Mr. S. Washington’s Address.

Knowing that our venerable and respected citizen, Stephen Washington, Esq., could give a very intelligent account of the early history of this district, we requested him to prepare a paper, and although there was no time to read it at the centenary celebration, we publish it in this connection feeling sure it will be read with equal interest and satisfaction to anything yet published.

As one of the old settlers of this country I am greatly pleased that so much interest is being taken in the celebration of the first settlement of this section of our grand Dominion, and gladly comply with the request to give some incidents connected with the settlement of this town and township. Though not born in this country I am a true Canadian in principle and feeling.


I was born June 24, 1813, at Beallawaite Green, 5 miles from the town of Kendal, n the County of Westmoreland, England, where the ancestors of George Washington were born and resided. The history of the General’s life states that his grandfather was born in Kendal, Westmoreland, England. There is no one left of the name in England, for when our family left in 1829, my grandfather was the only one left, and he died at Kendal 1848, aged 97. His two only brothers had gone to the States before I was born, and my father was his only son. I can remember having regular correspondence with them up to the time we left, urging us to go to the United States, and offering us great inducements to come there. But no consideration could induce my father to desert the old flag. We sold out in the spring of 1829, having most satisfactory results. We got for some only ordinary land £11 sterling per acre. In less than two years after land fell in price nearly 50 per cent. We sailed from Liverpool May 12th, had a favourable voyage on the whole with one exception – our ship ran aground at the entrance to the St. Lawrence. We remained there nearly 24 hours, Ballast was thrown out, and the tide came and we were then afloat once more and were all pleased. We were five weeks and four days in reaching Quebec with about 300 passengers on board. We took steamer for Montreal. Then the Durham boats, as they were called, were pushed along most of the way by Frenchmen, with oxen to pull us up the rapids. When we got to Cornwall we had to change and take the steamer for Toronto, or rather, Little York. We had to wait till next morning so we took our beds into the storeroom and laid them on the floor. In our hurry we forgot our bag of sovereigns, and when going out an old lady we had with us who was nearly blind struck her foot against it. My father very coolly said the money would not leave us, but we were very near leaving it. When we arrived at York we decided to remain there until we had purchased a farm, so we rented a two-storey brick house on King St., about where Parliament St. is now, and the forest – a thick second growth pine forest – came within four rods of the street. We could at that time buy 100 acres in that part of the city for less per acre than we paid for our farm. Father went into several townships north of the town in search of a farm. Then he went east to the township of Scarborough where he made a purchase 10 miles east on the Kingston road. There were some improvements on the place and some buildings but of little value. He paid $7.50 per acre. At the north part of the lot was built the old Scarborough station. It was splendid land – we raised great crops of wheat, 40 bushels to the acre. We had one year from a little less than four acres about 1,700 bushels of potatoes, which we sold for $600.

The government buildings were there besides a large number of soldiers and officers. We had a contract to supply them with nearly everything we raised. As we had not room for all of us on the homestead we decided to get some more land. We learned that in the Township of Darlington there was a large quantity; so in 1832 my father, brother Anthony and myself came in search of 200 acres. Making for what was then called Saxon Settlement we called on a few whom had settled there. We made inquiries about the owners of the land, but had a most difficult task to find out who owned the land. Many of them had no knowledge of who owned the lot next to their own; a number of the settlers were on the Clergy Reserve lots. They went on without permission, as it was understood that they would be allowed the first chance to purchase at the price of the unimproved lands. We tried to purchase the right in the farm now owned and occupied by my old and much esteemed neighbour, Mr. Wm. Werry. Mr. Chatoy, the man then the occupant, asked us what we thought an unreasonable price for his improvements, so we could not agree and went home greatly disappointed. However, we had learned the numbers of the lots and concessions while there. We greatly admired the lot south in the concession 5, lot 27. The other being 27 in con. 6. After being home about 2 weeks my father when looking over the Christian Guardian, which he subscribed for when first published in 1829, he noticed an advertisement of land to sell in the Township of Darlington and at once perceived that it was the very lot we had so much admired. We had done business with one of the parties that had the disposing of it, so father went in the next day (it was the first day it had been in the paper) and asked what their price was. They said, “We are executors of the will of the late Dr. Stiller and he left this lot to be sold to pay the funeral expenses and the amount is $400; if we can get that it is all we require as there is no mention of any overplus.” They agreed to give us the first chance and wait a week, so I cam down a second time to inspect. I called on a man named Syres who owned the lot adjoining on the west, and had chopped up to the line of the lot. When I asked him if he knew the lot he said he did and had been all over it as he had his mind made up to purchase it. He said there was not a better lot in the township. What was the lot worth? Well, he said, I would give 4800 for it today if I could get it. I was so well satisfied that I did not go over the south hundred, that which was afterwards my home so long and is now the home my son Albert. I need hardly say we soon paid their price and got the deed in 1834.

