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The first book ever published about the history of Reach Township, Port Perry, Lake Scugog and surrounding areas was called "On The Shores of Scugog". It was written and published by Samuel Farmer, the popular and esteemed publisher of Port Perry Star from 1907 until his death in 1948. On The Shores of Scugog was first published in 1913. The 114-page book provided a glimpse into the lives of the earliest settlers, their hardships and their achievements. Mr. Farmer re-published the book in Dec. 1934, adding more pages of information to the popular document. It was reprinted a third time in 1969 by the Lake Scugog Historical Society.

This section of the Scugog Heritage Gallery, provides excerpts of On The Shores of Scugog to provide an insite into the early days of settlement in the Scugog basin, and the hardships these brave individuals and families had to endure.

On The Shores of Scugog

published in 1913 by Samuel Farmer


CLEARING THE LAND - At sun-up the early settler would feed his oxen and his pigs, and take a look at his axe. He would edge it up a bit, or maybe grind a nick out of it, if he had been so unfortunate as to touch a stone with it the day before. Then he would go in to his breakfast, and we will not trouble to follow him there just now, but later on a picture of his home life will be given. After breakfast the clearing would begin. Men were wonderfully clever in those days with the axe. There is a legend told of a man who could split a sixpenny piece in two edgewise with that tool. Certain it is that those old time choppers, with their heavy bitted axes, could make a clean smooth cut that was pretty to see. Their trees were felled with the accuracy that characterizes the beaver in his work; and these animals always fall their trees just where they want them. All this is becoming more or less a lost art to-day. Few men can chop and saw and skid with the skill of the old pioneer, whose whole life was a training either directly or indirectly for this work.

CHOPPING A MAN DOWN - Chopping contests were part of the sport of the day, and one of the pastimes was to 'chop a man down.' The contest was carried out in this fashion. After a tree had been felled and trimmed up, it was measured into log lengths. Then the two chopping contestants climbed one to each each end of log -- the better man at the butt end. If the butt end man could get his log cut through first, he was considered to have 'chopped down his man.' Sometimes the other man did come down with a rush, for the small end of the log was often higher in the air than the big end. You ought to see the chips those men made, and the way the sunk the blades of their axes into the wood. Those axes weighed five pounds or more; but good choppers could swing them all day long with ease. Indeed, as the country became more settled, they would chop all day, and then tramp a few miles to go to a dance that kept them up till the 'wee small hours;' but they would be back again on the job bright and early next morning. Sometimes it was something very difficult from a dance that kept them awake at nights. In the summer and fall they used to burn the brush, and later the log heaps. At times the fire would start to spread, and if the grass and undergrowth were dry, there would be a fight for life and home, when one man seemed to have to do the work of three. Those, who like seeing splendidly built men work, would have enjoyed the scene presented by these pioneers as they cleared the land. Over there you would see a pile of pries, strong, clean saplings, used for shifting the logs. Why are there so many prepared? Simply because it was part of the fun of life to see how many pries the strong man could break in a day while lifting. And it was the small boy's job to keep the strong man supplied. It is almost unbelievable the amount of work that would be down for a small sum of money. Ten dollars an acre used to be the average price paid for chopping, clearing and fencing an acre of land fit for the harrow. Experienced hands could clear an acre in this manner in ten days; but imagine working as they had to work for a dollar a day. Later on something will be said about the purchasing power of a dollar at that time. A settler was considered to have done a big season's work when he chopped and cleared ten acres, and put it in crop. In clearing land every effort was made to save labor. Trees were cut as much as possible so that the tops would fall into one brush pile, which saved carrying brush. Then they cut the trunks of the trees into logs. Five men and a yoke of oxen could clear from half an acre to an acre in a day, after it had been cut and the brush burned. This clearing consisted in putting the logs on skids in huge piles ready for burning. Usually the fallow, perhaps of ten acres or more, was all cut down, and the brush burned. Then a clearing bee was made. The fallow was staked out in sections such as could be cleared in a day by a number of men and a yoke of oxen. Next the men with the ox teams would pick their helpers; choose section of the fallow; and when all these formalities were finished, the clearing would begin. There was a race to see who could get his section of the fallow cleared first. Skill and good judgment were tested to the utmost at these 'bees.' It was a very simple matter to do a lot of hard work without accomplishing much. Men could only tell by experience the easiest way to 'snake' out a log, and make use of its movements to shift it into the proper position. Mr. R. Crandell has an old photo of a scene at one of these clearing bees. It was taken a great many years ago, and was so faded that it could not be reproduced. You could the fiddlers, but not the whisky that was always plentiful on their occasions.

BURNING UP TIMBER - Burning the fallow was done at night. There was good reason for this -- when the fire was lit it would warm and lighten the cool air above it, and the cold air rushing in would fan the fire and make it burn better than it would in the warm air of the sunshine. Imagine burning a pile of maple logs, some of which would be worth to-day from $16 to $20 each. Those were costly blazes for the children of the pioneers. We pay dearly enough for our wood and lumber now. To-day we have no bush left worth mentioning. The Christie woods is about the last piece, and it is now being cut down. At that time men looked upon trees as their enemies standing in the way of progress and prosperity. Naturally an enemy of this kind would be destroyed with vigor and very successfully conquered. What a fortune those logs would bring to-day. Mr. John Rolph says that he bought good pine lumber to build his first house in Prince Albert for $6.00 per day 1,000 feet delivered on the lot. And he paid for the lumber in trade. Now one can scarcely get such lumber at any price. It has gone; and very much of it went up in smoke. The first shingles made in this locality were of pine. The home of Mr. Bigelow and Mr. McCaw was shingled with pine thirty-five years ago, and the roof is in splendid shape to-day. In the days of which we are now writing, basswood troughs were more common than shingles, and greased paper sometimes took the place of glass.

