Jany 7—All were in
bed last night when I was aroused by a knock at the door. Thought
one of my neighbors needed help, but on opening was surprised to see
it was Jabez. Excused himself for alarming us by saying his errand
was a matter of life or death. A negro girl, who had fallen into
evil hands at Buffalo, had escaped to Canada and was followed by
desperate men trying to retake her. An attempt had been made to
kidnap her from the family that sheltered her in Toronto. She had to
be hid until the search was given up, and he could think of no place
so safe as with ourselves. Mr Bambray asked us, in God’s name, to
take care of her for a while. ‘Where is she?’ I asked. ‘In the
sleigh at the door.’ I told him to fetch her in, or she might
freeze. He lifted her in, for she was numb. It was a bitter night.
Laying aside her wraps, we saw, for Ailie and the whole family were
now looking on, a mulatto of perhaps sixteen years of age. Alice and
Ruth chafed her hands and feet to restore her circulation, while
Ailie was getting a hot drink ready. Looking at the poor child I
guessed her miserable story and told Jabez we would keep her. After
getting warmed he drove off.
Here I have to break into the master’s diary in order to give what
happened afterwards, which he did not write down. The girl, who said
her name was Tilly, got quite reconciled to us next day. She was
from Kentucky, had been sold to a saloonkeeper at Black Rock, and
rescued. She shuddered whenever she spoke of him. Passed from one
friendly hand to another she reached Toronto, and was living quietly
there as a servant. One evening there was a rap at the door and she
went to answer. On opening it she beheld the fellow who claimed to
own her. She screamed. Putting his hand over her mouth he lifted her
to a sleigh, which drove off. Two passersby, who saw what happened,
ran after the sleigh and on its halting at a tavern, one hurried off
for a constable while the other kept watch. Entering the tavern they
demanded the girl, and under threat of arrest the fellow had to let
her go. If he had not, the crowd in the barroom would have piled on
to him, for in Toronto Yankee slavehunters are detested. Mr Bambray,
on being told of what had occurred, made her case his own. He
consulted Jabez who suggested burying her in the bush with the
master’s family until the search was given up. Tilly was modest and
eager to help, and at worship showed she had a beautilul voice. The
day passed quietly and so did Sunday. The master had meant to go to
Toronto to church, being the first Sunday after New Year’s day, but
the frost was too intense for an ox-drive. Tilly had a great
collection of hymns, and in the afternoon we sat and listened. It
was a peaceful Sabbath and we went to bed happy and feeling secure.
I was lying awake, thinking of the poor slave girl so unexpectedly
thrown among us, when I thought I heard the crunching of the frozen
snow under horse’s feet and sleighrunners. I jumped out of bed and
looking through the window that faced our road, saw a sleigh with
two men. I hurried down stairs and wakened the master. He had just
got on his feet when the door was forced in with a crash. A tall
fellow entered, whom we could see distinctly, for the fire was
glowing bright. ‘I have come for my nigger, and it will be worse for
you if you make a fuss.’ Without a word, the master rushed at the
fellow and was thrusting him out of the door, when he used a trick,
doubtless learned in a hundred barroom fights, of thrusting his foot
forward and tripping the master, who fell on his back. In a flash
the fellow had him by the throat, forcing back his head with his
left hand while his right fumbled under his coat. I guessed he was
after his bowie-knife. I gripped his arm and gave it a twist that
made him let out a yell. Jumping straight up, he made to grab me,
when Allan, who had just appeared, swung out his right arm and dealt
him a terrific blow on the face. He fell like a tree that had got
its last cut. The other man now looked in, and seeing his comrade
insensible and bleeding, cried out to us, ‘You will hang for this!’
‘Take the brute away and begone,’ shouted the master, ‘or you will
answer for this if there be law in Canada.’ Taking hold of the
fallen man he dragged him to the sleigh. Lifting his head in first,
he got into the sleigh and pulled the rest of the body into the box.
Hurriedly pitching a robe over him he drove off, afraid we would
arrest him. Just as the sleigh got on to the road, there was a shot
above our heads, it was Robbie who had loaded his gun and fired out
of the window. As it was only shot, it probably did no harm, but
showed the driver we had firearms. The excitement over, the master
staggered to a bench and fell down. Examining his throat we saw how
the fellow had squeezed it so tight that his fingernails had torn
the flesh, and the thrust backwards had strained the muscles of the
neck. We got him into bed and the mistress and Alice sat up all
night, applying cloths wrung out of hot water to ease the piercing
pain. None of us slept much, and Tilly was greatly excited. I should
have mentioned, when the affray was over, and I am sure it did not
last five minutes, she went to Allan and kissed the hand that had
knocked down her persecutor.
