. The porridge was ready when he and his wife appeared with the milk. He called his wife mother, which we thought strange. She was a smart, tidy woman and was soon deep in advice to our housekeepers about bush ways of doing things and bush cookery. After they had gone their children, three in number, came shyly round and watched us with open-eyed curiosity.
Jabez was in haste to get us moved to our own location, and to do so had provided two oxsleds. Taking charge of one and Sloot of the other they dragged the first loads over the bush track, all the men, except the master, following. On returning for a second load, Jabez reported Brodie and Auld were pleased with the land and that Allan and the children were having a wash in the pond. How to get grannie through the woods concerned the master. Jabez solved the difficulty by making a comfortable couch on his sled, on which she rested, with the master on one side, Robbie running alongside of the ox, and myself following. So slowly and carefully did the ox step that grannie was little discomposed. On stepping from her rude conveyance, she gazed in wonder on the pond and the forest that encompassed it. 'This is our new farm,' shouted Allan in her ear, 'A' this ground and the lakie?' 'Yes,' answered Allan. 'An thae trees?' 'Yes,' replied her grandson, 'father is laird of it all.' She stood for a minute or two as if dazed; and then a light came to her face as if she had suddenly comprehended it all. She stepped to the master, and laying her hands on his shoulders said, 'You have been a good and true son and weel you deserve to be a laird.' Seeing a black squirrel jump from tree to tree Robbie darted off with a shout of glee.
Jabez cut a number of poles, and with them and blankets made two roomy tents, which were to give shelter until shanties were built. Before sites for them could be picked out it was necessary to divide the 400 acre lot. Brodie and Auld were to get each a hundred acres and they were agreed in choosing the portion of land that lay south of the road and included the pond. The master, as I found later, would have liked that part for himself, but willingly agreed to their choice. The next point was to divide the 200 acres between Auld and Brodie. Covered equally with heavy bush there was no apparent difference, yet a division had to be made. Jabez, seeing that one waited on the other to decide, cut two twigs and held them out between his fingers. 'The man who draws the long one, gets the east half, and the short one the west.' Brodie drew the long bit of stick and Auld the short. It was agreed to raise Brodie's shanty first, as he had young children, and the Aulds could stay with them until their own shanty was ready. Brodie selected the spot for his home, and we began at once to cut the trees that stood upon it. Saturday evening Jabez and Jim returned to Toronto to stay over Sunday. The weather had been warm with two showers and camping was no discomfort beyond the inconvenience to the women. There was no complaining, for we were all in good spirits, buoyed up with the prospect of future prosperity, and determined, if hard work would ensure it, we would not spare ourselves. Our tasks for the week were ended and we gathered on the site of Brodie's house, sitting on the felled trees. It was a calm night with soft air, the moonbeams making a pathway of light across the pond. None seemed inclined to speak, just wanting to rest and enjoy the peaceful hour. It was Alice who broke the silence by starting to sing, and song followed song, all joining when there was a chorus. It was a strange thought that came into my mind, that for all the ages these woods and lakelet had existed this was the first time they had echoed back our Scottish melodies. When Alice started Ye banks and braes o' bonny Doon, we helped in the first verse, but as the scenes we had left rose before our minds voices quavered, until all became silent, tears flowed, and Mrs Auld was sobbing. 'This wont do,' cried the master, 'we have come here as to a land of promise and there must be no looking backward. We go forward. Alice, start the second paraphrase and then to bed.'
I have seen many a fine Sabbath morning but none to me like that one which was our first in the bush. The serenity of air and sky, the solemnity of the woods, the stillness sweetened by the song of birds, struck even the children, who were quieter than usual. After breakfast and things were tidied up we had worship. The master read selections from the closing chapters of Hebrews, and his prayer was one of thankfulness to the Hand that had preserved us on our journey and brought us to a quiet resting-place. Mrs Auld heard the children their questions and had a lively time in scolding and coaxing them by turns to never mind the squirrels but attend to what she was saying.
The dinner things had been cleared away when a visitor came out of the woods. He had a red, flabby face, framed in a thick whisker turning grey. The chief feature of his dress was a long surtout, that had been part of a gentleman's dress-suit in its day and a shabby tile hat. Addressing the master with deliberate ceremony, he told how he had heard of new-comers and felt it his duty to welcome them and tender his services. He had been four years in Canada and his experience would be of high value in directing them what to do. Growing voluble he pointed out what he considered were the mistakes we had already made, ending with a plump proposal that, for his board and a certain money consideration, he would take the direction of the settlement and guarantee its immediate prosperity. He paused and asked for a drink. Mrs Auld handed him a dipper. Smelling it, he said experience had taught him the prudence of never drinking lake water without its being qualified by a few spoonfuls of whisky. 'If you will be so kind,' he said to Mrs Auld, 'as to bring your greybeard, I shall have pleasure in giving a toast to your new settlement.' 'Whisky! cried Mrs Auld, 'there's no a drop to be found here.' Turning to the master he said, 'This will never do; you will need bees to raise the shanties, to chop, and to fallow, and not a man will come unless there is whisky and plenty to eat. A keg of Toronto's best will be to you a paying investment.' The master, who had remained silent, carefully measuring the stranger, now spoke. 'I thank you for your advice, as to your help we do not need it, for, as you see, we are strong in ourselves.' The Englishman, for such he was, grew angry. 'You unmannerly Scot, you will have cause to regret scorning my services. I never had such a reception, for in the poorest shanty they greet you with a cup of welcome.' So saying he disappeared. In telling Jabez of him next day, he said the master had done well to come out squarely. Bees had grown to be a nuisance and a loss. When they heard of one, drinkers would travel ten miles to attend and others came just for the sport of the day. The settler would run in debt to lay in a stock of food and whisky. Out of the crowd that would come several would not do a hand's turn, but drink and eat; part would work during the forenoon and then, after dinner, join in the talk and drinking; while the remainder would put in a faithful day's labor. It often happened that bees ended in quarrels, sometimes in fights. A settler, Jabez said, would do better to use the cost of drink and food in hiring labor.
