from The Guide October 18, 1877
In returning again to our pioneers, we find them, at this early period of their sojourn, assuming a degree of comparative
independence as they become settled on the allotments of their choice and presenting the gratifying progress of contentment.
Among them in their new and isolated situation, being shut out as it were from all connection with civilisation, having no
surroundings except the Rice Lake on the north and Lake Ontario on the south (which were at this time of no avail) but the
dense forestland, where there was no indication that the solitude had ever been broken by civilised man, or the silence or
monotony of the primeval state of the forest having been disturbed save by the drumming of the partridge on the trunks of
the fallen trees in the spring-time reason when nature was beginning to be clothed with its natural verdure, the war-whoop
of the hostile Indian or the more appalling and terrific howl of the savage and hungry wolves in the depth of winter. Yet with
this seemingly unpropitious prospect before them, our stout-hearted pioneers faltered not but steadily persevered in their
laborious undertakings, being supported by their prevision, which must have been a strong intuitive feature in their character,
giving them a confident assurance of the future regard awaiting them, buoying then up in their determination to endure the
privations of the pioneer life, which must enkindle a glow of rapturous gratitude in all who are now enjoying the comforts
resulting from those indomitable efforts of their predecessors.
Could we here present our readers with a photographic view of our determined settlers, preparing their little clearances for the
reception of seed with their a drag (an implement used in place of a plough, of which they were not in
possession. It was composed of a crotched stick with wooden teeth, as iron
ones were not accessible); now engaged in the harvest field reaping their
grain; now threshing their wheat in the open air with the primitive flail
and now winnowing it with the fan (an instrument made with ash boards in the shape of a
half circle with a radius of nearly two feet, having a rim of the same material
bent round the circle about 6 inches wide, with holes cut out at each
side for handles to hold, resembling a large grain scoop. These they held in front of
them and shaking them when well filled with grain, the chaff was freed from the grain and fell to the ground) it would present a rural
scene in its most primitive aspect. But this is not within our reach, therefore our readers can only accompany us in imagination
while describing the onward course of our colonists to their final triumphs
over the primeval forest.
It is well known to our readers that Upper Canada was principally settled at first by those determined and conscientious
men, the UE Loyalists, who, on account of their loyalty and constant adherence to the
British Government had their property confiscated, many of whom were thus rendered destitute of the
necessaries of life. Our pioneers, the Messrs Smith and Harris, belonged to this
Mr Smith, though not reduced to penury as too many of these sanguine men
were, as he sold his fine property situated in Hartland about four miles north of
the City of New York, in the early part of the rebellion for seven thousand
pounds (£7,000), yet was probably one of the greatest sufferers in a pecuniary point of view
among his fellow refugees, his valuable property in the city, which we recollect
was estimated nearly 40 years ago to be worth more than a million of
dollars, being consequently confiscated.
Mr Harris, however, seems to have been persecuted with the utmost severity by
his too enthusiastic fellow colonists because he would not take up arms against Great Britain,
as he and his party were confident that by earnest constitutional importunity, the Imperial
Government would eventually redress all their real grievances without
their plunging into the fearful devastation attendant on a civil war.
Not only was his real estate confiscated but all his goods and chattels,
and himself and family were banished from their native home almost
penniless. He owned an excellent farm of 200 acres of land in one of the finest agricultural districts in the State of New York, being situated in
Oswego, his native township, Duchess County, about 16 miles east of Poughkeepsie, the market town, where he and his family were enjoying all the comforts which are the sure
vested concomitants of industry, frugality and a well regulated rural
life. But all these were sacrificed.
Not the least prominent among those belonging to our little settlement was
Mr John Burns, the millwright, who was sent from Montreal, as we previously
stated, to finish the saw and grist mills of Mr Elias Smith. He met with a serious accident which at one time threatened to
prove fatal and alarmed his friends, with whom he was held in marked respect on account of his urbanity and usefulness
as a mechanic. There being no physician in the settlement, true to her tradition, the
neighbouring matron leaves her domestic cares and hastens to tender her aid in the
healing art, -
'Unfed, the calls or nature she obeys
Nor led by profit, nor allured by praise.'
And happily such generous services proved successful in restoring him to
The circumstances pertaining to this accident were as follows. - In connection with the millwright
work is that of the blacksmith and consequently that important implement of
utility, the bellows, could not be dispensed with, and there being no sawmill nearer than the Bay of
Quinte, a pine tree had to be cut down to procure the necessary material for its construction by splitting the log when cut to the proper length, the pieces having to be hewed to the requisite
thickness. In the act of this process, Mr Burns cut one of his feet seriously, which was attended with the fearful forebodings related
above. The large and noble pine, from which the boards were thus procured to construct the
first blacksmith bellows that was manufactured between the Bay of Quinte and Niagara (if not the first in
Lower Canada) stood in all its majestic glory near the residence of Edward
Dodd, Esq, situated on what is now Cavan Street.
Mr Burns, better known by the appellation Captain Burns, located on the
farm on the Danforth Road (now the Toronto Road) six miles west of Port Hope, at present owned by
Mr John Agar, on which he erected a sawmill, being among the first in
the Township and where he remained until his death.