In September my brother Anthony and myself, brother George and the late Daniel Hogarth who was a cousin of ours, came, put up a shanty and chopped 20 acres, which we accomplished before Christmas. Came in the spring to clear up what we had chopped and also to build a house, which we completed in the fall. We had no road within a mile of the place except through between the trees which we blazed, and we had to go in and out at night carrying torches made of fat pine split out of crotches of laid down pine. The only concession that was chopped out north of Kingston road was from the town line of Whitby, now Taunton, to what is now called Mitchell’s Corners. We had no road to get to what now is the town of Bowmanville except by going west to Two Rod Road, and coming out at Harmony, 13 miles. We could get out in the winter on the line south of Zion church, which strikes the main road half a mile west of Courtice.

Our first 20 acres of wheat we threshed with flails. We threshed two days, cleaned up an every third day came out with a load with the oxen. We got a good price, 7 shillings, and the cash home with us each load. We were paid by the late Mr. J. Lister, who lived on the west side of the bridge on the opposite corner from Mr. J. C. Vanstone’s residence. This place was then called Darlington Mills. The principal reason the grain was taken from that section to Oshawa, or what was at that time called Skea’s Corners, was the fact that the road was so much better.

We did a large amount of business with the John Burke, whose death we greatly lamented. He was one of the most honourable businessmen we ever had dealing with. After he moved from Oshawa here we did all or nearly all our grain business with him. He did what few would do. He often gave more than the price was when delivered, if the market advanced.

Among the settlers in the neighbourhood, there was George Saxton, one of the earliest, but he sold out and moved away, and has passed away, also his wife. I had the opportunity of saying a few words of cheer to her on her dying bed near Warkworth. She learned I was there on business and sent for me. In a few days she was gone I believe to a better world. Then the late John Coleman, Sen.; he and his daughter Jane had been in about a year. They with William Coleman came is 1833 and purchased 275 acres, now owned by T.O. Langmaid, J.P., now of this town, and Mr. W.N. Pascoe 75 acres. He owned 100 acres, the south part of Mr. John Stainton’s place; his son John owned lot 25 in the 5th concession now owned by Mr. T.O. Langmaid and occupied by his son Charles. The rest of the family came in the spring of 1834 – Richard, Francis, Mary Ann and Elizabeth with their mother. In December 1835 Jane Coleman became the wife of the writer and we two journeyed together for forty years. Mary Ann was married to the late Mr. Joseph Langmaid, father of Thomas C. Joseph and the late W.H. Langmaid and Mrs. Benjamin Ashton. Elizabeth was married to Mr. W. Annis, now living with his son Levi Annis, near Ebenezer. Bartholomew Mitchell, who died many years ago, was one of the early settlers having moved in 1834. Mrs. B. Mitchell is now residing in her beautiful home in Oshawa. In leaving her home where she had so long resided she was greatly missed, especially at Zion church where she and her late husband had been members so many years. The late Wm. Bain, brother-in-law of Mr. Mitchell, moved in about the same time. Mr. Bain was a very intimate friend of mine, with whom I have had many interesting visits. We were all greatly troubled about his sad end. It will be remembered that Mr. Bain and Mr. George Lee of Whitby, near Kedron, with another farmer friend started on a trip to England and the steamer struck an iceberg and sunk and all three found a watery grave. Mr. Bambridge of Oshawa was on the same boat but was picked up in an unconscious state and his life saved.

Messrs. Arnot were also in among the first. Robert Arnot moved to the States many years ago and I understand has done well. The late Daniel Arnot moved on to the place south of my old homestead about a year after I came. Mrs. Arnot is still on the homestead with her two sons Levi and Daniel; they have always been obliging neighbours and greatly respected. The late Daniel Hogarth settled with his mother and brother George in ’36 or ’37. George moved west where he died aged over 8 years about three years ago, and William and John moved west. William is dead; John lives in St. Marys; his wife is dead. She was the daughter of the late Jacob Mitchell. Aaron Thompson moved in about ’34 or ’35. He was a noble man, greatly esteemed a faithful Christian. He met with a sad accident. They were threshing at his own place on a Monday. He put his head in to see the reason the machine threw the belt off and it caught his head and he was killed on the spot. I sat by his side in the church during two services on Sunday, the day before the accident. Mr. John Henry, son of the late Thomas Henry, has been in this neighbourhood a long time. His son A.E. Henry is postmaster at Taunton. Thomas Henry was one of those who settled on the lakeshore the very first. He and the late Jesse VanCamp used to preach in the settlement of Zion 60 years ago. They were both well received. John VanNest is one of the old settlers. I have known Mr. VanNest personally for over 60 years. His mother and stepfather who name was Blake, lived on the adjoining lot when we moved in. He was a great man to hunt and he trapped in the fall of 1836 no less than nineteen bears – some very large ones. He had a large steel trap as much as a man could carry and baited it with a piece of pork, covering it over with leaves. Bears would smell the meat and put in their paw to get it and be caught. One bear took the trap near a mile and then in its desperation gnawed off the arm and left the paw in the trap.

