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Journal of Edmund Thomas Paterson,

Upper Durham, Quebec 1871-1872

This summary and glimpse into Edmund Thomas Paterson's past was written by the Rev. J. A. Alexander, e-mail dated 30 March 1999. It is a large transcript, but so revealing about the period. - Pam Wood Waugh, June 1999.

I am thinking about offering you for publication on the Internet a manuscript that originates in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. It's the personal journal (for the years 1871 and 1872) of Edmund Thomas Paterson, an Irish-born, farmer in Upper Durham, Quebec. Edmund Patterson held a Master's Degree from the University of Dublin. He came to the Eastern Townships with the intention of earning his living as a schoolmaster. The English speaking farmers had no money to hire him permanently, so he became a farmer. His diary reveals that he knew little about farming. To put bread on the table, Edmund Patterson served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Regional Municipality of Durham.

In that capacity he collected taxes, ran elections, handed out term assignments to neighbours for the upkeep of local roads, and was active in local politics. The railway had been constructed a few years before 1872, so Edmund Paterson had access to telegraph and daily received newspapers from Montreal and Sherbrooke, Quebec.

His diary provides significant insight into daily life in rural Quebec, making reference to the local medical and farming practices, local politics, church activities, funeral customs, visiting preachers, local church activities, the dating practices of his 19yo daughter and 21 year old twin sons, theft, family violence (rooted in misuse/abuse of alcohol, home improvements (new washing machine, water piped into the house) and farm (horse-powered threshing machine), etc. etc.

Additionally, the writer makes reference to over three hundred people who lived and resided in his area.

Roch Carrier, a well-known Canadian writer, has read part of the typed manuscript that I transcribed (about 10 years ago) from the original hand-written manuscript. Carrier's reaction was, "You should publish this manuscript because it is rare to find such Quebec source material for this time period that was written from an 'English' perspective."

Ten years have passed since I received this advice and the document remains unpublished, so I'm thinking of offering it to you for publication on the internet.

The diary contains lots of colourful Irish sayings. My two favourites are, "I'd like a hair from the dog that bit me." and "As tight as a fiddler's bitch on the night of of an orgy." (Paterson's wife and children belonged to the Brethren church and disapproved of the consumption of alcohol. Hnece, any social function that included alcohol was viewed as an orgy.)

Also, the diary contains uncomplimentary remarks about family members and neighbours that Thomas Paterson chose to express in the privacy of his personal diary. One hundred and twenty years have passed and everyone mentioned in the diary has been dead for many years, so I don't think there is reason to be concerned about making this material public.

One final comment: I am not the owner of the diary, but the owner has given me permission in writing to publish it.

So that you may view Edmund Patterson "warts and all" I am attaching the following sample of his writing

Beginning of sample:


Sunday January 7th, 1872

Morning opens desperately cold & bright - Mrs P. & Boys to meeting and I sit trembling thinking of removing two days frozen dung from the stables and windows and shovelling out snow and Cutting out ice for the cattle to drink, as they were not watered, nor stables cleaned yesterday in consequence of Pickin's being here. O! how I dread this winter as well as tomorrow's election - Drifting and blowing like fun about 10 a.m. - Mrs P and youngster's home at one - Willie Randlett to dinner, - Darbon Lawrence almost Killed yesterday by a pitch out on his head when crossing Rail Road track at Richmond. Dinner today cold beef, fried Potatoes, tea, bread & butter, doughnuts and apple pie - no meeting this afternoon, it is so cold - Nobody from New London at meeting this morning - Sam, Rachel, and the children came over in the evening. Rachel did not go to meeting today it was so cold - James helped me to do the stabling in the afternoon - very cold still at 5 o clock P.M. - Willie Randlett stopped all night.

Monday January 8th, 1872

Day opened very fine & bright. Freezing hard but no wind, therefore not so unpleasant as yesterday - Boys working at stable. Election of Councillors - Atkinson, Burrill, Reed, Picken, J Armatage, Scrabble Hollow Bill Wm Reed elected without contest. Noah Cummings made a desperate onslaught upon the unfortunate Secretary in the Council room (a reference to Paterson, the writer of the diary, who once served as a school teacher) charging him with a cool-determined wicked attempt with malice propense to kill him in days gone by breaking over his back an innumerable amount of sticks, rulers and other deadly weapons leaving him in a most terrible black and blue condition, and furthermore with having displayed in subsequent years unmistakable malice and spite to the aforesaid Cummings, besides being "a mean stuck up Pup" who made himself rich by taking a little off every individual composing the general Public, and many other charges too numerous to mention which were received with a considerable amount of merriment by the surrounding auditry. Nevertheless the Secretary was most zealously defended by the whole assembly in general and by Richd Majar, Wm Reed, John Hall, Wm Burrill, William G. Lyster and Jacob Armatage in particular.

Subsequently, upon adjourning to Halls to have a little sup of Gin, Mr Cummings came there too - apologized, buried the hatchet, shook hands and took a glass of gin. Bill Burrill and I returned at eve, "na far, na vara vara fu, but just a wee drap in our 'ean", But Shade of Bachus, what a reception, Poor Burrill and I met when entering within the precincts of his Domicile. Like a gushing wind - like a raging whirlwind - like a roaring tornado, Mrs B., Lizzy & Sebe opened upon him the fierce vials of their wrath, Pouring out their seething & discordant Ire in one continuous strain as one run out her part, another fell on, and when the latter became exhausted, the third took up the broken measure, and then again the whole trio united their vocal powers in one grand chorus, so loud - so simultaneous so overwhelming, that Poor B. sank his venerable Crest resting his chin upon that portion of his breast called "the Sternum" - and mutely, silently, gently and quietly as a little child sought in the arms of oblivious sleep; forgetfulness of wild and pitiless storm that the three ladies were lavishing with such rich prodigality of tongue upon his devoted head, I left in Perfect disgust, feeling assured that an encounter with three witches such as represented in Macbeth would have terrors in it, less to be dreaded than a reception from Burrill's three guardian angels - I think I will like my own little angels at home, better than ever I did. (Note by J A Alexander: William Burrill is my wife's great-grandfather!)

Tuesday January 9th, 1872

Pretty cold commencement - James gone to Mill with a grist he could not get it ground before night, so he returned and went back with twenty five Bushels of oats for oatmeal - Eddy made a Dung Pool in the new horse stable - I wrote official notices to newly elected Councillors - Nothing remarkable in this day's proceedings - Lucy & Eddy went to McGill's for evening meeting - James would not go - A very severe shock of an earthquake about 8h 5m P.M.- wind S, mild and snowing.

End of Sample


The full transcript may be downloaded in a Microsoft Word format:
Enjoy the reading!!

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