Eldon Township Memories
AGED PIONEER TELLS OF TIMES WHEN COWS SOLD FOR $12 EACH AND HAULING DONE BY OXEN
Malcolm Morrison, Rubidge Street, Peterborough, made four months voyage to Canada, is 94 years old.
Relates Story of Days When Deer Were Shot From Doorstep.
"Few countries in the world have made such strides forward during modern times, as has Canada." This is the opinion of a near centenarian Malcolm Morrison of Eldon Township, Victoria, one of that ever diminishing band of surviving pioneers, whose arduous and heroic labours, laid the foundation for the development of the Province and Dominion. Mr. Morrison who is 94 years of age is at present residing at the home of his son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Donald McGillvary, Rubidge street. He is a native of Islay, Scotland, and came with his parents, to Canada at the age if 5 years travelling on the old sailing ship, "American", on its last voyage as a passenger vessel. The voyage lasted four months. On the journey towards the interior, Mr. Morrison had his first view of oxen used as beasts of burden, part of the distance being covered in canal boats, drawn by these animals, and steered by men on the banks, who used long poles, to push the prow of the boat in the desired direction. Settlement was made at Eldon Township in what is now Victoria County, Peterborough being the metropolis of the entire district. Lindsay at that time was composed of one tavern and even Toronto was a small community, which boasted only two taverns.
Gaelic Speaking Community.
In Eldon a purely Gaelic speaking community was formed in the midst of the virgin forest. Giant pines, some of them 80 feet high and lesser timber surrounded every homestead. Bears and wolves in great numbers roamed freely over the lands that for centuries had known no human interloper save Indian hunter, So plentiful was the game that the settler could bring down a deer with a well directed shot without stirring from his own doorstep. Nobody ventured any distance into the bush at night, without carrying a lighted brand of cedar bark to frighten off the wolves. Wildcats were not uncommon; Mr. Morrison in his youth killing one by blows from a lumberman's handspike which was the only weapon available.
Money, says Mr. Morrison was a scarce commodity, but the settlers' wants were few as compared with those of the generation of the present day, As a natural corollary, prices were low, and labour was cheap. Boys sometimes worked for ten cents a day, and twenty-five cents a day seemed to them a princely wage. As a young man, Mr. Morrison cut cordwood at the rate of 45 cents a cord. Later, in the same woods, he received a dollar and a half a cord for his labours. Cows that now would sell for $75 brought $12; eggs were 9 cents a dozen; a lamb cost a dollar; calves were sold for a dollar each, and sometimes could not realize that price. Oxen were the draught horses of the pioneer farmer; the style jumper was the type of vehicle in use; corduroy bridges were used in the paths through the swamp, and streams were bridged by fallen trees stretching from bank to bank. Mr. Morrison distinctly remembers the interest aroused by the advent of the first cook stove and the first wagon in Eldon. The clothes worn by the settlers were the home spun materials, resulting from the labours of the women-folk. Grain was sometimes drawn by oxen through bush and over rural road to Whitby. Mr. Morrison received his education at the primitive school house of the settlement, travelling from his home by a path through the woods which stood on the territory now occupied by well tilled farms, The seats in the school house were simply blocks of wood placed on end. The young Highlander whose mother tongue was Gaelic had considerable difficulty in following the lessons, in English and in reading from English test books. Like all the old time pioneers, he strongly emphasizes the spirit of comradeship which animated the early settlers in their dealings with each other.
A good idea of the wonderful forest wealth of the country nearly a century ago is afforded in Mr. Morrison's statement that in his opinion, the value of the standing trees at the time of settlement was greater than the present value of the township, in spite of all the improvement and development that has been since effected. He speaks of field fences being erected in his younger days made of walnut and butternut, Frequently, he took part in the river drive of square timber through Peterborough down the Otonabee. During the past month, his son-in-law, Mr. McGillvray, took the veteran down the river to revisit scenes of his labours of many years ago, but Mr. Morrison could not recognise any of the once familiar places, so great have been the changes following the passing of years; even the river being much lower than it was half a century ago. Mr. Morrison enjoys a unique distinction, in that he is probably the only individual still living who has personal recollection of Adam Scott the first settler in what is now the city of Peterborough. While still very young, he saw the brawny Scotsman whose gigantic stature, Herculean strength and obstinate refusal to bow to defeat and despair have become part of the life story of the city of Peterborough. Scott who was a native of Edinburgh, stood 6 feet four inches in his stockings and weighed 260 pounds. He operated a mill in this district, which was for many years, known as "Scott's Plains". Mr. Morrison who it is easy to discern, has been in his youth a favourable specimen of that type of manhood possessing both physical and mental vigour, so common among the early settlers, comes from a long-lived stock. An elder brother died some weeks ago at the age of 96. During the present season he worked in the harvest field stooking sheaves. Although his hearing and seeing faculties are somewhat impaired, he can still tell his reminiscences in interesting fashion, and still cherishes his youthful love of the Gaelic tongue, and Highland lore and legend.
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