We talked at
breakfast over what we should do next, when it was agreed I should
go to Toronto with word of what had happened. On reaching Yonge-street
I got a ride on the first sleigh that came along. Jabez was
astounded at my news and took me to see Mr Bambray and others
interested in Tilly. Jabez at once started to find out what had
become of the fellow, and all agreed that nothing should be decided
until he reported. He was not long in getting trace of him and when
he came in after dinner it was to tell the bird had flown. Fearing
arrest, his face bandaged, he had been lifted into a long sleigh,
and lying in it as a bed, had been driven westward. ‘He will get to
Hamilton this afternoon,’ said Jabez, ‘and is likely by sunset to be
safe on Yankee soil.’ It was suggested Jabez should go next morning
and arrange with the master to keep Tilly for a few weeks. ‘Will the
fellow, who knows now where she is, not plan a second attempt?’ ‘No
danger,’ said Jabez, ‘the doctor who dressed his face told me he
would not be able to go out for weeks, and was disfigured for life.
He damned the Scotties who had done it.’ When Jabez told how he had
received his injuries, the doctor, an Englishman, got hotly
indignant. ‘Had I known, the fellow would have been now in prison.’
He would see his friend, the Chief Justice, to have him outlawed. I
stayed with Jabez overnight and our drive in the morning was most
enjoyable. There was no wind and just frost enough to make the air
crisp, the sun shone on the snow until it sparkled, while the
sleighing was splendid. Jabez had taken one of his best horses and
the swiftness of the drive was exhilarating. The road was crowded
with farmers’ teams beading for Toronto, Jabez knew them all and
they all knew him.
troubled him, and that was. How the Buffalo scoundrel had come to
know where Tilly was hid? To satisfy a surmise, he drew up at the
tavern that had been opened opposite our road to question its owner,
who frankly gave the desired information. The two men stopped at the
tavern to get warmed and had several drinks. One of them said he was
looking for his daughter, who had run away from home. He had traced
her, he thought, by being told a man and a young girl had been seen
driving up Yonge-street Friday night. The tavern-keeper said he saw
such a couple turn into the byroad in front of his place, and
wondered at it, for it was rare to see anybody enter that road.
Question followed question and the men learned all they needed to
find the house, and to attack it. On taking a parting drink, the
tall fellow exclaimed, ‘I have got her.’
Reaching home we
found all well except the master, whose neck was still swollen and
painful. He was lying on the bench near the fire. Jabez explained
his errand and the message he brought. The master pulled the head of
Jabez close to his mouth, for he could only whisper, and said, ‘You
tell Mr Bambray that what happened Sabbath night made me an
abolitionist, and the girl will stay here until she wants to leave.
Is not that your mind, AIlie?’ ‘You have spoken what was in my own
mind, Andrew.’ Tilly, who was standing by, burst into tears, and
clasping the mistress by the neck kissed her saying, ‘I will serve
you good.’ She was the most grateful creature I ever met. Jabez
stayed until after dinner, and, on leaving, promised to give us a
hand when it was time to burn our brush-piles. Tilly made herself
useful not only in our home but those of Brodie and Auld and proved
to be a real help.
Jany 16—Thankful I can again bend my head without pain. The woods
are a glorious sight. It snowed yesterday morning. Before dark the
snow turned to rain, which froze as it fell, encrusting everything.
On the sun coming out bright this morning the trees sparkled as if
mode of crystal and the branches of the evergreens hung in masses of
radiant white. So Alice described them, and we all agreed a sight so
beautiful we never saw.
Jany 17—Robbie and Allan set off on snowshoes for a day’s hunting
and came back in the afternoon carrying a deer, which they had run
down, being enabled to do so by the crust on the snow breaking under
the poor animal’s hoofs, There are more than men hunting deer. Last
night we heard the wolves in full cry as they were chasing them.
Jany. 21—Astonished by a visit from Mr and Mrs Bambray. They visited
ail the houses and seemed pleased by what they saw. Had a long talk
with him about how the province is being governed. Mrs Bambray
brought clothes for Tilly. The thaw we have had has lowered the
snow, and chopping down 'trees has been going on.
Jany 22—The day being moderate and the sleighing splendid drove to
Toronto, the oxen going faster than a man could walk. Sought to see
the minister, who accepted certificates of Ailie and myself.
