* A Distributed Proofreaders Canada eBook *

This eBook is made available at no cost and with very few restrictions. These restrictions apply only if (1) you make a change in the eBook (other than alteration for different display devices), or (2) you are making commercial use of the eBook. If either of these conditions applies, please contact a https://www.fadedpage.com administrator before proceeding. Thousands more FREE eBooks are available at https://www.fadedpage.com.

This work is in the Canadian public domain, but may be under copyright in some countries. If you live outside Canada, check your country's copyright laws. IF THE BOOK IS UNDER COPYRIGHT IN YOUR COUNTRY, DO NOT DOWNLOAD OR REDISTRIBUTE THIS FILE.

Title: This is Ontario

Date of first publication: 1937

Author: Amelia Beers Warnock Garvin (as Katherine Hale) (1878-1956)

Date first posted: Dec. 8, 2021

Date last updated: Dec. 8, 2021

Faded Page eBook #20211216

This eBook was produced by: Mardi Desjardins, John Routh & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at https://www.pgdpcanada.net




























Copyright, Canada, 1937, by


All rights reserved. No part of

this book may be reproduced in

any form, by mimeograph or any

other means, without permission

in writing from the publishers.


Published September, 1937





The word Ontario is of Iroquois origin, and signifies Beautiful Lake. The lake was called Ontario as early as 1646, when the French missionary, Father Isaac Jogues, used the term in addressing a large gathering of Indians in the Iroquois town of Osserion, about thirty miles from the Dutch settlement Rensselaerswyck, now known as Albany. “We have three paths to reach you,” he said in the course of his speech, “one by the Mohawk valley, the other by the great lake which you call Ontario, the third by the Huron country.” Percy J. Robinson, M.A., LL.D., has discussed this fully in his fascinating book, Toronto During the French Régime.

The old Iroquois name for the lake has now been extended to denote a vast Province, in area more than four times the size of Great Britain and nearly twice as large as France. It forms a wedge in Eastern Canada extending to the borders of Quebec and Manitoba, with the Great Lakes and the United States frontier to the south, and Hudson Bay to the north.

“Beautiful” is still an appropriate designation for the ancient forest lands of the Indians, now the southern portion of the Province, which pushes shoe-like into the waters of Ontario, Erie and Huron. It is a country studded with century-old towns and lively cities, interlaced by highways, bordered by an inland sea or crossed by splendid rivers. But to greater Ontario there is much more than beauty. There is, as we travel north, a wild medley of rock and scrub that hides an almost untapped mineral wealth under its granite floor. Beyond this lies the Great Clay Belt, which contains millions of acres of farming lands, and further still the timber and pulp lands which sweep up to James Bay, where the fur country silently guards the western shore of Hudson Bay.


As foreword to this book all that I need or wish to say is contained in these lines, here transcribed by permission of their author, Mr. C. Day Lewis, London, England:

This is my land. I’ve overheard it

Making a promise out of clay. All is recorded—

Early green, drought, ripeness, rainfalls,

Our village fears and festivals,

When the first tractor came and how we cheered it.

And as the wind whose note will deepen

In the upgrowing tree, who runs for miles to open

His throat above the wood, my song

With that increasing life grew strong,

And will have there a finished form to sleep in.

K. H.

Chapter One—Lake Erie Road
Detroit to the Border Cities—Three Old Houses—Tobacco Road—The Earthworks at Iona—Port Talbot—St. Thomas—Long Point—A Witch House—And along the Shore to Port Colborne.
Chapter Two—Grand River Valley
Up the River Road to Brantford—Paris—Galt—The German Settlements—Elora—Fergus—Grand Valley and the Luther Marsh to the river’s source near Dundalk.
Chapter Three—Blue Water Highway
The Port of Sarnia to Goderich, which may also be reached from Toronto, via Guelph and Stratford—Then Kincardine—Southampton—Owen Sound and the Bruce Peninsula.
Chapter Four—On Manitoulin Island
A Drive through the Island—Manitowaning—The Indian Village of Wikwemikong—Little Current.
Chapter Five—The North Shore
From Manitoulin Island up the North Shore of Lake Huron to Sault Sainte Marie, and on to Michipicoten—Then across Lake Superior to Port Arthur and Fort William.
Chapter Six—Our Natural Resources
From Little Current along the Espanola Road to Copper Cliff and Sudbury—Hence to North Bay, Callander and Corbeil.
Chapter Seven—Ottawa River Valley
Mattawa—Pembroke—Renfrew—Arnprior—And the Capital City of Ottawa, to the Quebec Border.
Chapter Eight—Along the St. Lawrence
Glengarry Settlements—Cornwall—Prescott—Brockville—Thousand Islands—Gananoque and Kingston.
Chapter Nine—North Shore of Lake Ontario
Collin’s Bay, Bath and Adolphustown—Prince Edward County—Belleville—Cobourg—Port Hope—And on to Toronto.
Chapter Ten—Yonge Street Road
Toronto to Newmarket and Lake Simcoe—Returning to Holland Landing—Barrie—Orillia—Midland—Penetanguishene—Georgian Bay—And the fairylands of Muskoka.
Chapter Eleven—Niagara Road
From Toronto to Port Credit—Oakville—Hamilton—Fruitland—St. Catharines—Niagara-on-the-Lake—Niagara Falls, and by the River Road to the Peace Bridge.
Chapter Twelve—Driving South
The Dundas Highway—Then through the central towns of Woodstock, London and Chatham to Windsor, where the journey began.

This is Ontario (map)
Ontario Countryside
The Harbour at Goderich
A Shady Street
The Town of Paris
The Niagara River near the Whirlpool
Country Scene near Port Hope
Shoreline, Lake Simcoe
A Typical Main Street in Ontario
Interior of St. Alban the Martyr, Adolphustown
Fort Frontenac, Kingston
The Eastern Gap, Toronto
On the Toronto Waterfront



Detroit to the Border Cities—Three Old Houses—Tobacco Road—The Earthworks at Iona—Port Talbot—St. Thomas—Long Point—A Witch House—And along the Shore to Port Colborne.

The steamer from Buffalo slowly made its way along the Detroit River. I glanced through the windows of the dining saloon. The north bank was full of factories and foundries with tall buildings looming in the distance. The south bank—Ontario—looked as quiet as a meadowland. Detroit itself, in whose welter we were soon plunged, glittered in the light, tremendously alive and active. I hailed a taxi and drove at once to the Windsor ferry.

The river was very silent after Detroit’s noise. Silent looked the shore which we approached, silent was the old man on the bench where I sat. But the morning was so beautiful that I was obliged to suggest as much to him. He mournfully agreed, but added that, owing to the tunnel and the new bridge, even such weather did not help the traffic on the ferries.

It is strange how the most unlikely people, and the most ordinary circumstances, will give one a new impression! I do not know, I shall never know, exactly what was in the mind of this old man on the ferry. But something in his posture, something in the soaring, geometric lines of the receding city and the careless, pastoral look of the shore to which we were floating blended past with present and made me think of and picture the forest stillness that once lay on the shores of the old French seigniory, of which both sides of the river were an undivided part. Even these ferries, once the very life of the place, even the motor cars that now met the ferries, were linked in thought with that time, for is not one of the handsomest of the motor tribe named appropriately for Cadillac, the good Gascon, the founder of Fort Pontchartrain, which preceded Detroit by nearly two centuries and a half?

Because I was returning to Ontario by an unfamiliar route, I felt as if I were entering the river port of Windsor for the first time, and seeing its environs afresh. It was enchanting to think of driving again into the depths of the country, beside the lakes and rivers and through the grey stone towns. Even the red brick towns did not alarm me at the moment.

Presently I was sitting in the garden of a house opposite the beautiful English Church of St. Mary’s in Walkerville, with Donald, who was driving me along the Lake Erie Road. We decided that the first journey into southern Ontario would skirt this lake to Port Maitland, the mouth of the Grand River, from where we should explore its valley. We were surrounded by maps and folders. The patterns of these maps, woven of the cobweb lines of railroads and motor roads, dotted with towns and rivers and many series of minute lakes and islands, and the folders with their photographs and information about industries and tourist attractions failed to whet our sense of adventure. We thought that there was only one thing for us, or anyone who intended to enjoy the road—it was to draw an extra map of one’s own, which should be coloured with associations as well as facts. It would be a map whose design is influenced by experience of travel, and would therefore be of unconventional outline. We knew, for instance, that we would be sure to hurry by some dull, important monument and to pause with entranced interest beside another, to drive with pleasant or picturesque ghosts out of history, and to step on the gas if they became tiresome, to find modern machinery as fascinating as old houses, and mines as meadowlands. We had the feeling that the new Ontario was as important as the old, and perhaps even more romantic. In fact this province as we looked at it, drawing our map in air, seemed to comprise a whole world of modern reality in its lake-held and prairie-rimmed boundaries—heroisms, energies, crudities, beauties, hungers, riches, spaces, opportunities, spiritual forces. A map should record not only the colours of landscape, but the places and people that make landscape a living thing. If the colours of this map of ours were not fresh and stirring it would be entirely our fault, for we were part of no faded country, but of a vivid, bright-hued wedge of the North American continent and the Canadian scene.

Courtesy of Canadian National Railways.


We decided to set out the next morning, and the only guide that I intended to take was an out-of-print and entirely reliable text-book by Miss Emily Weaver, called The Counties of Ontario. This little document was to strengthen my memory as to uncertain dates, and to tell me all sorts of things that I should and did not know. For instance, at the present moment it was reminding us that a village of Ottawa Indians was once situated here, where Walkerville now stands, and that after the cession of Canada to England, the great chief Pontiac assembled his forces at this very spot for an attack on Detroit. Also that Peach Island, a little higher up the river, now on the American side, was once his home . . . Pontiac of Peach Island—what an address! . . . It was sold later on to an English officer for three rolls of tobacco, half a dozen pounds of vermilion and eight barrels of rum.

To drive around the peninsula of Essex county we should touch an ancient war zone, of which time no fortifications, but a few very interesting houses remain. One of these is the Bâby House in Sandwich, which is now owned by Dr. W. J. Beasley. It is linked with Moy House, in Windsor, built as a Hudson’s Bay Post by a chief of the McIntosh clan. His mother, the Lady of Moy, was a great person in Scotland who, in defence of the Stuart Prince Charlie, took the field herself at the head of her fighting men, with a man’s bonnet on her head and a brace of pistols at her saddle-bow. Her son Angus, who built this Windsor House, went into voluntary exile in Canada on account of the disinherited prince. The house finally came into the hands of a Miss Bâby, thus uniting the two most interesting dwellings of the neighbourhood.

Windsor, and Walkerville—which is a narrow strip jammed in between it and Greater Windsor—are imperceptibly joined to Sandwich, making one long and rather dreary street, uninteresting to the casual eye until we come to those open spaces where the towers and white buildings of Detroit seem to float across the river, so close that you could almost touch them.


We were going towards the Sandwich Road. It was nine o’clock in the morning and our journey had begun. In spite of our non-historic resolutions it began with the search for a mislaid inscription.

There is a certain slave tablet in Windsor which everybody believes exists, but nobody that I have had conversation with has ever found. We heard vaguely that it was on or near a bank in Oulette Street. Thither we drove, picking our careful way, and annoying several bank managers by disturbing them in their offices with our inquiries. We were being ushered out of one of these offices by a polite clerk when something—perhaps the very way that he wore his horn-rimmed spectacles—made us suddenly appeal to his sense of history. It was not in vain. He said that he was quite sure that there was such a tablet situated somewhere in Windsor. Indeed, if his memory did not fail him, it was situated somewhere upon this very street. He was quite sure that he had heard of it. This was something—though not quite what could be called a clue. We got into the car determined to waste no more time, when our eyes happened to discover a bank directly opposite this one. We crossed the narrow street, and there, firmly embedded in its stone front, for all the bank managers, intelligent clerks, citizens and visitors of the town to see, was the lost tablet—which appropriately and concisely conveys to the mind an interesting period in the life of the place. It says:

Here the slave found freedom. Before the United States Civil War of 1861-65 Windsor was an important terminal of the underground railroad. Escaping from bondage, thousands of fugitive slaves from the South, men, women and children, landing near this spot found in Canada friends, freedom and protection under the British Flag

The Bâby mansion, standing on the banks of the Detroit River at the corner of Russell and Mill Streets, is full of history. Its life begins with that of Sandwich, which nearly two centuries ago was a well-known Hudson’s Bay Post, from where, by log canoe, people could come and go to Detroit. Jacque Duperon Bâby, His Majesty’s Indian Agent, and his wife, were its important people. M. Bâby was a great trader, and had uncanny power and influence over the Indians, even over the Ottawa warrior, Pontiac of Peach Island. His son, afterwards the Honourable James, was also connected with the fur trade. He inherited the great house his father had built, which was to go into history in a later engagement with Fort Detroit, and he himself was to figure in the first written poetic drama of Canada, which Charles Mair called Tecumseh.

And there it stood in the early morning light, the great lumbered house, its original brick façade stuccoed over of late years, a screened porch instead of the original verandah, a bit of picket fence, and an unroofed verandah towards the river. A century and a half ago, when the garden of the house was made, French pear trees were brought over, and nursed and cradled in wet moss by the missionary fathers who planted them on both sides of the Detroit River. Several were secured by M. Bâby, and cherished with as much care as the precious French wines, or the bales of fur brought in by the traders and weighed on the stout hooks that still hang from the rafters of the hall.

It was in this house that General Brock had his headquarters when he defeated the attempted invasion of the American General Hull, who was camped at Detroit, with double the force of the British and their Indian allies, during the War of 1812. Later on, slaves used to swim across the river and fly for refuge to this hospitable place. We hoped to find an original pear tree remaining in its garden, but they have been overtaken by time, so I quote, in their memory, a little verse—anonymous so far as we know:

Many a thrifty Mission pear

Yet o’erlooks the blue St. Clair,

Like a veteran, faithful warden;

On their branches, gnarled and olden,

Still each year the blossoms dance;

Scent and bloom of sunny France.

In a beautiful situation at the bend of the river lies Amherstburg, which was begun, long ago, by the French. It was for years a military town but the soldiers have all vanished, and its narrow streets are very quiet to-day. Invading and being invaded, during our days of strife with the Americans, its fortifications were twice built, and Fort Malden, the third stronghold, was not begun until after 1837—but it, too, has disappeared. The officers’ mess quarters—a row of neat white buildings—still remain at the entrance to the grounds of a charming house, converted by Mr. Franklin Hough out of a stone mill which had stood for years on the ground of the old fort. A stone-flagged terrace overlooks the gardens, and the ancient moat is now grass-grown and turned into the service of flower beds and rockeries. Stone walls still dike the river front, where one may sit and watch the river traffic go by.

Just to the east of the village of Amherstburg stands Belleview, an old military residence which is linked with Fort Malden, for the original owner, a Colonel Reynolds, was Commandant at the Fort and built here in 1797. He sent to England for supplies of brick, as there were then no kilns in Upper Canada, and from this material a fine Georgian residence arose. It remained in the Reynolds family for three generations, and then came into the hands of Mr. Norval Mullin, who has restored the house with great care. Indeed, it signifies perfectly its moment in the south Ontario scheme; the hardy Georgian frame, the square welcoming hall, the panelled rooms and great kitchens below stairs, with enormous brick fireplaces and side baking-ovens, and stout old hooks on which to hang the roasts. How one could picture officers from the Fort riding down the river road to good times at Belleview! Its restorations and additions, its tapestries and porcelains, the terrace, the gazebo, even the highly-colored, artful gardens were, we thought, ornaments which only intensified the strong original force of the house. It was a part of the river and the road, one with the day in which it was built, based on uses and needs, and surviving far into its second century of beauty.


At Amherstburg we had arrived at the tip of the Essex Peninsula. We left the river road and switched back a few miles to Essex county town to make the run from there to Cottam, along an excellent road which is lined with small narrow farms that are characteristic of the French-Canadians who were the first settlers of this countryside. Many of their names began to appear on letter boxes and village signs. The neighbourhood of Essex is decorated with near-Elizabethan sleeping cabins, and there occurs also Ye Olde Oaken Bucket Inn. Hitch-hikers came sauntering along, we passed green hedges and fields of gladioli, and chicken hatcheries—everything, indeed, that blends nicely with a fine morning.

At Cottam we passed a tiny oblong wooden church in its field of graves, and an unfriendly howitzer set up on the main street as a soldiers’ memorial. There is a most attractive tourist house near by and market gardens abound. We bought a basket of cherries and some early peaches, and shortly the first tobacco fields spread their grey-green shawls on both sides of the road. As we turned down to Kingsville a huge traffic sign proclaimed: “The Home of Jack Miner.”

His sanctuary for birds lies two miles north of the town, and the highway passes its door. In the asphalt sidewalk in front of the gate is stamped the inscription: We Thank God for Our Home.

No one answered our knock, so we began to explore the premises when, from a back door, a worried-looking, middle-aged man inquired what we wanted, told us that Jack Miner was on his vacation, and said that we might look around.

I do not know exactly what we expected—clouds of wild geese darkening the air perhaps, and hosts of ducks in close formation on the miniature lakes and ponds, and at least a watchman in the famous tower. But the tower was quite deserted, and when we had climbed to the top all we could see was the tile works where Miner had laboured with his father as a youth, a red fence enclosing a pond with bulrushes, a bird house from which a few lonely tumbler pigeons were flying erratically through the air, and another pond bordered by lilac trees where wild swans were curiously nesting under the trees. Acres of trees lay beyond, and land devoted to the interests of the wild birds. We could see tiled bird-houses of ultra-modern construction which looked as though they might have been intended for winged creatures in the H. G. Wells picture of “Things to Come.” We descended, and studied some migration maps near the entrance to the tower—really board-maps showing air routes of the wild geese—and loaded with literature given to us on departure we left the home of the “Great Protector,” whose Migratory Bird Sanctuary has harboured thousands, and who has propagated more thousands of his favourites, and helped to eliminate those destructive to crops and wild life—crows and starlings among them.

“Perhaps the greatest advertising Jack Miner has ever given Kingsville,” says a folder of that town, “was away back in August of 1909, when he began catching wild fowl and tagging them and releasing them again to their wild life. On each band, placed on the leg of a bird, was stamped his name and post-office address. What happened? Through syndicates and news services as many as fifteen hundred papers have carried the story of the killing of a solitary goose, duck, dove or robin. In every case the name Kingsville featured prominently in the story.”

As each label bears also a verse of scripture, we are further told that this immediately engaged the interest of the religious press, which has contributed space as widely as have the secular papers, so that church people the continent over know Kingsville and Jack Miner. Indeed Miner himself declares that: “Certain men in southern United States, after having received a gospel message delivered by a goose, have turned right about face.”

As these unfortunate birds are invariably shot before delivering their message, to the name of “winged missionary” may also be added that of martyr.


Kingsville was originally founded by the King family. Its main street is lined with an avenue of beautiful hard maples which we followed to a lakeside park, and from there detoured to our right to find the original King house, which sits like an elderly and almost forgotten guardian of the little town behind its stone wall. It is a charming white brick, octagonal house with lantern tower, green shutters and grape arbour. To the fact that thousands of tourists’ cars are parked throughout the season in front of Jack Miner’s Bird Sanctuary I must add that there are some delightful old houses, set in beautiful gardens, to be seen on the west of the main road through Kingsville, which are well worth a visit.

As we proceeded on Highway No. 3 Tobacco Road really began, with ever-widening fields of the plant that is best cultivated in a southland of warm moist air. Gradually waves of heat seemed to press in upon us in suffocating strength. But after all, we were in the same latitude as central Italy, and it was nearly noon. The sight of a few negroes walking along the road and sometimes working in the fields, seemed the most natural thing in the world. So was a green parrot hopping about in its cage under a tree near a cottage. Golden early oats divided the tobacco fields, the farms were prosperous, the landscape mellow. Every now and then glimpses of Lake Erie appeared. Indeed there was just a suspicion of a southern plantation feeling about this level land of sandy shore, and the leafy fields where some of the prize Virginia tobaccos of the North American continent are raised.

Noonday brought the thought of lunch, so we bought a melon to add to our provender and found a brook and a sheltering tree, and felt superior when we discovered that we had been given the best of the family lunch hampers, complete with nickel cups and stainless steel. But shad flies, proclaiming the near presence of Lake Erie, disturbed our picnic. We retired to the car, and after luncheon began to smoke them out. Here I reopened some Jack Miner literature which, referring to tourist traffic during the season of bird migration, says that more people cross the border from the United States into Canada by way of Windsor and Kingsville than by any other port of entry, and that the sanctuary will remain a tourist centre and shrine “long after this eminent Naturalist, Conservationist, and Humanitarian has passed to the Great Beyond.”

“I’d love to see a folder from Callander!” said Donald wistfully.

This one from Kingsville was decorated with group-photographs of Jack Miner with Edgar A. Guest, the Detroit poet, Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the world’s greatest baseball player, and George D. Pratt, multi-millionaire of New York, Standard Oil Company executive and Y.M.C.A. worker. There is also a birthday greeting from Henry Ford which says: “Your friends, both feathered and human, will wish you many happy returns of the day. It was a fortunate day for both kinds when you were born. Signed Henry Ford.”

At this moment there appeared at the window of the car a passer-by who asked if we were in any trouble. He laughed about the shad flies, “Just the way the wind blows!” he said. “They don’t bother us often.” We admired the country, and he said it was all right—had turned out all right. “Most of us came to strike oil and stayed to plant tobacco. I’m one of them. . . . Yes, it’s interesting work—hard, you know, irksome, requires special knowledge and attention, risky as all farming is. The soil has to be just so, and what we call the aromatic principles exactly right. Only a small part of any farm is usually available, and we must harvest at exactly the right moment, otherwise the leaf cures down thick and boardy, instead of thin and elastic.”

“And is it profitable?” we asked.

“Profitable!” echoed the grower, with an indignant shrug. “Think they leave us any profit at twenty-seven cents a pound? Not they!”

But the comfortable modern houses of stone, or stucco-and-lath, set alongside the tobacco fields gave us hope that the growers had at least some small part in the enormous dividends that accrue from our favourite brands. And this is not to put aside the question of the middleman, but only to suggest that it is here. To us these fields looked soft and mesmeric in the all-enveloping heat, a drowsy scene whose atmosphere is sharpened by the glint of sun on the glass roofs and sides of forcing houses, and by separating bands of brilliant and variegated colour, which, as we drove by, we found were often composed of the small flat flowers of portulaca.

A bridge across the highway at Leamington announces Heintz and his pickles, and huge warehouses show the Canadian home of the fifty-seven varieties.

Soon we were travelling on a high ridge of land, with frequent glimpses of the lake below, where modern architecture was replaced by more old-fashioned houses, churches and schools in deep red-brick. We were in the oil region and wells were everywhere to be seen, some of them in front yards, with huts for pumping the oil connected up by pipe lines. Then came fields of purple clover, sometimes giving the effect, in distance, of Scottish heather. Pine groves appeared. We passed Brock’s Creek at the mouth of which General Brock and his Lake Erie force camped on the way to Detroit to meet Tecumseh in 1812. The creek itself has disappeared. It was probably a bubbling river in those days. Only a thin trickle of water, and a tablet, erected by the Elgin Historic Society, remain to tell the tale. Cedar Springs—Blenheim—Morpeth flash by. This becomes a sociable road of small farms and pleasant houses, where everybody has a neighbour. The afternoon is getting on and we are watching for Iona, where one turns from the highway to find the Southwold earthworks of the Neutral Indians.


From Iona, which is a gas station and store, we were told to look for a certain farm, a fenced enclosure, stone pillars and white gate, with an entablature surmounting it. Finding it we left the car and walked down a lane, turned to the right, followed wheel tracks, and came to a second low fence, beyond which rose a rather wilted, grassy mound on whose top a grove of trees was growing.

This constitutes the only prehistoric aboriginal double earthwork known in America—and at first glance it was the most ordinary sight in the world. A problem, I thought, for archaeologists only.

But I did not count on my young companion. To him this ruin at once became a prize puzzle to be personally solved. Leaving me at its base he explored and measured, followed a channel of earth between small and larger elevations, and finally came back to sketch out his ideas.

“Here are the two circles of earthworks, one within the other, there the probable position of the stockade. Here the stream channel, still visible, would enter the stockade.”

“They were pottery makers,” I interpolated.

“In any case, of course, they had to bring in water. . . . I tell you it’s an interesting thing! . . . I’d like to know its age!”

But the forlorn mound before us holds no answer. Its roots lie so far back in early time that for centuries the little arena has been an unsolved mystery. Even the first explorers could make nothing of the story of its erection by the Neutrals. For the pagan Attewanderons, the outlaws, the Neutrals, to whom the whole north shore of Lake Erie and the Grand River Valley belonged, had been there from time immemorial. It was late in their day when the Jesuits arrived and began to send their records back to France, and even then the story of the tribe was overshadowed by the bloodier records of the Iroquois and the Hurons. Daillon, from the Huron mission, in 1626, found some forty villages and forty thousand people of whom four thousand bore arms. They believed in preparedness, but could afford neutrality from the fact that they were sole makers and controllers of flint weapons; a monopoly by which they managed to escape the incessant wars of stronger nations, until the dawn of so-called civilization when the Iroquois got firearms from the Dutch. Then, after they had almost exterminated the Hurons, they swooped down upon the Neutrals, whom they massacred wholesale. Hereafter the Erie land and the lovely valley of the Grand River was uninhabited for a century, and when it began to be resettled by the whites its ancient masters, the hunting, dancing, pottery-making Neutrals, were hardly even a legend.

But two centuries later, along the way that we had just come, and through the valley land to which we were bound, strange flint arrowheads and spearheads, stone and slate axes, rude pottery, and sometimes, encased and overgrown in rock or the hollows of huge dead trees, a plaintive string of crudely-fashioned wampum beads gave antiquarians a clue to their wanderings.

Of all this we thought as we sat in the late summer day considering the dusk of these gods and gazing at their ancient enigma. It was a grim farewell they had left, brown and dusty, and unlike their colourful selves. We walked back through the deserted lane feeling strangely subdued, for we had been in another world, and we were leaving it alone in the twilight.


On the highway once more, we ran through the village of Sheddon and wished for time to drive a mile and a half down the side road where lives the well-known author, Francis Pollock, whose life as a bee-keeper in this region he has told in a fascinating book called Bitter Honey.

We were nearing St. Thomas, whose steeples we could see in the distance, when, of a sudden, the sun, which had been so retiring all the time we had been studying our earthworks, burst forth in such vigour that we decided to add an hour to our afternoon, and turn down the Union Road to Fingal and then south to Port Talbot so as to revisit a certain “Castle of Malahide,” on the shores of Lake Erie, about which a faded enchantment lingers.

What the seigniories were to the French-Canadians, the early British settlements meant to Upper Canada, and none held a more romantic story than that of the Honourable Thomas Talbot, into the heart of whose semi-feudal estate we were driving. The very road meant history. It was originally an Indian portage, during the American War of 1812 a path for plundering bands from Kentucky, and then became the wider road which Talbot used on his way to and from the little village named after him, which he proudly called “my capital.”

It is amazing to find how few people recall one of Canada’s most lively and entertaining stories.

It began at Malahide, nine miles from Dublin, in a castle that might have come out of a medieval fairy tale. The lordship of Malahide has remained in the Talbot family for more than seven centuries. One of them was a baron of William the Conqueror, another figured in Shakespeare—John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, who was the terror of France. In the castle of Malahide, and of this ancient stock, the founder of the Talbot settlement in Upper Canada was born. As a younger son he sought adventure overseas. He talked of the new land, Canada, with a boon companion and life-long friend, a fellow aide-de-camp of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, one Arthur Wellesley, better known hereafter as the Iron Duke of Wellington. He left Dublin Castle in 1790 to join his regiment, then stationed at Quebec, but was fascinated by accounts of south-western Ontario and using his influence with the Duke of Kent, then at Quebec, went to Niagara as aide to Sir John Graves Simcoe. Here, beyond “the country of the Cataract,” lay such allure for him that in 1800 he returned to England, sold his military commission and came back with the ambition to found a colony. Then, on an expedition with Lord Simcoe, he discovered this lovely region between Lake Erie and the River Thames—a place to fill the imagination and the heart, a place in which to hew out a kingdom.

As he was a skilful courtier and, it is said, had some claims on the crown, he received his grant of seventy thousand acres, on condition of placing a settler on every two hundred of them. After the first years of difficulty and superhuman effort the settlement grew and expanded to over five hundred thousand acres, with a population of fifty thousand.

Woodsmen, Indians and half-breeds felled trees and broke ground for Talbot’s first cabin. Years later a more pretentious house was built, and the log “castle” still standing is a replica of the second house, but a mere echo of its heyday. When I had seen it last it was being considered, by its American owner, as a possible roadhouse. Now, as we reached the lake’s edge and turned in, I saw that it had not been changed. Even the little wooden bench, the only personal possession of the Talbot régime left, was still standing on the verandah. Its construction is more like that of an Indian Long House than an Englishman’s castle. But the situation was, and is, singularly beautiful. To the left of the house and clearing, which faces the lake, are some fine trees, among them an enormous wide-spreading locust imported from England a century ago. Talbot Creek flows across fertile meadowland towards the lake. There are great yellow cliffs of sand, and sand shoals extend into the lake. The shallow water, lapping at the feet of the great cliffs, makes a band of lapis lazuli against the deeper water beyond. Through poplar trees one catches azure vistas shining between their tall dark shapes.

As his settlement throve the Colonel here kept open house. No one of distinction came to Upper Canada without paying him respect; noblemen and gentlemen, judges, littérateurs and ladies of distinction. Anna Jameson, the English critic and historian, travelling by springless wagon over corduroy roads and through the dense bush, in 1836, has left the best picture of the place. She writes of orchards and “a really civilized rose garden,” of innumerable out-buildings, a wide hall where panther skins glared from the rafters above, of handsome lodging rooms, and blazing open fires. Once the Colonel’s nephew, Richard, afterwards Lord Airey, came to pay him a visit and remained to become a Canadian. Of the visit of Lady Emeline Stuart-Wortley, a quaint little souvenir lies in the British Museum, in London, for her daughter of twelve was moved to write a diary of her travels with mamma in America, which includes a studious chapter on Port Talbot. One of the rare copies of this book we were to be fortunate enough to see, later in the day, in the library of Dr. J. H. Coyne, of St. Thomas, historian and editor of the Talbot papers.

An English portrait of Talbot, when he was nearly sixty, shows a florid, good-natured face, the features of which strangely resemble those of William IV. The costume is homespun, woven by his settlers, a grey coat and striped trousers of scarlet and black. His sheepskin coat for winter was famous on both sides of the ocean, for he loved to swagger about London in Canadian clothes.

As to the Talbot habit of resembling kings, that which Anna Jameson calls the most memorable repartee ever recorded in the chronicle of wit occurred when Richard Talbot, then Ambassador to France, was asked by Louis the Fourteenth, who was struck by an amazing likeness to himself, “M. l’Ambassadeur, est-ce-que madame, votre mère, n’a jamais été à la cour du Roi, mon père?” Talbot replied with a low bow, “Non, Sire, mais mon père y était!”

Tory, Loyalist, aristocrat, he and his kind have vanished from our levelling day. Yet everyone who travels for a hundred miles hereabouts travels over the Talbot domain. It was not easily created. “I would not, if anyone were to offer me the universe, go through again the horrors I have undergone in forming this settlement,” he told Mrs. Jameson.

We followed the Talbot Road a few miles farther east to the old cemetery and church of St. Peter’s, where the grave of Colonel Talbot is marked by a flat entablature, on a stone over a ground-sarcophagus. On the opposite side of the road, a little further in the direction of Port Talbot, is St. Stephen’s Church, an associate parish.

Retracing our way we could see the gallant Colonel, driving his light, springless wagon in summer, and in winter a strong, high-shouldered box sleigh, piled with buffalo robes, on his way to and from the little village of St. Thomas.

That evening, in the library of Dr. J. H. Coyne, to whose invaluable papers this and every other record of Southern Ontario owes so much, we were shown many treasures. We saw a copy of Galinée’s map of 1670, the first made from actual exploration in which Lake Erie appears. It was printed in Faillon’s Histoire de la Colonie Française. His annotations are fascinating, such as, at Detroit: “Here was a stone idol of the Iroquois, which we broke up and threw into the water.”


St. Thomas, created out of the Talbot settlements, was a garrison town in its early days. Its most interesting landmark is St. Thomas Church, which was erected in 1824 on land donated from his farm by a Huguenot settler named Daniel Rapelje. A graveyard lies in front of the quaint wooden edifice, its steeple is set on a square, shuttered foundation springing from the façade. Box-pews, now stripped of their original doors, used to be sold to pew-holders at the rate of two pews for six pounds.

