Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Among the Forrest Trees
Chapter XVIII - More Settlers Coming

THE rapidity with which some localities fill up, after settlement has once begun, is truly astonishing to those who are not acquainted with the causes that lead to such results. Among these many causes there are four that predominate.

These are, family connections, national distinctions, religious predilections, and local advantages.

It is often the case that families settle in the same locality, and give it the family name. For instance, we have known a large settlement named after the Merrit family, and a Kennedy's settlement, and a Minale's settlement, a Pennel's settlement, and almost any number of settlements named after certain families among the early residents of the place.

Then it is often the case that national distinctions have a good deal to do with giving an impetus to settlement in certain localities. Perhaps no other class are so much inclined to be influenced by this consideration as the Germans are, hence you will find Dutch settlements here and there all over the country.

The Highland Scotch are a good deal influenced by this, too, so that Scotch settlements are not at all an uncommon thing in the country. Other nationalities sometimes have more or less to do in the direction of settlers in the selection of a location.*

Religious preferences sometimes have a good deal to do with settlement. Roman Catholics would not settle among Protestants, if they could just as easily settle among their co-religionists. Nor would Protestants settle among Catholics as readily as among those of the Protestant faith. And there have been instances where coercion was used to prevent the one sect from settling among the other.

It has been said that, when the township of Wallace was settling, certain Protestants took it upon themselves to prevent any Catholic from settling on land in that township. Some of those guardians of the Protestant religion were afterwards known in political circles as "Tom Ferguson's Lambs"a lot of men who feared nobody, and did not care to be interfered with by anybody.

And even among Protestants there is a denominational feeling that has its influence, to a greater or less extent. A good staunch Presbyterian would go a few lots farther back, if by so doing he could get beside another good staunch Presbyterian. And so with a Methodist or an Episcopalian, and more especially so with a Baptist or a Disciple.

But far stronger than any of these is the attraction of a choice locality. Good land, good water, and a situation that, from its surroundings, must, in the nature of things, become in time an important agricultural and commercial centre, constitute an attraction that will draw a good class of settlers, and secure a rapid development. Such was the condition of things around where John Bushman had chosen his home.

There were no strong family attractions and no great national feeling, for the few settlers already there were of different nationalities, and the three families there represented three different sections of the Protestant Church, so that local advantages was the only thing to draw people to the vicinity of Sylvan Lake. But these advantages were of no trifling character. Right at the corners of four of the best townships in the Province, and where two lines of road that must become leading thoroughfares crossed. And only a short distance from the crossing of the roads a rapid stream, with high banks, ran across the one road, and on a few rods farther, it made a bend and ran across the other road. This would furnish three or four first-class mill privileges, within a quarter of a mile. Not many localities could present stronger inducements to the intending settler than this could.

But while we are talking of the excellences of the place, three waggons have come into John Bushman's clearing, and are moving toward the house. And, let us see, one, two, three, and three are six, and four are ten, and two are twelve, and three are fifteen. There are fifteen persons, big and little, in and around those waggons.

The men are William Briars and his father, and Harry Hawthorn, and two strangers who are driving two of the teams, that are hauling the waggons. The women are, Mrs. Betsy Briars, Mrs. Sarah Beech, and Mrs. Bridget Hawthorn. Three of the children are claimed by Mrs. Hawthorn, and four of them call Mrs. Beech their mother.

John and Mary were just getting ready for supper, when they heard the noise of the waggons, and went out to see who and what it was. When they came and found all these people, and teams, and waggons in the yard, they were completely taken by surprise. They expected Will and Betsy some time soon, but they had not heard a word from the other two families since the men went away in the fall.

"Don't be after being frightened, Misther Bushman, though our number is purty large, our intentions are quoite paisable, and our falins towards you and the missis are of the most kindly natur', and so they are.

These were the words of Harry, as he came forward to shake hands with John and Mary.

"No, no, Harry, we are not at all frightened; but are somewhat surprised and very much pleased to see you all," said John.

By this time the women and children had scrambled out of the waggons, and were coming forward to where John and Mary were.

"Now, ladies, jest be aisy a little till I tell Misther and Mistress Bushman who yez are," said Harry.

Then pointing to Bridget, he said: "This is my own wife, and these are our childer," and then turning to Mrs. Beech, he said: "This lady, wid the yellow hair, is our neighbour that is to be, Mrs. Beech, and these are her childer." Then turning to Betsy he said: "This is a lady that I only met a few hours since, and she has not told me her name yet. You'll nade to be afther foindin it out for yourself."

"Mary," said John, "you take the women and children into the house, while we see to the horses."

Mr. Briars said to John, "We will tie my horses to the fence, and give them plenty of straw to lie on, and plenty of feed, and they will do for one night. Those other horses are to start home to-morrow, and they will need a good night's rest. If you can find a good place for them, do so."

