J. Smyth Carter.

The story of Dundas, being a history of the County of Dundas from 1784 to 1904 online

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half a century, and so common were the ages of eighty-five, ninety and
ninety -five that the saying, " Loyalist half -pay officers never die, " was offc

Not long after its first settlement the christening of our county is recorded.
The County of Dundas was named in honor of Henry Dundas, Viscount
Melville, son of Rt. Hon. Robert Dundas, born 1741, died 1811. The Dundases
of Arniston were descended from George Dundas, of Dundas, sixteenth in
descent from the Dunbars, Earls of March. Macaulay tells us that Henry
Dundas, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, was an able and versatile politician;
he was created Lord Melville, and shortly afterwards returned into private life.

Although the pioneer usually constructed his house of logs, yet several of the
U. E. Loyalists who settled along the front of Dundas departed from that
custom and built for themselves substantial homes more in keeping with their
former dwellings. Along the St. Lawrence a few of these stately old houses
still remain. A historic charm surrounds them and a resurrection of forgotten
incidents would furnish stories of interest. The folio wing article, a description
of a U. E. Loyalist's house, was taken from the columns of the Morrisburg
Courier, the writer appearing under the nom de plume of " Will Lee:"

" People who delight in antiquities and are fond of viewing and inspecting
articles and implements in use before the dawn of the nineteenth century
cannot find more of them or find them in a better state of preservation in any
part of the Province than in the County of Dundas. When the first settlers
took up their abode here so wide was the choice of building material and so


superior the timber used that many of those old houses still stand, with the
exception of a few alterations and repairs the same as when they were built,
over 100 years ago. Prominent among these is one situated midway between
the Village of Morrisburg and the battlefield of Crysler's Farm, on lot 21, con.
1, township of Williamsburg. It is a large, substantial frame house, painted
White, and known among the friends of the genial owner, M. D. Willard,
as the 'White House.' The farm lot upon which it is built was drawn in 1784
by Daniel Myers, a U. E. Loyalist, and in the year following he built the
house mentioned. He however made it do duty for many years after as an
inn, and it was known to the traveller as the 'Halfway House,' being locat-
ed centrally between Cornwall and Prescott. Here on the banks of the St.
Lawrence it stood when the Bastile fell. It was not a new house when the
Irish were in open insurrection in 1798. It was a well known inn when the
army of Napoleon was overthrown at the battle of Waterloo. At the time of
the Rebellion of 1837 it was looked upon as an old house, and when in 1842
Charles Dickens passed down the St. Lawrence in a steamboat it was 57 years
old. Although the furniture in it now is modern and not different from
that in the houses of the people living around about, there are preserved in
the attic numerous books, pieces of furniture, harness, trunks, safes,
a poll-table, newspaper files, cutlery, etc., that were manufactured and
did service in the eighteenth century. Here in one corner is a quaint
old sign-board, measuring 2 by 3 feet, swinging in a frame, and upon which
are the words painted, 'D. Myers' Inn, 1815.' Hanging on a rafter over 100
years old is next observed a lady's side-saddle, purchased by the father of the
present owner of the house eighty years ago from a lady in Montreal who had
long before that time acquired it in France. It is hand-made, chiefly of alli-
gator ekin, and of the best quality, as were mostly all the manufactures of the
last century. Cumbrous eel-skin pocket-books tied up with leather strings
similar to those now used with moccasins, are here to be seen, all of them
bulging out with old manuscripts. These are found in a curious old-fashioned
safe, about two and a half feet square, opening from the top, and containing a
hidden lock. Its key is immense. If it would not bother a professional burg-
lar much to ascertain how the safe looks inside, I am of the opinion that it is
fireproof. We were interested in a large chest which contained many
books, most of them modern, and also in an old ledger, kept by J. M.
Willard, containing many familiar names of old residents, all of whom have
passed away. The newspapers in the files were printed in Montreal early in
the 18th century and a perusal of them cannot fail to be of much interest.
The farm property in connection with this house is valuable, as the land is
fertile with plenty of good timber, some of which cut off this farm is actually
Used at present as pillars in the French cathedral at Montreal. This cathe-


dral is one of the greatest attractions to American tourists visiting the city.
The timber was cut and forwarded to that place by Col. John Crysler."

