Tales of our early settlers, Part 3
The accounts that follow came to life in the early 1900s through interviews, obituaries and stories arising from 50th wedding anniversaries.
In a Creemore Star interview called Fireside Chats (1916) James Carleton told of his trip from Markham Township to Nottawasaga in 1853 arriving by a team of horses and a sleigh. This meant that the roads must have been accessible to a team of horses. According to A History of Simcoe County, “A construction of leading roads through the wilderness was a matter of common concern to settlers and they found it was necessary for the people to apply to the Legislative Assembly for every bridge and road they required.” Nottawasaga was not organized until 1850. At this time statutory labour was required by each landowner for several days each year. Still, these facts do not explain how the roads were cleared enough for travel. We can just surmise the settlers took the initiative to do the work themselves.
Now, to continue the account of James Carlton’s trip to the Creemore area, “Old William McCutcheon, David’s father, had taken a load of hogs to Toronto, and, of course, was coming home, with an empty sleigh. So he drove out to Carletons and took one load. It took three days, as the weather was so cold and they had some small children to keep warm. Finally they passed through Creemore and up the fourth line to their future home on the sixth.” During the Fireside Chats interview Mr. Carleton “could hardly keep to his chair as he lived over again that three-day struggle. We took the wrong road at Holland Landing… The hill was a fright. The sleigh upset and Mother was thrown out with the whole load of stuff. By the second night we reached Jimmy Jack’s. He had a wayside stopping place which gave fire and food to travellers. That was in the vicinity of Everett. We came by the Hogback Road skipping Casey’s Hill.” The interviewer commented on the picturesque language Mr. Carleton used in describing the road.
Another story of a long and difficult trip comes from the obituary of William Anderson of Lavender (1909). “He was a native of Lincolnshire, England and came to this country when he was about eight years of age… He first settled near Toronto where he remained for a number of years and was married. Having saved some $900 he invested the greater part of it in the farm at Lavender which he had not seen and then was in its primeval state with the exception of two or three acres which had been chopped and a small shanty thereon. With his young family and two young children he set out from Trenton with his horse and wagon and some provisions to cover the two hundred miles to the place which was to be his home for the rest of his natural life.
“Patiently they plodded along, and in due course, arrived at the farm old William Millie (Fifth Line) where they put up, as it was impossible to go further with the horse and wagon. Next morning Mr. Anderson set out on foot and made his way to his farm. Arriving there and taking leave of the situation the prospect did not look very promising and on returning to Mr. Millie’s he suggested to his wife that they throw up the whole business and go back to where they came from. Mrs. Anderson, however, was not so easily daunted, and persuaded him to stay with the game. After making a road with his axe sufficient to get his horse through, the young people got to their shanty and commenced pioneer life in earnest.”
Women burdened down with child care, providing food, clothing and a home also had a part in clearing the land. Brush had to be cleared and roots grubbed out. Children were required to work as well. When asked about his first job James Carleton remarked, “I was just thirteen years of age. But I was shown how to underbrush and to cut the small trees down in windrows. I think I was underbrushing all summer,” and he laughed thinking how proud he was of being a forester.
Helen Blackburn is a retired teacher, avid gardener and a long-time contributor to The Creemore Echo. She writes about local history.