LIFE AND HISTORY Of CAPTAIN M. S. CASSAN.
Westfield Cottage, Seymour East
I omitted to mention that before leaving the house of Mr. Beatty at Percy Landing, I had the pleasure to meet and become acquainted with another military settler of Seymour, who, like myself, had pitched his tent upon the banks of the Trent, Capt. Masson, late of the Royal Artillery. This officer had just got into his house upon the gore, a short distance from Percy Landing, across the bay, and upon an eminence that commanded splendid view of the River Trent, the scenery of the Islands and the upland forests upon the opposite side of the Percy Bay, in summer time, from Captain Masson's residence, was truly handsome and picturesque. But the erection of the dam at Chisolm's Rapids, has, for the most part, destroyed not only the picturesque scenery, but also much of the land dearly purchased by the settlers, and furthermore, caused much sickness all along the banks of the river; in fact, it looks winter all the year round, now-a-days, upon that part of the river all along the gore, all the timber trees being killed off, as most of my readers are aware.
To continue my history, I shall return to my task of clearing three acres and putting in the fall wheat, in view of raising our bread for the next year. I then purchased a good cow to have milk for the children all the coming winter, and finding the days becoming short, I discharged my hired man. Before the winter set in, Mr. Hudspeth and myself made up our minds to provide ourselves with a yoke of oxen, so as to be able to haul our own fire-wood for the winter, and rails and saw-logs. We accordingly engaged a Mr. Lock, to accompany us to Rawdon and Sidney, to select the oxen for us. Mr. Lock was also a new settler from England, but I believe he came into this township a year or two before us, and at this time he and old Mr. Dunk settled opposite each other, at the cross roads, and close to where Mr. Dunk's son, Lewis, now resides, but upon the third and second concession. But in a short time after, both these settlers moved further north into the township, Mr. Lock, being a better judge of cattle than either Mr. Hudspeth or myself, we engaged him to come with us, and we started to Rawdon and Sidney, and upon my arrival in Rawdon, Mr. Lock bought a nice yoke of four year old steers, that had been broken in, I got them for $44.00, which Lock said was cheap. Mr. Hudspeth wanted a larger yoke, and he and Mr. Lock proceeded on to Sidney to obtain them. I returned home with my purchase, and they were very gentle and well broken. Mr. Hudspeth returned home the next day with a large black yoke, but he paid a good deal more for them. I may mention here that Mr. Hudspeth had purchased his farm on the river, a little above Bradley Bay, upon the next lot to where Capt. Le Vesconte had selected, and next to the farm of Capt. Masson. Poor Hudspeth used to walk up from Couch's place every morning to his lot, with his axe upon his shoulder, to perform his day's work, chopping down the forest; and after his day's work, had to walk nearly three miles home.
We often met as I walked up to my land, when the wind was too high to venture in a canoe. Poor Mr. Hudspeth used to tell me that it took him near all day to fall a tree, branch it, cut it fit for logging, and pile the brush. He would say that he used to pick the smallest trees too, and would ask me how did I get along. I told him I took large and small as they came, clearing about an acre a week, by sticking to my work early and late. I had the advantage of Mr. Hudspeth in commencing the labor incident to life in the forest, having been well accustomed to the use of edged tools. I soon got into the handling of an axe; and when I found I had to abandon all hope of getting a situation or any more suitable employment, to enable me to earn a maintenance for my family, I made up my mind to fight the battle of the forest, and rely upon my own energy and perseverance, trusting that the Lord would mercifully assist me with health and strength to enable me to meet the trials, hardships and privations which I had to contend with for many years, in the early settlement of the township. We felt deeply the loss of Capt. Masson's family society, and also Mr. And Mrs. Hudspeth. They departed from the settlement in about two years. Capt. Masson had two or three nice daughters, and he soon found out that the backwoods of Seymour was no fitting place for them, and he wisely and fortunately too, made up his mind to return to Europe. Poor Mr. Hudspeth did not remain long after he got his log house built.
