THE story of the
counties of Ontario is a story of conquest—not of men against men—but of
men, with little resource save their own strong arms, iron wills and
alert intelligence, pitted against wild, beautiful, prolific Nature, and
prevailing to subdue the earth. Carving their little farms from “the
forest primeval,’’ planting their own towns and cities at the
meeting-places of mighty waters, making highways of every lake and river
and streamlet deep enough to bear up a birch-bark canoe, our Loyalist
“Pilgrim Fathers,” many of whom lad been cast out as unworthy by the
land of their birth, were privileged, as has often happened with
outcasts, to found a new order of things and a new nation.
This Province had not,
of course, a monopoly of all the Loyalist settlers who came northwards
after the revolution, but it had enough to bring it into being with a
instinctive character of its own, enough, exclusive of other brave and
useful pioneers, to furnish it with heroes —and heroines—for the early
days of stress and strain and struggle—those days over which for us
hangs the fairy glamour of romance, though few of us would have
discovered it had we had to live through them. 1 suppose this charm of
the past and—in some measure— of the distant, is akin to the misty blues
and purples of, the far-away horizon. It comes from a certain point of
view, far enough from the things seen to enable us to lose sight of
details and realise the relative proportions of objects. So, though in
literature we often associate romance with the quaint trappings and
customs of bygone days, its real concern is with the heroes and with the
big things of life—love and hate, good and evil, contest and victory:
and great dramas may be played out on a narrow stage.
This story, with its
chapters of adventure, of patriotic warfare, of political struggle, and
of effort to make the best of marvellous opportunities, is still in the
making. The age of explorers and pioneers and (let us hope) of patriots
is not past, while that of “merchant princes,” “captains of industry,”
and organised armies of labourers has begun; but time’s changes only add
to its interest.
Gleaning in the fields
of Ontario’s local history has proved a fascinating task; but for the
handfuls gathered, whole sheaves are left untouched. In other words,
this book makes no profession of being a formal history. It is but hoped
for it that it may do a little to stimulate interest in the history of
the Province, especially amongst Ontario’s own sons and daughters, and
may incline them to make greater efforts to preserve the records and
memorials of their past.
Already the history of
some counties and townships has been written with loving care, and it
was an easy and a pleasant thing to follow in paths so well marked. In
other cases, the material had to be gathered with arduous labour, here
and there, far afield; but in all difficulties I was fortunate enough to
have the able and untiring assistance of the ladies in charge of the
Reference Library at Toronto—Miss Staten and Miss Moir—and I cannot let
this book go to press without a very grateful acknowledgment of the debt
that I owe to them.
The illustrations are
reproductions of old prints and pictures in the Archives at Ottawa; and
I have to thank Dr. Doughty for permission to use them, and his
assistant, Miss Casey, for her kind help in finding suitable subjects.
The map at the end of
the volume shows the extent of the Province of Ontario as it is to-day.
E. P. W.
LENNOX AND ADDINGTON