BRANT COUNTY, ONTARIO TOWNSHIP HISTORIES
South Dumfries Township
These Brant County, Ontario township histories have been transcribed by Bill Bowman from Warner and Beers History of Brant County 1883. They are being posted as Bill completes them. A big thank you to Bill for his hard work!
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SOUTH DUMFRIES TOWNSHIP
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The northern division of the county of brant is named after the birthplace of the Hon. Wm. Dickson, who was the first to lay it out as a settlement. It consists of 46,459 acres, the south-western part of which is an almost unbroken plain of great fertility, the rest being undulating ground of hill and valley, the remains of extinct water-courses. It is bounded on the north by North Dumfries Township, in the County of Waterloo; on the south by the Township of Brantford; on the east by the Township of Beverley, Wentworth County; and on the west by the township of Blenheim, Oxford County.
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Prior to its grant by the British Government to the Six Nations Indians, all this tract of country was an untrodden wilderness. There seems to be good evidence that the Algonquin or Huron Indians made their camp amid the oak woods of South Dumfries at a period anterior to the history of civilized America; for in several places in this township stone weapons and implements have been found which, from their superior workman ship, must undoubtedly be assigned to a date prior to the introduction of iron by the french traders of the sixteenth century. But no trace has been left by these prehistoric hunters and warriors beyond the heap of human bones and the stone knives and arrow heads which are still dug up by farmers of "The Plains." The true history of Dumfries begins with its cession as part of the munificent grant bestowed on the Iroquois Indians under Colonel Brant in 1796. In the duel of two centuries between France and England for the possession of North America, France had chosen the losing side. The first arquebuse fired by Samuel De Champlain against the Iroquois foes of his Algonquin allies, began a vendetta in which the last energies of the last effort of Indian civilization were staked on the side of the English-speaking race. The powerful confederacy of the Romans of the New World not only held the French colonial advance in check, but gave material support to the British cause both against the french and the revolted colonies. Among the last chiefs of independent Indian warfare the most conspicuous figure is that of the Iroquois Chief Thayendanegea. Gifted by nature with all the bodily prowess, all the hunter's and warrior's sagacity that made him by right Divine a king among savages, Thayendanegea had reaped by education the full benefit of the white man's civilization. He had passed several years at a good school, could compose with ease, and was no novice at oratory. He had learned to estimate aright the great power which Christianity and civilization had given the white men; he had visited England, and the glitter of military services, the pomp of cathedral worship, and the splendour of George the third's Court, had made an indelible impression on the mind of the Iroquois chief. It was his main object through life to assimilate, as far as might be possible, among his own people the institutions which made England great. All through the Revolutionary War Thayendanegea and his people sided with the servants of the English king. The noble spirits in the english Parliament felt with Chatham that their country was degraded by their alliance with the Iroquois' scalping knife; but war is war, and the Indian did his bloody work well. When the war closed with victory for the new-born Republic, the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, comprising the Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Tuscarora and Onondaga tribes, finding that they could not expect a peaceful settlement among the Americans, against whom they had been carrying on all the atrocities of savage warfare, applied to the British authorities for a grant of land in Canada. Their petition was generously and promptly responded to.
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Under the leadership of Thayendanegea, who now assumed the English name of colonel Joseph Brant, the Six Nations of the Iroquois crossed over into Canada. One tribe of the Mohawks was settled on the shore of the bay of Quinte, where their chief's name designates a station on the grand trunk Railway, and where the Mohawk wolf, carved in stone, overlooks the doorway of the beautiful church built by command of an english king for their benefit. Another settlement was on the fertile and well-wooded banks of the River Thames. But the largest of all the Indian Reserves was that of the Grand River. From its source to its outlet, and six miles on either side, was the munificent grant of the British Government to its savage allies. The Indians used this territory chiefly as hunting grounds; their chief camp was a place three miles south of the present town of Brantford, where a village of wigwams was erected and a few fields of maize and corn were under permanent cultivation. There, too, their chief, the Moses of their migration to the promised land, had built them a church for the worship of the white man's God. It was the first "church" built in what is now Upper Canada, and is still an object of interest, together with the grave of the brave savage whose blood-stained hand helped to build it. The church dates from 1786. The hunting grounds so ceded to the Iroquois were some of the best provided in Canada with fish, game and fresh water. For thirty years the Iroquois hunters roamed at will over what is now Brantford and Dumfries; where now every acre, cultivated by elaborate machinery fills the farmer's treasure-house with the finest wheat in the world, the half naked and painted savage subsisted on the flesh of bear or deer, trapping the wild creatures that abounded in the primeval forest for the profit that their peltry would bring in the markets of York or Newark. In the fall they would make an expedition up the river in quest of the various fur-bearing animals; in the spring they would return down its course, laden with the various trophies of the chase. These expeditions continued to be made till within living memory. Long after the pioneer's axe had cleared the oak groves of the plains of South Dumfries, the older generation of settlers remember the Indian camp amid a belt of wood to the north-west of the river. The Indians would soon have forfeited their title to their lands if it had not been for the provident care of the Government, which restrained them from the sale of their reserves. But Thayendanegea, in February, 1798, obtained from the government permission to sell part of the grand river Reserve, and acting as had been arranged by their representative, sold to Philip Stedman, of the Niagara District, that part of the reserve known as Block Number One, consisting of 94,305 acres. This, by a special Act of the Upper Canadian Legislature, became henceforth known as the township of Dumfries. Mr. Stedman agreed to pay to the Indians the sum of 8,841 pounds.
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At the same time Colonel Brant, being fully empowered for the purpose both by his people and by the english Government, sold several other tracts of land from the Grand River Reserve. In February, 1798, a deed, drawn up in the name of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, formally surrendered all interest in the following possessions: Block Number One, now forming the two townships of North and South Dumfries, containing fully 94,305 acres, was sold to Mr. Philip Stedman for 8,841 pounds; Block Number Two was sold to Richard Beasley, James Wilson and john B. Rosseau, for 8,887 pounds; Block Number Three was sold to William Wallace, comprising 86,078 acres, for the sum of 16,864 pounds; Block Number Four, no purchaser or price named, 28,512 acres; Block Number five was sold to William Jarvis, 30,800 acres; Block Number Six, given originally to John Dockstader, was by him sold, for the benefit of his Indian children, to Benjamin Canby, 19,000 acres, for 5,000 pounds. Total, 352,700 acres at a cost of 44,867 pounds.
But as fee simple of those Indian lands were held by the Crown, considerable delay took place before the transaction could be completed. A petition was formally addressed to King George III, praying him to issue Letters Patent to convey the lands named in the purchase deed to Philip Stedman. This was granted, and a Crown Patent was duly issued, which declared that Stedman had given security to the Hon. David William Smith, Captain William Clause, and Alexander Stewart, Esq., trustees for the Indians, for the payment of the principal or its yearly interest. But it does not appear that Stedman made any effort to secure his vast possessions. Indeed, they formed but a part of a vast wilderness, the haunt of wild beasts and still wilder men. When Upper Canada, in 1792, was first separated from the Province of Quebec, its entire population was estimated at 20,000 souls, most of whom were centred at Kingston, the Bay of Quinte, Niagara and the Valley of the Thames. Toronto had just been founded on the muddy banks of the Don by Governor Simcoe; the pioneer axe had not yet felled the first tree on the site of the towns and cities of to-day. A few years after obtaining the patent from the Crown, Stedman died intestate. This interest in Block Number One of the Grand river Reserve was thus inherited by his sister, Mrs. John Sparkman, of Niagara, by whom it was soon afterwards sold to the Hon. Thomas Clarke, of Stamford, in the County of Lincoln. It appears that Stedman had not paid any of the purchase money originally agreed on, as we find Mr. Clarke executing a mortgage for the sum of 8,841 pounds on the property to the Trustees of the Six Nations. Mr. Clarke, however, disposed of his title to the Indian lands in favour of one who must be regarded as the true founder of the Settlement of Dumfries, the Hon. William Dickson. Like the late Colonel Talbot, founder of the Talbot Settlement- like Peter Perry, founder of Oshawa and Port Perry- William Dickson was one of those energetic natures, capable of conceiving and carrying out the extensive operations incidental to the formation of a new community. His tall and commanding figure, little bent with age, is still remembered by men of the elder generation; his lofty forehead gave token of intelligence; and his firm lips denoted the resolution and practical sagacity of his character. All through the history of the Dumfries Settlement William Dickson's measures were taken with the most prudent regard to the exigencies of the case, while at the same time many a settler was indebted to his enlightened generosity for not only his land but for seed to put into the ground, and food to subsist on in the first year of settlement.