In the afternoon the women began writing letters to Scotland, using the tops of chests to rest the paper on. The sheets were crossed and recrossed, for postage was high, fifty cents the half ounce. Allan and I walked into the bush to see what it was like. The trees were all large and well set apart with little underbrush. Fallen trees and decaying logs abounded. Whether it was jumping or going round these that caused us to lose our way I cannot say, but after a long walk we failed to sight the pond. We made a fresh start and tried another direction without success. 'We are lost, for sure,' exclaimed Allan. Putting his hands to his mouth he let out a yell that startled the crows from a tree-top. We listened, there was no answering sound. Then he whistled long and sharp. Again no answer. Jabez had pointed out to me that the north could always be known by more moss growing on that side of trees, and I decided we had been travelling in that direction. If we could have got a glimpse of the sun we would have known for sure the points of the compass, but the foliage of the tree-tops prevented a ray getting through. We walked smartly, as we thought southwards, when Allan again yelled with all his might. Strange to say, an hillo came from the woods on our left and quite close to us. We hurried in the direction of the sound and came out on a small clearance with a shanty in the middle. A well-made young fellow stood at the door. 'Lost your bearings, eh?' he asked. 'Yes,' answered Allan, 'and glad you heard my yell.' He led us into the shanty; the table was spread for supper and a man and woman were seated ready to begin 'These two fellows are Scotties, new-come out, and got wandered,' was our introduction. Responding to a hearty invitation, seats were found and we helped to dispose of the dried venison and bread that was on the board. 'Did you ever taste coffee like that?' asked the woman as Allan passed in his tin for a second supply. 'That is bush-coffee and better than the storestuff. It is made from dandelion roots and I will tell your folk how to make it.' They were Americans and had led a wandering life, for the father was a trapper. Game becoming scarce from growing settlement on the American side he had crossed into Canada and had spent the last two winters round lake Simcoe. 'There is no hunting after February' he said, 'for every critter then begins nursing and the fur is not worth paying for, so we came south and took this shanty, setting to work to make axhelves and shingles, there being ready sale in Toronto. We move back to the lakes in the Fall.' I asked him about the shanty. He replied that it was not his nor did he know whose it was. 'Like enough some poor emigrant drew the lot and after breaking his back with hard work in making a clearance, found he could not pay the price and just lit out. You will find deserted shanties everywhere in the bush left by families who lost heart.' He showed much interest in our coming and we had difficulty in getting him to recognize our location. It was not until I mentioned the pond that he recognized the spot. 'Why, you aint much over a mile to go.' When we were about to start the whole family got ready to go with us. 'The sun won't set for an hour yet, and there is good moonlight,' said Simmins, for that he told us was his name. 'Did you never get lost?' I asked. 'That is a foolish question to ask of anybody born in the woods for they never lose their sense of direction.' He advised me to carry a compass and take its bearings in going and follow them in returning. Suddenly Mrs Simmins burst into song. It was a hymn, sung in a style I never heard before, but have since at many a campmeeting. Her voice was strong, rising to a shriek at high notes. The husband and son joined in, enjoying it as much as she did. In telling me of the alarm felt at our not returning to supper, Alice said they sat fearing something had befallen us, and that, if the night set in, we might be lost and never be found alive, when suddenly they heard from the depths of the woods the words
Then let our songs resound And every heart be love; We're marching through Emmanuel's ground To fairer worlds above.
Distance mellowed the harshness of the voices and the words sounded like a message from heaven. Their distress was that neither Allan's voice nor my own was distinguishable. Glad they were when we emerged from the trees and joined them round the fire that had been made to blaze as a guide to us. Our visitors made themselves at home at once. 'Why do you call your son Sal?' asked the mistress, 'that is a girl's name.' The reply was, 'His Sunday came is Salvation Simmins; we call him Sal for short.' 'And your husband addresses you as Jedu; what name is that?' 'I was a girl of sixteen before I was baptised, and the preacher gave me the name Jeduthan, because I was the chief musician.' 'Jeduthan was a man, the friend of David.' 'Bible don't say he was a man, and for years and years I was the chief musician at the campmeetings. Guess it was the same in David's time as in ours—the women did the heft of the singing?' Then she began singing, husband and son helping. 'Why don't you all sing?' she asked, 'aint you got religion yet? My, if you heard Elder Colver you would be on your knees and get converted right away.' The mistress said they did not know the words of the hymns she sang, when she became curious to hear us. Alice struck up Come, let us to the Lord our God, and we all joined. 'Whew!' exclaimed Mrs Simmins, very pretty, but that aint the stuff to bring sinners to the penitent-bench—you have to be loud and strong. Ever hear a negro hymn? No, well we will give you one, Whip the ole devil round the stump.' As they sang they acted the words. We parted with mutual good wishes, the mistress remarking, after they left, that God spoke in divers ways and their presentation of His truths, though rude and wild to us, doubtless suited the frontier population among whom they had lived and did good. 'The ax before the plow, the ox-drag before the smoothing harrow,' added the master.
On Jabez appearing next morning he had six bags of potatoes on the ox-sled, which were for seed as well as eating, and said he had left a load of pine-boards to be hauled through the bush to floor the shanties. They now had to decide what kind of shanty they wanted. The cheapest, he told us, for all, men, women, and children, had gathered to hear about the building,—was a house twelve feet by twelve, with basswood staves for flooring or the bare soil, an opening that served both as door and window, with a blanket to keep out the cold, basswood scoops or elm bark for the roof, in which a hole was left to let out the smoke. There were many such shanties, but living in them was misery. From that sort they varied in size and finish, all depending on the settler's means. With $25 a good deal could be done. Size and finish were agreed on, it being understood the master, who had most money, would have a larger house. This being decided, Mr Brodie set to work to dig his cellar and I was sent to Simmins to see if he could supply shingles for the three shanties and to ask Sal if he would hire until they were finished. I took the compass and found their clearance without trouble. In returning Sal, who carried his axe, blazed the trees, so that it would be easy to know the way. The following morning his mother accompanied Sal. She came to show how they made bread in the bush, and had brought a dishful of bran-risings. Explaining what yeast was and how to treat it, she set a panful of dough. When the mass had risen, she kneaded it, and moulded it into loaves. The bake kettle having been warmed, the loaves were placed in it, and when they had risen enough, she put the cover on, and planted the kettle in a bed of glowing embers. The bread was sweet and a welcome change to the cakes made on the griddle or frying-pan. We had more than bread that day. Mrs Simmins pointed out plants, like lambs quarter and dandelion, whose leaves made greens that added relish to our unvarying diet of pork. How much more she taught I do not know, but her visit was a revelation to our women-folk. Grannie was delighted with her singing because she could hear it.
ANDREW ANDERSON'S DIARY
In Scotland it had been the master's custom to keep a record of work done, and of money paid or received. On parting with a neighbor, a farmer who had a notion of emigrating, he was asked, as a favor, to keep notes of his own daily experience. He had his doubts as to accounts of Canada he had read being correct, and knew whatever the master set down as to climate and other conditions he could depend upon. The book in which these notes were made was never sent, the master having learnt his friend had taken a new tack of his farm. From this journal I will now quote.
June 21.—Rushing work in getting up the shanties. Four men felling trees and sawing their trunks into the desired length. Awkward in chopping, I took the job of squaring the logs with the adze-ax. Gordon notched the ends as I finished them. Digging his cellar Brodie struck clay, which Jabez tells me is worth money to us. Under Ailie's direction, the children planted potatoes round the stumps of the trees as they were cut down, and made a garden on a bare strip of land on the pond bank. Have got all the boards drawn from Yonge-street. Slow-work with an ox-sled, having to dodge to avoid striking trees.
June 22.—Jabez helped Brodie to finish his cellar, lining it with red-cedar poles. Great heat. Oxen drawing logs for the shanty.
June 23.—Began raising today. Jabez, never at a loss in finding the easiest way, had left standing two trees at the site of the house. Placing a stout pole in their crotches, long enough to reach across from one to the other, he attached a pulley. An ox, hitched to the end of the pulley-rope, hauled the logs to the spot and pulled them up as needed. This saved much lifting and the walls went up quickly. Gordon had notched the ends of the logs so exactly that they went together without trouble.
June 24—Have got Brodie's house up to the square and began putting up the rafters. Cloudy; heat more bearable.
June 25—Saturday; eager to get the shanty finished all hands turned to the work, got the shingling finished and the ground floor laid. Mrs Brodie moved in at dark. Though there was neither door nor windows in place, she said she was prouder of her shanty than the Duchess of Hamilton could be of her palace.
June 26—The heat of this country surpasses anything we ever knew in Scotland. All very tired and glad to rest in the shade, with a smudge to keep off the mosquitoes. Strange to say, the children do not seem to care much about the heat.
