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Early History of Haldimand and District Gives Interesting Details

COBOURG. - Reuben Bedell opened a store at or near Slay Bay in 1797. Very early in the 19 century, Sheriff Ruttan opened a store at Grafton. This building is still standing on the property owned by Mrs. Thos. Heenan, and is used as a driving shed. At the time of the war of 1812-15 this was the only store in the Township of Haldimand. It was a departmental store on a small scale. Sheriff Ruttan kept a small stock of dry goods. It is said that he used to exchange a yard of calico for a bushel of wheat. He also carried a stock of rum, as was the custom, which he retailed at one dollar a quart. Upon a hill about a mile east of Benlock, in Haldimand Township, the late Baige M. Eddy in the year 1810 built a frame barn. It is said that he went to Kingston on horseback to get the nails, paid a quarter of a pound, put half in each end of a bag, put them across his horse and returned in four days, averaging forty five miles per day. Grafton was first called Haldimand Post Office, and there was quite a settlement in the vicinity of that place, before there were many homes erected where the town of Cobourg now stands.

The Old-time Logging Bee

All that was necessary in getting up an old-time logging bee was to tell one of the two of the neighbours and the news soon spread through the surrounding country. Every person who could possibly do so came whether invited or not. There were no cliques of any kind in those days. Old residents, in describing their logging bees, state the first thing was to divide the loggers into gangs, and to lay out the fallow in trees, that is to divide it into sections and give one section to each gang. There was then a race between the gangs to see which could get through first. One man went ahead of each gang to locate where the logs were to be piled, and another drove the oxen. The driver had need to be quick in his movements, as the oxen were so well trained that the moment they heard the click of the chain as it was hooked to the log, they were off, and if a hand or foot were in the way it was in grave danger of being injured. Sometimes the logging was not finished in the one day, in which case the loggers remained all night sleeping on the floor of the shanty or log barn.

Taking Wheat to Mill

An early gristmill brought into this section is stated to have had a capacity of about forty-eight barrels for the twenty-four hours. Small as it was, it proved a great boon to the early settlers in this locality. In those days when a farmer journeyed many miles to mill, ten bushels of wheat hauled on a jumper was considered a good-sized grist to take with a span of oxen. Often this meant a three or four days’ trip and quite a quantity of hay was required to feed the oxen en route. Arrived at the mill each man had to wait his turn, which sometimes necessitated spending a night there. On one occasion a man and his neighbour threshed out two or three bags of grain by flail and started with jumpers for the mill. When he arrived at the lake shore, one of them relates, he found a boat run up on the beach, and concluding that this would be an easier way of reaching his destination than with a jumper, tied the oxen to a tree, gave them some grain, and speedily transferring the grist to the boat, were soon off. Fortunately we got our grain ground promptly and started on our return journey. It was quite dark however, when we beached the boat a point where we thought we left the oxen. We found that we had mistaken the spot and that they were a mile further on. We eventually located them and leaving the boat as we found it, started through the bush for home. “However,” he would often conclude, “I do not think the owner would have put us in jail had he discovered us. It would have been more trouble than the thing was worth.”

Talked Across the Bay

One of the early representatives of Northumberland and Durham Counties in the Parliament of Upper Canada was the late Sheriff Ruttan. It was related of him and of other members of his family that they had powerful voices, and that after they came to Canada with the U.E. Loyalists and settled in the Bay of Quinte district, that members of the family living on opposite sides of the bay had been known to “talk across it,” making themselves heard to the party on the other side.

Changing Work

The pioneer farmer was always ready to help a neighbour and “changing work” was quite the order of the times. Sometimes one farmer would own a plow and his neighbours a little father on might not. An instance occurred in this locality of a farmer setting out to go several miles to plow a small piece land for a new settler. He had not gone far before he found the corduroy road afloat and made the last lap of the journey carrying his plow on his back.

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