Such was the man who became, in July, 1816, the purchaser from Mr. Thos. Clarke of the entire block of land, which he named after his own native place in Scotland, Dumfries. Born in the year 1769, he came to Canada in 1792, and settled at Niagara, where he engaged in practice as a lawyer. Having volunteered his services in the War of 1812, he was taken prisoner by the Americans and nearly got into a serious scrape by shooting in a duel a gentleman named Weeks, who had offended Mr. Dickson's punctilious loyalty by some free criticism of the policy of Governor Simcoe. The duel was fought on the American side of the Niagara River, behind the fort; Mr. Weeks was mortally wounded at the first shot. At that time duelling was a recognized social institution, and Mr. Dickson fared none the worse in public estimation for having brought down his man.
Strongly attached to existing institutions, and being himself admitted on equal terms within the magic circle of the Family Compact, Mr. Dickson all through was a staunch upholder of Church and State. In 1816 he became a member of the governing body of Upper Canada, the Legislative Council, and for many years continued to exercise a decided influence over the settlement and legislation of this Province. Although personally the kindest and most generous of men to the needy settler, Mr. Dickson was no advocate of popular right, and withstood to the last every concession in the direction of responsible government. Toryism to him was a religion, and men who, like Dr. Duncombe, demanded their rights for the people, he stigmatised as "rebels," the enemies alike of God and man. Naturally, in the troubles of 1837 Mr. Dickson, though then well on in years, gathered what force he could muster at Niagara, and hastened to proceed by steamer to Toronto, where he assisted at the memorable fight of Montgomery's Farm.
In July, 1816, Mr. Dickson for a sum of 24,000 pounds bought the entire property now constituting North and South Dumfries, which thus passed into his possession at a price of little more than a dollar an acre. Mr. Dickson was at that time Chairman of the Quarter Sessions of Niagara, which was then the most important centre in Upper Canada. As the new Court House was about to be erected Mr. Dickson and his colleagues advertised for a contractor, and this elicited an application from a young builder and carpenter named Absalom Shade, a son of a Pennsylvanian farmer, whose industry and business talents had already made him a marked man among the Niagara residents. He was a tall, active-looking young man, with keen grey eyes always looking to the main chance, hard close lips and well-formed features, with versatile mind and keen judgment, quick and retentive both in his likes and dislikes.
Mr. Shade had made the acquaintance of Mr. Dickson under circumstances which tended to found a friendship that proved life-long. Mr. Dickson was, when he first met Mr. Shade, a prisoner within the American lines; Shade was able to procure the British officer many privileges not usually granted to prisoners of war, and finally managed to effect his escape.
Such was the man whom Mr. Dickson induced to accompany him as his steward and general factotum into the new settlement of Dumfries, where for many years he presided over the allotment of lands. Like Mr. Dickson, Mr. Shade, although an American citizen by birth, became a most loyal subject of the crown, and the bitterest enemy of anything that looked like rebellion against Tory rule. Woe to the unhappy delinquent who failed in regular payment of his instalments of purchase-money; for such Absalom Shade had no mercy. Having agreed to Mr. Dickson's proposal, Shade, together with his principal, made a visit to what is now Dumfries, but which was then an unbroken wilderness. They arrived at the Grand River, near where Smith's Creek joins the larger stream, and guided by an Indian, ascended the course of the river through South Dumfries, by a path through the forest so narrow that often it was difficult for a single horseman to make his way. "The Plains" were overgrown with an oak forest; further on the thick growth of cedar and maple, mixed with beech and oak, showed the good quality of the soil. Everywhere they encountered streams of fresh water, now and then small lakelets of pure blue water, abounding in black bass and pike. Continuing their journey northward, they made camp in the ruins of a squatter's cabin, on the site of what is now Galt. Having fixed on this position as the nucleus of the new settlement, they separated, Shade making his way through the woods of South Dumfries to the site of the Village of St. George, at which point he regained the Grand River. This he followed until he reached a small tavern at the ferry over the fords of the Grand River, where Brantford now stands. Having rejoined Mr. Dickson at Niagara, and provided himself with the necessary equipment for pioneer life in the forest- a chest of tools and one hundred dollars cash- he set forth to build the first log shanty in the present Town of Galt, which he thus founded in the year 1816.
Mr. Dickson soon had his new territory surveyed. This was efficiently done by Mr. Adrian Marlett, of Ancaster, who held the office of Provincial Deputy Surveyor. The work of surveying was completed in the course of the following year. The remains of a dilapidated shanty on the bank of Mill Creek was converted by Mr. Shade's ingenuity into a grist-mill for the use of the five families who had come in as early as 1816. The settlement slowly progressed. In 1817 the number of families in the township numbered thirty-eight, including one hundred and sixty-three persons. Mr. Dickson removed to Galt from his family residence at Niagara in 1827, and continued to reside there till 1836, when, feeling the oversight of his vast possessions too much for his strength, he left the charge of his estate to his son, Mr. William Dickson, and removed finally to his native place, the old Town of Niagara. Like his friend Mr. Galt, after whom he named his first settlement, Mr. Dickson was possessed of considerable literary talent, which he employed in several descriptive sketches of the Dumfries region, which being published in Chamber's Journal, had not a little influence in attracting the attention of his thrifty fellow-countrymen to the new settlement. Mr. Dickson also employed an agent to visit Scotland in order to secure the most desirable class of settlers, a point too often neglected by the founders of new communities, but yet of the very first importance. Thus it was that from 1823 to 1830 the plains and banks of the grand River were peopled with sturdy Scotch Presbyterian " true blue " settlers. It very often happens that the first to attempt are poor and thriftless. They build their log shanties, clear a little land, get discouraged, and generally end by selling out to some new arrival with more means and self-reliance. Such a settlement was that in the second concession of South Dumfries, and known by the classic name of Cags Lane. It was so named from the cags or kegs of whiskey procured at very frequently recurring intervals from the distillery at the village which was beginning to grow up at the Forks of the Grand River, as Paris was then called. A keg being procured and deposited in one shanty, the neighbours from the adjoining houses held festival nightly till its alcoholic contents were exhausted. Then another neighbour took it in turn to journey with the keg to the distillery. This reckless and dissolute life ended in the gradual clearing out of the old settlers. A new and very different class of proprietors took their place, and now no road in Western canada can show such handsome and substantial buildings, such rich and well-improved farms. Owing to Mr. Dickson's exertions a large number of the new settlers were, as has been intimated Scotchmen.
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So much was this the case, that when some years afterwards, Mr. Dickson, then about to withdraw from residence in Dumfries, held a grand gathering of the Dumfries settlers at a dinner which he gave them at galt, he addressed them as his Scottish fellow-countrymen. He said: " It is to your characteristic Scottish thrift and energy that I and mine owe the success that has attended our experiment in colonization. It is you, the farmers of South Dumfries, that have made gentlefolks of me and mine." Among those who attached themselves to the fortunes of Mr. Shade was an American of Dutch extraction, named John Mans. he drove the teams which conveyed the flour from Mr. Shade's mills at Galt; as soon as the fertile belt of land known as "The Plains" was opened out for settlement, Mr. Shade suggested that Mans should go down and "prospect," with a view of taking up several hundred acres of what promised to be very valuable land. John Mans objected his want of means to find the purchase money, but this was overruled by Mr. Shade, who, hard as he was to the thriftless and dishonest, was generously trustful to any settler in whose industry and integrity he had reason to trust. Both were leading features in the character of John Mans, both were found in the course of his long and successful life, some account of which will be given when this history reaches the district of South Dumfries known as "The Plains." The success of the American Shade, was the means of attracting several of his energetic and adventurous fellow-countrymen to settle in South Dumfries. The name of Capron, originally of French origin is of frequent occurrence in Vermont and other parts of New England. A cadet of this family, as a young man, had a marked talent for caligraphy. Being employed as a writing master in a young ladies' academy, he unfortunately was so imprudent as to give to one of his fair pupils a lesson in a more difficult art than that of penmanship. When it became necessary for him to expatriate himself in partnership with a Mr. VanNorman he for some time engaged in business at Long Point on Lake Erie, and afterwards, on hearing of the success of the Dumfries Settlement, in which the Village of Galt, Paris (the "Forks of the Grand River") and Brantford had already sprung up- Paris and Galt at the extremities of the twelve miles breadth of the new township- young Hiram Capron arrived just in time to secure on favourable terms property of a thousand acres.