June 27—Jabez arrived with a wagon loaded with lumber. Drew on sled first the doors and sashes, which he had got a carpenter to make for Brodie's house, which Gordon fitted in. Afternoon being wet, we helped to lay the loft floor and to chink the house from the inside. Gordon put up two wide shelves in the corners for beds, and is making a table with benches on each side to sit on. The table has crossed legs; the benches have no backs.
June 28—Everything being ready, began on my house.
June 29—Made good progress, for we have been gaining experience.
July 1—The roof being on, moved into our shanty; well we did, for it poured at night.
July 2—Had a long talk about chimneys for our houses. The right way is to have a mason build them. There may be stones on our land, but there are none in sight. Jabez says we will have to put up with stick chimneys. In the hot weather we are having, cooking out of doors is all right unless when it rains.
July 3—The Sabbath rest beneath our own roof was sweet. Mary pleased and happy and mother proud of the house.
July 4—Leaving to Gordon the finishing of our shanty, the rest of us tackled with might and main Auld's. How quickly Jabez and Sal can hew down a tree is a wonder to me.
July 5—Auld moved his belongings into his shanty this evening, though it is not half done. Gave Jabez money to bring out with him on Monday morning the iron-fixtures for our fire-places and the lime for the chimneys.
July 6—On going out this morning saw a deer with her hind drinking at the far end of the pond; beautiful creatures. Thank God for the Sabbath. Without it we would have broken down with our hard toil.
July 7—Jabez brought word from Mr Bambray that he wanted us on the 9th to give us our deeds. Told me he could not finish out a month, as he had expected. Business had become brisk in Toronto, and his brothers needed his help. He started at once to build the chimney in Brodie's house, so that we could see how to do the other two. In laying the floor a 6-foot square had been left uncovered for the fire-place. In a frame of heavy elm logs that fitted the spot, puddled clay mixed with sand was rammed hard. Two jambs were built with brick which Jabez had brought and across them a thick plate of cast iron, which was to support the front of the chimney. The back of the chimney and sides had the few stones found in digging the cellars, and on top of them was laid more brick until the ceiling was reached. Care had been taken to build in a crane to hang pots. From the floor of the loft squarely cut pieces of cedar, 2 inches thick, were laid in clay mortar, and as the work went on were plastered with the same mortar inside and out, until the top was two feet above the ridge-board. Jabez said there was no danger of the cedar sticks taking fire. They were so well-beded in the clay that when it hardened the chimney was all one piece. If it fell, it would not break.
July 11—Brodie, Auld, and myself accompanied Jabez on his going to Toronto. Mr Bambray had arranged everything and in an hour we had paid him and each of us had his deed. We asked him about securing a road to our lots. He said two blocks of bush lay between them and Yonge-street. Both were owned by a man who was holding to sell, and he was afraid any influence we could exert would not compel him to make the road, though that was the condition on which the government had given the land. Met in the tavern several emigrants eager to get lots, all discontented with their treatment at the government office. One said he would go to Illinois. Asked how he would get there. Told me by Buffalo and lake Erie; land sold there at $1.25 an acre and no bush to clear.
July 12—Tired and rainy. Auld and Brodie came over to square our accounts. From the time we left the ship till we got into our shanties, we lived in common. Found Brodie had least money and more mouths to fill. His wife said she did not fear—they would strachle through until they got a crop. We had a long talk about getting a yoke of oxen, which we must have. Offered, if I got them, they would pay me in days' work. I decided to put up a stable to be ready when I bought a yoke.
July 13—Took a tramp to see rear of my lot, Gordon guiding with a compass. All of a sudden the bush ceased, and on finding I stood on the edge of a swamp, I got angry at my being fooled into paying for a cattail marsh. There is quite a stretch not very wide, angling across the width of my lot. On thinking it over, am satisfied Bambray knew no more about its existence than I did. Returning home I followed the creek, which starts from it. There was a little water flowing. Noticed, where the creek leaves the marsh, a stretch of tall wild grass.
July 14—Could not sleep thinking about the swamp. Got Gordon to make a dozen cross-staffs and started for it to take levels. Found the marsh sloped towards the creek, and between where it entered and a hundred yards down the creek there is a fall of three feet, so the marsh can be drained. Dug down in several places and found the marsh to be a deposit of black soil on top of clay.
July 17—The Simmins family spent the afternoon with us. He knew about the swamp, and called it a, beaver-meadow. The grass that grew at the head of the creek would make hay good enough for cattle. Said I would find the dam the beavers had made if I searched a while, and if I got out the logs that formed it, the water would have a free course into the creek.
July 18—Spent all Saturday cutting grass at the head of the creek. It is fine but long. Turned it today and, if rain keeps off, will be ready to cock tomorrow afternoon, the sun is so hot and the grass so ripe.
July 19—Had Sal, Gordon, and Archie come and help to find the dam the beavers had built. On a crowbar showing us where the logs were buried, shovelled off the dirt and pried them out. It was wet, dirty work but we managed it. Cleared the bed of the creek of the rubbish that choked it at its head. Sal found a turtle, which he carried home.
July 20—Brodie and Auld came early and we set to work to get logs ready for the ox-stable. Very dry and hot.
July 21—Piled the hay in two stacks and thatched them as well as we could. We had just finished when a thunderstorm burst.
July 23—Gordon, who has made furniture for all the houses, set up a cupboard for Ailie, of which she is quite proud. The lad has a wonderful knack, and can copy anything he has a chance to examine. A deluge of rain; never saw such a downfall in Scotland. Lasted six hours and then came out sultry.
July 24—Sal stepped in while we were at breakfast with the hind quarter of a deer, his father had come on during the heavy rain and shot. First fresh meat we have had. Found it dry eating. Sunday though it was, walked with Sal to head of creek and found water was running freely into it from the marsh. Coming back Sal spied bees round a tree and said he would get the honey next month. Told me the names of the different squirrels and birds we saw and he had fun with a ground hog.
July 30—Although the weather has been warm have worked steadily chopping down trees; the sound of the axe coming from the three lots. On each of them there is now quite a clearance. Jabez had shown us how to make plan-heaps, and we so fell the trees, which will save hard work when we come to burn. Except myself, all are getting to be expert with the axe, though Sal, with less exertion, can chop down two to Allan's one.
August 1—Growth far outstrips that of Scotland, and no wonder, there is no such heat there. In thinning turnips and the like Ailie kept what is pulled for boiling; they make good greens. We had a long talk about buying a yoke of oxen at once, and Brodie and Auld agreed to help me with the stable for them.
August 3—Fixed on spot for stable and began preparing logs for it, choosing cedar and pine as being easier to handle.
August 8—Began raising stable. Gordon made very neat corners.
August 9—Had stable up to the square when we dropped work.
August 11—Got the rafters on. Having no sawed lumber or shingles, will have to cut basswood staves and scoops.
August 13—Stable finished and all proud of it. There is a roomy loft which will be useful for more than fodder, for I am told when there is no bed in the shanty for a visitor they 'loft him.'
August 14—Had arranged to walk to Toronto, for none of us have been inside a church since we left Scotland, but the sun came out with such a blistering heat that we had to give up our intention. It is awfully lonesome in the bush, and were it not for the work you are forced to do, we would get vacant-minded. It has been a great blessing in every way that the three families settled together. I can believe the report that a family planted in the depths of the bush, without a neighbor nearer than three miles, abandoned all they had accomplished to get company.
