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The Pioneers of Blanshard
With an Historical Sketch of the Township by William Johnston (1899)



I DEEM it quite unnecessary to offer any apology for the publication of this work. The rapid formation of historical societies, both county and township, in so many different sections of our Province, indicates that the public mind is at last thoroughly awakened to the necessity of collecting and preserving in some more permanent and abiding form than the evanescent columns of the weekly newspaper or the scarcely less ephemeral magazine, these fast disappearing records of our old pioneer life, with their humble story of trials and triumphs, ere the destructive hand of time has obliterated them forever.

The interest and attention which our early local history is exciting on almost every hand is certainly as much to be lauded as the past neglect of it was to be condemned, and is truly only a suitable recognition on our part of the immense debt of gratitude which the generation of the present owes to the old pioneer past. To the courage, hardihood, and brave-heartedness of these old backwoods settlers of the early days we certainly owe it that our country is what it is; and amid all the luxury, refinement, and progress of the wonderful to-day we must ever remember that the humble past has been the parent of the present, as the present will be the parent of the future.

I confess, with something akin to pride, the gratification it has been to me to know that the present book may be considered one of the pioneer works of its class. I feel, too, that it is a matter of considerable importance that every child of the township should have some knowledge of its early history and settlement. I have deemed it, therefore, no idle ambition to have attempted the task of rescuing that history, as well as the names of many of the first settlers, from that oblivion with which time in a few short years would inevitably overtake them. In my own humble way I have striven to give both the history of Blanshard and the biography of its first settlers as much of permanence and publicity as is to be secured in a work of this kind.

The lives and hardships, the joys and sorrows of those humble heroes and heroines of the backwoods have always to me had a charm and an interest which I have striven, however feebly, to impart to these pages. If to the reader they give one-half the pleasure in reading them which they have given me in writing them I will be amply rewarded.

The old pioneer life, in this section of the province at least, has for many years been a thing of the past. Only a very few of that fast diminishing band of greyhaired veterans who can remember the old days in the backwoods are now left in our midst. To touch some slumbering but still responsive chord of memory which would waken the hearts of these, and at the same time to stir up some sympathetic interest in the minds of the present generation in a life of which they know practically nothing has been my constant and I hope not unworthy aim. Although the historical sketch of a township, and the biographical notices of some of its first settlers as well, must necessarily, from their very nature, to be of merely local interest, yet I have been ambitious enough to imagine that this work might reach and perhaps interest a much wider circle of readers.

For the accomplishing of this object I have strewn through these pages descriptive passages, illustrative of those phases of backwoods life which were common to it, not only in my own neighborhood, but in every part of the province. The log house and the backwoods shanty, like the ox team and the sled, the logging bee and the country spree, were inseparable from pioneer life everywhere. Inseparable from it, too, were those hardships and privations which seem almost incredible to the generation of to-day, and which give a lustre and a tinge of heroism to the lives of the men and women of that period not easily to be forgotten. A backwoodsman myself, and one who has spent many of the best and perhaps the happiest of his days in the bush, I can claim that intimate acquaintance with pioneer life which only actual experience can give. I have drawn the sketches which I have described from the life. If I have in the pages of this book in any way failed in the adequate representation of them, I have failed not from lack of will but from lack of ability.

William Johnston,
River Road, Blanshard.
St. Marys, August 24th, 1899.


Chapter I. - Early Settlement
Chapter II. - Municipal Notes
Chapter III. - Social Condition of the People
Chapter IV. - Villages, Schools, and Churches
Chapter V. - Meetings and Amusements
Chapter VI. - David Cathcart
Chapter VII. - Captain John Campbell
Chapter VIII. - Samuel Radcliff
Chapter IX. - James Dinsmore
Chapter X. - The Gunning Brothers
Chapter XI. - W. F. Sanderson
Chapter XII. - Reuben Switzer
Chapter XIII. - David Brethour
Chapter XIV. - Mathew Forsyth
Chapter XV. - Johnston Armstrong
Chapter XVI. - St. Marys

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