OLD TIMES ON THE SCUGOG - Thomas Fee - 1905


One Representive of the Early Merchants Left. In the Person of Mr. Charles Britten- The days When Religious Difference Were Acute- A Bridge Out Away to Fallen Orange lnvading Party.

Mr. Editor, - As I was sitting at my little parlour window looking out on the mighty but now frozen Scugog river, my thoughts reverted to the times when- over fifty years ago -I ran saw logs and timber to my sawmill and turned them into building material to build up Lindsay and the surrounding country. The timber of this part of the country is all gone, and so are the men that cut it- the big, stout, generous. Fighting and drinking men, the Finnigans, Kenneys, Parkers and Fosters, the very pick of the men of the country, have all handed in their checks and passed away.

Mentally I then took a stroll up the Kent Street to see how many of the old businessmen I could find out of the many that were here when I came to Lindsay. Charley Britton is the only one left. I have seen crop after crop of merchants plant themselves on Kent Street and spread and flourish like the green hay tree, that after a while they would wither and vanish and leave not even a trace behind. I suppose I shall soon follow suit myself, but I am not fretting about it- I had my days. I look back and wonder what has become of the three-fourths of a century that has passed over my head, but I need not grumble-it is one of the great unchangeable laws of nature that all things must pass away and re-appear in the new. "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return." The hardest rock on earth has got to crumble to dust before the influence of never-ending time and chemical action of the elements.

The Orange and Green

As my mind and eyes wandered up and down the north shore of the Scugog the Broyden storehouse- now occupied by the Flavelle- came in view. That spot carried my mind back to my boyhood days, when a log bridge crossed the river where the building now stands. The north bank was very steep to get down on the bridge. This was the bridge the Catholics cut down to keep the Emily Orangemen from invading Lindsay one Twelfth of July to avenge the brutal beating by them of Billy Parker. The latter was a very powerful man, and there was no one in this country able to handle him. It generally took four common men to lick him well, and in the instance referred to the job was a beautiful one, in order to keep out his angry Orange friends the townspeople cut down the bridge and Tom Keenes who kept a general store, tore up webs of cotton into strips and wound them around the hilts of scythes for handles, then turning them into serviceable swords, and pitchforks were handed out as bayonets. These weapons were to arm fighting men who had not arms of their own. Well, the invaders never crossed the Scugog. Alick Bryson and two or three others went out east and met the invaders at Lang's corners and held a Council of war. The Emily boys were told that the bridge was cut down and the river guarded by more than 100 men with rifles, shotguns, swords and bayonets. The news was rather startling and put a damper on the enthusiasm for battle. The invaders had every confidence in the rood faith of Bryson and party, so they held a pow-wow and war counsel and finally concluded that chances were all against them, and that discretion in this case would be the better part of valour. So they all returned home with sound minds but sad hearts.

The second Invasion, which took place some years after was more successful. The attacking force was fully armed with cannon and guns and this time Lindsayites had to throw up the sponge and back down which they accomplished so gracefully that there was not even a bloody nose to be seen. Father Time not only wiped out men and their works, but he wipes out prejudices, too. Then less religion a man has on his tongue the more love he has in his heart for his fellow man.

Well, I am tired looking down stream and thinking of the past, and in order to break the monotony I will look up stream and see what a glance in that direction can recall to mind. Letting my eyes wander around, they real on the spot where Purdy's mill once stood. This sight took my thoughts back to my early boyhood days, and recalled to memory the first visit I ever made to Lindsay in company with my father; he drove down the very steep bank on approaching the north end of the bridge. He had business at Purdy's mill and I went into the mill with him. It was the first time I ever was in a flourmill, and everything was new and curious to me. I wandered all through the mill and downstairs. I saw the flour and bran as it came down a spout and was carried on a belt into the bolting machine.

In another I shall give you more reminiscences of old times along the Scugog.



Our cottage is situated midway between Ridout and Kent Street. I have a double view. Facing north, I look over the mighty Scugog and across the C.P.R. and G. T., railroads, not over fifteen rods away. It is a cold morning and the view is a little chilly looking, so I have taken my seat in the dining room at a south window where the sun is shining in brightly. On the outside is a big black cat sitting on the windowsill sunning itself also. It is a neighbour's cat and has come to that spot every day for the last two months not withstanding the unwarranted high price of flour and the combine of the Lindsay bakers, that has raised bread up two cents a loaf higher than the surrounding towns, and the excessive price of butter. I give the cat a piece of bread and butter every day, and it shows by its actions that it appreciates comfort and kindness.

After getting tired looking at the cat I raised my eyes up and took a look up the hill, and they rested on The Catholic Church Spire high over the houses that cover the hill. Then I thought of the lines written by Selkirk when in his lonely island home and far away from friends;

"How fleet is a glance of the mind

When compared with the speed of its light!

The tempest itself lags behind,

And the swift winged arrows of light."

Here my mind showed its superiority in flight to the telegraph- it flashed back three-quarters of a century and brought things to view as plain as when I first looked at them. There was not then one building in all that section up to Lindsay Street except a barn of Purdy's that stood about where the convent now stands. There was no Lindsay Street then- it was a solid and nearly impenetrable swamp.