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This was the south-western part of the township, and included a considerable part of the present Town of Paris. Mr. Capron built a large and commodious stone mansion on the brow of the hill leading to "The Plains," and during many years resided there, being well known as a good neighbour, a leading citizen, and famous for his business energy and for the quips and jests, and many stories with which he enlivened an ever-hospitable home.
The birth of municipal institutions, that protoplasm of Canadian political life which Francis Bond Head sneered at as "sucking parliaments," took place at the house of a Mr. Gotlip Moss (such being his uncouth cognomen), on Jan. 4th, 1819, exactly three years after the first inauguration of the settlement. The following officers were chosen- we take the account as given in Mr. James Young's admirable "Reminiscences of Galt and Dumfries," a most reliable source of information on all matters connected with the early history of this region: Township Clerk, Mr. John Scott; Assessors, Messrs. John Buchanan and Lawrence Shammerhorn; Collector, Mr. Ephraim Munson; Wardens, Mr. Alexander Harvie and Mr. Richard Phillips; Pathmasters, Messrs. Cornelius Conner, Enos Griffith, James McCarty and John Leece; Pound-keeper, Mr. John Lawrason.
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The current of political agitation set more and more in the direction of municipal self-government, and under the Liberal Administration of the Hincks-Morin Government, a new territorial distribution of Upper Canada took place, whereby the original Township of Dumfries was divided into two- North Dumfries in the County of Waterloo, and South Dumfries at the Northernmost extremity of the County of Brant. The first Municipal Council of the new Township of South Dumfries was composed of the following members: Daniel Anderson, Reeve, and William Mullin, Deputy Reeve; Robert Burt, William Roy and James Sharp. The positions of Reeve and Deputy Reeve were for nineteen years afterwards filled by the same gentlemen, Messrs. Daniel Anderson and William Mullin. We find in Mr. Young's "Reminiscences" that the first officers of the municipality were: Messrs. James Geddes, Clerk; John MacNaught, Treasurer; Robert Ballingel, Assessor for the west side of the river; William Little, Assessor for the east side of the river; and Robert Shiel, Collector. Mr. Michael Charlton was among the first appointed to audit the accounts. The earliest Parliamentary election in which the settlers of South Dumfries took part was in 1825. As the polling place in Wellington Square was at a distance, there was not much interest in the election; two Liberals were, however, returned, Richard Beasley and William Scollich, a political selection which has been traditional in the township ever since, with the exception of the general reaction of 1830, when the reform candidates were beaten, and Messrs. J. Crooks and William Chisholm were returned to Parliament. In No part of English-speaking Canada did the tide of political excitement rise higher, which swept away by its ebb as well as its flow, by its abortive insurrection as well as its appeal to English sympathy, the tyranny of the celebrated Family Compact. In 1828, Wm. Lyon Mackenzie commenced the political education of the Reform party by publishing the Colonial Advocate. In editorials of a literary merit unknown to Canadian journalism, the Advocate, exposed with trenchant but not unjust criticism the nepotism, the arrogance, and the unconstitutional despotism of the oligarchy which governed the Province, and usurped all office and emolument under the name, long since held of sinister import, of the Family Compact. All that Mackenzie contended for has long been conceded to the common sense of public opinion. We are now so thoroughly accustomed to choose our own representatives, to select each for himself his own church without fear or favour, to express with the fullest liberty our opinions on each and every political question, that we are apt to forget that scarce fifty years ago such privileges were contended for in hope deferred for years, and the bitterness of patient battle by men who were stigmatized as "rebels," who were hunted out of the country, and well nigh perished of the scaffold.
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The feeling in favour of the Reform cause was in no part of Upper Canada more strong than in South Dumfries. S Dr. Duncombe's personal character, his eloquence as a public speaker, his lofty purity as a statesman, joined to the influence which his professional skill and generous disposition gave him among his neighbours, made the impulse towards the Reform cause irresistible. he was chosen to visit England in order to lay before Government the popular demands of upper Canada. Of course, such a "trumpet of sedition"- for so was the popular leader designated- met with scant favour at the hands of the dominant oligarchy. It happened that Dr. Duncombe had been desirous of purchasing a tract of land, and indeed had already taken the requisite steps to make the purchase valid. But the family Compact influence interfered, and, contrary to all justice and fairplay, as the English Premier acknowledged when a year afterwards the circumstances were explained to him, Dr. Duncombe's just claim was defeated. It may be imagined that the Scotch Presbyterian farmers of South Dumfries looked on with a bitter sense of injustice rankling in their hearts when, in order to secure to the use of one favoured Church the coveted Clergy Reserves, Sir John Colborne, prompted by the High Church and Tory Bishop Strachan, established fifty-seven endowed rectories in Upper Canada. In vain did public opinion express itself by returning to the House of Assembly a majority of Reform candidates. As the Government of Charles the First ignored the will of the English people, expressed through the votes of the Parliament; as the Government of the Third Stewart tyrant set at naught the representatives of the people, so the family Compact, abetted by such governors as Sir John Colborne, continued to usurp every office and insult the advocates of Reform till it made them the planners of a revolution.
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Five times was William Lyon Mackenzie expelled from the House of Assembly; five times his constituents in the county of York carried him back triumphant from the poll. In every attempt to reseat Mr. Mackenzie the name of Abraham Shade appears in the Parliamentary voting list. All his interest, all that of Mr. William Dickson, was exerted on the side of "loyalty" and the Family Compact Government. But very few of those most closely connected with the Dickson and Shade interest sympathized with the enemies of Reform. Mr. John Mans and his connection by marriage, Mr. Lapierre, stood alone or almost alone in their advocacy of the Government. In 1833 William Lyon Mackenzie delivered an address at galt on the position of Upper Canadian politics, and although the tory leaders insulted him by burning him in effigy, his speech was none the less effective, and was heard by an excited crowd of electors from every part of South Dumfries. Once more in 1834 the Reform party carried the elections throughout the Province of Upper Canada, but, as before, the Canadian Executive continued to treat with scornful neglect the determined resolve of the people. In an evil hour for Canada, Francis Bond Head, an ex-army officer and an amateur author of flashy magazine articles of the McGinnes type of Toryism, was sent to succeed Sir John Colborne as governor of Upper Canada. Obstinate, vain and self opinionated, he soon became the helpless tool and mouthpiece of the Family Compact. It was evident that he threw the entire weight of his official influence on the side of unconstitutional Government. Sent out as he was by the British authorities to redress the grievances which Mackenzie and duncombe had explained, he made matters worse by a tyranny which left to the Reform party no hope but in the rash and doubtful experiment of an appeal to arms. From such an appeal few in South Dumfries shrank. At the present day, and in view of the present attitude of public opinion in Canada towards the Mackenzie movement there is no reason to conceal that nearly all the most respectable settlers were ready to back Dr. Duncombe, Mackenzie's coadjutor, in the projected revolt. The chief strategic mistake in the plans of the insurgents was the total absence of means of communication between the various districts in which the insurgents expected to muster in force. Mackenzie's move on Toronto had provided a failure days before, and Mathews- a renegade to his cause not to be confounded with that other Mathews who died on the scaffold in Toronto- brought a false report that Mackenzie had taken possession of the capital. We have it on the authority of Dr. Duncombe's daughter, now a resident of Paris, that neither he nor the South Dumfries men were contemplating a rising so early as December, 1837.