August 15—While chinking the stable, Gordon helping, I heard a crash and a cry from where Allan was chopping. We ran to the spot, and my heart jumped into my mouth, when I saw him lying as if he were dead under a big branch. I was for dragging him out, when Gordon showed me the movement would bring down the butt of the branch on his body. He ran for help. Ailie came first and then Brodie, and while the three of us held up the limb of the tree, Ailie pulled him out. She was calmer than any of us. Carrying him to the house, we had the satisfaction of finding there was no bone broken. A blue mark above the right eye showed where he had been struck. As he was breathing easily we had hopes he would come to, but it was long before he did, and it was the most anxious hour Ailie and I had ever known. When he opened his eyes, and looking wonderingly round asked, 'What is a' the steer aboot?' we never before thanked God with such fervor. Gordon had run for Mrs Simmins, and while we were keeping wet cloths on Allan's head, she hurried in. Looking at the mark, which was now swollen, and feeling all round it, Mrs Simmins declared there was no fracture of the skull and that the blow had only stunned him. 'Well for him that he is a thick-headed Scotchman or he would have been killed,' she remarked. Taking a fleam from her pocket, she lanced the lump and let it bleed freely. 'If bruised blood is left to get into the system, there will be a fever, in which many a man has died.' Allan fell asleep and when he woke it was to ask for a drink.
Aug. 16—Allan woke this morning all right, except feeling giddy. He will never again have as narrow an escape with his life. The tree he was felling, a big maple, in falling toppled over a dead tree beside it, which was so rotten that it fell in a shower of pieces.
Aug. 18.—Went to see the swamp and glad to find it was drier. The water has got vent and is seeping into the creek. Could walk on parts that would not carry before. Looked it over to plan how to drain it. Gordon, who was with me, said, Cut a ditch up the centre. I showed him that would not do when the swamp came to be plowed. The right way was to cut a ditch across the head and have it empty into another along the south side to the creek. Looked at me in wonder as he asked if I ever expected to plow it. Said I would grow grain on it before other three years. On returning he and I did a bit of underbrushing, piling as much of the brush as we could round the felled timber to help to burn it.
Aug. 19—Kept underbrushing all day.
Aug. 20—So hot gave the ax a rest. In the afternoon a thunderstorm. The downpour tested the roof of the stable, which leaked in only one place, where a scoop had split.
Aug. 21—Quite cool with a brisk northerly breeze. Wife and myself started for Toronto, and never enjoyed a walk more. Did us good to watch the clearances as we passed along. Fall wheat all cut and stacked. Barley being cradled and oats looking extra heavy though short in the straw. The sight of gardens and patches of potatoes pleased Ailie, and we both were surprised by the Indian corn, which we never saw before. It was tasseling. The bell was ringing when we reached Toronto and had to ask our way to the Presbyterian church. The crowd was going to the Episcopal and Methodist churches. The service was dry and cold, but it did us both good to worship with our fellows once more and join in the psalms. As we were walking away I heard somebody behind us call, Andrew Anderson, and looking back saw Mrs Bambray. Told her we were going to the tavern for dinner. 'Thee shall go to no tavern on the seventh day,' and slipping her arm into my wife's, led us to her house. Pointing to a door she told me to go in and I would see what I never saw in Scotland, and led my wife upstairs. Opening the door I found myself in a backshed, with Bambray rubbing ointment on a negro's arm. The man was a runaway slave and had arrived that morning on a schooner from Oswego. Bambray had washed him and dressed him in clean overalls. He bade the negro pull off his shirt so that I might see the marks of the welts made by a whipping he had got with a blacksnake whip and his master's brand, made with a hot iron, on his right arm. The left arm had got injured in his flight and had an unhealed wound. The poor fellow said he came from Maryland and had known no trouble until his wife had been taken from him and sold. His master ordered him to pick on another woman, but he loved his wife and ran away to find her; had been caught and whipped to within an inch of his life. Hearing slaves were free in Canada, he took the first chance to slip away. He hid during the day, and at night, guided by the plow in the sky, kept northwards. He got some food by visiting negro huts, and at one of these he was told how a band of white people helped negroes seeking their liberty. Finding a house he was directed to call at, he found it was true. The man fed him and ferried him across a river and gave him the landmarks of the next house he was to call at for help, and from one to another he was passed along until he got to Oswego, where he was hid in the hold of a schooner whose captain was an Englishman. It had taken him a long time to make the journey, he could not tell me how long, for he did not know the days of the week much less the months. On getting to Toronto he was guided by a sailor boy to Bambray's house, which was one of several where runaways were sure of help. Asked Bambray what he would do with the man. When fit for work he would be given an ax, saw, and sawhorse and was sure of earning a living. 'Me strong,' said the man, standing up, 'and me free.' Left Bambray's late in the afternoon and got home before sunset.
Aug. 27—A week of steady work chopping. We must get clearances big enough to raise crops for next year's living no matter how hot the days are.
Aug. 28—The Simmins family spent the day with us. They leave for the lake Simcoe country. All three like the free life of fishing, trapping, and hunting, and spoke as if they were going on a holiday. If they did well and got a big pack of furs, they intend in the spring to try Illinois, so we may not meet again. They sang and talked all day and we parted with sorrow. The days are still hot but the nights are cool with heavy dews.
Aug. 30—Each day hard at work felling trees. When I first saw our lot and how thick the trees stood on it I could hardly believe it possible we could clear the land of them, yet we have been here scarce three months and there is a great slash. Taking the trees one by one and perseverance has done it. Burning the felled trees that cumber the ground is the next undertaking. This cutting out a home from the bush is work that exhausts body and mind, but the reward is what makes life sweet to right-minded people—independence.
September 1—Had new potatoes to-day. They are dry and mealy and abundant in yield. I may say this is the first food the land has given us.
Sept. 2—Had a chance to send a note to Jabez to look out a suitable yoke of oxen. On going to Yonge-street found a long building going up. It is a tavern. The street is lined with them all the way to Toronto and how far north they go cannot say. Being the leading outlet there is much traffic on it. Saw several parties of emigrants pass. Imprudent to come so late in the season. They will have their sufferings when winter sets in for they have not time to prepare for it. Experience has shown me emigrants should come early in spring. I spoke with one lot. They sailed from Liverpool to New York and thence by the Erie canal to Oswego, avoiding the ordeal of the St Lawrence rapids. It seems strange but it is so, the United States is Upper Canada's market. In comparison, little freight either goes or comes by Montreal. This ought not to be. The reason given is, that Lower Canada will not help to improve the St Lawrence route as it would not be to her benefit.
Sept. 5—There is a plague of squirrels—black, red and grey. Bobby keeps killing them and we have them on the table every day. Pushing the chopping, for our next year's living depends on the size of our clearances. Weather being cooler, work not so exhausting. Had a scare yesterday from a bear trotting to the pond. It had its drink and fled on seeing us.
Sept. 9—Had word from Jabez to come to town as he had a yoke of oxen bought for me.
Sept. 10—Walked to Toronto, taking Gordon to help. Am no judge of oxen. They cost $60. Besides them had to pay for logging-chain and an ox-sled. Gordon spent the time in the wheelwright's shop where I bought the sled. On Jabez telling me we would need somebody to teach us how to handle oxen and to burn a fallow, I went to see Sloot, and bargained with him for a week's work. On getting all that was needed for my neighbors and myself the sled was heaped up; we walked, Sloot driving. It was near midnight when we reached home, but Ailie and the family got up to see the oxen by candle-light.
Sept. 11—Sunday though it was, Sloot, taking the boys to clear the way, had to go to the stacks near the swamp for hay to feed the oxen. It was a work of necessity. They came back in the afternoon with a small load, for the track was rough.
