LIFE AND HISTORY OF CAPTAIN M. S. CASSAN
Westfield Cottage, Seymour East
Staten Island was the quarantine ground where all strange vessels had to anchor. Upon our arrival a doctor came on board to examine the health of the passengers, which he found so satisfactory that he did not deem it necessary to have the ship placed under quarantine. But all the passengers' soiled clothes had to be sent to the wash house on the Island before they could be taken ashore. All our baggage, too, had to be examined by the Customs officers. My large chest was marked "military settler for Upper Canada," and I am happy to say this was sufficient guarantee to the officer that I was no smuggler. When I unlocked my chest, he simply looked on the top, and said he would put me to no further trouble, that it would be a pity to disturb its contents. I must acknowledge that in all my dealings with the bona fide Americans, I have ever found them kind, generous and hospitable.
I think it was the 24th of July that our ship cast anchor at Staten Island, and here a circumstance took place that I often look back upon with much regret. A New York merchant came on board the "Perdonetto" to see the Captain, and he and I got into conversation. Learning that I was going to Canada as a military settler, he turned to me and said, "Sir, if you will stay with us in the city of New York, I will give you a good situation." I was foolish enough to refuse his kind offer. The Union Jack was flying in my brain, and I would remain under no other flag. But I had cause to regret my folly in not accepting this offer, and remained in New York, I should have had a very different reception there to what I had to encounter in Seymour, as my readers shall hereafter learn.
Having made preparations for the removal of my family, a large boat was provided, and the passengers were conveyed to New York. We were glad to get to the city, and stopped at the Philadelphia hotel, kept by Mr. And Mrs. Petit, at the foot of Broadway, close to the Castle Gardens. Here we had to remain some days, until our clothes returned from the wash house at Staten island. My next move was up the Hudson River by steamer to Albany, from thence by Erie Canal to Oswego, and from there to Toronto. I found the weather at New York very hot and oppressive, and we were glad to leave the city in consequence. Mrs. C. was taken very ill the day we boarded the steamer, which debarred her the pleasure of viewing the beautiful scenery as we passed up the Hudson. When the steamer arrived at Albany, I moved my family to the Montgomery hotel. My wife was still ill, and I called in Dr. Shaw, a boarder at the hotel, to treat her. He pronounced the case one of the worst kind of Asiatic cholera, and said she was the only one of seven that had recovered that week. It came to our knowledge afterwards that upon our arrival at this hotel, we were put into the very bedroom in which a patient had died of cholera the day previous.
After a week's delay, we proceeded on our journey. The passage on the canal, from Albany to Oswego, was very slow and tedious, and I got off at the locks and went into the woods and shot squirrels and hawks. When the boat arrived at Utica, early in the morning, some of the passengers who were going ashore, stole a chest containing some of my wife's clothes, and also a fine pointer dog that I brought with me from Ireland. As soon as I discovered the theft, I went into the town, in search of them. I called for my dog, and hearing my voice, he cried so loudly, that I soon found his whereabouts, tied up in a yard. The clothes I never found.
At length we arrived at Oswego, and our next move was to a steamboat for Toronto, commanded by Capt. Richardson, a nice English gentleman. We had some delay at Niagara before we reached Toronto. The Captain informed us that the cholera was prevalent at Toronto, and told us to remain on board until he made enquiry where the safest place would be for us to go. We awaited his return, and he advised us to put up at the British Coffee House, and to this hotel we went, glad to get a rest after our long journey. Having my baggage conveyed from the steamer and lodged in safety, the following day I proceeded to the Government House, to announce my arrival to His Excellency, Sir John Colborne. Mr. Hagerman, having promised me in London that he would speak to His Excellency in my behalf, and let him know that I was coming to Toronto, gave me grounds to hope that I would not have to go to the back woods, and that he would get me some situation, but in this I was sadly disappointed. Sir John Colborne received me very kindly, and had a perfect recollection of my being with him in 1825 and 26, but was sorry it was not in his power to get me a situation at this time. He told me that his son was ill in the house with cholera, which he said was very prevalent in Toronto.