"We will do the best we can for the teams," John said.

The two men were surprised to find such hospitality in the wild woods, and they told John so.

"Where is Mr. Beech?" John asked one of the men.

"He is coming on behind with a yoke of oxen and a cart, with a cow tied to the back end of the cart. He don't expect to get farther than Mr. Ashcraft's tonight," was the answer.

They went into the house, where they found Mary and Mrs. Briars busily engaged in preparing supper for the crowd. John's house had never had so many people in it at one time before, but in the bush people are not over-fastidious about little inconveniences. They were crowded, to be sure, but then they will be neighbors, and they should learn to be accommodating; and no better place to learn this could be found than staying in one house for awhile together.

The night had to be got through in some way. The new comers could not be allowed to go into their shanties that night. There had not been any fire in them during the winter, and they would be as cold as the North Pole, is what Mary said about them. No, they must not think of going out of John Bushman's house that night. "But what about the sleeping."

"I well attend to that," said Mary, "if you will get some quilts out of some of the waggons. We will make a `shake-down' for the men, and send the women and children upstairs. In cases of necessity we must do the best that we can."

Will and Betsy went and brought in a lot of quilts and blankets out of their waggons, and in a little while the arrangements were made for the night.

"Now," said John, "since the little folks are all comfortably put away for the night, we may indulge in a little friendly chat. Will, where did you fall in with these other people?"

"Do you remember where two roads come together, about two miles the other side of Mapleton?" asked Will.

"Yes, I recollect the place," John answered.

"Well, just as we came to that place, we met the team that has Harry's things coming from the other way. We all drove on to Mapleton, and there we found Mr. Beech and his company put up for the night. We were all taken by surprise, but we concluded to come the rest of the way together."

"Mr. Beech, you say, is coming on behind."

"Yes. He has a heavy load on a two-wheeled cart, and the cow that he is bringing is heavy and goes slowly. I think he said that he had been four days on the road, and last night was the first that he and his family staid at the same place since he started."

"Going to the bush is no child's play," said one of the teamsters, whose name was Elmsley.

"You're right there, neighbor," said the other teamster, whose name was Ashtop.

"Have you two gentlemen had experience in bush life?" asked Mr. Briars.

"I have had some experience in that line. In the township where I live I was the first settler in it," replied Mr. Elrnsley.

"I, too," said Mr. Ashtop, "have had something to do with life in the woods. I was not the first man in my township, but I was the second, and my wife was the first white woman that ever stood in the township. Our first baby was said to be the first white child born in the township, and we rocked it in a piece of a hollow basswood tree, for a cradle. Yes, my friends, I know something about the life of pioneers."

"And how did you like that sort of life?" inquired John Bushman.

"Had to like it," was the laconic answer of Mr. Elmsley.

"That is about the way to put it," said Mr. Ashtop.

"How long since you went into the bush?" inquired Mr. Briars.

"About twenty-one years," answered Elmsley.

"Three and twenty years," said Mr. Ashtop.

"I suppose you have both made out well?" said John Bushman.

"I have done fairly well," one said.

"I do not complain," said the other.

"How far apart do you live?" asked Will.

"We have not talked the matter over. We never met before last night, hence we are not much acquainted," said Mr. Elmsley. Then, turning to the other, he said:

"What township do you come from?"

"The township of Pineridge," said he.

"I Iive in the township of Oakvalley. There is one township between us, that is Spruceland," said Mr. Elmsley.

"We will be from twenty-five to thirty miles apart," replied Mr. Ashtop.

"No doubt," said Mr. Briars, "but you have seen some strange things, and some very trying things."

"That is true," said Mr. Ashtop.

"I move that the company ask one of these gentlemen to relate to us some incident or anecdote in connection with the early settlement in their localities."

"I have no objection to do so," Mr. Ashtop replied. He then spoke to the following effect:

"The saddest thing that has taken place in my settlement was the loss of a lot of children. They went out to look for wildwood flowers in the early summer. There were three children, two girls and one boy. The one girl was about thirteen years old, and the other seven. The boy was nine. They belonged to two different families. The older one belonged to one family, and the two younger ones to another. They went out to the bush a little after dinner. The bush was only a short distance from the houses. The children often did the same thing. They had not many ways to amuse themselves, and their mothers allowed them to roam around the fields, and in the edge of the bush, always cautioning them never to go out of sight of the fences or the buildings.

"They did not come in by tea-time, and when inquiries were made, no one had seen them since early in the afternoon. Uneasiness now began to be felt on account of them. Then it was said that possibly they might have gone to fetch the cows, whose large bell could just be heard in the distance. The cows were sent for, but no traces of the children could be seen.