Sept. 12—Sloot and all hands were up at sunrise to set fire to the brushpiles. The day was cool with a breeze that helped the fires. Burning the logs was next taken in hand, and being green and thick they were slow to burn.
Sept. 13—The weather was again favorable for our work of burning the logs but, despite a strong wind, they burned slowly and we had to keep poking and turning them to get a hot blaze. The smoke and heat were like to overcome me, but Sloot went ahead. He was born in the bush and all its work is second nature to him. Washed in the pond and got to bed late.
Sept. 14—Auld and Sloot, Allan helping, worked all night with the logheaps, which I found this morning much reduced in size. The logging-chains and the oxen today came into play, the partly consumed logs being hauled to form fresh piles. By dark there was quite a clearance.
Sept. 15—Light white frost this morning. Helping neighbors. Sun came out on our starting to burn at Auld's but the wind blew a gale, and we had a splendid burn.
Sept. 16—Pouring rain and glad of it, for all of us except Sloot are dead-tired. He says the rain will wash the charred logs and make them easier to handle.
Sept. 17—Spent the day hauling the biggest of the partly burned logs to make a fence across the clearing. The smaller stuff we heaped up and set on fire. Allan handles the oxen very well considering. Wanted Sloot to stay another week, but he could not. He is a civil fellow and not greedy. Ailie sent a queer present to his wife. Before Mrs Simmins left she explained and showed how to secure and dry dandelion roots to make coffee. In lifting potatoes, when a dandelion root is seen, it is pulled carefully, or, if scarce among potatoes, dug up carefully in the fall so as to get the entire root. The roots are washed, dried in the sun and stored away. As wanted for use, a root or so is chopped small, roasted in a pan until crisp, then ground, and made like ordinary coffee.
Sept. 24—All week we worked at getting crop into the fallow. After clearing it of sticks, we used spade, grape, and rake to get it something near level. Gordon studded a log with wooden spikes which we dragged over the worst of it. On getting the best seedbed possible, sowed wheat. The soil had a topdressing of charcoal cinders and ashes that I thought would help. If the seed gives an average yield, will not have to buy flour next year.
Sept. 26—Rained all day yesterday; at night cleared with quite a touch of frost. Busy chopping to enlarge clearance. The young fellow who came out with us from Scotland and got drunk at Montreal, appeared at our door this morning. He had lived chiefly in Toronto and his appearance showed had done no good. Wanted a job. Agreed with him to dig ditch in the swamp, the understanding being if he got drunk he need not come back. Leaves are turning color.
Oct. 2—Sat most of the day on front step taking in the beauty of the trees that overhang the pond on three of its sides. I can compare them to nothing but gigantic flowers. Steeped in the haze of a mellow sun the sight was soothing. Nothing like this in Scotland. The birds have gone; the swallows left in August.
Oct. 9—Been a sorrowful week. On unpacking our baggage on arrival in the bush, found my mother's spinning-wheel was broken. Gordon managed to mend it and I bought ten pounds of wool. This she washed, teased, and carded, and proud she was when she sat down and began to spin the rolls into yarn. Tuesday afternoon Ailie and Ruth went to pick wild grapes, and the rest of us were at our work in the bush. Grannie was left alone. She had moved her wheel to the door to sit in the sunshine, where she could see the brightness of the trees and enjoy the calm that prevailed. How long she span we do not know. On Ailie's return she was startled at the sight of her bending over the wheel. She was dead. While stooping to join a broken thread God took her. Next day buried her on a rising bit of ground overlooking the pond. What a mother she was I alone can know. I shall never forget her. Last evening there was to us a marvellous display of northern lights. When daylight faded pink clouds appeared in the sky mixed with long shooting rays of white light. The clouds changed shape continually, but the color was always a shade of red. At times the clouds filled the entire northeastern sky.
Oct. 10—Crying need for rain; everything dry as tinder; air full of smoke.
Oct. 15—My worker at the ditch insisted he had to go to Toronto. Gave him his pay and knew he would not come back, despite his promise. There are more slaves than black men. The man of whom whiskey has got a grip is the greater slave.
Oct. 17—Closed the house on Sunday morning and all walked to Toronto to attend worship. Today yoked the sled to an ox, for our path to Yonge-street is too narrow for two, in order to find settlers who had produce to sell. Bought corn in cob, apples, pumpkins, and vegetables, but only one bag of oats, few having threshed. Was kindly received and learnt much. In one shanty found a shoemaker at work. He travels from house to house and is paid by the day, his employers providing the material. Agreed with him to pay us a visit and he gave me a list of what to get in Toronto.
Oct. 18—Spent day in trying to make everything snug for winter.
Oct 19—Went to Toronto determined to find out whether there is no way of compelling the man who owns the land that blocks us from Yonge-street to open a road. First of all I called upon him, and he received me civilly. I told him how our three families were shut in. Asked if we would not buy his lot, he would sell the 1200 acres cheap and give us time. Answered we could not, we had all we could manage. He thought we were unreasonable in asking him to make a road which he did not need. It would be of use to us but not to him. Asked him if the conditions on which the lot was granted did not require him to open a road? Replied, that was like many other laws the legislature made, and which were disregarded everywhere in the province. When I said, since it is law it could be enforced, he smiled and said there was no danger of that. Was pleased to hear of our settlement behind his land and hoped it would help to bring him customers. Turning from his door, I made straight for a lawyer's office, to make sure whether the owner of vacant land could not be forced to open a road. The lawyer, an oldish man, listened to my story and told me to give up the idea of compelling the making of the road we needed. You are a stranger and ignorant of how matters stand. The law is straight enough, that whenever the government grants a lot, the receiver must do his part to open a road, but the law has become a dead letter. Two-thirds of the granted land is held by men who have favor with the government and who are holding to sell. Did you ever hear of Peter Russel? When a surveying party came in, he found out from their reports where the lots of best land were, and made out deeds to himself. 'I, Peter Russel, lieutenant-governor, etc., do grant to you, Peter Russel,' such and such lots. If you sued the gentleman you visited this forenoon you would lose. The court officials all have lots they expect to turn into money and would throw every obstacle in the way. Should your case come to trial, it would be before a judge who is a relative, and who holds patents for thousands of acres of wild land. The condition in their titles about cutting out roads, is like those that require a house to be built and so many acres of land in crop before a patent is issued. There are thousands of settlers worse off than you are, for you say you have a sled-path to your house. The lawyer spoke candidly and showed his sincerity and goodwill by refusing to take the fee I offered.
Oct. 20—A real cold day; fine for chopping and the sound of trees falling was heard every hour. Wheat is growing finely. Had a talk with Auld and Brodie at night and agreed we would improve the sled-track to Yonge-street, seeing there was no prospect of the owner doing anything.
Oct. 22—Surprised by a message that there was a bull-plow waiting for me at the corner-house on Yonge-street. Jabez had told Mr Bambray about the swamp, and he sent the plow to help to bring it into cultivation.
Oct. 24—Took the plow out to the swamp, which I found pretty dry at one side. Yoked the oxen to it and I plowed all afternoon. Felt good to grip the stilts once more.
Oct. 29—Spent three days on the sledroad and the three families joined in the work. Cut a great many roots, filled hollows, and felled trees whose branches obstructed. It is now fairly smooth but far too narrow for a wagon.
Oct. 30—Surprised by a visit from Jabez, who came on horseback. Said he had a chance to give Gordon a few weeks' training with a carpenter. He was not now busy himself, as the shipping season was over. Brought Ailie a basket of fresh water herring. Left after dinner.