I could interest the young folks telling about killing bears and wolves. We had a large number and they were very destructive; we had several sheep and calves killed and eaten by the brutes and some times could not sleep at night for their noise. You could hear three or four packs of wolves at once trying, which could make the most noise. For two or three years we had to save our sheep, build a pen about 10 feet high and pull them in at night; then wolves would get around the pen in large numbers, and poor sheep would all get in a heap frightened almost to death. It was several years before we got clear of these brutes.

I will say no more about the town as there are others that know as well and perhaps better than I do; although I passed through the winter of 1830 there was but little to be seen then. I know more about the country around. I can count nearly twenty townships, all connected, wherein I have traveled and held services and buried the dead when the minister could not be got.

I want to say a little about my experience as a soldier. When the rebellion broke out it was a most exciting time; we heard all sorts of rumours that the city was taken by rebels. My brother Anthony took his horse and rode up as soon as we heard of it. I remained to take care of my wife and child and the stock. Brother was not married but had several cattle to feed. When I heard the cannon as I did when they fired on the rebels, I thought I must go and the order had been given that a company be formed and march to Toronto. They started from Cavan, and then parties joined in at Port Hope and Cobourg; Clarke and Darlington also were to fall into line, so I joined in the front. It was on a Saturday and it was late in the day before they got their fare. The roads were dreadful bad – about 3 inches of mud, soft as mortar. We numbered about 200 or perhaps more and not half of us were supplied with a gun. At dark, we arrived in the neighbourhood of Post’s hotel. We filled every standing place and a number were sent off to farmhouses. Some of the poor fellows that had come from Cavan and Port Hope were nearly starved. We had what bread they had but there was not one-tenth who got any. They gave us some of the fattest pork I ever ate, it was put in the frying pan and before it was half cooked they took pieces out with their hands, numbers got none, but to be hungry was not the worst. They could not get anything to sit on. Mud was about as thick in every room in the house as the road. We put in what might be called a rather unpleasant night longing for daylight. On Sunday morning we started for the city. It took us to near night. When we had gone a few miles someone reported that the rebels were in ambush and would make for us on the way, so we thought that a shillaleh would be better than no weapon, so axes were got and shillalehs cut and we were then all armed. However, the sticks answered for walking sticks but we had no use for them to beat down the rebels. When we got to Highland Creek, about 15 miles from Toronto, brother Anthony, who had gone up before met us. We told him we were all nearly starved and to go ahead and tell mother that she must give us everything in the house that could be eaten, so she obeyed orders with a great deal of pleasure. The officers and all made a general halt an all went for the bread and cheese and when all was devoured the officers called for three cheers for the generous old lady and they gave a good rousing cheer.

When we arrived there were so many in the place ahead of us it was hard work to get us billeted. We had to wait on the street at least an hour. However we got plenty to eat and took no harm after that. The fighting was all over and after drilling a little for two or three days we were sent home. My father was in the fight at Montgomery’s hotel; he said the rebels scattered in all directions after the first discharge of the cannon loaded with grapeshot. Several were taken prisoners. One man refused to surrender and on the approach of the officers fired his rifle and shot one of them in the arm. They then shot and wounded the man. He was taken to the hospital. I don’t know what the result was; he was greatly to blame himself as he was assured by the officers he would not be hurt if he would lay down his arms. My brother John was sent with a company to guard the Government House; he was about 18 at the time; while their orders came that they were at once to leave for the Don bridge. The Matthews’ party of rebels had set fire to the bridge. In the mean time the Fire Company had got word and they arrived on the spot about the time the company from the Government House did. A few rods this side of the bridge a collared man fired at them getting behind a corner to load his rifle. When the fire engine came in sight, they supposed it was the cannon and they cleared for the woods. The bridge fire was put out with very little damage. But the case of the young Englishman who was in the employ of the Taylor’s company, up the Don, being shot by Matthews' orders was very sad. It was a most heartless act on Matthews’ part. The first order was disobeyed; they dropped their rifles without firing. Matthews’ gave the second order with the threat that he would fire on them. That was the reason Matthews was hanged. While in the city I attended the funeral of the young man. He had no relatives in this country. Some blamed the government for his execution, but under the circumstances they could hardly be blamed.

I must conclude now, as I may at some other time, give my experience in school and church matters; the progress in educational matters is marvellous as also have been church matters in general.

S. Washington.

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