On renovating the house last year , we found that the logs on each side of a door were identical which seems to prove that the builder who helped my great grandfather in its construction must have stood back and studied the "box" for a while before cutting out the doors and windows. I can't say that he was an expert in that work for no two doors or windows were of exactly the same size. Rafters for the roof were squared from small pines about four inches square. Roof boards were wide, some as wide as twenty-two inches and from twelve feet to sixteen feet long. A big fireplace occupied one end of the house fitting into whatever room it could. It was fed with large sticks of wood. We would call them logs today. Floor joists were large timbers called "sleepers", the ends of which fitted into notches in the bottom logs called "sills". In the course of many years, these sills sometimes rotted out giving the house a noticeable tilted appearance. Strains developed as a result. Doors and windows fitted poorly. Sooner or later in family discussions, the poor old house became condemned and in time was replaced by a more up-to-date home of brick or frame. As likely as not, the new house was larger than the old log house, because families in the 1870s were still much larger than today. Sometimes the vaulting ambition of the owners of the new house demanded that it be "better" than that of the neighbors. Hence, all sorts of "fancy work" was added, both inside and out, in an effort to keep ahead of the "Jones's". The old log house gradually fell into decay. Today so far as I know, I live in the only original log house in the township.
Building the house and corresponding barn was not the only problem facing the pioneers of Camborne. What good was building these improvements without roads to get their products to market? At first this was not so important as each family was a self-contained unit. Food produced was only sufficient to serve the needs of the family and all their surplus energy was needed to clear away the great dark forests and make way for more production. Clothing was all produced on the farm, from wool on the sheep to clothing on the backs of the folk. The early roads were mere "blazed" trails through the woods and were quite suitable for journeying on foot. Getting to Cobourg required better roads. The road was merely an area from which the trees were cut and followed the old trail or foot path through the woods. Sometimes the old path had originally been a cow path among the stumps. Consequently, the road, as at first built, was crooked but as nobody was in a great hurry, a few turns and bends only added to the beauty of the hills and dales so common around Camborne and Glourourim. It also gave an opportunity for road builders to avoid the larger pine roots which were more bother to remove than to drive around in those days. Nobody had even thought of the days one hundred years later, when folk were in such a hurry to get nowhere in particular, that the romantic twists had to be removed at a cost that would then have kept several families in luxury for a year.
The pioneer roads were usually very good in winter. The snow did not drift as much then for the forest came down to the roadside itself. The jingle of the sleigh bells provided music for the young and light-hearted as the old sleighs slid silently among the quiet roads. Seldom were the roads bare of snow from November till April but as the snow grew deeper, "pitch-holes" developed on the roads. These started in a low spot in the snow; as the sleighs went along the depression gradually grew deeper until a hole had formed. That caused the horses to shy or jump through the hole with a resulting teeth-shattering jolt that took romance out of a drive on a moonlight night. In the early days, these bad spots were not common but as the forest was cleared and winds got a wider sweep, they became more common and took the joy out of driving in winter. With April came Spring and worse roads. As the frost came out, the mud became deeper and the wheeled vehicles sank down. One side of the wagon or buggy might be up high on hard ground while the other side would be down sunk in the morass. Travel was therefore slow and many preferred to walk rather than ride under the circumstances. Some person got the bright idea that if logs were placed across the worst spots such as the bad spot near the old tollgate below Camborne, it would be a vast improvement. This was fine as long as the dirt placed on the top of the logs stayed in place, but sooner or later it sifted lower leaving the logs exposed. These proved much worse to travel over than the pitch-holes in winter, hence the name a "corduroy" road.
Later came the gravel road and Camborne had one of the first gravel pits which has been in nearly constant use for almost a century. In the 1850s there was built a truly wonderful plank road from near Gore's Landing to Cobourg. This road was made of pine plank three inches thick laid on stringers on top of the dirt or old corduroy as the case might be. How the horses stepped along. The wagon wheels roared a constant song as people rode in comfort to town in their springless wagons. But all good things come to an end at last and after a few winters' frosts had got in their work, the planks tilted at all sorts of crazy angles which made riding on them worse even than the corduroy road. At first, they were kept in good repair but cost of lumber went up and the plank road was abandoned.
Later came the gravel road to Camborne. This was a municipal undertaking and all good citizens were expected to contribute labor to maintain them. The roads around Camborne and Glourourim were divided into sections each with a "pathmaster" in charge. It was his duty to see that everybody (male) did his share of work on the days of the gravel bee. All the men and boys gathered at the gravel pit and drew gravel which was spread on the road as evenly as possible. The pathmaster supervised and made a report to the township council later in the year. The township then had good roads at last.
For years, this method was cheap and effective. Tax rates were kept low but the automobile came and the expense of keeping up the roads became too much for the township. "Statute labor", as the earlier method was called, was abandoned in favor of paid labor hired by the township and supported by a large provincial grant. Today the road to Cobourg is paved, or at least most of it is. So the Rice Lake gravel road has passed through all stages from a pioneer brush road to that of a near relative of the great provincial road system; from a public road through private ownership with tollgates, to collect toll to pay for its upkeep (the only tollgate in Camborne district was located at the corner of the fourth concession where the road leads into the township gravel pit); and back again to a county road. Camborne in early days soon became a hub for leading roads. These were first known as "forced" roads, built through a man's farm whether he wanted it or not. I don't suppose many objected to the road but it did use up precious land which might have been used in growing crops. Besides, it had to be fenced at their expense. As a result, these roads were far from being sixty-six feet wide as required. With new fences being built from time to time, the road allowance became as narrow as the owners could get it and allow traffic to pass.