Alma College, a resident school for girls, with a long history behind it, is situated near a charming park whose flowerbeds in summer are a delightful feature of the town. In fact, St. Thomas is so celebrated on account of its gladioli growing that it is known as The Flower City.

I asked an old newspaper man for some local history, and he begged me not to forget that a real story, still in circulation, has to do with the accidental death on the railway track here of Barnum’s great elephant, Jumbo. “It was the great excitement of 1883—September 15th to be exact. The Barnum story was, that Jumbo tried to protect the baby elephant from the oncoming train. But that’s not right. . . . They got his bones in Tuft’s College, New York. . . . Say, if this town wasn’t full of reporters!”

The Port Stanley road takes one ten miles south of St. Thomas to the village of that name, which, with its wide sandy beach has been for generations a favourite summer resort of London and St. Thomas families. To-day it shows every evidence of continued popularity. The sand was blossoming in many-coloured beach umbrellas, and young women were wandering the early morning countryside in unbecoming Japanese pyjamas. Behind the beach, which is now its life, lies some interesting neighbourhood history, dating from the time when the river Toni (now Kettle Creek) was discovered by and called after one of La Salle’s exploring party. In this vicinity they found Joliet’s canoe, lost in a storm between here and Port Dover, in 1670. Charlevoix, making his way up the lake years later, declared it to be one of his favourite spots. In 1824 the harbour was visited by three young men, all members of Parliament from England, one of whom was Lord Stanley, later known as the Earl of Derby. They were reporting conditions to the home government and were guests of Colonel Talbot, who had the port named after Stanley. Before this, Colonel John Bostwick had secured land and built the first house in the settlement. He also gave the ground for the lovely little English church, Christ Church, which forms a landmark seen from highway or beach.

But most interesting of all is the way that commerce can twist and turn as machinery directs it. A century ago this place was a central shipping port for wheat. Before 1856 fortunes were spent on this harbour. Then came the railway, diverting the routes. It must be added, however, that steamers, more palatial than were dreamed of in those days, link Cleveland, Ohio, with the town, huge coal boats and freighters nose their way into the harbour, and fishing tugs go out each morning for an early catch.

We were to pass a series of little ports whose chief commerce is now concerned with fishing and holiday visitors. A few miles on, Port Bruce lies in a happy valley and shows a story-book harbour. . . . Port Burwell is commemorative of Colonel Malhon Burwell, an important executive of the Talbot settlement, and the land surveyor of the original townsite of the city of London.

Then, after a quick run to Clear Creek, we came to Port Rowan, and Long Point country, which is the region so much admired by Galinée, who wrote in his exquisite French of the abundance of game and wild fruits. The grapes, he said, were as large and sweet as the finest in France, and the wine made from them was as good as vin de grave.

But my particular attraction to Long Point lies in the fact that I am one of those persons whom legends of a superstitious nature fascinate, and near here lived a certain Dr. Troyer, about whom I have heard strange stories. At Port Rowan a small narrow peninsula juts out into the Lake. It contains a park and a modern sports club devoted to fishing and duck shooting. This is Long Point, which was originally settled by German, Dutch, French, and British immigrants. Dr. Troyer was a German, and his specialty was witches. But he was a liberal person, and believed in all kinds of magic, with a natural leaning towards black. He also did a little mineral-rodding, by which he divined where gold was hidden. He came to this part in 1790, built a log house and was Norfolk’s first medical practitioner. Tradition says that he was a kindly man, and much regarded for his vast potential knowledge of the unseen. In 1893 Dr. Coyne had from the lips of one of the oldest inhabitants, then eighty-five years old, some extraordinary tales, for the fame of Dr. Troyer extended well along the lakeshore and as far as the Detroit River. It reached Lord Selkirk’s ill-fated Belledoon Settlement, where witchcraft was at work among the Highlanders. How Dr. Troyer dealt with forms of sorcery is also told in an ancient pamphlet, The Belledoon Mysteries, an O’er True Story, written many generations ago, but echoes still float about, coupled with names that were once well known in the neighbourhood. Dr. Troyer looked upon certain of his neighbours as witches, one of the most dreaded being the widow of a well-known captain in the local militia. She was a clever woman who used her wit and beauty to torment him. If he chanced to meet her when starting on a hunting expedition he would at once turn about and go home. At the foot of his bed a huge trap was bolted to the floor, and was set every night to catch witches. “The jaws were about three feet long and when shut were two and a half feet high.” But in spite of this defensive means the witches would occasionally take Dr. Troyer out into the night and transform him into various kinds of animals, compelling him to act the part. Nevertheless he was considered a sane man. He is described as wearing a long, white, flowing beard. It is said that he lived to be ninety years old, and that just before his death he shot offhand a hawk perched on the peak of the barn roof.

Do you wonder that we felt a little nervous as we slid down a sandy hill and through a tangle of trees caught a glimpse of a little tumble-down house, weed-choked and desolate, which legend says was the doctor’s! The lonely door is unbarred now against magic, black or white. There was no sign of a witch trap on the broken floor, nothing to see, in fact, unless a trace of folklore is a sight, or an old legend. Coarse field grasses creaked in a sudden wind: “Emptiness personified,” we said. But who can tell? It may not be so completely abandoned after all. Certainly it gave us a peculiar stare as we turned to leave it.

Between Port Rowan and St. Williams come the sand mounds, golden piles that are a climax to those which have, for some time along the road, been increasing in numbers and apparently in depth. A few miles behind Normandale, which we now passed, lies the village of Vittoria, one of those old forgotten places that destiny has passed by. At the beginning of the last century much of the population of Southwest Ontario centred around Long Point, whose judicial seat was Vittoria. But the trend of emigration was turning westward. So Vittoria’s power waned, and accident removing the courthouse by fire, in 1825, the county town was moved to London.

We were at the heart of Lake Erie history shortly afterwards, when, at Port Dover, where the Lynn River enters, we find a memorial in the shape of a cross, standing on the high bluff, just to the east of the village, which marks the spot where the two first white men landed on the shores of Lake Erie. The shore of Black Creek where they wintered has also been marked by a cairn. The cross bears the inscription:

In the year of Salvation 1669 Clement 9 being seated in the chair of St. Peter, Louis XIV reigning in France, M. de Courcelles, Governor of New France and M. Talon being Intendant there for the King, there arrived in this place two missionaries of the Seminary of Montreal, accompanied by seven other Frenchmen who, the first of all European peoples, have wintered on this lake, of which they have taken possession in the name of their King, as an unoccupied land, by the affixing of his arms which they have attached to the foot of this cross. In faith of which we have signed this present certificate. François Dollier, Priest of the Diocese of Nantes in Brittany. De Galinée, Deacon of the Diocese of Rennes in Brittany.

And on a tablet affixed to the cross:

Near this spot, March 23rd, 1670, was erected a cross with the arms of France and inscription claiming sovereignty in the name of King Louis XIV over the Lake Erie region as shown in process-verbal on this memorial placed here in 1922.

It makes one turn to the Journal of Dollier and Galinée, obtainable in most reference libraries of importance. It was written by Galinée, the young mathematician and geographer, who, with the Sieur de La Salle and Dollier, travelled here. La Salle went on to explore the Mississippi, and from all that we hear the winter was not too impossible for the young Frenchmen who wintered on the shore of Black Creek.

It is a swift run to Port Colborne at the mouth of the Welland Canal, passing Port Maitland, to which we shortly retraced our steps. As a matter of fact the highway here turns back from the lake, slightly to the north, and touches Dunnville, through which the Grand River runs on its last lap towards the lake, so that we had to drive down to the shore at Port Maitland to see its actual descent. Then we traced its way up the river road to Brantford.



Up the River Road to Brantford—Paris—Galt—the German Settlements—Elora—Fergus—Grand Valley and the Luther Marsh to the river’s source near Dundalk.

Five counties, which stretch from Lake Erie to Proton township and the base of the Blue Hills near Georgian Bay, are this valley’s domain. Its drama opens to ghostly echoes of the Neutral Indians in prehistoric times. Recorded life comes at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the lakeshore received the first drift of newcomers, United Empire Loyalists, who were met with some grandeur by chiefs of the Six Nations led by Brant. Upstream the tribes were still in possession of land granted them by the British Government because of their loyalty during the French and Indian wars and the American Revolution.

To-day this is the most thickly populated area in the province. Its great industries cover a wide range of manufacturing, in addition to food products of all descriptions. Nothing sensational has occurred in its history, except this steady progress of industry which Scottish and German resolution, abetted by water-power, has made possible.

There is an enchantment about this valley, which only those who were born under a river spell can understand. The magic of the earth is in it. It is bound to the earth, as the spaces of lake and ocean are bound to the sky. As we turned to follow the course of the stream, it was as if a minstrel were singing a song that we had often heard before; something recalled from childhood about wandering with the river past stone dykes and busy towns into a land of meadows and perpetual summer.

We were tracing our way on the River Road from Dunnville, through farmlands and along the old lumber trails, where in other days the logs from these rich forests were floated on a strong current that took them from Brantford down to Lake Erie. Some of the descendants of these trees are now transformed to hold telephone and Niagara Power Lines. We were passing through towns and villages which sprang up later than those in the more central region of the valley.

Here begins the continuous series of bridges which we will follow for a hundred and eighty miles. Wooden bridges, stone bridges, wide modern cement bridges, tell the story of the valley from the day of ox-carts to automobiles. The first we noticed was at Cayuga, a town which was named after one of the Six Nation tribes—“The people of the Great Pipe.” Caledonia, further up, has a larger bridge of ten spans. With every mile that we drove the trees in greater frequency and beauty lined the road, or were grouped into small woods. The entire valley is a paradise for tree lovers, and an ideal field for the student of forest resources. Some of these forest trees, of which I am told there are some forty varieties in this region, remain from the days of Indian dominion.

We were coming into Indian territory now, to an ancient stronghold of the Mohawk Nation, now a reserve, which lies about nine miles from Brantford, and we were on the lookout for the house of one of their great men, a chief whose Indian name was Onwanonsyshon, and whose daughter was the well-known poet, Pauline Johnson. Presently we stopped at a gasoline station and were told that we were quite near Chiefswood, the Johnson place, from which a ferry service runs to the reserve.

We found the house standing in a wide field facing the river, but separated from it by a slope of trees. It looks like an English residence, plain in line, with long French windows, and walls washed with a deep cream plaster. A young woman appeared, one of the family of its present tenants, and showed us in. We saw a stone fireplace in the living-room, and a walnut sideboard, the only traces of the Johnson occupation. We could not help remarking a bannister of very beautiful wood. This bannister we followed up the stairs, to the room which they told us had belonged to Pauline. It is a square room overlooking the valley, about which the interesting feature is a cupboard door on which is faintly written in lead pencil: “Walnut from seed between woodshed and barn, 1861.” . . . Imagine being able to record the birth and growth of trees out of which one’s doors are hewn!

Chiefswood was the wedding gift of Onwanonsyshon to his English wife, who was of the family of Howells, of which the American, William Dean Howells was a member. Here she carefully educated her daughters and then sent them to public school. Years afterwards in England, in her gorgeous native dress, Pauline Johnson charmed London by the reading of poems that sang strange and pagan tunes telling of lost causes and old heroisms. Into them her old home fronting the reserve must have entered; the house where she was Tekekahionwake, tribal princess of the Mohawks. After her London experience she went barnstorming in the West, and in Vancouver at last she lived and died. In Stanley Park you may go down a woodland path by the sea, where Siwash Rock is profiled against the sky, and a stone is set up with an Indian girl’s face cut into it. There is a little drinking fountain below the stone where flowers, or garlands of leaves and ferns, are always to be found. But in her native province there is only this fading house on the edge of the reserve, with strangers leasing it.

A blast of our motor horn at the river’s edge was answered by an Indian ferryman with his raft. As we floated over the river we asked our way through this unknown country. The ferryman suggested that we should see a certain councillor who could tell us all about everything. The name sounded German. “Well,” he said, “some Germans marry with the Indians once. Very clever, those Germans, they make the land pay.”

We took a note on the direction of the councillor’s farm, and over narrow country roads we set out to find it. In a moment we had entered a region separated at first sight by many years from the highway behind us. No more stone farmhouses and reaping machines. Here were log cabins, and shacks of unpainted wood, grass-thatched barns, once an old well, once a quaint little enclosed graveyard. Sometimes across an open doorway the figure of a man sprawled, relaxed and supine. But after a time we arrived at more prosperous lines of barbed wire, enclosing fields of grain. A small house and large barn topped a little hill. This was the home of the councillor. We remarked that other farms looked small compared to his. “Yes, most of them are smaller,” he agreed, “originally, each person was given ten acres by the government. But some Indians farm more than that, for while we cannot buy any land, we can sell to any man the improvements that we make.”

He told us of the prosperity of the reserve and its four thousand and more inhabitants, its schools and churches and stores, its Agricultural Society and Women’s Institutes. During the recent bad times no one here had been on relief, he said. We asked if any of the original Indian long-houses remained. But we could see at once that it was not a popular suggestion. “That’s pagan Indian,” he said, “that old system is just about done. The council men used to be chiefs who spoke in Mohawk. Now we carry on business in English. We take our business to the Indian Department at Ottawa, and discuss it there. Indian affairs are not dead, you know—not by a long way. In Ohsweken you will find an up-to-date council house.” With a grave handshake we were dismissed.

Through a dusty road and between the little farms, we finally emerged on the edge of Ohsweken. Here were houses more prosperous than any we had seen. We noticed some old-fashioned coloured glass window-panes set in wooden dwellings, and there was an Indian inscription on an English church. We saw also the new Agricultural Hall, the old Council House, where hereditary chiefs met in league councils until 1924, and where the elected council now meets. And we found a long-house—a genuine, one-storey log structure that is still used for festival occasions.

There is an Indian princess, Dawendine, living in this village. Her name in the English tongue is Bernice Loft. In her, as in many others of her race, native tradition lingers. She told us that recently, and mentioned a special gathering in her father’s house, as many as four of the original six dialects of the tribe were spoken, and that some of the seasonal festivals are still held on the reserve. One, I remember, was the New Year rite, when the Pleiades are overhead, and the white does are with young. She regretted that the musical language of her race is fading. So did we. In fact, the conversation that we had with her convinced us that Indian determination had not disappeared any more than Indian tradition.

Think of their ancient power! Homer might have written of these people at their best—earth gods that suggest the only myths and legends of this continent. The Mohawk tribe was one of a confederation formed by Hiawatha four centuries ago. At the beginning of the seventeenth century it included five tribes—the Cayugas, Onondagas, Mohawks, Senecas, Tuscaroras—but in 1715 they were joined by the Oneidas, and were henceforth to be known as the Six Nations. In government and property system the confederation was advanced beyond anything that its discoverers had experienced except in dreams. The tribes managed their own affairs under a small sachem and a council, and a council of fifty sachems met annually to dispose of questions affecting the confederation. And now, in this community on the Grand River, one finds echoes of their tradition and tribal lore.


Brantford from Tutela Heights is a pleasant panorama of roofs and spires, with a river-meadow lying between the Heights and the town. It is here that the municipality has secured thirteen acres of what was the home of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, as a memorial and public park. Never in its joyous course does the river pass a more interesting spot than where, at the turning of these Heights, a youth still in his twenties used to haunt a quiet grape arbour and look down on the river. Behind his father’s garden, across a little orchard, and on to the ravine-like bank he wandered with a problem tormenting his mind, that of the transference of the human voice through space, by means of what was then called “electric speech.”

Dr. Bell’s own words tell the story of his coming to Brantford in 1870—after he had been given six months to live. He says: “I recall the Brantford of those days, the Grand River, my dream-place on Tutela Heights, where the vision came to my eyes. . . . I cannot claim to be the inventor of the modern telephone. That is the product of many minds. But I initiated the transmission of sound. It was initiated here. So much has been said about it being invented in Boston. The telephone was invented here. It only acquired a physical existence in Boston. . . . For here, between Brantford and Paris, the first message was sent over the first long-distance line.”

A long, high hedge makes a sort of green tunnel from the gate to the front verandah of the quaint little whitewashed house where the Bells lived. Within you are shown a dreary refreshment room, flanked by models of certain unaccepted designs offered by various sculptors to the Committee of Selection for the Bell Memorial. Larger cities have probably claimed the first telephone models.

From Brant, the Mohawk chief, the town took its first name, Brant’s Ford, and in many ways it is still his city. As well as a warrior he was a statesman and patriot. A portrait by Romney, painted in London about 1776, was acquired by the Earl of Warwick, a friend of Brant, and hung in Warwick Castle for nearly a century. Finally it was bought at Christie’s for the Canadian Government, and is now in the Parliament Buildings at Ottawa. It shows the chief in hunting dress, with white sleeves, coloured sash, head-dress of red feathers, and a tomahawk in his hand. He had gone to England to raise funds for his beloved Mohawk church.

Naturally one drives out to see this church, St. Paul’s, known as “Her Majesty’s Church of the Mohawks.” Here Brant and Johnson are buried with many other notables of their race. The church used to stand on Indian territory, but since the shrinking of these lands and the growth of Brantford it is quite within the town. Yet it remains strangely remote and primitive. It looks like a little wooden toy. There is a heavy iron bell in a covered porch near the door, and locked within the church are its treasures; a Bible, whose date is 1701, and pieces of a silver communion set, presented by Queen Anne of England when certain Mohawk chiefs visited her court in 1710. She built a chapel for them at that time, near Amsterdam in the Province of New York, but during the revolution it went up in flames. The loyal Mohawks, following Brant up to the Grand River, brought with them the precious gifts and a church was built here, which the Indians themselves made and dedicated to the Christian God. It was the first church built in Ontario, and I know few others that so touch the imagination with a sense of simplicity and devotion as does this little shrine.

Towards the centre of Brantford is the small park or garden where the Bell Memorial by Walter Allward is placed; a great work in granite and bronze perpetuating the memory of the inventor and his accomplishment. Giant figures, the Speaker and the Listener, suggest the patience and the endurance of Man the Creator, who is symbolized in the panel on the crest of the Memorial, awake to his new-found power to transmit sound through space. He sends out his thought in three floating figures: messengers of Knowledge, Joy and Sorrow.

In Victoria Park, a stone’s throw from the Memorial, is the old-fashioned but delightfully atmospheric monument to Brant, about which group-figures of Indians are placed. The town, with all its memories, is essentially modern, and many charming houses with attendant gardens embellish it. Terrace Gardens, the home of Mrs. Lloyd Harris, is one; another is the residence of the Honorable H. C. Cockshutt, who was Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario for six years. The massive Gothic tower of Grace Church marks the Leonard family’s long connection with the town. The General Hospital, founded by the late John H. Stratford, was the first of its kind in any of the small cities of this province.


My friend Judith was to arrive in the early afternoon and explore with me the upper reaches of the valley. And, after luncheon in the gaunt, old-fashioned dining-room of the Kirby Hotel, I saw Donald and the Buick depart with a swiftness that took my breath away. . . . One word and it was all over. . . . I could imagine the way the miles between here and Windsor would fly under that young foot.

I wandered about the sunny streets, and then back to the old hotel where generations had danced in this ballroom with its semi-elegant wooden pillars. Then I sat on the upper verandah, overlooking the main street, and came back to myself as one does in intervals of companionship. I was conscious of a sense of homecoming and I pictured the pattern of the valley after we should leave the familiar terrain a few miles up stream where Judith and I belonged. Shortly, from a sprightly roadster she emerged. Under her arm she carried a pamphlet, in her hand a capacious travelling bag. On her expression was stamped the fire and zeal of the genuine explorer. The bag contained, among other items, a home-drawn map, and an ancient folder, composed of odds and ends of information having to do with the industries of the valley, which reminded one in its general make-up of the appearance of an old-time kitchen almanac. The large pamphlet set out certain plans connected with a scheme for the conservation of the waters of the Grand River, about which she seemed to be feverishly concerned. She said that we were about to have a marvellous drive.

With which we put ourselves into her car, and almost at once, having left Brantford behind, we were in the midst of farm lands and orchards more prosperous than any I had seen since my journey began. The charm of old familiar stone houses was upon us. From here, over an area of perhaps sixty square miles, one can see the best stonework of any region in Canada, except, perhaps, the Rideau district, and parts of Quebec Province. For the first inland settlers of Ontario had come this way from the settled farm lands of colonies to the south, or from Great Britain, via Quebec, and these latter had apparently learned much in building methods from early French-Canadian architecture. They used an adaptation of the same plain farmhouse construction, unspoiled by verandahs, balconies or cupolas. They built of field-stone sunk deep in mortar. Often the walls are from two to three feet thick, so that the houses appear to be as steadfast in quality as the earth on which they are set. Even to-day there is no section where fewer fly-away bungalows interfere with the steady procession of the stone.


The town of Paris, which clings to both shores of the river, is an example of this building. It is the Grand River Valley at its most lyrical and picturesque. It is on the forks of the Nith and the Grand, and used to have an upper town on the high ground south of the Nith and a lower town on the northerly flat. The old Dundas Road, the Governor’s Road, here crossed the river, which is now spanned by two modern bridges. It was named out of no French sentiment, but on account of plaster-of-Paris beds, which have contributed to its industrial success. To the passer-by it is something out of the old world. It looks as if it should have a stone wall around it, to match the one which guards the river banks. It climbs up hill and down dale. Behind its grey stone fences lie coloured gardens, through it all runs the sound of the river.

One can follow a main highway directly to Galt, Hamilton and Toronto, but we turned down the old River Road by Glenmorris, which looks exactly like its name. It only lacks the sound of a piper in the glen. There is a stretch of elevated ground on the west bank, and it was here that Dollier and Galinée entered the valley on their way from the head of Lake Ontario to Port Dover. I hope they saw it in the autumn, when the hills were coloured with flaming foliage and the air contained a thrilling tang.

We drove along this ridge until the slender spires of Galt led us quite suddenly into the heart of that town of walls and bridges.

Two church spires ascend close together from Queen’s Square, which is approached by the main street and its bridge. Central Church, rising directly over the walled river, is an architectural gem of slender and beautiful proportion, a lovely thing, whose shadow of blue field granite sometimes rests in the water. Across the square is the more massive Knox Church, and beside it, with a hilly ridge as background, is a fine cenotaph designed by Francis Loring.

This town is a stronghold of Presbyterianism. It was founded by the Honourable William Dickson, a lawyer from Dumfries, Scotland, who had settled in Niagara and determined to acquire some of the great tracts of land that were in the market, and to open them for settlement. He purchased ninety-five thousand acres. In Scotland he had influential friends; one of them was the border poet, James Hogg, to whom he offered a farm in what afterwards became the Township of Dumfries. But the Ettrick Shepherd “couldna awa!” Another was a school friend from Edinburgh, John Galt, the novelist, also Commissioner of the colonizing Canada Company. After his visit of inspection to Mr. Dickson’s settlement the town was named after him. Before this it had been called Shade’s Mills, for an enterprising contractor from Pennsylvania, Absalom Shade, whose tremendous energy created in one decade a mercantile village out of the bush, with such prospects for manufacturing that very shortly it received the name which it has held for nearly a century, “The Manchester of Canada.” The river was closed in by houses, factories and stores and these formed a retaining wall of stone, the effect of which is most picturesque. There is here much of old-world atmosphere, which the inroads of modern contractors have not entirely spoiled. The Town Hall, austere and dignified, which rises from the market square, is an example of the work of early builders, and on the hills which surround the compact business section are some fine old houses and gardens. Kirkmichael, built by Mr. William Dickson in 1832, is an interesting, cottage-like structure beside its huge sheltering pines. The historic Auld Kirk, standing near, was destroyed years ago. On its site a pergola has been made of ancient gravestones from its churchyard. They are so remarkable in lettering and craftsmanship, and their structural treatment in the pergola so unique, that the Smithsonian Institute in Washington requested a photograph for its records.

Century-old hedges linger about Galt. Into its picture comes the sound of church bells, of foundry workers crowding the streets, the song of the river, the scent of gardens in which English hawthorn and double violets were planted long ago, the smell of hay from farmers’ carts or trucks driven in to market from the countryside close to the town. Exciting characters look out of the past; the men and women who came in their cockleshell ships, and fought the epidemics and the floods, and built the walls, and started the engines running in the factories. And the dominies in the log schoolhouses, the great schoolmasters, like Dr. Tassie, who moulded here some of the country’s leading men, the patient doctors driving over the wintry roads, the farmers who first cleared the land. . . .

Looking down from one of the familiar hills that evening on streets and bridges and dreaming spires, we remembered the enchantment of youth in such happy towns as this, and back of it the thought of these first-comers stirred—ghosts, whose love for the places of their creation may, for all we know, be very much alive.


Leaving Galt, the Blair Road passes Cruickston Park, one of the finest private estates in the province. It has been owned for generations by the Wilks family, connections of the Astors of New York. Sixteen hundred acres include forest reserves, gardens, drives, walks and pavilions, which overlook the valley for many miles. Its stables of thoroughbred horses are famous. It lies to the left of the road towards the village of Blair. To the right is the pleasant River Speed, a tributary of the Grand. At Blair we crossed the river and drove up a sandy road to a certain monument which stands off Highway 8 between Preston and Breslau.

This is a Swiss Tower of interesting design overlooking the river opposite the town of Doon. It celebrates the coming of two brothers-in-law, Joseph Schoerg and Samuel Betzner, Mennonites from Franklin County, Pennsylvania, who arrived in the spring of 1800 and began the first two farms in the County of Waterloo. This constituted the first larger settlement in the, then, far interior of Upper Canada. They were in advance of several cavalcades of Pennsylvania Dutch, whose home for weeks and months was the covered wagon as they entered the depths of the bush. The slim stone tower with its wooden cupola, and the tiny graveyard with German names slowly fading from their stones, stands out rather desolate and stern on the brow of the shaven hill. It is a keynote to the surrounding towns of German settlement.

But to-day we were tracing the River Grand. At Preston we stopped at the Sulphur Springs Hotel, to drink good health to our journey. The garden at the back of the hotel, which rises in grassy terraces up a steep hill, its lily ponds, flowerbeds, luxurious canopied chairs, almost succeeded in detaining us. The next town was Breslau. Here was a wide bridge, a curve in the road, a clock factory, a stone schoolhouse, children running along the road, a duck pond, and always the square field stone houses. Then came Conestogo on its winding stream. Few artists in Central Ontario have neglected the picturesque scenery about Conestogo, or failed to sample the sauerkraut of the old Schweitzer Hotel, now called Trail’s End, or something of an equally suburban sound.

We drove through West Montrose, where a covered bridge, its interior plastered with circus posters, took us across the river. We liked this village, which possessed beside a few houses, a post office and a general store. An ancient buggy of an elaborate shell pattern stood in front of the post office. We asked the young man sitting on the verandah of the general store if he had any idea how old the bridge was. He said he had no idea, but that lots of folks came out of their way to see it. At this moment a buggy with an unusually high top, drawn by a lazy horse, came slowly along. In it were two Mennonite women in grey gowns and bonnets. They vanished slowly under the covered bridge, and we went on through Elmira to Captain William Gilkinson’s town of Elora.

Captain Gilkinson, a native of Ayrshire, Scotland, was living in Brantford in the year 1832, when the fervour of bush settlement was at its height. To prospectors, the sight of a river means water-power, and because of its deep gorge and falls this spot was promising. Gilkinson’s brothers were all sea-captains, and the youngest commanded a three-masted barque named the Elora, or Ellora, after the ancient rock temples in India—hence the name of the town.

We drove through its pleasant streets to a park looking over a rock corridor, where a huge stone rises up from the river, throwing out a jumble of lesser rocks, so that you see three tiny rapids shooting a stone stairway. To-day low water made it all look like a huge skeleton. We walked to a point where the Irvine River, a slender stream, joins the Grand, which moves majestically between its high banks. It was in one of these dark crannies that the Neutral Indians, in their last terrified days, flying up the river from the cruel Iroquois, found a place to hide their treasure of wampum beads. A few feet from where we stood is a cave, and there they stored the precious strings of beads until a more favourable season. But they were never reclaimed. Generations later heavy rains washed some of the beads out of the cave, and schoolboys found them. They were gathered up, part of the collection was scattered, and the rest found its way into various museums.

Later we came upon a bit of village tradition. This is the forgotten link in a romantic tragedy which, unknown to the world at the time, became of some importance to it—the love story of Florence Nightingale and a Canadian missionary. We drove to St. John’s Anglican Church, where a communion set of silver in plain design may be seen. On the under side of one of the pieces, which is called a paton, is engraved in Latin: “Acting for someone else, Ebenezer Hall gives this set of communion silver to the Rev. John Smithurst, a very dear friend, in grateful recognition of many kindnesses. A.D. 1852.” The truth is that Florence Nightingale sent it in token of a hopeless love.

The two were cousins, the Nightingale family was violently opposed to the match, and the girl was taken to the Continent in hopes of breaking her infatuation. John Smithurst left his home in Derbyshire, which was close to hers, and set off as a missionary to Canada. After serving at Fort Garry for some time he drifted to Elora, where he was rector of this church for six years, died, and was buried in the churchyard adjoining. Once he returned to England in hopes of bringing Florence Nightingale back with him, but the family were relentless. The girl was devoting her life to the charitable occupation of nursing the sick. That the lovers were extremely desolate the entries in their unhappy diaries show. It was then, as a nameless someone, that she sent him her churchly, Victorian gift. Two years afterwards the Crimean War was to bring Florence Nightingale before the world as its angelic heroine, and to create the birth of a new profession for women. So it is that among these New World rocks echoes are found of a hidden story that affected in a small way the town of Elora and in a larger way the whole civilized world.

A strange, ghostlike suburb of Elora is the separate village of Salem, on the River Irvine. It is a tiny place and has a certain deserted-village atmosphere. There is a bridge and stone mills, there is a corner house with a bell in its tower to call farmhands from the fields. Another stone house, its sleepy garden terraced down to the road, was charming. From the little street the spires of Elora could be seen. A pretty bridge spans the river. It is a place in which to dream away one’s life.

But Judith began to talk to me very seriously about the scheme on foot for the preservation of the water supply of the valley, and I came back obediently to the present.

“Any prolonged drought shows how low the water can get, which is a serious danger to health. And you know what the spring floods are! . . . This plan for a great dam up-stream is going to mean everything to the country. It is no local question, but one that affects seven counties. We simply must control the water!”

With talk of plans and finances, of pros and cons, we made the short drive between Elora and the town of Fergus, where I went straight to see a lovely old church in the centre of the town that I had admired for years, only to find that they had torn it down, or turned it into a duplex or something of the kind. Anyway, the church, as I knew it, was no more.

Distinctly nettled, for it was a most interesting building, we retraced our way up the main street, en route to a quiet spot for lunch, when we were observed by the Fergus News-Record, and invited by its owner, Mr. J. C. Templin, into his adjoining garden. He opened a gate off the street, and we were beside a little rock-bound pool in which stood Pan the Piper. The garden is terraced down to the river, there are fish and lily ponds, and flower beds that are outlined by stones of strange shapes. These lead one down to a retaining wall which gives an interesting view of the continuing gorge of the river, and the slow-moving water. We were joined by Mr. Hugh Templin, the son of our host, who volunteered to take us on our way that afternoon. So we picnicked among the rocks and flowers close to the river, and were fortified by the thought of travelling with a companion who knew every inch of the country and, what is more, has recorded it in many valuable papers, and also in his book, Fergus, the Story of a Little Town.

“Fergus,” he told us, “owes its beginning to an idea conceived at the meetings of The Highland Society of Scotland, at Edinburgh—a distinguished body which was interested in emigration to Canada. Among its members was a country gentleman, an advocate, named Adam Fergusson, who had Utopian ideas of a model town, set in a model township somewhere in the wilds. One of the areas which he and his party examined, and rejected, on their first visit to North America, was a low-lying tract of land on the shores of Lake Michigan, where the city of Chicago now stands! He came up to this valley and fell in love with the new-born Elora. Exploring further he saw the little falls at this point, the rich soil, and the plentiful timber lands and straightway began his settlement. In a month they had already done something towards clearing, logging, and burning, blasting out a mill-race in the solid rock, and sawing wood by hand with a long whip-saw. A log house, with seven rooms and fireplace cost only $160 in those days.”

For a small place Fergus seems to have had many remarkable characters. One of them was Adam Wilson, of Scottish parentage. As a boy he went to the Fergus school and did not leave home until he was grown. Then his wanderings led him to Singapore, to friendship with the Sultan of Borneo, and finally to an island in the East Indies, where he set himself up as king of a black tribe. He died in 1892 in North Africa.

Another son of a prominent Scottish family was George Clephane, a remittance man, whose father was the Sheriff of Fifeshire. He spent a short but extremely convivial life here, died at the age of thirty-two and is buried in the churchyard of the Auld Kirk of St. Andrew’s, under a stone on which a weeping willow is carved. His fame came after death, for his sister Elizabeth, back in Scotland, wrote poetry, and she celebrated poor George’s early demise with one of the most popular hymns in the world, which begins:

There were ninety and nine that safely lay

In the shelter of the fold;

But one was out on the hills away,

Far off from the gates of gold.

“That is why,” says Mr. Templin, “so many visitors come here looking for the square-topped stone with the picture of the weeping willow which marks the grave of the lost, the hundredth sheep.”

A wind of religious controversy among the Presbyterians blew through Upper Canada during the forties, when the Auld and the Free Kirk were at odds. It touched Fergus, and so, later on, did a vigorous land boom, and both these things affected Kinnettles and its mysteries.

“There are several houses here that have a glamour about them, but none more so than Kinnettles,” said our companion. We were driving away from the town as he told us the story of Alexander Harvey, who came to Fergus in the dull years immediately following the rebellion of 1837. He arrived on a splendid hunting horse with two pistols stuck in his belt, and two leather saddlebags full of gold. He married a Southern wife and built a fine stone house, with a garden full of lilacs and apple trees, and a river view of little islands and the gently sloping bank on the other side of the river. This house became the social centre of the town. Its laird founded also a new village, a suburb of his own, with a fine residential terrace and streets named for battles and generals of the Crimean War. Succeeding dramas attended the project; a sensational auction of lots, and afterwards the excitement of coal-oil wells, for the new oil was quickly superseding tallow candles. It was a sensation, and supposed to be dangerous. In many instances none but the father dared to light the lamp, while the family huddled in a corner expecting an explosion. But all the same it was making men rich. It had been found in Pennsylvania. It was found in Fergus. People sat on the river bank at Kinnettles and watched the bubbles rising in the water. Reports reached the British press, stock was subscribed, but funds ran out, and the work stopped, diverted also by excitement over the coming of a railway. A few years later the great house was empty. But even so it remained sensational, for it was the stage of a mystery. The body of a woman was found near the vacant house, and placed within it for inquest. When the jury returned the next day the body had disappeared, and though search went on for weeks there was never a trace of it. Children were terrified of the old haunted house and in winter people saw a ghost slipping through the snow-wreathed orchard. It was a proper mystery. But after all, the solution was simple. An unfortunate girl had escaped from an institution, where she had been so badly used that the keeper did not dare to identify her, and a medical student from another town had stolen the body.

“What has happened to the house?” we asked.

“You saw it just now on the way out. It is the present golf club.”


We were following a road which was really an old Indian trail as we left the highway en route to Belwood. Five miles north-east of that hamlet, the Conservation Dam at Waldemar will be built. There will be an artificial lake, four and a half miles in length and a half mile in width—one of a series of three storage reservoirs to retain the peak of the floods, and augment the flow of water during low periods. All we saw when we arrived at the spot was a dry, hollow floor of land, through which a stream faintly trickled. Soon hundreds of men and a variety of modern machinery will create an enormous dam—a monolithic concrete structure with earthwinged walls.

We left the river then for an improved road to Orangeville, from where one can make a detour to the beautiful Forks of the Credit, directly south. Fifty miles an hour over a straight road (Highway 10 to Owen Sound) brought us to Shelburne, which is 1,625 feet above sea level. And still we were climbing up, through the most extensive naturally-drained farm land in the province. Nearly all the rivers in this part of the province rise here; the Credit; the Conestogo, the Saugeen, the Irvine, Beaver, Noisy and Mad. The air is very light and heady, and the country flattens out like a pancake. Dundalk is the highest point in Ontario, where no one has hay fever!

Five miles to the east of Dundalk we found the source of our river—or rather it was found for us. Never could we have discovered for ourselves a spot so undistinguished. You leave the road, penetrate a marshy bit of land, and finally stand with damp feet, and a few mosquitoes buzzing around you, in a cedar wood where a spring is fenced around and a rusty old cup lies beside it. Thus our sweet minstrel, our wanderer, our lordly stream at birth! At any rate we had been there. I wrote in my notebook: “There are willows, cedars and wild raspberries.” Which, as I reread it, seems a very futile thing to observe.

Then to the Luther Marsh, through cross-country roads south-west about four miles from Grand Valley to where it lies—one great tract of peat bog.

It was now late afternoon, and the sun shone dimly over a wasteland that looked something like a bronze-green vegetable lake in a state of decomposition. Birds were flying low over the flat plain, and we were trying to keep within a cartwheel track that penetrated this corner of the marsh. All was silence and desolation, damp brown earth, sullen, dwarf bush-plants, white fuzzy patches of fireweed gone to seed. And this stretching on for miles.

“The place is really beautiful at times,” said Mr. Templin. “A little earlier in the summer the mosses are still green, there are wild orchids of many varieties over which butterflies hang, there are patches of scarlet lobelia, pitcher plants, dozens of marsh flowers. If you come often the place begins to get you. As a matter of fact its strange attraction has led members of our family into danger. My great-grandmother was drowned in the Lake of the Marsh farther on, just three-quarters of a mile from her home.”

We felt the earthy moisture of the ground, we ate some huckleberries to see if it is true that they thrive in peaty soil, we made observations about the slow disintegration of plants, about the market for peat, and the necessity of swamp lands as saviours of the rivers. But we left the marsh without reluctance. On its edge, as we emerged again into the road, there is a settlement of the Latter Day Saints. It struck us as being a strange place for them to settle down!

We were returning south on a concession road, hence to Highway 9. And all the time we were tracing our river in its early stages, like the boy and girl in Jean Ingelow’s poem who found a bubble in the grass, then a thread beside which they ran, holding hands, until it began to divide them, and at last they could only wave to one another across its wide banks. We watched a ditch at the side of the road become a rivulet. Once it ran beside birch trees, and a blue heron minced along beside it. By that time it was a modest stream, which fed a little mill and turned its waterwheel. Then we crossed the first narrow wooden bridge. At Grand Valley the stream had become important enough to acquire a cement one. And so we slipped down the country.

At Fergus we parted from our invaluable guide, and late evening found us in the dining-room of the Schweitzer Hotel in Conestogo, facing the best of German food—“the genuwine article,” as a tourist at the next table observed. An artist whom we knew looked languidly in our direction, then, seeing us, came over to explain in a modest proprietary way the excellence of the bill of fare. Artists always own Conestogo.

“Why don’t you fix up the parlour?” asked the reforming Judith.

“What do you mean?” he asked, “don’t you like Gladstone and Lord Kitchener?”

“I mean that some of you might contribute a picture or two, or get together and do a Conestogo mural!” And the artist said it was certainly an idea.

Many cars were parked about the hotel as we left it an hour later. Twilight had settled on the river and its meadows, and lights were lit in the long Preston street which always smells, at this point near the springs, faintly of sulphur, and as you get into the town, faintly of yeast and beer. It seemed as if a clock turned slowly back and we were jogging down that same street in the back of the family waggonette, tired and sleepy after a birthday party in the garden of the Kress Hotel. We had had picnic tea on one of the narrow terraces of the garden. A German waiter in a white apron had brought foaming glasses of ale out to the grown-up members of the party. But the tame coon, tied by an iron chain to the sulphur fountain, had been our great excitement. . . . I was seven years old.


Next morning we made a small postscript tour to a group of German settlements very close at hand. Our keynote was the Swiss Tower. This time we saw it from Doon. We stopped at the gate of a little red church, transformed by a wooden pergola and verandah into a delightful house. Seen from across the river, the tower looked foreign, almost mysterious and quite beautiful in line. We went through the village of Doon, by a mill with its looking-glass pond, to the studio of the great tree-painter of this valley, Homer Watson, who has immortalized its huge oaks and maples and beeches. “Guardian of cattle, protector of fields”—a poet has suggested by these words the very quality that Watson gives his trees.

Preston was just around the corner. From there we went on to Kitchener, until after the war, Berlin in Canada. But it never had a tinge of Prussianism in its blood. Up from Philadelphia, in Conestoga wagons so heavily loaded that the women had to walk part of the way, came the first settlers to the early Berlin. Industry flourished there, and in the adjoining settlement of Waterloo, which was from the first a trading post for farmers selling their grain. But music flourished also, and flowers as well as vegetables were produced in the market gardens of these towns.

The present Kitchener is a growing industrial centre and has also made a real contribution in modern horticulture. Its flower shows and exhibitions are famous. It is distinctly of to-day and has the most extensive City Hall and Square in the Province. This is centred by a memorial cenotaph, and embellished by flowerbeds which for months are a riot of colour.

What escapes the casual tourist is the fact that this, the largest town of the original German settlements, is the hub of an unusual area—Preston, Hespeler, New Hamburg, Baden, St. Clemens, St. Jacobs, Conestogo and Elmira—in which something of tradition still lingers. Their founders were men from Germany, or Germans by way of Pennsylvania. A Kitchener author, Mabel Dunham, has written of these people in an interesting book called The Trail of the Conestoga. Many of the farms are still owned by Mennonites, and they possess a certain comfortable and thrifty appearance. The district has been compared with the neighbourhood of Philadelphia, but that is a far cry. These good farms and plain houses have an atmosphere all their own, and the sober-looking men and bonneted women on the roads between these places furnish an entirely Ontario-German Air.

Near the village of St. Jacobs we stopped at a wayside church. It was clearly Mennonite, of austere lines, clapboarded and painted white, facing its graveyard. This graveyard was really a clover field, heavy with bloom. The white stones were uniform in size, and as regular in line as a regiment of soldiers. Nearly every one contained a sunken medallion with motives of lilies, corn, and conventional flowers. Sometimes the figure of an angel was added to the decorative scheme. To such a meeting-place the congregation still arrives by Conestoga wagon or buggy, the men sitting on one side of the church and the women on the other.

On a street in St. Jacobs we stopped to inquire into the origin of one of these wagons at the gas station, near which a particularly good specimen was standing, horseless and at rest. The garage man could tell us nothing, but pointed to a group of ancients sunning themselves near by.

“Are they still making the Conestoga wagon in these parts?” we asked.

After a long pause one of them replied, “Ja—there would be wagons!”

“We were just wondering if they are made hereabouts?”

There was a still longer pause, during which they all turned to the man who had spoken before. At last he said again, this time oracularly, “Ja—there would be.”

Something else seemed to be in his mind, but we had not time to wait for it to swim up to the surface. We bowed to the company, who solemnly responded, and returned to our car.

We repassed Elmira—which gave Ontario its notable musician, Dr. Augustus S. Vogt. St. Jacobs was the birthplace of Sir Adam Beck, the knight of hydro-electric, and Hespeler, also a German settlement, just down the River Speed from Preston, was founded by and named for, the family of which Mr. William Hespeler, a one-time speaker of the House of Commons at Ottawa, was a member.

Again we came to Conestogo, and flashed through Breslau and Preston. . . . It was over.

That night in an enormous arena at Toronto, listening to a popular local orchestra with several thousand other people composing the dim, vast, smoke-hung circle of humanity, with street cars and motors thundering by as we emerged on Bloor Street, and the damp lake air, distilled by city, mopping up one’s energy as a sponge does water, we thought that the sound of a river is the best of all music on a summer night, and that no other air—except perhaps that of the far north—could compare with the air of our valley!



The Port of Sarnia to Goderich, which may also be reached from Toronto, via Guelph and Stratford.—then Kincardine—Southampton—Owen Sound and the Bruce Peninsula.

Champlain called Lake Huron by the amiable title, La douce mer. The region about it lay in idleness for centuries. But after the Napoleonic War a new world of exploration opened to military and naval officers who were tired of the war plans of European lands. The wealth and adventure of colonization became a fever in their blood, and allied with capital and with British grants behind them, they formed the Canada Company, which turned out to be a great pioneer of Empire. This Huron tract was explored and settled by the Company, and its story is as fascinating as anything objective which meets the eye as we drive up the Blue Water Highway.

One could write a full-length description of the next two hundred miles in several different languages. In the language of sport, of fish and fishermen, of the regions where black bass give place to trout, where the bass streams enter again, and, at Tobermory, the pickerel and trout abound, and farther up the most famous whitefish on the continent; in terms of farming; in terms of industry. But deep down below lies its basic structure, in the lives of certain people—John Galt, William Dunlop, Van Egmond, Van Sittart and others—whose creative force is written on every inch of the land. A travel book must not become a history of the past, except so far as that history has left its imprint to be felt to-day. That is why I advise you to give your librarian no peace until he finds for you a copy of an old book, by the sisters Robina and Kathleen MacFarlane Lizars, who, in 1896, wrote a story of the settlement of the Huron tract, and a view of the social life of the period called The Days of the Canada Company. Here you will find it all—the adventurous struggle, the grandeur, the Homeric labours, the feuds, the prejudices, the British flavour that persists in remaining British under all circumstances; the uneasy politics, the easy, balancing social life, the mistakes, the failures, the delayed triumphs. It will, I assure you, make your motor trip a more exciting journey than you had expected.

The term Blue Water was more descriptive of the time when traffic up Lake Huron was by way of freighters and passenger steamers than now, when a splendid highway stretches from Sarnia to Southampton. For there is really very little blue water to be seen, except in glimpses, and when one arrives at port towns and resorts. A good road brings one up from Windsor, or from Detroit over the Gratiot Highway to Port Huron, where steam ferries handle the traffic to Sarnia, the southern gateway to the ancient kingdom of Huronia.

Sarnia, the town to which Sir John Colborne gave the old Roman name for the Isle of Guernsey, has perhaps the finest natural situation for deep-water navigation to be found along the Great Lakes. Years ago it was connected with Port Huron, Michigan, by tunnel under the St. Clair River, and like many lake towns it is swift-growing. It reaps the benefit, also, of a strong tendency along the border for United States industries to locate branches in Canada. It possesses the largest petroleum refinery in the British Empire—and, against that, the first Technical High School in Ontario. Leaving its busy and exciting harbour, we turn north, past charming rock-gardens, a golf club, ten miles of sandy beach, cottages of all shapes and sizes, inns, coffee houses, tourist camps. Then market gardens, apple orchards, and finally farmlands. Green country links us up to the inland town of Forest, twenty-eight miles along.

At Kettle Point, nine miles north, the black bass flourish. There is an Indian Reserve where guides are picked up for the fishing country beyond. Here the rocks begin to assume the strange shape which gives the region its name. They are, I believe, of special interest to geologists at this point. A mile or so from here one emerges from among the trees at Ipperwash, to find a beach as hard and firm as marble, so that to run up the sands around Stoney Point and on to Port Franks, where the highway can be resumed, is a pleasant detour.

Grand Bend is situated at the mouth of the Aux Sauble River, with a long Government Pier extending into the lake, and a dancing casino whose proud boast it is that Rudy Vallee has played there.

Bayfield was originally part of the estate of an eccentric Belgian nobleman, the Baron de Tuyle, who came to Canada in 1837, and brought with him a Captain Bayfield to survey his lands. His house was in Goderich, but here Captain Bayfield laid out a lumber camp and village which the Baron named after him. It is a quiet place which no railway enters. The little village stands high above the lake, and looks as though it waited to be etched or painted. Its location was first chosen as that of a possible fort.


To reach the Blue Water Highway on this summer morning we were cutting across country from Toronto. I was driving with Gerald, an artistic and somewhat temperamental friend, and a violent heat wave was in progress. It seemed to us that the pavements were visibly melting before our eyes, and the road was literally choked with traffic. We crawled along in silence, for it was too hot to speak. Suddenly a little car just ahead stopped dead, as though panic-stricken, whereat the whole procession was instantly locked in a close embrace. “Only in Ontario,” we said bitterly, “do you see such fool driving!” It is true that the erring car bore on its license plate the imprint of the State of Indiana—but one had to say something. Gerald furthermore added that this was Ontario for you! And he was perfectly right. Caught as far as the eye could see in a waving line of vans, trucks, busses, cars of campers, picnickers, visitors and residents, we were at that moment of midsummer noon, on upper Yonge Street, at the hub of Ontario tourist traffic. That the monstrous crowd meant millions to the country we did not doubt, but its gradual evaporation as we turned off westward was a great relief.

In half an hour we were sitting near the curve of a stone bridge, under which a stream passed slowly by. A breeze was faintly blowing, and we unpacked a thermos bottle of cracked ice, and Restigouche salmon and pears.

Gerald was speaking of Ontario towns, of which he said he knew little. To him they looked strangely alike, or rather there was no strangeness or sense of adventure about them, or much romance of age. A road map was stretched between the thermos bottle and the salt-cellar. Mitchell . . . Seaforth . . . Clinton. Michipicoten, our objective, had, he thought, a different sound—strong, native, paleolithic. “At this moment, and it may be only the effect of the weather,” he said, “I have a strong inclination for the rugged shores of Michipicoten, but they seem far distant!”

Yet, after all, we had been only an hour on the road, and we had finished lunch and were at Norval.

“Norval,” I said, “seems to me to be a very desirable place. If there is a main street it is imperceptible from where we sit. I shall chronicle only the stone arch of a bridge, a meadow with willows, a cooling breeze on a scorching day—what more could one desire?”

But we had to leave the meadow, and the green hedges which defend some of the gardens in Norval from the hot and crowded road. We were in sight of Rockwood when we discovered an interesting bit of stonework. It looked, from the distance, like a discarded mill turned into a house and set in a field in which a bit of avenue lingered. We strolled up to the verandah. An elderly woman appeared and told us that it had once been a school for boys. The massive side wall was an addition to the first school. We would like to have explored further, but the idea was clearly unpopular. As a concession, however, the lady, closing the front door firmly behind her, reappeared with a massive album containing some old pictures of the place.

“A photo that I want you to see first,” she said, “is of my two granddaughters in fancy dress. One of them, you can tell, is Britannia—but what do you suppose the other girl is representing?”

We peered at the faded snapshot, blinked, and murmured that it was difficult to say, but it looked as though it were probably intended to represent a ghost!

“Not at all,” said the grandmother, “Junket! I made the costume myself, and what she is representing is Junket!”

“Well,” returned Gerald, “one question deserves another. What is the chief feature of Rockwood? My friend here collects facts of that kind, and she would like to know—we both would, as a matter of curiosity, the name of the river which runs through your town?”

“There is a stream,” the old lady pondered, “and some rocks. Tell you the truth I don’t know as I ever asked the name!”

“Have you been here long?”

“About ten years, I guess. . . . Now there is a nice photo of my eldest son!”

We tore ourselves away, and left her standing on the rickety verandah with the old album under her arm.

“Travel is certainly broadening!” remarked my companion. “I should think that by the time we arrive at Michipicoten I may be a promising associate, for while I must admit that I have never before heard of Rockwood, or a school contained therein, there is one thing certain, if you fail to write an account of residents who do not know the name of their own river, I certainly shall!”

I thought it was a curious encounter to have taken place on the doorsill of the Rockwood Academy—famous old boarding-school, where the poet, Ethelwyn Wetherald, whose father was an early principal of the school, had lived as a child, and among whose students were such distinguished men as the late James J. Hill, the railroad magnate, the Honourable A. S. Hardy, a Prime Minister of Ontario, and Dr. Archibald MacMurchy, the well-known educationalist of Toronto.

A few moments later we found the park called Hi-Pot-Lo, “where the rocks were.” The view of them, gouged out by the water of the River Speed, was extremely picturesque.


On the outskirts of Guelph, in the fields and gardens surrounding an ornate block of buildings, there were numbers of young men working. With bare arms and chests bronzed chocolate colour by the sun, they were a picturesque-looking lot. It was not until we saw the guards that we realized that we were passing a reformatory. The prisoners looked happy enough at the moment, but the smouldering fires of their resentment against the workings of the institution were to break out only a few weeks later in open revolt.

Guelph piles up to a solidly-built centre. Of this centre the Catholic Cathedral is an imposing feature. Here and there are structures faintly reminiscent of Regency building in parts of Brighton. And, in fact, the Victorian era was not far on its way when these buildings were begun. To the town has been added shining new modern offices, warehouses, and memorials of war and peace. The centre of a rich farming country, the Ontario Agricultural College has made an important contribution to science in this field.


This is the Royal Town of the Canada Company. It was founded shortly after the coming of John Galt to Upper Canada, at the time, indeed, of his visit to the Dickson settlement in his namesake town. From the town of Galt he and a party of friends set out to survey a basin of land, set among the hills. They were joined by another official of the Company, Dr. William Dunlop of Goderich, and the three, with woodsman sent ahead to clear the way through the bush, came to a place suitable for a definite town site. John Galt set an axe to the root of a magnificent maple, and as it crashed to earth, the group drank long life to a new Canadian settlement, naming it for the reigning house, it being the day of Saint George.

The axe was the symbol of these forest towns, and log houses their first buildings. The Priory, a log castle of a clover-leaf shape, was built especially for John Galt. It has been preserved by the Canadian Pacific Railway as a picturesque souvenir of a remarkable man who is more and more emerging in the modern world as a neglected literary genius as well as a great colonizer.

Guelph has its famous men of to-day. John McCrae, who wrote the memorable war-poem, “In Flanders Fields,” was one, and Edward Johnston, the director of Metropolitan Opera House of New York, is another. Arthur Cutten, the grain magnate, whose name has for years been linked up with the wheat pits and grain exchanges of the world, has recognized his birthplace by giving Guelph one of the finest golf courses in Ontario.


Breslau . . . Kitchener . . . New Hamburg. . . . We were back in the German settlements, passing hop fields, sniffing limburger cheese. But not one Mennonite in a Conestoga buggy was touring the road to-day. At or near the village of Petersburg, we passed a strange tower, seen through a hayfield. Stone houses with deep doorways and Georgian fans began to appear. Occasional outhouses, used for storage or ice, were of such generous proportions that, reconstructed, they would make desirable small residences.

Chimes were ringing from near the river as we entered Stratford. The nomenclature here is in keeping with Shakespearian tradition. Streets are called Romeo, Juliet, Hamlet and Falstaff. Shakespeare Park is set on the banks of the River Avon, and there are swans and an Anne Hathaway Cottage. Fortunately for the citizens there is also a good bathing pool!

To artists, the distinction of Stratford is its war memorial by Walter Allward. In impressive figures of Victory and Defeat, the sculptor, whose memorial for the nation at Vimy Ridge is world famous, has done a notable piece of work. But the memorial is unfortunately placed at an intersection of the main street, where there is no stop light or other means of calling attention to its existence, so that thousands of people driving through the town flash by without ever knowing that they pass one of the best examples of Canada’s great sculptor.

The towns along this highway are plentifully supplied with swimming pools. Groups of people in bathing suits came strolling continually along the road, everybody looking as though burned by a tropic sun. Once a van of gypsies was camped by the roadside, tourist busses rushed by, and as the day wore on there was an ever-increasing stream of cars loaded with campers’ equipment making north-west.

Seaforth—the chief excitement this afternoon its swimming pool—was tree-lined and quiet. It is a thoroughly Scottish Presbyterian town. It is also the birthplace of the first and only social credit premier of Canada, and for all I know, of the entire world, Mr. William Aberhart, now of Edmonton, Alberta.

There is a brick mill in Seaforth which is the boundary line between it and the adjoining village of Egmondville, which was named in honour of its founder, Colonel Anthony Van Egmond, a descendant of the luckless patriot Count who figured in the history of the Dutch Republic. Colonel Van Egmond was an officer in Napoleon’s army. People in Seaforth will tell you that his son, Edward, was born on the retreat from Moscow, and that Constant, his brother, lived in the Van Egmond house in the village named for them. True to his republican principles, Anthony Van Egmond left his farm to join MacKenzie’s forces in 1827, and for his devotion to the cause was imprisoned in Toronto and condemned to death. He escaped the indignity of hanging by taking poison, and died in his dungeon. As for Egmondville, it is one of those first villages which, neglected by the railroad, have slowly relapsed into semi-oblivion. It flourished a century ago when Seaforth was a beaver swamp. A cairn by the wayside just west of Seaforth commemorates the name of Anthony Van Egmond.

In Clinton there is a sinister machine gun set up in front of a church. Inquiry showed us that the town had no other place to put it. Like Guelph, Galt, and Goderich, this is a town of the Canada Company, which bought a million acres from the government, at a dollar an acre, sold it for two-fifty and gave a bonus for improvements. So they built a church and a school before they had any population. A little later on the church became a popular rendezvous because it was the only one for many miles that possessed a cemetery.


At last we reached Goderich on the Blue Water Highway, after cutting across the very centre of the south-western Ontario peninsula. Goderich is Tiger Dunlop’s town. He was a remarkable person, an Edinburgh man, afterwards an army physician in India. It is said that one night on a hunting trip he strayed away from the guides, and found himself gazing into the savage eyes of a tiger. He was unarmed, but happened to think of his snuff-box. He dashed its contents in the tiger’s face, blinding it. Hence his soubriquet, Tiger Dunlop. He later showed an equally resourceful spirit in dealing with affairs in Canada when he arrived as an official of the Canada Company, which afterwards made him a Warden of the Forests.

In those days the Company decided the location of a new settlement, drew up the plans and left it to the official in charge to carry them out. It is supposed that the plan intended for the town of Galt was wrongly directed to Goderich. In some ways I am glad that it was. At any rate, on arrival here we found that the folders, with their photographic views showing a “unique cartwheel layout,” had not erred. The town is planned exactly like a wheel of eight spokes, of which the courthouse in its square, surrounded by trees, is the hub. The street names are history in themselves, for the era of their birth was Napoleonic. Hence Arthur, Wellesley, Wellington, Nelson, Hamilton, Trafalgar, Brock, Napier and so on. The four main avenues which direct the wanderer among their many angles—North, South, East and West—come after these, as if pointing to the four quarters of the globe.

We drove down one of the spokes of this Goderich wheel to dinner at a hotel overlooking the lake, after which we strolled to the cliff’s edge, where one of the famous sunsets of Lake Huron was beginning. Like the trout and the bass, and the tourist camps, these sunsets are a feature of every Blue Water Highway advertisement. I was informed by a guest whom we met in the grove overlooking the water that this was the place of places to inspire lyric verse. But no sunset, seen at any time from the grove or verandah of a summer resort, has given me the slightest incentive to composition. I did think that a dramatic narrative might open with the sight of these summer visitors sitting here, where earlier colourful European personages had sat hearing the lap and boom of the coloured tide far below the cliffs, and watching the conflagration which, by some chemical atmospheric effect is strangely vivid, sweep the waters of Huron.

These earlier people must have been a remarkable set, for Goderich was an extremely interesting outpost. It was composed of military and naval men, and their wives, who had seen service in many parts of the globe. John Galt and Tiger Dunlop were witty and well-known writers and they had both been elaborate pamphleteers. The Backwoodsman, by Dunlop, had drawn a lurid and dramatic picture of Canadian life, and some extraordinary people had responded. They came to these shores bringing with them their families, their servants, their precious treasures and their modes of life. Miss Lazars says that they were undoubtedly victims of the Byronic phantasy, as well as the highly-coloured literature of the Canada Company. It seems to have left an aftermath of strong romantic fervour which helped to make the social pot-pourri of Goderich and its environs a place worth living in, although the romantic pioneers found upon arrival that they were expected to be the practical overseers of armies of workmen whose weapon was the forest axe.


We left the Sunset Inn, and following directions, drove under a bridge and up a winding hill to find the historic Gairbraid, the Dunlop home, which figures so frequently in all the early records. It was the most romantic household in the Upper Canada of its day, this of the Tiger, his brother, Captain Robert Dunlop, and an extraordinary woman, Louisa McColl, who came to them as a Gaelic serving maid, and by the toss of a penny as to who should have her, became the wife of the Captain, and the guardian angel of them both.

Tiger Dunlop was evidently a great host. The mode of his life was that of a Scottish laird. But he was also a great physician, and the kind shepherd of the poor. He would carry destitute children up the hill to Gairbraid for food and warmth and nursing. The door would open and there was a different world. “Warmth, fires, a dining-room with a shining table, and cabinets of coloured china and bright silver, Indian ornaments and hangings, a black butler and his assistant, and more wonderful food than the poor settlers ever dreamed of.”

It was with such historic tales that we beguiled the way up the steep hill to Gairbraid. We were told that it was the second house to the right, and bore a certain name on the mail box which was to be our guide.

We found it and went up a rickety path through an untidy yard to a poor, depressed, miserable looking, worse than deserted house. The door was open, but there was no one about. A barn and a number of outhouses still remain on a square, or court, at the back of the house, suggesting a once-dignified establishment. But it was a scene of the utmost desolation. We drove down the road to the nearest neighbour to see if we had made a mistake. No, it was the old Dunlop house: “Going down hill a bit nowadays.”

Going! It had gone long ago; no ghost of grandeur or good times lingered about it. Gerald pointed to the board surface, grooved to simulate stone, the rather elegant overwindow, and door frames in early colonial style. “A modest house,” he said, “I can’t see where they stowed away the black butler and assistants, unless in one of those shacks at the back which may easily have been servants’ quarters.” Slightly below the site of the house, and a little to our left, lay the private burial ground of the three Dunlops. We had not the heart to visit it. We walked in a depressed manner about the sad domain accompanied by a pig and a few hens. Who would think that the community which Tiger Dunlop fathered could so neglect the legendary house in which he lived!

Between Goderich and Kincardine we noticed many farm houses with front doors boarded up, though they were by no means deserted. We wondered if their owners had forgotten that summer had come. But the country was lovely, seen in the half-light of the long, warm evening—a rolling land of opulent farms, in which at that moment potato fields in flower were a dominant note. As the last light faded we arrived at Kincardine.

One of the Kincardine folders says: “You are always welcome in this town, where a smile and a handshake is your greeting.” But in truth it must be recorded that though we roamed about the streets, and down to the water’s edge where many persons were to be seen, no one shook hands with us, not even a hotel clerk. We were invited by the hospitable folder to visit a hosiery factory, which possesses the most up-to-date spinning mill in the world. Instead we had a dip in Huronia, which in the morning light was as blue as ever I saw the water of the Mediterranean, but a deeper, more fathomless blue.

Our freighter for the north shore of Lake Superior was to leave Owen Sound at noon, but we were bound for the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island, to join the steamer from one of the island ports.

To Owen Sound therefore we made our way. Driving from Kincardine to Port Elgin that early morning I had, for the first time since this journey began, the realization of coming near the north. More than a matter of latitude, this meant a certain atmospheric quality impossible to define; a tingling vitality, a sense of youth in the air. The very trees told us of the region we were entering; they were windbent all one way, leaning, apprehensive, from the lake that so playfully caressed them and us just now.

Port Elgin, a pleasure resort and fishing centre, assured us by its signboard that, “We Will Remember You Kindly.” An opulent cemetery welcomed us to Southampton, we passed the Saugeen River Powerhouse, and said good-bye to the Blue Water Highway. Along a well-oiled road we crossed the base of the Bruce Peninsula to Owen Sound, whose funnel-like harbour is an inlet of Georgian Bay.

Here we picked up our transportation for the steamer Caribou, due at Little Current, Manitoulin Island, the next day, and drove about the beautiful city of the bay, which is set within the cleft of two great rocks, parted ages ago in some glacial upheaval. It has a wonderful natural harbour, whose importance has made the town. From a lake schooner, a store and grist mill as its beginning, it became the terminus for grain traffic from Fort William, until, some time ago, the elevators burned and an enormous revenue passed away. I always think of Owen Sound as a citified place which imprisons glimpses of the natural beauty of the region on whose edge it is built. Into a valley which holds a tourist camp, plunges Inglis Falls, a hundred feet or more. Harrison Park is a beautiful wild spot, in one of whose ponds swans lazily disport themselves. A rock-walled road descends from the residential part of the town to its busy centre.

We followed the lake shore to Wiarton, which is surrounded by a range of mountains, extending east along Colpoys Bay to the shores of Georgian Bay. There is a white gateway overlooking a cliff, just before we reached the town, which reminds one of the stage set of The Green Pastures, where the negro children looked over into Heaven. In his native town a monument to Wilfrid Campbell, the poet, is set up.


And then began the steep ascent of the Bruce Peninsula—a region which only recently has been penetrated by a motor road, although on both shores tourists and fishermen have formed camps for many years. If this strip of land, fashioned rather like a stout leg with a stumpy foot, were less overgrown with bush it would be interesting to mark the contrast between the cliffs and bluffs of the Georgian Bay side, and the shallow sandy coastline of the Lake Huron shore. And one can make these asides, such as a visit to Oliphant or Stokes Bay on Lake Huron, or the picturesque Lion’s Head on Georgian Bay—a famous camp for salmon fishing, where towering cliffs have been carved into strange shapes, from one of which the village takes its name. But, bound for Tobermory, the motorist keeps to the straight road north. It is a grim region, which an occasional meagre farm does not enliven. Drab houses, far apart, rough grasses, clumps of wild iris, sometimes scarlet swamp flowers—but at a cross roads a soldiers’ memorial. The march of telegraph poles tell us that people are somewhere near, and the tolerably good road through the desolate place shows that tourist camps are flourishing.