Oct. 31—Gordon started early for Toronto, with his bundle over his shoulder. We shall miss him sadly. In the evening our neighbors came and we held Halloween as heartily as if we had been in Ayrshire.
Nov. 1—Bright and frosty. Took the oxen back to the swamp; found there was not frost enough to interfere and turned over a few ridges, and cast waterfurs leading to the ditch.
Nov. 2—White frosts fetch rain in this country and a cold rain fell all day. Sawing and splitting the logs we had set aside for firewood.
Nov. 3—The rain turned to snow during the night and there are fully four inches. The youngsters hitched an ox to the sled and started off, shouting and laughing, for Yonge-street to have their first sleigh drive. Came home in great glee in time for supper. Robbie says he wants a sleigh bell.
Nov. 5—Snow gone; clear and fine. Chopping down trees.
Nov. 6—A peaceful autumn day. Heard a robin and wondered how it came to be left behind by its comrades. Had a walk in the bush in the afternoon thinking of mother and the land I shall never forget.
Nov. 7—Shoemaker arrived. A great talker. Tells of families where the children had to stay in all winter for lack of boots.
Nov. 12—A week of steady clearing of the land; we shall have a great burning in the spring. Have had hard frosts every night. Going to Yonge-street to see if I could get oats for the oxen, for the swamp hay is not nourishing and they are young and growing, found provisions remarkably plenty and cheap, especially pork. Bargained for a two-year old steer which the farmer promised not to kill until steady frost set in. Thankful we did not go farther into the bush. It is a blessing to be near older settlers who have a surplus to sell. There was a smoky haze over the bush today, and the sun shone with a subdued brightness; very still with a mellow warmth. Was told it was the Indian summer.
Nov. 20—Had four days of Indian summer and then a drenching rain from the east, which stopped chopping. A black frost today, dark and bleak. Had a letter from Gordon yesterday, who is happy in learning so much that is new to him. He was at Bambray's for dinner last Sabbath and spent an evening at Dunlop's. He will make friends wherever he goes.
December 3—There has been nothing worth setting down. Have had a long spell of grey, cloudy days, which just suited felling trees and underbrushing. Have got our patch of wheat well fenced in, not to keep cattle out, there are none near us, but to help to keep a covering of snow on the wheat. Bobbie trapped a coon that haunted the barn and it made fine eating. He says the pelt will make a neck-wrap for his mother.
Dec. 7—Went to get the steer I had bargained for. The farmer suggested instead of butchering the beast and hauling the carcase it would be easier to drive it on foot and kill it at home, which I did.
Dec. 8—Killed the steer, which dressed well. Auld and Brodie took away their portions to salt down, but Ailie followed Mrs Bambray's advice. After the pieces are hard frozen she will pack them in snow.
Dec. 10—Began to snow gently yesterday and continues. There are now about six inches.
Dec. 11—Bitterly cold; never felt the like. What Burns calls cranreuch cauld gets into the bones, but this frost seems to squeeze body and bones, pinching and biting the exposed skin.
Dec. 13—Ailie is never at a loss. On Mrs Brodie telling the children woke at night crying from cold, she had no blankets to give her. Having sheets we brought from Scotland she took two and placed as an inside lining the skins of the squirrels Robbie had killed. Simmins had taught him how to tan and give them a soft finish. Brodie and Auld's houses are cold because they only half chinked them. Mrs Auld said the blankets were frozen where the breath struck them and the loaf of bread could be sawn as if it were a block of wood. Both now believe Canada's cold is not to be trifled with and are scraping moss off the trees to caulk between the outside logs the first warm spell.
Dec. 14—The frost holds. Worked all day with Allan. Does not feel cold in the bush. The trees break the wind that is so piercing in the clearings.
Dec. 15—Milder; in the sun at noon almost warm. Got out ox-sled and went with Brodie along Yonge-street to buy pork. Bought three carcases. People are kindly. Have never called at a house where we were not invited to return and pay a family visit.
Dec. 19—Have had a three day snap of frost, Either getting used to the cold or are adapting ourselves to meet it, for do not feel the discomfort we did. Ruth going to the ox-stable without putting a wrap over her head got her cheeks and ears frozen. Robbie trapped a hare. Pleads for a gun. Ailie will give him a surprise New Year's morning.
Dec. 24—The snow helps greatly in hauling fallen trees and logs. Give them their own time, and oxen beat horses in handling difficult loads. Gordon came walking in this afternoon, quite unexpectedly, for we did not look for him until this day week. He says Christmas is the big day in Toronto, and not New Year's day. His master had shut his shop for a week. He gave him a deerskin jerkin as a Christmas present.
Dec. 27—Gordon has been busy making snowshoes. His first pair was for Ruth, who can now walk in them. Snowed all day; not cold. He has taught her to ride one of the oxen.
Dec. 28—A thaw, much needed to settle the snow, which was getting too deep. Youngsters shovelled a strip on the pond and made a fine slide.
Dec. 31—Made preparation to keep Hogmanay, inviting our two neighbors. Had built a big fire, with a beech back-log, so heavy that an ox had to haul it to the door, and put a smaller one on top, while in front split wood blazed, and made the shanty so light that no candle was needed. The young folk had a great night of it, and braved the frost to go to the stable door and sing their old Hogmanay rhymes. The feast was plain as plain could be, but contented and merry hearts care not for dainties.
January 1, 1826—All gathered again in our shanty after dinner, when we had a fellowship meeting to thank God for all his mercies, and surely, when I review all the dangers he has led us through, and the mercies he has bestowed on us during the year that has gone, we have good cause to adore him. Gave Star and Bright an extra feed of oats.
Jany. 2—Ailie had just sat down after clearing the dinner dishes away, when Ruth came running in crying she heard sleighbells coming up our road. I went out and was astonished when a sleigh came in sight, the horse dashing the snow into powder breast high. It was Mr Dunlop and his wife, who had come to pay us a New Year's call. They stayed an hour and it was a happy one, for Mr Dunlop is a heartsome man. Was greatly taken with the improvements we had made. His wife brought a package of tea for Ailie. She made them a cup of dandelion coffee which, after their drive, they relished with her oatmeal cakes. In parting took me aside and told me if I ran short of cash to come to him. He is a friend. After they were gone, Robbie and Allan came home. They had to have a tramp in the bush to try the gun their mother had got for Robbie. They brought in three partridge and two hares, and were in great spirits. Gordon had bought the gun from an English lad who had come to Canada with the notion that it was full of wild beasts and Indians. He found he had no need of it.
Jany. 4—Have had a heavy snowstorm with a gale of wind. The snow here is not flaky, but fine and powdery, fills the air so you cannot see ahead, and sifts through every crevice. Thankful when the blast died down. Mrs Auld declares if the summer heat and the winter cauld were carded through ane anither Canada would have a grand climate. The two extremes are indeed most trying.
Jany 5—Work in the bush stopped by the snow, is so deep that when a tree is felled half is buried.
