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- Life in Canada Fifty Years Ago - 1/31 -


LIFE IN CANADA FIFTY YEARS AGO:

PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS AND REMINISCENCES OF A SEXAGENARIAN.

BY CANNIFF HAIGHT

"Ah, happy years! Once more who would not be a boy?"

_Childe Harold's Pilgrimage._

TO THE YOUNG MEN OF CANADA,

UPON WHOSE INTEGRITY AND ENERGY OF CHARACTER THE FUTURE OF THIS GREAT HERITAGE OF OURS RESTS,

THIS BOOK IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED BY THE AUTHOR.

PREFACE.

When a man poses before the world--even the Canadian world--in the _role_ of an author, he is expected to step up to the footlights, and explain his purpose in presenting himself before the public in that capacity.

The thoughts of the world are sown broadcast, very much as the seed falls from the sweep of the husbandman's hand. It drops here and there, in good ground and in stony places. Its future depends upon its vitality. Many a fair seed has fallen on rich soil, and never reached maturity. Many another has shot up luxuriantly, but in a short time has been choked by brambles. Other seeds have been cast out with the chaff upon the dung heap, and after various mutations, have come in contact with a clod of earth, through which they have sent their roots, and have finally grown into thrifty plants. A thought thrown out on the world, if it possesses vital force, never dies. How much is remembered of the work of our greatest men? Only a sentence here and there; and many a man whose name will go down through all the ages, owes it to the truth or the vital force of the thought embedded in a few brief lines.

I have very little to say respecting the volume here with presented to the public. The principal contents appeared a short time ago in the _Canadian Monthly_ and the _Canadian Methodist Magazine_. They were written at a time when my way seemed hedged around with insurmountable difficulties, and when almost anything that could afford me a temporary respite from the mental anxieties that weighed me down, not only during the day, but into the long hours of the night, would have been welcomed. Like most unfortunates, I met Mr. Worldly Wiseman from day to day. I always found him ready to point out the way I should go and what I should do, but I have no recollection that he ever got the breadth of a hair beyond that. One evening I took up my pen and began jotting down a few memories of my boyhood. I think we are all fond of taking retrospective glances, and more particularly when life's pathway trends towards the end. The relief I found while thus engaged was very soothing, and for the time I got altogether away from the present, and lived over again many a joyous hour. After a time I had accumulated a good deal of matter, such as it was, but the thought of publication had not then entered my mind. One day, while in conversation with Dr. Withrow, I mentioned what I had done, and he expressed a desire to see what I had written. The papers were sent him, and in a short time he returned them with a note expressing the pleasure the perusal of them had afforded him, and advising me to submit them to the _Canadian Monthly_ for publication. Sometime afterwards I followed his advice. The portion of the papers that appeared in the last-named periodical were favourably received, and I was much gratified not only by that, but from private letters afterwards received from different parts of the Dominion, conveying expressions of commendation which I had certainly never anticipated. This is as much as need be said about the origin and first publication of the papers which make up the principal part of this volume. I do not deem it necessary to give any reasons for putting them in book form; but I may say this: the whole has been carefully revised, and in its present shape I hope will meet with a hearty welcome from a large number of Canadians.

In conclusion, I wish to express my thanks to the Hon. J.C. Aikins, Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, for information he procured for me at the time of publication, and particularly to J.C. Dent, Esq., to whom I am greatly indebted for many useful hints.

CONTENTS.

DEDICATION

PREFACE

CHAPTER I.

The prose and poetry of pioneer life in the backwoods--The log house-- Sugar making--An omen of good luck--My Quaker grandparents--The old home--Winter evenings at the fireside--Rural hospitality--Aristocracy _versus_ Democracy--School days--Debating societies in the olden time--A rural orator clinches the nail--Cider, sweet and otherwise-- Husking in the barn--Hog killing and sausage making--Full cloth and corduroy--Winter work and winter amusements--A Canadian skating song.

CHAPTER II.

The round of pioneer life--Game--Night fishing--More details about sugar-making--Sugaring-off--Taking a hand at the old churn--Sheep- washing--Country girls, then and now--Substance and Shadow--"Old Gray" and his eccentricities--Harvest--My early emulation of Peter Paul Rubens--Meeting-houses--Elia on Quaker meetings--Variegated autumn landscapes--Logging and quilting bees--Evening fun--The touching lay of the young woman who sat down to sleep.

CHAPTER III.

Progress, material and social--Fondness of the young for dancing-- Magisterial nuptials--The charivari--Goon-hunting--Catching a tartar-- Wild pigeons--The old Dutch houses--Delights of summer and winter contrasted--Stilled voices.

CHAPTER IV.

The early settlers in Upper Canada--Prosperity, national and individual-- The old homes, without and within--Candle-making--Superstitions and omens--The death-watch--Old almanacs--Bees--The divining rod--The U. E. Loyalists--Their sufferings and heroism--An old and a new price list-- Primitive horologes--A jaunt in one of the conventional "carriages" of olden times--Then and now--A note of warning

CHAPTER V.

Jefferson's definition of "Liberty"--How it was acted upon--The Canadian renaissance--Burning political questions in Canada half a century ago-- Locomotion--Mrs. Jameson on Canadian stagecoaches--Batteaux and Durham boats

CHAPTER VI.

Road-making--Weller's line of stages and steamboats--My trip from Hamilton to Niagara--Schools and colleges--Pioneer Methodist Preachers-- Solemnization of matrimony--Literature and libraries--Early newspapers-- Primitive editorial articles

CHAPTER VII.

Banks--Insurance--Marine--Telegraph companies--Administration of Justice--Milling and manufactures--Rapid increase of population in cities and towns--Excerpts from Andrew Picken

SKETCHES OF EARLY HISTORY:--

Early schools and schoolmasters--Birth of the American Republic--Love of country--Adventures of a U.E. Loyalist family ninety years ago--The wilds of Upper Canada--Hay bay--Hardships of pioneer life--Growth of population--Division of the Canadian Provinces--Fort Frontenac--The "dark days"--Celestial fireworks--Early steam navigation in Canada--The country merchant Progress--The Hare and the Tortoise

RANDOM RECOLLECTIONS EARLY DAYS

Paternal memories--A visit to the home of my boyhood--The old Quaker meeting-house--Flashes of silence--The old burying ground--"To the memory of Eliza"--Ghostly experiences--Hiving the Bees--Encounter with a bear--Giving "the mitten"--A "boundary question"--Song of the bullfrog-- Ring--Sagacity of animals--Training-days--Picturesque scenery on the Bay of Quinte--John A. Macdonald--A perilous journey--Aunt Jane and Willet Casey

CHAPTER I.

"I talk of dreams, For you and I are past our dancing days." --_Romeo and Juliet_.

THE PROSE AND POETRY OF PIONEER LIFE IN THE BACKWOODS--THE LOG HOUSE-- SUGAR MAKING--AN OMEN OF GOOD LUCK--MY QUAKER GRANDPARENTS--THE OLD HOME--WINTER EVENINGS AT THE FIRESIDE--RURAL HOSPITALITY--ARISTOCRACY versus DEMOCRACY--SCHOOL DAYS--DEBATING SOCIETIES IN THE OLDEN TIME--A RURAL ORATOR CLINCHES THE NAIL--CIDER, SWEET AND OTHERWISE--HUSKING IN THE BARN--HOG KILLING AND SAUSAGE MAKING--FULL CLOTH AND CORDUROY-- WINTER WORK AND WINTER AMUSEMENTS--A CANADIAN SKATING SONG.

I was born in the County of ----, Upper Canada, on the 4th day of June, in the early part of this present century. I have no recollection of my


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