THE PLEASING SIDE OF CLEARING - There was a fascination and romance about this work. Flitting here and there among the shadows, men and women would gather the sticks and chunks and feed the blazing fire. Three hours of this task after supper was not considered drudgery. Even to-day, any boy will be pleased if you let him feed a bonfire; and in those days bonfires meant cleared land, potash, and good crops. After the land was cleared a bit, the corn roastings began. There was plenty of fun in roasting green corn before a pile of blazing logs. First you must have your ears of corn ready; then you set fire to your pile of logs and get a good blaze going. After that you roll a log close to the fire, and set the corn on end in a row in front of it, leaning the ends of the ears against the log. That corn needed watching and turning or it would soon be done to a crisp on one side. Young folks enjoyed themselves immensely at these corn roastings. There was nothing mamby pamby about their fun, for they were full blooded, healthy folk who were not making any great fuss about nice points of etiquette. You could eat with your knife,know nothing of the high handshake or the three cornered smile, and be dressed in the style of many seasons back, without losing caste or any other imaginary blessing. One must recognize that these people were rough. They had great physical endurance and strong passions. Their fun was often uproarious. Men would get gloriously drunk or soundly converted, according to the irresistible power that gained control of them. They made no effort to hide their feelings and anybody that did seem to be reserved in manner, was considered odd, and often misunderstood or even disliked by his neighbors. Their virtues have been the subject of song and story for many a year and will be in evidence all through these pages -- courage, perseverance, hospitality, and great faith.

THE HOME LIFE OF THAT DAY

Clocks were scarce in those days, but the sun rose and set in the same old fashioned way. Everybody and everything rose and set with it. Daylight was practically the only light except the tallow dips, and they didn't count for much. They did not dazzle the eyes. At sun-up the family would be astir; and the man would busy himself feeding his oxen and his pigs. That done he would take a look at his axe, edge it up a bit, or, maybe, grind a nick out of it. Breakfast would likely be ready about that time, for the goodwife rose betimes, too. The staple articles of food would be porridge (mush), pork, potatoes, and bread. If they had any sugar at that meal, it wold be maple sugar, made in the Spring, and carefully hoarded during the year so that the supply would last until the next sap run came along. When the sugar had been given its final boiling, it was run into milk pans where it hardened into large cakes. These were stacked up on a rough shelf in the attic where the children slept, and more than one youngster developed a sweet tooth by nibbling the wedge shaped edges of the sugar cakes that had been formed where the milk pans flared out at the top. The housekeeper, of course, would be wondering what she could do to keep those mice away from the sugar.

Their flour wad dark and was made from wheat in a stone mill. To get the flour the man would have to tramp miles through the bush to the nearest mill, carrying his wheat on the outgoing journey, and bringing the flour back with him. In this way Denis Fitchett, who was one of the earliest settlers in Reach, used to tramp from Fitchett's Corners (Manchester) to Little York to get his flour. There was a blazed trail all the way, and Denis would start off down the trail for his tramp of forty odd miles with a bag slung over his shoulder, wheat in one end of the bag and corn in the other. That was in the very earliest days of settlement. Later the nearest mills were at Raglan and Lindsay, the latter place being reached by canoe. The trip to mill was an event of importance. Even when a load was taken to grist it often happened that the grain bags had to be borrowed two or three in a place from the neighbors. Twenty bushels was a big load. Sometimes there was no time nor opportunity to go to mill and then the folk found a big flat stone upon which they could dump their corn and pound it with a small stone until it was comparatively fine. In this way they made what was called 'samp.' Hunger and fresh air made good sauces for this kind of food, for samp would make great Johnny cake. There was a fine supply of fish, fowl, venison, and bear's meat, but if you ask whether the pioneer enjoyed these things constantly, differing answers will be made. Hear Peter McArthur's story of the 'Pioneer Dinner.' Granddad was to be given a pioneer dinner by Muriel. Such hurrying and hunting as there was to get that dinner together; but it was worth the trouble for it was rich and appetizing. Grandad enjoyed it immensely, and acted worse than the small boy a a tea-meeting, for he had a second helping of almost everything on the table. He was almost 'too full for utterance,' but when the dinner was over everybody insisted that the pioneer make a speech. It throws such a flood of light on the subject about which we are speaking, that it is given herewith: 'I am glad I didn't have to die without tasting those pioneer dishes. I had read about them in the immigration literature that was sent to the Old Country when I was a boy. I had been hearing about them all my life and longing for them, but I never had the chance to taste them.' 'What!' exclaimed Muriel. 'Do you mean to say that you never had venison and wild turkey and all those things?' 'Never. I know the country was full of them when I came over; and there were salmon in the stream; but I was too busy to hunt or fish. Your grandmother and I lived mostly on oatmeal, pork, potatoes and turnips. Though there were deer and wild turkeys, nobody but an experienced hunter could get them. I was not a hunter and never got them. But if I had known how good they were I think I should have taken a day off and gone after them.'

On the other hand, old men in this locality declare that they were partly raised on venison and bear's meat. It is probable that, as it is to-day, different people had different methods of living; but it is certain that life then was not 'one glad sweet song” any more than it is now. Wild plums and wild berries were the only fruits they had. These were gathered and preserved pound for pound with maple sugar. Oak kegs cut in two were the preserve jars, and when the fruit was used it was cut out in chunks much the same as soft cheese. Wild plums grew in abundance south of Prince Albert. Raspberries were also preserved by drying. Pumpkins were plentiful, and a favorite dish was made by boiling them until little was left but a thick syrupy juice which was often sweetened with maple sugar. Maple sugar seems to have been the staple article for cooking purposes for which we now use cane or beet sugar. They knew little or nothing of the variety of garden truck that we have on our tables to-day. It was not an uncommon thing for the meal to consist of a single dish - potatoes, placed on the table in a big pan. Perhaps the potatoes would be rendered more palatable by a jug of milk; perhaps not. Appetites were not delicate which was fortunate, for without cellars or refrigerators, you can easily understand that food was not always fresh. Fresh water was not always available for everybody. It is true that there were many more springs than we have now; but not enough for each settler to have one just where he wanted it. In dry districts you might have found the water supply stored in a big log trough. In warm weather when there was but little rain, it was quite possible that a few polywogs could be found swimming contentedly around in the trough. But a little vinegar is said to neutralize the polywog taste.