He sent for the Commissioner of Crown Lands, the Hon. Peter Robinson, and introduced me to him, and then informed me of the names of the different Townships then opened by the Government for Military and Naval officers to settle in. He named several, such as Ops, Lobo, Carradoc, London, and the Township of Seymour, and he said he would give me my choice of any township he had named, but strongly recommended me to go to Seymour, observing that I might spend a deal of money traveling to other settlements, and not find so good a locality as the Township of Seymour. He took down the map from the wall in the parlor, to point out the township of Seymour, and told me that a Canal would soon be built from the mouth of the River Trent to Lake Huron, and advised me to leave Toronto as soon as possible, the cholera being so prevalent, and go to Cobourg. He got a letter of introduction from the Hon. Peter Robinson, for me, to Mr. G. S. Boulton of Cobourg, and also a letter to Major Campbell, the Government agent at Seymour, and further advised me to settle as near the River Trent as possible, and I fully carried out Sir John Colborne's advice. Upon taking leave of His Excellency I accompanied the Commissioner of Crown Lands to his officers, where I fulfilled the requirement of the Government, binding myself in the matter of my allegiance to the Government. I found, upon my arrival in Toronto, that Mr. Hagerman was absent on circuit with the Judges. I called at Mr. Perrin's and was sorry to find that Mr. Perrin's eldest brother, to whom I had a letter from his father, had died of the cholera only a few days before our arrival. Mr. Perrin kindly offered us free lodgings at this house in the city. But I had made up my mind to start at once for Cobourg and leave my family there, and then push on to Seymour. Seeing I had no other alternative but to become a settler in the bush, the sooner I got there the better for my pocket, at any rate, for a costly journey would then be at an end, and the severity of a Canadian winter had to be met and provided for. I did not remain many days at the Coffee House.
I may here state that at this House I became introduced to a small lion, that used to frequent the House, and many visitors used to come to admire and caress this loquacious little animal till all hours of the night. Our bedroom was directly off the parlor, and a wink of sleep we could not get. Little did I imagine then that this same lion in three years after should have grown so powerful as to be able to disturb the rest and peace of the whole county. I am sure many of my readers will realize who the lion was that I met at the dinner table at the British Coffee House, in August 1834. It was no other than little lion McKenzie, the leader of the rebellion of 1837 and 38, the Canadian agitator of those troublesome times.
Having made the necessary arrangements for the removal of my baggage to the steamboat, we left Toronto and arrived the same evening at Cobourg, where I paid a visit to Mr. G.S. Boulton, and handed him the letter the Hon. Mr. Peter Robinson gave me. Mr. G. Boulton received me very courteously, and instructed me how to reach Seymour, and the residence of Major Campbell, and spoke very flatteringly of the Township of Seymour, saying he owned a great deal of land there, besides the gore upon the Trent River. After my interview with Mr. Boulton I made arrangements to leave my family at Cobourg, and then started by stage to Colbourn, where I hired a conveyance to Seymour, to the house of Mr. Beatty of Percy Landing. A great part of my journey from Colborne to Seymour was through a dense forest. I walked from the home of Mr. Beatty to the Ferry opposite Major Campbell's. This jorney was also through the forest, save the small clearance at Meyersburg, and smaller still at Ranney's Falls.
I have omitted to mention, that while at the hotel in Colborne, I met Lieut. Hayter, R.N., upon his return to Colbourg. He informed me that he had been to Major Campbell's, and had selected lands in Seymour, but had not finally made up his mind to retain the lots, but fearing I might select the same lots, or that some other newcomers would, he asked me to take a letter for him to Major Campbell; and he sat down and wrote a letter to say that he had made up his mind to keep the lots he had named, on the West side of the river, opposite the Major's.
I think it was a man named Graham that used to keep the ferry-boat, or Canoe, at the crossing of the River Trent to Major Campbell's. He also kept a small lodging house and tavern, chiefly for raftsmen.
