CANADIAN HARVEST. -- PREPARING TIMBER FOR FRAME-BUILDINGS. -- RAISING "BEE." -- BEAUTY OF THE CANADIAN AUTUMN. -- VISIT TO OTONABEE. -- ROUGH CONVEYANCE. -- DISACCOMMODATION. -- LEARNED LANDLORD. -- COBOURG. -- OTONABEE RIVER. -- CHURCH OF GORE'S LANDING. -- EFFECTS OF PERSERVING INDUSTRY.
OUR harvest, with the exception of some late oats, was all carefully housed by the 18th of August. Very little grain is stacked out in this country: even the hay is put up in barns. As timber can be had for the cutting, log or frame-barns can be built very cheaply. I would certainly recommend frame in preference to log-buildings.
Square timber, fit for framing, can be purchased from four to five dollars per hundred feet, running measure. Twelve hundred feet are sufficient, varying in size from four inches to a foot square. This quantity will frame a barn fifty feet long by thirty feet wide, and sixteen in height, from the sill to the plate which supports the roof. Twelve thousand feet of boards and plank, at five dollars per thousand, superficial measure, will be enough to enclose the frame, and lay the threshing-floor, and board the roof ready for shingling.
The best and cheapest method of barn-building is as follows: In the winter season cut and square with the broad axe all the frame timber you require, and draw it home to the place you have fixed on for the building, and from the saw-mill all the lumber you require. As soon as the weather is warm enough hire a framer, whose business is to mark out all the tenons and mortices, and to make or superintend the making of them. When ready, the building is put together in what is called bents, each bent consisting of two posts, one on each side of the building, connected together by a strong beam running across the building. The foundation is composed of twelve cedar blocks, three feet long, sunk two-thirds of their depth into the ground, one under each corner of the barn, and under the foot of each post. These blocks support the sills, which are firmly united at the corner to the cross sills. The bents, four in number, are then laid on this foundation, and are ready for raising, which is done by calling a "bee." Thirty-five men are ample for this service--more are only in the way. Every two persons should be provided with a light balsam or cedar pole, fifteen feet in length, shod at the end with a ring and strong spike. These pike-poles are laid in order in front of the bent to be raised, one between each person. All being ready, the framer-gives the word "attention," when each man lays hold of the bent, one man being stationed at the foot of each post with a hand-spike, which he presses against it to prevent its slipping. "Yeo heave!" is then shouted by the framer, at which every man lifts, waiting always for the word, and lifting together. As soon as the bent is lifted as high as they can reach, the pike-poles are driven into the beam, and the bent is soon in a perpendicular position. Several pikes are then stuck into the opposite side to keep the bent from being swayed over, until the tenons on the foot of the post is entered into the mortice on the sill: it is then secured by stays, until the next bent is raised, when the girts connect them together. In this manner all the bents are raised: the wall-plates are then lifted upon the building which connect all the bents. The tenon on the top of each post goes through the plate, and is firmly pinned; the putting up the rafters completes the frame. The raising of a building of this size should not occupy more than three quarters of a-day. No liquor should be served out to the swarm of working bees till the raising is over, as many serious accidents having occurred for want of this precaution.
I am particular in giving these descriptions, because I flatter myself they may prove useful to the future colonist.
The first week in September we commenced sowing our fall-wheat, and finished on the tenth, which is considered in good season. I would by all means recommend early sowing, especially on old cleared farms. Late sown wheat is more liable to winter-kill and rust. In fact, you can hardly sow too early to ensure a good crop.
September is the most beautiful month in the Canadian year. The weather is neither too hot nor too cold. Nothing can be more delightfully pleasant; for, in this month, the foliage of the trees begins to put on that gorgeous livery for which the North American continent is so justly celebrated. Every variety of tint, from the brightest scarlet and deepest orange, yellow and green, with all the intermediate shades blended together, form one of the most beautiful natural pictures you can possibly conceive.
I received a very pressing invitation from my wife's brother-in-law, who resided near the foot of Rice Lake, in the township of Otonabee, to come and spend a few days with him. As an additional inducement, he promised to show me some capital duck-shooting. I was too fond of fowling to decline such an invitation as this. Besides, I wished to see that new settlement. The township lies north of Rice Lake, which forms its southern boundary: it is the largest in the county of Peterborough, with the exception of Harvey. Otonabee contains above eighty thousand acres, and is now the most populous as well as one of the most fertile townships in the county, which, at the time of which I am writing, had been just opened by the Government for location.
The only practicable road then to this settlement was from Cobourg, distant twelve miles from the southern shore of Rice Lake, leading over a chain of hills, the highest of which is, I believe, about seven hundred feet above the level of Lake Ontario, and from whence, on a very clear day, the opposite shore may be seen, though the distance is nearly sixty-five miles. I have heard this statement disputed, but I am perfectly convinced of the truth from having myself seen, on several occasions, the United States' shore of the lake from White's Hill, which is several hundred feet lower.
It was arranged that I should drive my wife as far as Cobourg, and leave her with some friends till my return. I was to take out with me from Cobourg the gentleman's sister, Miss Jane W-----, who was to return with me.