PIONEER HEALTH - In spite of all drawbacks, they were a healthy lot of people. Not a microbe had been discovered by them -- nothing smaller than polywogs. 'Nerves' did not trouble. Nobody developed the moving picture eye, and, if I mistake not, the cigarette habit did not bother the youth of that day. Patent medicines were unknown; so it was nobody's business to discover the symptoms of disease and point the way to health via _______'s Vitalizer and Disease Exterminator. If sickness came, the doctoring was rough and ready; but none the less effective in most cases. What syrups and concoctions those grandmothers used to make from the herbs and barks that grew in the woods about them. They gathered plants of many kinds, each being an unfailing remedy for the ills of mankind. For colds they would use boneset, coltsfoot and hoarhound. If they had cramps, colic, or fits, a little wild turnip would be grated up and taken. If they took too much the cure would seem worse than the disease. For sore mouth there was gold thread; saffron for measles; sarsaparilla and burdock for the blood; onions for croup; and all kinds of bark -- black cherry, prickly ash, pine, balsam, and tamarack -- were made up into remedies for various maladies, and properly preserved in plenty of whiskey. In fact when a man grew very 'dry,' a dose of medicine was not to be despised. Everybody had his or her pet remedies, and, having faith in them, the cure followed almost as a matter of course. One thing was sure: they knew what they were taking in those days. It would have been considered to be something like heresy to have disguised the bitter herbs so that they would think they were taking chocolates or other candy. Bitterness was one of the properties by which the value of a medicine was judged. Therein our parents showed their wisdom, for children didn't cry for Pitcher's Castoria then.

PIONEER'S CABIN - Open the door of the pioneer's cabin. Preparations are being made for dinner. There is a fine bed of coals on the hearthstone of the fireplace at one end of the cabin. The housewife has just completed mixing a big loaf of bread. Next she proceeds to bake it in the iron bake kettle with its tight fitting lid. First a good bed of red hot coals is drawn out on the stone front of the fireplace, and on these the kettle is set with the loaf placed inside; the tight fitting cover is put on, and then the live coals were heaped around and on top of the kettle. An expert baker knew just how many coals to heap about the kettle in order that the loaf might be properly baked without further attention. Those who have tasted bread baked in this fashion, declare that they never ate finer in spite of all the modern cooking inventions, and the greatly refined flour. Potatoes were peeled, and put in the pot that hung on the crane fastened to the wooden jamb at the side of the fireplace. Then the pot would be swing over the fire, and soon it would be boiling merrily. We of to-day never see such potatoes as they had when the land was new and potash plentiful. If meat had to be fried for dinner, the long-handled frying-pan or 'spider' would be used. Its handle would be about three feet long, and enabled the cook to put the meat on the fire without scorching herself. A common way of roasting meat was to hang it on a spit in front of the fire and place a big pan beneath the roast to catch the gravy. The heat seemed to keep the roast turning; but the cook would have to bast it once in a while to keep the meat from burning before it was thoroughly cooked through. Fowl of all kinds would cook beautifully in this way. Among the meats then more or less common were pork, beef, mutton, venison, bear's meat, coon, and in hard times, groundhog. Wild pigeons were extremely plentiful, although that bird is so rare to-day that it is said that five thousand dollars can be secured for a complete wild pigeon's nest with eggs. Some claim that these birds never nested in this north country; but hatched their young in the south in such places as Carolina. At harvest time they were a great nuisance, and the grain fields were alive with them. A man with a shot gun could kill a number at a time, and it is claimed that they could be knocked down with a stick. Mr. Bigelow says that wild pigeons used to have a nesting place near Cambray, and that there were many thousands of the birds there.

FLAPJACKS - Sometimes pancakes were prepared for supper, and then, as one by one the boys came in hungry as bears, a smile would come over each face when they saw what was on the table. Over the coals on the hearthstone was an enormous griddle upon which the 'flapjacks' are cooked, a dozen at a time. People who are satisfied with two or three pancakes would have been considered sickly then. Pancakes and maple syrup were a great treat, and no small cooking would satisfy a set of hungry men. They had no buckwheat flour. Everything in the pastry line was made from wheat flour ground in a stone mill. Pancakes could become a very rich dish. Sometimes they were put in layers, and then butter and shaved maple sugar were spread over each layer as it was put on. Then, when the pile was a dozen layers deep it was cut in pieces as you could serve layer cake. Does that make your mouth water?