Sacrament is March 26.
Jany. 25—Visited the farmer from whom I bought the steer. We had a
hearty welcome. Ailie much taken with their stove and its oven, and
curious about Canadian ways of housekeeping. Ruth was given a
Jany 27 —Great snowstorm.
Jany 28—Quite mild this morning, a warm wind from the south. Snow
melting. At noon there was a sudden change of the wind to the
northwest, which rose to a tempest, overturning trees and making
most doleful sounds as it swept through the woods, where it broke
off branches by the thousand. Became piercingly cold. Such quick
changes cannot be healthy.
Jany 30—More snow with strong east wind.
Feby. 9—After ten days of stormy weather, today is fine and bright.
The snow is over three feet on the level. Impossible to work in the
bush. Gordon is preparing for sugaring, making spouts and buckets. I
have to get a kettle to make potash and will buy one now, for it
will serve for boiling sap.
Feby 14—Rain, snow sinking fast.
Feby 18—Went with the three boys to Toronto and bought potash
kettles. They cost $12.
Feby 24—Sun is gaining strength and days are lengthening. Can see
the snow wasting in the sun. In the shade, freezing hard. Are doing
good work in the bush.
Feby 26—Snowing thick and fast, but not cold.
Feby 28—Sky without a cloud and mild. Gordon tapped a tree or two,
but there was no sap.
March 6—Roused by a hallo so hearty that nobody except Jabez could
utter it. The fine weather had made him tired of the town and
recalled the sugar-time of his youth. He picked out the maples to be
tapped, those most sheltered and facing the sun, and quickly their
bark was bored and spouts inserted. In the afternoon there was a
fair run. By that time the large kettle had been slung and the fire
started. It was a big play for the youngsters, and their shouting,
when Jabez poured sap on the snow and it turned to candy, might have
been heard a mile away.
March 11—Jabez left, taking as part of his spoil a jar of syrup and
a lot of cakes of sugar. Under his teaching Ailie quickly learned to
sugar off, and set it over the kitchen fire in the biggest pot. Sent
cakes as presents to Mrs Bambray and Mrs Dunlop.
March 12—All tired after the week’s sugar-making. Surprising what a
quantity was made, due to the Aulds and Brodies helping, who got
March-18—Have had no sugar-weather this week; frosty with strong
winds, and some snow. Allan, with help of Mr Auld, began hauling
boards from sawmill, which we will need for barns.
March 20—Gordon awakened us by shouting ‘A sugar snow.’ There had
been a light shower of it during the night, and the air was soft.
Holes were rebored and there was a fine run of sap. Likely the last,
for there is now bard frost.
March 25—Have made preparations for the sacrament. Weather has been
tickle, sometimes snow, then rain, but always blowy with cold
March 26—Fair overhead but sleighing heavy. Got to Toronto in time
and had a solemn and, I hope, a profitable season. Recalling past
occasions, Ailie was much affected on taking the cup in her hand.
She wax anxious about there being no word from Scotland. Before
leaving Toronto I went to the postmaster and got a letter. It was
from her sister, whose husband had a rented farm at Lochwinnoch.
They have decided to follow us to Canada, and ask that I look out a
farm for them. They hope to have over a thousand dollars after
paying their passage. When we got home Robbie’s news was that he had
seen a robin.
March 27—Gladdened when I woke to hear the sound of birds. The robin
here is not the Scottish redbreast, being much larger and with a
different note. People I spoke to at church yesterday said we are
having an unusually late season. I am weary of the sight of the
snow, which is now wasting in the sun. Heard frogs at a distance
last night. The long winter is a serious offset to farming in
April 3—Jabez with Sloot came this morning to start burning our
fallow, and before dark we had made great progress. There is enough
snow and ice left to make it easy for the oxen to haul logs.
April 8—By ourselves once more; the burning and the making of potash
finished yesterday. There is now clearance enough on all three lots
to make sure of raising sufficient crop to keep us, so it will not
be so much a work of life and death to keep at the felling of trees.
