List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

very remarkable natural curiosity, called "The Stone Mills." On the
summit of a table-land, rising abruptly several hundred feet above
the shore of the bay, there is a lake of considerable size and very
great depth, and which apparently receives a very inadequate supply
from the elevated land on which it is situated. The lake has no
natural outlet, and the common opinion is that it is unfathomable,
and that it is supplied with water by means of a subterranean
communication with Lake Huron, or some other lake at the same level.
This is, of course, extremely improbable, but there can be no doubt
of its great depth, and that it cannot be supplied from the Bay of
Quinte, so far beneath its level. As a small rivulet runs into this
lake from the flat ground in its vicinity, and as the soil of this
remarkable excavation, however it may have been originally formed,
is tenacious, I think we require no such improbable theory to
account for its existence. Availing himself of the convenient
position of this lake, a farmer in the neighbourhood erected a mill,
which gives its name to the lake, on the shore of the Bay of Quinte,
and which he supplied with water by making a deep cutting from the
lake to the edge of the precipice, from whence it is conveyed in
troughs to the mill.

There is a somewhat similar lake in the township of Sidney in the
county of Hastings, covering some hundred acres. This lake is also
of great depth, though situated on the summit of a range of high
hills, from whence it gets the name of the "Oak Hill Pond."

The Bay of Quinte abounds in excellent fish of various kinds,
affording excellent sport to those who are fond of fishing. When the
ice breaks up in the spring, immense shoals of pickerel commence
running up the Moira river, at Belleville, to spawn in the interior.
At that time a number of young men amuse themselves with spearing
them, standing on the flat rocks at the end of the bridge which
crosses the river They dart their spears into the rushing waters at
hap-hazard in the darkness, bringing up a large fish at every second
or third stroke. My eldest son, a youth of fifteen, sometimes caught
so many fish in this manner in two or three hours, that we had to
send a large wheelbarrow to fetch them home. Formerly, before so
many mills were erected, the fish swarmed in incredible numbers in
all our rivers and lakes.

In the back-woods there is excellent deer-hunting, and parties are
often formed for this purpose by the young men, who bring home whole
waggon-loads of venison.

While speaking of Belleville, I may mention, as one of its chief
advantages, the long period for which the sleighing continues in
this part of the country, when compared with other places on the
shore of Lake Ontario. Nearly the whole winter there is excellent
sleighing on the Bay of Quinte; and on the land we have weeks of
good sleighing for days in most other places. This is owing to the
influence of a large sheet of frozen water interposed between us
and Lake Ontario, which is never frozen.

The county of Prince Edward is a peninsula connected with the main
land by a narrow isthmus of low swampy land about four miles wide.
Through this neck of land it has long been in contemplation to cut
a canal to enable the lake steam-boats to take Belleville in their
route between Kingston and Toronto, thus affording a safe navigation
in stormy weather. The effect of such a work on the prosperity of
the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward would be very great, as
European emigrants would have an opportunity of seeing a country
which has hitherto escaped their notice, from the causes already

Besides the usual variety of churches, there is a grammar-school,
and also four large common schools, which latter are free schools,
being supported by assessments on the people of the town.

Every Saturday, which is the great day for business from the
country, the streets are crowded with farmers' waggons or sleighs,
with their wives and pretty daughters, who come in to make their
little purchases of silk gowns and ribbons, and to sell their butter
and eggs, which are the peculiar perquisites for the females in this
country. The counties of Hastings and Prince Edward are celebrated
for female beauty, and nowhere can you see people in the same class
more becomingly attired. At the same time there is nothing rustic
about them, except genuine good nature and unaffected simplicity
of manners. To judge by their light elastic step and rosy smiling
countenances, no people on earth seem to enjoy a greater share of
health and contentment.