WASHING MACHINES - were not run by water motors or by a person sitting in a chair reading a book and operating the machine with one hand. They had to stand up to the job and take both hands. The washing machine of that day was called a pounding barrel and was run much the same as a dash churn. A supply of hot suds was put into the barrel, and into this the clothes were placed. Then a big piece of wood shaped like a potato masher was used to pound the clothes. They were pounded and rubbed until they were clean. Ivory soap, Pears' soap, castile soap, and tar soap were unknown. Pure soft soap was the thing - golden and slippery - made when the moon was right - great staff to take out the dirt. There was no need to advertise it, because pretty much everybody made their own. Another very simple machine for washing clothes consisted of a board and a stick flattened at one end like a butter pat. This combination was called a battle board, presumably because in using it one had to battle with the clothes to get them clean. The flat stick was the weapon with which the battle was fought. To-day well-to-do people buy exclusive suit lengths in homespun. There was nothing exclusive about this fabric a hundred years ago. Almost everybody wore it. It was made at home, and guaranteed to wear and shrink to suit the most exacting person. The wool was sheared cleaned, carded, spun, and woven right within sight of the sheep. There was no doubt about it being all wool, because it was not possible at that time to get cotton to adulterate the goods. The general color of the cloth was grey. A better class of the same goods was called full cloth, which means that it was fulled or put through a treatment that caused it to shrink and consequently thicken. The women made flannel for their own wearing. When the carding mills came into operation, they sent the flannel to the mill to be pressed and fulled. There was a method by which a gloss could be put on the material. This flannel was considered very fashionable - a glossy flannel dress was ideal for most girls that they hoped to attain some day in the far distant future. There was a spinning and carding mill at Port Perry for many years. Linen was also spun and woven at home where the flax was grown. However, this industry did not seem so common. The flax grew in damp places until it had blossomed and was ready to go to seed. Then it was pulled and laid on the ground where the weather prepared it for the process of removing the outer shell. A rude machine called a hackle was used for this purpose. Five or fifty dollars millinery was a thing yet to be. Some saucy maiden might trim her sunbonnet with a sprig of wild cherry or a spray of hawthorne, but generally speaking these bonnets were merely a head covering - a protection to keep the dirt out of the hair. When they were properly starched and ironed before the color had faded out of the print, they made attractive settings for the faces they surrounded. But little time was allowed for fancy work. Indeed fancy work that was simply ornamental was almost unknown. Fancy work really amounted to ornamenting some garment with embroidery. Various forms of decoration were in vogue, but they were all of more or less practical value. There was bobinette, crocheting, fancy knitting and embroidery. You need not think they had no feather beds, although it was no easy task to raise geese - foxes were too fond of them. The feathers grew on the cat tails in those days, and the cat tails grew in the marsh. It was easy to gather them by the bagful for the cat tails were very numerous, and did not wriggle around when one plucked their feathers. Perhaps the biggest crop of cat tails grew in the marsh east of Prince Albert.

 

THE COST OF LIVING

The cost of living can really only be measured by the amount of effort required to secure that living. Prices give but little indication of what it cost to live unless those prices be considered in relation to the wages paid for labor. The table of prices which follows was taken from 'Smith's Canada,' and is given in the English currency, which was then in use in Canada. The history was written in 1851, and in speaking of this table, Mr. Smith says: 'On looking over the market prices of the 'Town of York,' many years ago, we were much struck with the little variation exhibited in the prices of agricultural products generally then from those of the present day (1851); furnishing evidence that the improvement and cultivation of the back country has kept pace with the increase in population of the town, or in other words that the demand and supply have been about equally balanced at either period.

COMPARING PRICES - It is not necessary that we should make any comparison between these prices and those of to-day, beyond saying that in many instances the cost to the consumer is now nearly twice as great as it was then. For instance butter was nearly twice as great as it was then. For instance butter was 15c in April, 1822, and in April, 1913, it was thirty cents. Eggs were ten cents per dozen ninety years ago, while in corresponding month of this year they would be thirty cents or more. About the time of the McKenzie Rebellion, prices of flour and other necessities were very high. Reuben Crandell tells the story of how when hard times came to this neighborhood his father sold a fine yoke of young oxen for four barrels of flour. It was valued at from $10 to $12 per barrel at that time. It was not always easy to find feed for the cattle. Naturally it was some time before the settler could afford to seed down any of his cleared land for hay. In the meantime the cattle had to live, and when natural pasture was scarce they used to cut down elm, basswood, and maple trees, and let the cattle browse on the tops. They enjoyed this ration quite well. In winter the cattle were fed on straw and turnips. The turnips were sown broadcast on the little patches of land among the stumps. It would have puzzled anyone to sow them in straight drills on that rough, stumpy land. The turnips were stored in root cellars, which were made by excavating a space the desired size, erecting a rough framework of poles which they covered with earth, so that the structure would be about half above ground and half below. A few of the cellars can yet be seen in different parts of the country. The chief crops raised were wheat, turnips, potatoes, and other vegetables. Most of the settlers kept pigs that fed largely on nuts and roots. Others raised sheep. If people could content themselves with these products of their little farms, they could live as well as Nature permitted. It all depended on their harvest. When, however, they went to buy goods that they could not raise money did not go far. Tea, for instance, was 75 cents a pound. Of course you can pay that price to-day, but for a much choicer article, and now money is comparatively plentiful. Calico was 50C per yard. You can get the same kind of material to-day for 10C. Much of this high cost of living was saved by the simple expedient of not buying the goods. Economy was a virtue that covered a multitude of sins. With some it is a virtue that has outlived its necessity and its usefulness.

COST OF FUEL - Fuel did not cost more than the effort to cut it. The log houses were sheltered from the wind, and if they were properly built they were easy to heat as there were no bug unused rooms where the heat might escape. Matches were five cents a bunch, and the first bunch was brought in from Whitby 68 years ago. Later a match factory was started in Port Perry by a man named Karl Frederic, who used to peddle his matches through the country. This factory was afterwards sold to a Foster, and was finally burned down. Coal oil lamps came into use about the same time as matches. Before that the flint and tinder box used to light the candle or the tallow dip. Tallow dips were easy to make. All one had to do was to dip a string into melted tallow, draw it out, allow the tallow that stuck to the string to harden, then repeat the process until the desired thickness of tallow was clinging to the string. It was the writer's intention to have a picture of the candle moulds but time has not been available to put this matter through. However, Mrs. Graham, of Purple Hill, kindly sent in a pencil sketch which we hope some day to finish in India ink so that it will be ready for the engraver. Accompanying the sketch was the following description of the method by which candles were made: The wick was run into the tubes of the mould and threaded through the small pointed end which formed the top of the candle. The wicks were held firmly in place at the open end by being fastened to a stick or bar of some kind. The melted tallow was then poured into the moulds and was allowed to cool. On the outside being slightly warmed the candles would slip out easily and were ready for use. Just as 'fingers were made before forks,' so the men folks used to snuff the candle with the thumb and finger before the snuffers became common, and having no other place to put the 'thief' threw it on the floor. One man who had been scolded many a time for this untidy habit gravely took the thief out with his thumb and finger and put it into the snuffer box, with the remark - 'That's a dandy good rig.'

