We received the following
interesting reminiscence of other days in this county from a former resident
of North Fredericksburgh, in his younger days, who went to the far west of
the Province, when a young man, many years ago, where he became prominent and
successful. His name is yet familiar to many of our old readers, and it is
only by special request that he consents to allow his name published.
To the Editor of the Beaver:
It has fallen to my lot to
read a few of the late numbers of your excellent paper which has given me
very great pleasure. The "Old Time Records" conducted by Mr. Thomas
W. Casey, have been of great interest to me. I was born in the Bay of Quinte
country in the year last but two of the highest digits of the third decade of
the nineteenth century. The place of my birth was back in the woods of Tyendinaga, on the concession a long which the Grand
Trunk Railway now skirts part of a mile south. I came west in the year last
but one of the fifth decade of the last century, when in my twenty-second
year. It is quite natural that "old time records" of the old Bay of
Quinte country, should have greater interest to me than to persons who know
it in only a geographical and historical sense. It was the place of my birth
and childhood, and of three brothers and six sisters, all but two of whom
have passed to the great beyond.
Many of the people named
by Mr. Casey I have frequently seen and remember well. I remember well the
late Allen McPherson and his son Donald, and have often been in their store
and mill. But I was under the impression that the mill belonged to the late
John S. Cartwright, uncle, I believe, of the present Sir Richard Cartwright.
Many of the names of
places mentioned in your paper are new to me and I have difficulty to locate
them. The name "Morven" I cannot recollect. If Gordanier's
tavern, mentioned by Mr. Casey, is the tavern I remember by that name, just a
few miles south-east of Napanee, on the old Kingston road, I can locate it. I
gather that Morven is at that point.
I remember well when the
road between Napanee and Kingston was Macadamized - it must be well on to
seventy years ago. Palace road, Gosport, Moscow, Fairview, Mountain Vale,
Gretna, Canaan, Erinsville, Bellrock,
Odessa and many others, though very pretty manes, were not familiar in the
Bay of Quinte country fifty years ago. Nelson Doller,
mentioned by Mr. Casey, as a venerable townsman and justice of the peace, I
remember very well. I have assisted at his grain threshings
many times when he ran an open cylinder machine. There were no great
separators then driven by steam engines, having straw carriers to deposit the
straw on stacks at almost any height, as we have here in the west, and I suppose
you have also in your district, and which, no doubt, Mr. Doller
had before he retired from the grain threshing business. I have a distinct
recollection of the raising of the frame, and the building of the red mill in
Napanee, which took the place of the old mill Mr. Casey describes as McPherson's. It was not raised by making a great bee as I
had always seen barns raised, but with derricks, pulleys, and windlass, which
was a method then new to me.
I remember Mr. Thomas W.
Casey when he was a boy, perhaps 12 or 13 years old, and his excellent
father, the late Mr. Willet W. Casey, and his fine farm, comprising what was
known 50 or 60 years ago, as Casey's Point, in Adolphustown. It had the
reputation of being, if I mistake not, one of the finest wheat and clover
producing farms anywhere in the Bay of Quinte country.
I worked for Mr. Thomas
Casey's father a few weeks in the early part of one harvest season when I was
15 or 16 years old. I think I must be a few years the senior of Mr. Thomas W.
I was put first to hoeing potatoes alone in a field in the southeast part of
the farm adjoining the German farm. The rows of potatoes had been ploughed
between one way, and the ground was pretty weedy, particularly full of
thistles. I had not then learned to slight my work, and thought that every
thistle and weed of any kind must be hoed up, and the potatoes nicely hilled
up. Working on these principles I made slow progress in getting over the
ground and worked very hard fearing I would be found fault with for doing so
little. After a day or two I was asked every time I came in how I was
progressing, and had to confess that I had gotten over but a small portion of
the field. I could see that Mr. Casey's patience was growing short, and I
grew anxious in proportion, and worked even harder. One day he came out to
the field bringing a hoe with him, and hoed with me for an hour or two,
praised my work for quality but not quantity, and sent a man to help me, and
then I got a lesson on slighting potato hoeing. It was a lonely experience I
had in that back field, nearly surrounded by woods at that time. One day I
looked over into the woods and saw a fox lying asleep on an old log. I wished
for a gun, but in vain, left reynard to enjoy his
siesta undisturbed and continued my hoeing.
