LIFE AND HISTORY Of CAPTAIN M.S. CASSAN
Wentfield Cottage, Seymour East.
As winter approached, we had to provide hay for the cow and oxen, and haul wood. So I set to work and made a stout sleigh for my oxen, and went to Hoard's by the back channel, upon the ice, and bought a stock of hay.
I can well recollect how I used to spend the long winter evenings, by a cheerful wood fire in a large chimney. I brought out a lot of nice books, all Sir Walter Scott's novels, the Arabian Nights, and various other books, too numerous to mention. These I would read to entertain my wife and children, sitting round the fire. Thus, after my day's work was over, I passed the long evenings.
So long as I had means left to provide the necessaries of life, it was all well, but our outfit and expenses cost a vast deal, and the payment of land left but a small balance in hand. I had hoped after the elapse of six months, my agent in Dublin would have affected a sale of my property in Ireland to Lord Norbury. But I was disappointed, when an account reached me that Lord Norbury was murdered in his own domain. This sad affair caused me much disappointment, as this nobleman was in treaty with my agent, Mr. Barlow, to purchase my place for his agent to reside at.
It was not long before my last sovereign was spent, and all prospect of receiving funds from the old sod, vanished. My readers may believe that I felt keenly my desolate and destitute situation as a military settler, in the depths of a wild forest, with a young wife and now seven helpless children, and empty purse, and one pair of hands to work out our support. I felt that the sunny side of my life had passed away forever from me, and I retired to my bed one Saturday night, more wretched in mind, and low spirited, than I felt the Xmas night I got lost in the forest. I became so miserably dispirited, and unhappy, that I could not sleep. I began to think how whiskey came to my relief in the perils of my former trouble, and I began to hope that a kind Providence would in some manner assist me to bear the burden of my position at this present time.
My readers, I well know, would like to hear how my hopes of assistance came to pass. I shall truly state the facts, for, from first to last, I believe it was the Lord's doings. All that week, I had been engaged working hard, chopping in the bush, clearing a fallow for wheat, and this Saturday, more so than others, I felt myself more tired and fatigued than I usually did, and glad I was that the next day was Sunday. Having passed a sleepless night, I arose at daylight. The sun had risen with more than its usual splendor, and its cheerful shining brightness round my house that morning, aroused and enlivened my drooping spirit, so much so, that after I had my breakfast, I thought that a short walk in the woods would do me good. I had the bright and glorious sun to guide and cheer me on my way through the forest, and this time, I did not fail to take with me the compass I purchased before starting from Liverpool. Before setting out for my walk, I told Mrs. C. I would be back in the evening, and that I was only going as far as the 3rd concession, to take a survey of our Military grant, which I had not visited since the time Norton and Mr. Thrasher went with me to select a building site. This was before I either saw or purchased the lots upon the gore. Here my readers will be surprised to learn how the same sun cheered me in the early morning when I arose from my bed, as I believe under the will and power of Divine Providence, let me forth, and guided me to what, for me, was a little mine of gold: for there and then I discovered upon a ridge, situated upon the North-east corner of my grant, a most splendid grove of pine timer, which, when I selected the lots with Norton, we never saw. This was a joyful discovery to me, and glad I was to return home to impart the good news to my wife and children. My charming guide and companion stood by me on my return. I had no occasion once to use my compass. My wife and little ones were delighted with the news I brought them, and I always look back upon the circumstance as the most remarkable of all matters in my life, for previous to that Sunday morning, it had never entered my head the idea of going to see the lots in question; or did I expect to derive any advantage, beyond the pleasure of a shady walk, and a rest here and there in the forest as I went along. Little did I dream that my walk upon that Lord's day would prove over £150.00 in my way; but it did. The very next week, I went up to Percy mills, to buy some flour, and while there, left instructions with my friend, Mr. Humphreys, to make enquiries amongst the lumber merchants who might be on the look out for pine and oak. It was not long before I had a visit from a Mr. Birnes in behalf on Messrs. Weller & Wilkins, who offered to buy all the timber upon my Military grant. He said he would pay me the highest figure he paid elsewhere, which was $10 per thousand feet for pine, and $16 for white oak. So we concluded a bargain, and to make sure the same, he handed me $40, cash down. Mr. Birnes then took his leave, and at the proper time, a foreman and about 30 men came up from Quebec, and built a large shanty beside a creek, and soon commenced to fall and square the timer; and as soon as the snow came, made a good road down to the river at Couch's place. Thus it was that in my hour of need, the Lord was pleased to deliver me out of trouble and unhappiness of mind. I at once hired a man to help me to clear some land and cut logs for a dwelling house upon the gore, and gave out a job to a man to clear four acres, also for spring wheat. Messrs. Weller & Wilkins resided at the Carrying Place. They were in partnership in the lumber trade, and Mr. Weller kept a store. I can remember that before I moved to my new log house, Capt. Shea sent carpenters from Cobourg to erect a large barn upon his lots upon the river below the Couch's place, near to what is now called Shea's Landing, but the builders could find no place to stop, or provisions to buy, and told me that they would have to return to Cobourg on that account.