HOW TAXES WERE RAISED

Taxes were not as high as they are now, $50,000 being the amount required this year for County purposes. Some idea of property values may be gathered from the following assessment valuations: A house of round logs was assessed at $75. If built of timber squared on two sides, one storey high and having not more than two fireplaces, the assessment was raised to $100. Each extra fireplace raised the assessed value $20 in a one-storey house. In a two-storey house where the timber was squared the assessment was $120, and additional fireplaces (more than two) raised the assessment to $140. Brick or stone houses of one storey with two fireplaces were assessed at $160, and additional fireplaces raised the assessment to $210. Every stove counted as a fireplace, but there were not many stoves to count 75 or 100 years ago. Luxuries were taxed high, but it is doubtful if the County Treasury was much enriched by this means. For instance billiard tables were assessed at $1,000 each; close carriages having two wheels, and kept for pleasure at $500; open carriages having four wheels, kept for pleasure at $120; which was also the rate for gigs and other vehicles kept for pleasure. Wagons kept for pleasure were assessed at $75. It is a bit amusing to think of one of those old-fashioned wagons being kept for pleasure. It required a strong constitution to ride in one of those wagons.

ROADS AND RIGS

Remote from roads and mills and mail, Remote from all commercial sale, Except there was an Indian trail, He hewed his own highway. - Song of the Pioneer. It is difficult to locate the exact dates at which the various roads were cut through Reach Township. Most authorities agree that there were no roads in the township when the Crandells came. About 1825 a rough road was cut through from Dayton's Corners to Wiley's Corners (Chubtown) east and north of Columbus. Shortly after the Crandells settled at Borelia, Reuben began to cut a road between his home and a point three miles north of Oshawa, a distance of fifteen miles. His son Reuben says that that road was two rods wide. The trees were felled in such a way that their tops were dropped into the bush at either side. Then the butt logs were cut off and the oxen hitched to them and they were dragged from the road. When the road builders came to a creek, they filled it with poles to make it passable. Large stumps were cut as low as possible so that the wagon could straddle them. Perhaps it sounds almost incredible, but Reuben says that the fifteen miles of road were cut through by his father and two helpers in a single season. They cut so fast that they had to make a fresh camp each night. He explains the possibility of this feat of road making in this way: First, the men were expert axemen. Second, no attempt was made to make a nice smooth road. Third, the narrow road, and the method of felling trees saved much of the time usually spent in brushing.

Another road was cut from Prince Albert to Brock, eight miles long and three rods wide. Crandell took the contract and did the job for £100. As the settlers kept coming in, these roads were cut through farther north until they reached Beaverton. The work was done by the neighbors a little at a time, and when finished formed the beginning of the road now known as Simcoe St., which runs from Beaverton to Oshawa. The purpose of these roads was to make easy communication with the Front as Lake Ontario was called. That was the way to civilization.

THE PLANK ROAD - The famous plank road from Scugog to Whitby was started about 1846. It went by way of Manchester and Brooklin, a distance of twenty miles. It was to have been brought to Prince Albert by way of Prince Albert, and Peter Perry made the first survey that way. It is said that he asked for various rights of way from Squire Hurd, who refused. Peter Perry then said: 'You or I may not see it; but the day will come when the geese will eat grass from the streets of Prince Albert.' They could do so now. Ten years or more passed before the idea of planking this roadway was carried out. They expected planking would be cheaper than gravel; but time proved the error of this idea, for the planks broke as they always will. These planks were three inches thick and twelve feet long, and were cut at the Paxton & Way sawmill in Port Perry, which was then a very unimportant place as compared with Prince Albert. The plank road was built by the Government and afterwards sold to a company, together with the harbor. It then became a toll road, and continued as such until assumed by the municipalities.

CENTRE ROAD - was surveyed in 1855 by John Shiers. It was a very difficult road to build as it passed through considerable swamp. The route was so bad that many declared that it would be impossible to build a road there and the Councils at first refused to make any grants for that purpose; but the settlers along the proposed route were not to be put off that way, and managed to drive a yoke of oxen over the track, thus proving the feasibility of the road. Thirty years passed before some of the concession lines were cut through. Roads were made to meet the necessities of life, and not to mark the boundary lines of concessions.

THE NEW ROAD - In 1852 the New Road was built by the Oshawa Road and Harbor Company to compete with the plank road. The contract for building was taken by Patrick Terley. Two miles of the road running through Port Perry were sublet to Wm. White, who built that much for $2 per rod. You could hire men then for 50C per day. The great centre of interest in the matter of road making has been around Scugog. The lake and marsh provided plenty of traffic problems to the early settler, and it was 1884 before the floating bridge was replaced by a permanent roadway. Messrs. Jesse Ireland, Nicholas Dyer, and Wm. Trennum, did the work of building. They drew logs and earth and piled it on top of the old bridge until it sunk, so that the floating bridge formed the foundation of the permanent roadway. Some time before this work was done a strong wind blew the floating bridge from its moorings, and the steamer Woodman had to be employed to tow it back into position, but the bridge was never straight after that, and the road has a twist in it as it was built right on top of the bridge.

CARTWRIGHT ROADWAY - Perhaps you don't know the important work that was done for this locality by the Port Perry, Scugog and Cartwright Roadway Co. They built that stretch of road across the marsh the other side of Scugog Island, connecting with the solid land of the Township of Cartwright. Mr. Jos. Bigelow was Secretary of that Company, and did a very great deal of work in furthering the scheme. His fellow citizens look upon that roadway as a fitting monument of his industry. Mr. Aaron Ross was President of the Company, and the route of the road was surveyed by Mr. W.E. Yarnold. A word regarding Mr. Yarnold would be in place here. He is a gentleman - courteous and kindly to all and painstaking in his work. He literally 'knows every foot' of this district, for he has surveyed nearly all if not all of it. Naturally he is often called upon to settle disputed boundary lines, and to appear as a witness in cases of litigation. In everything the thoroughness and reliability of his work is apparent. You may see him to-day (a man of eighty) going about his work quietly from day to day. To some this tribute may sound extravagant; but it is not. It is a simple statement of fact. Before the Cartwright Roadway was built people used to have to go fifteen or sixteen miles around to reach Port Perry from Cartwright, so it is not surprising that considerable money was subscribed toward the project.