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But carried away with the excitement of Mackenzie's reputed success, the people of South Dumfries, Oxford, Burford and Oakland urged Dr. Duncombe to lead a movement in support of the advance on the capital. Reluctantly, but willing to stake everything ass the result of a strike for freedom, he consented, and appointed a rendezvous at the Village of Scotland. The night before the appointed gathering he slept at the house of his son-in-law, Mr. Tufford from whom he borrowed a horse. Next day Mr. Tufford attended a meeting of the insurgents, by whom he was charged with the duty of collecting arms. Meantime young Hill, son of Mr. Hill, one of the oldest settlers of South Dumfries, summoned a meeting of the Reform party at the house of Mr. Stockton, on the town line of Blenheim and South Dumfries. A crowded gathering took place, filling the house. Mr. Latshaw and other leading men addressed the meeting. These were no needy adventurers, with nothing to risk and everything to gain by a plunge in the muddy waters of insurrection. They were all possessed of valuable landed property, which even by the act of their participating in an insurrectionary meeting was liable to be confiscated by the spies of the family Compact. But these hard-headed and stout-hearted Scotch farmers did not pause to calculate the risk, preferring in all things principle to expediency. The chairman, Mr. Stockton, made a speech in which he advocated immediate and decided action. "Of what avail," he said, " is further hesitation. We are face to face with the tyranny of a Government which no constitutional means at our command can reach. We have tried such means long and patiently, and in vain. Now the time has arrived when it is no longer possible to sit on the fence. Decided steps must be taken by all who are resolved for action. I move, therefore, that this meeting resolves to meet in arms the volunteer force now about to gather under Dr. Duncombe's command at Scotland, and that prompt measures be taken to disarm the Tories and all those who are known to be disaffected to the cause of Canadian independence." This speech was received with loud applause, and almost all the men present agreed to carry it out. It must be remembered that among those people there was no thought of resentment against England, or of revolt against the British Government as such. Their rising was solely directed against the Family Compact, against a despotic and utterly unconstitutional system, worse than that against which the English themselves had risen in insurrection under the first Charles and the second James- against Bishop Strachan's attempt, persistently carried out in face of adverse public opinion, to establish in Canada the State Church of Wolsey or Laud. What the general feeling was may be estimated from the fact that when Francis Bond Head, then at his wits' end for support, wrote to the loyal Mr. Shade to ask if it would be judicious to call out and arm the militia of South Dumfries, he felt himself compelled to reply that it would not be safe.
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Meantime a considerable force had gathered at Scotland, armed, some with rifles and others with the old-fashioned smooth-bore musket. Among them were many from South Dumfries. But two men arrived from Mackenzie's force at toronto with the news of the skirmish at Montgomery's Farm, and the subsequent dispersion. It was therefore of course resolved at once to disband the force gathered under Dr. Duncombe. The latter, after some difficulty and many adventures, in which the loyal friendship of his supporters was tested under circumstances of no ordinary difficulty and hazard, escaped to the States, where, despite the amnesty which would have permitted his return, he passed the rest of his days. Mr. Tufford was arrested, chained to another prisoner, brought to trial and on evidence of a Government spy which he assures us was almost wholly false, condemned to the scaffold. For nine months he lay in prison; at last the devoted exertions of his wife, Dr. Duncombe's daughter, backed by the influence of every magistrate in the district, procured his release. Young Hill was not so fortunate. He was the favourite son of a most affectionate home; his father, like himself, was celebrated in South Dumfries and neighbourhood for his gaiety and light-heartedness. The boy had ever been the readiest to do a kind turn to a neighbour, and his impetuosity of spirit urged him to be one of the foremost in urging on the preparations for a revolt which never took place. He was imprisoned in the Penitentiary at Kingston, where ill-usage and insufficient food broke down his health. He died within a year.
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Mackenzie's lieutenant at Montgomery's Farm had been Mr. Samuel Lount, for many years member for Simcoe, and one of the staunchest of the champions of Reform. He had sought refuge in South Dumfries, and was concealed in the house of Mr. Latshaw. A magistrate bent on his arrest is said to have entered the front door of Mr. Latshaw's house just as Mr. Lount left it by the kitchen door. But there were facilities for concealment in that neighbourhood which induced the Latshaws to advise his remaining amongst them. He would not, however, be persuaded, and at last, under Mr. Latshaw's guidance, left for Niagara, where at the last moment, when safety seemed certain, he was arrested in the act of crossing the river. A largely signed petition for his release and that of Mathews was sent from South Dumfries. But the Government of the day were merciless in their hour of triumph. Lount and Mathews suffered death on the scaffold at Toronto on April 12th, 1838. They are laid in a place unmarked by any monument in the public cemetery, and a free people, whose right to responsible government to religious and civil equality, they died to win, pass to and fro unconcerned beside their nameless graves.
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The Grand River enters this township at the north-east and flows to the south-west, through the Village of Glenmorris and the Town of Paris, where it is joined by the smaller river known as Smith's Creek on the north. Fairchild's Creek waters the eastern part of South Dumfries. There are many smaller water-courses and several ponds. The largest of these, situated on some land called Dicksons's Reserve, is Blue Lake, noted for the crystal purity and beautiful colour of its water, whose shores are a favourite resort for the lovers of beautiful scenery in summer. This township is traversed by the Great Western Railway from east to west, which enters it at Harrisburg, and has stations at St. George and Paris. At Paris it crosses the Grand Trunk. The Wellington, Grey and Bruce branch line passes north from Harrisburg, where also the branch line to Brantford connects. South Dumfries comprises the thriving Villages of St. George and Glenmorris. The general aspect of the country is hilly, except at the country called "The Plains," five miles north of Paris.
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At the last census (1881), the total population of South Dumfries is estimated at 3,490, there being 663 families and 665 inhabited houses. As usual the population of females is in excess of the males. Of religious denominations that which has the largest number of adherents is the Methodist Church, whose members number 1,249. Next to that is the Presbyterian Church, which numbers 1,093. Then comes the Adventists of whom there are 584; the Church of England, with a member role of 246; the Roman Catholics, of 228. Besides these there are ten Brethren, and eight who have not made up their mind to adopt any religious denomination. The political differences which in the troublesome times of 1837 caused so much difference and separated neighbour from neighbour, have long ago softened down, and nothing but harmony and good feeling prevails among those who were once ready to settle their political differences with the sword. But the great body of the electors of South Dumfries gave a solid vote for the Liberal side at the late election. Although the Conservative candidates were men who most deservedly stood high in public estimation, the Liberal member was carried by acclamation. Mr. James Young, who for some time has most efficiently represented the North Riding of Brant in the Ontario Legislative Assembly, is a man of much culture, and his "Reminiscences of the Early History of Galt and the Settlement of Dumfries" is a valuable aid to the historian, written in a lively style, and embodying much valuable information which, but for Mr. Young's care in preserving it, would have been lost. The "Reminiscences" was published by Messrs. Hunter, Rose & Co., Toronto, in 1880. Having given the reader a general sketch of the history of the Township of South Dumfries, we shall now deal with it more in detail, taking at first the course of the Grand River northward, then from Glenmorris to St. George, and westward to Harrisburg and the eastern verge of the township.
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But before leaving the subject of the general history of South Dumfries we wish to quote, as endorsation of what has been said as to the goodness of the soil and also the farming enterprise of the township, the Government Agricultural Report for 1881. The judges appointed to examine under very stringent conditions, those farms to which the prizes par excellence of farming have been awarded in this Province, describe with great minuteness of technical detail their visits to several prize farms in South Dumfries. we quote the substance of what is said of one of them, the farm of Mr. Barker, near Paris. this farm, situated in South Dumfries on the road from Paris to Ayr, comprises some two hundred acres, described by the judges as "good sandy loam, fourteen acres wood and twelve permanent pasture." It is divided by the road locally known as Huson's Road, and part of it is crossed by the Great Western Railway; the portion towards the Grand is rougher than the rest of the farm, but it is well suited for stock and abundantly supplied with water. The judges describe with admiration a field of fall wheat which they saw on this farm, the edges of it cut down enough to admit the reaping machine. Besides the fall wheat there were " seventeen acres of barley, fifteen acres of oats, six of peas ('golden vein') eight of turnips, one of potatoes, one-third of an acre of carrots, two acres of corn, thirty of hay, and fourteen extra of pasture." All the crops are described by the judges as "good and level, showing every evidence of thorough working and high culture." There was a remarkable absence of weeds, every furrow and drill was mathematically straight " as if laid out by a gardener's line." There were eighteen head of cattle, several fine specimens of the Durham breed. The report lays special emphasis on the neatness and orderliness with which everything was arranged- " a place for everything and everything in its place;" they also praise the adoption by Mr. Barker of the American system of duplicating every separate part of the machinery employed, so that if any breakage takes place the loss can be at once repaired. Finally the judges noted the elegance of the house, grounds and driving carriages, remarking very justly on the benefit to the farmer and his family of giving some thought to the elegances and relaxations of life, something else being needed to encourage the young than a life of incessant and monotonous labour. An equally favourable account is given in the grave, matter-of-fact official blue-book of several other farms in South Dumfries, notably that of Mr. Louis Lapierre, which consists of 360 acres, 265 of them under cultivation. Mr. Lapierre's farm is a model of industrious energy, and, as will be seen in our special account of his district of South Dumfries, he was one of the first to introduce into the township the use of machinery, which has in a few years done so much to revolutionize agriculture. All that was said by the judges of the domestic elegance of the home surroundings on Mr. Barker's farm applies with equal force to that of Mr. Lapierre.