Along the St. Lawrence in the front of Matilda another historic house is
found by the wayside. In early days it was termed the " Blue House, " on
account of its color, and was a conspicuous mark for river men when ascend-
ing the dangerous Rapid du Plat. In later years this building became known
as the " Findley House." Although erected shortly after the first settlement
of the county it is still standing, and when removed in 1891 on account of the
canal enlargement the frame work was found quite sound, thus showing that
the U. E. Loyalists were as staunch in the construction of their homes as
they were in the idea of giving up all their worldly property in defence of a
principle of right in which they believed they were serving their God, their
country, and their King.

The occupants of the "Blue House " dispensed a liberal hospitality. At
one time it was owned by a Mr. Patterson, a Scotchman, who had formerly
grown rich as a fur trader in Western Canada. He married a daughter of
the late Hon. John Munro, who was among the first in Upper Canada to
receive the title of "honorable." After the death of Mr. Patterson his widow
became the wife of Col. Thomas Frazer, father of Col. Richard Duncan Frazer.
Later the property came into the hands of the Findley family, Mrs. Findley
being a niece ot Mr. Patterson. The stage-coach, which first made its appear-
ance in Upper Canada in 1798, passed the old " Blue House, " and many
distinguished Canadians and Europeans oftened journeyed from Montreal to
Upper Canada, and during such a trip the "Blue House" was usually made a
stopping place.

The location of this historic house, at the head of Rapid du Plat,
increased its attractiveness. It was a famous centre for tourists, a sort of
rendezvous for the aristocracy who came " up country, " and letters received
there were frequently addressed, " Blue House, Rapid du Plat, Upper Can-
ada. " The furniture of this place was also antique, and some of it to-day
is zealously preserved in the beautiful Farlinger residence at Morrisburg,
while other pieces we believe were taken to Toronto and presented to a his-
torical society of that city.

The " Munro House, " on lot?, con. 1, was another historic dwelling. It was
built in excellent style by Col. John Munro. Here also many prominent
individuals were entertained, among whom was a member of royalty, none
other than the Duke of Kent, father of our late beloved Queen. He remained
one night at the "Munro House." The presence of His Highness in Upper
Canada was an event of interest, and preparatory to his visit at Col. Munro's


special appartments were placed in readiness for the Royal guest and his

Many other ancient buildings and quaint and rare relics are laden with
memories rich in interest. The front of the county was especially favored
in that regard, and it is to be regretted that a museum was not established
here fifty years ago, or a historical society founded even now, to gather and
preserve these historic articles before they are lost forever or suffered to
decay for want of proper care.


Who, that in distant lands has chanc'd to roam,
Ne'er thrill'd with pleasure at the name of home ?



THE settlers of Dundas in "the old days" were surrounded by all the vicissi-
tudes of pioneer life. The land svas clad with the sturdy oak and pine, the
stalwart elm and ash, and trees of many other varieties, including our own
national tree, the stately maple.

The first task in connection with settlement was to clear sufficient space
for the erection of the rude dwelling, which was devoid of exterior adorn-
ment, yet happy was the settler when it was completed, for then he had a home.
The primitive shanties were all quite similar in architecture but of various
sizes, according to the number of members of family. Many of these struct-
ures were about 20x15 feet, one story, and some even smaller. The walls
were formed of logs, roughly notched at the ends, and piled one above another
to the height of seven or eight feet, while the spaces between the logs were
chinked and carefully plastered within and without with clay mortar. Open-
ings for a door and window were provided. Smooth, straight poles were laid
lengthwise on the walls to serve as supports for the roof, which, at first, was
thatched, but later was composed of strips of elm bark four or five feet in
length by two or three feet in width. These were placed in rows over-lapping
one another and fastened to the poles by withs. As successor to the bark roof
we find the trough or concave-convex roof, formed of pieces of basswood
split and hollowed, and when properly placed formed a covering which was
considered weather-proof.