A rubber tired buggy would have been punctured full of holes on old roads. Automobiles would have been absolutely useless. It is interesting to note how inventions follow the development of the country. Early vehicles were of two kinds for summer use - the jumper and the wagon. The jumper was simply a stone boat on runners; these runners being made of small logs. When this rig was taken out, an auger and an axe were taken along to make repairs. Should a runner wear out or break, the damage could be repaired with these tools in about twenty minutes. A straight young tree could be cut down and shaped anywhere without danger of interference. Every tree cut down was considered a help then - the main object was to clear the land. There were no two inch iron tired factory made wagons then. For breadth of wheel those wagons would have gladdened the heart of a 'Good Roads' advocate. The hubs were twelve inches in diameter and the felloes were about six inches wide. Sometimes the wheels were made by cutting a section from a log and boring a hole through which the axle might pass. There was still another method of making wheels and that was to take a section of log, split it into slabs, cross them, pin them together, round into the form of a wheel, and bore the hole for the axle. Everything about those wagons was solid wood - axle and tongue of ironwood, hubs, and spokes, and felloes of oak. Not a dainty line in the whole get-up. Iron tires were unknown. Those wagons were built for strength, and, considering the roads over which they had to pass, it was wonderful what wear and tear they would stand. How they creaked. One is reminded of that old riddle - What is it goes when the wagon goes, stops when the wagon stops, is no use to the wagon, yet the wagon can't go without it? Noise! When the first wagons were built there were no planks or boards for boxes. A very good substitute was found in the bark of the basswood tree. About June or July the trees would be felled, cut into suitable lengths, the bark split down the log, then worked off by the aid of a bent stick. Cabins were roofed with this material, too.

Snow made all roads good, and travelling was generally pleasant in winter, for the snow drifted but little, being protected from the wind by the woods. Those old fashioned cutters of fifty years ago with their curved bodies, may have been very grateful, but they were not very comfortable. The long sleigh and bobsleigh were much better. A big sleigh with plenty of straw in the bottom of the box is, and always has been, a comfortable rig in which to ride, especially if properly seated and provided with plenty of robes. Real skin robes would be cheaper than the imitations of a later day. But few of the buffalo robes now remain.

 

MILLS AND MILLING

Port Perry has no reason to be ashamed of the sawdust that has lined its lake front for over half a century past. The milling operations of the town have been the basis of much of its prosperity. Even yet the Carnegie Milling Company operates the largest industry in the town. Intimately associated with the development of this trade and much of the other business is the man whose picture appears in this issue - Mr. Joseph Bigelow. All through the history of Port Perry he has taken a leading place. He is now about eighty-five years of age and in business yet, operating the apple evaporator. His memory is excellent, and while he has kindly given much information for this story it has been singularly free from any attempt to attract notice to himself. What he has down will appear in its proper place in the pages that follow.

THE FIRST SAWMILL erected in Port Perry was the one put up by Paxton & Way where the Carnegie lumber yard now stands. There were interested in this concern the following men: Messrs. Thos. Paxton, Geo. Paxton, Daniel S. Way, and Jas. Dryder. After a while the Paxtons bought out Way and Dryden and the firm became known as T. paxton & Co. Next a change was made and the old mill (put up in 1847) was run by Paxton, Bigelow & Trounce. Later paxton and Bigelow retired from the business and it was run for a time by Trounce, who failed and the property was turned over to the bank. It was finally sold to Mr. James Carnegie, who ran it until it was burnt down some fifteen years ago.

Samuel Hill put up the next mill in 1850 where Orchard's coal sheds are located. He ran it for a time, and then W.S. Sexton (his brother-in-law) bought it and ran it for a number of years. The growing scarcity of timber made it unprofitable to operate the mill longer, and the building was sold to Joshua Wright to be used as coal sheds. The next move was to sell it to Messrs. Flavelle & Clemes, who in turn sold it to Albert Orchard, the present occupant.

In 1853 John Cameron, who represented the Port Perry Land Co., put up a fine big saw mill and grist mill on the site of the present Grand Trunk Railway station. The grist mill was operated for a season or two by the Paxtons, and later by a man named Johnston. That mill was burnt down in 1856.

There were four mills in different parts of Reach Township; but exact information concerning them is not at hand. Hurd's mill at Borelia and Ianson's at Greenbank were both erected before 1850, as they both felt the effects of the tornado - Hurd's was destroyed and Ianson's was unroofed. The Hurd mill was handicapped by insufficient water for power purposes. There was abundance during the Spring freshest, and at occasional other times; but the supply was not to be depended upon. Much the same conditions existed in the mill which Walter Hill helped to build, as it was situated on the same stream which ran through the McConnell place. A fourth mill was built by Daniel S. Way south west of Utica. This mill was run at one time by George Currie, and he made considerable money during the time he operated it owing to a steady upward tendency in the market price of lumber at that period. Ianson's mill prospered well and ran for many years.

Stephen Doty built a mill in 1853 located at the west end of the Scugog bridge. It was run for some years, but was not very successful as the machinery was of a poor type. It was later bought by Mr. Joseph Bigelow who refitted it with machinery and made it a going concern. One piece of work done by this mill was to cut the lumber for the fence along the railway from Port Perry to Whitby. Mr. Bigelow sold the mill to J.A. Trull, who had the idea of building a big dam; but the work never went farther than the thought. The mill was finally destroyed by fire. After the Paxtons retired from the Cameron mill, they built a flouring mill where the present flouring and grist mill stands, but it was burned down some years ago, and later replaced by the present brick structure.

Messrs. J.C. Bowerman & Co operated a woolen factory and stave factory about 1855. It was situated near the egg warehouse. The company ran it about three years and then sold it to Mr. Bigelow who ran it till the coming of the railway in 1872, when the railway company bought the property because they wanted the right of way. The building was moved uptown and is used as an apple evaporator.

