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HINTS TO EMIGRANTS: LETTER IX

LETTERS FROM PERTH,
UPPER CANADA.
BY THE
REV. WILLIAM BELL


LETTER  IX


SABBATH, JUNE 22 - It providentially happened that Mr. Smart's new church, being just finished, was to be dedicated to-day. On our arrival at Brockville, the church was crowded, and worship began immediately. The Rev. Mr. Easton, from Montreal, preached in the forenoon, and I in the afternoon. When the congregation was dismissed several people from different parts of the country crowded round me, welcomed me to the province, and expressed a hope that I would make it convenient sometimes to preach among them. One gentleman, whose house was eleven miles forward on the road to Perth, said if I would stop with him all night, he would take me home in his waggon and furnish me a horse to proceed on my journey in the morning. Grateful for such attention from strangers, I gladly accepted his offer.
           June 23 - My kind host having furnished me a horse according to his promises I set out at an early hour, the weather being hot. About nine I halted at a paltry tavern to breakfast, where I had a good specimen of American rudeness. On entering the house I found the landlady seated at table, with three or four savage looking fellows, who appeared to be farm servants. They had no clothing on except woollen shirts and trousers. On inquiring if I could be furnished with breakfast, the mistress replied, with a very insolent tone and air, "Ye, I guess so: if you will walk into the other room, and wait till I have finished my own." I had forgotten the instructions that I had received. Had I seated myself at table, sans cérémonie, with the good lady and her servants, all would have been well. The tavern-keepers in Canada are mostly from the United States, and they seldom fail to resent the least appearance of superiority shown by travellers. Had I known of another tavern on the road, I would have proceeded; but as there was no other for many miles, I concluded it was best to walk into the log cabin, and rest myself till my saucy mistress had leisure to attend to me. After a delay of half an hour, breakfast made its appearance, consisting of rye bread, rancid butter, a stinking mutton chop, and tea sweetened with maple sugar. For this repast I was charged two shillings, which was sixpence more than the usual charge. After leaving this house, I travelled seven or eight miles, along a narrow path in the wood, without seeing a house or a human being, often in doubt whether I was proceeding in the right direction or not. The trees were large, and the soil excellent, and I would have been happy in the contemplation of the future improvements of the wilderness I was traversing, had I not been surrounded with clouds of mosquitoes, which stung me most unmercifully.
           Before entering the wood, I had left my horse at a farm house to be returned by the first opportunity. As I walked along on foot, a large snake glided into the path before me, raised its crest, and began to hiss. I had read a great deal about American snakes, and did not know but this might be one of a dangerous kind. I therefore thought it most prudent to avoid its company. I took a circuit round it, and got into the path on the other side. Looking back, I found it had faced about, curled up its tail, and hissed with fury. Not knowing what its intentions might be, I walked on to avoid farther inconvenience. At a place called Beaver Meadow, I found a hut, at which I procured some refreshment, and rested myself half an hour, the day being very hot. Proceeding on my journey, I travelled through seven miles more of a thick forest, when I came to the ferry where the Rideau Lake is crossed. This lake is near thirty miles in length, and varying in breadth from two miles to a quarter of a mile. On the banks of this lake I found several habitations; the people were kind; and, being fatigued with my journey, I was induced to remain all night; but my face and hands had been so much stung with mosquitoes during the day, that they now swelled and inflamed, and pained me so much that I could scarcely shut my eyes.
           June 24 - At an early hour I set out to finish my journey, and crossed the lake in a canoe. Perth was still distant about seven miles, and the road lay through the woods as before; but a young man accompanied me as a guide. The morning was hot, mosquitoes were numerous, and the journey fatiguing. At last, after many a weary step, an opening appeared in the wood, and Perth was announced. Fifteen months before, it was a thick forest, twenty miles from the habitations of men. Its first appearance forcibly reminded me of Virgil's description of Carthage, when Æneas visited Dido on the African shore:
                    Instant ardentes Tyrii; pars ducere muros,
                    Molireque arcem, et manibus subvolvere saxa,
                    Pars aptare locum tecto, et concludere sulco.
                    Jura magistratusque legunt, santumque senatum.
           They differed however in this, that in the African city stones were used in their buildings, while here timber is chiefly employed.
           Perth is pleasantly situated on both banks of the Tay, formerly called the Pike River. The length of the town is seven-eighths of a mile, the breadth somewhat less. The streets are regularly laid out, and cross each other at right angles at the distance of 140 yards from each other. Many hands were employed making improvements, and at least sixty acres were already cleared. About thirty log-houses were erected, and materials collected for more. The river runs through the town, and varies from thirty to fifty yards in breadth. At the upper side of the town it contains an island, measuring about ten acres, and connected with the two sides of the town by two wooden bridges. On this island the militia are annually mustered, on St. George's day. Near the centre of the town there is a hill, on which are erected the jail, the court-house, and two of the churches. The streets are sixty-six feet wide, and, by their intersections, divide the site of the town into squares of four acres each. Each building lot contains an acre; so that the gardens are large, and the houses at a considerable distance from one another. The town now contains about a hundred buildings, some of them finished in an elegant and commodious manner. - But I had forgotten that I was describing my arrival.
           Without delay I waited on the Superintendent, Captain Fowler, with my letters from Quebec. He received me politely, and said he would render me all the assistance in his power. In the mean time, he granted me a lot of land near the town, containing twenty-five acres. In the course of the day I was introduced to the chief magistrate, and a few of the half pay officers, many of whom are settled here.
           June 25 - After Breakfast I took a walk in company with two officers, to see the Scotch settlement. A line extending seven miles in length is settled on both sides by emigrants from Scotland. The land appeared to be good, and the improvements proceeding rapidly. In a new settlement, much labour and perseverance are necessary to cut down woods, build houses, and enclose fields; but here these are not wanting. The day was hot, and the mosquitoes annoyed us so much that we had not proceeded more than two miles when we were forced to return. In the evening, Mrs. Bell and the children arrived, together with three waggons loaded with baggage. We took immediate possession of a small log house I had rented for £20 a-year. This was double its value, but as it was the only place to be obtained in the village, I was forced to give what the owner demanded. It was indeed more like stable than a dwelling house; but as we were as well lodged as Our neighbours, we studied contentment. All the children, on their arrival, were shockingly bitten by mosquitoes, but we rubbed their hands and faces with strong vinegar, which considerably moderated the pain. In two days they all got better, except one of them, whose face was so much swollen that he continued almost blind for a week.
           Nearly twelve weeks had now elapsed, since we took leave of our friends in Scotland. The difficulties we had experienced in our way to this place, were numerous, but not more so than we had anticipated. With a family of six children, the eldest only fourteen years of age, we could not reasonably expect it to be merely a pleasure voyage; but, thanks to that kind Providence, which has ever preserved us, we all arrived in safety and good health. Thus, having obeyed the first part of your commands, I shall in my next proceed to the second.
END OF LETTER IX.          BACK TO START OF LETTER

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