Since the establishment of the county municipal councils, plank and
macadamised roads have branched out in all directions from the
various central county towns, stretching their ramifications like
the veins of the human body, conveying nourishment and prosperity
throughout the country, increasing the trade and the travel,
connecting man with man and promoting intelligence and civilisation;
while the magnetic telegraph, now traversing the whole length of
the country, like the nervous system, still further stimulates the
inhabitants to increased activity.

The people of this county have not been behind their neighbours in
these improvements. The first plank-road which they constructed was
from Belleville to Canniff's Mills, a distance of three miles over
a road which at the time was often knee-deep in mud, with a solid
foundation of flat limestone rock, which prevented the escape of the
water. So infamous was this road, that, on some parts of it, it was
a matter of serious doubt whether a boat or waggon would be the
better mode of conveyance. Notwithstanding the badness of this road,
it was the greatest thoroughfare in the county, as it was the
only approach to a number of mills situated on the river, and to
Belleville, from the back country. It was, however, with the utmost
difficulty that the warden could induce the other members of the
county-council to sanction the construction of a plank-road at the
expense of the county; so little was then known in Canada of the
effects of such works.

The profits yielded by this road are unusually large, amounting,
it is said, to seventy or eighty per cent. This extraordinary
success encouraged the people to undertake other lines, by means
of joint-stock companies formed among the farmers. All these
plank-roads are highly remunerative, averaging, it is stated,
fourteen per cent. over and above all expenses of repair. More than
thirty miles of plank-road is already constructed in the county.
In a few years plank or gravel roads will be extended through every
part of the country, and they will be most available as feeders to
the great line of railway which will very soon be constructed
through the entire length of the province, and which has been
already commenced at Toronto and Hamilton. A single track plank-road
costs from 375 to 425 pounds per mile, according to the value of the
land to be purchased, or other local causes. The cost of a gravel
road, laid twelve feet wide and nine inches deep, and twenty-two
feet from out to out, is from 250 to 325 pounds, and it is much more
lasting, and more easily repaired than a plank-road. Macadamised or
gravel roads will no doubt entirely supersede the others.

In the present circumstances of the colony, however, plank-roads
will be preferred, because they are more quickly constructed, and
with less immediate outlay of money in the payment of labourer's
wages, as our numerous saw-mills enable the farmers to get their
own logs sawed, and they thus pay the greater portion of their
instalments on the stock taken in the roads. In fact, by making
arrangements with the proprietors of saw-mills they can generally
manage to get several months' credit, so that they will receive the
first dividends from the road before they will be required to pay
any money. The mode of making these roads is exceedingly simple.

The space required for the road is first levelled, ditched, and
drained, and then pieces of scantling, five or six inches square,
are laid longitudinally on each side, at the proper distance for
a road-way twelve feet wide, and with the ends of each piece sawn
off diagonally, so as to rest on the end of the next piece, which
is similarly prepared, to prevent the road from settling down
unequally. The pieces of scantling thus connected are simply bedded
firmly in the ground, which is levelled up to their upper edges.
Pine planks, three inches thick, are then laid across with their
ends resting on the scantling. The planks are closely wedged
together like the flooring of a house, and secured here and there by
strong wooden pins, driven into auger-holes bored through the planks
into the scantling. The common way is to lay the plank-flooring
at right angles with the scantling, but a much better way has
been adopted in the county of Hastings. The planks are here laid
diagonally, which of course requires that they should be cut several
feet longer. This ensures greater durability, as the shoes of the
horses cut up the planks much more when the grain of the wood
corresponds in direction with their sharp edges. When a double track
is required, three longitudinal courses of scantling are used, and
the ends of the planks meet on the centre one. Very few, if any,
iron nails are generally used.