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"The Plains." Rough were the duties, and most unremitting the toils for the first settlers who acquired farm settlements in "The Plains" from about 1820 to 1830. As a rule these seem, however, to have been men possessed of some capital; they came resolved not to spare expense or exertion in making the earth yield forth her increase; and the result of this joined with the exceptional fertility of "The Plains" district, made this community a more speedily thriving one than was to be found in those older settlements where the pioneers were almost wholly without other resources than their bodily labour. Some of the first generation of settlers on "The Plains" died in possession of considerable wealth. From the first cattle and the horses were of a superior quality, and if labour was unremitting, at least it was aided by many of those subsidiary appliances which make the results of labour certain. Nor was the toil of the pioneer families without its compensations; the raising bee and the quilting bee, the good-fellowship of the former and the rustic flirtations of the latter; the ring of the rifle in the woods, and the gliding of graceful girl-figures over the ice-pool which supplied the place of a fashionable rink, were the forms under which they knew that happiness of youth and sympathy which began with Paradise and will go on till Doomsday! And if with some of these festive gatherings there mingled a misguided hospitality which caused too frequent excess, let us rejoice in the spread of enlightened Christian feeling, which in our day makes such excess the exception and not the rule.
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"The Plains." As has been intimated, may of the pioneers of "The Plains were men of refinement, and set high value on education, and the mental as well as monetary preparations of their children for the world and life. Very early in the formation of the settlement the school houses began to rise. The first was built in 1830; the farms being very close together made access easier for the children; and great as we consider the improvement effected by the deservedly valued school system of our Province at the present day, many who remember the rough-and-ready extemporized school arrangements of fifty years ago, are of opinion that there was, after all, in many cases a heartiness and a force in the simple methods of the old-time pedagogue which somehow seems strangely lacking in the more correct methods of the duly-certificated teacher who has passed through all ordeals of examinations, and answered all the puzzle-papers of the department at the present day. as an instance, the School Trustees engaged a wandering "waif and stray," a Scotchman, who had been educated for the ministry of the Presbyterian Church, by name Benoch or Bannoch. He proved an admirable teacher, bating an occasional lapse from duty owing to his indulgence in the cup that cheers so little and inebriates so much! In mathematics especially was he a valuable instructor, having the gift which some of more modern methods and higher pretensions lack, that of gaining ready access to the pupil's mind, of appreciating his difficulties, and showing him how they can be removed. So great became the dominie's fame, that many grown up people of both sexes, whose education had been utterly neglected during their youth, were glad to come, with single-minded humility that was much to their credit, and sit on the school-benches among the children. Thither came the young farm-hand anxious to learn as much simple ciphering as should serve his turn in reckoning up his wages; there bent over her copy book's "pot-hooks and hangers" the young "hired girl," desirous of being able to write her signature to that momentous document by which a woman discounts the happiness of her future. The Dominie was a strict disciplinarian, a ruler who did not bear the sword, in vain, a liberal interpreter of all that King Solomon has written about the benefit of the rod. He would smite sore the delinquent at his lessons; nay, it was a common thing to see him thump the ears and shoulders of grown up lads and even strong men when slow to apprehend his instructions. These chastisements were invariably submitted to without a murmur. The young women punished more mildly by pinching the ear, or pulling the long black hair. We have been unable to obtain any information as to whether this no doubt salutary discipline was borne by the fair sex with their usual patience. But the historian has doubts on this point.
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"The Plains." This master taught at "The Plains" for four years; then getting dissatisfied, or from some restless impulse of his Bohemian nature, he moved to Berlin*, where he had a school for a year or two; he then returned to another section of "The Plains," where he taught for two years more. He is not unkindly remembered by his old pupils. A more cultured teaching was at that time supplied by the Rev. Mr. Morse, the clergyman of the English Church at Paris, who opened a private school, to which two pupils, sons of two farmers of "The Plains," used to resort daily. "The Plains" have enjoyed a healthy intellectual atmosphere, and have been comparatively free from political strife, in part perhaps owing to the fact that the worthy farmers are all of the same way of thinking, and to quarrel is therefore impossible. Bill's Note* Berlin refers to Kitchener
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The place is equally healthy from a physical point of view. No malaria can find a lair in the wide breezy expanse, high above the rapid-flowing river. Such diseases as diphtheria are unknown, and during the cholera plague of 1835 there were but two deaths from this cause on "The Plains." Among those of this part of the township of South Dumfries who have attained to official distinction, may be mentioned Mr. Louis Lapierre, son of a Lower Canadian gentleman who, about 1825, settled on the fourth concession. Mr. Lapierre has filled many important positions both in the township and the county, having been Reeve of the former and Warden of the latter. It so happened that his father's death took place while Canada was subject to the law of primo-geniture, and that by consequence all his later father's property passed without condition into Mr. Lapierre's possession. With a regard to duty as rare as it was honourable, he set aside for his younger brother some two hundred acres, which he knew their father had intended for him, portioned his sisters, and provided for his mother. Mr. Daniel Anderson, another of "The Plains" worthies, had the honour of being the first Reeve of the new township. Young Mr. Smoke, also of this section, was for some time one of the staff of Professors at the University of Victoria College, Cobourg, which position, though a most popular and successful teacher, he abandoned in order to prepare for practice at the Bar.
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"The Plains." There is one church situated on the "The Plains;" it belongs to the Methodists, who were among the very earliest pioneers of religious organization in the district. As early in the history of the settlement on "The Plains" as fifty years ago, the itinerant Methodist missionary held periodical services in the old school house which in those primitive days served to shelter both education and religion. One very impressive preacher, a minister who was blind, is still remembered. There was no organ, not even a tuning-fork, but the tune was boldly raised and led by a doughty choir-leader, Mr. James Y. Smith, who for some years taught the tuneful art, in which indeed, after the the fashion of those days, he had no little skill; and if that church music was not very refined, it had at least heart and the courage of its opinions. The church of "The Plains," or as the legend thereon engraved entitles it, the "Wesleyan Methodist Chapel," was built in 1843. It is an unpretending but neat and substantial country church, built of the cobble-stone masonry mentioned above; a similar material has been used for the English Church at Paris, but the workmanship of the local masons at "the Plains" seems to be the better. Old Mr. Mans gave the site for this church; he, Mr. Lapierre, Senr., and a few others, made up the money required for material, which amounted to $1,000; but as the people gave all the labour of construction as a free offering, the real cost of the building was far more than the estimate. the dimensions of the church are thirty feet by forty, just suitable to its small but earnest congregation. To this church amid a numerous gathering, the body of the elder Mr. Mans was borne for funeral rites. In its little churchyard, commemorated by a modest monument his remains are at rest. The present Trustees of the Methodist Church on "The Plains' are Mr. John Mans, Mr. Henry Mans, Mr. William Mans, Mr. Egerton Thompson, Mr. Thomas Carr, Mr. Frank Helliker, Mr. Louis Lapierre, and Mr. A. Y. Andrews. Money exchange was unknown in the early days of this part of the township. As in the others, barter prevailed for all commerce that could be carried on; even the wheat was carried in waggon or sleigh to Dundas and brought back as flour in barrels, minus the very liberal allowance retained by the miller as perquisite. The same arrangements prevailed in every transaction of life; a young lady's marriage portion was estimated in horses, cows, sheep or real estate; her wedding-fee partly, it might be, in kind( by a chaste salute), partly in rolls of butter, or cords of wood; even the doctor, when professional assistance came next in order, was rewarded, very liberally as a rule, with food and fuel.
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"The Plains." Three years ago the church of "The Plains" underwent a process of renovation. A new ceiling was provided, the seats were cushioned; an organ has been procured, and the singing is now worthy of any country church of the day. The scenery along the Galt Road is very charming; the rich tranquil farm land of those prairies of South Dumfries contrasts with the broad and rapid river and the fringe of woods still left as a memorial of the not very remote past. This galt Road, which leads northward to the Village of Glenmorris is locally called the "Sprague Road," after an earlier pioneer of that name, who kept a small tavern three miles north some forty years back. More to follow.