It was nearly noon when we arrived at the tip of the peninsula and looked down on the fishing village of Tobermory—no neglected hamlet, I assure you. Tobermory is like a little old sea village, huddled on its point of land. It has the battered, wind-swept look of all such places. It has been here, a settlement, well on to a century, and until recently its only approach was by water. It must be a very loyal place, or very true to memories, or very fond of monuments, for its one municipal feature is a little square, fenced in to enclose a war memorial, on which a glowing artificial wreath was placed. A few shops face this square, lumber yards and wharfs lie beyond, some wooden houses turn their backs on the harbour. This morning the village was full of motor cars, and tourists were going into the general store for supplies and post cards. It was a time between ferries for the Island, the next one being due in two hours. “Better be down at the dock in time,” we were told, “she only takes thirteen cars, and there is sure to be a crowd.”

We climbed over the rocks, to the left of the settlement, to find a place for lunch. From here we had a wonderful view. We could see the great lighthouse at Cove Island, lying just to the north. To its right is the strange rock that is called Flower Pot Island. And they are both surrounded by smaller shoals of rock, hemming in the harbour. Over against the docks the wireless station sent its mastlike poles rearing up against the sky, and the wild, free air of the blue waters made us feel that we were at land’s end.

During lunch I was conscious that on a ledge below us two young boys were watching every bite we ate. They were stretched out on their rock in utter silence. I took out a pen and began to address post cards. Gerald said that he would examine the fauna and flora of the region. At his departure the boys crawled a little nearer my eyrie, which encouraged me to ask them for news of life as it is lived in Tobermory. What, for instance, they did in winter, beside going to school. “Mendin’ nets,” they said. “Was it lonely?” They looked at me with pity. “There’s more than two hundred people here in winter! Of course it is not quite as lively as now. But you just stay on here awhile and you’ll see some of the swellest yachts and motor boats in the U.S.A. right here at these docks—they come in pretty near every day.” I suggested that all this must be very good for business. “Not what you’d think!” said the spokesman of the two, “the ferries are spoiling our business. It used to be that the tourists would stop off for a while. Anyway they’d stop to eat, and there’s no better restaurant anywhere than Dad Vail’s Tourist Home. But since the new ferries started they shoot right through—and it’s too bad!”

“What shall you do when you have left school?”

“I dunno, but there’s lots to do here, winter or summer. . . . Are you folks going to stay over?”

At this moment Gerald reappeared with his floral specimens arranged in a gorgeous many-coloured bouquet. And something in our enthusiasm over the wildflowers, coupled perhaps with the sight of Gerald’s longest cigarette-holder, was too much for the Tobermoryites. They suddenly dropped from their ledge, and peals of derisive laughter echoed from below. It was evident that to them we were outstanding examples of a tribe of nitwit tourists, unworthy of their village.

Long before the hour of the ferry’s arrival we were at the dock, anxiously counting the number of waiting cars. Ohio, Michigan, New York, Indiana, Texas, Illinois—ours was the only Ontario license plate. A magnificent De Soto pulled up beside us, then pushed ahead to a superior position. A newsboy presented well-worn U.S.A. papers and was repulsed. From a humble car nearby a little radio music, chiefly static, issued. A boat and a bird cage decorated the car of a clergyman, just ahead, with a screen door lashed to the running-board. A freight-lorry clattered up, late arrivals pushed anxiously and fruitlessly into the waiting line, and a policeman waved them back. There was a ripple of excitement as our vessel came majestically into port. Soon she had us snuggled into her capacious maw. We left our various cars, and went on deck where, after an hour’s sail, we began to discern the shadow-form of Manitoulin Island appear upon the skyline. It was another hour before we docked.



A drive through the island—Manitowaning—The Indian village of Wikwemikong—Little Current.

The fabled Island of the Indians, the far-away, the home of the Great Manitou! Here, with so apparently little exertion, we were—planless, guideless, with only our trusty car and a rather small map as companions.

An utter calm enveloped the winding roads as we left South Bay to find the camp of a friend, which we were told lay a few miles to the west just behind Sandfield. It was the loveliest hour of summer, when it is neither afternoon, twilight, or evening. Certainly the country about us was in no twilight mood. In midsummer we had gone back to June. The fields were emerald green and sprinkled over, sometimes carpeted, with daisies. Wild iris and cardinal flowers shone in swampy ground, the fields were richly cultivated, the road was soft and springy under our tires. As the twilight deepened, an exquisite pensiveness came into the air. It was not the evening loneliness that I have often felt in Georgian Bay, that one might feel at this hour even in friendly little Tobermory, which already lay so far behind—the loneliness and mystery which rocklands impart. On the contrary, I had a feeling that the people to whom these small white farmhouses and towering barns belonged, were contented with their lot. There was happiness abroad in the air of the Island.

We were watching for the private sign of a Black Dog. Finding it, we turned down a little avenue of trees, which after some time narrowed into a track through a wood. The trees had been underbrushed, but grew so close that we could lean out and touch them through the windows of the car. With corkscrew twists we penetrated farther and farther down the soft alley of the trees. We were in a winding green tunnel, going always deeper into silence. As there seemed no end in sight, we began to feel an apprehension that what we intended as a surprise visit might be the unwarranted invasion of an enchanted wood. Something told us that the sign of the Black Dog might indeed have been intended as a warning.

When at last the roof of a bungalow appeared through the trees, we left the car in a clearing, found a stairway of rock, and there, far below us, lay a golden bay, wide and rosy-tinted in the sunset. A modern bungalow stood on a grassy terrace. That our announcement of ourselves was met with a perfect blank was due to the fact that we had got two families of the same name confused. But how, without these mistakes, do adventures in strange places ever occur? We were carefully convoyed to the main road again, in case a car should enter the wood where there was no room to pass, and having thus made our first detour into the lovely byways of the Island, we went on to Manitowaning.

I suppose that to most travellers Manitowaning is just a little country village, perched on an inlet or bay, through which they drive en route to Little Current or Gore Bay. Its one hotel is far from modern, and to-night it was so hot inside that for hours we sat on a narrow balcony overlooking the corner store and the barber’s shop, from which issued the wail of a cornet being diabolically played, toying, meanwhile, with as many iced drinks as we dared.

A hundred years ago someone had come to Manitoulin Island, to this spot where we were, to the curve in the bay just below us, to see the great event of the present-giving by government officials to the Indians hereabouts. And because this visitor was a true and vivid writer, to every one who has read her journal, Manitowaning is one of the most interesting spots in Canada. Anna Jameson, the delicate, fearless sophisticate, an accomplished European, was tuned to the barbaric music which she found in places that were still entirely native. And this island was the dwelling of the gods and masters of the unknown north. It was, indeed, just before the time of their dislodgement from their own domain. The annual distribution of presents, which had formerly taken place at Drummond Island, and later at Amherstburg, was now ordered to be made at this spot. And in August, 1837, when Mrs. Jameson arrived with her missionary friends, the MacMurrays (by rowboat from the mainland!) there were over three thousand Indians assembled. They had come from here and there and everywhere, from the prairies and by water routes in their frail canoes, back to the Island of the Great Spirit, and all its long mysterious associations with their life. Anna Jameson must have seen that this was the beginning of the end of a story so old that it is lost in the unknown past of the continent. As far as we can surmise the island belonged to descendants of the tribe that called itself Ottawa. Champlain had met some of its members, marvellous in their naked, vermilion-striped bodies, ringed noses, bead-fringed ears, and hair done up on the top of their heads, “more elegantly dressed than the wigs of the gentlemen of Paris.” A Jesuit father, Poucet, had touched the island for a time, trying to convert the natives, but until a century ago it remained, what it had always been, a home, a shrine, a meeting-place. And now these Indians must be dealt with. A little set of officials from Toronto were here, with strings of beads and a bargain to make.

The prize ritual loses nothing of its colour at Mrs. Jameson’s hands. And sitting there on the hotel verandah we could see the shore line a century ago covered with wigwams and crowded with Indians. We could see the pious Victorian group, the Commissioner and his secretary, the interpreters, the missionaries and the European visitor, surrounded by chiefs, conjurors, cannibals from the Red River in their brilliant warpaint, and the famous interpreter and orator, As-Si-Ke-Nack, The Blackbird, whose endless speech to the Great White Father on this occasion has gone down into the records of Canadian history for all time.

It all seemed incredibly far away, utterly unconnected with us and this present moment in our lives, as we sat in the breathless heat in this uncompromisingly prosaic spot. . . . It had entirely vanished, as though it had flown into empty space. Yet the fates had appointed that I was to go straight back in time, to relive that day in the present moment, to hear an actual voice out of the lost years, through the lineal descendant of As-Si-Ke-Nack, The Blackbird, and to go with him the next morning to the Indian village of Wikwemikong.


Gerald assured me that he had fared but ill in his wooden cubicle through the watches of an airless night, and said that if there were to be explorations in the neighbourhood it should be immediate, before the sun was any stronger. This, during an after-breakfast cigarette on the front stoop. I looked vaguely about. But even the front stoop of the hotel, the centre of the town, its hub so to speak, afforded no help or encouragement. Under the heat wave the village was even sounder asleep at nine a.m. than it had been at midnight. But knowing that the Lord helps only those who help themselves, I went indoors and asked for the proprietor—admiring, in the meanwhile, a remarkably beautiful collection of Indian basketwork in the hotel office. And when the proprietor, Mr. Thomas W. Hamm, appeared I knew that my troubles were over. For it is one thing to have all your documents at hand, your history, text-books, general ideas of a place, and it is quite another to happen upon the right person with whom to explore it. Mr. Thomas W. Hamm knew that perfectly well. He did not waste words. After explaining his Indian collection, and telling me that I should find an interesting old relic of these parts in the Ontario Royal Museum that he had himself presented—an Indian war club that had belonged to an old chieftain named Wabanosse, or Walking East—he said: “I’ll just see if William Cooper is about. He is the one person to take you to the Reserve. Cooper, by the way, is the great-grandson of As-Si-Ke-Nack, a famous old interpreter. This man is also an interpreter, and a first-class guide.”

“Gerald,” I said, returning to the stoop, “I can hardly believe this is true; but we are actually going down to the Indian Reserve with a direct lineal descendant of old As-Si-Ke-Nack, The Blackbird!”

“Has he got his own car?” asked Gerald calmly. “I hate the look of the roads over in the direction of that village!”

From somewhere in the background appeared Mr. Hamm, and with him a tall young man of dark hair and sloe-black eyes. William Cooper, with a courtly bow, asked what he could do for us. He could get a car and a friend to drive it, he could give me the morning.

We left Gerald, peacefully smoking on a cool side verandah, we left the gravel road which runs through the village, we left a short stretch of tolerable dirt road, then we bounced over incredible ruts, we were choked with dust, we wound up hill and down dale, through the outskirts of the Reserve, and suddenly the village of Wikwemikong came in sight. It was prefaced by a simple but strangely impressive war memorial—a cross of blue stone, of beautiful proportions, set on a cairn of rough field-stone. It stands on high ground overlooking the village and the waters of Smith Bay. We stopped to look down upon the scene unrolled before us. By the side of the road there was a shady spot under a tree, an oasis after the horror of that dusty drive. “Could we talk here for a moment?” I suggested. . . . “But certainly.” . . . We left our driver in the car. He instantly turned on a hitherto unsuspected radio, and it was to the neurotic whining of a blues crooner that William Cooper told me the story of Christian Wikwemikong.

“It was within a stone’s throw of the spot where I met you this morning—near the situation of the old church just below the lighthouse—that my great-grandfather put his signature on the Indian treaty with Sir Francis Bond Head in 1837, whereby the Indian title to the Island was surrendered to the Crown. You will have read the Journals of Alexander Henry, who came this way as far back as 1763. But a century and a half is nothing to one who belongs by ancestry (as I do) to this place.”

I asked where the name Cooper came in? “It is hardly a good translation,” he said, “my Indian name is Niak-Way-Gijig or Noonday Sun. But you see this is a different world from that of my ancestors. I am for part of the year a tourist or fisherman’s guide, so Cooper is good enough. Yet,” he went on, “I do not live entirely in the present, though I am school educated and have been about a good deal in the States and elsewhere, I have a sort of picture-memory. Certain things, unremembered by most, are very real to me. I am sure that you can understand that.”

“But this island,” I said, “so full of farmers and campers and tourists, how can you associate it, as it is, with its lost and mysterious past?”

“The present,” he said slowly, “is perhaps only a link, like a bar of music, binding the past with what is to come. You see, the religion of my people dealt always in symbols, so, as I say, I am given a picture-memory. And then I have studied the documents.”

He told me of a handbook of regional history compiled by Mr. F. W. Major of Gore Bay, and of the fund of knowledge as to Island place-names possessed by Dr. W. A. Flower, of Manitowaning, whom I was later to visit. “Records of early Hudson Bay posts are stowed away in packing cases in England, lost until some interest is revived, as Mr. Major says, but every one goes back to the letters of the early Jesuits, of course, for the earliest information. And long before that the place was an ancient religious shrine.”

I glanced at the stone cross which stood out so clear against the hot blue sky.


“It was in later days that the Catholic Mission was begun. I am a black sheep, I do not go much to church, but I venerate the Fathers. I am taking you just now to the presbytery and the church, which are the features of the village, indeed, of the whole Reserve. The rest is—as you see!”

“Why do all Indian Reserves look so melancholy?” I asked.

The face of Noonday Sun was clouded. “My people are not successful farmers,” he said, “they never will be! They were born to be hunters and warriors, to live short dangerous lives. They are people of the forest and the water, not of the cultivated land. Here they disintegrate and go to seed.”

And certainly the village looked as poverty-stricken as the church looked prosperous. At the Presbytery two elderly fathers received us, and it was Father Paquin who, to my guide’s evident pleasure, bowed us into his study. No one could have been kinder to an unexpected guest. We sat in the cool dim library about a long table; the elderly Jesuit, the listening Noonday Sun, and the stray traveller. Gradually the priest began to tell me something of the story of the mission, its early history and its aims. How it was begun, over a century ago, by Father Proulx, a Catholic missionary, at a time when the Jesuits had been suppressed by the British government. It was after the rebellion of ’37, when the Jesuits resumed their work, that this mission was taken over by them, although the British were known to have desired that the Indians should come under a Protestant Establishment. The Protestants, however, have done fine work, he said, on other parts of the Island. He spoke with pride of the schools, especially an Industrial School for girls, organized here in 1892, and of an important business in maple sugar which the Indians were developing. In picturesque language he recalled to mind the great fire which legend says took place about 1700, when the natives set fire to the dry wood and grasses to rid themselves of evil spirits—a fire which swept the whole land, leaving it bare of foliage.

We went to see the church, which is connected with the presbytery and its school by a covered bridge. The church, of square, hand-cut stone, with diamond paned windows, was built by the Indians themselves. The quaint chandeliers and their oil lamps, the altar with its silver candlesticks and decorations (“from Montreal”) may not be particularly distinctive, but the whole edifice, standing there as solid as a rock facing Smith Bay, was a vital link between the wild past and this tame, almost domestic present.

We returned to the car, drawn up by the side of the road near the catechism house or Sunday school. It was surrounded by children eagerly listening to the radio. The two men talked to them in their own dialect—they knew little or no English. A blues singer began a doleful croon, to which they listened, fascinated. “I expect they think it is an English hymn,” said Mr. Cooper, “they are brought up on hymns.” The look of their young bodies, brown, and polished by the sun, and Father Paquin, coming down the path from the presbytery to give me a snapshot of the church and to ask how I liked it—these are my last pictures of the ancient reserve.

On the hotel verandah sat Gerald, just where I had left him. But he had not been idle. He had, he said, ordered a perfect lunch of fresh-caught trout, a salad and raspberries, and had interviewed a university professor who was writing a thesis on Indian place-names. And so, he further observed, sitting there quietly on his verandah, he had probably absorbed more real culture than I in my hot and dusty exploration of the village. But I would not have exchanged my experiences for his. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed the lunch.


We arrived at Little Current in ample time for the S. S. Caribou, due at three o’clock. The drive up from Manitowaning is indescribably lovely. The Island is threaded with small lakes, the soft earth roads wind up hill and down, rising often to a sudden prospect which is breath-taking in beauty. Such as Ten Mile Point from which you see, away to the north, the island-dotted north channel which looks as though it were leading out to infinity. We were on the largest fresh-water island in the world, and as the guide-books point out, five hundred miles of gravel roads take you to every important resort and camp.

The Island contains one hundred lakes. Perhaps the most beautiful of these is Mindemoya. Its waters are a strange blue-green, and the shores are of white fretted limestone. There are caves in these white rocks, with arched roofs like the groining of a cathedral. On the lake is a small high island, which at one side looks like an old woman sewing moccasins. This accounts for the Indian name, which, in English means Old Woman. A visitor is always watching for these lakes. Sometimes one gives the impression of a blue-backed looking-glass, staring out of a dark mass of trees, another may be set in a deep rock basin. At the turn of a wooded road there will be the sound of a waterfall hidden from view. The driver is always looking out for the amiable groups of turkeys that occasionally mince along the road, and birds that sometimes dash against the windshield. It is almost as if you were on a sea island, so soft is the air and so gently aromatic. It is hard to realize that in winter wolf-hunts are organized, so peaceful look the sheepfolds.


We forgot, as we drove, that the worst heat wave on record was in progress all over Ontario. But the fact was recalled to us on the streets of Little Current, which almost burned the soles of our feet. The Caribou was late, no one knew exactly when she would arrive, so we had time to explore the town, and drive to West Bay, a charming little place with a whitewashed log church and houses, and Kagawong, a picturesque fishing village.

Little Current, by comparison with Manitowaning, is a new town, but its fine docks, and situation as landing place for the Cloche Island and mainland ferry, assures its growing importance. The main street faces the water with a lively row of shops, one of which specializes in the famous merchandise of Liberty, of London, England. A dreary soldier’s memorial and field gun, with a bandstand alongside, are near the wharfs, and here, we decided, after storing the car against our return from the north shore, would be an interesting place to wait for the Caribou. And wait we did, all through the late afternoon and evening. Not a breath of air was stirring, and a sort of lethargy was over the entire scene. Only a huge coal dredge to our right was in perpetual action. Across the strait we saw some Indians on a point of land. A thin wisp of smoke was rising from their camp. The usual grim-looking dock loiterers were scattered about. A dozen or more yachts were lying at anchor.

Suddenly a speed boat shot across the passage of water and headed north, another followed; a launch, its wicker chairs under a coloured awning, glided up, and these were the forerunners of a cavalcade of handsome craft, which, from that time on, passed by or stopped at the Little Current wharf. Once a magnificent private aeroplane, of ultra-modern design, circled above us, flying its owner up from Chicago, and a great beautiful, masted and engined yacht, with its uniformed crew and smart passengers, tied up for some time. Finer craft I have not seen at the waterside of any city.

The town, awakened from its siesta, began to put on gaiety as these uniformed sailors, hatless girls and youths and opulent matrons went in and out of the shops, returning often to the yachts with Liberty cushions and lavender paper parcels under their arms. After an hour of it the boats began to slip away one by one, the sun went down, and still no sign of our friend the Caribou. She had been reported at Manitowaning hours before. Dock hands said that the freight there was heavy. Somehow we had failed to remember that passengers are secondary to freight. Sitting on that burning dock whence all but we had fled, for the hotels of the town seemed to be a shade warmer than the waterside, we began to think regretfully of swift passenger steamers that would have had us well on our way by this time.

At nine o’clock a dark hull and lighted portholes appeared. Immediately the inhabitants of the town of Little Current trooped down to the docks with the promptness and precision of a light opera chorus. A squad of deck-hands began unloading freight, the boat passengers went up to the town. We investigated cabins and steamer, unpacked for a week’s cruise, and at midnight were finally off.



From Manitoulin Island up the north shore of Lake Huron to Sault Sainte Marie, and on to Michipicoten—Then across Lake Superior to Port Arthur and Fort William.

The Caribou, when once set going, glides through the water with a motion that is almost imperceptible. Its soft, slow pace, after the excitement of the roads, was caressing, and on the covered stern deck, in comfortable wicker chairs, and fanned by a cool breeze, the world seemed our pearly oyster. This was the best way—the first way—the early road of Canadian travel.

Of the long night, spent at Manitoulin ports, while the gorging and disgorging of cargo from the lower inmost recesses of our freighter went on, the least said the better! For my part I went on deck at four a.m., and the picture of Gore Bay, seen in the early light of dawn, was like that of a modern etching of man’s labour—hill and houses, and straining forms of the ship’s crew crossing and recrossing one another, beating it up and down the gangplank with load after load of crates and boxes hurled with a resounding thud upon the floor of the wharf. This had gone on for hours.

But now a perfect peace, a steady nostalgic rhythm possessed the little boat, and encompassed us in a sort of daylight dream. We watched the blue field of water that we were crossing to reach Meldrum Bay, and the vague outlines of the shore close by. We met slow coal barges, and various important-looking tugs, sometimes the long graceful line of one of the Canada Steamship Company’s freight barges, and we saw through field glasses, in the far distance, a host of fishing-smacks. Gone was all trace of the sporty yachts of Little Current. Like fashionable women they seemed to shun the early morning light, for lake traffic out here means business.

At breakfast the broiled trout had been perfect. The dining saloon was long and narrow, lined with rows of state-rooms opening into it. Our waiter bore the name of a French saint and was said to be a divinity student. The cook and his assistants were University boys. The stewardess, known as Madam, appeared to be also hostess and musician, for, having welcomed us to the table, she hastened to the piano to add a tune to our meals. Our cargo, we found through conversation with the waiter, consisted of almost every kind of product known in these parts, including racehorses and their racing carts, church organs, store supplies, bags of cement, drums of gasoline, fish boxes of ice, and carbide in bullet-shaped containers. As to the passengers, they were “coming and going” all through the trip. But there were undoubtedly three charming young ladies taking the cruise. We could see them now, from where we sat, hopefully surrounding the wheel room. But the Skipper was still in seclusion.

There is a sort of balmy serenity about a Georgian Bay morning—and this was real Georgian Bay air sifting through the North Channel—that is like nothing else on earth. It robs one of all desire for more than to yield to its intoxication. I sat idly turning the pages of my well-worn “Travels of Alexander Henry,” and did not read a word; though I had been saving a certain description for a moment like this, advised by Anna Jameson that to cruise the islands of Lake Huron without this book were like coasting Calabria and Sicily without the Odyssey in your head or hand. “Only,” she says, “here you have the Island of Mackinaw instead of the Island of Circe; the land of the Ottawas instead of the shores of the Lotophagi.”

To us came Madam the stewardess, to see if we were comfortable. We asked her about the girls up at the bow, and she at once became hostess, assuring us that in due time we should be introduced. “There’s not a great crowd on,” she said, “anyway you’ll all be at the same table for a while. After we pass the Sault there will be a second table.” Pressed for further details as to our fellow travellers, she told us that there was an old gentleman on board, from up North, who might interest us, as he was a comic character.

It sounded vague, but promising, and when later in the day I saw an aged man, whose face bore a bitter-sweet expression, seated at the stern end of the cabin, near the broken slot machine, I thought he might possibly turn out to be this comic character. So, after an advance on my part we went thoroughly into the nature and idiosyncrasies of slot machines, and presently he was telling me that he was returning to his home from down south—a trip to Toronto, in fact, to visit his daughter and her family, and also to change his plate. At first this appeared to refer to family silver, but it turned out to be dental. “Kind of thought, too, I’d look up an old friend of mine while I was there,” he said, “happens to be a widow. We used to be friends in the old days. But, lady, I didn’t have any kind of a time with my daughter and her family. They were all the time taking me around in their car to show me the new improvements in Toronto. Now, we got improvements of our own, up where I live. What pleasure would I take looking at the new improvements in Toronto? That ain’t the kind of thing a person is interested in—the new improvements. It’s people you want to hear about when you go places!”

I absolutely agreed with him.

“I had the time of my life,” he continued, “giving my folks the slip—the time of my life!”

“He’s a great old gentleman when you get to know him,” said the stewardess later on, “lively as a cricket. Said to me he was never so disappointed in any woman in his life as his old sweetheart. Said the years had been hard on her face; looked like a scrambled egg. It was too comical; really you could have heard me laugh a mile off!”

“I think I did hear you,” said Gerald thoughtfully, “wasn’t that somewhere along about three a.m.?”

“I guess it might have been,” she agreed. “You don’t go to bed when they are freighting—especially these hot nights.”

“Apt to freight much at night?”

“Well, it depends! Not always. Depends how we’re filled up with cargo. . . . Pretty scene isn’t it?”

She waved a proprietary hand at the cove which we were slowly approaching, with evident intent to stop. Shortly we drew up at a fishing wharf possessing a broken-down shed, with some huge, jagged boulders of rock as background—a composition which would have delighted any active member of the Canadian modern school of art. Several men hoisted crates of fish on board, and received some heavy boxes which nearly cracked the wharf to pieces, after which we silently pulled away.

At dinner we met our venerable fellow passenger, whose response to our advances was merely a dim stare. We felt that he was either regretting the conclusion of his late romance, or had stayed up too late unfolding the same to the stewardess. The three girls, a car salesman, a clergyman and a lucky Indian who had been down south registering his claims on a mining find, were at our end of the table, and we all became absorbed during the meal in the Indian’s account of his prospects.

I left them in confab and presented my card at the Skipper’s cabin.

That afternoon I heard from him thrilling stories of storms and escapes, of history past and present, and legends of the region, as well as of people whose lives have been, or are, interwoven with that of the North Shore.

Our conversation was interrupted by arrival at Meldrum Bay—a spot which leaves in my mind an interesting picture of piles of yellow timber to the right of the landing stage, and a fishing scow with its white paint reflected in the water.

“A lot of mining men will probably come on board at the Sault, bound for the Michipicoten region,” said the Captain, “the present mining situation is quite a live topic up here.”

And watching the panorama of water, rock and bushland, a passageway from the established old province into what we call the new, one must reconstruct this idea of a playground of the North, a fisherman’s paradise, a hunter’s heaven, a Hollywood—set for strong men and Rose-Maries, to see also what a gambling ground it has been, and what potentialities it still holds, for the game that makes the world go round—the search for gold.

This evening, or it might be early morning if freight was heavy, we should stop at Cockburn Island, at Thessalon and Bruce Mines, the last two being ancient theatres of action in this game.

It is at Port Arthur and Fort William that you still hear echoes of the early silver mines. But legends of Indian copper-works, set much farther back in time, have always fascinated me. Copper, for arrowheads and weapons, was the old idea, and there actually remain the pits of prehistoric copper mining on Isle Royal, a few miles off the shores of Thunder Bay. They have been attributed to Aztecs, Mound Builders, Norsemen, or possibly Indians. These pits lie deep in the rock, and near them are remains of “cities,” or rough abodes, lined with boulders that once supported a roof, surrounded by embankments for drainage or defence.

The Bruce Mine, of which I knew nothing, is connected with early mineral exploration. It had an exciting history, was discovered in the fifties of the last century and taken over by the Montreal Mining Company, who spent large sums in its development, and who paid the first dividends in the history of Canadian mining. Afterwards they sold out, but in the seventies it was producing ore valued in the millions. . . . Arriving at the wharf called Bruce Mines, however, one saw no repercussion of this one-time activity. . . . Nevertheless, we were at the rocky gate of the Ontario of the future.


But leaving Bruce Mines, and entering St. Joseph Channel, it is easy to forget the world’s pre-occupation with gold, and to lose one’s self in unprofitable, but how enchanting, folklore. To turn to fishing, which, after all, produces more good stories about a region than anything else—there is the one about an early missionary in these parts who ate Lake Huron fish three times every day of his life, for seven years, and still relished it.

We were entering what the advertisements call “the land of Hiawatha.” Before we arrive at Sault de Sainte Marie (I shall write this name properly for once) we shall pass Bellevue Park, on the banks of the St. Mary’s River, where, each year, a play, dramatizing Longfellow’s poem, is given. Ojibway actors take the leading parts, and the play is featured with reference to the supposition that the village of Pawiting, on the site of the present city of the Sault, was the home of Hiawatha. Every corner of the district is identified with some legend of his life.

And it is true that three hundred years ago, when Etienne Brûlé and Grenolle, the first white explorers, came to the Indian village it was the sacred shrine of the Ojibway nation, who roamed a territory a thousand miles wide, extending from north and east of Lake Huron to the Turtle Mountains in Manitoba. An Ojibway who had been to the rapids at Pawiting had made a holy pilgrimage, for these rapids were the most sacred spot known to the race, the place where their ancestors were created, and at which the Manitous had blessed the people before their dispersal around Lake Superior. Therefore, almost as the people of Oberammergau regard their Passion Play, the Indians regard the production of Longfellow’s Hiawatha, the difference between play and poem being that the unidentified first white men of the poem become, in the play, Brûlé and Grenolle.

It seems a shame to disturb the Hiawatha legend, for almost all literature relating to the region we were travelling becomes romantic on account of it.

Yet here I was with a report in my handbag of a speech by Professor J. N. B. Hewitt, a noted ethnologist of the Smithsonian Institute of Washington, himself a member of the Tuscarora tribe of the Six Nation Indians, in which he says that the popular legends, stories and poems relating to the Indian warrior, Hiawatha, are utterly inaccurate as to history, and that they are even of less value as biography. He explains that the trouble is due to early writers who mixed up references to Hiawatha with “the principle of Nature itself.”

To my mind the principle of Nature itself is a vague exchange for the picturesque Hiawatha, hero of your and my childhood. But we are reassured by another authority, no less important, Dr. W. D. Lighthall, of Montreal, who says that Longfellow, drawing his material from some of the Ojibway people of this region, was confused in his nomenclature, and wrote of one, Manabozho, an Algonquin chief, while Hiawatha was an Iroquois, whose name, meaning “Seeker of the Wampum Belt,” is entered in the rôle of the Grand Council on the Reservation at Brantford to-day.

For my part, I look forward with the greatest interest to seeing some day this play enacted in a location so beautiful, and so full of the association of early heroes, no matter what their names. The very lilt of Longfellow’s rhythm moves with perfection in this air. Imagine the last scene in the play, when Hiawatha, bidding his people farewell, stands erect in the canoe, with paddle outstretched before him, and disappears into the sunset, propelled by some supernatural force.

And the evening sun descending

Set the clouds on fire with redness,

Burned the broad sky, like a prairie;

Left upon the level water

One long track and trail of splendour,

Down whose stream, as down a river,

Westward, westward Hiawatha

Sailed into the fiery sunset,

Sailed into the purple vapours,

Sailed into the dusk of evening.


Bruce Mines lies off St. Joseph Channel, which leads into St. Mary’s River and up to the locks. The region is sprinkled with islands, among which you sail so close that often you can discern cottages among the trees. Ontario and Michigan here draw close together, and water traffic, of all sorts, shapes and sizes begins to crowd, as it always does in approaching an important canal. The locks, at this strategic point where Superior and Huron meet, were until recently the largest in the world. Now those on the American side have outdone them. Through this group of locks in eight months of every year three times as many vessels pass, and three times as much tonnage, as through either the Suez or the Panama Canals in an entire twelvemonth.

To some travellers, the passage through locks is an interesting experience. To me it is a slow, generally hot, and always dull one. We glided in, low between the long stone walls. The huge gates were shut and there we were, trapped for as long as it takes Lake Superior to pour in and release us. The steamer begins slowly to rise some twenty feet or more from the level of Lake Huron, and eventually we are out at the docks of Sault de Sainte Marie.


Of the making of a new town by water-power, no one has given a more interesting account than Alan Sullivan in his novel, The Rapids. He pictures a financier—the famous F. C. Clergue of Philadelphia, under another name—listening to a chance conversation on a railway train nearing St. Mary’s at the beginning of the century. A stranger says:

“It was after the railway came that the people in St. Mary’s seemed to wake up. They got in touch with the outside world and began to talk about water-power. You see, they had been staring at the rapids for years, but what was the value of power if there was no use to which to put it? Then a contractor dropped in who had horses and tools, but no job. . . . The town just wanted power for light and waterworks, so they gave the contractor the job, borrowed a hundred and thirty thousand dollars, and got the necessary land from the Ottawa government. The town went broke on the job. Mind you, they had a corking agreement with the government and a block of land alongside the rapids big enough for a young city. The mistake was they hadn’t secured any factory. Also they needed about five times as much money. Credit ran out and the work stopped and things began to rust, and now St. Mary’s has gone to sleep again and does a little farming and trade with the Indians.”