The great advantage of a plank-road is the large load it enables the
horses to draw. Whilst on a common road a farmer can only carry
twenty-five bushels of wheat in his waggon, a plank-road will enable
him to carry forty or fifty bushels of the same grain with a pair of
horses. The principal disadvantage of the plank-roads is, that they
are found by experience to be injurious to horses, particularly when
they are driven quickly on them. They are best adapted for a large
load drawn at a slow pace. I shall not attempt to describe the
country in the neighbourhood of Belleville, or the more northern
parts of the county. It will suffice to observe, that the country
is generally much varied in its surface, and beautiful, and the soil
is generally excellent. Within the last ten or twelve years the
whole country has been studded with good substantial stone or
brick houses, or good white painted frame houses, even for thirty
miles back, and the farms are well fenced and cultivated, showing
undeniable signs of comfort and independence. Streams and water
are abundant, and there are several thriving villages and hamlets
scattered through the county,--the village of Canniff's Mills,
three miles from Belleville, and soon destined to form a part of it,
alone containing a population of about a thousand.

In describing the progress of this county, I may be understood as
describing that of most other counties in the Upper Province; the
progress of all of them being rapid, though varying according to
the advantages of situation or from causes already alluded to.

From what has been said, the reader will perceive that the present
condition of Canada generally is exceedingly prosperous, and when
the resources of the country are fully developed by the railroads
now in progress of construction, and by the influx of capital and
population from Europe, no rational person can doubt that it will
ultimately be as prosperous and opulent as any country in the world,
ancient or modern.

It may be said, "should we not then be hopeful and contented with
our situation and prospects." And so the people are in the main, and
the shrewd capitalists of England think so, or they would not be so
ready to invest their money in our public works. But some deduction
from this general state of contentment and confidence must be
made for those little discontents and grumblings created by the
misrepresentations of certain disappointed politicians and ambitious
men of all parties, who expect to gain popularity by becoming
grievance-mongers. Much has been done, and a great deal still
remains to be done in the way of reform, here as elsewhere. But
there never was any just cause or motive in that insane cry for
"annexation" to the United States, which was raised some years ago,
and by the tories, too, of all people in the world! The "annexation"
mania can now only be regarded as indicative of the last expiring
struggle of a domineering party--it would not be correct to call
it a political party--which had so long obstructed the progress of
Canada by its selfish and monopolising spirit, when it found that
its reign had ceased for ever.

Great sacrifices have been, and will be made, by men of loyalty and
principle in support of institutions, which are justly dear to every
Briton and to every freeman; but this feeling necessarily has its
limits along the mass of mankind; and the loyalty of a people must
be supported by reason and justice. They should have good reason
to believe that their institutions are more conducive to happiness
and prosperity than those of all other countries. Without this
conviction, loyalty in a people who have by any means been deprived
of the power of correcting the abuses of their government, would be
hardly rational. Canadians now have that power to its full extent.
Why, then, should we not be loyal to the constitution of our country
which has stood the test of ages, purifying itself and developing
its native energies as a vigorous constitution outgrows disease
in the human frame. The government of Canada is practically more
republican than that of the mother country and nearly as republican
as that of the United States. Our government is also notoriously
much less expensive. Our public officers are also, practically, much
more responsible to the people, though indirectly, because they are
appointed by a Colonial Ministry who are elected by the people, and
whose popularity depends in a great degree on the selections they
make and upon their watchfulness over their conduct.

The government of the United States is not a cheap government,
because all officers being elective by the people, the responsibility
of the selections to office is divided and weakened. Moreover, the
change or prospect of the electors being the elected inclines them
to put up with abuses and defalcations which would be considered
intolerable under another form of government. The British Government
now holds the best security for the continued loyalty of the people
of Canada, in their increasing prosperity. To Great Britain they
are bound by the strongest ties of duty and interest; and nothing
but the basest ingratitude or absolute infatuation can ever tempt
them to transfer their allegiance to another country.

I shall conclude this chapter with a few verses written two years
ago, and which were suggested by an indignant feeling at the cold
manner with which the National Anthem was received by some persons
who used to be loud in their professions of loyalty on former public
occasions. Happily, this wayward and pettish, I will not call it
disloyal spirit, has passed away, and most of the "Annexationists"
are now heartily ashamed of their conduct.


  God save the Queen. The time has been
  When these charmed words, or said or sung,

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: