HISTORY OF BOWMANVILLE

Part 3.

By Mr. J. B. Fairbairn, Post Master

The Lett family apart from Ben were cultivated people. His sister was educated in the school-house near their residence in the western part of Darlington. They went to school with the Licks and evidently the school master was abroad even at that early date. She with the other members of the family were passionately fond of this unfortunate brother as is shown by the many things written by them about him. The following beautiful lines of which she was authoress, having reference to the little rivulet in the Darlington farm, now Mr. Eber Millson's, show high poetic talent and are worthy a place in any Canadian publication. They delineate the romantic appearance of the little brook and give a good idea of the native trees of which the woods were then encompassed:

"Memories"

O, how I longed for the grand old woods, With their leaves of living green, As I stood on the prairies' boundless waste Where never a tree was seen.

I longed for a seat on a mossy log In the cool Canadian shade; I longed for a drink from the sparkling brook, And the murmuring sound it made.

The gravelly brook where the cresses grew, Under the green woods pendant boughs With each favorite spot my childhood knew, Where slyly I watched the wild deer browse.

The gravelly brook where I used to wade, In the heat of the summer day, Where fearless around me the minnows played, While the trout swam swiftly away.

Memory comes to me now like a dream, Like a dream it comes to me now, And just for a moment a child I seem, Forgetting the lines on my brow.

I am watching the green leaves everhead Moving and sifting the sunshine down, Birch, maple and beech their branches spread Basswood and ash the white and brown..

I see the young summer with rich perfume Softly she comes through the greenwood now, Tufting the dogwood with snow white bloom, Binding the roses around her brow.

Now memory fails-the vision has fled And leaves me alone with my fears, And time is flinging its snow on my head And loading me down with its years.

And a shadow stands in my room tonight, And its presence strikes me dumb, For I know I must follow its airy flight, Whenever it whispers "Come".

Following up the fortunes of the Burk family, there were three sons and three daughters of the former. John and William continuously resided here. The first named after a short residence in Oshawa entered into partnership in a general store, milling and distilling business with Mr. John Simpson which they carried on for some time. After the dissolution of the firm he assumed the business and had a successful mercantile career. No one in the town or county was more popular. There was an attractive cordiality about the man, an evenness of temper and kindness of heart that endeared him to those who knew him at all well. Strictly upright in all his transactions, considerate for others, he could not but have an influential position among his fellow men. As an instance of his urbanity, I remember a little old shack of a building in which the post office was situated, had a lock on the door which was out of gear making it hard to open and shut. He called my attention to it several times and with youthful carelessness I kept forgetting to get it repaired. One day he smilingly said to me, "Look here, I am going to bring you up a new lock," which he did. This I neglected having put on, so after a few days had elapsed, he brought a screw drive himself being determined to have the difficulty removed. However as the climax was reached I got some one to do the work. He made a large fortune but by an inscrutable Providence he died comparatively a young man. With all his prosperity he never had a swelled head and continued to the end of his career to enjoy the esteem of the community. His death created widespread sorrow all through the country where he was extensively known.

Mr. Wm. K. Burk owned and sailed a schooner on the lake. After running it for some years it was wrecked, I think near Oakville. He then gave up that business and settled down on the old homestead. He was for a long time quite a public man, was elected again and again to municipal office, a member of the Town Council and also of the County Council. He gave many years of service in those positions. He was a great friend and colleague of the late John McLeod. M. P. P.. They were fast political and personal friends. He had a keen sense of humor and was always full of fun. Some of the older citizens may remember the last old fashioned sugar-making in the limits of the corporation was on his farm. He got it up especially so as to have a good time and asked a great many down to enjoy the sugaring off. I was among the crowd. He too was only about 60 years of age when he passed away.

David Burk, the younger, after farming a short time in Darlington, moved to Oshawa where he permanently took up his abode. In this country families do not remain long in one place. Among all the numerous descendants of the Burk connection on the mail side of the family, there are only three remaining among us. Mr. Marvin Burk , our energetic townsman, the venerable Harvey W. Burk, ex M. P., and Mr. Erastus J. Burk who owns and cultivates a large acreage of the paternal land.

The ground to cover is so extensive I hardly know where to begin. Will make the first store and the events connected with it the pivotal point from which to start.

Mr. Charles Bowman who acquired the property on which a good portion of Bowmanville now stands, was a Scotchman, possessing in a large degree the natural characteristics of the race prominent among which are caution, foresight, perseverance and frugality. His headquarters were at Montreal. He met my father the late Robert Fairbairn, J. P. at Port Hope. He had recently arrived there from Scotland. Pardon me if I allude slightly to my father and his career. He was born near Dunce in Berwickshire, went at an early age to learn the dry goods business with a brother in Haddington. After serving his apprenticeship he started in business on his own account at Pennycouick, where a large number of French prisoners taken in the Napoleonic wars were confined, I think there was more pleasure than business in the place. I know from what I have heard him say that social life and consequent amusement greatly prevailed. Not finding it meeting his expectations, he moved to Forfarshire and after a short residence there he quit the business and decided to try his fortunes in the New World as it was then known in the Old Countries.

It is hardly credible but is a fact nevertheless, that it took three months to cross the Atlantic. They had a drunken captain in charge, were several times on the point of starvation and on two occasions were relieved by passing vessels. They at last reached Norfold, Virginia, more dead than alive.

What small events apparently, have a controlling influence over our destiny. Among those who came out in the same vessel was a Mr. William Wallace of Edinburgh, writer of the signet - a position equivalent to our degree of barrister. He was a brother-in-law of Mr. David Smart of Port Hope. A friendship sprang up between them and he accompanied him to that place. Mr. Smart at that time was doing a large extensive business and my father went into his employment. Mr. Bowman being in want of a man to come to Darlington held out inducements to him to undertake the new enterprise which he wished to foster. They came to an agreement, he reaching here in 1823. For seven years he took charge but for some reason he could not work satisfactorily with his employer and threw up the position. In the meantime he had built a large frame store and dwelling on the brow of the eastern hill, on the lot now owned by Mr. Wm. G. Glover , on which the present billiard room is situated, near Mr. W. H. Williams' West End Smithy. He opened a general country store and not succeeding he retired, rented first to Wm. Warren , afterwards to a Mr. Sadd , of whom more anon. The premises were destroyed by fire in 1845 and were a total loss with no insurance. Mr. Bowman had other branch stores one being at Colborne. Mr. Steele , father of the well known Mr. J. Clarke Steele of Toronto went about the same time to Colborne in a similar position. Mr. Bowman spent a good deal of his time in the old country purchasing supplies. He had extensive means and knew how to buy to advantage.

I have in my father's handwriting a statement showing the population of Darlington in April 1827, 31 adult Baptists and 124 under 16 years of age; Methodists 45 and 180; Presbyterian 18 and 72; Church of England 7 and 28; Roman Catholics 10 and 40; professing no religion 61. Total 666. This reveals two interesting facts; first he exceedingly slow increase of the people of that date; second, the large number of children in proportion to the whole. Those hardy old pioneers must have believed in the command given "to multiply and replenish the earth." If they had lived in the present fast age the figures would have been reversed no doubt.


Next - Bowmanville and Darlington History Part 4

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