from The Guide August 30, 1877
The interest taken in the reminiscences of Toronto by the Rev Dr Scadding, and those of Belleville,
'Forty Years Ago', by the Hon Billa Flint, impressed the writer with the idea that reminiscences of Port Hope would not be uninteresting, and induced
him to undertake the task which he feels to be imperfectly performed in the following articles. His first intention was to confine himself to the
recollections of Port Hope as he found it in 1826; but a consultation with a friend on the subject convinced him that the coupling of those of the
earliest settlement of the town and the township of Hope, with his own experience, would enhance its interest, and with this suggestion he has
endeavoured to comply.
He therefore hopes that his unostentatious attempt to lay before his young readers a few of the incidents that
transpired in the first settlement of this part of the country, and the hardships the first pioneers had to encounter in their arduous undertaking
will in some manner be instructive and interesting, and, if this his aim is accomplished in the least degree, he will be sufficiently remunerated for
He is indebted for the following facts to his respected townsman, Myndert Harris, Esq, who with his parents settled here when
this country was in its primeval state, there being no settlement between Belleville and the head of Lake Ontario.
Mr Harris is the third
son of the late Myndert Harris, Esq, one of the American refugees (United Empire Loyalists) who left the Colonies of America, now the United States,
immediately after the revolution, like many others sacrificing comfortable homes and valuable properties for conscience sake, and settled in Annapolis,
Nova Scotia, where our townsman was born. He removed to Digby, where he resided a few years, and in 1793, two years after the House of Commons passed
the Act of Separation erecting Upper Canada into a Province, he and his family were accompanied by Mr L Johnson, a Pennsylvanian, and family, in their
removal from Digby to Canada, via New York.
Leaving New York, they sailed up the North (Hudson) River to Albany where they hired waggons to
convey them to Schenectady. At this latter point they purchased four boats and rowed up the Mohawk river to Fort Stanix, now Rome, thence crossing a
portage of two miles to Wood Creek, to Oneida Lake, thence to Oswego, from which point they coasted along the southern shore of Lake Ontario to Newark,
now Niagara, then the capital of the Province, and arrived when the second session of the First Provincial Parliament was sitting. The Newark Spectator,
the first newspaper in Upper Canada, was published here at this time. They were kindly received, every attention paid and information given them by that
excellent man - Governor Simcoe - the first Governor of the Province.
After resting here a fortnight, His Excellency ordered Captain Jonathan
Walton to take them under his charge in a gunboat to Smith's Creek. They were accompanied by Messrs Nathaniel Ashford, father of the late Mr John Ashford
and grandfather of the present Mr James Ashford who still resides on the old farmstead, with his family; and that of Mr James Stevens and some surveyors
who came to survey the township. Mr Stevens himself, together with his hired man and Mr Peter Harris, brother of our townsman, started, previous to the
departure of the boat from Newark, to drive his cattle round the head of the Lake to their destination. They were obliged to swim the cattle across the
streams which they encountered and to work their own passage by seizing hold of the tails of the hindermost bovines and clinging thereto until safely
landed on the opposite bank.
When the gunboat came opposite what is now Port Darlington, some of those on board went ashore under the impression
that they had reached Smith's Creek, but upon discovering their mistake, they resumed their journey and came to an anchor opposite where Port Hope now
stands, on the 8th of June. On the same day our pioneers were landed, the men carrying their wives and children ashore through the foaming surf that
surged upon the beach. Here they found a Mr Herchimere, an Indian trader, successor to one Peter Smith (no relative to J D Smith) from whom the place
took its name.
They found the place a regular Indian village, thickly studded with wigwams and bearing the name Cochingomink. The Indians
were so startled by the unexpected approach of the palefaces that they upbraided the latter and denounced them as Yankee intruders. However, when Mr
Herchimere explained that they were not Yankees but children of the Great Father, the King of England, the red men became appeased and welcomed the
strangers cordially. The party reposed for the night under their tents and in the morning began the erection of log huts thatched with bark, on the
east side of the creek nearly opposite the site of the present grist mill. They named the place the 'Flats' a designation which it retained for a
length of time. The creek abounded with salmon of the finest description and the woods with deer, pigeons, partridges and other varieties of game
which supplied the tables of the pioneers with dishes of the rarest kind. Their chief anxiety was to obtain a supply of flour, to procure which
they had to coast with the only boat retained by them to the settlement of Kingston, the nearest point at which flour was available. In the meantime
the surveyors had been busy. Commencing at the eastern boundary of the township near the 'Flats', they had surveyed about one-half of the township
when they were taken sick and obliged to leave, but their places were supplied the following year by others who completed the work.