THE EPISODE OF TILLY
Jany 7—All were in bed last night when I was aroused by a knock at the door. Thought one of my neighbors needed help, but on opening was surprised to see it was Jabez. Excused himself for alarming us by saying his errand was a matter of life or death. A negro girl, who had fallen into evil hands at Buffalo, had escaped to Canada and was followed by desperate men trying to retake her. An attempt had been made to kidnap her from the family that sheltered her in Toronto. She had to be hid until the search was given up, and he could think of no place so safe as with ourselves. Mr Bambray asked us, in God's name, to take care of her for a while. 'Where is she?' I asked. 'In the sleigh at the door.' I told him to fetch her in, or she might freeze. He lifted her in, for she was numb. It was a bitter night. Laying aside her wraps, we saw, for Ailie and the whole family were now looking on, a mulatto of perhaps sixteen years of age. Alice and Ruth chafed her hands and feet to restore her circulation, while Ailie was getting a hot drink ready. Looking at the poor child I guessed her miserable story and told Jabez we would keep her. After getting warmed he drove off.
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Here I have to break into the master's diary in order to give what happened afterwards, which he did not write down. The girl, who said her name was Tilly, got quite reconciled to us next day. She was from Kentucky, had been sold to a saloonkeeper at Black Rock, and rescued. She shuddered whenever she spoke of him. Passed from one friendly hand to another she reached Toronto, and was living quietly there as a servant. One evening there was a rap at the door and she went to answer. On opening it she beheld the fellow who claimed to own her. She screamed. Putting his hand over her mouth he lifted her to a sleigh, which drove off. Two passersby, who saw what happened, ran after the sleigh and on its halting at a tavern, one hurried off for a constable while the other kept watch. Entering the tavern they demanded the girl, and under threat of arrest the fellow had to let her go. If he had not, the crowd in the barroom would have piled on to him, for in Toronto Yankee slavehunters are detested. Mr Bambray, on being told of what had occurred, made her case his own. He consulted Jabez who suggested burying her in the bush with the master's family until the search was given up. Tilly was modest and eager to help, and at worship showed she had a beautiful voice. The day passed quietly and so did Sunday. The master had meant to go to Toronto to church, being the first Sunday after New Year's day, but the frost was too intense for an ox-drive. Tilly had a great collection of hymns, and in the afternoon we sat and listened. It was a peaceful Sabbath and we went to bed happy and feeling secure. I was lying awake, thinking of the poor slave-girl so unexpectedly thrown among us, when I thought I heard the crunching of the frozen snow under horse's feet and sleighrunners. I jumped out of bed and looking through the window that faced our road, saw a sleigh with two men. I hurried down stairs and wakened the master. He had just got on his feet when the door was forced in with a crash. A tall fellow entered, whom we could see distinctly, for the fire was glowing bright. 'I have come for my nigger, and it will be worse for you if you make a fuss.' Without a word, the master rushed at the fellow and was thrusting him out of the door, when he used a trick, doubtless learned in a hundred barroom fights, of thrusting his foot forward and tripping the master, who fell on his back. In a flash the fellow had him by the throat, forcing back his head with his left hand while his right fumbled under his coat. I guessed he was after his bowie-knife. I gripped his arm and gave it a twist that made him let out a yell. Jumping straight up, he made to grab me, when Allan, who had just appeared, swung out his right arm and dealt him a terrific blow on the face. He fell like a tree that had got its last cut. The other man now looked in, and seeing his comrade insensible and bleeding, cried out to us, 'You will hang for this!' 'Take the brute away and begone,' shouted the master, 'or you will answer for this if there be law in Canada.' Taking hold of the fallen man he dragged him to the sleigh. Lifting his head in first, he got into the sleigh and pulled the rest of the body into the box. Hurriedly pitching a robe over him he drove off, afraid we would arrest him. Just as the sleigh got on to the road, there was a shot above our heads, it was Robbie who had loaded his gun and fired out of the window. As it was only shot, it probably did no harm, but showed the driver we had firearms. The excitement over, the master staggered to a bench and fell down. Examining his throat we saw how the fellow had squeezed it so tight that his fingernails had torn the flesh, and the thrust backwards had strained the muscles of the neck. We got him into bed and the mistress and Alice sat up all night, applying cloths wrung out of hot water to ease the piercing pain. None of us slept much, and Tilly was greatly excited. I should have mentioned, when the affray was over, and I am sure it did not last five minutes, she went to Allan and kissed the hand that had knocked down her persecutor. We talked at breakfast over what we should do next, when it was agreed I should go to Toronto with word of what had happened. On reaching Yonge-street I got a ride on the first sleigh that came along. Jabez was astounded at my news and took me to see Mr Bambray and others interested in Tilly. Jabez at once started to find out what had become of the fellow, and all agreed that nothing should be decided until he reported. He was not long in getting trace of him and when he came in after dinner it was to tell the bird had flown. Fearing arrest, his face bandaged, he had been lifted into a long sleigh, and lying in it as a bed, had been driven westward. 'He will get to Hamilton this afternoon,' said Jabez, 'and is likely by sunset to be safe on Yankee soil.' It was suggested Jabez should go next morning and arrange with the master to keep Tilly for a few weeks. 'Will the fellow, who knows now where she is, not plan a second attempt?' 'No danger,' said Jabez, 'the doctor who dressed his face told me he would not be able to go out for weeks, and was disfigured for life. He damned the Scotties who had done it.' When Jabez told how he had received his injuries, the doctor, an Englishman, got hotly indignant. 'Had I known, the fellow would have been now in prison.' He would see his friend, the Chief Justice, to have him outlawed. I stayed with Jabez overnight and our drive in the morning was most enjoyable. There was no wind and just frost enough to make the air crisp, the sun shone on the snow until it sparkled, while the sleighing was splendid. Jabez had taken one of his best horses and the swiftness of the drive was exhilarating. The road was crowded with farmers' teams heading for Toronto, Jabez knew them all and they all knew him. One question troubled him, and that was, How the Buffalo scoundrel had come to know where Tilly was hid? To satisfy a surmise, he drew up at the tavern that had been opened opposite our road to question its owner, who frankly gave the desired information. The two men stopped at the tavern to get warmed and had several drinks. One of them said he was looking for his daughter, who had run away from home. He had traced her, he thought, by being told a man and a young girl had been seen driving up Yonge-street Friday night. The tavern-keeper said he saw such a couple turn into the byroad in front of his place, and wondered at it, for it was rare to see anybody enter that road. Question followed question and the men learned all they needed to find the house, and to attack it. On taking a parting drink, the tall fellow exclaimed, 'I have got her.' Reaching home we found all well except the master, whose neck was still swollen and painful. He was lying on the bench near the fire. Jabez explained his errand and the message he brought. The master pulled the head of Jabez close to his mouth, for he could only whisper, and said, 'You tell Mr Bambray that what happened Sabbath night made me an abolitionist, and the girl will stay here until she wants to leave. Is not that your mind, Ailie?' 'You have spoken what was in my own mind, Andrew.' Tilly, who was standing by, burst into tears, and clasping the mistress by the neck kissed her saying, 'I will serve you good.' She was the most grateful creature I ever met. Jabez stayed until after dinner, and, on leaving, promised to give us a hand when it was time to burn our brushpiles. Tilly made herself useful not only in our home but those of Brodie and Auld and proved to be a real help.
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Jany 16—Thankful I can again bend my head without pain. The woods are a glorious sight. It snowed yesterday morning. Before dark the snow turned to rain, which froze as it fell, encrusting everything. On the sun coming out bright this morning the trees sparkled as if made of crystal and the branches of the evergreens hung in masses of radiant white. So Alice described them, and we all agreed a sight so beautiful we never saw.
Jany 17—Robbie and Allan set off on snowshoes for a day's hunting and came back in the afternoon carrying a deer, which they had run down, being enabled to do so by the crust on the snow breaking under the poor animal's hoofs. There are more than men hunting deer. Last night we heard the wolves in full cry as they were chasing them.