I remember during the winter of 1834 & 35 skating up the river from Couch's place, with my carpet bag of tools, to help Mr. Hudspeth at his new house, sawing out the places for doors and windows, which was no easy job, as the builders of the log house made no aperture for the entrance of any kind of saw to cut through big round logs. I had to use a two inch augur and bore three holes, one directly under the other, and as close as possible, and then chisel out any part that would prevent the passing of the end of a cross-cut saw. Once this accomplished, the work was easy, but the route for the saw should be chaulked upon the logs, taking care to measure the exact breadth of door or sash, to allow for the thickness of the frame. In this way I succeeded to put in the windows and a door for my friend and neighbor, Mr. Hudspeth, free of any charge, glad to assist the poor fellow who was unacquainted with any kind of tools save the pen. He, too, soon got sick of bush life, and left the township, as I have before mentioned, and commenced teaching school at Colborne. Mrs. Cassan and myself met a great loss in those two families leaving our vicinity, as we used to spend many pleasant evenings together, after our day's work was over.
I shall now amuse my readers with an account of my first attempt at deer shooting. It was as follows. It was the beginning of the winter when the river became well frozen, that I had been engaged chopping down a very large pine. As soon as I had cut it down, I went home to my dinner, and in about half an hour or more, a man came to my dwelling and told me that there was a deer feeding upon the top of the tree. Both my rifle and double barrel gun were loaded and hanging up on the beam of the house. So I took down the double barrel gun and started quietly up through the woods towards where I had been chopping, until I reached a large black oak tree, keeping my eye upon the deer, who did not notice me, but kept feeding on the top of the pine, and standing broadside towards me, I think at a distance of about 80 or 90 yards. I at once raised my gun, and taking steady aim for his shoulder, I pulled the trigger, and upon the instant saw the deer bend the knee suddenly and then raise up its head and walked towards me and lay down beside a large young pine that I left standing for a shade tree. I reloaded my gun and then advanced close to where the deer had laid down, but as I approached, she got up and went over a few rails I had laid for a fence. I saw drops of blood upon the ground, and knowing I had wounded her severely, I let her proceed into the bush, and returned for my dog, and when I got home, young Alex. Hall was there. He returned with me, and we found the deer lying dead, stretched at full length. So we cut a pole and carried it home, to the no small pleasure of wife and little ones. I would often take my canoe and go over to the islands opposite and take my stand behind a tree upon the banks of the river, after sundown and having found the direct flight and course of the ducks, I used to have splendid shooting as they would fly past me to their nightly nesting and feeding grounds.
I shall now relate a story how whiskey, drank in over doses, saved me from being devoured by wolves. The first Christmas night I spent in Seymour, fortunately for me, there was no Dunkin Bills in those days in the wilderness. On this Xmas morning, I walked up from Couch's place to Major Campbell's to ask him for the key of the log house that used to be a store house. The building would suit me for a large workshop, where I could put up my large turning lathe, so, that during wet days, when I could not work outside, I could turn bad weather to account, either at carpenter's work or at my lathe. The Major kindly gave me the key, and after I partook of luncheon with him, I started for home, to have my Xmas dinner with my wife and children. But not mindful of the pathway, for roads there were none, but barely to be traced, were narrow foot-paths, and here and there hardly discernable. The fact of my becoming lost in the woods, was but too true. I neglected to bring my compass with me, and got some miles out of my direct course for Couch's, and being altogether ignorant of my whereabouts, and dark night approaching in those short days, my very dismal and gloomy surroundings were anything but pleasant and agreeable. Still, I kept pushing forward, till the forest began to show the usual dark and lonely appearance, reminding us of the grave. I began to feel much anxiety for my safety over the night, and was reconnoitering among the trees where I could find one that would afford me a safe roosting place from the wild wolves that were in packs in the forest at this time. But the Lord was pleased to deliver me out of this trouble and anxiety of mind, and my safety came in this way. Just as the darkness of night had set in, I heard the voices of many men in a lumber shanty, all of whom happened to be drunk; they made so much noise, that I could easily find my way to the shanty, where Paddy's eyewater had been the cause of keeping the place in an uproar, and was the loadstone that attracted me to a place of safety, from which one of the men escorted me to a pathway that led to an English gentleman, an early settler, who had bought a farm near to the Rawdon line in Seymour, and about nine miles from my home. Mr. and Mrs. Matchett received me very kindly, and I had a good supper off the Christmas goose they had for dinner. Mr. Matchett had one daughter and two sons. To my poor wife and family it was a sad night, for they really believed what Tom McAvillia told them that I was eaten up by the wolves. Mr. C sent him off to hunt me up in the forest, giving him a flask of brandy to take to me, and a tin horn to sound as he went along through the woods. But Tom's mouth could never blow any horn save a whiskey horn, and the old chap drank up all the brandy, and told Mrs. C, that there was no doubt but the wolves had devoured me; and until I reached home the next day at about 2 p.m., my wife and family took it for certain what the man told her. Had it been any other day that the men in the shanty would have been absent, I should have had to roost all night in a tree, and in such weather as Christmas nights are in Canada, I should beyond a doubt have been frozen to death, so I cannot but acknowledge all due thanks to the spirits that saved me from a horrid death, either by wild wolves or Jack Frost, on that same Xmas night.