On my arrival at the Major's, I met another Naval officer, Lieu. Clough, who had come to select lands to settle upon. Mr. Clough had this day engaged a man by the name of Norton, who was well acquainted with the township, and knew the lumber roads and the lines marked out for the different lots for settlement, as belonged to the Government, so I also engaged Norton for the next day, to accompany me to the lots, of which I had a list given me by Major Campbell, the resident agent. I accompanied Mr. Clough and Norton to the lots Mr. Clough had chosen. I found that Capt. McDonald had selected his lots in the vicinity of Mr. Clough's. I pushed on to Mr. Allan's, who kindly invited me to stop with him that night, and have an early start in search of a suitable location in the morning. So I arranged for my pilot Norton, of the backwoods, to call at Mr. Allan's for me in the morning. I found that a Mr. Kay had taken up his location alongside of Mr. Allan. Both these gentlemen belonged to the Navy. Mr. Allan wished me to settle near him, upon lot No. 22 in the 1st concession, but when I came to view the situation of the lot, I found one half of the land was upon an island, on the other side of what is termed the back channel of the River Trent, and this would not be very suitable for a farm, besides, the land was low and not likely healthy, so we moved up into the 3rd concession, taking a westerly course. We brought no eatables with us, but I carried a flask of good brandy, and when we had the good fortune to meet a creek, my readers may believe that we were glad of a chance to "wet our whistles," as they all know from experience what a toilsome walk is through a dense forest, in the middle of August, and the suffering with mosquitoes, passing through cedar swamps upon a burning, hot day, not a clearing or hut to be seen, all a dense forest, as we went along over ridges and valleys, alternately, as the township most all through consists. Coming on evening we came to a couple of lots I had upon the list in the 3rd concession, namely, 12 and 13, and finding the soil gave full proof of its good quality, by its fine crop of maple, beech, oak, pine and elm, I made up my mind to seek no further. We then pushed on through a cedar swamp and up high ridges, moving north in the hope of our being able to reach the tavern near Major Campbell's before dark; but we got lost in the woods. I became fairly tired out and had to sit down for a rest. After a little we started forward again, and at length came upon a small clearance and a shanty, where a settler had commenced to make a home for himself and sister, the name of George Scott. It was just dark when we reached the shanty, and Scott himself was absent, but his sister kindly made us welcome, and prepared supper for us, which we much needed, having brought no refreshments with us, leaving Mr. Allan's early in the morning. Miss Scott kept us all night, and I was glad to remain, for I was much fatigued. We started next morning to the tavern, and before leaving, I left all the brandy I had in my flask with Miss Scott, to give her brother when he returned home.
I next went to see the Major and gave him the number of the lots I had selected. I then took my guide, Norton, and a man named Thrasha, who used to build log houses and clear an acre of the woods. We went back to the 3rd concession to select a site for putting up a log house and clearing one acre. Thrasha asked 26 pounds; I offered him 24 pounds, but he refused, and we made no bargain. I then went down from the lot in the 3rd concession to Couch's place, upon the banks of the river, which at this time, 1834, was a gore reserve for a town, and it was here a comfortable frame house with a large log building for a store had been put up by the Government for an agent to receive the new settlers as they might arrive. Major Campbell resided at this time upon his own property, and a Mr. and Mrs. Hudspeth, new settlers from Scotland, had got permission to occupy the frame house for six months, while his log house was being built. There was an old soldier, or a man who passed himself off as such, his name is painfully familiar to me, for more reasons than that his name was truly Payne, the greatest scoundrel and imposter that in all my experience through life I ever met. It came to my knowledge that this fellow came to Canada from New Brunswick, and that as a soldier or Militiaman, he had drawn land from the Crown there, and sold it and then came to Canada and attempted to obtain another grant here. But his drunken wife when under the influence of liquor, "let the cat out of the bag," and any further grant in Canada was refused him. It was from this man I found out where Mr. G.S. Boulton's land lay upon the banks of the river, and it was into the Couch's place reserve that the eastern end of the gore terminated. This same Henry Payne told me if I would purchase