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"The Plains." We have said that this section of South Dumfries deserves credit for moderation on religious as well as political questions. The Presbyterians of the western part of the township go to worship at Paris from "The Plains" section, to the church at Glenmorris from the section north of "The Plains." "The Plains" people form a pastoral community peculiar to the locality; the families are much allied by intermarriage. Quietly conducted as are the elections of the present day, a different scene was to be witnessed at the elections of the early days of the settlement. For then a cask of beer and a keg of whiskey were brought on the scene; there never was a fight or serious mischief, as the strong good fellowship and many mutual alliances were able even to counteract the enemy then too frequently put "within the mouth to steal away the brains." The strict election law of the present day, by which the slightest attempt at an election, has, however, saved much that was to be regretted here as elsewhere. During the polling it was the custom to keep one elector whose vote had not been polled in readiness, lest the time assigned by law for the process of recording votes having elapsed without any elector coming forward to record his vote, the poll might be closed. The oratory of those early days, as might be expected, was characterised rather by homely common sense than by lofty flights of eloquence, and the speaker's personal character and skill as a farmer and a man of business had most to do with ensuring the attention of his neighbours.
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"The Plains." We have mentioned the that large formations of clay and loam are found in this level part of South Dumfries; these occur at times in belts of a mile across, at others in smaller quantities, alternating with each, and with deposits of sand on the same farm. Beneath it. at a depth of from one to several feet, lies a stratum of that blue fossiliferous limestone which stretches all through the western part of Canada, till it crosses into the Lower Province in that bar of precipitous rock over which the whole flood of the Ottawa thunders. With the granite are often found deposits of gravel, the relics of some extinct spring or water-course. A stratum of very workable brown-blue sandstone also extends over "The Plains" from east to west, while the limestone runs towards the south-west. From the evidence afforded us by several of the oldest survivors of the earliest times of this settlement, and by the sons of those who have passed away, the country called from its principal settler, the venerable founder of the Mans' family, "Maus" Plains," and since then shortened into "The Plains," was originally covered thickly with large oak trees. these had short, thick trunks, with spreading boughs and foliage. Now the original oaks of forest growth, like pines and other trees which grow together in the bush, have their boughs and foliage at the top, the presence of "a boundless contiguity of trees" not allowing their expansion laterally. Therefore the conclusion is drawn that these "oak openings" were a second growth succeeding to the original oak forest which had been burned by lightening, or by the camp fires of Indians; the latter cause seems the most probable. As has been said elsewhere in this history of South Dumfries, there exists clear evidence that some other Indians roamed these wilds before their cession to the Iroquois Six Nations by the British Government in 1783. In various places of these very Plains, Indian bones and flint arrow-heads have been found, proving that here they had in this region at one time a favourite camping ground. The great size of the oak stumps proved that the destruction of the previous growth must have taken place at a considerable distance of time; the stone arrow-heads also point to an age of Indian warfare when they had not yet adopted iron. These arrow-heads were chiefly discovered on the farm of Mr. Sovereign, now of Paris, whose father was one of the earliest settlers in this part of South Dumfries. They are unusually long, from two inches to six and seven, and are keenly edged and pointed. Such fine work in stones weapons became a lost art soon after the French traders of the sixteenth century taught the Indians to use iron. Mr. Sovereign had quite a store of these interesting relics, but he good-naturedly lent them to a traveler from the old country, who found to return them.
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"The Plains." As has been intimated, the settlers of this district of South Dumfries were, almost without exception men sufficiently well off in the world to put some capital into the land which they purchased from the Hon. Mr. Dickson, or his agent and factotum, Mr. Shade. Yet their inheritance when they entered on it was the same unbroken wilderness, which had fallen before before the axes of the U. E. immigrants of 1783. For the first several years bears abounded in the woods, west and north of "The Plains." But these are never known to have attacked a man, although they did great harm to corn-fields and the smaller cattle. Many stories are told by the old men of bruin being met and slain by boys bold enough to emulate David's hunting-feats, with no other weapons than a staff. But there were other sylvan pests more difficult to fight. The lynx, our American leopard, clinging to branch or tree trunk with the strong claws of the feline waited, unseen but seeing, for the boy or girl who might stray beneath unguarded. As fierce in its flesh-hunger and almost as strong, the wild cat has been known to spring, when brought to bay, full seven feet into the air to her refuge in a tree. These creatures have been known to attack men; and few dogs could fight them. A farmer of this district tells how, pursued when unarmed by one of them, he sought refuge in a barn, and just as he closed the door the ferocious creature sprang against, it, endeavouring to tear open the woodwork with tooth and claw.
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"The Plains." The latest survivors of these pests of the forest were some of the farmer's most dangerous neighbours- the wolves. Long after " The Plains" had been cleared and settled, packs of wolves used to prowl over them to gather with ill-boding cries round the cattle enclosures; an in many cases they have been seen, gaunt in the moonlight, through the crevices of the farmers' log houses. The last wolf killed on "The Plains" was a huge dog-wolf, whose entry spread consternation in the farm-yard of Mr. Hiram Capron, within the Paris limits. It was speedily shot by Mr. McMichael, who happened just then to enter the farm-yard. A pack of wolves has been known to follow a sleigh through Dumfries to Galt, and two men, who were driving a team of oxen laden with wheat from Guelph to Galt, were attacked in the darkness before dawn by several of these animals, who acting in concert, as is their custom, sprang at the drivers on each side. The men struck at them with their whips, and so with difficulty kept them at bay till daylight.
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"The Plains." As an instance of the eager industry with which the process of self-help was carried on, we may mention an anecdote told us by Mr. Conkling. Visiting Mr. Mans' farm, he found that gentleman, who had been lamed by a fall, sitting on horseback and sowing his seed, while in another field two little boys were ploughing. Hard work was no punishment to men like these. It has been that the first threshing machine used on "The Plains" was the common property of MR. Mans and Lapierre. The first reaping-machine was introduced by Mr. Showers. The first who imported into the settlement improved breeds of sheep and cattle were Messrs. Sovereign, Mans and Lapierre. By these South Downs and Merinos were purchased, and were speedily a success, the neighbours of the settlement crowding to see them. One of the causes of both the general good feeling and of the generous rivalry in all agricultural improvement of the settlers of "The Plains," we trace to the fact of their houses being built so close together. For their farms have each a very narrow frontage, stretching far back from this to the Grand River. In passing along the Galt Road west of the river you see, almost at every few rods' distance, a handsome villa-like residence and often a tenant's house on the same farm. A further test of the rapid improvement caused by the friendly emulation was the number of prizes at the county and other agricultural fairs and shows won by this portion of the township, which may truly be called the garden of South Dumfries.
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"The Plains." We have mentioned the earliest school, called "The New School," or , Mans' School," from this universal benefactor of the settlement having deeded the land for its erection. In 1830 it was taught by a Miss Andrews, who afterwards married Dr. Lowden. As we were informed by Mrs. Conklin, who as a girl of tender years attended there, Miss Andrews was an excellent teacher, although the best of these primitive pedagogues was the Mr. Bannoch already referred to as so strict a disciplinarian with young and old. But before there was any building for the purpose of school teaching, this was carried on chiefly by female teachers, whose acquirements must have been very limited, as they did not include even the elements of arithmetic! These ladies taught reading, spelling and writing, in a private house, receiving from each family a dollar a week and "boarding round." But in the winter season, a male teacher of somewhat greater acquirements was usually engaged at a more liberal salary for some three months. To these teachers of the unknown mysteries of arithmetic, we are assured by the lady from whose reminiscences we have quoted above, it was common for grown up people of both sexes to resort, only too anxious to learn what had, through no fault of theirs, been neglected in youth.
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"The Plains." Preaching as well as teaching existed in this part of South Dumfries long before even a school house was provided for its accommodation. The Methodist itinerant preachers visited the place every four weeks, although it was not on the paris Circuit. Thither rode, by difficult and often dangerous paths, the Methodist preacher from Long Point on Lake erie to Brantford, to Paris, to Blenheim, to Galt and Copetown. the untiring preacher of the Word was a striking picture of self-help as well as Christian piety. Under favourable circumstances the round from station to station might be got through in four weeks. But this could, indeed , seldom be calculated on. In spring and fall the numerous swamps were almost impassable to the deftest horseman, the weary horse sinking knee deep at every step. In summer the swarms of mosquitoes were enough to madden steed and rider. In winter the snow rampart, wreathed with ghastly drifts, blocked the way impenetrably; and the tired missionary and his horse were glad to accept the common but generously shared food and shelter of the nearest squatter's shanty.