"Now the little settlement was all alarmed. In all directions search was made, but to no purpose. As night was coning on, all the little ones, too small to join in the hunt, were taken to one house, and a couple of old ladies undertook to keep them, while the fathers and mothers went to hunt for the lost ones. All night long, with torches and with tallow candles, in old-fashioned tin lanterns, the hunt went on. Over the hills and valleys; along the creeks, and among swamps; around the little lakes, and in the marshy places, the hunt was continued. With the blowing of horns, and the firing of guns-, and calling one to another, by a score or more of voices, the hunt went on.

"Perhaps no sadder company of people ever looked into each other's faces than those were who met at the house where the children had gone from, at sunrise in the morning, after the all-night's fruitless hunt. But few words were spoken. They quietly dispersed to their homes, after agreeing to meet again at one o'clock to renew the hunt.

"As the word of the lost children spread from house to house in adjoining neighborhoods, the settlers becanie deeply interested, and every one seemed to make the case his own. By one o'clock that day men were there from ten or a dozen miles away. And before the week was out men came forty or fifty miles to hunt for those children. Days and weeks were spent in the fruitless search. But no trace of the lost children was ever seen.

"The country to the north and west, for a hundred miles or more, was an unbroken wilderness. Not a white settler in all that large country at the time."

The listeners were greatly interested by the relation of this sad incident. When Mr. Ashtop ceased speaking, Mr. Briars said, "It is possible that the children were carried off by Indians, and taken into the Hudson Bay country."

"At first," replied Mr. Ashtop, "this was the con-elusion that was generally arrived at. But no Indians had been around the locality, and they could have no motive for stealing the children, if they were in the vicinity. They were on very friendly terms with the whites all through the country. It is so long now, since the occurrence, and nothing has ever been heard of any of the children, that the idea of Indians having stolen them is about given up."

"Could it be that they were devoured by wild beasts?" asked John Bushman.

"Hardly. That question was pretty thoroughly canvassed at the time. But as not the slightest trace of anything could be found, it was generally believed that whatever had befallen the children, they were not eaten up by animals," was Mr. Ashtop's answer.

"Well, Mister," said Will Briars, "what is your opinion now about the children's fate?"

"My opinion is not very decided," said he; "but I incline to the belief that the children got into some of the numerous thick cedar swamps that are in the vicinity, or else they wandered off into the almost interminable swamp that commences not far from the place they started from. Here they might get into some quagmire, and go down into the yielding quicksands and disappear from sight forever."

"What a fate that would be," said Mary, with a shudder.

"Sad, indeed," said the narrator. "The families left the vicinity shortly after the loss of their children. And who can wonder that they did."

"But could they not get out of the quicksand before they went down?" inquired Moses.

"If they got into one of those miry places that are found in some of the swamps, and if they stood still for a few moments until they began to sink they could never get out without help. And if they tried to do so every effort that they made to lift one foot out would send the other foot deeper into the yielding sand. So that if they struggled to free themselves the faster they would sink. Strong men have perished in this way."

Next morning the loads were taken to the shanties and unloaded, and the teamsters started home. Moses Moosewood went to help Harry and Bridget to put things to rights at their place. John and Mary went to assist Mrs. Beech, as Mr. Beech had not not along yet. By noon each family was able to cook their own dinner at home.

Mr. Beech came about eleven o'clock, and was pleased to find his wife and children already at home in their backwoods residence. He said that the hotel man at Mapleton told him that not less than twenty families had staid overnight at his place in the last two weeks, who were moving into the country to the places prepared the fall before. So, said he, we can't be long in an isolated state for want of neighbors.

Bridget Hawthorn was the most surprised at her surroundings, of any of them. She had no experience at all with life in the bush. Everything was so different from anything she had ever seen. And the children were so restless and full of frolic, that between trying to look cheerful, just to please Harry; getting everything in order in and around the shanty, and keeping an eye on the little gipsies, as she called them, poor Bridget had all that she could attend to for a while. But like other people, who try to do so, she soon became reconciled to her new surroundings.

Mr. Briars was well satisfied with "Will's selection of a place to settle. He stayed about a week, helping him at his house, and using his team to harrow in some spring wheat. Then he started for home. It had been arranged that Mr. Bushman would come and bring a load of stuff for Will and Betsy, as soon as their house was ready to move into, or as soon as he got through with the spring seeding.
After he was gone, things went on in the usual quiet and orderly way at Sylvan Lake.

John got along with his work, and when the hurry was a little over, he went and helped the others with his team. So that, among them, they all got their seeding and planting done in good time. John had finished his six acres chopping, and was now ready to start at getting out the logs and making the shingles for a barn. When the-time for shearing the sheep came, John and Will had quite a time in doing that little job. The water in the lake was too cold to wash them in, and the water in Beech's Creek, as they called it, was not deep enough. They sheared them without being washed, and then washed the wool afterwards, and spread it in the sun to dry.

Return to Contents Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.