It was at this point that Clergue engaged the interest of Philadelphia backers, and picked up the town. His romantic story is one of faith, self-confidence, enthusiasm, success and seeming failure, related in enterprises which are the landmarks of the town; huge paper and pulp plants, steel works and impressive office buildings—remains of a day-dream, a castle-in-the-air made of solid stone with rainbow-flashing water as its base. He built up water-power, to which was added his fatal ambition to be known as the man who also created the iron and steel industry of the district of Algoma. His career was a modern fairy tale with a bitter ending.

For centuries the Sault had been a place of contention for power. It is said that at a funeral feast held by the Hurons, which even in that remote day held social possibilities, some Jesuit fathers, among whom were Isaac Jogues, Hennepin, and Père Marquette, heard rumours of an influential tribe, called Ojibway, living in the fastness of the north. This led to the establishment of their mission at the rapids which, they named in honour of Sainte Marie. Then came the French explorers and traders, Brûlé and Grenolle, who, in 1622, founded a post and did a thriving business with the Indians. The Hudson’s Bay Company followed. It is the usual early Canadian story, told here to the roar of rapids with a heightened drama.

At the Sault you seem to see this natural force transformed into power before your eyes. Visiting the town you feel it to be like a person whom many exciting things in life have touched, without perhaps really entering into his composition and making him individually unique, and in himself, exciting. You will probably go first to see the “Little Lock,” small and childish, down which the early trappers and voyageurs paddled with their furs for Quebec. Something about it is a poignant link with bygone days, and calls to one’s tenderness, evokes a thousand pictures of the long, beautiful canoes that had come down the enormous stretches of the lake to the wild and tumbling waters of the rapids, to be silently lowered into this little strip of calm water, a liquid island in their endless journey.

Beside the small canal, alongside the red stone office buildings of the Abitibi Pulp and Paper Works, is a tablet: “To commemorate the first canal surveyed by the Northwest Fur Company in 1797; in use with wooden lock for canoes and bateaux in or before 1802. The buildings, wharf and lock were destroyed by United States troops in 1814. Locks rebuilt in stone in 1896. Near by, in seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, were an Ojibway village, canoe landing, portage and for a time a French trading post and Jesuit mission. In eighteenth and nineteenth centuries British trading posts, wharf and portage road.”

Just here, close to the waterfront, is a blockhouse, erected when this was a Hudson’s Bay post, and afterwards taken over and made into a residence by Mr. Clergue.

It is a short walk from the dock up to the main street of the town, Queen Street, lined with shops which seem to go on interminably. We followed it to that mecca of all travelling journalists in any town—the newspaper office. Here for us is our Pub, the kindly centre, the warm welcome, the news bureau, the editor who always has time for a confrère no matter how busy he is. Mr. J. W. Curran, the editor of the Sault Star, specializes in wolf stories, for wolves used to be a regular feature of this region, and even to-day one hears that, like the ancient armies of Gideon in the Sunday school hymn, they prowl and prowl around the sheepfolds of the district of Algoma. Mr. Curran offers a hundred dollars to the man who can prove he has been bitten by a wolf. As it has never been proved, it would seem that the species hereabouts is harmless. But the prize offer has brought to the paper some famous wolf stories.

From these we turned to antiquities. “There has always been a hunt for minerals here,” said Mr. Curran. “Iron was the great hope from the first, and we have some local relics below, in the office.”

I peered into a glass case, and saw an iron crucifix, with accompanying documents showing it to be of seventeenth century design. It was found, along with a curious iron hand, also on exhibition, by Mr. W. J. Roach during an excavation at Spring and Wellington Streets, which is a situation that may have marked the site of the first white man’s habitation in the Great Lakes area beyond Huronia, and tallies with reference in the Jesuit Relations to iron and lead finds around Lake Superior in 1656. They were dreary looking symbols, but the life of white men in Canada at that time and in this region, in spite of the fanatical urge of explorers and the zeal of priests, could hardly have been a joyous existence.

From relics we turned to Algoma Steel, the largest manufacturing plant in Canada in point of tonnage output, and employing over two thousand men. The plant is just at the end of the street.


This town sets an example to all others in Ontario on account of the number and interest of its historical signs and tablets. One, which we found at the post office, reminded us of a quaint chapter in the life of the Sault which occurred at the time of the American declaration of war with England, in 1812. The settlement then had exactly fifteen white families—all British in sentiment. The rest of the inhabitants were half-breeds and Indians. The remarkable fact is that three days before the news of war was received at Michilimacinac, word had been conveyed to St. Joseph’s Island, the remains of whose old fortress may still be seen. Captain Roberts, the commandant there, immediately set out for the American post with a few regulars and about two hundred voyageurs, and accomplished the seizure sans coup ferir—the astonished Americans not being aware that war had been declared! This feat is duly celebrated by a commemorative tablet: Captain Roberts to Major-General Brock, July 12th, 1812. “To the Gentlemen of the Sault at St. Mary’s—I am under the greatest obligation for their ready and effectual aid and personal exertions voluntarily contributed.”

Sault Sainte Marie’s Civic War Memorial is a fine group, beautifully placed on a square in Queen Street. It shows the power of the cross, upheld by a young warrior-priest over a crouching savage figure. The inscription was written by Rudyard Kipling, especially for this memorial:

From little towns in a far land we came,

To save our honour and a world aflame;

By little towns in a far land we sleep,

And trust these things we won, to you to keep.

Presently we were having tea at the Stone House, the historic house of the town, for years the centre of its social life. It was built by a famous trader, Charles Ermatinger, about the year 1812. Of square design, to which a wooden porch has been added, the house is of delightful and roomy proportions. We sat in a cool, low-ceilinged room, probably the dining-room, drinking iced tea and hearing stories of people who had lived beneath its roof. When it was built there was no sawmill in the district, so the timber for its construction was made ready in Montreal and shipped by schooner to the Sault. Ermatinger, a shrewd and witty person of Swiss extraction, had married an Indian wife and here they kept open house. One could imagine the people who had stood beside this ample fireplace, relatives of Mrs. Ermatinger, no doubt, as well as pompous officials, genial bishops, couriers and voyageurs, on their business which was so important to the post—those mysterious Frenchmen who appeared for a day or a week for barter and trade, and then disappeared into the forests and up the rivers to their hidden lives.

John Johnson, one of the volunteers of the Michilimacinac episode, used to come here. He was an Irish trader who, like his friend Ermatinger, had married a Chippewa. During his absence the house was raided and burnt by Americans, while his wife and children looked on from the woods. Later he took his Indian wife and daughter, a beautiful girl, back to England. The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland were so charmed with the latter that they wished to adopt her, but she was homesick, returned to Canada, and afterwards became the wife of Henry Schoolcraft, a famous historian of the Indian tribes.

Sheriff Carney, who comes into Alan Sullivan’s story of the rapids, also lived here. It is one of the houses that make you fancifully hope that radio may some day pick up the vibrations of lost voices, which we are told still wander about somewhere in the ether.

One of the best remembered men in Sault Sainte Marie is Colonel John Prince, first judge of the district. Bellevue, which was built a few years later than the Stone House, was an equally important centre. The Colonel, who was said to be of close connection with George IV, left England early and lived in Sandwich during the so-called American “Patriot Raids.” He was so outrageous in his treatment of prisoners, having them shot without a trial, that the government sent him up to Algoma, then “the Siberia of Canada.” But on account, it was said, of the strong interest of the Duke of Wellington, he received a grant of land and a position on the judicial bench. He was, according to legend, a rough foe, but a royal friend, and in himself typical of many characters who, in fiction, would be considered most un-Canadian. Approaching the Sault from the east, there are three little islands half-way between the Indian or Garden reserve and the town. On one of these islands lies the body of the old man. A sandstone monolith marks his tomb, and a mural tablet in the pro-Cathedral in Sault Sainte Marie also reminds one of his life and death.


Glare from the carbide works on the American side lit us out of the Sault and into Whitefish Bay. The next morning we woke to a world completely changed. Gone was every remnant of yesterday’s heat, and gone the fresh bright wind of Huron. We were moving through a shifting cloud of coolest grey, the sun was making coral streaks on the pale, misty water, and like the mammoth paws of some huge prehistoric beasts rose the shaggy capes of Lake Superior. There were more passengers on board and, an amazing fact, these passengers wore overcoats and wraps!

“You’ll be glad of blankets to-night, I expect,” said Madam, the stewardess, “And how did you like the Sault?”

“Old story to you, I suppose!” we replied.

“Yes, I generally just go up to town to see some friends, and then I go into the Song Shop and look over some sheet music.”

With bated breath we asked her if she sang.

“Used to,” she said cheerfully, “not now. But I do love to look over sheet music!”

The three girls now clustered about us with what morsels of ship news could be gathered. And let me say—which sounds like the beginning of a Rotarian address—that one of the chief charms of life on a freighter is its complete lack of the Community Spirit. There is no Social Hostess—our Madam was merely a delight—there are no deck games, there is no daily Mile March, there is no radio. But there are enough deck chairs, and this alone makes for happiness. Moreover, as we all know, it is not among the passenger lists of the Queens and Empresses of the seas that the most interesting characters are to be found. The girls gave us news of a recent passenger of our own, in whom our interest was at once aroused to fever pitch. This was none other than an Inspector of Police for the District of Algoma. What travelogue possibilities the very fact suggested! He had been talking to the Captain only a moment ago, was tall, and wearing a red necktie. . . . Gerald tightened the sleeves of the sweater draped about his neck for warmth, and was off in the direction of the wheelhouse.

I began to read, but the colours were too bewitching. . . . It is a strange world that one enters in a voyage on Lake Superior. It is ocean-like in its vast proportions, but entirely lacks the kind of excitement that salt air seems to lend to the blood. Yet it is by no means without excitement, and the seascape is much more various. We were still travelling through a foggy iridescence composed of the sun’s heat striking the mists of the cold lake.

Soon it would lift, and we would sail out into reality. Already the grain boats and coal barges that we overtook looked less like shadowy ghosts than they did an hour ago.

Sometimes we turned in to one of the harbours that occasionally break the miles of sea-girt cliffs. Nothing could be seen but a wharf, a cluster of houses, and a few forlorn-looking people. They live with the vast spaces of water before them, the dense timberlands behind them—fishermen and their families, tied to elementary moorings. Not much in the harbours, one might think. Yes, shelter, the first requisite of a man’s life. . . . But even the children, standing on these little wharfs, looked old and weathered, like the rocks and cliffs behind the small wooden houses.

It was noon when we rounded Agawa Point, and there were the Lizards, five miles away on the port bow. The fog had cleared and now the air was exquisitely soft and bright. On Big Lizard there is a fishing station. I heard a strange story of the man once in charge, a Scotchman, Jack McPherson, who believed with many others that there is a mysterious power, elemental and unfriendly to settlement, that watches the north shore. He had a great fear of the spectral ghost ship of Manabozho Island, a sanctuary of the Ojibways which earliest legend says is guarded by the great Manitou; a huge and frosty figure in the garb of a medicine man. The Indians of the region about Gargantua say that they have bad luck if they fail to pay tribute at this island to their tribal gods. McPherson believed that their powers extended to white men; that there were things beyond understanding—wrecks from storms out of season, and strange mists on fair days.

“Perhaps this is one of those days,” I said to the Captain, who was telling me the story.

“That may be,” he replied with a twinkle in his eye. “I should tell you that McPherson was a canny, good-natured obliging Scot. His story is only one of many others. When we arrive at Gargantua you will see the lighthouse, and perhaps, with luck, the keeper’s wife; an Indian woman who has often seen the ghost ship which is supposed to guard or haunt the region. As for McPherson, he belonged to the shore and loved it. He had risen from a fish buyer in a small way to be the general supervisor of the Company’s business, so you can see that he was not entirely given over to occult imaginings. But it is hard to combat superstition on Lake Superior. He felt that the forces would get him. He had seen the ghost ship and felt that a doom was upon him. But the ship did not actually come for him the first time he saw it. The strange part was that Mrs. Medon, at the lighthouse, had also seen it about the same time. At first she thought it was merely a cloud, or a wisp of fog, for it was fine weather, in October, before the storms come. A few minutes later she saw it again, much nearer and larger. It took the form of a ship which sailed down towards the Lizards and disappeared.”

“You say that she was an Indian?”

“Yes, a full-blood Ojibway, and they can be very close about what they don’t wish to tell. But this woman had seen and foretold wrecks more than once. McPherson struggled bravely, but he was caught soon afterwards in a storm of such a strange intensity and devilish ferocity that in spite of his well-built boat and able crew, he was swamped with four of his men.”

I began to look forward with some excitement to our landing at Gargantua. But when we arrived there was nothing. Just the strong sun beating down on the wharf, and the lighthouse perched on its point over to the right. The keeper’s house, whose door we saw through glasses, was wide open, the place apparently empty for the moment, and on the wharf the usual little crowd of fishermen and settlers were waiting for their freight.

Conspicuous among them was a young woman, standing with her hand upon her hip, very blond hair under a blue beret, in a bright red dress. She was chewing gum with great vigor, and as we tied up and the work of unloading began, she cheered on the crew, evidently old friends, with wisecracks delivered in the purest cockney. A little girl clung to her skirts, and at her feet lay a suitcase and other evidence of travel. Every now and then she peered anxiously at the horizon, so fixedly indeed that the child escaped her and nearly fell over the side of the wharf.

“It looks,” said Gerald anxiously, “as though she might be searching for a ghost ship!”

Shortly her attention was drawn to a crate which had just been tossed on the wharf. “ ’Ere,” she said, “tike that one over this way, Charlie, that’s the very libel I’ve been looking for! . . . ’Ere’s your play-pen, Glad! . . . And tike that one over, too, Charlie—that’s for me!” . . . But still that anxious glance ahead, in spite of her nonchalant swagger.

Time went on, and it seemed that we were to spend the afternoon here. We got out and wandered towards the lighthouse. From the mainland the water, with a million ripples now stirring its surface, gleamed like a field of diamonds, and in it were set the fabled islands of beauty and of doom. Behind us stretched a long line of impregnable cliffs. It was all as lonely and primitive as though it had just been created. And yet, a few miles behind us roared the transcontinental trains, on their way east and west. How often I had sat on the platform of an observation car on just such a day as it rounded the coast, tunnelling through the rocks, and coming out on the shining bays. “Where are we now, porter?” . . . “Along Lake Superior, madame.” . . . “I mean the next station.” . . . “Nothing, until Schreiber.” . . . “Well, you might bring me some tea, I’ll go inside for it.” . . . “Very good, madame, in ten minutes.”

Nothing until Schreiber! Yes, dozens of such patient, weather-defying, legend-haunted harbours as these—whose products appear in various forms that neither fish nor fishermen would ever recognize, on the best tables everywhere.

Here they go, these products, slam-banging into our boat. Here are the merchants of the catch, looking dumb and battered. Here is the managing cockney, right from the east end of London, with the tell-tale “Glad,” showing that she belongs to somebody in this place. She is still jerking off her child’s hold on the bright red skirt, but now her anxiety is over. She waves her beret frantically, with an importunate gesture. “There he is, boys!”—sound of a put-put in the distance—“Lite as usual, but ’e ’asn’t ’eld you up! ’Ere comes Alfred with the engine!”

In a twinkling Alfred and the engine, the suitcase and bundles were transferred to the Caribou; red-skirt and Glad, the play-pen and a large crate, marked Gold Soap, were installed in the motor boat, and they and we were off.

“Close shave!” said Alfred, whom we met at supper. “Launch engine smashed up, some miles away from home, two days ago. The wife had the kid along, so we had an all-day paddle home. Borrowed a boat to go get her, and just managed it!”

“Your wife is English?”

“Yes, so am I for that matter, I’ve been in the fish-packing business here for quite a time. Going up to Michipicoten on business.”

“There’s a lot doing up there, I hear,” said Gerald, in the confidential tone of one who had just held parley with the police inspector.

“Bet your life!” said Alfred.

“About all you can get out of them!” we afterwards agreed. “They’re a close lot!” . . . “As for that inspector, he is the most eccentrically reticent man I have ever met,” Gerald continued. “Moreover, my chances for getting anything about the district were entirely ruined. He heard—God knows how—that you are writing a book. It absolutely queered things. His every other phrase was ‘Don’t quote me.’ I told him he had said nothing quotable.”


It was twilight as we docked at Michipicoten River—that is, it was the beginning of the long, long northern twilight that lasts far into the night. We entered a most beautiful harbour, for here the lake makes a deep indentation into the shoreline. There was every sign of activity on the dock. Cars were drawn up at the side of the road, and people’s voices were audible from the land even before we tied up. The Caribou was all alive and full of excitement. Suitcases, as well as crates, were being taken on and off. We said good-bye to a mining man who, in the last few hours, had shown signs of life and drawn a map showing the relative position of such centres of industry as the Parkhill, Darwin, Minto and Centennial Mines. We waved to an ecstatic young girl who had been rushing about the deck, uttering exclamations in a high-pitched voice which sounded like Ruth Gordon playing the hired girl in “Ethan Frome.” The strange thing was, as we afterwards heard, she was travelling north to take a place with the family of one of the mine managers here. The police sergeant stalked majestically away. Dozens of people who seemed to have been hidden during the trip emerged and found friends on the dock.

We hung over the ship’s side as the unloading began, too much interested in the scene to explore further for the moment. At any rate we should be there until after midnight. The Captain descended, and was greeted by an impressive group of obviously first-class business men from down south. A young woman in an attractive summer gown was holding in her hand a spray of purple lilac. Its significance did not occur to us at first, then we realized how very far north we were. Lilac, in late midsummer, and delicately held as though it were a treasure. We turned from her to others who had come to meet the boat. One was pointed out to us as a German chemist, an expert in the refining of platinum. He was with a number of people surrounding a particularly vivacious woman—“the doctor’s wife,” said Madam the stewardess. “They live up near the power plant at the falls. See the men all going off in motor tugs? They are new hands for the works.”

What a different world from the lonely Gargantua, where the moorings to civilization were so few. Yet, move to the other side of the ship and there was only a long crescent of sandy beach, beyond which stretched the endless wooded capes of rock, the swish of water against the shore, and over it the lonely violet haze of gathering night.

Presently we should drive up the winding road to the right of the dock, and see the old Hudson Bay post, the few houses of a village which is called The Mission, the church, the tiny graveyard that has been there for a hundred years, and four miles further on, the waterfall where the great river drops a hundred feet and more, and the power plant.

But nothing that we saw could or did make Michipicoten River more real than it was already. We only came, that summer night, upon a remembered scene. We felt like asking for the invalided Peter Gould at “Bousneau’s” boarding-house, and we looked for Steve and his motor boat at the dock. The two brothers, Peter and Charlie, and Marion, the girl who loved Peter, were characters more actual than the cheery crowd of salesmen, company officials or miners standing on the dock. Morley Callaghan had been here, too, and had written A Broken Journey.

But people do not talk about human character at Michipicoten—they talk about the character of ore veins, much as they did some centuries ago. Old names and efforts keep cropping up and mingling with the new. F. J. Clergue was a great figure in this region, and the Helen Mine, twelve miles back of the harbour, once a great iron mine, but closed for many years, is being reopened and may become an important venture. In fact, the pendulum is swinging again in the direction of this, Ontario’s oldest mining region.


It was early dawn when we steamed through the portal rocks of the harbour of Michipicoten Island, which lies due west, miles out in the lake. Here was the inevitable wharf, the storage houses, and fishermen waiting to freight their cargo. Certainly there was no life stirring here in this tranquil pinkish light of coming day—merely the sight of an island that had recorded its old excitements not in landscape, but in musty records that no one ever reads.

Alexander Henry had passed the winter of 1767 here, trading with the Indians. He had a shrewd suspicion that the place held great copper wealth. Indians told of their grandfathers coming here for pure copper from which to make beads, arrows, knives and ornaments. The first Roman Catholic church in the area possessed ornaments made from this native copper. He lost no time, and in company with the Duke of Gloucester and other Englishmen formed a company to work the deposit. A forty-ton sloop was built at the Sault, and mining started on the island. The ore was to be conveyed in canoes through the falls, and thence in large vessels to Niagara. After portaging around the Falls of Niagara it could then be transported to Quebec for smelting. It was a failure. In the second effort, at Mica Bay, a terrible fatality occurred, killing a number of miners. Many years passed and again, in 1860, New York interests took hold, but became financially entangled and left the scene. Now, so far as its promise of wealth is concerned, the land lies like a death mask, its lines and scars smoothed under a perpetual calm. It may be that the Guardians of the North Shore have checkmated ambitious mortals once again. They may be keeping the island in reserve.

But contemplation of black magic is too much for the early morning, and as the cook’s cabin was still closed, and no aroma of coffee anywhere about, I descended again to my cabin and straightway went to sleep.


On our return to the Sault, the change from our familiar freighter to a C.P.R. steamer was like returning to New York from one’s village. We felt almost alien to the dancing, bridge-playing, deck-gaming passengers, and this wide ocean, so far below the level of the deck, seemed to lose its strong individuality, as we swept over it so easily on the way to Port Arthur.

But what an impressive entry into the thrilling harbour of Port Arthur! The turret of Mount McKay, over in Fort William, catches the morning light. Thunder Cape is a tremendous rock headland at the entrance to the bay, whose form, stretching on the blue water, appears from some angles as though it were an island, shaped like a human figure sealed in a tomb of rock. On the shoreline gleam the white facades of the grain elevators, ultra-modern in contour yet looking positively Egyptian—pyramids of to-day that strangely reflect the feeling of the rock figure that lies with its face to the sky. The steamer passes the “giant” and enters the bay, stopping first at Port Arthur and then tying up at Fort William.

Fort William and Port Arthur are called the Twin Cities, but they are far from Siamese. A marsh, or what was once a marsh, divides them, and a healthy rivalry keeps them individual.

Fort William is the older of the two. Its situation at the mouth of the Kaministiquia River made it from early Canadian days a rendezvous for native tribes. In 1678 the first fort was built by the explorers, Dulhut and La Fourette, and called by them Fort Caministigoyan. But twenty years before this came the great Radisson and his brother-in-law, Groseillers, with twenty-nine Frenchmen and their Indian paddlers. The journey was from Montreal up the Ottawa to Lake Nipissing, the French River, Lake Huron—with a cannibalistic adventure on Manitoulin Island—and on by the Sault (in its last lap the way that we had just come). The savage epic of Radisson, most colourful of all Canadian stories, twines itself into the picture of this “dangerous district,” a living thread, imperceptible to travellers because it has never been exploited. But it was Radisson who first sold the idea of the Canadian north-west to the European world.

After the British conquest, Fort William became headquarters for the North West Fur Company, the single rival of Gentlemen Adventurers Trading into Hudson’s Bay. When these companies merged, this was the chief centre for the greatest fur trading organization in history.

Fort William acquired its Christian name in 1803, after the Governor of the North West Company—William McGillivray. Then a stray traveller, coming up by the long water route, still tolerably “dangerous,” would have seen the old fort in its heyday. Its great hall, adorned by a map completed at this time by the explorer David Thompson, was the meeting place of coureurs de bois with officials from the Company’s head offices in Montreal. Men who for a year had been far from civilization caught a breath of the outside world. Feasting and drinking made these reunions exciting. For a day or two the lonely trappers and hunters could meet their fellow men. Then, freshly-equipped for another year’s sojourn in the wilderness, they turned their backs on the fort. The peltry that they had brought down with them was loaded into the fleet of canoes that had brought up the Eastern party and found its way slowly down the waterways to Montreal. As for the Governors and great men of the Company, they travelled with all the luxury that was possible, Indian paddlers formed the crew of their flotillas, a retinue of servants followed, and when portages were to be crossed, a litter was at their service. The names of great men are associated with the Company, from the days of Prince Rupert to Sir George Simpson, Sir Thomas Skinner and Lord Strathcona.

In 1881 Fort William ceased to be a fur-trading post, and with the railway age the modern story of the Twin Cities began.

The Canadian Pacific, which entered Fort William in 1887, was doing what no other railway on this continent had ever done—it was building in advance of development. Settlers followed it, dropping off here and there and staking out their claims. They were often fed and clothed by the very railway that brought them there. There were no stores in the wild desolate country, so a sort of way-freight, filled with provisions, was sent periodically to points along the line.

The settlement of Port Arthur antedates this age by a few years only. From the Thunder Bay silver mine it may be said to have its origin. This find brought a rush of prospectors and miners. Then, in 1870, when Colonel Wolseley, on his way to Fort Garry to reason with the Indian rebel, Louis Riel, passed “the clean white buildings” of Fort William, he landed a little to the north and named the spot in honour of Prince Arthur of Connaught, Queen Victoria’s third son. There the troops were disembarked, and an old Indian who stood watching the landing of a small company of sappers and gunners exclaimed: “What a lot of white people there must be in the world!” The problem of taking them through the wilderness to the Red River seemed without solution, for the famous Dawson Road just behind the settlement, recently begun, only extended some forty miles. Yet, under incredible difficulties, the task was accomplished.


There are people still living in these cities with great pioneer stories to tell. Some of them I heard at a dinner given by the Thunder Bay Historical Society, at the Prince Arthur Hotel in 1934, to celebrate the Semicentennial of the city.

I heard of the celebrated McKellar brothers, who arrived in 1853. One of them, Peter McKellar, discovered the Thunder Bay silver mine, which proved so rich that the people of Canada began to believe that the Lake Superior mountains must be made of solid silver, and the historic old steamer, Chicora—until comparatively recently in use between Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake—was chartered “to bring the parliament up to Fort William in a body to investigate for themselves.”

I met Neil McDougal, who was the first telegraph operator here. His accounts of the establishment of what is now an early mode of communication, became a sort of Homeric story, as he told of the contract for the first line from here to Fort Garry—a distance which he had to walk, four times, on snowshoes.

And there were tales of heroic women, who lived in the first starvation-cold clapboard houses; the straw-filled mattresses; the waterman selling his wares at fifteen cents a barrel—and not doing so well during the seasons when they melted snow; the milkman with his large can; and cows grazing on the islands, opposite the shoreline where the elevators now stand, and swimming back to the mainland at night.

Port Arthur stands on a series of terraces that overlook Thunder Bay. That night from my hotel window I saw the winter moonlight playing over the inscrutable form of the Sleeping Giant. In my ears rang stories of silver mountains, furs, the wonder of steel rails—vibrations of which, from the coast journey, I myself still felt. Shortly before, over the radio at Vancouver, the bells of Toronto were ringing in her hundred years, and those of Three Rivers, in Quebec, a tri-centennial. How lately had this country of the Sleeping Giant come into the consciousness of the world, and how swiftly at last had this consciousness arrived, in grain-rush, pulpwood, mighty water-power. But the ultimate secret—does it still lie far below the surface of the earth, is it contained in the promise of the releasing airways? At any rate the old majestic form of the rock-giant no longer implies the barrier of the physically impossible that was laid on the country for so long. “The voice of the desire of this strong North”—I heard it with a new significance, as I looked at this rock headland from a modern hotel on the shores of Thunder Bay.

Now, two years later, and this time in midsummer, we were doing the sights. We saw the pulp-mills, the elevators, the shops, the parks, the cenotaphs, the show residences, Kakabeka Falls, the Indian cross on Mount McKay, and the historic cairn in Port Arthur’s Gore Park, whose tablet outlines early events of the Canadian lakehead.

The machinery of these places! Trees turned to pulpwood, pulpwood to paper and the freighting thereof; the thousands of carloads of grain, arriving to be poured into the gigantic elevators and to depart, millions of bushels, by train or in the freighters through the channels of the magnificent bay.

This is structurally the oldest part of the world—and it is very new. It may soon be near to the centre of Ontario, for it is by no means the actual north of the province. That stretches far beyond, in a medley of untapped, probably mineralized, rock; in the great Clay Belt which contains millions of acres of farming land; the timber and pulp forests with their sweep up to James Bay—and at last the fur country which skirts the western shore of Hudson’s Bay.



From Little Current along the Espanola Road to Copper Cliff and Sudbury—Hence to North Bay, Callander and Corbeil.

It is a matter of only a few moments on the ferry from Little Current to Great Cloche Island, which is connected by a bridge with the Cloche Peninsula and the mainland. All about Baie Fine, and among the La Cloche mountains, are camps where artists and woodcraftsmen, as well as fishermen and tourists, have formed little centres. Killarney Mountain Camp is one, that of the Baron Maxmilian von Hausser is another. His camp at Nellis Lake, overlooking McGregor Bay, is frequented by artists who find the outcroppings of red granite and white quartzite most interesting material.

It is a beautiful drive from Little Current to Espanola, full of corkscrew curves, purple pools and small blue lakes. Log cabins are to be found in the most unexpected places. There are one or two bad hills, but generally the roads are good. A little detour to the eastern point of La Cloche Peninsula brings one to the Bell Rocks of curious formation, which, when struck, do justify the folders by giving out the sound of a bell. Dreamer’s Rock lies further on. We pass many cars coming down to Little Current, but few pedestrians. Whitefish Falls is a picturesque hamlet, which has grown around the cascade that comes tumbling down the rock into a sort of walled basin. A power plant here supplies Little Current. A few miles further on, upon one of the highest rocks in the district, stands a forestry lookout, in appearance imposing, and very necessary in this country of brushwood. As a matter of fact we had no sooner rounded the hill, than directly to our right we saw a small blaze creeping among the dry grasses beside the road, but we did not linger to see the tower in operation. Uphill we sped, and at Willisville found a glorious view of a small shining lake and a tiny hamlet settled comfortably beside it. From here the road runs almost straight to Espanola, and we were once more on the main line.


This Spanish-Italian name had been on everyone’s lips who told us of the road. We liked to roll it over our own. We wondered what we should find there. It stands at a crossroad, and in its way is an important junction. Here we cross the Spanish River, beside which stands the Abitibi Paper Mill and a power dam which, we were told, develops considerable water-power. There are a few substantial houses and a great many wooden shacks. Its name does not belie Espanola. It has a rather foreign-workman air. “Here, as everywhere along the route, you will be extended a cordial welcome.” Thus encouraged we stopped at a large and gloomy hotel which fronts the highway, for a glass of Coca Cola. It looked like a place where anything might happen—but nothing did; nothing but the feeling that here we had said good-bye to a dream country of sea and foggy mists, mountains, islands and almost supernatural forces. Now we must enter the everyday.


We were on the main highway from the Sault, driving fast, passing Turbine and Whitefish. And then against the clear sky of later afternoon there rose in the far distance what looked like a very slender tower, from which emerged a long straight rosy feather of smoke. Five minutes later it appeared to be of purest white. It was, in fact, the sulphur plume rising from the smokestacks of Copper Cliff, the theatre of International Nickel.

The effect of the place itself, as you enter it from the west, is highly dramatic. The earth seems to make a circular sweep, with rocks and boulders for its rim. You pass great mounds of jet-black slag which make a sombre glitter in the sun, a network of car tracks surround the immense smelting plants, a village in themselves, and over it all tower the smokestacks like huge pylons against the northern sky. Going into the centre of the town, life and colour suddenly appear. There are handsome bungalows, and houses set on terraces covered with shaven green grass, flower beds abound, a bird wings its way across the sky. Driving to the inquiry office of the headquarters of International Nickel we are shown an elaborate clubhouse on its well-kept lawns. There is the air of a model village about it all, something strangely artificial in this urban-garden appearance set in the bowl of these malicious hills. It is, for some indefinable reason, almost absurd to see a gardener hosing roses just at this spot! . . . We tried to locate the whereabouts of a friend and then drove on four miles to Sudbury.

Copper Cliff is the important suburb of the older Sudbury—which looks exactly what it is; a prosperous, well-established mining town. There is not a hotel, cafe, store or street corner in Sudbury that does not hold echoes of amazing stories as to the best gamblers in the world, the mining men. Everybody interested in Ontario mining for the last four or five decades has been in Sudbury. It was here before International Nickel was born. It still wears store clothes, and its hat is tilted rakishly; the aroma of strong cigars and whiskey lingers lovingly in the air. Its social and community centres are the hotels, and there is no place, by the way, where you can get a better beefsteak than in Sudbury. That fact has been borne in upon me more than once. It was proven again, at dinner in the Nickel Range Hotel, with Mr. W. E. Mason, the editor of the Sudbury Star.

The hotel is on the main street with the cars clattering by. It always seems to me like a news-stand with the most seemingly valuable information, hot from the griddle, ready to be dished out to the unwary from all over the globe. In and out of its doors have come and gone men who arrived with a hope and left with a fortune, who arrived with a dream and left with a despair too deep for words. But our host knows the region from A to Z. The miraculous story of nickel took new form before our eyes, for we were with an onlooker, not one who was personally involved in the drama itself.

We left the hotel, and went next door to the office of the Star.

“Here is the thing in a nutshell,” said Mr. Mason. He showed us two photographs, one of the enormous smelters at Copper Cliff that we had just seen, the other of a bit of lonely railroad track making a curve around a boulder beside which stood the solitary figure of a workman. This represented the newly-laid rails of the Canadian Pacific’s transcontinental road in 1883, passing over the place where construction workers uncovered the first deposit of nickel-copper ores in the Sudbury district. The spot on which the man stood was subsequently developed into the Murray Mine.