I was next set to helping
haul in hay, and Thomas W. to watching the gaps with his grammar in his hand.
He had to be kept out of school and that he might not fall behind in his
class, his father required him to study his grammar while watching the gaps.
He seemed to enjoy his job and I thought he had a fine time. One day when I
passed him he seemed humorous and talkative and asked me somewhat
tantalizingly if I would not like to be in his place sitting in the shade of
the fence studying grammar. I had learned, without a master a few definitions
and rules and had gone over some examples in parsing, according to Lindley
Murray, but they were without meaning to me. Master Thos. W.'s little banter
stuck to me and some years after I became acquainted with a young man who
could parse, and apply the definitions and rules in a way that convinced me
there was something in the study of grammar that I had not got hold of, and I
determined to know it. This is the way I learned. I had no teacher, and was too
poor to go to school. These were the days before the Rev. Dr. Ryerson had
developed his school system to the degree of perfection that made it the
glory of Upper Canada, alias Ontario. There were few schools then, and many
of these few were intermittent, and the teachers without normal training.
One fall when I was about 18 or
19 I was sent to the Napanee mill with a grist. I had been told of a Mr.
Essen, as near as I can remember to spell the name, a druggist, who had the
reputation of being a good grammarian. I went to him and asked him if he knew
a grammar that would assist a boy to teach himself? He said, "Yes,
Kirkham's." I took a bushel of wheat I had brought to the mill, sold it,
bought Kirkham's grammar, took it home, studied it every hour I could snatch
from work, or sleep, often by very imperfect light from the fire in the old
Dutch chimney, followed minutely the directions of the author, and by Spring
I had Kirkham's grammar practically by heart, and knew that I understood it,
could analyze, parse, correct and make false syntax with the best of the boys
and men too. My greatest difficulty, however, has been to learn to avoid
making false syntax. I had the vernacular of the Bay of Quinte Dutch to
unlearn, get rid of, and replace with good English, but began late.
I studied mathematics in
the same way. I mastered four books of geometry according to Legendre and
knew that I knew them, before I ever saw or heard any person demonstrate a
proposition. I learned arithmetic and algebra also in the same way. There is
a field on the shore of the Bay of Quinte where the plough turns the soil
down to the limestone rock. I have ploughed and harrowed that field many
times. When the team became tired - and sometimes not very tired - I would
pick up a smooth flat piece of limestone and a smaller sharp-angled piece,
and work propositions in arithmetic, algebra or geometry. Many a flat stone
in that field has been so used.
I remember the late John
Strachan, Superintendent of schools for the Midland District, to whom Mr.
Casey refers in The Beaver of the 5th inst. I passed an examination before
him in 1847 or 1848, and received his certificate of qualification to teach
school; I never taught under it however. I think I must have that certificate
somewhere among old papers but am not able to lay hands on it just now.
I want to refer further to
the late Mr. Willet W. Casey, Thomas W's father, and my first employer. I
thought him a most kind, amiable and noble man. In the most hurried season
all hands were called in regularly for family worship. I got impression from
him of much good. He was also a Methodist class-leader.
If permitted I may say
that since I hoed potatoes for Mr. Casey's father I have farmed, lumbered,
taught school, owned and edited a newspaper, served the Dominion Government
in a responsible position some fifteen years, and am now "retired".
- I do not like to say "superannuated" - on a starvation allowance.
I have raised a family of five boys and three girls, have given them all a
Collegiate and some a University education. They are all grown up; some are
married and all are doing fairly well, but scattered from New York to various
parts of the Dominion of Canada.
If you have time, space
and disposition to publish these rambling, disjointed and I fear too
egotistical remarks you are at liberty to do so.
[written below a copy of this
article is "A. Dingman Stratford, April 23