Lanark Society Settlers Letter Number 4

Lanark Society Settlers Letter Number 4

Perth Courier, March 17, 1893

Signed by “Pioneer”

About the year 1825 or 1826 as all calves were kept, steers of two or three years old were yoked up and trained to work.  But farm implements, however, were of a very rude construction.  Our harrow was just a forked tree, the two limbs cut off about six feet from the crotch; 8 or 10 two inch holes were bored in the logs and good hardwood limbs were driven into them leaving them about six inches long on the down side.  The steers drew them back and forward with a chain hitched around the point and in this way, with help of a hoe, a very good job was made.  Our sleighs were altogether made of wood and likewise our carts; the wheels were just two blocks cut off a tree with a hole made in the center for the wheel.  But although our implements were of a very inferior kind, still they were a great improvement on the old way when we had to carry everything on our backs.  Having now got the means of moving things a little with the oxen, the idea was started to make potash four or five neighbors joining together for the purchase of the kettles, and coolers.  The merchants were very willing to furnish the same on the condition that they got the potash until the indebtedness was paid.  In this way potash making became of the order of the day all around.  This was a great relief to the settlers as it brought in a little money which enabled the men to stay at home and clear off the farm for although the profits were very small, a barrel of 300 pounds long weight seldom brought more than $20 after paying all costs which at that time amounted to $8 per (unreadable word) to take it to Montreal—still, it was a great relief.

About this time the idea was to set aside a day for the celebration of St. Andrew’s Day—the patron saint of Scotland in order to keep in remembrance our contact with the home of our fathers.  It became a grand gathering of the sons and daughters of Scotland who met on the day appointed, had a grand dance and afterwards some speeches were made, songs were sung and at last it wound up with a dance in the Scottish fashion to the great satisfaction of all present.  The meeting was very large, quite a number came from Perth and from the townships all around and all were pleased with the evening’s entertainment.

The meetings were kept up for two or three years but upon more sober reflection it was decided to start a public library.  A meeting was arranged, and a committee selected; subscription papers were handed around, subscribers were to pay each $1 entry money and to donate to the library any book that he might so wish in order to make a start.  It was also suggested that as the township was called after the Earl of Dalhousie’s estate in Scotland, he be kindly requested to act as the patron of the library in Dalhousie.  The Earl was very proud of the honor conferred upon him and at once sent a very large consignment of books for the library which together with other donations and of what the committee was able to purchase made quite a respectable collection.  It was well patronized for many a year and was the means of diffusing much general information but for various causes it has of late years been allowed to go into decay, the chief being removed by death and emigration of nearly all those who took an active part in its formation.

The only minister of the Gospel in those days was the late Rev. Dr. Gemmell of Lanark who having studied in both the medical and divinity departments was both doctor and preacher in Dalhousie for many a year.  As there were no roads or conveyances in Dalhousie the gentleman had to just travel on foot to meet his appointments over very bad roads sometimes preaching in log houses and sometimes in school houses after they were erected.  At length after St. Andrew’s hall was erected this became his principal preaching station.  He was a man possessed of fine moral qualities and gave good sound moral instruction to the people and prayed most fervently for the King and all the Royal family and likewise for the speedy downfall of the Turk and Antichrist.  However, the Turk still lives with the help of Great Britain especially when the Russian bear begins to growl.  He was likewise very moderate in regards to his charges and as far as I know had no definite salary but a subscription was taken up for him every winter, some giving a bushel of wheat and everyone giving him a little of what they could spare which was thankfully received.  I have been told he received a small annual grant from a fund in the old country for the propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts.  Altogether on account of his joint professions of doctor and preacher he was well respected and was the means of doing much in those days.

About the year 1827 as the time for our payment of indebtedness to the British government was drawing nigh and after the people were anxious to obtain the franchise (to vote) which at that time was conferred on free holders, the idea was started of calling a meeting in the different townships to discuss the matter and at these meetings it was resolved to draw up a petition and for it to be signed by all interested setting forth our true condition and requesting the British government to cancel our indebtedness and grant us our deed.  The petition was duly signed and forwarded to the British government, the receipt of which was formerly acknowledged and the statement made that they would take the matter into their most serious consideration.  After a long delay, a commission was appointed by the government to examine the land and also to report the substance of which was that it was altogether a mistake to sent out so many emigrants into such a rough, backward country without roads and with very little money and they recommended that the debt be cancelled and the settlers be given their deeds.

There was no further action taken in the matter by the settlers and about two years before the great Cameron and Powell elections the deeds were issued to the settlers.  It was a terrible fight.  The Tories took possession of the polling booths and would not let the Reformers poll a vote but by the third or fourth day they became exhausted and as the Reformers continued to push in from the north and record their votes for Cameron the fight was soon decided and Cameron was elected by a handsome majority.  This was the first vote that your correspondent ever gave and I can assure you that if there was ever any doubt in my mind as to which party I should belong to it was forever dispelled on that occasion.  If the Reformers had not kept back and just let the drunken savages fight it out amongst themselves I have no doubt they would have been alright.