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London Free Press July 27, 1935, pg.15

Recalls Tasks Falling to Lot of the Pioneers
Mrs William Blatchford, of Prospect Hill, Reminisces on 89th Birthday
Household Labors Varied and Arduous
Made their own Clothing and Baked Bread without use of Stove

by Mrs Warner S. Hudson

In a little white cottage nestled among trees, beside the busy highway No. 7, which runs through Prospect Hill, lives a lady, who had just reached the age of 89 years and who in spite of this advanced age rises at six in the morning, and during the summer months goes out-doors into her garden, in which she takes a delight. Gladioli are her favorites and she has over 1,000 of them. The lady is Mrs William Blatchford, and she will sit and talk of the days now long gone.

When she was young she attended Holy Cross School at the corner of the 10th concession of Blanshard Township. She well remembers things that happened 70 years ago. Big boys and girls attended the school especially during the winter months. The school was of log, with benches at the sides for seats. Men teachers taught in those days, for the matter of discipline was no small item. Her first teacher was Mr Rynd, whose home was on the 10th of Blanshard. The subjects taught were, reading, writing, grammar, geography, and arithmetic. The writing taught far excelled that taught today. Slates were used almost entirely. The copy books were made by the pupils themselves from sheets of writing paper. The teacher wrote the copies at the top of their pages. Often so many attended that the older pupils helped teach the smaller pupils and the teacher or master kept the strictest order enforcing it by means of a hickory stick or rule.

First Settlers

Mrs Blatchford's father, John Little, with his bride and a brother, Thomas Little, were the first settlers in these parts. They came out from Ireland, and settled in what is now know[n] as London Township. The first homes were pretty much alike, there being no nails or iron in the whole structure. Door hindges [sic], floor, and all were made with the axe.

When Mrs Little moved into her new home, there was no door on it, just a quilt hung over the opening, and she says at night the wolvs [sic] used to howl. It was with a feeling of relief that the door was securely hung and bolted.

There was no stove, just a big fireplace, with a big pole placed across it, and from this pole, pots were hung over the blazing fire. The bread was baked in a bake-kettle. Hot coals were raked out onto the hearth and the kettle containing the bread placed on it, and the coals again raked around it and here the bread was baked.

Her parents got a cow, after they had been here for a while, and she proved to be a real kicker. There was nothing to tie her legs with, so Mrs Little hunted through her possessions and found a silk scarf, which she used for this purpose.

The first Methodist minister was Mr Kershaw, and Mrs Blatchford can remember well hearing him coming through the woods on horseback, a saddle bag on each side of the horse. They could hear him away in the distance singing a favourite hymn. In the early days there were paring bees when huge quantities of apples were peeled and quartered, to be dried for winter. Wool bees were held when wool was picked to pieces ready to be spun. The wool was dyed. They did their own dyeing. Carpet rag bees were also common when fags were sewn together, ready to be woven into carpets. The neighbor women used to go to the tamarack swamp and gather gooseberries, wild raspberries and plums. These they preserved with maple sugar, and put away in stone jars.

Mrs Blatchford tells how her father made a broom. He went into the bush and cut down a hickory sapling. At night he would sit before the fireplace and peel it in strips about a foot, like the stands of a broom. Then he would turn its peeled parts down and tie it down with a string-like piece he would shave off. The long part or handle was whittled down with the axe and finished by using a draw knife.

Candles were made in molds of a dozen, wicks were bought and put in first then the melted tallow poured in and allowed to set.

In comparing the life of the woman of her early days with those of the present time, Mrs Blatchford says the women had to be always on the job of homekeeping. She clothed herself and her daughters as well as making nearly all the daily necessities and she worked long hours and endured hardships such as the women of today do not know.

Those were the days of butter making when the churn was a wooden barrel with a wooden pusher in it and many a youth hung on his girl was not afraid to show how strong he was by pushing the dasher up and down in a churn till the yellow butter appeared, or going to the well for water, the bucket for which was let down by a windlass, and as the long rope wound up by a crank the sparkling water was slowly drawn to the top.

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Meg Fuller Perth County Coordinator

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Photos in banner courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USF34-051862-D and LC-USF34-031979-D.

 

The Townships of Perth County

Blanshard Township and town of St Marys
Downie Township
North Easthope
South Easthope
Ellice Township
Elma township
Fullarton Township
Hibbert Township
Logan Township
Mornington Township
City of Stratford
Wallace Township and town of Listowel

Outside Links (Not part of this site)

$ Perth County Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society

Stratford-Perth Archives
The Stratford Beacon-Herald the main newspaper for the area

The Listowel Banner is the main newspaper in the north part of the county

County of Perth
Museums of Perth County
Perth County Historical Foundation
Stratford Public Library
Town of North Perth
Township of Perth East
Township of West Perth
Hmm... North, East, West, where is a website for South Perth?

Historic Plaques of Perth County on Wayne Cook's Historic Plaque site

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The Ontario GenWeb Census Project