We extract the following interesting particulars of the settlement of the Bay of Quinte, by the U.E. Loyalists, from an address delivered at Kingston, September 20 1849, by H. Ruttan, Esq., President of the Agricultural Association of Upper Canada.
I am myself one of the eldest born of this country, after its settlement by the Loyalists, and well remember the time when, as Bishop Berkely observes, a man might be the owner of ten thousand acres of land in America and want sufficient means to buy himself a breakfast! One-half of the land on the Bay of Quinte, the garden of Canada, could, within my remembrance, have been purchased for £5 a two hundred acre lot, and many a one has been sold for a half Joe. All this cannot be matter of wonder, when I tell you that a great scarcity of provisions prevailed for two or three years consecutively, in consequence of failures in the crops, and what brought on the famine, or "scarce year," (about the year 1790, if I am not mistaken) was the almost entire destruction of the deer by the wolves for two consecutive years. The snow lay upon the ground from December until April, at the depth of four to five feet. In the month of February of the last of these years, a near relative of mine sent all the way to Albany in the State of New York, a distance of more than 200 miles, for four bushels of Indian corn! And this was brought all that distance by two men on snow shoes! It took them about eight weeks to accomplish this journey, and during this time about one-third of the quantity was necessarily consumed by the men; the residue of this precious cargo - pounded up in a mortar made of a maple stump, with the winter-green berry and mucilaginous roots, latterly boiled with a little milk - constituted the principle food for two families, consisting of seven souls, for the space of four or five months! It was remarked, I have heard some of the oldest of the settlers assert, that the usual supply of fish even had failed. The few cattle and horses which the settlers, at great cost and trouble, had collected, were killed for food. The faithful dog was, in several instances, sacrificed to supply that food which he had so often been the means of furnishing to his then kind, but now starving master. The famine this year was general throughout the Bay of Quinte; and such was the distress that, during this winter, several persons died from starvation. In the Hay Bay settlement, one of the most heart-rending occurrences took place. Some time during the month of April, the husband and father was found buried in the snow, which lay upon the ground at an average depth of five feet, whilst within the shanty was exhibited the awful spectacle of the dying mother pressing to her bosom her dead infant, still in the position of attempting to gain that sustenance which its mother had for some time been unable any longer to afford it!
Here then was a state which one would think might appal the stoutest heart, and might, without subjecting this little band of heroes to the charge of a want of affection for the crown, have driven the remnant of them to seek, at the very earliest opportunity, an asylum from death, even amongst their implacable and cruel enemies. This it was in their power to have done the following year. Did they do so? No! these exiles - these emaciated and worn-out loyalists - preferred death, even though it came in the ghastly from of famine, to the fraternization with rebels to their king. Loyalty, with our forefathers, consisted of something more than a name. They did not stop even to weigh their lives with the crime of treason, much less did they calculate upon pecuniary advantages. Whilst the rebels had added robbery and murder to the crime of treason, these faithful and devoted subjects of the crown, although suffering in body, could lie down in their bark-covered shanties and upon their beds of straw and boughs, with a conscience void of offence, and in the enjoyment of that peace and tranquility, which was a result of the performance of their duty - no less to God than to their King; whilst the traitors to their sovereign were revelling in the possession of the small properties from which they had been driven, but which must have been ashes in the mouths, and bitterness in the throats of these unhallowed fratricides.
The traitor to his Sovereign, at all times, no doubt, makes every effort to reconcile his conduct with his duty, and must, in self-defence, seek out reason for justification; but alas! how weak must be all reflections against the cries of a justly alarmed conscience, which can never be quieted either by flattery or false arguments.
Providence now, about the year 1791, and about seven years after their first settlement, began to smile upon the arrangements of this small band of heroes. The winters began to assume a somewhat milder aspect - the wolves in their turn became a prey to the famine which by their own devastation amongst the deer, they had caused. The Indians who, about this time began to be very troublesome - keeping the settlers in a constant state of alarm, and at every opportunity carrying off their cattle, were, either through some new treaty or otherwise, so propitiated by the government, that the settlers from this time began gradually to increase, though for some years but slowly, and generally to improve in their circumstances.
The social history of the old United Empire Loyalists of the Bay of Quinte, from their embarkation at New York in 1783, down to about the year 1820, when their political history commences, and which was the death knell to the state of real happiness and enjoyment upon which they were just entering, would form a curious as well as interesting episode in the history of Canada; but as I have already perhaps somewhat exceeded my license upon the present occasion and trespassed upon your attention, I will pass on to those matters which more immediately concerned their agriculture.