Chopping them is most laborious, but burning them is worse—as much
as flesh and blood can bear. The burning we had in the fall was to
get a patch of land cleared for sowing. This time we were prepared
to save the ashes, Gordon set up three leaches on the edge of the
pond, and as the logs were burned the ashes were gathered and hauled
by ox-sled to fill them. Ramming the ashes into the leaches as solid
as possible and then pouring water upon them fell to me and the
women, the men attending to the burning, the raking of the ashes
together, and hauling them. After soaking all night, or longer, the
leaches are topped, when the lye runs into a trough, made by
hollowing as big a pine as we could find. From the trough the lye is
dipped into the kettle, under which a fierce fire had to be kept. As
the lye boiled, the water in it passed off in clouds of steam, more
lye being poured in to keep it full. By-and-by a sticky mass could
be felt at the bottom of the kettle, which was ladled into cast iron
coolers, and became solid. This is called black salts, is barreled,
and shipped to Britain, where it is in great demand. The quantity of
lye needed to make a hundred-weight of black-salts astonished me. I
got ten cents a pound for what we made and that will keep us in
provisions until we have our own wheat to take to mill.
April 9—All glad of the Sabbath rest. Warm, the soft maples red with
April 15—Been busy all week, mostly in clearing and levelling the
burned land for sowing. Sowed two bushels of oats this afternoon.
Drying winds and a hot sun.
April 20—The rain needed to start grain came last night. Moist and
warm today with rapid growth.
April 22—Planted potatoes. Ailie and Alice getting the garden stuff
April 26—Wonderful growth; nothing like it in Scotland. There is no
spring here; the jump is from winter to summer. Our bridle-path to
Yonge-street is so soft that oxen cannot be put on it. Gordon goes
back to Toronto on Monday to join the tradesman he was with in the
fall, and who has sent for him. He will have to walk, for Yonge-street,
I am told, is a chain of bog-holes.
May 13—Have had changeable weather; rather too dry and a few cold
nights. The standing bush, keeps frost off the braird, which could
not look better. Busy preparing logs for building barns; we are all
working together. Three will be needed. Except for the ground logs
we are using cedar, which is light to handle and easy to hew. Mrs
Bambray sent a bundle of apple-trees and another of berry bushes.
All planted and look as if they have rooted.
June 3—Gordon along with Sloot came this evening to help in raising
the barns. Planted corn today; an entirely new crop to us. The heads
will be food for our table and the stalks the oxen are fond of. The
winter-wheat is in the shot-blade. Went back to the swamp and found
what had been plowed in fine shape. Seeded down with oats. I hope
for a good return.
June 14— Barns are finished. Much easier to build than were our
shanties. Using block and tackle in hoisting was a great help. Wheat
is beginning to Color. Robbie saw a deer browsing in the oats, got
his gun, and shot it. Deer flesh is dry any time but at this season
is poor eating. Potatoes and corn have got their first hoeing.
June 27—A dry hot spell. Scotland gets too much rain; Canada too
little. Wheat is ripening too fast. It will be fit to cut on Monday.
July 8—Wheat is safe; drying winds and a hot sun made it quickly fit
to iead. In Scotland it might have been out three weeks before fit
to stack. Fine quality and abundant yield. Will not need to buy more
July 12—Have had a plentiful rain that has saved the crops, for oats
are tiding. I answered my sister's letter at once, with directions
how to come. Have spent any time I could spare in trying to find a
lot for them. Gordon walked in this morning with a letter mailed
from Greenock, stating they were to take ship that week As they may
be here next week must decide quickly on a home for them.
July 1-5—Allan and myself have been on the trudge for three days,
looking for a lot. Finally decided on one with a clearance of nearly
ten acres and a shanty with an outbuilding. It is far north on Yonge-street,
but all nearer Toronto were held at prices they could not afford.
The owner leaves on account of sickness and sold the lot with its
betterments and growing crop for $600.
July 22—Left home on Monday to wait in Toronto for arrival of my
brother-in-law and family. They came on the 19th, sound and hearty.
As I had directed them, they took a ship for New York and thence by
the Hudson and Erie canal to Oswego, where they got the steamer for
Toronto. Thus they avoided the hardships of the St Lawrence route
and saved a fortnight in time. Looking at the map, I can see New
York is Toronto’s nearest ocean port. The teams got started early in
the afternoon, but the road was rough and the horses had to walk all
the way. It was growing dark when we reached the shanty, from whose
one window gleamed a light, and at the door were Ailie, Alice, and
Robbie, who had spent two days cleaning and making the place as
decent as possible. A table of boards, with benches at its side, was
spread with supper. A joyous hour was cut short by the teamsters
crying out horses were fed and they were ready to return. They
dropped us at the end of our lane.
July 26—Finished cutting the oats on the swamp while green and
stacked them. There is a fair catch of grass.
Aug. 4—All the grain is ripe; cutting is slow on account of the
stumps. Today there were four of us busy with the hook. Oats are not
as plump as in Scotland; they fill too quickly.