About twenty years later

I built what used to be called the red mill on Kent Street. It stood on the opposite side of Kent Street across from Robson's grocery. I was the first man to penetrate the big swamp south of Lindsay, and with my axe and a stout pair of hands I felled the mighty pines that grew tall, big and plentiful there in. I had a gang of men cutting the trees up into saw logs, making roads and loading the logs on sleighs and taking them to the mill. I cut many big pine trees in the locality where the G.T.R. roundhouse now stands. The first time I went into the swamp I got lost, and it took me a whole day to get out. I also made the first trip through the big swamp north of Kent Street and right through to where John D. Flavelle lives. I built that house for myself to live in fifty-two years ago, but Mr. Flavelle bought it on coming to town, and lived in it ever since. He has shown his good common sense in doing so.

The steam engine used in my mill was the second brought into the county, and my planning mill was the first in the county. (I am getting uncomfortably warm sitting in the sun so I will move my seat to a north window and change the view). I now see the remains of the Purdy dam. Poor Purdy he was an enterprising man and American who had staked his all in Lindsay, but he received brutal treatment at the hands of the people of this country. When the Mackenzie rebellion broke out there were several old pensioners living round here, and they thought they must be doing something to win the favour of the Family Compact Government that ruled Canada at that time, so these old "mossbacks," wishing to take a trip to the city at somebody else's expense, hit on the plan of arresting Purdy as a spy, he being an American. They put handcuffs on him, and a company of these old chaps marched him off to Toronto and had him

Cast Into Prison.

Purdy certainly met with hard luck in Lindsay. After lying a term in Toronto gaol he was liberated and told to go home and attend to his business.

About eight years after this a mob of settlers from the Cross Creeks and around Scugog Lake came to Lindsay armed with guns pistols, and supplied with axes, and all set to work and cut down Purdy's dam, tore up his flume, and left his mill idle. He was a ruined man, and left the country, disgusted and broken-hearted. There were two reasons for cutting down the dam-one party claimed the Scugog water as the cause, and others said that wild pigeons were to blame.

In 1846 at seeding time wild pigeons commenced to fly in millions from the southwest to the northeast. For two weeks, from early morning to sunset, and at any hour of the day you looked skyward, you could see nothing but pigeons flying. They flew very high and always out of gunshot. About the middle of harvest the birds began to return in small flocks and flying low- just skinning the tops of the trees. The slaughter of them began, and everyone shot had its crop

Filled With Beech Nuts.

They must have been a long way beyond civilization, as no person in the country could ever tell where they had been. They were killed and eaten in thousands- I have killed as high as seventeen with one shot out of a single-barrelled gun. I have seen numbers of them killed with stones thrown into the flocks as they flew overhead. My average shooting used to run from six to a dozen per shot. We had great sport while it lasted but the end came, and brought sad news to many homes throughout the country.

An epidemic of malignant fever broke out around Scugog Lake, which extended down the river to Lindsay and took in Omemee, North Emily, Ennismore and part of Verulam. In some places all the people were stricken down, and they died in hundreds. In North Emily the farmers offering one-half of their crop for saving the other. In Emily, Ennismore, and Verulam it was claimed that the wild pigeons were the cause of the fever, people said the disease was caused by eating too many of the birds. In Ops and along up the Scugog waters the inhabitants believed Purdy's mill dam caused the outbreak by flooding the drowned lands, so they came in force and cut down the dam.



I have again taken my seat looking out on the Scugog, and called to recollection that in my last letter I had not finished with the Tannery lot. I will now continue its history. My team delivered the biggest load of straw that ever was unloaded at the Lindsay paper mill; the load weighed 3700 pounds. This load was built by myself to stop the "blowing" of a Downeyville man who had delivered a load weighing 3500 pounds, and was crowing wonderfully about it. He dared any man to beat it. I delivered a good many dollars worth of straw, and there never was one pound of paper out of it. The manager sent here to conduct the operations allowed the business to suffer.

I went into the mill one day, when the men were taking the pulp out of one of the three tanks used for boiling the cut straw. The tanks were about fifteen feet deep and about 8 ft. across. They stood on the ground floor and projected some 3ft. through the second floor. They had heavy lids hung on pulleys over the tanks and these were closed down when the tanks were filled with cut straw, which had roach lime scattered through it. The lids were then let down and fastened and steam was turned on, and the whole mass boiled for hours.

Three men opened a boiling tank and commenced to lift the contents into a grinder that stood convenient. When the tank was about two-thirds empty one of the men, in stooping over the edge of the tank, lost his balance and fell into the boiling mass. He was rescued as quickly as possible, but he was terrible scalded.

The preparation of the material for making wrapping, printing and felt papers is nearly the same the principal difference being in the subsequent treatment of the pulp. This machinery, costing tens of thousands of dollars, was built in the State of Massachusetts and a fortune was paid in the way of duty.

My heart really ached with sorrow, when I saw that that building burning. Pure carelessness caused it. The mill ran night and day, and there was a Frenchman working in the mill whose duty it was to light the lamps for the night and look after them at all times. He lighted a lot of lamps, after filling them with coal oil, and started to distribute them through the mill. As he was going up stairs carrying four lamps, he let one of them fall halfway up; it broke, the oil caught fire, and in a few minutes the entire mill was a mass of flames. This fire caused a serious loss to both town and county, as there were preparations making to put in another wrapping paper machine and this would have used up a lot of straw. The property was owned by three brothers, who also operated mills at Ottawa and St. Catharines.

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