A Trip to Otonabee Township - 1833

COPYRIGHT (c) 2007 Michael Stephenson

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“Tantum de medio sumptis accedit honoris.” – Hor.


Permit me to correct a misstatement of your correspondent C. K. which appeared in the 1st No. of your respectable New Series; and which, judging from the tenor of the communication, I am inclined to believe, originated not from any other prepense, but from the incidental hurry which pervaded him whilst inditing it; nevertheless, as he thrummed a chord, which has thrown your Otonabee friends into high dudgeon, I trust that the observations which I am about to offer, will not be deemed obtrusive.

He says that he observed only two frame buildings in Otonabee; that may be true enough, but thence, he should not draw the illogical inference, “that they do not appear to be in vogue there.” Had he bent his way through the eastern section of this favored township, instead of flying on in a tangent to Bobcaygeon, he would be convince, that the fact is otherwise; and I daresay, would be agreeably surprise, when the fast rising village of Keene, which is imbound in lofty trees, the growth of ages, would burst on his admiring gaze.

This embryo village, situate on the acclivous bank of the Indian River, a navigable stream, which disembogues itself into Rice Lake, chiefly owes its rise to the praiseworthy exertions and indefatigable spirit of enterprise which peculiarly characterize Dr. John Gilchrist. In this thriving little thorp, there are already the following frame buildings: - An excellent grist and saw-mill, two extensive and well supplied stores, with a capacious and well furnished tavern; a distillery, tan-yard and smithy; together with a commodious school-house, which, ever and anon, serves for a place to give worship to HIM, to whom alone, absolute worship is due. There are also nine or ten private domiciles there, chiefly occupied by tradesmen, together with six or seven other frame buildings scattered thro’ the township, (not including frame barns nor Peterboro’ east, which bids fair to rival the “west end;”) and, many of the old settlers are about to erect new buildings the ensuing season; you may also rest assured Mr. Editor, (whatever your cynical correspondent may advance to the contrary,) that a frame home is far more preferable as being more clean, comfortable, and compact than a rustic log-house, how picturesque soever.

Indeed it must be a source of infinite pleasure to all who have adopted CANADA as their home, to see those proud buildings spring up in the bleak wilderness; for they indisputably indicate, that those adventurous backwoodsmen have reached the goal of happy INDEPENDENCE – the object of their long, ardous, and toilsome pursuit.

Furthermore, he asserts that Rice Lake cramps the natural resources of this township, by being, as it were, a barrier impeding free commerce with the front. Proh pudor! Is it not owing to this commentitious obstruction that Otonabee is justly looked upon as the most desirable back township to settle in, throughout this wonderously prosperous Province. That beautiful sheet of water, with its wood-clad islets and Rice-meadows, heightening its wild grandeur, is too generally known to demand a description here. It is only during our intense brumal season, that our hardy, industrious and persevering settlers can find much relaxation from labour; and then bountiful nature, regardful as it were, of their wants, congeals its undulating surface, thereby facilitating the intercourse with Cobourg, so needful at this season; but, should imperious urgency at any other time call them from their homes, there are steamboats and ferryboats upon its waters which afford a cheap and speedy conveyance.

In autumn, instinct which is so nearly allied to reason, that it baffles the subtle metaphysician to draw a distinction, directs innumerous quantities of ducks hitherward, to feed upon the rice. It is then you may behold the white man, emulous of his more practised red brother, engaged in the fell, but profitable sport. Spring, the fishing season, yields likewise a perennial source of pleasurable and profitable employ. I concur with your correspondent in his comprehensive view of the internal navigation of this District, and have felt much pleasure from the felicitous humor of his descriptions, although having read erst in your paper, a sketch on the same subject, from the master pen of “Arricus.” I also am willing to bear testimony to the pure spirit of loyalty, which pervades all classes in Peterborough, and am induced to believe that if this, our terra firma were invaded by turbulent democratic anarchs, it would be a rallying point for the sons of constitutional freedom, whose banner would be inscribed with the ancient Roman motto of your paper – Pro aris et Focis,


Otonabee, Oct. 22nd, 1833.

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