We left Darlington in a one-horse pleasure-waggon so called, or rather mis-called, by the natives. For my part, I never could find in what the pleasure consisted, unless in being jerked every minute two or three feet from your seat by the unevenness of the road and want of springs in your vehicle, or the next moment being soused to the axletree in a mud-hole, from which, perhaps, you were obliged to extricate your carriage by the help of a lever in the shape of a rail taken from some farmer's fence by the roadside. You are no sooner freed from this Charybdis, than you fall into Scylla, formed by half a mile of corduroy-bridge, made of round logs, varying from nine to fifteen inches in diameter, which, as you may suppose, does not make the most even surface imaginable, and over which you are jolted in the roughest style possible, at the expense of your breath and injury of your person. I am happy to say that better roads and a better description of pleasure-carriages have superseded these inconvenient conveyances.
Since the institution of county councils, and the formation of towns and townships into municipalities, great attention has been bestowed, and large sums of money voted, for the improvement of roads and bridges; and several Joint-stock companies, chartered by the Provincial Parliament, have completed sundry lines of plank and macadamized roads, on which toll-gates have been erected. What has already been done in this way has added greatly to the wealth and settlement of the province. No one can understand, indeed, except the early settler, what a blessing a good road is, especially to those who are too far back for the benefit of water communication.
The day was fine and clear when we started, and we congratulated ourselves on the prospect of a pleasant journey, which, I am sorry to say, was not to be verified. Distant thunder soon warned us that we might expect a storm. We hurried on as fast as possible, in hope we might be able to get through the nine-mile woods, in the township of Clarke, before the bursting of the storm. In this, however, we were disappointed; for, before we were half through the woods, the rain fell in torrents, accompanied by the loudest thunder and most vivid lightning I had ever seen. After above an hour's most pitiless pelting, we found ourselves suddenly before a small log-house, in front of which, swinging between two upright posts, a cross-bar connecting them at the top, depended a sign, on which was described, in large characters, for the information of all way-worn or thirsty-travellers, "that good liquor, good beds, and good accommodations, both for man and horse, could be had from the proprietor, Thomas Turner Orton."
Although from the outward appearance of the premises we did not expect the best accommodation, we thought anything better than being exposed longer to the fury of the storm, so giving our horse and waggon to the charge of the ostler, we entered Mr. Orton's tavern, and demanded to be shown into a private room, which request we found it was out of the power of mine host to comply with, seeing he had only one apartment, which answered the treble purpose of parlour, kitchen, and bar-room. Besides this general apartment there were two small bedrooms on the ground-floor. Luckily for us, a good fire blazed on the ample hearth, its only occupant, in the shape of a guest, being a gentleman from Port Hope, who, like ourselves, had just taken refuge from the storm.
While our clothes were being dried, our hostess prepared dinner, which consisted of a boiled chicken, eggs, and fried ham, which we found excellent, and, as a preventive against catching cold, after the soaking we had got, I ordered some whiskey-punch, which I have always found very efficacious on such occasions. Some people recommend tea made from the boughs of the hemlock-pine, which, I dare say, is excellent for some constitutions; but it never agreed half so well with mine as the former antidote, which I can conscientiously recommend but, like all other medicines, an over-dose may do more harm than good.
Our host, who appeared to make himself quite at home in his own house, joined in the conversation, and being very communicative about his own affairs, wanted us to be equally so about ours. His eccentricity greatly amused us. He informed me that he was by birth a Yorkshireman, and that he had been in business in London, where he had built some fine "place" or "terrace," which still bore his name. He spouted Latin occasionally, and showed me a Greek lexicon, which he told me was his constant companion. His real stock of Latin and Greek consisted only of a few words and sentences he had picked up, and which he quoted ostentatiously before the ignorant, who of course thought him a prodigy of learning.
As it continued to rain all the evening, I was obliged to give orders to have my horse put up for the night, and also to see what accommodation could be had for ourselves. I found on examination that this was bad enough at least I thought so then, though many a time since I should have been happy to obtain any half as good.
We started early next morning, and reached Cobourg, without any farther adventure, about noon on the same day. We halted there three days. I left my wife with our friends, and took charge of Miss W----- to escort her to her brother's house.
We left Cobourg for Rice Lake which was distant about twelve or thirteen miles from thence. It was a delightful morning in October; and our road, though very bad, and in some places positively dangerous, where it descended into the deep ravines, was at the same time so picturesque that we were quite delighted with our drive, and particularly so when, emerging from the woods, we entered Hamilton-plains, and beheld in the distance the glittering waters of Rice Lake, and the gem-like islands which adorn its unruffled surface.
Rice Lake, or the Lake of the Burning Plains, as it is called in the Indian language, is a fine sheet of water, twenty-seven miles in length from east to west, varying from two to three and a half miles in width. About six miles from its head on the northern shore it receives the waters of the Otonabee river, which, rising near the head-waters of the Madawaska, flows in nearly a westerly direction, into Balsam Lake, where it takes a more southerly direction, forming in its course a succession of beautiful lakes for upwards of sixty miles. Ten miles above Peterborough, and directly opposite my own farm in the township of Douro, it suddenly contracts its channel and becomes a rapid and impetuous stream. According to a survey ordered by the-government, it was ascertained that from a point on my farm, at the foot of Kawchewahnoonk Lake, and distant from Peterborough nearly ten miles, there is a fall of one hundred and forty-seven feet, affording an unlimited water-power, which has already been extensively applied not only in the town of Peterborough, where several fine flour and saw-mills have been erected, but also in the townships through which it flows.
At Peterborough the rapids cease, from whence the river becomes navigable for steam-boats to the Rice Lake, at the distance of twenty-one miles, which it enters after a course of fully two hundred and fifty miles.
The Indian river takes its rise close to Stony Lake, from which it is only divided by a narrow ridge of granite: this ridge has been cut across at the sole expense of the Hon. Zacheus Burnham and Dr. John Gilchrist, for the purpose of obtaining a larger supply of water for the use of their mills at Warsaw, in Dummer and Keane, in Otonabee, thus connecting the two rivers by this canal. This river flows through the townships of Dummer, Douro, and Otonabee, its whole course not exceeding thirty-five or forty miles, with the exception of a few small streams. No other river of consequence flows into Rice Lake.
Our drive over the plains was truly delightful. New beauties presented themselves at every step. It can hardly be imagined what a relief it is to the eye, after travelling for miles through a dense forest, to see such a beautiful landscape suddenly burst on your sight.
For nearly three miles our road lay through natural park-like scenery, flowery knolls, deep ravines, and oak-crowned hills, with every now and then the blue waters of the lake glittering through the trees. Our path now entered a deep and finely-wooded ravine, which wound round the base of steep hills on either hand, rising to a considerable height, their summits crowned here and there with beautiful clumps of oak.
For nearly a mile we followed the sharp descent and windings of the beautiful valley, till a sudden turning of the road revealed to our sight the whole expanse of this fine sheet of water. Not a ripple dimpled the surface; but, mirror-like, it lay with all its lovely islands thickly wooded to their summits with the sugar-maple, which rose, tree above tree, up the steep ascent of these conical islets, which, reflected in the clear lake, added new beauties to the scene.
A few minutes more brought us to the tavern, a small log-house, kept by one David Tidy, a very respectable Scotchman. The situation of this man's farm is one of the best on the lake shore. It is now the property of Mr. Alfred Hayward, whose good taste has added greatly to its natural beauties. Mrs. Hayward, who is an accomplished artist, has taken a view of the lake from her garden, and also one of Port Hope, both of which have been lithographed, and are much admired.
Tidy's tavern, and two other log-houses, were at this time the only settlements on the Rice Lake plains, which extend for nearly twenty miles along the south shore, forming the rear of the townships of Hamilton and Alnwick, but which are now dotted over with fine productive farms, substantial stone, brick, or frame-houses, full-bearing orchards, and possessing in fact almost every comfort and convenience a farmer could wish.
The pretty village of Gore's Landing is built partly on the lot formerly possessed by Tidy, and partly on the adjoining lot at present occupied by Captain Gore, from whom the village takes its name. The gentlemen in this neighbourhood have, nearly at their own expense, built a very neat church, which is romantically situated on the top of a high hill overlooking the lake. In summer time nothing can exceed the beauty of this spot, or be more suitable for the erection of a fane dedicated to Him
"Whose temple is all space!"
This village contains two excellent taverns, a large steam saw-mill, two stores, and several other buildings. Two steam-boats, the "Royal George" and "Forester," leave it daily for Peterborough, distant twenty-five miles, making their return-trip the same day. Another steamer is being constructed to run from the village of Keane, on the Indian river in Otonabee down the Trent as far as Heely's Falls and back to Gore's Landing. These boats meet Weller's line of mail stages at one o'clock, P.M. A fine line of plank road has been constructed from this place to Cobourg, avoiding all the high hills. The stage time is an hour and a half between lake and lake.
As nearly all the lumber and shingles manufactured at Peterborough and the neighbouring townships intended for exportation to the United States, must be either landed here or at Bewdley, at the head of the lake, whence it is conveyed across in waggons to Port Hope or Cobourg, this village bids fair to become a stirring little place.
One of my objects in writing this work is to point out what the country was twenty-seven years ago, and what it is now, showing clearly that what appeared to the pioneer of those days insurmountable difficulties, have by persevering industry been overcome, "and the howling wilderness made to blossom as the rose." The desolating torrent has been utilised and restrained; mills and factories have been erected; bridges span our broadest rivers, and magnificent steamers plough our inland seas. Nor is this all: the first sod of a railway has been turned, which is ultimately intended to connect Lake Huron with Halifax and Boston, bringing the riches of the Far West through its natural channel to the sea.
Nothing, indeed, but industry and enterprise is needed to change the waste and solitary places of Upper Canada into a garden of Eden, which it is designed by the Supreme Architect to become.
Last revised 2005-03-04