We have said that openings for door and window were left. This was
easily arranged, but the difficulty arose in procuring material with which
to close the openings. The window, however, was small, and for a time was
covered until four glass panes, 7x9 inches, were put in. The absence of a door


was unpleasant. Perhaps for a time a blanket suspended from the inside
served the purpose until by the aid of the whip-saw enough lumber was
manufactured to make a door. An instance is related of an early settler of
Mountain township, afterwards prominent, whose coat served as a door for
some time.

The shanty chimney was indeed unique, made of rounded poles notched
at the ends, placed together and well plastered with mud (clay), which, when
dried, formed a fire-proof coating. Chimneys of rough stones soon came into
use; many of these still occupy a place in the houses which they both serve
and dominate.

The floor of rhe shanty was composed of logs split in two and flattened so
as to make a tolerably even surface. The whole interior constituted but a single
room, at the one end of which was the huge fire-place, constructed of
flat stones, with a fireback of field stones which was carried up as
high as the walls to the base of the chimney. Chairs and table were rudely
constructed by the aid of an axe. Holes were made in the walls and wooden pins
placed therein to accommodate the various articles of clothing, as well as
pans, etc. If the shanty was high enough the attic was made use of, and a
ladder in one corner provided means of ascent. Between the fire-place
and the angle made for the stairs the recess was used for storing hearth
utensils, commonly called the pot-hole.

At the end of the room distant from the fire-place were the beds. The bed-
steads as first constructed were attached to the wall, a sort of stationary
device. Following these we find the high, moveable bedsteads, the posts
towering towards the ceiling. Many of the older residents of to-day can
vividly picture those old time sleeping racks. The bed proper being a good
distance from the floor, sufficient space was secured underneath for the
children's crib (trundle bed) to be stowed away during the day. Hanging
about the base of the senior bed was a curtain . These beds were generally
good, but owing to their height some ingenuity was required in order to get
into them. The bunk came in as an article of utility, being useful as a seat by
day and a bed at night. Notwithstanding the improvised bedsteads what
sweet rest and solid comfort followed the close of the day in the home
of the early cottager. The following rhyme, recalled by a Matilda resident,
portrays the situation very well:

" With a three-legged stool and a table to match,
And the door of the shanty locked wi' a latch,

Some grog in the cupboard, some praties and male,
A cow and a pig, and that's worth a good dale . "

Cooking utensils then used would now be a curiosity. The long handled
frying-pan came in for special favor. Did the good housewife wish to prepare


pancakes or bacon? If so she used the long handled frying-pan, and to turn
the pancake with a toss without letting it fall into the fire was a feat requiting
some skill. The baking of bread formed an important part of the duties of
the manipulator of the pastry board. Various methods were employed,
earliest among which was the bake-kettle. In this large kettle, fitted
with a tight cover, was placed the huge lump of dough. The kettle was then
deposited in a hollow made in the ashes and over and about it were drawn the
live coals from the fire-place. Then the bread would bake. How delicious a
flavor it possessed when the cover was lifted and the large brown well baked
loaf removed! The bake-oven next came into use. Brick or stone was used
in its construction, stone more commonly; brick being used for that purpose
by the more well to do. The ovens were more commodious and the work
could be better executed than by means of the bake-kettle. The great batches
of bread, hop-yeast or salt-rising, and the wholesome and appetizing cakes
and pies were delicious, we are assured by many of the grandmothers of

The fire-place was an important factor in every home. By its aid was
performed the various styles of cooking and baking. To some of these we
have already referred. The large crane which looked down on the glowing
hearth could be swung to or from the fire. From the crane would be suspended
the great iron pot, or perchance, following the precedent of the red men, a
piece of meat was hung thereon to roast, to be served upon the return of the
weary bread-winner from his day's toil.