Beside the Port Perry grist mill there was one on the road between Manchester and Utica, built and run by Hicks. It is now run by Mr. Thos. Beare. There was another at Greenbank, run by the Beares. A third mill was built south of Utica, which is now abandoned.

 

HOTELS AND WHISKY

Whiskey used to be sold for twenty-five per gallon and all who profess to know say that it was purer and better liquor than you can get to-day for ten times the money. That was the retail price. Wholesale it was 10C, and the commission man sold it to the hotelkeeper for 15C per gallon. It was used on any and all occasions, and was nearly as free as water. If you drove in from a distance to do some shopping and felt dry, all you had to do was to walk to the back of the store, and there you would find a pail of whiskey and a tin cup with which you could help yourself. Logging bees, raisings, threshings, huskings, dances and all other social functions of the day were considered incomplete without whiskey. Indeed at times the whiskey was considered so essential that the main object of the function (a barn raising for instance) would be neglected if the whiskey were absent. The prohibitionist ploughed a lone furrow in those days. No duty was imposed on imported whiskey; but there was a fine of $500 together with imprisonment for making it without a license. In spite of this heavy penalty illicit stills were not uncommon,for the Scotch people declared that they couldn't abide the Canadian made stuff.

Of course there was a certain amount of secrecy about the manufacture of the liquor; but had you been able to have travelled the winding course of the Nonquon as it twisted its way through swamp and bush, you would likely have found some evidences of secret stills, as the following story would indicate: A number of years ago when Mr. Yarnold was surveying some of the bush along the Centre Road, a man told him he had seen an alligator in the swamp. 'You should catch it and send it to the museum,' said Mr. Yarnold with a smile, 'they would pay you well for a Canadian born alligator.' During his survey a secret still was found, with its small furnace, troughs and other appliances. Later the man with the alligator story was met again, and Mr. Yarnold said to him, 'I found the little brick stable in which you kept that alligator, and the trough from which you fed him.” Three men were seldom or ever known to make whiskey on the sly, for it was found that three men could not keep a secret still long. Two men were enough. The enforcement of the liquor law was not easy. Sheriffs were scarce. Long before one could arrive on the scene, news of his coming preceded him. Naturally the men who made the whiskey had more friends than the sheriff.

But whiskey has fallen on evil days. It now has to struggle for its existence. People don't take to it as kindly as formerly. Within sixty years past there were twenty-four places where you could buy liquor in the Township of Reach, and most of them were in operation thirty years ago; to-day there are but three. Here is the list: Harrison Haight's hotel which stood on the site of the new postoffice. Elmore Crandell's hotel which was originally built on the present site of the Bank of Commerce. When the railroad came it was moved opposite the station and called the Railroad Hotel. It was torn down a year or two ago and Dowson's livery stands on the site. Daniel Ireland put up an hotel where Carnegie's new house is going up. It was burned down fifteen or twenty years ago. Thompson ran an hotel on the Sebert House corner. It was burnt down at the time of the big fire, and then replaced by the present building. The St. Charles Hotel was put up about thirty-eight years ago, and was run by a man named McQuade.

There were three hotels at Borelia, Jewett's (now the creamery) being the oldest. Then there was one run by Reuben Crandell, and another run by Christopher Shehey. Three hotels supplied the Prince Albert people with liquid refreshment, and they were run by these three men - Messrs. McCorquodale, Boynton and Scott. Another Boynton kept hotel between Prince Albert and Raglan. Manchester was as well supplied, and Messrs. Tennyson and Zwickey ran two of the hotels and the third was called the Plank House. We did not learn the man's name who ran it. Opposite Beare's mill there was another hotel to save the traveller from becoming dry before he reached Utica, where Dafoe kept house. Another hotel was kept at Epsom, and one at Saintfield.

There used to be an hotel at Greenbank where the Methodist church stands, but the Sons of Temperance put it out of business. Solomon Orser ran an hotel between Rose's Settlement and Seagrave. Two hotels flourished at Seagrave run by Messrs. Coryell and Dewart. Out on the sky line at the top of the ridges stood Covey's hotel, and a little south of Manchester was Payne's hotel. It is estimated that there were twenty-five hotels on the road between Manilla and Oshawa, not including the latter place.

 

THE EPIC IN GRAIN

What is part of the day's work for one generation becomes a matter of wonder for succeeding generations. When the settler back in Eldon or Rama kicked on his long cowhide boots in the middle of the night he did not see anything particularly romantic in his action. He merely knew that they was getting an early start for a long tiresome journey. He did not have the privilege of seeing what the outcome of his work would be, or of knowing that the day would come when nearly all the grain grown in this locality would be fel to stock, producing an abundance of milk, butter, beef, mutton and perk. It was a tiresome trip because it was long and rough, but it was not necessarily lonesome. There was often plenty of company on the road at grain hauling time.

For forty miles back the teams used to come into Prince Albert with their loads of grain, and it was no uncommon thing to see a string of rigs half a mile long waiting their turn to be unloaded. Indeed, at times the teams would reach from Prince Albert to Borelia and beyond. These men were away from home two or three days. They would start from their homes in Rama, Mars, Thorah, Fenelon, at three o'clock in the morning and travel all day to reach Prince Albert. Then it might be possible to unload so as to get away early next morning for the return trip, or it might be necessary to stay two nights and a day in Prince Albert in order to finish up their business. Each man took his place in the procession and waited his turn, helping his neighbors to unload as he waited, and being in turn helped by others who were waiting. Sometimes the boys played tricks on these visitors from the back townships. A number of Scotchmen drove in from the north and unloaded their sleighs, driving the empty rigs into the hotel sheds. Next morning the sleighs had disappeared. Later one of them was found astride the ridge of the roof of Forman's two-storey store. Others were found at an empty ash house some distance away. It is said that the Gaelic is a very expressive language for occasions of this kind.

