District East of Pickford Was Unbroken Wilderness 62 Years Ago, History Shows
BY MRS. H. A. SMITH
Fairview was founded "with an axe".
The late Rener and William Best asked the late Fred Ball how the settlers founded Fairview and, "with an axe" was the answer. This reply was entirely true as it was unbroken wilderness 62 years ago when the first settlers staked out their homestead claims after trying to find good claims nearer the Sault. Some of the settlers were direct from Ireland, some had been in Canada only a few years. Some were born there and some of them were born in the Eastern United States.
Among the first settlers to come were Mrs. Joe Dodds and sons, Joe and William. Joe took up land in Stirlingville, later moving to Virginia. Mrs. Dodds and William claimed 160 acres there and one-half miles east of Pickford and part of it belongs to the William Dodds estate still.
Next came Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Kelly and family and Mrs. Kelly's mother. Mr. Kelly's father had been a sergeant in the Kings Guards in England and his son Joseph had the distinction of being baptized in Westminster Abbey. The Kelly family in 1878 claimed the land five miles east which is still owned by Edward Kelly, the oldest son, on what is known as Kelly Corner. A year later the Richard McConkey family moved in and claimed the land owned now by William Hart. The original home, built to replace the first shanty in which the McConkeys lived, is now owned by Mrs. D.P. Aldrich, one of the McConkey daughters, who was a mere child at the time the family came here.
About the same time, the families of Mr. and Mrs. James Cochran, Mrs. and Mrs. John Flood and sons, Mr. and Mrs. John Brindley and family, Joseph Barton family, Mrs. Ames and son Thomas, Mrs. Campbell and son, John, Mr. and Mrs. Robert O'Brien, Mrs. and Mrs. Gray and family and further Charles Tripp family and the Richard Hewer family.
In the course of the next four years the young married folks began filing homestead claims or buying from those who had decided to try some other place. Among the new farm owners were Mr. and Mrs. Peter Nalley and son, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Crawford and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Hall and son, Mr. and Mrs. James Hall, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Campbell, Mr. and Mrs. James Stevenson, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Ames and daughter, and Mr. and Mrs. Jack Stevenson being among the younger settlers. The settlement was nearly self supporting.
The first homes were log shanties. In some cases not a board of lumber was used, it being impossible to transfer lumber even if it was available. Land was cleared for gardens and as much as could be for such grains as would be needed for fowl and stock in case the boat didn't get through to Stirlingville with enough to go around. Furniture, stoves and such comforts as the settlers were able to carry to their homes were there but much of their belongings had to be stored at the Sault until means of transportation on the home end became better. Oxen were the beasts of burden.
James Cochran, the blacksmith set up his forge in a little log building at his gate and kept his neighborhood ox teams in trace chains, made sleighs and all articles required in the farming line such as scythes and grain cradles. Mr. Cochran was in demand in winter lumber camps and rarely spent a week of the camp season at home.
Richard McConkey was a carpenter and was away a good deal of the building season as was his son Charles, who was a mason in partnership with Peter Nalley, also a mason.
The land contained heavy maple and other hard wood, and swamp land of hemlock and cedar. It was hard to clear and as the log would be sold to the big lumber companies doing business in the county, a good deal of the winter was taken up hauling the saleable timber to Mud Lake where it was piled on the ice to be rafted away in the spring. In summer hay had to be cut on the lake marshes to haul home when the winter log hauling was going to the lake, as not enough feed was yet raised to furnish the roughage supply for cows, sheep and oxen.
Spinning of the wool for the year around foot wear needs of the entire family must be gotten out of the way in winter with as much of the knitting as possible, straw prepared and braid made for the family supply of hats. Troughs and spiles were made ready for the spring sugar and syrup making.
Roads led from door to door. Thus each settler with occasion to go across the settlement called and visited each family, carrying messages of cheer and news--sometimes sad news.
A minister from the Sault came through the wilderness a couple of times during the summer season christening the children, holding prayer service in each home and carrying messages on to other neighborhoods, letters to mail back to friends in the old home and often prescribing for illness in some famly where some new ailment had made its appearance.
All were cheerful. Often when the winter made travel possible, with the ox teams, whole families would pile into the sleigh (jumper) and drive to another neighbor's and spend the night visiting until late, then getting away early to feed the stock at home.
About 1887, the settlers decided they needed a school and a delegation was appointed to see about a state grant of funds. The settlers got out the logs and prepared them for building. Shingles were hand made for the roof and real brick was used to build the chimney. The building's one room was white-washed inside and out and was furnished with desks and benches in the style used in the rural schools in Canada. The teacher's desk is in my possession now and is nailed together with hand made square nails. It was built by Richard McConkey. The school opened in the spring of 1887 or 88 with Milton Hembroff of the Sault as the first teacher. The school was known as District No. 19 and I can find no authentic explanation of why it was called Fairview--only that it was the name of the school.
About 1891 the Charles Hall family sold their farm to G.W. sims of Barbeau and moved to the Sault. The James Hall family moved to Virginia. The Rober Crawford family moved to Pickford and the Sims family still occupy the Hall farm and are now the oldest settlers here. But Mrs. James Chocran is the oldest of the first homesteaders of 60 years ago. A number who were children moving here with their parents are living in various parts of the nation and in Chippewa. Edward Flood now of Stalwart is the last one left of his family who were among the first to settle here. After the school was built the minister stationed at Pickford made regular calls in summer and in winter a traveling minister usually held meetings from 2 to 4 weeks.