“The whole place was haunted by rumours long before there was any settlement here. But what can man do against nature? It takes man and money power combined. The first railway company signified the first powerful force. These were the men who rolled back the bush and made the way for prospectors, and capitalists with their vanguard of metallurgists, chemists and mining engineers. . . . What do you think of the look of Copper Cliff to-day?”

I raised my eyes from the elaborate photograph of the smelters at Copper Cliff which blurred the impression of that afternoon’s approach to it. “It looked to me,” I said, “like something beautiful and impressive, and devilishly strong, and entirely artificial at its centre.”

But then I had seen it in earlier days, a barren withered settlement with all its vegetation killed at birth by deadly fumes. Then people said: “It is Dante’s Inferno, it is the devil’s playground—it always has been.”

I used to get letters from Kathleen Coleman, who wrote under the name of Kit, in the Toronto Mail and Empire. She was living there, and she used to say that it was no wonder that in eighteenth-century Saxony the name Kupfer-nickel had arisen. . . . I wondered what she would think of the immaculate Copper Cliff of to-day—and suggested the same to my host.

He said: “You know, of course, that the white plume of smoke that you see is this very sulphur which formerly killed everything. From the new smokestack, which is over five hundred feet high, it is driven by such a terrific draught that it is sent fifteen hundred feet into the air. The cloud of smoke which drifts upward has been picked up by aviators, on a clear day, more than eighty miles away.”

He went on to picture the Sudbury area which is under production. It is only about fifteen miles in diameter, and interests about fifty thousand people who are dependent in some way on the mines. There are over eight thousand men in International alone. Fifteen miles to the north-east lies Falconbridge; the Frood Mine is some two miles to the north of Sudbury. But the astounding fact is that of this nickel region, known to extend for a thousand square miles, only this comparatively small extent has been explored by diamond drills. Yet it has developed ore which will probably last for a century, at the present rate of production.

As he talked we saw it, glittering darkly like those jet-black piles of slag, the strange, black pocket of world wealth set on the outer rim of our verdant old province, and at the gateway of the new. We saw the story beginning in Germany when the early miners, trying to melt copper ore, found a reactionary element producing only a worthless alloy. They called it “Old Nick,” the very devil himself, who used his mischievous gnomes to bewitch the ore, and this ore, turning into a scientific conundrum, was isolated by Richter, a German scientist. The Chinese took up the tale, by combining zinc with copper and nickel to make their paktong, which brought a flood of white metal products, nickel-plating and nickel-clad steel. Then the whole world was combed for supplies of the raw material—Norway, and the little South Sea island of New Caledonia, and then the Sudbury basin.

“It’s known to contain more than two hundred million tons of proved ore,” concluded Mr. Mason.

We sat in a sort of shattered silence, thinking of the awful day when we lost our all; our minute but honest hold on a few grams of this tonnage!

The romantic story went on—the story of Samuel J. Ritchie of Ohio, who visited Ontario to get wood for the wheel spokes in his carriage factory and interested his friends in the organization of the Central Ontario Railway. How he saw, in the office of Sir Thomas Tate, a piece of the new ore and conceived the idea of recouping his railway losses by buying mines in the Sudbury district and organizing the Canadian Copper Company. He had baffling experiences in making people see what the whole world sees to-day. Once he wrote to Krupp suggesting its possibility in the manufacture of armaments. The answer was a more or less amused rejection of the idea, on the ground that there was not sufficient nickel in the world to warrant experimentation in this field. But the attention of the Iron and Steel Institute of Great Britain was attracted. One of its members, James Riley, was invited to conduct experiments with the alloy. His paper on nickel-steel, presented in 1889, marked the initiation of the commercial development of the industry. Between 1884 and 1890 most of the important mines of the district were discovered.


There is a lake at Sudbury, miniature and rather fairylike, and on the lake there is an island, and on the island a charming log house, where, in summer, lives Mrs. John Agnew, whose husband was for many years a director and finally the vice-president and general manager, of International Nickel.

In their Sudbury house Mrs. Agnew was official hostess to many people coming and going to and from the mines. “We had them all,” she said, “from the Crown Prince of Japan to Mr. Edison. They came and looked and questioned, they crossed and recrossed, and many of them went away only to regret it much later. Edison came in 1906 in search of nickel for a new storage battery which he had invented. He brought a party of Yale and Princeton students, equipped with magnetic instruments for the detection of hidden mines. For a long time they explored the hills, and they failed of success only by a hair’s breadth. That is the way it goes.”

The lights of Sudbury gleamed across the small expanse of Ramsay Lake. In winter Mrs. Agnew is far from this scene, but summer on her island recalls to her, and those whom she entertains, the early days of this amazing story of adventure and conquest.


We passed a settlement of Italian and other foreign workers on the way into Copper Cliff next morning. We noticed some of the street cars bore Italian signs. The town was extremely cheerful in the morning light, the very slag heaps glittered like black diamond dust.

On the wall of the office of the Assistant General Manager of International Nickel, Mr. E. A. Collins, hangs a geologic map of the Sudbury nickel area which was made by Dr. A. P. Coleman of Toronto in 1901. We were told that it is one of the most exact and most used geologic maps in the world. What we saw was its beautiful clear, fresh colours, like a rainbow guide to the underground. Mr. Collins took us over the Refinery Plant and the Copper Cliff Club, which is its social centre. Here are all the city appurtenances: dining-rooms, kitchens, swimming pool, bowling alleys, community hall, and a music room where concerts by important professional talent are given during the winter season. In all this the employees of the industry may share at small cost. In the change room, in connection with the Refinery Plant, there are lockers where a workman places his grit-filled clothes at night, and recovers those of the day before all cleaned and ready for him. “His shower awaits him also,” said Mr. Collins, pointing to these modern benefactions. “It is a far cry from early conditions.”

A far cry indeed, what with golf clubs, an artificial ice rink, modern bungalows for workmen and a generous retirement system. We were not surprised to hear that there has never been a strike at Copper Cliff.

Everything here, and at the Creighton and Frood mines, shows the modern industrial genie at his magical best, thriving on the fruits of the rich smoke which poured out of his original urn. About the entire region everything usable is being used for all it is worth, so that wealth is begetting wealth in a tireless act of procreation.

In the Canadian Industries Limited plant, as one instance only, the chemist is transforming part of the sulphur fumes of the giant nickel-copper smelter into sulphuric acid. “This,” we were told, “makes possible our high explosives, fertilizes our lands, activates the starter in our car, plates our silverware, and serves innumerable other purposes and industries.”

To suggest the processes of ore transmutation would be to write a book. The first impression of organized development, here and elsewhere, is one of enormous size and power; of towering shafts, and interiors with all the impressive simplicity of a power plant. Arrived at, say, the Frood mines, one sees gigantic drums gather in and play out steel cables, which slant upward through the lofty ceiling to the shafthead a hundred yards away, where they bend over wheels and plunge vertically into the main shaft. At the end of each steel cable dangles a cage of about the dimensions of the elevators used in city garages. Back in the hoist-house the operator, a mere man, sits on a raised platform before a pair of drums. A bell strikes its message; he pulls a lever; the drums turn—swiftly, perhaps, but they by no means whirl. Yet the cages at the ends of the cables race up and down the shaft at the rate of two thousand feet a minute.

Let others get into one of these cages, the vast underground is not for such as I! But I know that one drops through blackness to a depth greater than the height of the Empire State Building. There are lights showing working levels instead of floors, the walls are often painted white, and as far as the eye can see, tracks and electric ore-cars run through the tunnels leading to the “stopes” where the ore is actually being mined. The very pictures of the Whispering Gallery at the copper refinery, a six-acre room, where the only sound is a faint whisper from the rows of electrolytic tanks where the content of nickel is raised some four degrees, is weird as it is amazing. At first sight this reminds one of a colossal bulb house just planted. But no fragrant, useless flowers are the output of such a laboratory—mineral fortunes blossom here from ground that has waited from time immemorial for the coming of the twentieth century.

It was at Sudbury that the first shake-off of the past occurred. But we should come soon to the edge of another region only a few years behind this one in its emergence. From North Bay, as a starting point, came the opening of the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway, which led to the discovery of the silver deposit at Cobalt in 1903, and indirectly to the great gold deposits at Porcupine in 1909, and to Kirkland Lake in 1912.

These dates and places turn one’s thoughts away from to-day’s perfected machinery to pictures of Northern Ontario, when people looked for gold and found instead a metal that was paler than nickel. “Silver sidewalks,” they call the rock ledges about Cobalt. But for years it was systematically derided and condemned. The ore was decried as surface only, by engineers and geologists who failed to foresee both the values and depths of these lodes and veins. How absurd it all seems to-day! One looks back on barren land or snow fields; on dreary roads over which solitary figures with pick and pack push slowly forward, on snowshoes, or by canoe, toiling towards some unknown goal, content if a year’s hard work brought possibility an inch or so nearer to reality. Pictures of men and huskies; pictures of tiny shafts and abandoned mills, and small spire-like machinery of diamond drills; stories sombre with hardship or glittering with sudden success—they were as actual as this nearer view of an enormous established success. We thought of them as we stopped to look back on the receding town of Sudbury.

Far to the left, up the northern sky, a lone plane was flying. It was probably on the way to Sioux or Hudson, taking supplies into the gold-mining areas of Red Lake—the most active airport on the American continent. It was by its very passage carrying the story of Ontario to its limit. It was a messenger of the new aeroplane towns, and the new pioneers, like Jack Hammell and his associates, who evolved the world’s first aerial prospecting company—for the very practical reason that they were attempting to procure gold a hundred and twenty miles from a railroad.

Through Coniston, Markstay, Hagar, we emerged into fisherman’s land. From Warren, a road leads south into the densely wooded district of the French River—perhaps the best-loved fishing stream on the continent. In a few minutes we are at Sturgeon Falls, the extreme western point of Lake Nipissing. The road here bends towards the lake and we follow the shoreline into North Bay.


North Bay at first glance looks like any other prosperous northern town. Many cars were parked beside the entrance to the Empire Hotel. The rotunda was full of people, the little drug and gift shop was doing a roaring business in Quintuplet souvenirs. But North Bay was no longer quite the town I had known; it had become a suburb of the village of Callander and the hamlet of Corbeil, the home of the Dionne Quintuplets.

The room clerk shook his head: “I am afraid we are all filled up!” Thinking of winter days when I seemed to be practically alone in the hostel, I remarked on the change in affairs. “Say, didn’t you keep those rooms for that Boston party?” cried a voice at my elbow. The clerk turned to a stout lady in knickers. It was high noon and we went hungrily forth in search of food.

The Arcadian Grill was at a fever pitch of excitement; waiters were rushing, dishes were rattling, electric fans were buzzing, and customers were speechless in the uproar, or shrieking at the top of their lungs. Tables were set in wooden cubicles. Opposite us sat a pale, silent man with a vigorous wife and son. “There is no time for pie now, Poppa,” they warned him, “and you should have got that car-spraying done early. You know what time they come out—you know we ought to hurry. . . . Do pay the girl, Junior, and let’s get off!”

A Kentucky colonel with an attractive companion stood waiting to seize the table as Momma, Poppa and Junior hurried away. Instinctively we began to eat faster. A look of annoyance passed over Gerald’s face as I murmured an inquiry as to dessert. “I never take it myself,” he said, “perhaps we should push on!”


We followed the well-worn road to Callander. It is lined with exultant signs: “We are right in the spotlight” . . . “Quints Kabins” . . . “Here, folks, is your camp.” A tourist bus passed us, packed to the brim. It was exactly as we had seen it all in The Country Doctor, but the road was not so crowded as we had expected. Presently we were passing through Callander where, on account of postcard fame, we at once recognized the house of Doctor Dafoe. But the village looked calm and sleepy. “The crowds are exaggerated,” we said, “or this is a day off, or something.”

From Callander, which is ten miles from North Bay, we followed a rather dreary bit of road into the settlement of Corbeil and straight into the midst of the spectacle. No wonder the traffic had been light, for the world had already arrived! It looked like a country fair-day at the great moment before the opening of the circus. Thousands of people were packed together facing a fenced enclosure and the cottage-hospital. To the extreme left we recognized the family residence of the Dionnes, blinds pulled down, and a melancholy verandah, with clothes-line on the left in active service. All around us hundreds of cars were parked, policemen were standing by, and over the hot, unshaded crowd lay a solemn silence.

The appearance was evidently due in a few moments. We wedged our way into what position we could on the outskirts, just behind us was a pavilion with the sign: “Madame Legros and Madame La Belle, midwives to the Quints.” Several local youngsters were doing business with home-made carts to which were harnessed young bull-calves. Into the small carts strong men and women were heaving themselves to be photographed à la Canadienne. It was the only touch of commerce in the scene. Amid tense silence, followed by an ecstatic mass-murmur from the crowd, it became evident that the door of the little hospital had opened. A wave of excitement overtook us, we rushed to the running-board of a motorbus, and over the heads of the people saw five little figures run down a path from the hospital verandah to the fenced enclosure from which, unknown to themselves, they were to be stared at for the next half-hour.

People wilted in the heat as we stood in line waiting to go through the admission gates. Then, two abreast, we were allowed to walk around the high-windowed and white-screened gallery which surrounds the rather pathetic attempt at a garden in which the children play. They were like lovely dolls in sun-dresses of contrasting colour. . . . “I declare, they’re exactly like their pictures! . . . I wish I could tell them apart. . . . Yes, I think I’ll go round again! . . . Mabel was here yesterday. She went round twice. . . . Some people come back next day and go round again. They just can’t get enough of it. . . . Now, Junior, come on, you’ve looked enough. The officer’ll be after you, like last time!”

“Junior!” We looked for our luncheon party. But there were a hundred Juniors here. We wondered how many in the throng were Canadians. A group of Catholic priests were probably native sons, also a large “guided” party from Quebec Province. Here and there one heard an English or a Scottish accent. There were quite as many men as women, and they seemed equally interested. Indeed people were moved by something more than curiosity, that was self-evident. I thought of a little seamstress in an American city who told me that she bought every story featuring the children. She had cut out enough articles and pictures recording their short life to make a good-sized book. “They seem such a sweet interest to me,” she said, “my one ambition is to go and see them—perhaps some day I shall!” It is to her, and her lonely sentimental kind all over the world, that Papa and Mama Dionne have made an especially valuable contribution.

There are many ways to look at this thing, we thought, as we drove slowly back to Callander, apart altogether from the scientific experiment being conducted by Dr. Dafoe and the Ontario Government, the tourist trade to Northern Ontario and the general Canadian advertisement—one little item of the latter being an increase in tourist revenues of between fifty and one hundred million dollars in the summer of 1936 over previous years!

But we were blinded with figures. We had faced so many in the last few days that we refused to let such considerations enter this, the climax of our research as to Ontario’s natural resources. “One thing is certain,” we said to ourselves, “for pure exhibitionism—high trapeze performance—you can’t beat Nature!”

We stopped for a moment at the house of Dr. Dafoe. Callander was now fully alive, and packed with cars from every state in the Union. The shops were buzzing, and there were ladies in the doctor’s garden waiting to be blest. “What’s the good?” we thought, yet rang the bell and sent in our cards.

“Talk of miracles!” we said, when he came smiling in to us. “But you see I know you!” he answered, glancing at his bookshelves. And there, sure enough, standing in a modest little row, we were.

“I suppose you want the story from the beginning?”

Down came great albums of photographs recording this phenomenon from the first hours till the present moment—a history unique in the whole world of medical science. The doctor’s comments were as remarkable as the pictures. They showed a man untouched by the blight of publicity and wise above all things in his knowledge of human nature.

He took us to the garden gate and we left him patiently writing autographs and listening to all the stock questions of American mothers who were waiting on the lawn.


The next morning I was revisiting North Bay, which I know best in winter. Then it lies as hard as an icicle, frost bound, glittering with intense sunlight and covered with snow. Now one could see that, like Peter’s Church, it is founded upon a rock. Here we drove over a smooth asphalt avenue, and there a side street out of which shoulders of granite lift themselves. Lake Nipissing, in winter obliterated by ice, now borders the city with a line of brilliant palpitating blue, and the air is full of a thrilling vitality.

We drove to a favourite spot of mine, that two hundred years ago was the busiest in all Canada. It is a lonely corner of what is now called Champlain Park. We stood on a little mound of grass, and waves of the Nipissing rolled almost to our feet. To the left, and flowing into the lake, is the small stream, La Vosse. A fisherman tinkering with his rod was the only being in sight. Once from three to five hundred canoes used to pass here in a day on their way across the lake to the French River. A mile or so further back is a cairn marking the spot where, on July 26th, 1625, Samuel de Champlain passed on his memorable journey to the Huron country.

We turned and drove up a gradual ascent toward the golf club. At one point there is a splendid view of the bay, the Great Manitou Islands that lie almost on the rim of the city, and the blue hills of Powassan beyond that. People in North Bay will tell you that the Indians about here have a curious dislike of these islands, a fear held over from some long ancestry. An Algonquin tradition runs that the Hurons besieged them on one of the islands until they were on the point of starvation. Then a girl of the tribe made a hole in the ice and dived in, and came back in the form of a sturgeon and fed them all. But though they make an interesting story, these legends in their effect on the natives are not so useful when you need a guide for fishing!

As we drove into the town I noticed an island of rock in the centre of the main street which was filled with flowers. It looked as brilliant as an oriental rug. We were told that it was one of John Richardson’s rock gardens.

North Bay was founded by an enterprising pioneer named John Ferguson, but Mr. Richardson, a successful merchant, has also been part and parcel of its life ever since it came out of the original quicksand and rock some time in the early eighties. He is a great traveller, and wherever he goes he finds in the horticulture of the place he visits something he can adapt to his own town. He was amused that I should want to see his garden. “I have nothing of a show place,” he said, “I just experiment.” We turned into a street that was ringing with the noise of new building. Below on the railroad tracks came the answering sound of train bells and shunting. We found a blaze of colour in the front garden of Mr. Richardson’s house. An artist from Capetown in South Africa was painting the border. The grounds proper are terraced down the hill at the back of the house. As I stood looking down I thought how Canada is dotted with rock gardens laboriously constructed from Halifax to Vancouver, and often they are most inappropriate to the landscape. But this town, built upon a granite shelf, is the appointed place for filling rocks with flowers. Masses of purple echrum, coxcombs of velvety red, foliage plants, nasturtiums, phlox, marigold, foxgloves—they glowed in startling beauty.

Mr. Richardson believes that gardens should have a definite place in the civic schemes of the North. This town is full of foreigners, Italians, Germans and Poles, who are highly susceptible to beauty. They wonder why our towns are so drab. It is expected that North Bay will become more and more an industrial centre as well as a distributing point for lumber camps and mines. “I repeat,” said Mr. Richardson, “that gardens should come into the scheme.”

I thought of Oak Street in North Bay—a long row of little shops and houses facing a narrow green park and the railway tracks. It has been a jumping-off place for many years for people going to and from the north. The MacKay Hotel stood on a corner facing the C.P.R. station, and in the early days it is said that the proprietor used to welcome travellers by swinging a bell in one hand and a flask in the other. Now the centre of interest is the government employment agency. When it opens on winter mornings it is stampeded by a crowd of foreigners who have suddenly appeared from nowhere to pounce on any job in sight. Men overflow the sidewalk, they perch on the park-rail—birds of chance, perhaps, but not loafers. Farming might be the thing for some of them, if farming in this north would allow anybody hope of profit for their venture.

Now the sun was gleaming on the blue bay with its green islands, and on the hills beyond. The trains were shunting, the riveters were hammering, the busy town was murmuring below, and the artist was still painting the border, as we turned to say good-bye.



Mattawa—Pembroke—Renfrew—Arnprior—and the Capital City of Ottawa to the Quebec Border.

As we left North Bay for the Ottawa River Valley, the country opened wide. For some forty-five miles we skirted a series of small lakes on the way to Mattawa, where the Ottawa, which flows with many rapids to the junction of the Mattawa River, begins its long course to the St. Lawrence.

From a hilltop we looked down on the little town of Mattawa. The twin spires of a church rise from a tree-banked foreground, houses lie below, and beyond it we could see the river. The picture was one of shining green and white. The village consists chiefly of the Roman Catholic Church and presbytery, which we had seen from the hill, high on their green bank, a few shops, a soldiers’ memorial and the Hotel Trans-Canada, which announces: “Cuisine Canadien: Repas 50 cents.”

Here, in a dining-room très French-Canadian, complete with fruit-pieces, chromos, and potted artificial palms, we had a most excellent repas. Moreover, we met Madame Blanche Morel, its proprietor, who took us after dinner to her charming house on the river bank, which adjoins the English church and rectory. The hotel is just across the road. We sat by the water until the sunset gilded it all, river, houses, trees and spires, giving it an almost unreal appearance. It had about it the quality of a story-book village, woodland set, when seen thus in the dewy freshness of the evening.


It was with the sense of adventuring into an entirely new landscape that we left Mattawa for the first lap of the long drive down the valley.

“There is,” said Madame Morel, “a bungalow camp, just this side of Chalk River, which is most picturesque—and comfortable beyond a doubt.”

With her benediction, and armed with this valuable recommendation, we set out. Twilight, along this valley road, was indescribably lonely and beautiful. Thick woods of pine, spruce and fir, interspersed with the lighter greens of second-growth forest trees, and sometimes the ghostly white of birches, banked the road to the right. To the left there were occasional glimpses of the river which, from Mattawa on, flows through a deep gorge, in some places a mile wide.

Deux Rivières, a French village, with its two churches and log houses, is beautifully set a little off the highway. We wanted to linger there, and also to find, somewhere in this region, a bungalow in the woods where Madame Louise de Kiriline, the Red Cross nurse, wrote her valuable account of The Quintuplets’ First Year. But the gloaming was upon us, and this Trans-Canada Highway, wide and smooth and straight, our progress unimpeded to-night by any traffic, seemed to hurry us on with the persistent reminder of distance—distance—distance; and also with an unfamiliar sense of being overtaken by dark—for it was as solitary and empty as though it were merely a pioneer forest road. The trees made a majestic wall, as the beam from our headlight caught them, turning them gradually from dusky green to black. “Huge built of old,” they stood. Then in a clearing of the forest to the left we could hear, and dimly see, the river, and glimmering and wavering in golden light, in the far distance, a cloud of fireflies drifting through the trees.

A group of well-costumed Indians, emerging from the wood, was all that we needed to complete the scene—and I assure you that our first question to them, or to anybody else—had we met another person upon that road—would have been an inquiry as to the next gas station! In our journey through Ontario, so far, we had not travelled any road so long and lonely, so soft and beautiful, so without the mark of human habitation—so much the domain of great and majestic forest trees that look as though the century-old theatre of the lumber trade had left them quite unscathed.


But in the electric glare of the first gas station in many miles, we found that we were almost at our destination. We turned off the highway, down a side road and at the river’s edge found several log cabins, with lighted lamps in their low windows, and a hospitable welcome from the manager of the camp and his wife.

By daylight it was evident that we had found a most superior place. At breakfast in the central dining-room, we heard that it is a favourite resort of artists on account of its location, away from the highway and having a glorious view of the river and the Quebec shore from its grove of pines. I shall never forget the scent of the pine trees as we drove up the lane, on leaving the camp for the highway.

At Chalk River a wood carver has set up his wares beside the gasoline station. His carvings of deer and moose did not wildly interest us, any more than his professional eagerness to impart the story of his life, which we felt had been so often offered to tourists—along with the carvings—that it does not bear repeating.

Now we were passing the military camp at Petawawa, which strikes an alien note on this road so long associated with lumber jacks, shanty men and all the century-old tradition of river trade. That ancient trade is now transmuted into modern industrial life, in towns and settlements that have become small centres for factories, tanneries, foundries, flour mills and so on. Nevertheless, they were born out of the lumber trade of the old hardwood forests; they are its living ghosts.

Pembroke, Renfrew’s county town, just ten miles from Petawawa, is one of these industrial centres. Here the Indian River flows into Allumette Lake, and just opposite the town lies the island of Allumette, now a summer resort, to which there is an hourly ferry service. From here one can reach Algonquin Park by Bonnechère River, a distance of only sixty miles. Advertisements of outfitters meet you at every turn.

It is a region of rivers, hence of fishermen and lovers of the most native of all forms of Canadian transportation, the canoe—birch bark or Peterborough. One is always conscious here of these rivers, whose names come into every story of the district; the Bonnechère, the dark and turgid Madawaska, rushing headlong between high banks, the Petawawa, the Mississippi—all great arteries of the ancient lumber trade. I was told a curious fact, however, that the first commercial resource just here was neither lumber nor grain, but potash, a barrel of which was worth thirty dollars in the Montreal market, a fortune to the bushmen of a century ago.

In this region, a few miles to the east of Pembroke, near the shore of Muskrat Lake, an antique astronomical instrument, a flat circular plate of brass with a bar on it, was ploughed up by a farmer in the year 1867. It bore the imprint of Paris, 1603, and on good circumstantial evidence proved to be the famous astrolabe lost by Champlain in 1613 on his disappointing journey up the Ottawa, by which route, led by a French adventurer, one De Vignau, a prince of liars, he had hoped to reach Hudson’s Bay. I have somewhere seen a picture of Champlain, during his explorations in these parts, and of La Salle and other Frenchmen, arriving in God-forsaken places in velvet coats, frilled cuffs, plumed hats and so many other etceteras that I wonder more astrolabes, canoes and human lives were not lost. For activity in velvet must have been difficult, and they certainly had need to comport themselves with agility most of the time.

Renfrew still contains an echo of the old lumber days. Timber is piled up along the water front, and there is something old-fashioned, something reminiscent of provincial English towns, about the curve of its tightly-built sequence of shops. Here and there you find some charming houses of early colonial design, and a few of late Victorian, adorned with fretwork verandahs. Some of the older riverside houses are fascinating, and we liked the quaint gardens. The main street was all agog with farmers in for market, officers from Petawawa, tourists, townspeople and what not. As we stopped at the post office a small, grey-eyed child stepped lightly on the running-board and offered to sing us a song for a cent. He had a perfect crooner technique, in fact his performance was masterly. He was six years old and his ambition he said was the “raddio.” We contributed five cents, which he offered to work out in new numbers. But for us, alas, swift time was pressing.


It was late noon when we arrived at Arnprior, and were led by a happy accident straight to the very person whom it was most important to meet—a connection by marriage with a descendant of “the MacNab of MacNab.”

In 1823 the MacNab came to Canada, the last of one of the oldest families in Scotland. The Jacobite rebellion of 1745 had impaired their fortunes, and so this MacNab undertook a colonizing scheme, similar to that of Colonel Talbot on Lake Erie and Dr. Dunlop on Lake Huron. Four or five miles from the head of the Chats Rapids, which is ten miles south from Arnprior, he made Kennel Lodge—of logs as was Talbot’s Castle of Malahide—and around it his clansmen built their humbler dwellings. The position was magnificent as a lumber depot, and every year he sold immense quantities of fine timber; every year, also, he went in great state to Quebec to meet his settlers arriving from Scotland—among them “many lovely highland girls.” In 1837 he offered his services to Sir Francis Bond Head as the only highland chieftain in America. The early history of the district makes his figure live, as he moved about the province attired in full Highland costume, and attended by a piper going before him and a retinue of henchmen following after.

But the thought had never occurred to us that by any chance, and this was the merest, we should meet at this late date one so directly connected with a half legendary figure. Yet, there we sat, in the dreary little dining-room of the Arnprior Hotel, a commercial traveller, across the table, giving us news of an attempt on the life of King Edward VIII in London that day, while the ruin of Kennel Lodge, down at White Lake, was described to us by one who seemed more remote than a mere century from all the fantastic story of the MacNab. We recalled, over that luncheon, the well-known episode of the chieftain registering in a hotel in Kingston, in his usual grand manner, as “The MacNab,” and a young relative, afterwards Sir Allan, of Hamilton, coming in later and writing his name underneath as “The other MacNab.”

A fine Arnprior house of later date is The Priory, close by the river and surrounded by beautiful grounds. It was here that the late King, George V, stayed during his tour of Canada as Prince of Wales.

We sat on the bank overlooking the river just here, by The Priory, listening to the sound of the water, and to the wind in the great pine trees near by. I thought of many letters, which had come to one no longer here, written by the poet, Charles Mair, about this very spot—unique descriptions of life begun here under arduous, challenging, yet alluring conditions. For Mair was born in Lanark, in the late thirties of the last century, and he knew this river as a pioneer as well as a poet. He has said, describing the lumber trade, which during the early years of Victoria’s reign was one of the most important in the world: “Pictures of this river life haunt an old man’s memory still. I loved it all, the great pineries in winter, where the timber was felled and squared, the ‘drive’ in spring and the rafting-up at Arnprior, the timber being formed into cribs, securely withed and chained, and united into enormous rafts, which were floated to Quebec, to berth at Wolfe’s Cove or Cape Rouge or some other shelter. They were there sold to timber dealers, broken up, and shipped to England in large sailing fleets which came for it twice or thrice a year. The business had its excitements in these swift tributaries. There was peril in jams at unslided chutes, where the timber piled up to great height, and the lock-sticks had to be cut to set the jam going. It was dangerous, sometimes fatal work, but these raftsmen were nimble on timber almost beyond belief. . . . Algonquin camps were frequent along the river, and the Indians would come to the village with fish, and beadwork, which at that time was often very intricate and beautiful. The streets were interesting because of these dark, moccasined people, and the French loggers, Scottish shantymen and other types attracted by the trade.”

“All vanished, but the words of the story,” we thought, “as definitely as the pine masts of Victoria’s ships have vanished into the turbine engines of to-day.” We looked down at an improvised bathing house, from which some children were just emerging. We watched them carefully tying on their water wings.

“You be careful there, Joan and Tom,” called a girl from under her beach umbrella. “There’s no telling how deep that water is. . . . You be careful!”

“Tell us the end of the story of the MacNab,” we asked our Arnprior friend, who had come with us down to the water’s edge.

He told us that he had sold his rights to the government, after some rather tiresome contentions with his clansmen, and after living in Hamilton for a few years, he returned to Scotland to take possession of a small estate left to him in the Orkneys, and died in France in 1860.


If one is keen on tracing the domestic architecture of this province, most interesting examples are to be found from Arnprior straight through to the Quebec border, for the best buildings usually follow the old watercourses.

There was an old settlement of half-pay naval and military officers at South March, on the shores of Lake Deschenes, half-way between Arnprior and Ottawa—but on the old shore road, north of the highway, which was settled about 1818. Large estates were laid out, and the houses equipped with butlers’ pantries, wine cellars and numerous fireplaces such as the owners had been accustomed to in the Old World. The homestead of Mr. H. Pinhey, on this settlement, is a fine example of the period, and was still occupied when I last saw it a few years ago.


From Arnprior the highway bends a little to the south, and we arrive at Richmond before we are again in sight of the river. Richmond is a picturesque village, more than a century old, originally a military settlement founded by officers and men of the 99th Regiment of foot, and named by them for the Duke of Richmond, who was then Governor-General of Canada. The town for many years became associated with the dire fate that overtook him. He was touring through the country en route to Hull, and sent word from Perth that he would visit the village named in his honour. At dinner it was noticed that he was distrait and unlike his usual convivial self. But he left Richmond the next morning and went on to Hull by water. Before reaching the landing place, an insane excitement overtook him, he leaped from the boat and escaped into the woods, to be found in a barn in the last terrible stages of hydrophobia. The ox-drawn wagon sent to escort him was used instead to convey his body to Hull. Some days previously he had been bitten by a pet fox. To this bit of dramatic history the fact should be added that Richmond, now so peaceful, was in its early days a boisterous sort of settlement. It had two famous annual fairs, the occasions of wild brawls between lumbermen and ex-soldiers. We liked the town hall in Richmond.


The city of Ottawa belongs to the river, from it she sprang into being and she decorates it now with her unique beauty. Nothing could be more essentially Canadian than this meeting of rivers, waterfalls, hills, canals, locks, bordering forests and ridges of glorious rock.

The approach from the west, as we now entered by the Richmond Road, is not the most beautiful, for the spirit of the city loses its essential self in a string of ordinary streets. But once you arrive at the centre, at Parliament Hill, you are at the heart of one of the most romantic capital cities in the world.

In 1800 Philemon Wright, an energetic American, came to the older settlement of Hull, across the river, and commenced the development of the lumber trade out of which the early Bytown, now Ottawa, grew. He brought his friends from New England, among whom was one Nicholas Sparks, who liked the look of the high banks on the other side and spent much of his spare time wandering about the wooded hills, shooting partridge, or fishing in the Rideau. Presently he found a natural clearing, or meadow, somewhere south of the street that now bears his name, and decided to build his home on that spot.