months after the arrival of our pioneers, Mr Almus Peek settled on the Rice farm on the Lake shore, and the following spring Mr Frull, father of
Captain Frull, well known to many of the present day, settled on the farm now owned by Daniel Brand, Esq. Mr Harris located on Lot No 3, 1st
Concession; Mr Ashford on lot No 1; Mr Johnson on Lot No 1, 2nd Concession; and Mr Stevens on Lot No 2. They immediately commenced clearing their
farms. In the fall Mr Herchimere removed to Rice Lake where he opened a store for the purpose of trading with the Indians, making a present to Mr
Harris of his former house and store, a commodious log building, standing where Mr Helm's machine shop and foundry now stand.
food for wintering his cattle, Mr Harris cut the grass growing on the island in the creek, upon the spot where the new harbour and the ground
intervening between it and the old harbour now are. At first Mr Hee was obliged to carry his goods to Rice lake through the woods on horseback
but in the following winter, Mr Harris constructed a cart the wheels of which were not bound with iron. It was, however, an improved kind of
vehicle for those days. After a time he made another pair of wheels which rejoiced in tires made of iron procured from Montreal, and the result
was the first waggon ever seen in Port Hope. It is a pity that this vehicle, together with some of the agricultural implements have not been
preserved in order that they might be compared with some of the neoterical improvements of the present day. They would be relics indeed. It
would, however, be a work of supererogation to draw upon the imagination to institute a comparison. When we consider the facilities of the present
day, which art and science have rendered to every relation of man and the difficulties that surrounded these first settlers in prosecuting, unaided
by such facilities, the arduous and honourable task which they had voluntarily assumed, our admiration of their patience and assiduity is wonderfully
increased and we are persuaded that but few could be found in this present day of speculation and inordinate greed of gain to imitate their example
or rival their achievements.
In the fall of l794 the settlers had succeeded in raising some wheat and in the winter a party started in
sleds of their own manufacture, with their first 'grist' to be ground at a mill then newly erected at Belleville by Mr Myers. They had to traverse
the pathless forest where no white men had ever before left the imprint of their footsteps, and to encounter many difficulties and perils by the way,
but undaunted by these, they proceeded on their Journey rejoicing, sustained by that indomitable courage which never failed, reached their destination,
transacted their business and returned in safety.
Now that we have followed them so far and traced then from their time of starting to the
period at which the earth began to yield to them its fruits, we shall leave them. The results of their labours are visible on every hand in the shape
of fruitful fields where once the 'lords of the forest warred' and in the creation of a country of which every Canadian may be proud, in the room of
a howling wilderness.
The Government had granted to Elias Smith, Esq, father of the late John D Smith, Esq, 600 acres of land, comprising
lots Nos 5, 6 and 7, on which Port Hope is situated, with all the water privileges for a mile up the creek, and a chain of land on each side from the
centre of the stream, on condition that he erected a grist and saw mill for the accommodation of the inhabitants. In the spring of 1795, Mr Smith
sent his son Peter, accompanied by millwrights and labourers, to commence work in getting out timber and cutting a raceway. They began some distance
upstream and worked along the east side - in order to preserve the salmon with which it abounded - to a point a little south of the viaduct, where
they erected the mills. Captain John Burns, favourably known to many of our present residents, was the master millwright, under whose superintendence
the structures were completed. Not being sufficiently numerous to raise the frame, word was sent to Colborne for help and Mr Joseph Keeler came up
in a boat with a gang of men to their assistance and the frames were raised. Sickness prevailing among the men, the works on the raceway were
abandoned for the season. In the following spring a fresh set of men arrived and finished the raceway. But it proved a failure, the freezing of the
water bursting it in so many places, rendering it useless and it was abandoned. In the spring of 1798 or 1799, the mills were moved by a man from
the United States for $1000 to where the present grist mill stands; the saw mill adjoining the grist mill on the north side.
It will not
be uninteresting in conclusion to notice the first birth, death and marriage that took place in the settlement.
Mr Ashford, the first of
the settlers, died in 1795.
Simion, son of James Stevens, was the first child born.
The first marriage was that of Margaret,
daughter of Mr Harris, to Elias Jones, Esq, Clerk of the Crown. The marriage was performed by Squire Bleecher[?], who stopped on his way to Little
York, in compliance with the request of those concerned in the interesting event.