Our friend, Mr. Conklin, formerly of "The Plains," has described to us his first view of one of the West Canadian missionaries. Bestriding a strong, serviceable steed, the good man rode up to "Mans' School House." Across his saddle hung his canvas saddle bags, containing his Bible, hymn book, and a scanty stock of bread or biscuit. We have mentioned the impression still retained in advanced life, which the preaching of a certain blind preacher made on the mind of one of our informants when a boy. This gentleman's name was Long; to him are due the most successful of the several revivals held in the church of "The Plains."
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"The Plains." If the Minister arrived on a week-day, it made no difference. It was the school children's mission to carry round the summons, "You go to the preaching. "Once, we are informed, the preacher arrived at the mid-day dinner time. But these good Christians preferred spiritual to bodily food, and service was immediately held. The names Pringle and Law are to this day held in honour as those of two elders who preached the Gospel faithfully. The Baptists share with the Methodists the honour of having been the pioneers of religion in "The Plains." They were kindly welcomed by the tolerant people, as was Mr. DeLong, a Quaker, and crowds attended the preaching of good old Mrs. Long, a member of the same goodly and venerable sect. Old residents have described to us how she would sit in quiet meditation for a few minutes until, as she believed, "the Spirit moved her." Soon came the outpouring of simple, earnest and touching words concerning God and duty. Then she would quietly close the exercises by saying to her audience, "Now, thee may go home." Always ready to be of use to others, the itinerant missionary very often carried the mail bags from station to station. Fortunately these were seldom likely to be a heavy burden at a day when there were few business transactions, and when letters came few and far between. Despite the generally acknowledged and practised duty of Christian toleration, it seems that there were exceptional cases. A sect calling themselves "Christians" (pronounced "chreist-ians," for they were quite distinct from the "Christians," or "Bible Christians," who form such a respectable part of the great Methodist body), held a doctrine of there being "Two Gods," some obscure form, most probably, of Arian or Socinian speculation. Of this sect two of the settlers, Godfrey and Hilden, professed themselves adherents. On one occasion a Methodist minister being about to hold service at the school house, they requested him to give out notice of a sermon, to be delivered on the next Sunday by one of their own preachers. He refused, saying that he could not conscientiously give notice of a sermon to be preached by one who denied the divinity of his Lord.
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"The Plains." Such were the pioneer church services, such the earnestness, the intense faith of those who preached and of those who were taught. And as an old farmer from "The plains" said lately to one who was vaunting the handsome church and fine sacred music in Paris " Ah, sir! there were more tears shed at those old school-room services." Besides the earlier preachers referred to, at a later time the Church of "The Plains" was ministered to by Rev. Messrs. Coleman and Prindle, Barker and Dows, the two last mentioned from Paris.
The roads that traverse this district are remarkably good, being worked by statute labour of the settlers along the line, whose houses, as has been mentioned, are situated more closely together than in most country districts. There are two main roads leading to Galt on both sides of the Grand River, both running due north-east in the direction of Glenmorris. No toll-gate or turnpike has ever been found necessary on these roads. At every mile there is a cross-road east and west between the concession lines. All these are kept in good order by the people, and whether in summer among the ripening harvest fields and shady oaks and maples, or in the good old-fashioned sleighing of a not too snow-drifted winter, Our Province can afford no more pleasant drive.
The account of the gypsum mines, and of the methods of manufacture of that invaluable fertilizer of the soil, belong rather to Paris, and will be treated of in our account of that town. But the principal gypsum formations are in South Dumfries very near Paris, and on the east side of the Grand River. The owner of the land where the gypsum is found is Mr. Gill.
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"The Plains." In the early times of "The Plains" settlement, the farmers had some chance of a little profit by shooting the abundant game whose though not so valuable as now, was yet gladly purchased by traders. Beavers were abundant, and on pond and stream they built their industrious villages; there too the otter was shot for its beautiful soft fur. There were plenty of mink and muskrat, and for some time after the district was cleared, deer were frequently seen approaching by two or three so close to the farm houses that they were sometimes brought down from the door by the settler's rifle. In one case, a lady from Paris had been promised some venison by a farmer on "The Plains." He did not come at the time appointed, and she sent to ask the reason. The settler excused himself, but promised that at a set time next day it should be forthcoming. He shouldered his rifle, went into the wood, and brought down a fine deer. The venison was duly sent up to time as promised.
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"The Plains." The only social or reformatory organizations which have been carried on among the people of "The Plains" are those of the temperance movement. The first of these was inaugurated by the Baptist Church, through the instrumentality mainly of Mr. Latshaw, Senr., and his family. This was forty years ago. The society was not organized systematically, nor affiliated with the Sons of Temperance, or any of the great temperance bodies that extant. It was simply a private venture for the good of "The Plains" community, undertaken by a few good men and women on a very simple and unpretending scale. It did not seem to take hold; the times were unfavourable; the temperance movement had not yet taken hold of the public mind in that part of Canada; but it deserves to be remembered to the credit of Mr. Latshaw and his friends.
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"The Plains." Several other efforts at temperance societies have been tried by the Methodist clergy, if which after careful inquiry among the leading members of the Methodist Church on "The Plains," we have been unable to obtain any particular account. There has been little drunkenness in this quiet community, and even when whiskey in the good (or bad) old times cost only eighteen cents a gallon, there was not much more drinking than at present. It is true that then the black bottle, now condemned to a furtive existence in cupboards or recesses, then put in an appearance on all occasions, public or private. In Homer's description of the scenes of ancient Greek life depicted on the shield of Achilles, there is a picture of a ploughman following the oxen through the furrows of the field, and at the end of each furrow stands a man with cups of wine to give each of them a draught. On the harvest-fields of "The Plains" the strong drink was not quite so liberally dispensed as in Old Homer's time, still it was the custom to produce a jar of whiskey three times a day. Possibly the liquor of that time was too cheap to be worth adulterating and so was not so poisonous as the decoction of fusel-oil and strychnine now sold as "liquor. Perhaps too those days of harder and more unremitting labour required or excused a stimulant which now can be more easily dispensed with. There were, besides the more well-to-do settlers on "The Plains," several though not many poor families, whose husbands and sons would hire out for daily work at Galt when they were not able to procure it in South Dumfries. When at Galt they would, as each Saturday brought the week's pay construct a raft, put a week's supply of food thereon, and launching it on the Grand River, float down to their home on "The Plains." Of this class were Messrs. Holding and Godfrey, already mentioned as being members of the strange sect of Christ-ians. These families subsequently left "The Plains" for Galt, where they sustained sad loss by the cholera of 1835.
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"The Plains." The social progress of "The Plains" kept pace with its industrial gains. At first, as in all new settlements, the girls and boys wore the homely dresses of pioneer life. By degrees bits of store-purchased finery appeared at the Sabbath meeting, at the quilting bee, or the apple-paring. The mysteries of the quilting bee were for the ladies only; the material which was to form the groundwork of the quilt was stretched on a frame over a long table; the girls sat round and with patient skill worked in the intricate and often beautiful pattern. But when the evening shades descended and tea was prepared, with pies and hot biscuits arrived a select body of the farmers' sons any one of them sure to make a good husband to any one of those industrious young needle-women. At the "apple-paring" both sexes assisted; the young men pared the once "forbidden" fruit, the feminine fingers performed the more delicate task of extracting the core and stringing the sections of fruit to form the "apple sass" of the coming winter. At six o'clock came tea, not the languid "afternoon tea" of fashionable life, but a genuine substantial meal of boiled pork, hot and cold, of bowls of berries big enough for a giant, and pies huge as circular saws. When ample justice had been done to these good things by young ladies who had the courage of their appetites , and by young men who did not share the late Lord Byron's opinion that a pretty woman never looks pretty when eating, then came on the grand event of the evening, the "final cause," to use metaphysical language, of the "apple-paring," as of the "quilting" and every other "bee." The room was cleared; a neighbour generally well up in years and always a Scotchman, produced a well-worn but not unserviceable fiddle. A quadrille was played and danced-danced most emphatically, not walked through in the fashionable fainéant style, but every step conscientiously performed in time to the music. To this succeeded faster dances; the whirl of the waltz, the rush of the galop, the thump of the polka. At twelve came supper, a glass of wine for the ladies, and a moderate "horn" of a fluid which then cost eighteen cents a gallon for the boys. Then a merry drive home over the moonlit snow or under the summer trees.