The house, built in the first year of the nineteenth century, was the beginning of the life of the settlement. But its importance as a place began, not out of international friendship, but rather from the bitterness which was the aftermath of the Revolutionary War. In fact, the Rideau Canal was a retort on the part of Canada. It was built as a military work by the Royal Engineers, and was intended to be used as a means of getting British gunboats from the St. Lawrence into Lake Ontario without having to travel through the international section on the St. Lawrence above Cornwall, where they could be attacked by guns on the American shore. The Duke of Wellington sponsored the scheme on behalf of the British Government, and the work was conducted by Colonel By. He had his home on what is now Major’s Hill Park, which lies behind the Château Laurier. Below lay what Parkman has called “the glossy river,” Ottawa, the misty Chaudière and the Laurentian Hills. It was a site overlooking also the military camp which was attracting to itself the beginnings of a town. Colonel By here entertained Sir John Franklin, who stopped over in August, 1827, on his way back from one of his expeditions to the Arctic, to lay the cornerstone of the canal locks. The town was called after the Colonel, until in 1854 it was renamed for the river, and had grown so important that Queen Victoria was asked to arbitrate between the claims of this and four rival cities—Quebec, Montreal, Kingston, and Toronto. Before this, the capital had been a movable feast. She chose the dark horse, Ottawa, and sent Edward, the Prince of Wales, to lay the cornerstone of the Parliament Buildings.

Now those buildings stand out in lordly splendour on the promontory jutting out into the river. But for all their Gothic towers and half-century of experience they, along with the lovely town they crown, seem pathetically young against their impressive natural background.

Rideau Hall, the residence of the Governor-General of Canada, links up to these buildings. The original house was built out of the woods surrounding Bytown by a lumber king, Thomas MacKay, who chose an estate of ten thousand acres on a high point where the Rideau and the Ottawa meet. It was a fine Scotch-Canadian structure, built of limestone, two storeys high, standing far on the outskirts of the lumber village. When Bytown became the capital of the Dominion, the MacKay house was leased as its governmental residence, and later bought outright. Change after change crowded quickly upon it.

In 1868, for the coming of Lord Lisgar, a stone wing was added, gardens were laid out, a conservatory was built, and a lodge. For Lord Dufferin, a ballroom was added, with a dais at one end, great chandeliers were hung, oil paintings appeared—one of the still youthful Victoria—and a fine promenade was run the length of the new wing. The Marquis of Lorne and the Princess Louise, who arrived in the eighties, transformed this ballroom, twinkling then in oil lamps that had succeeded candlelight, into a little court. The Stanleys followed royalty. This was an era of change, such as the telephone, and the new gas for lighting, and railroads penetrating into the farthest West. The Aberdeens made earnest reforms. The drawing-rooms were crowded then for meetings which had to do with native industries and the happiness of our domestics. Lord Aberdeen built a chapel and installed an organ.

The Mintos were keen on winter sports, but not being reformers they left the house, and the open-air rinks and toboggan slides, and the quaint pavilion very much as they found them, and did not even put a fireplace into the waitingroom for the skaters, but kept the sensible box stove for heating. It was during this régime that the long reign of Victoria ended and Edward VII came to the throne. Earl Grey built a room that was characteristic of his tastes, it was panelled in dark oak, crowded with books, and lit by splendid windows that let in the romantic outlines of distant, towered Ottawa.

When the Duke and Duchess of Connaught arrived in 1911 the old MacKay house slipped further out of sight under more changes. A noble entrance front arose, crowned by an attic pediment, bearing the largest stone sculpture of the Royal Arms in existence. With her parents a new Princess had come to a newer Canada from that which her Aunt Louise had known. To welcome them, Ottawa said there should be a new Government House, but in 1913 there was tension in the air. In 1914 the Princess Pat was embroidering her colours for the flag of her own regiment. Soldiers were crowding up and down the spotless marble front. Every inch of the house was needed. The Devonshires came like calm after storm, at a time when all sorts of peace plans were drawn up and considered, but none of them happened to touch the life of the old MacKay homestead. Then Lord Byng of Vimy. His wife looked about the gardens and added the one thing which they had lacked, a rock garden. And she did a nobler thing than this—she renovated the kitchens.

Since then the Willingdons, the Bessboroughs, and now the Tweedsmuirs, have added their contribution to the life of Rideau Hall—an old-fashioned place in spite of its new front, a house that any self-respecting realtor would despise, because it has pitifully few tiled bathrooms—indeed not one apiece for guests! . . . A place of curtseying throngs, shifting and turning through the generations, and yet, at heart, a Canadian—a Scotch-Canadian house.


When Thomas MacKay built a second, smaller house, a Scottish lad who was in after years to draw together the floating threads of Confederation had not even arrived in the land of his adoption. Earnscliffe was built on land nearer town, overlooking the Ottawa, and from the Reynolds family, relatives of the MacKays, Sir John A. Macdonald purchased the estate and took up his residence in 1883. On his death, in 1891, the house became the property of Lady Macdonald, upon whom Victoria bestowed the title of the Baroness Macdonald of Earnscliffe. She, on moving to England, leased it to one and another and it was finally purchased by Mrs. Charles Harriss, who, with her husband, the English composer and musician, lived at Earnscliffe for many years. Now it is the residence of the British High Commissioner. I hope that the Macdonald legend lingers at Earnscliffe, as it did during the Harriss régime. Then Sir John Macdonald’s desk still stood in the library; on the wall hung the well-known portrait by Patterson, of which thousands of reproductions were made, and at the entrance to the dining-room were marble busts of Sir John and Lady Macdonald, recalling the famous companion piece of Sir John which is in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.


Following Sussex Street from Rideau Hall and Earnscliffe to the Château Laurier, we pass the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and, across from it, the Royal Mint and the Archives of Canada, containing priceless documents and pictures relating to the history of Canada; documents in the handwriting of early French explorers who made important discoveries in what is now American territory, of French generals who fought on Lake Champlain, of Canadian statesmen and military leaders and ecclesiastics born in the New England colonies who became Loyalist pioneers and helped to build up a new nation of the North.

From every point of view Ottawa is dominated by its Parliament Buildings. Approaching the city by car or train, the Peace Tower catches the eye before anything else is visible. Indeed Parliament Hill, on which these buildings are set, with the Château Laurier flanking them, is the handsome focus for all wanderings in the town.

Wellington Street, which faces Parliament Hill, is full of governmental tradition. The offices of the legations are here, and the Rideau Club, a famous old masculine rendezvous. Here is also the Supreme Court of Canada, and beyond it the new Confederation Building.

Going south along O’Connor Street, one passes the Department of Marine and other government bureaux, and arrives at the National Museum, which contains among other things valuable Indian exhibits and a complete collection of the minerals of Canada; and the National Art Gallery, with a good collection of European, and a better collection of Canadian, pictures.

Crossing the canal, Rideau Street leads to Sandy Hill, overlooking the Rideau and Strathcona Park. Here are the official residences, among them the old home of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the great French-Canadian statesman, now inhabited by Mr. Mackenzie King, the Liberal leader and Prime Minister of Canada.

Westward, along Wellington Street, there is the English Church Cathedral, the Civic Hospital, the National Observatory and the Dominion Experimental Farm.

From here one may almost encircle the town by a system of driveways that is unexcelled in beauty anywhere on the continent. One travels for miles in and about the city over a perfect roadway which is flanked by parks and gardens and miniature lakes.

But there is nothing of model-city precision about Ottawa. One may still hang over the embankment of the old Bytown canal that winds away from Parliament Hill with its century-old suggestion of life that is forgotten to-day. In the rough stone warehouses and dilapidated buildings, the coal sheds and bits of wharfage, there are echoes of old canal trade and the ancient commerce of Bytown, which made it an inland lake port during the early and middle nineteenth century. William Wilfred Campbell, the poet and ardent lover of Ottawa, describing these unpretentious old buildings, says that there lingers about their plain but useful interiors “the memory of the old-time office clerk in his alpaca coat, quaint dignity, and scorn of haste, who wrote in his fine, clerkly hand, with his steel pen, his daily dole of strictly honest accounts. . . . That was an era of the strong and simple hinge and lock, of the closely-mated, well-seasoned and well-wrought panel, and small but picturesque window-pane, with a similar condition in individual character and national and religious outlook. It was an age inimical to anything shoddy, for as all was done by hand the reputation of both master and man was at stake.”

The Parliament Buildings of Ottawa have had a short but chequered history. Built originally between 1859 and 1865, the three buildings remained unchanged for a decade, when the Mackenzie Tower was added to the West Block. In the winter of 1916 the Central Block, with the exception of the beautiful octagonal library of Parliament, was burned to the ground. It was rebuilt on a larger scale, with a higher tower, designed by the famous Scottish-Canadian architect, Dr. John A. Pearson. This is called the Peace Tower. Within hangs the famous carillon of fifty-three bells, and just over the entrance doors is a small memorial chapel, the nation’s tribute to those who died in the war of 1914-18.

The Tower is beautiful by day, but at night, washed by strong floodlights or bathed in the moonlight, it rises from the dark fenestration of the stone with an immortal loveliness. At evening one may see it like this from the Terrace just behind the Château Laurier. The lights of Hull, just across the river, shine on the water, the Chaudière Falls can be heard in the distance. Then the Tower speaks, sprinkling its bell notes upon the air.

Confederation Hall, which centres the Parliament Buildings, unites by a corridor the Senate and the Commons. Centering the great round room is a column of stone. The inscriptions on its base contain in a few words the history of the buildings, and from the cap of the column spring the graceful ribs which support the stone-groined ceiling.

From the mezzanine gallery which encircles the hall there is a closer view, through Gothic tracery, of the expanse of the vaulting branches of the great stone tree, so that at this level we are still under its roof. Entering through wrought-iron gates, flanked by two stone lions, we pass through a stone vaulted corridor to the second gates. We are then at the entrance into the Memorial Chamber, facing its altar stone and the south window of stained glass.

The first impression on entering the Chamber is like that created by a height of snowy trees, through which wan light falls upon the altar. There is something of ancient sacrifice in the contours of this huge block, something of a fairy woodland in the lofty arches surrounding it, something celestial out of our childhood in the appearance of four small kneeling angels with upraised wings on guard at the four corners of the bronze casket which is embedded in the altar. After a time the intricate symbolism wrought in the memorial design begins to unfold, but at first this strange impression of sacrifice under the trees, of natural and supernatural forces at work, persists. Gradually the eye becomes accustomed to the contrast of the ivory-toned stone, black marbles and aqueous-coloured light of windows, and to the frieze of the pedimented arches in the encircling walls.

The stones and marbles are in themselves a story of the sympathy and co-operation of Belgium, France and Great Britain, to which countries the architect made known his design of the memorial. The beautiful Château Gaillard stone, with which the walls of the chamber are lined, came from France. Belgium sent the black marble which was used as the base, and Great Britain sent the altar stone. The floor is paved with stone gathered from the battlefields of France and Belgium. Embedded in it are inlaid plates of brass naming the principal battles in which Canada engaged in France. The centre of the memorial is its altar, where, within the bronze, flag-lined casket, lies the Book of Remembrance, in which are recorded the names of over sixty thousand Canadians who gave their lives in the war.

We went up to the station in the Tower where, from a giant keyboard, bells are rung, or rather played upon by the carillonneur, at certain hours daily.

In Ottawa one day last winter, on a cold glittering afternoon, when the air felt as light as down, I was passing the Rideau Club opposite the Parliament Buildings. Just then the chimes rang out an old French-Canadian folk tune. The brilliant air seemed to swing the tune towards me. I stood stock-still on the pavement. There was the guard at the gate of Parliament Hill in his fur coat and cap and coloured scarf. There was the statue of the young Galahad, bravely surmounting a snowdrift near the gates, and a frostbitten, cheery, energetic-looking crowd of people passing by.

I heard the song of the bells, soaring up into that blue sky again, as we stood here this summer morning, seeing the wide view from all sides of Ottawa and the surrounding country. The small city is set like a little gem in the great country—the rich, still-empty country.

It is nearly sixty miles from Ottawa, over Highway 17 to Hawkesbury. These miles are interspersed with small settlements, and lit by river views, until, at Wendover, the road dips to the south, and we do not see the river again until we arrive at Point L’Orignal. But we have been travelling through the County of Prescott, which is crammed with early Ontario history. We are now in the township of Longueuil, which represents one of the very few grants made during the French régime on the feudal system, within the limits of what is now Ontario. On an ancient map it was marked as the Seigniory of Pointe à l’Orignal. It was owned by Charles Le Moyne, the Baron de Longueuil, elder brother of the famous D’Iberville, and sold, in 1796, to a young American surveyor, a son of Judge Treadwell of Plattsburg, well known in American history. The estate stretched for nine miles along the river, and six miles back. Not being a Loyalist, Treadwell declined, on the outbreak of the war of 1812, to take the oath of allegiance. Upon this his property was confiscated, and when he tried to return to the United States he was held a prisoner at St. John’s in Quebec. Afterwards he settled near Plattsburg, but his mills on the Saranac River were destroyed by a great freshet. Fate bound him to L’Orignal, the Place of the Moose. His son Charles had recovered his estates, and back he came to live and die near his beloved ravine, most precious of his possessions.

And here is the ravine, here is the picturesque old village, L’Orignal! There remains the ruin of a trading post of the North West Company, and there is on the main street a general store, once a well-known hotel, whose French-Canadian owner shows you stone masonry three feet thick, cedar beams, deep windows and ancient fireplace.


Hawkesbury, a few miles further on, is situated on low-lying lands, which in this Eastern section attracted as many French-Canadians as British. Now, by the appearance of houses and people, as well as by wayside signs, we can see that we are nearing the Quebec border. Hawkesbury, which Mr. J. L. Thomas, the local historian of the district, tells us was begun in the fifties of the last century, was, and is still known as, a great milling centre. The Hamilton brothers, of Glasgow, were the first owners. Their mills were situated on an island formed by the Ottawa and one of its branches, the Chenel Ecarté, or Lost Channel, popularly known as Sny Carty or the Sny. Here vast amounts of lumber were manufactured and hundreds of men employed. In fact we are told that during the latter years of the nineteenth century bankers and capitalists in Canada, New York, Boston and far-off London were, in turn, elated or depressed by the result of speculations associated with these Hawkesbury mills.

A matter of some ten miles brings us to the village of Port Fortune dividing Ontario and Quebec. It is a straggling, sleepy little place. Once it caught the percussion of drums along the Mohawk Valley and was one of the most important spots on the Ottawa. The house that dominated it for a century still stands overlooking the river. Its owner, Judge John Macdonell, was the son of the well-known Spanish John, who had been a confidential agent of the Stuart Prince Charlie, and who later came out to the Mohawk Valley and moved to Glengarry with his fellows at the time of the revolution. His son, John, of Port Fortune, was a North West Company man highly successful as a fur trader. The legend of his luck in business, his largesse in hospitality, his famous St. Andrew’s Day banquets, bind the village that he founded with the story of the Glengarry Settlements, for he was one of their men.

The Carillon Dam here stretches across the St. Lawrence, and on the opposite shore is a cairn commemorating the heroic stand of the young French Daulac and his sixteen compatriots against an overwhelming force of Iroquois. It cost their lives but saved the little colony at Ville Marie. Exactly where the tiny fort at the foot of the Long Sault Rapids was, no one can tell. It was lost in the wilderness centuries ago. To me the place is haunted by an old song that I have often heard in the Province of Quebec, containing echoes of an older town:

O Carillon, je te revois encore

Non plus, hélas, comme en ces jours benis. . . .

I do not know why a certain feeling for the sacredness of place comes over me as I enter the Province of Quebec. By train, or car, or steamer it is always the same. . . . To-night there was darkness on the river, bells were ringing from some little church as we threaded our way through Lachine, and the long suburbs of Montreal. High-pitched voices sounded in the twilight across narrow streets as we waited for lights to change, poverty-stricken children darted from alleyways in front of the car, shabby priests and nuns gave a touch of austerity to the streets, out-at-elbows loiterers stood in front of small cafes. Then curves of grim stone walls appeared, and, at long last, the familiar and brilliantly-lit centre of the city.

We said, as we threaded our way through the gay night-streets of midsummer Montreal, that it would never have done to cut down by the usual highway from Hawkesbury to Lancaster which everyone recommends.



Glengarry Settlements—Cornwall—Prescott—Brockville—Thousand Islands—Gananoque and Kingston.

The River St. Lawrence is a sacred stream—one of the rivers of the world which, like the Ganges, was consecrated by religious observance. It was the first highway into an unknown continent. To early explorers, who had come to find the Kingdom of Cathay, it imaged a great dream. As they entered from the sea, a panorama of beauty unfolded before them—bright water, dark islands, purple hills and shining cliffs. The voice of the great blue river, which has a deep strange music of its own, drew them on, and as time progressed small forts gradually arose on the heights, and in the sheltered coves and valleys white villages began to cluster about the parish church.

But that was nearly three centuries before Upper Canada was founded, and later comers were to settle on the river nearer to its source. Here it becomes semi-pastoral to suit the fertile lands through which it flows. But not altogether pastoral. Its descent is broken by many rapids which, until conquered by more or less recent canals, were seriously to impair its usefulness as a highway to the first comers.

These rapids are to be met with at the western gateway of Montreal. We see them as we thread our way through the suburb of Lachine, past St. Anne. Here a little chapel is set up in honour of the patroness saint of the Canadian voyageurs, where they made confession and offered up their vows before starting on dangerous expeditions.

As we leave the environments of Montreal behind us we are driving along the banks of the Soulanges Canal, which we follow for fourteen miles from Cascade Point to Coteau Landing. There is about this broad and quiet path of water, bordering the busy road, a sort of dream element, an unreal effect of painted ships upon a painted sea; of barges utterly becalmed, and of the magic of an unexpected imposition of repose. The processions of freighters move so slowly as to seem motionless, and beyond the long canal the sweep of the river under a fair sky is the blue of turquoise.

But the explorers of to-day are tourists; there are more of them passing up and down this road in a day than Europe sent out as settlers to early Canada in a decade. And do they pause for dreamlike barges passing on a slow canal? Not with a drive to Kingston or Toronto before them, or a favourite camp to reach by early afternoon or evening! Here the celebrated Ontario traffic lives up to its much-advertised reputation; for, after all, the river St. Lawrence is still the Main Street of Canada. And here we are—coming and going in a steady stream; farm trucks, making for Montreal or Cornwall; moving vans; family Fords; slim roadsters; handsome chauffeured limousines, and in increasing numbers the nomads de luxe—the owners and inhabitants of motor trailers, bent on the gipsy life with a thousand dollars’ worth of home comfort hitched to the back of their eight-cylinder cars.

It is said on good authority that three-quarters of a million of these trailers are expected upon the roads of the American continent during the summer of 1938. For the more expensive varieties “land yacht” is the name. We knew the person who was probably the first to experiment in a practical trailer, some twelve years ago. This was Mr. Ralph Connable, now of Buffalo, who at that time lived in Toronto. He had a beautiful little caravan made from his own design and hitched to the back of his Rolls Royce. But it attracted so much attention that its pleasure and usefulness was spoiled for the owner and his family, who finally abandoned it.

But now every kind of home-away-from-home, from genuine gipsy to genuine millionaire, was speeding with us down the great highway.

In all Canada there are no more interesting motor camps and sleeping cabins than these along the St. Lawrence. What charming vistas, from points jutting out into the water, what inviting beaches; and what seclusion these tall pine groves seem to ensure! They look clean, shady, and above all, non-folksy. . . . I should like to sleep for one night with a pine tree over the roof of a cabin, and the sound of the St. Lawrence close by, so close that it could be distinctly heard; but I have never fallen in with a companion who dared to take such chances with comfort.


At Point Beaudette on Lake St. Francis we met the sign: “Welcome to Ontario.”

This is Glengarry, the county settled by the Highlanders, a fact which probably means little to travellers rushing by. But a world of romance lies beneath it, and anyone who knows even the outline story of the coming of these Highlanders will tell you that the eastern corner of the Province is a place apart. The spirit behind its settlement is contained in the words of an old Scottish song:

From the lone shieling of the misty island

Mountains divide us, and a waste of seas—

Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is highland,

And we in dreams behold the Hebrides:

Fair these broad meads—these hoary woods are grand;

But we are exiles from our fathers’ land.

As a matter of fact they exiled themselves, these Highlanders, “Gentlemen of the clan” from Glengarry, Scotland, adherents of Prince Charlie, who migrated to Crown Lands in America. They came at the instigation of that amazing Irish immigrant, afterwards a Mohawk war-chief, American soldier and empire builder, Sir William Johnson, of the Mohawk Valley in the Province of New York. He was Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, with unbounded influence over the tribes. There, in the fruitful valley, his settlers lived a stirring and a distinctly non-Puritan existence. But not for long. When the revolution broke, Sir William Johnson, his followers and his Indians turned King’s men. Sir William distinguished himself at Niagara, where he captured the Fort from the French in 1759. Fifteen years later he died, leaving his son, John, to carry on the title and the military tradition. As war was raging with fury in the Mohawk Valley, the great estates at Johnstown were soon forfeited, and Sir John Johnson, his Indian forces and Highland officers and soldiers migrated to these eastern counties. Many of them settled in Glengarry, Stormont and Dundas: others moved farther west to the Bay of Quinté district.

The British government sent surveyors to lay out the land in lots and townships. Grants were proportioned to the military rank of the settler, and to make sure of a fair distribution papers bearing the numbers of the lots to be granted were placed in a hat, and out of the hat one drew one’s estate!

It was seen that as far as possible members of each corps should have adjoining lands, and that the Catholics should be near their French-Canadian friends at the eastern end. A list of officers shows more gentlemen of one name than it is easy to distinguish. Macdonells abound, as well as Johnsons—in fact, it was an equally famous name. These Macdonells, like the warrior Johnsons, were born leaders. Two of them sat for Glengarry in the first parliament of Upper Canada, another raised the famous Glengarry Regiment of Light Infantry that figured in the war of 1812. There was Judge John, of Port Fortune. Another distinguished member of the clan was a priest. This was Alexander Macdonell, who came from Inverness and brought with him nearly his whole parish, to found in the new Glengarry, at St. Raphael’s, the first Roman Catholic church. This he called the Blue Chapel. He was a great one for inciting his parishioners to a military attitude. It is said that he held that every man of his race should be either a priest or a soldier, and he worked with might and main to raise Highland regiments in Upper Canada.

Thus the United Empire Loyalists appeared—to create a new settlement beside the mighty River St. Lawrence. Everything they accomplished in the process of settling was done in the hardest and most patient way. It was just before the age of practical science. No magical machines ironed out the stubborn bushlands, power as we know it was invisible to their eyes, the modern world was a place not yet conceived. Strong passions and prejudices, hatred of their enemies, remembrance of raids and forays under their leaders, Sir John Johnson and the relentless Colonel John Butler and his Rangers, offset by the natural instincts of fraternity and home-making supported them. With skirl of pipes, with axe and saw and spade and hoe, with wheat-seed and cattle, a horse if one was lucky, and that family friend—the useful, necessary musket—they laid the foundations of this Ontario highway.

Old houses and grist-mills, pioneer churches, fortifications long unused, and little graveyards with stones dating back a century and a half are the visible reminders of the period. They must be sought for, and often with difficulty discovered, by the traveller with an historic sense, for the present generations who inhabit these lively modern towns are generally unaware of the existence of local landmarks. Who can blame them! Quite naturally their interest lies in contacts with new industries, in golf clubs, and community halls donated by the commercial princes of these enterprises, and in the number and excellence of movie theatres. And all the time there are half-hidden treasures to be had for the seeking.


Williamstown is one of these treasures. The little river Aux Raisons leads back to it, by a brief detour from the highway, along a country road. The small town was named for Sir William Johnson by his son, the almost equally famous Sir John, who settled here and built the first house in what is now Ontario, in the year 1784. It stands to-day as sound as ever, its walls of clear white pine logs held together by dowel-pins of hardwood. The original structure, with its deep verandah and four small dormer windows, forms a wing which stretches behind a newer and taller house built by the late Laird McGillis in 1860. It is now owned by Colonel Donald M. Robertson, M.V.O., former commander of the 48th Highlanders of Toronto.

And the oldest Protestant church in Upper Canada—St. Andrew’s—is here. They tell you that the first four rows of pews used to be reserved for Sir Alexander MacKenzie and the Gentlemen Adventurers of the North West Company. Sir Alexander gave the church its bell, whose voice still rings over the little town in memory of the great explorer, the first of white men to cross the Rockies—the man whose name was given to one of the mighty rivers of the world.

Here, too, is the White House, where another distinguished member of the North West Company lived—David Thompson, explorer, expert geographer and map maker.


At Summerstown, at the eastern edge of Lake St. Francis, a cairn by the roadside marks Stonehouse Point, the site of Glengarry House, the home of Lieut.-Colonel John Macdonell, officer in the Highland Royal Emigrants, who built here the first and probably the finest stone house of the region. In it he entertained Governor Simcoe, his wife and retinue on their first visit to the settlements in 1792, when they were piped up the river from Beaudette by Highlanders. Up the hill are the ruins of all that remains—stout walls, still standing, with a great chimney at either end. It is a house that should undoubtedly be reconstructed, in a country which, unlike older lands, has no time or inclination to guard its ruins.

The house of “Cariboo Cameron,” a favourite Canadian character, does remain. It is a turreted mansion, of white brick, with a flat-topped dome, overlooking the river. Cameron was a pioneer in the goldfields of British Columbia, where he made two fortunes. He had married one Sophia Groves, who had faced all sorts of privations with him and died in British Columbia. But he and his wife were Glengarry born, and nothing can illustrate the intense Highland feeling for this strip of New Scotland better than the extraordinary record of Cameron’s burial of his young wife. It sounds like something out of the dark ages. The coffin, set on a heavy toboggan, was drawn by Chilkoot Indians for thirty miles through the canyons of the Fraser to the coast. In Victoria, three caskets of wood, metal and lead, the spaces between the last two filled with alcohol, were prepared for the endless journey of a thousand miles by vessel around the Horn. At Summerstown it had been whispered about that Cameron, who remained in the West, had filled the heavy casket with gold. It was opened, but all that lay about the last and wooden case was the faded colour of a shawl that she had often worn. Her grave is in the cemetery here, and so is that of Cameron, who made a second fabulous fortune, and, alas for true romance, straightway married again!


We have left the lovely Soulanges Canal, and ahead of us, a little west of Courtaulds, the old stone mill at Cornwall looms up. It is symbolic of the days when distances were un-get-over-able facts of life, when farmers carried huge sacks of grain to a water-mill miles away. Cornwall, on account of the shoving of the ice, could not use its water-power, so the windmill was built which, after helping to supply the countryside with flour for many a long day, was turned into a blockhouse and used as a garrison. And here it stands, a strange old picturesque object of solid stone, with its tiny slits of windows, and wooden octagonal top.

Cornwall, first settled by United Empire Loyalists under the name of Johnstown, is one of the most interesting places along the St. Lawrence. In the settlement of its county, Stormont, Germans, English, Irish, and Lowland Scotch mingled with the Celtic Highlanders. And in the earliest days it was headquarters for the government’s distribution of rations and other supplies to the settlers, so it became a centre for general business, with a store or two, a smithy, a tavern, and about 1794, a courthouse and a jail.

This court house and jail still exist, on the corner of Pitt and Water Streets. The grim companions were very important in early history, when there were so many more authentic crimes than there are to-day, and such uncomfortable ways of punishment—such as fastening the prisoner’s feet between the rails of the Justice’s fence, where he sat for hours impaled for all to see; or hoeing the Magistrate’s fields of corn because of petty larceny. The jail was also a debtor’s prison, not altogether unpopular perhaps, because the creditor had to pay five shillings a week for his upkeep in prison, if the debtor was content to stay within its mildewed walls. Out on bail he had to fend for himself.

The jail-end of these old buildings overlooks the Cornwall Canal, an interesting waterway which is best seen from the International Bridge. Here, looking east, there stretches the vast papermill of the Howard Smith Company, showing part of the equipment used in unloading pulpwood and conveying it to the storage piles. To the right the tall chimney of a powerhouse rises into the air, and approaching us comes a stately procession of freighters, steam up, moving importantly towards Lock Eighteen.

The Collegiate Institute of Cornwall is a most attractive long, two-storey building of stone. It is important as a direct descendant of the famous Strachan Grammar School, opened in 1803 by a young Scotsman, John Strachan, a graduate of the University of Aberdeen, who came to Upper Canada at the invitation of Sir Richard Cartwright, as a tutor to his sons. He took orders in the Church of England, and became the rector of that church in Cornwall, and at the same time opened a private school for boys in his own house, and later in a wooden building which was the first of Canada’s Grammar Schools. He had much to do with the framing of the educational policy of Upper Canada, not only by the District Public School Act of 1807, but—a long step further—by inducing an act which provided for the purchase of certain apparatus for the advancement of science, which was unprecedented at the time. Certain ancient pieces are still to be seen in the school, which may be part of the purchases made at this time. So there is a great educational tradition about Cornwall, implanted by this ardent figure whose spiritual resources were so great that they vitalized even this grey dawn of pioneer life with a prophetic light. Strachan was not allowed to stay in Cornwall for long; he was absorbed by the ambitious town of York, where honours were heaped upon him, and his place as master was taken by one of his pupils, John Bethune, afterwards a Doctor of Divinity and Dean of Montreal.

Do not think from all this that Cornwall is a mausoleum of historic sites. Instead it is a wide-awake manufacturing centre. The Courtaulds’ great artificial silk plant looms up on the eastern border of the town, a village in itself, busy from year’s end to year’s end turning pulp into rayon. Seen from the air, this, and other great manufacturing plants, and the International Bridge, stretching here across a narrow neck of water, hold the eye as the main features of the town.

In 1834 the first sod was cut in a canal which was built to overcome the Long Sault Rapids, and for eight years an army of rough navvies, a thousand strong, at work in its making, were the terrors of the countryside. And after all it is now described as just “an overgrown ditch,” along which barges were towed by horses and mules—the mere forerunner of the one of greater importance by the side of which we were now travelling.

It was the regret of our Cornwall friends that they could not entertain us at their modern and up-to-date Cornwallis Hotel, or take us to one of the new picture houses, or show us the remarkable progress of the two Little Theatre groups which are doing such ambitious work.

But I wanted to keep my own recollections of a night in Cornwall, when we stayed at a little French-Canadian hotel whose very name I have forgotten; of the amusing comings and goings in the new beverage room, because the ban of prohibition had just been lifted, and how we sat there, in the early midsummer gloaming, and listened to stories, some of them in broken English, about yesterday and to-day, and afterwards walked about the streets and found things for ourselves, and stood on the bridge and looked down at the Canal—and were happy.


If you are fond of cemeteries, which I am not, there is one of historic interest at St. Andrew’s, a village just five miles north of Cornwall, where are the graves of two men who played a great part in the making of Canada: the Honourable John Sandfield Macdonald, first Premier of Ontario, and Simon Fraser, explorer and discoverer of the river in British Columbia which bears his name. Monuments to their memory stand amid an overgrowth of weeds and brush, surrounded by ancient broken tombstones of hundreds of Canadian pioneers, many of the original inscriptions so weatherbeaten as to be almost unreadable.


The Cornwall Canal extends from the eastern limits of the town, some eleven miles, to Dickinson’s Landing; a tiny village with a romantic past which reads like fiction, and a history dating back as far as 1669—when La Salle founded here a trading post, which assembled about it one of the earliest of Canadian villages. Owing to the fact that portages around the rapids started and ended at the Landing, it was known as “the resting place at the head of the waters.” As time went on it gradually accumulated six taverns to ensure the happiness of the resters. But after the building of the Canal its usefulness dropped away, and it was no longer a resting place.

One of its quaint stories has to do with a village character who became Ontario’s first woman doctor—the famous Granny Hooples. Her people, whose home was at Hooples Creek near by, were killed by Indians, their home was burned and she and her brother carried away. The boy was also killed, but the young girl travelled with the Indians for seven years before the government secured her release. From them she learned the use and value of herbs and roots as medicines, which she used afterwards with uncanny skill and effect. They talk about her still at Dickinson’s Landing.

A few miles farther on is a cannon-guarded granite obelisk, on the north side of the highway, which marks the site of Chrysler’s Farm, and celebrates the repulse, by a band of Canadian and British soldiers in 1813, under Lieut.-Colonel J. W. Morrison, of the rearguard of General Wilkinson’s American force who were marching towards Montreal.

