Monaghan Township Doctor’s Fee was Bag of Potatoes

Early History of Cobourg and Northumberland Counties – A Bear Run with Pitchforks

In the early days in Northumberland, when the county embraced as far north as there were any settlers, doctors were few and home nursing coupled with calling in some good mother from the community to give advice, was the order of the day. There were, however, serious cases of accident when a settler would drive away miles to secure the services of a physician. One such occurred in Monaghan, when only a sparse settlement existed where is now the thriving city of Peterborough, but where a physician by the name of McNab had located. A farmer in Monaghan, it is told, fell from a loft and sustained serious injuries and this doctor was sent for and made three trips of a number of mils over roads that were not of the best. Later when the man was better he asked the doctor for the bill and the latter replied, “O bring me a bag of potatoes when you come to town.

A Bear Hunt with Pitchforks

There is a story told of a bear hunt in that township that was certainly thrilling, while it lasted, although the enemy when brought to bay was anything but formidable. In those days umbrellas were something of a novelty and the only kind in use was of an immense type, large enough to shelter the entire family. A settler in the northern township owned one of these umbrellas, the handle of which was a couple of inches in diameter, and which would adequately shelter several people. He and his wife drove to town one stormy day and upon returning left the umbrella outside the door to dry off, forgetting to take it in and a freshening wind carried it some little distance away from the door. The Monaghan farmer was awakened by a thumping noise and going to the window to investigate saw in the semi-darkness a big black object gliding cautiously over the ground at the rear of the house. A black bear having been seen a few days before on a neighbouring farm, he concluded the same thief was after his pigs or his grain. While he kept his eye on the big animal in the field at the rear of the house, his son and hired man left by a circuitous route to rouse the neighbours and initiate a bear hunting party. Quite a company gathered and soon encircled the field. They were armed with guns, pitchforks and other weapons. Forming an attack with strategic precision they watched for some few minutes with all the thrills of actual warfare the huge animal that of a sudden burst of wind would suddenly rise up on its haunches and move a few feet forward and then settle down again as if to content to spend the remainder of the night there. At last one courageous man with his trusty rifle in hand advanced stealthily to attack with the stipulation that if his shot did not settle King Bruin, the rest were to rush to the rescue. The shot pierced the big black object through and through but instead of being able to serve up bear steak for breakfast the farmer carried back to his home a badly riddled umbrella, which had been the innocent cause of all the trouble.

Two Other Bear Stories

But all the bear stores of those days were not fictitious and a farmer who resided a little to the west of this one lost a fine pig, which he estimated weighted one hundred pounds. Again a chase was instituted and in the morning they found the pig lying on the ground with no marks on its body. They surmised that Bruin had walked that distance on its hind legs carrying the pigs in its front paws as if it were a baby and had smothered it to death. By keeping a stealthy watch near the place they succeeded in dispatching the bear as he was returning for his feed or pork. Bears having committed depredations in another man’s oat field he fixed himself a seat in the boughs of a neighbouring tree and proceeded to keep watch. It was a moonlight night and a bear soon appeared and proceeded to help himself to his evening meal. The farmer whose name was McLaughlin, shot and disabled Bruin, but not so badly that he got away into the woods. Accompanied by his brother, armed only with an axe, he instigated a hung the following morning. They took different routes and the brother came upon the wounded animal. He raised his axe to aim a blow at it, when he stumbles and fell and the wounded animal attacked him. Fortunately Mr. McLaughlin was near at hand and shot the bear. The other man however carried the marks that he received in the encounter to his dying day.

When the Thistle First Appeared

An old resident tells of going when in his teens, and probably along in the early thirties, to the Morrison farm in Victoria County, purely out of curiosity to see the first thistle. The Morrison boys, he told, were digging it up by the roots for its bad reputation had preceded it and they were afraid of the pest. That year, too, the wheat was badly affected by smut and as a consequence many farmer’s flour was blacker than any war bread seen the past year in Canada

100 Blazing Log Heaps

Speaking of the early logging bees an old settler told that when the sun went down on the one day’s activities there were one hundred blazing log heaps. Think of the fuel squandered and how far the proceeds of one logging bee would go in relieving the present fuel shortage in any community. After a sumptuous supper upon this occasion all adjourned to the barn, which was lighted with tallow candles. The master of ceremonies, like Old King Cole had provided fiddlers’ three. Hot tea, doughnuts and pumpkin pie were passed at intervals and the young people and some of the older ones, danced the night away, winding up with Sir Roger de Coverly just as the sun was beginning to redden with its glow the eastern sky.

Boarding Round

The schoolteachers in those days “boarded round” passing as many weeks in a home as there were children attending the school and sometimes in the rate of the number of subjects that a child took up. Thus one old setter tells that he and his brother were the only two in their school who studied geography and grammar. As a consequence of aspiring after higher learning than the other neighbour families who thought the three R’s quite all that was necessary, his people had to keep the teacher for a longer period. His father being a member of the Church of England and the pedagogue a Scotchman, some rare ecclesiastical discussions took place in their home, to which the children listened with awe.

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