My next story I shall relate to my readers will be the sad one of the cause of the poor Matchetts leaving the Township of Seymour. I imagine that there are very few left in the settlement that was acquainted with this family. There were other settlers at this time residing in this eastern part of the township, Dr. Eid and Mr. Hill, who recently died at Bath. Dr. Eid left the township soon after he married, and went to Australia, then I can well remember Mr. and Mrs. McClean, and Mr. and Mrs. Curling, and the present Mr. and Mrs. Bedford. Many pleasant days, Mrs. C. and myself had at Mr. McClean's, for notwithstanding his sad loss of sight, he was most lively and entertaining, and musical, and we used to have jolly and pleasant evenings, even in the midst of hard work and many privations. Poor Mr. McClean would play his fiddle, and Mrs. Cassan would sing for him some of his favorite Scotch songs. Of the many settlers that came to Seymour the same time I did, hardly one of them, save Major Campbell are now living. I have promised to give my readers an account of the painful circumstances that caused Mr. and Mrs. Matchett to leave the township of Seymour so soon after they got comfortably settled upon their farm. It is sad to think of the anxiety, misery and disgrace that the outrageous villainy of young men bring upon the parents of respectable families, and it is with feelings of pain I commit this sad story to paper. Mr. and Mrs. Matchett with two sons and an only daughter, accompanied with a young gentleman named Lumley, arrived in Canada, I think, in the year 1833, and settled in the eastern part of the township of Seymour. Whether this young man, Lumley, started from England with the family or that they became acquainted with him on the passage over the Atlantic, I am not quite sure, but to the best of my recollection, the intimacy took place on board the ship, and a mutual friendship having been formed, Lumley played his cards so well as to gain the entire confidence and esteem of both the parents of Miss Matchett, so much so, that they brought him to Seymour, as I expect in the full belief of his becoming their son-in-law, for the young lady and this wolf in sheep's clothing used to be seen often together. As time advanced, this villain had accomplished the ruin of the poor girl. He left the township for Toronto, promising Mr. Matchett to return soon. But no sign of his coming back, the eldest brother of Miss Matchett came to me and asked me for the loan of a pair of pistols, telling me of the villainy of this young man, Lumley, and he would either shoot him or compel him to come back and marry his sister. So I loaded them in his presence, and handed them to him and off he started, but he came back with the pistols just as I gave them, although he found the game he went in quest of in Toronto, and which he imagined he was bringing back with him to his poor father and mother. But Lumley the seducer and villain escaped from the hotel, unknown to young Matchett and cleared to the States. This unhappy and unfortunate affair, so affected the parents that they made up their minds not to abide in the township under such disgrace. They immediately sold their farm and went to reside in Montreal, I recollect Major Campbell telling me he met young Matchett and Lumley in the streets of Toronto walking arm in arm together. It was like sending out a goose to catch a fox. In a few years, the Matchetts left Montreal and went to reside in New York. One of the sons was drowned, and the other died, and poor Mrs. Matchett, beholding her daughter one evening from the window of her house coming to her door with a baby in her arms, fainted, and died, and Mr. Matchett became insane and died in an asylum in New York.
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