Our Clarke Families

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The Souches

"For O! itís the herrings and the good brown beef,

And the cider and the cream so white;

O! they are the making of the jolly Devon lads,

For to play, and eke to fight."

The family originally resided within a mile of the sea, upon that side of Bideford Bay which has been immortalized by Kingsley in "Westward Ho!" The name of the place was Elmscott (we are not sure of the spelling) and it was four miles from the famous old market town of Hartland, and nineteen from Bideford itself. Of this latter place, and of the people of that region generally, Kingsley writes: - "all who have travelled through the delicious scenery of North Devon must needs know the little white town of Bideford, which slopes upward from its broad tide-river paved with yellow sands, and many arched old bridge where salmon wait for autumn floods, toward the pleasant upland on the west. * * * Pleasantly the old town stands there beneath its soft Italian sky, fanned day and night by the fresh ocean breeze, which forbids alike the keen winter frosts, and the fierce thunder beats of the midland; and pleasantly it has stood there now, perhaps, eight hundred years, since the first Grenvil, cousin of the Conqueror, returning home from the conquest of South Wales, drew round him trusty Saxon serfs, and free Norse rovers with their golden curls, and the dark Silvrian Britons from the Swansea shore, and all the mingled blood which still gives to the seaward folk of North Devon their strength and intellect, and even in these leveling days, their peculiar beauty of face and form."

William Souch, who left this delightful and historic neighbourhood with his young family in 1832, was an only son, and by trade a shoemaker. His wife was Emelyn daughter of Richard Dennis and his wife Emelyn Marshall. The Dennis family owned considerable landed property near Hartland (at Milford, we believe) and, like the Souches, were members of the Wesleyan church. Indeed, John Dennis, who lived at Bideford, and was a brother of Mrs. Souch, exercised his gifts as a Wesleyan local preacher in the early part of the century.

The family sailed from Plymouth in a vessel named the "Prime," captain Harper in command. They were a trifle over six weeks on the voyage. There were about three hundred and fifty passengers on board, among whom was that worthy miller whose name was destined to become inseparably linked with the history of Orono, - Mr. Solomon Hooper. It seems that William Souch and Solomon Hooper were old neighbours and friends, but that for years their accounts with one another had never been settled. On board the "Prime", therefore, they proceeded to set things right, and the account book used on that occasion is now owned by Mrs. Jeffrey, of Bowmanville.

The Souches settled in Darlington, where most of their name was resided ever since; though, as a few have found their way into Clarke, it is fitting the family history would be sketched in these columns. The oldest representative of the family now living is Mr. Wm. Souch, who at the time of the sailing of the "Prime" was about thirteen years of age. His home is near Enniskillen, and he has distinct memories of that twenty-three arched old bridge of Bideford, whose praises Kingsley wrote, as well as of the limpet covered rocks washed by the sea where he passed many of the happy hours of childhood. The old gentleman has lively memories of pioneer work done in this country too. Where good gravel roads are found now in this Township, there was nothing better than a blazed path, or at most, a track made by the removal of the under-brush. Andirons supported the logs of wood in the generous fire-places of the log houses and tallow candles afforded light by night. Life was truly of a primitive character in those days when the forest covered all the land except at the clearing near the shore.

The forest was a favourite hunting ground of the Indians too, and those who ventured into it often came upon their traps, or the pegs which once secured them. The Indians were at this time just beginning to feel the effects of Chrisitianity. Elder Case had for several years been engaged in active mission work among them; and in 1823 had occurred the conversion of Peter Jones (Kahkewa quonaby), who forsaking his paganism, and becoming educated, was subsequently ordained to the ministry, and became the most successful Indian missionary that ever lived. Mr. Souch remembers the sermons of Peter Jones, as well as the broken English of the Indians whom he heard tell of the wonderful grace of God in their prayer meetings. When one realizes the great influence Peter Jones exerted over his Indian brethren one is led indeed to admire the prescience which induced Elder Case at the time of the young man's conversion to exclaim: - "Glory to God, there stands a son of Augustus Jones amongst the converts; now is the door open for the work of conversion among his nation!"

In those days, says Mr. Souch, the man would have been dubbed insane who prophesied that in twenty years or so a railroad would run across this country. Durham boats were the chief means of transit. But the railroad came, and thereafter the country made rapid advances until the present when we are beginning to find the benefits of electricity as well as steam among us.


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