There were no matches in those early days, and hence fire was obtained in a
peculiar manner. Pieces of flint and steel properly manipulated produced the
original spark which quickly ignited a piece of punk or dried fungus usually
found in the hearts of decayed beech or maple trees. Often these fire
appliances were carried on the person of the settler. Then again the fire on
the hearth was hardly ever allowed to die out. Upon retiring some ashes
were pulled over the hardwood coals and these would remain alive all night.
This plan sometimes failed; and an old settler remarks that when he was a boy
he often had to crawl out of his warm bed and run through the frosty air for
quite a distance to fetch some live coals or " borrow fire," as we might term it,
from the house of a neighbor. Later, the introduction of thelucifer match was
welcomed. As a means of light the fireplace was also useful. The great
blaze rising from the antique hearth would light for some time the room
sufficiently for the members of the family to read or sew. Other means of
light were also available. Among these was numbered the cotton wick in
the saucer of oil or melted tallow, the protruding end of the wick being fired.
This primitive method was succeeded by the tallow candle. The big brass
candlestick with snuffers and tray was not only useful but ornamental


on the clean, white table. "Snuff the candle" was a common expression,
and with the absence of snuffers the fingers were dexteriously used,
although the plan required rapid action in order to get rid of the burning
wick. The grandmother of the home could perform this feat with deftness.
The candles at first were prepared by dipping the wicks in the hot tallow and
then allowing them to cool. The repetition of this practice would place consid-
erable body of tallow about the wick. These candles, which were sometimes
called dips, were the best, although the process of manufacture was tedious.
Later the candle mould came into use and the good housewife ever after-
wards had an ample supply. Still later the kerosene lamp displaced the
candle, and the dawn of the electric age has induced our villages to discard
even this latter luminant. And in a few years who knows but that the farm
houses will be lighted by electricity.

The regime of the fireplace at length closed. The earliest stoves we believe
were constructed of tin, and when a fire was placed therein would heat the
room very quickly. " The Yankee Notion " was one of the early cook stoves
in Dundas; many others are also mentioned. Interesting would one of these
now be great clumsy things, capable of consuming large quantities of fuel.

The wooden age, for such we might term the pioneer period, possessed many
interesting devices. Strips of moosewood bark were often used in hanging a
door and sometimes even that was abandoned and the door just set in place.
Those were not the days of robberies or other later day annoyances and
hence the locking of the shanty door was little thought of, and in most cases a
log rolled against the door from the inner side kept the inmates secure from
the attack of wolves and other animals which were the chief cause of alarm to
the inhabitants of the forest. The old wooden latch was, however, well
devised. It was lifted from the outside by means of a leather string which
passed through the door. The rap of the visitor gave rise to the trite saying,
" pull the string and walk in." To find the string on the latch, remarked an
aged Mountaineer, was indeed a happy discovery. At night the string was
pulled inside and thus the door was fastened while the inmates slept.

One of the greatest inconveniences of the early days was the absence of mills.
When the U. E. Loyalists settled along the front the British Government did
everything possible to assist them in overcoming the disadvantages then
existing. Boats were placed at their disposal so they might be accommodated
by taking their grist to Cornwall, but this, however, was a hard task, owing to
the turbulent waters of the Long Sault. Again the Government furnished
the settlers portable corn-mills. These were operated by hand like the
turning of a coffee-mill, but heavy was the labor and slow the progress.
Then, again, this was generally the work of the women, which re-
minded one of the Hebrew women of old of whom we have the touching


Scriptural allusions " Two women shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall
be taken and the other left." If the modest wives and maidens of to-day, in
preparing the family meal, will reflect on the time when the grinding of the
wheat or corn was a part of the duties of those early grandmothers, how
happy they should be with their present conveniences. Then they had not
the necessaries of life; now we have the luxuries. But our ancestors in vented
improvements along the line of wheat and corn grinding. Some of them
we will endeavor to describe. On a forked upright post well sunken into
the ground a long pole was balanced. To one end of the pole was attached
a block of wood so shaped and rounded as to fit into a hollow in a large stump
or wooden block. To the other end of the pole was attached a rope. The
corn being placed in the hollow block or stump and the pole being worked by
means of the rope, the descent of the upper block crushed the corn or wheat.
This method no doubt worked fairly well, but a simpler method inyolvlng the
same principle was to place the grain in the hollow of a hardwood stump, and
by means of a heavy wooden mallet, crush it by pounding.

