Mr. Thomas Dodds, of Bensfort, a Remarkably Active Man Although He Has Reached the Advanced Age of Eighty-one Years-Was Nine Years Old When He Came to Canada.

Mr. Thomas Dodds of Bensfort was born eighty-one years ago near Kelso, Scotland, on the edge of the Cheviot Hills, not far from the castle of the Duke of Roxburgh, on the 11th day of November 1832. Notwithstanding his advanced age he is remarkably active and performs a surprising amount of work. He and his son, David, attend daily to the work of two farms, adjoining one another, which means the care of over thirty head of cattle, a large number of sheep, hogs and horses, as well as the ordinary duties of general farming.

Mr. Dodds was nine years old when he came to this country. His father, Nichol Dodds, having a family of eight children, decided that the New World offered more opportunities than Auld Scotia, so in 1841 he took passage on a vessel at Glasgow bound for New York. They were seven weeks and three days on the ocean. From New York they journeyed north up the Hudson to Albany, where they were transferred to a canal barge. Rochester was reached on Independence Day, which delayed them twenty-four hours before they could cross Lake Ontario to Port Hope, then called Smith’s Creek. They located first on the second farm from the Gravel Road on the 2nd Concession.

Mr. Dodds had the misfortune to lose his mother when he was but one-year-old, but was tenderly nursed by his mother’s sister, who cared for the motherless eight for a number of years until she married Mr. Robert Turnbull. Being especially attached to the child she had cradled almost from his infancy she took Thomas, the subject of our sketch, to her own home, which, by the way, was one of the farms now worked by Mr. Dodds and his son David. The other farm was purchased a few years ago from Squire Morrison. It boasts a fine brick house, in which he resides with his son and daughter.

Mr. Dodds married Miss Jessie Hamilton, daughter of Mr. David Hamilton of Douro, and cousin of the late Peter Hamilton. She was spared to her husband until 1876, when she passed away leaving the following children, who at present reside as follows: Robert T., in South Grey, near Mt. Forest; Wilham, at Cutknife, Sask.; Peter, at Elgin, Man.; Rev. Thomas, at Burns, near Sarnia; Mrs. Emberson, (now deceased); J.W??? at Desford, Man., David and Miss Mary, at home.

Mr. Dodds can recall many interesting facts in connection with the early days of the township. He certainly is proud of South Monaghan and ranks it second to none. For wheat it can scarcely be surpassed, the yield last year being about forty bushel to the acre, on the average. A recent transfer of property called for a price of $85 per acre, a remarkably good figure for these days.

In the early years of his boyhood the township was a continuous mass of forest, unbroken save by an occasional clearing here and there in which nestled the little log cabins of the sturdy pioneers. The woods teemed with wild animals, which not only made the nights hideous with their howling, but also rendered it necessary for the early settlers to round up their live stock every night and place them within protected enclosures. The roving bands of wolves had a special liking for sheep, while the bears had a preference for pigs, particularly the little ones. Being adept in the art of climbing they often raided the pigpen and carried off one of the plump beauties much against the wishes of the entire hog family, who set up a wail that rent the air long after the squeals of the captive one had died out in the distance. Deer were so plentiful that it was quite a common occurrence to find one or perhaps more leisurely grazing with the cows.

For a number of years the settlers journeyed to Port Hope of Cobourg for their supplies. At first these were conveyed into the interior with considerable difficulty, many people being obliged to carry their stores on their backs. But they had one consolation: they were not nearly as badly off as the settlers in Smith township, who had to travel twice as far, and through “blazed” paths well nigh impassable. In the summer time the settlers of South Monaghan were obliged to go around by the head of Rice Lake, but in the winter they cut off a considerable distance by crossing on the ice.

Indeed the settlers of this township have long been aware of the many advantages, which they enjoy. The soil is very fertile, and still maintains its productive yield. It is well watered, particularly those farms bordering on the Otonabee River and Rice Lake, both of which almost entirely encircle it, offering special inducements for stock raising. In the early days it was considered quite handy to the front. In fact, it was quite a common thing for some of the settlers to rise at the break of day, walk to Port Hope for some repairs to their farm machinery, and return long before the call of the dinner horn. In later days, since the construction of the bridge at Bensfort, the residents of South Monaghan, particularly those of the east end, have enjoyed the benefits of Peterborough’s splendid market. The surface of the township is hilly, but not inconveniently so, and the farmers have been wise in not depleting their properties entirely of the timber, forming quite a contrast with the Township of Ops, especially that part between Reaboro and Lindsay, where the sight of a tree would be a curiosity. Unlike North Monaghan and Cavan there is little or no swampland in its area. While it is not traversed by any railroads, yet there is any number of stations or shipping points in close proximity.

Throughout his long life Mr. Dodds has enjoyed excellent health. About twelve years ago he had the misfortune to have an encounter with an infuriated animal on his farm, resulting in a bad fracture of his right leg. The limb has been somewhat stiff in action ever since, necessitating the use of a cane in the winter, when the paths are apt to be slippery.

For several years he was member of the township council. For forty years he has attended the sessions of the Presbyterian Church at Centreville. Last Sunday he worshipped there and listened to an excellent sermon and “Habit” delivered by their minister, Rev. D. A. McKenzie.

Mr. Dodds has been a life-long Liberal, and a great admirer of the Toronto Globe and its progressive policy. In its Jubilee Number his picture occupied a prominent place.

Mr. Dodds seems to glory in the work of the farm.

Truly the farmers are the founders of civilization and prosperity. It has been said that there are but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth: The first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbours-that is robbery; the second is by commerce, which is an indirect way of levying toll on, or cheating the consumer; the third by agriculture, and the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle wrought by the hand of Providence in his favour, as a reward for his frugal life and virtuous industry.

In a moral point of view, the life on the agriculturist is the most pure and the most wholesome of any class of men; pure, because it is the most healthful, and vice can hardly find time to contaminate it; and holy, because it brings the Deity perpetually before his view, giving him thereby the most exalted motion of supreme power.

“Deep in the earth we sowed the seed,

And over it the kind skies bent,

And of her grace, unto its need,

Nature gave warmth and nourishment.

And now from out the bare brown field

A myriad golden spears arise,

Each waiting, with its priceless yield,

The nearing time of sacrifice.

Full soon the breeze no more will stir

The tender stalks that swayed so long-

From far we hear the measured whirr,

The cadence of the reapers’ song

The thresher with its jaws of steel

Will tear the precious grains apart,

And on the buhrstone each shall feel

The rending of its snowy heart.

All bear will be the hill and plain

When all the banners bright are furled,

But through all lands the golden grain

Shall feed the hunger of the world.

--N. W. Lowater.

M. M.


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