Jany. 21—Astonished by a visit from Mr and Mrs Bambray. They visited all the houses and seemed pleased by what they saw. Had a long talk with him about how the province is being governed. Mrs Bambray brought clothes for Tilly. The thaw we have had has lowered the snow, and chopping down trees has been going on.
Jany 22—The day being moderate and the sleighing splendid drove to Toronto, the oxen going faster than a man could walk. Sought to see the minister, who accepted certificates of Ailie and myself. Sacrament is March 26.
Jany. 25—Visited the farmer from whom I bought the steer. We had a hearty welcome. Ailie much taken with their stove and its oven, and curious about Canadian ways of housekeeping. Ruth was given a kitten.
Jany 27—Great snowstorm.
Jany 28—Quite mild this morning, a warm wind from the south. Snow melting. At noon there was a sudden change of the wind to the northwest, which rose to a tempest, overturning trees and making most doleful sounds as it swept through the woods, where it broke off branches by the thousand. Became piercingly cold. Such quick changes cannot be healthy.
Jany 30—More snow with strong east wind.
Feby. 9—After ten days of stormy weather, today is fine and bright. The snow is over three feet on the level. Impossible to work in the bush. Gordon is preparing for sugaring, making spouts and buckets. I have to get a kettle to make potash and will buy one now, for it will serve for boiling sap.
Feby 14—Rain, snow sinking fast.
Feby 18—Went with the three boys to Toronto and bought potash kettles. They cost $12.
Feby 24—Sun is gaining strength and days are lengthening. Can see the snow wasting in the sun. In the shade, freezing hard. Are doing good work in the bush.
Feby 26—Snowing thick and fast, but not cold.
Feby 28—Sky without a cloud and mild. Gordon tapped a tree or two, but there was no sap.
March 6—Roused by a hallo so hearty that nobody except Jabez could utter it. The fine weather had made him tired of the town and recalled the sugar-time of his youth. He picked out the maples to be tapped, those most sheltered and facing the sun, and quickly their bark was bored and spouts inserted. In the afternoon there was a fair run. By that time the large kettle had been slung and the fire started. It was a big play for the youngsters, and their shouting, when Jabez poured sap on the snow and it turned to candy, might have been heard a mile away.
March 11—Jabez left, taking as part of his spoil a jar of syrup and a lot of cakes of sugar. Under his teaching Ailie quickly learned to sugar off, and did it over the kitchen fire in the biggest pot. Sent cakes as presents to Mrs Bambray and Mrs Dunlop.
March 12—All tired after the week's sugar-making. Surprising what a quantity was made, due to the Aulds and Brodies helping, who got their share.
March 18—Have had no sugar-weather this week; frosty with strong winds, and some snow. Allan, with help of Mr Auld, began hauling boards from sawmill, which we will need for barns.
March 20—Gordon awakened us by shouting 'A sugar snow.' There had been a light shower of it during the night, and the air was soft. Holes were rebored and there was a fine run of sap. Likely the last, for there is now hard frost.
March 25—Have made preparations for the sacrament. Weather has been fickle, sometimes snow, then rain, but always blowy with cold nights.
March 26—Fair overhead but sleighing heavy. Got to Toronto in time and had a solemn and, I hope, a profitable season. Recalling past occasions, Ailie was much affected on taking the cup in her hand. She was anxious about there being no word from Scotland. Before leaving Toronto I went to the postmaster and got a letter. It was from her sister, whose husband had a rented farm at Lochwinnoch. They have decided to follow us to Canada, and ask that I look out a farm for them. They hope to have over a thousand dollars after paying their passage. When we got home Robbie's news was that he had seen a robin.
March 27—Gladdened, when I woke to hear the sound of birds. The robin here is not the Scottish redbreast, being much larger and with a different note. People I spoke to at church yesterday said we are having an unusually late season. I am weary of the sight of the snow, which is now wasting in the sun. Heard frogs at a distance last night. The long winter is a serious offset to farming in Canada.
April 3—Jabez with Sloot came this morning to start burning our fallow, and before dark we had made great progress. There is enough snow and ice left to make it easy for the oxen to haul logs.
April 8—By ourselves once more; the burning and the making of potash finished yesterday. There is now clearance enough on all three lots to make sure of raising sufficient crop to keep us, so it will not be so much a work of life and death to keep at the felling of trees. Chopping them is most laborious, but burning them is worse—as much as flesh and blood can bear. The burning we had in the fall was to get a patch of land cleared for sowing. This time we were prepared to save the ashes. Gordon set up three leaches on the edge of the pond, and as the logs were burned the ashes were gathered and hauled by ox-sled to fill them. Ramming the ashes into the leaches as solid as possible and then pouring water upon them fell to me and the women, the men attending to the burning, the raking of the ashes together, and hauling them. After soaking all night, or longer, the leaches are tapped, when the lye runs into a trough, made by hollowing as big a pine as we could find. From the trough the lye is dipped into the kettle, under which a fierce fire had to be kept. As the lye boiled, the water in it passed off in clouds of steam, more lye being poured in to keep it full. By-and-by a sticky mass could be felt at the bottom of the kettle, which was ladled into cast iron coolers, and became solid. This is called black salts, is barreled, and shipped to Britain, where it is in great demand. The quantity of lye needed to make a hundred-weight of black-salts astonished me. I got ten cents a pound for what we made and that will keep us in provisions until we have our own wheat to take to mill.
April 9—All glad of the Sabbath rest. Warm, the soft maples red with buds.
April 15—Been busy all week, mostly in clearing and levelling the burned land for sowing. Sowed two bushels of oats this afternoon. Drying winds and a hot sun.
April 20—The rain needed to start grain came last night. Moist and warm today with rapid growth.
April 22—Planted potatoes. Ailie and Alice getting the garden stuff in.
April 26—Wonderful growth; nothing like it in Scotland. There is no spring here; the jump is from winter to summer. Our bridle-path to Yonge-street is so soft that oxen cannot be put on it. Gordon goes back to Toronto on Monday to join the tradesman he was with in the fall, and who has sent for him. He will have to walk, for Yonge-street, I am told, is a chain of bog-holes.
May 13—Have had changeable weather; rather too dry and a few cold nights. The standing bush keeps frost off the braird, which could not look better. Busy preparing logs for building barns; we are all working together. Three will be needed. Except for the ground logs we are using cedar, which is light to handle and easy to hew. Mrs Bambray sent a bundle of apple-trees and another of berry bushes. All planted and look as if they have rooted.
June 3—Gordon along with Sloot came this evening to help in raising the barns. Planted corn today; an entirely new crop to us. The heads will be food for our table and the stalks the oxen are fond of. The winter-wheat is in the shot-blade. Went back to the swamp and found what had been plowed in fine shape. Seeded down with oats. I hope for a good return.
June 14—Barns are finished. Much easier to build than were our shanties. Using block and tackle in hoisting was a great help. Wheat is beginning to color. Robbie saw a deer browsing in the oats, got his gun, and shot it. Deer flesh is dry any time but at this season is poor eating. Potatoes and corn have got their first hoeing.
June 27—A dry hot spell. Scotland gets too much rain; Canada too little. Wheat is ripening too fast. It will be fit to cut on Monday.
July 8—Wheat is safe; drying winds and a hot sun made it quickly fit to lead. In Scotland it might have been out three weeks before fit to stack. Fine quality and abundant yield. Will not need to buy more flour.