Failures, setbacks part of pioneer life

 In Opinion

The Smith saga continues, copied from the writings of Bert Smith, former editor and owner of The Creemore Star.

Although this is the story of one local pioneer family it is also the story of many of our families. It is the story of challenges and successes and failures in spite of unrelenting hard work.

This account now starts in the years of the 1870s. Grandfather Charles was doing very well during the seventies. His older brother who lived on the east 50 acres was not a successful farmer. He sold his property to Grandfather. The next progressive step was to buy a threshing machine and a sweep horsepower. He had previously purchased a Reaper to cut the grain. Another requisite was a large sugar kettle. This made possible the family making their own sugar and syrup in quantity. In the late seventies Grandfather had his three eldest sons going out doing custom threshing for neighbours. The charge for the machine was $10 a day, which included wages for the three young men.

The railroad was built in 1878. It followed the Mad River Valley up from Creemore. The station called Glen Huron was built on Grandfather’s farm on the flats. The newly built railroad put the Smith family on the front street. Grandfather could now load his wheat on cars close to home instead of having to haul it to Stayner.

The eighties and nineties was a period of hard times. However life for the Smiths moved on. There were many farmers who failed and lost everything. A Mr. Scott had a 100-acre farm across the road. He got into financial trouble in 1891 and my father purchased the farm but had to assume a substantial mortgage.

I was four years old when Grandfather died on October 5, 1898. I remember him well. He had a long beard. Evidently appendicitis caused his death but the doctors knew little about this malady at that date. He had just passed his 60th birthday.

His death was naturally a great shock to his wife and family and also to his aged mother. 

Fortunately he left a will. His property was divided among the family. Charles was given his mother’s half of the house and also to provide her with necessities of life as long as he lived.

When the railroad came through Grandfather requested a post office. Here was the set up. Grandfather had given the station site of five acres to the railroad company for one dollar. 

The company in turn agreed to survey a village site on the property beside the station. The survey was made with streets and lots staked out. It was duly registered as Smithville. Grandfather was to get any returns he could by selling lots. Then when he applied for a post office, the postal authorities reported there was already a post office named Smithville in Lincoln County. The station was Glen Huron, the place was legally Smithville and the post office was Smithdale.

There was a little boom around Smithdale during the building of the railroad. A hotel, store, blacksmith shop and two or three homes were built but gradually all but about six homes disappeared.

Grandfather was the postmaster until his death, when my father, David, succeeded to the title. The actual handling of the mail was sublet. The income was insignificant, not more than one hundred dollars a year which included carrying the mail twice daily to the trains.

Helen Blackburn is a retired teacher, avid gardener and a long-time contributor to the Creemore Echo. She writes about local history.

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