The front settlers soon grew more accustomed to the river and they made
frequent trips to Cornwall and Gananoque. At times several parties together
would take forty or fifty bushels of wheat, with five or six men to work
the boats against the rapids. On their return they often brought other
food supplies. By hand-sleigh as well many trips were made to Cornwall and
Montreal. When the winter rations were found to be insufficient a trip was
made on the ice along the shore . The return of the cargo of provisions and
other family necessaries was an occasion of joy to the settler's family, to
whom necessaries were luxuries.

"Bees," as they were called, seemed to be necessary for the success of the
early settlers. Logging-bees, paring-bees, husking-bees and barn-raisings were
of frequent occurrence. The first of these was of great importance, as the
settler was anxious to increase his tillable acreage. During the autumn the
underbrush and saplings were cut away so as not to interfere with the wood-
man's axe or impede freedom of movement from place to place later With the
approach of winter the heavier work began. The great trees were now felled
and cut into logs from 12 to 16 feet in length. Some of the men became very
skillful at this work and at times considerable rivalry existed among the
choppers. Much skill could be displayed in felling the timber by causing as
many trees as possible to fall beside or over one another so as to form what
were called "plan heaps." The work so far could be accomplished by
individual effort, but to do the logging the farmer must invite his neigh-
bors. The response would be general. From all about would come the
settlers, many of them bringing their oxen, and the work of forming the
immense log-heaps was soon under way. As the logs were to be burned some


tact in arranging the piles was required so that they might burn freely.
Willing hands soon had the logs and brush piled . Great heaps of choice
timber were scattered over the area and after a good burn the clearing was
ready to receive the seed. The work which would have been impossible to
perform without neighborly aid was now completed. The happy owner was
delighted and loud cheers from the husky workers announced that their
gratuitous labors were ended.

The work having been completed the men repaired to the shanty near at
hand where the good housewife, assisted by some of her neighbor friends, had
prepared a sumptuous supper. After partaking freely at the family board
the evening was an occasion for mirth-making and a jolly good time, and
heartily enjoyed by everyone present; and if they didn't sing "He's a Jolly
Good Fellow, " they at least had an exalted opinion of their host. Often
the logging-bee was linked with the quilting-bee and the two known as a
double-bee, followed by the usual dance, which lasted until the "wee sma'
hours." Considerable sport characterized these occasions. When the men ar-
rived for supper it was customary that some luckless wight be caught and
tossed up and down in a quilt. At the close of the social evening each gang
or party bound for different settlements made a torch or flambeau by taking
dry cedar bark tied in a bundle after being pounded. This furnished good
light for hours and hence the fear of wolves fled.

Raisings or raising-bees were, however, not of so frequent occurrence; but,
on the other hand, required more skill. The construction of every log shanty
required the assistance of a number of men, while the putting up of log-barns
required a large number of willing workers. Often the methods employed
were very primitive. An instance is related of a Matilda pioneer whose barn,
36 x 24 feet, was insufficient to accommodate the season's crop. Accordingly
our friend determined to build an addition thirty feet in length at the end of
the log barn. The latter was unroofed and in order to connect the new
portion with the former structure pieces of timber sixty -six feet long were
secured as plates. From the wood near at hand these were secured, hauled
by oxen to the scene of operations, and drawn in position a short distance
from the building in anticipation of the raising which was soon to follow. In
these days of modern mechanical skill those large sticks of timber would be
dressed to proper shape before occupying a place in the building, but not so
then. At the raising, when the time arrived for placing the great stick, it
was hauled up to its place in the building by main force, several teams of
oxen also being employed in the work.

Soon the log barn was succeeded by a frame structure and invitations

Online LibraryJ. Smyth CarterThe story of Dundas, being a history of the County of Dundas from 1784 to 1904 → online text (page 4 of 40)