The roads from Camborne are still in use and in order of building were as follows: the valley road to Glourourim and Bewdley, known as the Peterborough road; the road east from below the village, known as Smylie's road, leading over towards Cornish Hollow; Lacey's road from the center of the village up the branch valley to the Lacey homestead where it joined a side road, continued as part of the Fifth Concession toward Bethel Church and beyond to the Port Hope gravel road. In late years, this road was continued to the next side road, where a much better gradient was obtained. The old road along the concession was too hilly for any animal to travel, except perhaps a billy goat. Now, having the roads and homes established, we are in a position to talk about the people who came to this fair land a hundred or more years ago, cleared it of trees, and built the homes and roads. For our purpose in recording the families who have lived at Camborne and Glourourim during the past century or more, I intend to tell particularly of those who occupied Lots 17 to 25 inclusive in the Fourth Concession and Lots 19 to 24 in the Fifth Concession. Lot 17 was, like all the rest, Crown property until about 1801 when it was granted to Eliza Dickson. Who Eliza Dickson was, I do not know; but she not only got this whole lot but more besides. One could hazard a guess that she was one of the later comers among the United Empire Loyalists or perhaps a daughter of one of them. This lot, like all the others was 200 acres in area and extended from the Fourth Concession to the Fifth. She in turn sold the whole lot to James Bethune, who in turn sold it to my great grandfather Thomas Crossen, Sr., who started the work of making a home here in 1827. He was a native of County Down in Ireland and moved to the wilderness of Upper Canada in that year with most of his family. His nephew James Crossen came out about the same time and located in Cobourg where he became the founder of The Crossen Car Works. The original log cabin was located on the front end of the farm in Cornish Hollow. Later, the forced road passed through about the center of the farm and a new set of farm buildings were built: a stone house and frame barn, now owned by Mr. Eldred Lean. Since 200 acres was too much land to clear and cultivate with the equipment then available, the lot was soon divided. In 1840, the east half of the lot was deeded to his son Thomas Crossen, Jr., and the father kept the west half. On his death in 1847, it was sold and we hear no more of it until George Nixon bought it about 1880. A part had already been sold to Thomas Runnals in 1870. Thomas Crossen, Jr. married Margaret Greer, a childhood sweetheart in Ireland who, along with her younger sister Ann, had made their way from Ireland to Canada against the opposition of their parents, without the aid of their friends - a most extraordinary journey for unescorted young ladies in those days. Apparently, they made the trip successfully, for on arrival at Cobourg they were both married to their waiting sweethearts. Thomas Crossen and his wife had a family of eight children, of whom four did not marry.
One of these was remarkable in being the tallest woman in these parts. Naturally she was a source of "tall" tales, too. She got a great deal of fun from the stares and nudges of folk whom she met on the streets of Cobourg. She was particularly tickled if some urchin asked her if it were cold up there especially if the day happened to be hot. Lizzie and her black horse were quite a sight along the roads around Camborne about the beginning of this century.
Moving along to the west, George Nixon's farm was sold after his death to W. Curtis, then to W. Davey and is at present owned by Mr. Rue Palmateer. The next lot has had a rather peaceful history. It was a Crown grant in 1817 to a Mr. Servois, who sold later to Thomas Smylie. At present, there is no house anywhere on the whole 200 acres except for the part now owned and occupied by Mr. Ed. Morrison on the west side of the county road on the edge of Pine Glen. This small part of the lost has had several owners, including Truman McEvers, one of a well-known family around Camborne in the early days. Other present day owners of the rest of the lot are Keith Harper and Luther Smylie. Lot 19 of Concession 4 was granted by the Crown to Eliza Dickson in 1801 and between that date and 1827 had several owners who did little in clearing the land; but it then passed into the hands of Hugh Smylie. The present owner of the south half of the lot, Mr. Luther Smylie, is a great grandson of Hugh Smylie. This farm is one of the few in this neighborhood which has been in continuous ownership in the same family over a century. On the death of Hugh Smylie in 1839, the whole 200 acres was divided between his sons Sam, who got the south half, and James, who fell heir to the north 100 acres. Sam died about 1877 and the 100 acres passed to his son James; on his death, it became the property of his son, the present owner, Luther Smylie.
The north 100 acres was divided several times and later lay in the edge of the village. The present main street of Camborne cut into this farm at the "Point" dividing it in two parts. First it belonged to George Stewart (1844). The farm house was at the foot of Camborne hill on the east side of the road, owned by Mr. George Kennedy at present. This house was built in an unusual manner. The outside walls were of boards placed one on top of the other, nailed together so that the edges of the boards did not exactly coincide and made it possible to cover the outside with mortar (roughcasting) thus making a very warm house.
Mr. Stewart was the first postmaster of Camborne (1855). The post office was in this house, in a room that could be called today a basement living room. The upper story was reached by a stair on the outside of the house. The home was destroyed by fire shortly after the turn of the century and no trace of it can be seen today. Mr. Stewart had the honor of being the first librarian of Hamilton Township. In an account of the proceedings of the Council, October 1854, he was paid his quarter's salary of three pounds, fifteen shillings. Today, Hamilton Township has no "official" library or librarian. Mr. Stewart sold part of his farm cut off by the road in 1855 to David Yeoman, who built a small roughcast house on the side of the hill which commanded one of the most beautiful views in the township, over the village and out through the widening valley to the blue waters of Lake Ontario in the distance.
Continue to Part 3
|Contributed by: Rob Lean
Originally published in Coburg Sentinel-Star.
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