a farm from, and close by Mr. Boulton, he would buy from me more or less of a farm for himself. I then got the said Payne to clear up and white-wash a small log house that was unoccupied after Couch's family left it and went to Rawdon. I had made up my mind to go and see Mr. Boulton, and purchase a small farm of land on the river, and bring to this log house my family, when I had it made comfortable as it would be so near the gore it would suit us until I had time to build. There was a good stone chimney, and at Mr. Meyers' saw mills I could obtain all the lumber I might need to put the house in comfortable condition for the winter. I made a bargain with Payne to do the work driving down the lumber from Porey landing, and then I started to Cobourg, saw Mr. G. S. Boulton, and purchased 70 acres up on the river. He charged me the exorbitant price of $6 per acre, when he knew full well that the highest price asked by the Government was 12s, Gd (?), per acre. I then purchased a stock of provisions such as flour and groceries, and hired two or three waggons to convey my family baggage and as muuch provisions as would last us six months, and set out for Mr. Beatty's at Percy Landing, with my family, bag, and baggage, where we remained until I had the log house at Couch's place made ready, which took about a week to fix up. I got this man Payne to take my baggage and family in the boat that the Government had provided for the coming of settlers into the township. The boat was ill-fitting to convey with safety either provisions or luggage of any kind, so leaky. I had a lot of loaf sugar and other articles destroyed ccoming down the river from Percy Landing to Couch's place. This man Payne overloaded the boat, so that it became half full of water and dissolved most of our sugar. Constant bailing out the boat did not save a vast deal of our groceries from being lost. It was dark night before we got moved into the small log house, 18 x 24. It took us a few days before we got settled and somewhat rested. It was fortunate for us that Mr. and Mrs. Hudspeth were residing at this time close to us; 29th of August, 1834, the date of our arrival in Seymour at Couch's place; and it is only a day or two ago, in this month of March, 1878, that I have learned the death of these well-remembered early settlers of this township. But a life in the backwoods was too trying for them, and they left the township in about a year after their arrival, and went to Colborne, where Mr. Hudspeth got the Grammar School, for which he was well qualified, having been a teacher, I think, in a College in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Having got my family settled in this log building as best I could, made up my mind, at once, to commence the battle with the forest. I purchased at Albany, two first-rate axes, and from old Payne I bought a good heavy brush hook, and then hired a man at $10 per month and his board, to help me clear a few acres to put in fall wheat, so as to raise our own bread the next year. I may here state that old Payne got outrageously mad when I informed him that I did not purchase any land for him, and that Mr. Boulton told me that he would not sell him any of his land. The old rascal thought to get the very spot I had laid out to build my house upon. I went to Percy and got a man named John Power and we bought a couple of sheep to kill, and then commenced our work. I underbrushed, and Power chopped down the trees, and in this way I became fully instructed in the use of the American axe, and within the month of September and the 4th of October I had three acres cleared, logged and burnt off, and was sown with fall wheat. My hands and fingers became sore and blistered at first. I bought the seed wheat from Major Campbell, and when I called to pay him for it, he would not take the money. He made me a present of it. I think very often of the days I used to go and see the Major and his brother the Colonel, who did not survive long after he came to Seymour. I have the very note that the Major sent me when I applied to him for the purchase of the seed for the ground I had cleared so soon after my arrival in the bush, it was as follows; -
MY DEAR SIR. - I shall not be able to visit Toronto sooner than the first week in February 7, when your wishes shall be attended to with much pleasure. The wheat shall be ready for you at the time you name. I feel much obliged by your kind recollection of my brother, who is certainly better but very far from being well. He has been sadly shaken by his late attacks. I regretted much not seing you on my late visit to Couch's, but was happy to perceive that you had made so comfortable an abode of the old hut. I shall hope soon to see you in more comfortable quarters which I am sure you most richly deserve.
Believe me to be
Sunday Morning, 25th September, 1834.
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