Messrs. George Currie and T.C. Forman were the grain buyers in the early days. When quite a young man T.C. Forman had been sent out by Jas. Laing, of Oshawa, to keep store for him at Columbus. Later Laing opened a store at Prince Albert, and Forman was sent on to take charge there. After Laing died T. C. Forman married his sister, and the family grew up in Prince Albert. Grain buying was part of the storekeeping business, and in the case of Mr. Currie and Mr. Forman it became a very large part of their business. At the time of the Crimean War Forman bought heavily for the firm of Gillespie, Moffatt & Co., of Montreal. The price of wheat went up to $2.50 per bushel, and everybody was worked into a state of excitement about the matter. Thousands of bushels of wheat were being teamed from Prince Albert to the warehouse at Whitby. There it was loaded on to sailing vessels, which carried ti down the lake. All that grain was handled with a scoop shovel at Prince Albert, for there was no elevator there. Currie was in partnership with Gibbs, of Oshawa, and together they bought immense quantities of both wheat and flour to ship to the Old Country. A picture painted by Roth, entitled 'Corn is Up' would have found many a counterpart in spots in Prince Albert. At almost any time you could see men gathered, some sitting on soap boxes, others lounging against the counter, or standing with their hands in their pockets. It was here that men practiced the long, well direct spit for which no prize was given except the unexpressed 'not so bad' attitude of their chums. It was not always convenient to sit close to the spittoon or the stove, and it was considered bad form to spit on another man's boots. Hence the necessity at times for a long spit and a straight spit. These matters as to the price of grain were discussed for a long time but the parties most concerned little dreamed the way the matter would end.

Grain was bought day after day just as though the war would never end. Men worked night and day unloading the grain, and filling the warehouses. The warehouses were full all along the line, filled to their utmost capacity. Bushel was added to bushel, and load to load, but there was no way to ship the grain out to the coast to sell it. The Grand Trunk Railway was a thing yet to come. All winter the buyers bought, but the selling was to be begun when the ice left the lakes and navigation opened. We of later years have learned how rapidly prices can change even in a short time, fortunes being made and lost in a day. Bearing this in mind, one can readily see the tremendous risks to be run by holding grain for five months while a war was in progress. Newspapers were scarce, and the Atlantic cable was not yet laid, so that there was no way in which the people could learn news of the war. In point of fact it was over before people here knew anything about it. Our buyers were paying $2.50 per bushel for grain that was only worth $1.25.

John Rolph used to run the telegraph instrument at Prince Albert. One night he was sitting at his work when he heard a message passing through that spelled financial ruin to many a man in Canada. Out at Father Point, at the mouth of the St. Lawrence a ship had brought the news that the war was over, and the big prices were at an end. With rapid steps John made his way to the local grain buyers to acquaint them with the news. Of course the information could not save them from the disaster that had already overtaken them, but it prevented them from investing further. And they might easily have been induced to buy, for it was not long before telegraphic messages came in from Toronto and elsewhere offering to sell grain at what would have been considered surprisingly low figures to anyone who thought that war prices were still being paid. So that the early news saved Messrs. Currie and Forman from further loss.

Loads of grain continued to come in but the grain only brought $1.25 per bushel. A few took their loads home again, refusing at first to believe that the price pas permanently lowered, but they only had the trouble of hauling it back again once more. One farmer is said to have committed suicide because of the big slump in prices. One thing is worthy of note - although the earnings of a lifetime had been swept away, the grain buyers both bravely took up the battle again, and their families are holding honorable positions in the community. The names of both Forman and Currie are respected, and stand for solid business success. Gibbs Bros., with whom George Currie was associated, had bought heavily in both flour and wheat. They had flour mills of their own, and bought the product of several other mills. Flour was $10 per barrel.

In the spring the Great Eastern came to Canada, and Gibbs Bros. thought this would be a splendid opportunity to send a cargo of flour to England, so they had it shipped to the seaboard,and loaded on to the giant steamer. W.H. Gibbs took passage aboard the same ship. When they reached their destination and the flour was unloaded, it was found to be sour, and only fit for pig feed. Wheat had been sold by the Gibbs Bros. for spring delivery to firms in Montreal and elsewhere. Of course it was shipped in according to contract, but the buyers claimed that the wheat was not up to specifications and refused to receive it. This wheat was shipped back to the local mills and ground. It was a long financial struggle for all concerned. In later years the following gentlemen were grain buyers in this locality: Prosper Hurd, Aaron Ross and Geo. Currie; Mark Currie and J.H. Brown; Joshua Wright, and Robert Perry. J.H. Brown dissolved his partnership with Mark Currie, and went into business with Sam Christian at Manchester. They had a thriving trade there and a number of experiences which would be worth relating if space would permit. One will illustrate fascination and risk of grain buying.

Barley at $1.75 per bushel may sound like a fish story nowadays, but it reached that price one year when Brown and Christian were in business. That season the demand was very strong. The price started in at 90 c. a bushel. Soon telegrams were being received: 'What is your lowest price for 10,000 bushels barley f.o.b. Whitby?' The price would be quoted, the grain shipped, and then in a few days another telegram would come asking the same question. Shipment after shipment went out, always on a rising market. Profits grew until Messrs. Brown and Christian figured that they had made $16,000 that season on barley. There was no sign of a weaker market, and the season closed with the price at $1.75 per bushel. Then Sam Christian said: 'We'll hold our barley now. If those fellows in New York can pay $1.75, there ought to be money in it for us if we hold on till spring.' J.H. Brown did not see the force of the argument but finally consented to hold the grain. In the spring the price of barley went down to 70 c. per bushel, and that $16,000 of profits disappeared. After the Whitby-Port Perry Railway came, Aaron Ross moved from Prince Albert to Port Perry, and started buying there, and the Ross family did a great deal of buying until Wm. Ross sold out his business to James Lucas.

 


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HISTORIC HOMES
& ESTATES

By: Paul Arculus &
J. Peter Hvidsten



HOT OFF THE PRESS
By: J. Peter Hvidsten



MAYHEM TO MURDER
The History Of The
Markham Gang
By: Paul Arculus