Reminiscences of the Early Life of Mr. John VanNest, Solina

In 1776 his forefathers moved from Holland and settled on the Mohawk River in U.S. territory. War breaking out, they were given six months to leave the country or to join in with the rebels. They crossed the border and settled at a place now called Sydenham, north of Kingston. It was here that Mr. John VanNest was born in the year 1813. The family lived there till 1822 when the father died and the family moved to Clarke Township in the Walbridge settlement. His mother married a man named Blake in the meantime. In 1823 they moved to Bowmanville which then consisted of a store occupied by the late Robt. Fairbairn, standing at the present east of Vanstone’s Mill, a frame house occupied by Henry Downey, near where Manning’s store now stands. A grist and sawmill near where Vanstone’s Mill now stands. They lived in a log house that had been built for a schoolhouse near where McMurtry’s store is situated. This comprised Bowmanville in 1823. Jas. Bates lived west of town and the house stands at the present time. He died of cholera in 1828 which was the first time this disease appeared in Canada and in 1832 it again appeared and every hotel keeper between Kingston and Toronto died, except Moody Farewell of Harmony and a man name Ogden of Cobourg.

The family next moved to Harmony, thence to Oshawa harbour. While there Mr. VanNest left his stepfather Blake and set out to make a fortune for himself. He apprenticed himself to a farmer named Benj. Laberee for five years or over until he became 21 years of age. He then with two companions chopped and cleared 57 1-2 acres and fenced 30 of it in one year in Pickering township. He then took a job alone to chop, clear and fence 30 acres on the farm now owned by Mr. James Leask in this township. He then lived near Oshawa, then known as Skea’s Corners, till 1837 and helped to hew the timber for the first store in that place, afterwards he bought the farm he now lives on, there being but few settlers in the neighbourhood at that time. Mr. Joseph Shell lived on Mr. T. Baker’s farm. Lansing Chatsey lived where Mr. W. Werry now resides; Henry Cole where Mr. John VanNest, jr., lives; and Jas. Tole where Mr. S.J. Williams lives; the late Wm. Bain lived where Mr. J.W. Brooks lives; and the late Bart. Mitchell on the farm which Bradley’s School is built on; Ethan Card lived where Mr. Jas Leask now lives; Geo. Syers lived on Mr. Thos. Baker’s south place, and Messrs Anthony and Stephen Washington had settled also on their farms to the south. Mr. John VanNest visited Scugog Lake when there were only two families in that neighbourhood and only two persons lived on the island. His stepfather drew the first trolling line used in Lake Scugog in the year 1830. It was made by a blacksmith at Thornton’s Corners. About the year 1845 Solina was called New Cornwall, and afterwards became designated by the euphonious and fictitious name of Pilchardtown, first so called in derision by Christopher Mitchell (better known as Kit) until a post office was organized when it was called Solina. On the seventh concession lived Mr. Jas Heatlie and Messrs. Clark Wilbur, W. Lick, Lyman Gifford and a few others.

Mr. VanNest still resides on the old homestead with his family and is happy and contented. Many incidents, adventures and thrilling romances can he well remember that he has passed through in the pioneer days of this neighbourhood, and we hope he will consent to narrate some of them for a future issue.


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