The Stories of the Counties of Ontario
LEEDS


". . . So shanties grew
Other than his among the blackened stumps;
And children ran with little twigs and leaves
And flung them, shouting, on the forest pyres,
Where burned the forest kings.”

Isabella Valancy Crawford.

LEEDS is the largest of the five counties set apart along the St. Lawrence in 1792; but the country is much broken with lakes, some of which have been taken advantage of in the making of the Rideau Canal from Ottawa to Kingston. The county was named after Francis Godolphin Osborne, fifth Duke of Leeds, and there is a romantic and well-known story connected with a far-back ancestor of his, the founder of the noble family, telling how a young apprentice, Edward Osborne, leaped from London Bridge to save from drowning his master’s infant daughter. The little girl lived to marry the bold apprentice, who ultimately "became Lord Mayor of London arid Member of Parliament for the city."

But we need not travel so far afield for stories connected with the county. In some respects there is 110 better way of making real to ourselves the conditions of earlier days than by following in detail the life-story of some individual. I will, therefore, venture to tell again here the history of Colonel Joel Stone, the Loyalist founder of Gananoque, only explaining that I am indebted for the facts to the vividly painted sketch of this pioneer by Miss Agnes Maule Machar, printed in the Transactions of the U . E. Loyalist Association.

About 1785—so Miss Machar paints the picture—a stalwart, handsome, dark-eyed man, in the prime of life, was roaming along the shores of the St. Lawrence, near where the. Thousand Isles begin to cluster in the stream. At length he came upon one of the great river’s tributaries, which, after a long, placid journey through the shady woods, between banks fringed with flowers, leaped full thirty feet over a barrier of brown rocks, with a force and suddenness sufficient to turn its dark clear waters to the likeness of snow. The Indians called the place "Rocks in Deep Water,” or "Cadanoghue,” a word which on our English tongues has become “Gananoque.”

Whether it was the wild beauty of the spot or its possibilities as a site for settlement that appealed to the wanderer, here he determined to make his home. Almost, of course, Captain Joel Stone was a Loyalist and a man whom the troubles of the Revolution had turned into a soldier. Born in Connecticut, he was descended from one of twenty-four “pilgrim-pioneers,” whose arrival at New Haven in 1659 had been celebrated with a thanksgiving service by the few colonists previously settled there. Joel Stone himself was a capable business man, who had made money as a merchant, and was prospering greatly under laws and a system of government which he regarded “as the best in the universe,” when the country was plunged "into the horrors of an unnatural war.” Stone was one of those who determined never to flinch from his "duty to the best of sovereigns” (it was the custom of the time to deal boldly in superlatives), and he resolved “sooner to perish in the general calamity than abet in the least degree the enemies of the British Constitution.”

And these were not words merely. Refusing to take up arms against the King, he had to flee from his home; he was taken prisoner and escaped; but his house was looted by a mob and his property was confiscated. During the war he married and children were burn to him. At the peace he spent- two years in England, with the result that he secured rank as captain, and received a pension of forty pounds a year.

Coming to Canada, he tried first for land in Cornwall. Too late for this, he turned westward, and eventually obtained a grant of five hundred acres on the Gananoque River, with half the water-power—Sir John Johnson obtaining a grant on the east bank. Before settling down he travelled overland to his old home, with his son and daughter, to visit his aged father in Connecticut. In the following year lie returned to take possession of his grant, coming down the river in a bateau, probably from Niagara.

From the site of Stone’s future home no human habitation was in sight, save one solitary fisherman’s hut on an island about a mile away. To this Stone made his way, receiving kind hospitality from its owner, a Frenchman named Cary. There he housed his goods and started on for some time—a luckless proceeding, as i proved, for one day a fire broke out, consuming the hut and all its contents. Undaunted by this misfortune, Stone began to build for himself. Soon lie opened a store, began a lumbering business, and constructed a boat, which was probably “the first built in Canada since the French regime.''

Having lost his wife five or six years earlier, he heard that a Mrs. Dayton, who had been a neighbour in Connecticut, and had settled with her husband in Brantford, had become a widow. Waiting for “a year and a day” after her husband’s death, he then wrote a quaintly guarded letter to the lady. This he followed, long before there was ume in those days of slow travel to get an answer, with a more outspoken epistle, in which he asked permission to visit the widow. Before he received a reply he was obliged to go to Montreal on business, which he feared might prevent his getting to Brantford that year, so he magnanimously declared that if she “had a good offer from another" he would not stand in the way, but added, “I only trust in your good sense that you will not accept a very crooked stick till I can have the pleasure of seeing you.”

Despite the calm coolness of the preliminaries, the marriage duly took place, and proved a happy one. Indeed, the widow became not only a true helpmeet to her second husband, but a kindly mother to his children as well as her own. Moreover, she was a regular "Lady Bountiful” to the neighbourhood, though the phrase hardly gives a fair idea of her charities, for she bestowed upon the needy not only material comforts but much personal service. Being an expert horsewoman, she acted as both doctor and nurse to the sick within a radius of forty miles. As cows were scarce, she “ dispensed ” the milk of hers. She gave a hospitable welcome to the poor wayfarers, who would now be dubbed tramps. At Christmas she sent round a wagon-load of good things to those less fortunate than herself, whilst on New Year’s Day she entertained the Indians, who paid her husband the compliment of calling him “Father”. Mrs. Stone was a good Methodist, but, living in days when less stress was laid on the duty of temperance than now, she provided for her red-skinned guests not only quantities of cake but of rum !

During the War of 1812 Colonel Stone became Colonel of a militia regiment, a position which often took him away from home. On one occasion during his absence the settlement of Gananoque was attacked by a party of Americans; but Mrs. Stone was equal, as usual, to the emergency. She barricaded the house and boldly directed its defence. Not even when a chance shot wounded her in the thigh, did she show any sign of quailing, and her companions only discovered what had happened after

the immediate danger was past by the blood which had flowed into her shoe. She was then carried two miles inland to have her wound dressed, but it left her lame till the day of her death.

Under her influence Joel Stone also joined the Methodist Church. lie was the superintendent of the first Sunday school in Gananoqae, and exercised a patriarchal influence in the little community on the side of law and order. As a Justice of the Peace he forced many a drunken husband to do his duty to his family. He married many couples, sometimes with such an odd substitute for the regulation ring as a blacksmith’s door-key. Both husband and wife lived to a good old age, seeing their children’s children grow up.

Gananoque is now a busy little town of about 3800 inhabitants, who are employed in a variety of industries. It is also a favourite summer re-sort, and a port of call for the steamers plying east and west.

But the county town, Brockville, is a much more important place, with a population of nearly 9500. Formerly called Elizabethtown, it was renamed by General Brock after himself. Early in its history in the winter of 1813, the little settlement had a day of terrible excitement, when a body of troops from the American side crossed the river, and carried off as captives fifty-two of Brockville’s citizens; but this indignity was soon avenged.


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