I made the men an offer of the log house I had made a workshop of, and gave them any flour and provisions they needed, and cooking utensils too, and that Capt. Shea could return the same to me. The men did remain and put up a fine frame barn for Capt. Shea before they left, and as soon as Mr. And Mrs. Hudspoth moved from the frame dwelling at Couch's place to their own house, Capt. And Mrs. Shea came from Cobourg to reside. But he did not live 12 months after their arrival. He was buried upon his own farm near the river. I can remember going to select a spot for the men to dig his grave-the first Military settler, I believe, interred in Seymour. Major Campbell kindly came down to the funeral, and acted as Minister, in reading the funeral service, as in those early days of our forest life, Seymour had neither churches nor Ministers of any denomination, and I may here state, that it was Capt. Shea, as Magistrate, who married the first couple in Seymour, to my best recollection, and the couple were his own hired man, Tommy Little, and a Miss Hall. Mrs. C. and myself were invited to the wedding, to see the Captain tie the wedding knot and we had a jolly night with the Sheas, and sorry indeed we were at the sudden removal of this family from our vicinity. A few months after this family left for Cobourg, I moved my family into our new log house. The situation was at that period, and until the dam at Chisholm's Rapids was erected, very pretty, but as lonely as the grave. All we could behold was the river in front, the sky above us, and the forest trees all around us. I am sure my readers, many of them at least, can realize what a sad change this was to us both, contrasted with the joyful, happy life we had in the army. But I saw it was no use to fret, the deed was done, and I made up my mind to make the best of a bad bargain. I was glad to find that my wife did not give way to useless grief, but kept cheerful always under our many privations. I may truly say, that with my wife and a good, sharp axe, and God's help in granting me health and strength to use it, I did not despair, but in due time I should overcome all the difficulties of our situation. I feel fully assured, that all who came to the wilds of Seymour, in its early settlement, and saw it then, and behold it now, in 1878, will not fail to acknowledge that the Lord has blessed the Township by reason of the industry, toil and perseverance of its inhabitants, many of whom are in their grave. But the township gives ample proof of this; and their children will derive the benefits of the early labor of their parents' hands.
As one of the oldest settlers in Seymour, I believe I am saying the truth, that very few townships in the Dominion can boast of possessing so truly industrious, energetic and respectable a population as Seymour does this day.
I will now give an account of my first chase after a bear in the River Trent. I find I had forgotten to inform my readers, that I set to work and built myself a nice boat, about 14 feet long, the knees of which I sawed up from large pine roots, that had the natural bend. I selected a piece of white oak with a natural crook on the end of it for the bow, and carved the crook in the shape of a big snake's head. When my boat was finished, I made it staunch with putty and oil of white lead, and gave it three coats of paint. The pine knees were first rate, as each reached more than half way across the bottom, and were screwed down firm to hold the boards in their proper position as they were put on. I had seats and room enough for my wife and children to sail with me about the river, to the neighboring Islands, to fish or search for wild grapes. It was upon one of those occasions that we had the bear hunt. I took Mrs. C. and our infant child, this day in the boat to get some wild grapes off Hickory Island, and we landed and went ashore at the head of the Island. After staying about an hour, we proceeded in the boat for home. I placed the child in the bow of the boat and Mrs. C. sat in the stern, and the instant we turned the head of the Island, she called out to me that she saw a large black dog swimming from the Island towards our shore. I immediately turned and spied the animal, and said it was a bear, that, like ourselves, was after grapes upon the Island. So I pursued him with all my strength, pulling at my oars, to get between his bearship and our shore, and did succeed in placing myself, boat and charge right in front of him. He turned round and made back for Hickory Island, and I after him, keeping my boat within a few yards of him, and much closer than Mrs. C. liked to be. My sons, Matthew and Joseph, were at work upon the farm, and I called to them to come with their canoe. I had then to start my boat ahead of the bear, so as he should not succeed in winning the race. Seeing I placed my boat between him and the Island, he again turned his tail to my boat. I had almost run my boat on him. I could see he was becoming tired of the race; his tongue was hanging out. As he paddled away for the opposite shore, I spied a canoe with an Indian, coming towards me, and my sons had started in their canoe from our boat landing in front of our house. But before the bear got close to the shore, the Indian came up. I knew this Indian, as all the Indians and I were upon the most friendly terms. Upon this occasion, the Indian tried their usual plan of capturing a bear when swimming, and that is by placing a long pole across the bear's back, and when it rises its paws to place them upon the pole, it drags its head under the water and drowns itself. But this bear was no such a fool, he did not lift his only support for life, so the Indian asked me to allow him to finish it with his gun. I told him to shoot it, and he did so. He then handed him into his canoe, and we went to our landing, where he and my sons skinned it. I took the skin and gave the meat to the Indian. Thus ended or first wild bear chase.
In a few days after, my son Matthew was out in the swamp beside our place, in a canoe, setting muskrat traps, upon the falling logs, when an immense bear came up right to the bow of his canoe, and stood upon a log close to him. Fortunately he had his axe with him, and raising it in his hand, the bear moved off. It was late in the evening, near dark, and had he not an axe to defend himself, the meeting might have proved a fatal one for my son. I remember, too, on an evening, I took my stand with my double-barrel gun, to watch on the edge of the same swamp, for black ducks, an immense bear advanced towards the spot. I was posted behind a tree. He was walking straight to me, upon a large and very lonely ash tree, blown down by a storm. I was prepared to give him a warm reception, as I always kept the right barrel well loaded with ball, but before his bearship came within reasonable range, he raised his head high, and, sniffing the air of dangerous ground, he immediately came to a halt, and casting round another look before him, at once turned his back and made off in another direction. I felt much disappointed. Had he continued his march a few paces more, I could have shot him, for my gun for ball, was almost as good as a rifle.
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