Amongst the many liberal provisions, besides their allotments of land, which were made by that paternal Monarch Geo. III of imperishable memory, to the U.E. Loyalists, I well recollect the old English plough. It consisted of a small iron socket whose point entered by means of a dove-tailed aperture, in to the heel of the coulter which formed the principal part of the plough, and was in shape similar to the letter L, the shank of which went through the wooden beam, and the foot formed the point which was sharpened for operation. One handle and a plank split from the side of a winding block of timber, which did duty for a mould-board, completed the implement. Besides provisions for a year, I think each family had issued to them a plough share and coulter, a sett of drag-teeth, a log chain, an axe, a saw, a hammer, a bill-book and a grabbing hoe, a pair of land irons, and a cross-cut saw amongst several families, and a few other articles.
The trace ropes, leading lines, halters, bed-cords &c., when they had arrived at that state of luxury which required bed-cords - were manufactured from the bark of the elm and basswood trees, which was peeled off in the spring of the year and water-rotted similar to flax, in order to separate the fibre from the rind. This material when properly prepared forms a strong, useful and cheap rope, and might at this day be manufactured and used with advantage, for most domestic and farm purposes. Many a day I recollect having assisted my father in his rustic rope-walk. The clevises and clevis pins as well as the drag teeth, when the old ones were worn out or lost, were frequently made of the hickory timber which, when I was a boy, abounded about the Bay of Quinte.
About the year 1808, the "hog-plough" made its appearance. This was an importation, and about the first from the United States. This plough was considered a wonderful invention. It consisted of a full iron share forming the front or rising part of the mould-board, all cast in one piece, also an invention from the United States, but which we then began to manufacture ourselves, and it was indeed the first implement of any consequence to farmers, which we did manufacture within the Province.
During all this period from 1783, with the exception of the "scarce year", the people lived happily and contentedly. Here and there a school would be started, to which the young men in winter would travel upon snow shoes for several miles. One winter's schooling was considered quite sufficient, and if a lad did not learn to write upon a half a quire of paper including his pot-hooks and hangers, he was considered a dunce.
As it respected religion, the loyalists were all Protestants, of the descendant of the old Huguenot families who had originally colonized a considerable part of the Province of New Jersey, of which class were all my own immediate relations as well as a great number of the other loyalists - most of them were brought up in the faith of the Church of England. There were a few of the descendants from the Puritan stock, and a few who had been brought up under the teaching of Wesley and Whitfield. Old Dr. Stuart, the father our venerable and much beloved Arch Deacon of Kingston, settled in this City which was then a little French village called Cataroque, and taking advantage of his missionary labours amongst the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, he instructed the inhabitants generally in the mode of husbandry, with which he had been familiar on the Mohawk River in the Province of New York. The itinerant system of Methodism, however, very soon brought the great bulk of the settlers into that form of worship; and the labours of the early Methodist missionaries produced fruits throughout the Province, but especially on the Bay of Quinte, which are to this day manifest in the orderly walk and character of the people.
As it regards our mode of living, our food was coarse but wholesome. With the exception of three or four pounds of green tea a year for a family, which cost three bushels wheat per pound, we raised every thing we ate. We manufactured our own clothes, and purchased nothing, except now and then a black silk handkerchief or some trifling article of foreign manufacture of the kind. We lived simply, yet comfortably - envied no one, for no one was better off than his neighbour. Until within the last thirty years, one hundred bushels of wheat, at 2s. 6d. per bushel, was quite sufficient to give in exchange for all the articles of foreign manufacture consumed by a large family. We had no money except the old-fashioned Joe and Spanish milled dollar; we needed none. We were not rich, but we were emphatically a prosperous people; perfect contentment reigned throughout the land.
But now came pride. History is full of instruction as to the evils always attendant upon the introduction of wealth and pride into a poor country. After the late war, great numbers of the officers and other old-country gentlemen remained here. These having been accustomed to live like gentlemen in the old country, very naturally continued their old habits and customs in Canada; and making purchase an dispersing themselves throughout the various districts, the whole population has from that time to the present imbibed a propensity to extravagance in living, which has led to our present commercial embarrassment. The old-fashioned home-made cloth has given way to the fine broadcloth coat; the linsey -woolsey dresses of females have disappeared, and English and French silks substituted; the nice clean-scoured floors of the farmers' houses have been covered by Brussels carpets; the spinning-wheel and loom have been superseded by the piano; and in shore, a complete revolution in all our domestic habits and manners has taken place - the consequences of which are, the accumulation of an enormous debt upon our shoulders, and its natural concomitant, political strife; for who has ever heard of an embarrassed community being a peaceable one? The old aphorism "when poverty come in at the door, love flies out at the window," has as much force in our social constitution as in our domestic concerns.