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The first marriage that took place in anything like the grand style among the denizens of "The Plains" was that of the eldest daughter of Mr. Latshaw, one of the oldest and most influential settlers, who was with all due observance and ceremonial united to Mr. Spotiswood. The bride wore a tasteful wedding dress, no home-made article, but the genuine work of the Worth of the period at Galt; it was was of white merino, with glittering trimming of lustrous satin, and sheen of pearls on the neck. On her head was a veil of real lace, in place of the homely white cap which the country-bred bride of "The Plains" had been wont to content herself with. The wedding over, the new married pair, thus welded into one, set the unexampled precedent of going on a wedding tour. For hitherto a wedding had been a matter of great simplicity. The ceremony was performed at the house of the bride's father, or if that was not large enough to accommodate the expected guests, at the nearest hotel- (in those days the country hotels were invariably provided with a large hall suitable for dancing parties). Instead of prudishly retreating, the bride presided at the feast, cut the wedding cake, always of home manufacture, and a great deal more wholesome for that reason, and was the merriest and most active in the dance that continued on these occasions till the small hours.
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The earliest interments in the churchyard of "The Plains" Church were those of old Mr. Burns and of Mr. Mans, Senr. For some time after the first settlement of "The Plains," it had been the custom to bury the dead in a portion of the farm set apart for the purpose. Of course, as the ancient Roman civil law does not prevail in Canada- the law which ordained that any spot of ground in which human remains were buried should remain consecrated from all secular use whatever- it was felt that such places of burial gave no security against that desecration of the last resting places of dead against which the human mind, even such a mind as Shakespeare's naturally rebels.* At the present day old settlers tell us of forgotten graves on farms that have long passed out of the hands of those interested in the persons buried there, and sure sooner or later to be broken up by the ploughshare. This insecurity became felt, and soon Mr. Mans, the universal benefactor and promoter of every good work on "The Plains," deeded an acre of land for a burial ground, to which some time afterwards a public subscription added half an acre more. For physic and for theology "The Plains" were dependent on Paris. Dr. McCosh, the oldest practitioner of that town, used to enter the house of sickness with the aid of his cork leg; a truly deservedly beloved physician, who has presided at the entrance into life of most of the present generation of "The Plains." *Foot Note: See Shakespeare's epitaph. composed by himself for his tombstone at the Church of Stratford-on-Avon: "Blest be he who spares these stones, And curst be he who moves these bones."
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It remains to record the political history of this part of Brant County. As has been mentioned, "The Plains" were mainly settled by Scotchmen, who, whether from that circumstance or not, were as hard-headed, common-sense, and independent a set of men as could be found at that day in English-speaking Canada. The State Church interest and the Family Compact had no link of connection with "The Plains," since "Church People" (in Bishop Strachan's sense) there were none, and the only representatives of the Family Compact Conservatism in this neighbourhood, Mr. Dickson and Mr. Shade, though both liked and respected, were not on anything like visiting terms with any family except that of Mr. Mans'. For several years since the settlement began to emerge from its backward struggle into something like prosperity, William Lyon Mackenzie's Colonial Advocate and Mr. Francis Hincks' Examiner had taught men to think on the wrong done to the people of west Canada by being compelled to support an alien Church, and by being denied Responsible Government. These were the two chief grievances which the so-called "Rebellion" of 1837 was intended to suppress, and as a matter of fact, though not exactly in the way its promoters designed did suppress.
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In 1833 William Lyon Mackenzie addressed a large popular gathering at Galt, when most of "The Plains" men attended, with the exception of the families of Mans and Lapierre, who were on the opposite side in politics. With the two exceptions above mentioned, and the families of Nelles, Ames and Sales, all the farmers of this district were on the side of Reform, of which, over the heads of more cautious men like Robert Baldwin and Francis Hincks, Mackenzie and one other, yet better known and loved in South Dumfries, were the recognized leaders.
Dr. Duncombe had long been in medical practice in this part of Canada. His political career and position as a leader present a striking parallel to those of Dr. Wolfred Nelson, the insurgent leader of Lower Canada in 1837. Both of these remarkable men had been for years distinguished by success in the practice of their profession, and by the kindness with which they applied its resources to the relief of their poorer neighbours. Of Dr. Duncombe we find that those who knew him best in his life as a country physician speak most warmly of his great goodness of heart. "He was a fine man, and had a feeling heart for the poor," said one old farmer; " whenever he could do a body a good turn, he was the man to do it." In numberless cases he gave physic as well as advice without a fee, and he seems to have been looked up to as a source of help and advice through more than one county in the neighbourhood of Norfolk. We have examined with care his excellent portrait at the hospitable house of his daughter, Mrs. Tufford, of Paris. The face is an intellectual one, with a keen, mobile and excitable expression; a high and commanding brow, and lips denoting firmness and resolution. It is the face of no ordinary man. After living among his country neighbours for years as their most reliable friend and benefactor, it is no wonder that they induced him to become their representative in the Legislature. Once a member of that body, and seeing the utterly hopeless nature of its struggle for the constitutional rights which it was the intention of the mother country should be exercised, all that was most generous, all that was most manly, in Dr. Duncombe's nature enlisted him on the side of the patriot Opposition. Among these were leaders whose eloquence, integrity and powers of organization have not been surpassed, if equalled, by the two generations of Canadian statesmen who have succeeded to William Lyon Mackenzie and his compeers. In the foremost place among them Dr. Duncombe took rank, and through the Counties of Brant and Oxford especially he became the recognised exponent of the policy of those who were struggling against wind and tide to gain the haven of constitutional Reform and Responsible Government. He was a speaker of marked power in Parliament and elsewhere; his voice, though not strong, had a clearness and distinctness that enabled him to be heard over every part of a large open-air gathering. If we can judge from the testimony of a large number of those who knew him best in the district of which we are writing, he was, both as a man and as an orator, gifted with singular magnetism, one whom it was impossible to know without loving.
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It was no means the intention of Dr. Duncombe to precipitate the insurrection of 1837. Still he was convinced that the time had come when the only chance of arousing the attention of the English Government to the tyranny of Canadian misgovernment was an appeal to arms against the Family Compact. Nothing more opposed to English liberal ideas, to the spirit of English constitutional government since the Revolution, can be conceived than the petty despotism which then misruled Canada. It was the extravagance, the favouritism, the despotic government of the Stewart tyrants, carried out for the benefit of a clique of imitation-prelates, half-pay officers and high-life-below-stairs aristocracy. Strachan, the Canadian Laud, was balanced by Draper, the Canadian Jefferies, and Francis Bond Head, who may be left to balance the sentence as the Canadian Stratford minus Stratford's splendid intellectual endowments, power of rule and personal courage. The story of 1837 has been told elsewhere in this volume hence we have but to point out that almost every family of any note on "The Plains" of South Dumfries thoroughly sympathized with the aims of Dr. Duncombe, and shared his confidence. It will be remembered that exception is made of the two leading families of Mans and Lapierre.
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Of all who supported the cause of Reform none were more popular than Mr. Hill, one of the earliest settlers on "The Plains." Many stories are told of his merry sayings and stories. His son, a young man of twenty-five, was enthusiastically attached to Duncombe and the national cause. One day in December, 1837, a renegade to the cause named Mathews (in no way related to the martyr of the same name who suffered death in Toronto at the hands of the Family Compact), with a characteristic desire to make mischief, brought a garbled account of Mackenzie's unsuccessful attempt on Toronto, and the news spread like wildfire over "The Plains" that the leader had taken the capital. Young Hill at once convened a meeting for the purpose of organizing a force of Auxiliary National Volunteers at the house of Mr. Stockton, on the town line of Blenheim and South Dumfries. A crowded meeting was held; Mr. Stockton, as chairman, addressed them; and then it was resolved to arm at once and be in readiness to join whatever force Duncombe might gather around him in order to march on Toronto. The only step, however, that was carried out, and that but partially, was the disarming of some of the more prominent Tories. When news came of the miscarriage of Mackenzie's move on the capital, Duncombe of course gave up all thought of a local insurrection. He might, had he said the word, have surrounded himself with a force which might have gained temporary successes, like those won by Dr. Wolfred Nelson at St. Denis over Colonel Gore and his soldiers, bit in the end, as Duncombe well foresaw, a similar ruin would have overwhelmed the families and farms of the Reformers of South Dumfries. With the aid of faithful friends Duncombe, who had now committed himself too deeply, and was too obnoxious by his talents and his virtues to be allowed to escape the scaffold, made his way to the inviolable asylum of the American Republic. Of his followers in South Dumfries only young Hill suffered severely for having shown the courage of his opinions. This virtuous and true-hearted young man was imprisoned in the Kingston Penitentiary, where, worn out with insufficient food and hard usage, he died.
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