Around the vicinity of Morrisburg a good many Germans settled long ago. Aultsville, near by, still bears their stamp. In a roundabout way they are settled here because of an invitation given two centuries ago to their forefathers in England—Palatine refugees from French persecution of their religious faith—by Mohawk chiefs, visiting at the court of Queen Anne. The year following, three thousand of them sailed for New York, later to serve in Sir John Johnson’s Loyalist regiment, and to come with him to the eastern settlement, where they lived under a kind of military rule.

For most of us the present Morrisburg represents a place of departure to or return from the United States, as it is one of the best of the ferry stations to the other side of the river. From here on, cars will depart for these ferries, or enter the highway, at various places coming and going to and from the American side.

The whole countryside bears evidence and echo of old and happily-forgotten wars. The truth is that nowhere else in Canada are there so many fortifications, small and large, so many stories of raids and battles covering three hundred miles, as on this road from Montreal to Kingston.

We turn to the river, which has now become peaceful and island-studded. Just east of the village of Johnstown, where the Ottawa highway comes down, we read, from a tablet on a wayside cairn, the fact that Isle Royal, or Chimney Island, lies just opposite—the last tragic stand of the French in Canada. Captain Pouchot, placed in charge of the fortification of the island, in order to obstruct the passage of the British down the river, had with him a little company of some three hundred men. But General Amherst was marching east, with an army ten thousand strong. They set up batteries on the mainland, at Adam’s Point, and on Spencer and Drummond Islands, and simply shot down the Fort and its defenders.

On Chimney Island, which is now in the State of New York, there are still some faint signs of this Fort de Levis, outlines of earthworks, and a few stones and boulders that are all sinking gradually into the deep grasses and the giant weeds with which the island is overgrown. Its only inhabitants are wild birds, which rise in clouds from their nesting places when the stray visitor comes to explore what remains of the old fort.

Another of these old reminders is the white lighthouse which we pass just before reaching Prescott. It once did duty as a fortress in an extremely dramatic encounter. It is said to have been built in 1822, by a West Indian merchant, and many years later was converted into a lighthouse. It stands on a grassy point jutting into the river, in a most commanding position. This position attracted one Nicholas Von Schultz, a Pole, who crossed from Ogdensburg, and landed here with a force of two hundred men to help deliver Canada from Britain’s yoke! It was a time when certain secret societies called “Hunters’ Lodges” had been founded by discontented Canadians and Americans, whose object was to establish Republican institutions in Canada. Von Schultz expected to be welcomed as a deliverer, but the people did not flock to his banner. Armed steamers, patrolling the river, made retreat impossible, and land forces hemmed him in. He took refuge in the windmill, which he held for three days until artillery from Kingston opened heavy fire, and he was obliged to surrender, to be tried, with several of his followers, by court-martial at Kingston.

Von Schultz had as his counsel a brilliant young barrister—afterwards the famous Sir John A. Macdonald—who made an impassioned plea for his life, but he was condemned to death, and executed, with nine of his followers.

The one-sided combat is called, rather spectacularly, “The Battle of the Windmill.” It occurred in November, 1838.


A real fortification, and the only one of actual importance between Montreal and Kingston in a state of preservation, is Fort Wellington at the town of Prescott. It remains as it was finally built in 1838, and is the first object to be seen on entering the town as one drives from the east, rising impressively from its green ramparts, with a formidable square wooden cap topping substantial stone walls, and surrounded by a tall palisade. The entrance gateway, a strong stone arch, leads to a central enclosure, or parade-ground, where the fort proper stands. It is a massive old building of three storeys, whose stone walls are pierced with loopholes, crowned with this wooden cap which overhangs the buildings and covers a gallery which contains several trapdoors.

Trapdoors always seem to me to be the last word in mediaevalism. And the caretaker’s wife, whom we drew unwillingly from her living-room radio to show us around, said that they were intended to drop missiles through, or to shoot down, should “the enemy” have scaled the ramparts and reached the walls of the fort.

Having duly visited the barracks, and powder magazine, cannon from England, and lookout points in the gallery, the caretaker’s wife brought us out into the open once more, and pointed across the parade-ground to what looked like a subterranean passage about three feet in width, lined with the heaviest possible stone. This, she said, was the Listening Post—it was all open, and we could go down if we liked. For her part, she returned to the living-room radio.

We descended to the dungeon, and there wandered about in the underground, looking at its roofs of cedar logs, thick walls and loopholes, and wondering how long it would take a good-sized bomb to uncover the retreat in a skirmish of to-day.

Returning to the upper world we went into the log building at the entrance gate, supposedly the original house of a Colonel Jessop, the founder of Prescott, now a museum which contains ancient rifles, a bugle, cannonballs, and Indian stone axes. They all seemed of the same age, and safely dead together.

But, as a matter of fact, Prescott was considered one of the most vulnerable points of American attack at the outbreak of war in 1812, and was fortified as the main defensive base between Kingston and Montreal for half a century. That its identity, records and relics, should be preserved under the care of the Department of the Interior is a proper and most interesting gesture.

I like the sight of the grain elevators bordering the river at Prescott, and the lovely old houses on its back streets. Indeed it is true that one has no idea whatever of the character or meaning of most Ontario towns unless one knows the regions of the interior, away from the main street—which is invariably littered with chain stores, drug stores, banks and cars, and sometimes strung by night with crisscross coloured lights, as though the town had suddenly turned into a mediocre street fair.


The picturesque old stone tower at Maitland, a few miles farther on, has no sinister history, though it marks the region of Pointe au Baril—the theatre of a small military melodrama, which contains many elements of comedy. But the tower was built just late enough in the nineteenth century to escape most of the fights along the riverside. It had a more useful existence; first as a windmill and granary, and then a distilling plant, and remains as a delightful landmark of the highway.

On the bay below the present village of Maitland, years before the tower was built, the French had established a small shipyard and constructed a star-shaped fort for its protection. Here they completed and launched two small ships of war, which were equipped and manned and continued to cruise on Lake Ontario until they were captured by the British. A labelled cairn near by tells the gallant story.


The barques “Iroquoise” and “Outaouaise,” the last French ships of war that navigated lake Ontario, were built on this point, then called Pointe au Baril, and launched on 9th April and 12th April, 1759.

In the river near by, on the 17th August, 1760, the “Outaouaise,” commanded by Captain la Broquerie, was taken after a gallant fight, by five British row-galleys, under Col. George Williamson.

Immediately after this extraordinary feat on the part of the rowboat militia, General Amherst proceeded to dismantle the French fort, La Presentation, where Ogdensburg now stands, and the French removed their men and guns to Isle Royal with what success we have seen. Pointe au Baril fell into decay and ruin. After some years, it was renamed Maitland, and so had a proper British title all ready and waiting for the United Empire Loyalists, a quarter of a century before they arrived.


Between Maitland and Brockville there is a little churchyard at the side of the road where a monument faces the highway, having a bas-relief of a woman’s face under a Quaker bonnet cut on a granite shaft. Under it there is an inscription to the memory of Barbara Heck, the foundress of Methodism in eastern Ontario, which is well worth quotation:

Barbara Heck put her brave soul against the rugged possibilities of the future and under God brought into existence American and Canadian Methodism, and between these her memory will ever form a most hallowed link.

For years I made inquiries hereabouts as to what is called the Blue Church and its founder, and could find only the meagre details that she and her husband, Paul Heck, followers of John Wesley, left Ireland in 1760 to help found the Methodist sect in New York State; and later, in this Township of Augusta, between Prescott and Brockville, began a little class, or mission, with one Samuel Embury, who had crossed with them as leader. Near his home a church was built. Also, that Barbara’s old Bible, with other relics, is now in the possession of Victoria College, at Toronto. Then I chanced upon a delightful little brochure, by Blanche Hume, upon her life. . . . But I still ask myself the question, did she always wear a Quaker bonnet and those coy bangs? And why was the church called Blue—it is the second Blue church along this highway—and can no one in all the countryside recall more intimate stories of her pioneering days, when the prejudice against the new religion must have been terrific in an old Loyalist settlement? What a dominating personality, so to have dwarfed the reputation of Paul, her husband, that her name alone is associated with the church, and that she, not Paul, decorates the highway in her bonnet and cape, on a granite shaft for all the world to see. “If she had lived until the year 1925,” says Miss Hume, “she would have needed an adding machine to help compute the number of her spiritual descendants. For on the day when Canadian Methodism entered into a union with Presbyterians and Congregationalists, merging its identity with The United Church of Canada, Methodists of the Dominion could boast a membership of more than 400,000, and twice as many adherents.”


Presently we were running into Brockville, that charming town at the beginning of the Thousand Islands. Interesting houses line the road with gardens sloping down to the river. As these become smaller and closer set we find ourself on the main street, and stop beside an open market, filled with vegetables and fruits, which is thrown like an honest, loud bouquet between a line of shops.

The courthouse at Brockville overlooks a pleasant, sloping park. It is an imposing building, topped by the large, white figure of a woman who balances scales of justice in one hand, and seems to be groping for something that is not there with the other. I am told that the missing object is a sword. So interesting is the look of this lady, placidly regarding passersby from her height, with the expression of a mid-Victorian aunt, that I was keen about her story. So I went to the Recorder’s office, where they know everything.

“That woman is a personage!” they said, “and her name is Sally Grant.”

It seems that she was created before the court house itself, carved out of wood, in fact, to the tune of thirty-eight English pounds, and she stood about in the square for some time awaiting her official residence as the figure of Justice.

According to the story her christening was performed by one of a group of men gathered in the square. He was a Highlander of unusual height, one of a party of disbanded troops settled in the neighbourhood and known as Big Grant. As the men were joking about the statue, one of them thought she should be named. Many suggestions were made, but Big Grant settled the matter for all time by taking a glass and solemnly christening her “Sally” after his sister in Scotland. And so she has remained.

Did the Scottish Sally Grant ever see her, we wondered, and has a chance descendant ever thundered by on that travelled road, passing, perhaps all unaware, this solemn ancestor in wood and plaster.

The Recorder and Times of Brockville is over a century old, the one surviving institution that links it with the border village of a hundred years ago.

“Picture, if you can,” said its editor, “a typical Upper Canada village of five hundred souls, beginning to assume some importance as an agricultural centre, and a depot for the forwarding of Scottish veterans and their supplies to the military establishment on Perth-on-the-Tay. Then, as now, the principal thoroughfare was the King’s Highway down which,” he said, gazing out of the window at the mad traffic rushing by, “in those days, ox-carts wandered. Along the waterfront were the warehouses and wharves of the different forwarding concerns, at which might be seen the flat-bottomed bateaux that the voyageurs guided up the St. Lawrence with supplies, transferring, here and at Prescott, to schooners and occasional steamboats for Muddy York.”

The story of Brockville’s naming is that of the ambition of several of its early settlers who desired to immortalize themselves. Should it be Williamstown, Buell’s Bay, or Jonesville? When General Brock was appealed to he promptly named it for himself!


We sat that evening on the screened porch of a cottage, built in the grounds of a mansion overhanging the river, where its mistress plays at housekeeping à la petit trianon, leaving the stone castle on top of the rock garden for the summer months. Below us all manner of craft, from the humble D.P. to palatial yachts manned by uniformed crews, pass by. Lights were everywhere quivering on the water, and opposite us the dark shores were only half defined through the gathering twilight. It is a situation which completely obliterates the past.

“The channels of the Thousand Islands have often been compared to the canals of Venice,” murmured our hostess, “I never could see it myself!” And no more could we. For beyond these quiet channels now filled with modern craft, the effect of the distant rapids, exciting and buoyant, holding always the possibility of danger, induces a mood of adventure with nature which never overtakes one in Venice.

No—there is little that is soft or languorous about any part of the St. Lawrence. Its romantic spirit is daring, but never sentimental, and even in this, the most exploited of its territory, something remains which the ambitious summer houses, these “castles of the modern Croesus,” cannot altogether destroy. Some of the castles are pretty awful, many of the architected islands have been made into freaks and show-places, about which the announcers on the motorboats that excursion about the islands twice a day all summer (Sunday is probably excepted as this is Ontario) are especially enthusiastic. But lovely channels remain, and through whiffs of gasoline you can still obtain whiffs of pine-scented air.

Passing through the summer colonies one does get a glorious view of Chimney Island, with Grenadier and Tar Islands to the right, and a sensation of momentary solitude in Fiddler’s Elbow, Landon’s Rift, Whirlpool Channel and Lost Channel.

There is also the island called Zavikon—for what reason I heard but have forgotten—on the Canadian side, connected with an American island by what is called “the smallest international bridge in the world.” There is the famous Boldt Castle, a replica of one on the Rhine, on which an owner of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City spent a million in money and ten years in building and abandoned on the death of his wife. . . . But there are forty miles to tour, in and out of these islands, and to mention many of them by name would be impossible.

In the very early summer, before a single tourist arrives, and the houses are undecorated by flags, diving boards and human beings in bathing suits, it must be incredibly lovely. Though at all seasons, we who know it well are conscious of certain reflections of the past; Indians in their canoes—the one type of river craft most suited to these waters—Red-coats in their bateaux—Amherst with his ten thousand soldiers threading the maze of islands towards the capture of Montreal—and lesser forays between British and French, Canadians and Americans.

These dim pictures possess a certain finality, as though they had been painted on memory so long ago that they are in the permanent collection of the river’s gallery. Photographs of the grand new houses can never displace them, nor can the tooting of motor boats, the sirens of steamers, the purring voice of private yachts. But the stream itself, binding both shores together in its silver course, is a portent of the permanence of new-world civilization. Freshness and speed and beauty—the path to the sea reached by different routes, but here for a moment our mutual ground—one of a thousand reasons for our friendship.


New created like Venus from the waves, after our water picnic among the islands, we resumed the rigours of the road.

Gananoque is a place of interesting inns. One bears the charming name of The Golden Apple, another is Blinkbonnie, an old house set on the banks of the river. It is really the historic house of the town, having stood there since the eighteenth century, when it was built by Colonel Joel Stone, United Empire Loyalist, and founder of the town. It has always been a hospitable house. We sat one day in its garden and heard something of the naive annals of its beginnings, while about us parties of motorists were hurrying through luncheon, giving a cursory look about the garden, and off to the waiting cars.

Just beyond the town there is a waterfall of the river from which it takes its name. The Indians called the place “Rocks in Deep Water.” Joel Stone, of Connecticut, was charmed with the little cascade and the situation to which the river led him at its entrance to the St. Lawrence. He applied for a grant of land, opened a store and began a lumber business. Enterprise was his name. He made a trek by foot to the settlement of Brantford to follow up his written proposal of marriage to a widow whom he had formerly known in Connecticut. The widow, as Mrs. Stone, became the leading spirit, as well as the Lady Bountiful, of the whole neighbourhood. The transactions of the United Empire Loyalist Association have given her a well-deserved place in the intimate history of the countryside.

During a minor attack on the settlement by our American friends, in 1812, her husband being away, she barricaded her house and boldly directed its defence—not even when a chance shot wounded her in the thigh did she show signs of quailing! . . . Furthermore, at Christmas she sent around a wagon-load of food to those less fortunate than herself, and on New Year’s Day entertained the Indians far and wide, and though a good Methodist, provided her guests not only with cake, but with rum, and plenty of it. There is no doubt that the place to read, or hear, the record of a lady’s life—especially if she lived a century ago—is in her own garden! There was the item about Mrs. Stone’s husband, Joel, who, not to be outdone in good works, also joined the Methodists. As a Justice of Peace he is said to have had a real influence with drunken husbands, and in his performance of the ceremony of marriage his adaptability found play in providing, or suggesting, a blacksmith’s doorkey when there was no ring forthcoming. We thought of these weighty emblems as we unlocked, with a feather’s weight of metal, our trusty Ford.

At this town we are midway between Montreal and Toronto. It is a perfect place to stop for a meal, so every inn was seething with tourists. . . . Strange how we despise one another! . . . Anyway, we escaped for a moment to our favourite back streets, and there saw some fine old gardens. There was one in particular over whose low stone walls stood clumps of madonna lilies flinging soft clouds of perfume on the air. Gananoque always seems to me so characteristic of itself and of its Indian name, with its short main street, and its two-storey buildings along the Gananoque River. We left it reluctantly for an afternoon engagement at Kingston.


We were nearly late for this engagement because of Gerald’s infatuation for second-hand shops. We could write another book on the second-hand shops of Ontario. They are very different places from antique shops, for here is the genuine, native cast-off; and no cleaning, polishing or camouflaging about it. You see your old chair, standing in the dust of some corner, on its poor tottering legs—one of which may be of basely-added ignoble pine, and if you look with favour upon its history, size and shape you can do surgical work with matched walnut or mahogany, as the case may be, and for the rest of your life cherish it the more for the secret operation. And the owners and proprietors of these stores! How full of native sap are they! They glide not among their polished wares, full of knowledge and concern for the customer, as the antique dealers do, but approach from some back region—there is never anyone in the shop when you enter—with a surly, don’t-disturb-me expression, and a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum when you begin to bargain.

There is a technique in dealing with these people, of which my friend, Gerald, is a past master. I have known him to go into a shop, almost penniless you might say, and, with anything but a conciliatory opening on either side, depart with the dirtiest, most valueless coal-oil lamp, which when cleaned, bronzed and electrified, is a gem; with filthy mugs, which turn out to be pewter; with garden urns that break the springs of the car; with china ornaments that are afterwards wedding presents—and all on account of the intelligent co-operation of mind and will in argument, and a few dollars.

We now spent much time in running in and out and comparing notes on a promising row of these shops, as we entered Kingston, finally filching a once-silver épergne that must have belonged to an extremely noble family of the district, from an indignant proprietor for fully ten cents less than its original price.

I stood on pins and needles while the bargain was going forward, knowing full well that tea in Kingston waits for no man. But the look of utter satisfaction on the face of a companion should be the reward of genuine friendship.

“If I could just wash a few of these cobwebs and spiders off my hands, all would be well,” said Gerald, “for this is going to be a treasure when I get through with it!”

On entering Kingston we had passed the gloomy gates of the Penitentiary and its environs and this, culminating a little later in the heated exchange of words, not to speak of the sinister gestures, that had passed between the second-hand dealer and my usually amiable associate, made one glad enough that upon frantic inquiries by telephone from the hotel it turned out to be a late evening dinner rather than tea to which we were invited.


No matter how often one returns to it, the fascination of this grey fortress-like town remains. In texture it is grey, but there is a flash of crimson about it. At any moment you may see a Gentleman Cadet, with his cape upon his arm and his cane in his hand, alone or with a group of companions, enlivening the prim streets with a great sense of youth. Motors rush through what is now a public highway, but the stamp of horses, the champ of bridles, the tramp of soldiers suits Kingston best.

To overload the place with historic detail, of which there is plenty to be found on every hand, would be to swamp its true outlines. For myself I like to remember it as I saw it first from the water, passing long ago on the way to Montreal, when it looked mirage-like in the light of an early summer morning, in tones as grey as mother-of-pearl; a grey that includes violet and blue, and the green of the lake as the sun strikes it.

Needless to say, its strategic position, at the mouth of the Cataraqui River, the spot where Lake Ontario emerges into the beginning of the St. Lawrence, attracted the early attention of the French explorers, Frontenac and La Salle. Two little forts arose, the first of logs, erected by Frontenac, the second, La Salle’s, of stone. He received a grant of land at this place, and it continued to be a French post until captured and demolished by the English General Bradstreet. In 1784 the inevitable Loyalists arrived, and shortly after, General Simcoe took the oath of government, in a tiny church that stood on the present site of the Whig office. Later a band of Mississauga Indians, decked in war paint, danced before him to the music of native drums.

A new town was laid out on the site of the original Fort Frontenac, known as Tête de Pont, with a Military Barracks, Court of Assize, a whipping-post, stocks and a flour-mill. And also, two years later, a school, opened by Dr. John Stuart.

During the war of 1812 the American fleet suddenly appeared off the Upper Gap, and shots were interchanged with the shore. But Kingston remained unhurt. Her fortifications were growing. At this time appeared those fascinating blockhouses, of which only one remains. They constituted a cordon of defence around the town and were connected by a high stockade. They were all of the same pattern; two storeys high, the upper storey slightly projecting, and were armed with cannon.

This was the military centre for Upper Canada, and possessed a garrison, a resident commandant, and a leisured class of military officers and their families. There are records of a large, wooden Government House and a theatre, of balls and parties, of “coloured gauzes and laces,” of “Waterloo sarcenets” and “Wellington bombazines.” Horse-racing became a favourite amusement with the officers, and at the entertainments which followed “the loyal dames of Kingston” would appear in brilliant dresses with threads of silver forming the motto “God Save the King.”

The original St. George’s Cathedral, begun in 1794, is described as “a long blue building with square windows and a little cupola or steeple for a bell, like a thing on a brewery, placed at the wrong end of the building.” The first church on the present site was begun in 1825, afterwards enlarged, destroyed by fire in 1898, and rebuilt with only the stone pillars on the southern façade belonging to the original building. In the vault of the church Lord Sydenham was buried, and a tablet in the present cathedral commemorates him. In the Cadets’ Gallery, a great flag is covered with stars for the fallen in the war of 1914. Laughing faces of boys arise—vanished in the very cause of freedom that lured their forefathers to this spot.

From her absorption in military and political power, for in the year 1841 she became the temporary seat of government for Upper and Lower Canada, the real life of Kingston turned to educational institutions. They began early with a little school opened in 1786 by Dr. John Stuart, who was succeeded a few years later by Mr. Strachan. As a garrison town and naval station for gunboats of the lakes, it served as a training place for lads of the surrounding countryside who were to become its future soldiers. To-day the Royal Military College draws youth from all over Canada. It stands just below the site of the original Fort Frontenac and the Military Barracks known as Tête du Pont. Up a winding road, flanked by stone retaining walls, one passes under an archway in memory of cadets fallen in the war of 1914-1918.

The chief glory of Kingston is Queen’s University, impressive in the dignity and beauty of its limestone halls. Incorporated in 1841, Queen’s struggle for existence was truly heroic. Not only was the college in desperate financial need, but all suitable buildings had been taken over for administrative purposes by the union government of the two Canadas. The first classes were conducted in a small frame building on Colborne Street, and the first Principal was Campbell of Aberdeen. It is interesting to note that ninety-five years later Queen’s gave a Principal to Aberdeen. John Macnaughton, of Aberdeen, James Cappon and John Watson, of Glasgow, these and others established the Scottish character of Queen’s which still persists, in the quality of its teaching, the clan spirit among its graduates, and even in the war cry of its astonishing Gaelic yell. Above all there broods the spirit of Principal Grant. George Munro Grant of Pictou, N.S., and Glasgow University, accompanied Sir Sanford Fleming on his survey of the C.P.R. westward to the Pacific, and published Ocean to Ocean as a memorial of that adventure, a truly epoch-making book. Grant shortly afterward become Principal of Queen’s, and years later Fleming was elected Chancellor of the University.

The system of Martello Towers, which guard the harbour and city, are patterned after those of the sixteenth century in Europe, and were begun nearly three decades after the blockhouses. They are only a century old, but look as if they have been there for ever, and are a distinctive and beautiful feature of the town. The lovely Shoal Tower, in the harbour, stands with its feet in the blue waters of the lake, a quaint remembrance from the past. So also Murray Tower, in Macdonald Park, where stands the statue to that great son of Kingston, Sir John A. Macdonald.

There are more interesting old houses here than anywhere except in the city of Quebec. One goes about the streets wondering who lived here and there, for the atmosphere awakens interest and curiosity. Old French families, British officers, men of letters, and politicians have dwelt in this ancient seigniory of Cataraqui, and traces of them persist.

Alwington House echoes the French period, and was built by the fourth Baron Le Moyne, which links it with the ancestral fortress castle at Longueuil, and with another Alwington Manor on the Saint John River in New Brunswick. It was the residence of three Governors-General. To two of them it was an ill-fated house. Near its gates, Lord Sydenham’s horse swerved and he died as a result of the fall. Sir Charles Bagot, who succeeded him, also died here. He was followed by Sir Charles Metcalfe, who resided there until the seat of government was moved to Montreal.

The Longueuil estate proper was on Wolfe Island, opposite Kingston, which lies like a gold-green shoal at the point where the St. Lawrence flows out of Lake Ontario. This island was an Indian haunt centuries ago. Dark faces had peered out at stray white men who came up and down the river even before Frontenac built his wooden fort. France and England both craved its fertile meadow lands, hence Wolfe’s name for the old French holding.

Carolina Grant, Baroness de Longueuil, lived here for years in a small house which is now used as a summer cottage. Her daughter, who had married an Irish clergyman named Allen, built Ardath, a lovely limestone house, going almost sheer down to the water. People remember it in its zenith as a dream of beauty with terraced gardens, and great hearth fires in winter where men of letters travelling this way always received a welcome. The son of the house was the well-known novelist, Grant Allen.

On Rideau Street East, stands the house in which Sir John A. Macdonald spent most of his boyhood; and nearly opposite, across the river, is the little abode once occupied by Molly Brant, the sister of the Mohawk chief, and last wife of Sir William Johnson. And there is the house where Tom Moore, who wrote the well-known Canadian Boat Song, lodged, and where Charles Sangster, the poet lived. The rectory of Dr. John Stuart is linked with the story of Dundurn, the home of Sir Allan MacNab, by the marriage of a daughter; with the manor house of the de Gaspés at St. Jean Port Joli, in Quebec Province; and with many families who are vital to the life of Canada.

In 1870 the late Sir Richard Cartwright built a summer residence on the site of an old grant given to his grandfather by George III for service to the State. Hundreds of men were employed by Sir Richard to turn it into a small estate.

The lover of literary reminiscence will seek out the remains of an ancient cemetery at the end of Clergy Street where was buried an officer of the British army, a brother of Felicia Hemans, the English poetess. In 1825 she writes in “Graves of a Household”:

One midst the forests of the west

  By a dark stream is laid;

The Indian knows his place of rest,

  Far in the cedar’s shade.

In The Story of Old Kingston, written by the Reverend John Machar, second Principal of Queen’s University, he refers to the first Canadian novel published in the English language as St. Ursula’s Convent, or the Nun of Canada. It was written by Mrs. George Hart, and published in Kingston in 1824.

To-day upspringing shafts of elevators, smoking chimneys and pointed spires dominate the grey batteries and the sixteenth century towers, and because country roads have now become crowded highways Kingston has lost a certain seclusion that it had when the main lines of railway used only to skirt it, leaving a little stub line to carry passengers in from Kingston Junction. To-day it is very much on the beaten track. But I do not think that it will ever become either an industrial centre or a convention city. I hope not. For in spite of the fact that people go there to be trained into new ways of thought and life, the place itself looks more unchanged and unchanging than any other Canadian city that I know, except perhaps Quebec.



Collin’s Bay, Bath and Adolphustown—Prince Edward County—Belleville—Cobourg—Port Hope—and on to Toronto.

At Kingston one may leave the main highway, No. 2, and travel west on a charming old road which skirts the northern shores of the Bay of Quinté to the bridge at Belleville, or to the old Indian Carrying Place, at the neck of land which leads up to Trenton.

All of this St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario route is a region known to most people as a part of the “old” province, but of this old section there are two Ontarios: the country so named after Confederation, with its early settlements, growing railroads, vanishing forests; and the country that went before—a wilderness that in detached sections blossomed into farms and far-apart dwellings, small churches, and acres of savagery held at arm’s length by generations of pioneer fences.

I should like to make an Ontario map marking not only rivers, hills, roads and towns, but farmhouses, barns, schools, old mills—and around it I would write the story of disappearing fences. Dramatic is the history of these fences.

First the stump fence, made not only for property protection, but for the purpose of clearing the land. It was hastily thrown together from the roots of trees, felled rapidly in the depths of the bushland. These fences were built out of the bodies of giants, they were naked, primitive barricades, they made a sinister line through the new country, they looked as though they were protesting always against their sudden fate. Only in summer when wild roses caught them, or in autumn when their spectral socket-holes made a place for vines and goldenrod, did they appear to be momentarily at peace. Yet they were doing more than guarding pasture fields and fields of grain. They were making a protection for the seedlings that were springing up in the wake of agriculture.

By the time that the seedlings had become small trees, some of the bushland of Ontario had been cleared, and rails were taking the place of stumps. Because these were made zigzag they were called “snake” fences, and they appeared in greater numbers than their predecessors, because there were more men now at work, and there were teams to draw the rails. In sandy tracts the rails were made of pine, in other sections of logs, but that was a different thing altogether.

And then occurred an interesting if scattered experiment, when small groups of stone-builders appeared in Ontario. These people were small English and Scottish stonemasons, looking for work and adventure in a new land. In the early spring they would come tramping along the roads, a man with his wife and children, and a helper or two that he had gathered in, and sometimes a cow or a pig followed them along. Having made a satisfactory bargain with a farmer, the labourers would settle down in an outhouse, or a cabin quickly constructed.

Then, through the long summer days, the low grey wall would rise. The stones for its construction were easily collected, and when piles of them were gathered at long distances apart the farmer sometimes lent a team of oxen to draw a load of them through the dusty road, or, during the harvest season, in the pale moonlight of August nights. Four or five feet high rose the fences, made often in only two layers of stone, with a mixture of smaller stones laid one upon the other.


This quaint church commemorates Loyalist patriots by a border of porcelain plaques which encircles its walls.

Such stalwart walls made the floating seeds of future trees secure. Even in this age of wire some few of these heroic fences remain. And when the stumps and the rails were torn away, because it is easier to buy a roll of wire than it is to cut timber, rows of stately elm or maple or pine trees, and sometimes a hedge of evergreen or hawthorn remain to bear witness to the first friendly fences.

As for the surplus of stone, in these days where stone walls and piles of stone are within a convenient hauling distance of new highways, it is gradually being devoured by stone-crushers for road-making.


This is farmers’ country and Loyalist land which we enter as we drive along the old coach road to Bath, hence to Adolphustown and the half-island of Prince Edward County. The road is one of the first, if not the first, of any importance built in the province, for when the original mail route from Kingston to York was laid out, Bath was considered too important to be ignored. The road was begun in 1798 under government contract with an American contractor, Isa Danforth, who had his headquarters at Finkle’s Tavern in Bath. It was known as Danforth Road; a long street which leads in and out of an eastern approach to Toronto still bears his name.

At Collin’s Bay, just outside of Kingston, with its sinister frontier of prisons from which convicts may be seen at work, we come upon the oldest and loveliest of all the Loyalist houses in Ontario—The White House—the home of the Fairfield family for five generations. There is something of the South about the place, white painted, vine-hung, not at all venerable in appearance in spite of the fact that it is the first two-storey house and the oldest of its size in Ontario still retained by the family who built it.

The Fairfields, of English descent, came up from Vermont with the Michael Grass expedition of Loyalists. They brought with them negro slaves, and lived in log huts until they could build the “big house.” Months were spent in its erection. Its thick brick walls, the deep basement and huge chimneys were protected by wood. The wide centre hall and winding staircase lead up to bedrooms and also to a ballroom with a secret panel over the mantel. When at last, in 1793, the house was completed the Loyalists, as I heard from a great-granddaughter of the family, came from far and near over the corduroy roads or through the forest to a housewarming where wine flowed like water and great roasts were cooked before the huge fireplace.

Out in the lake lie the Three Brother Islands, named after members of the Fairfield family.

A few miles further on is Bath, which belongs in essence to a period which one can imagine an historian referring to as daguerreotype. Yes, Bath is a daguerreotype village. It should be framed in faded crimson velvet. I am almost afraid to let the light shine on it lest it fade away before our eyes. There is nothing like it in Ontario, though it might easily exist in Mississippi or Alabama. The wooden buildings have two-storey pillared verandahs, the post office, the shoe store and the bakery dwell together in separate compartments under one sheltered, verandahed roof. The tiny street is wide, and so short that a motor can flash through in a moment. But I am sorry for the motorist who could bear to do so!

On the side streets the buildings are even more interesting than on the front. Here is another Fairfield house—that of William, Jr., whose father built at Collin’s Bay. It is in a perfect state of repair. Others are in the last stage of decay. St. John’s Church, which stood for over a hundred and thirty years, was lately burned and has been rebuilt after the old model. It contains a stained-glass window to the Fairfield family. A curious phenomenon is a whitewashed frame house with dormer window in the roof decorated with fretwork, and pointed clerical glass window-panes inset. Ordinary glass is used on the ground floor. It was built for a small religious denomination and passed in time to a doctor who willed the upper floor to the Anglicans, to serve as their church, and the lower floor to the Presbyterians, who had none at the time.

The only thing left of the famous Finkle Tavern, the first one on the old coach road, is a small kitchen which survives as a hen-house. The original stonework of the old building now supports a new house. On the shoreline stood Finkle’s shipyard, where was launched the Frontenac, the first steamer to run on Lake Ontario. A cairn by the roadside commemorates its launching in 1816. The Tavern was also the courthouse, where on occasion the savage cruelty of early justice found play—for instance the hanging of a man suspected of stealing a watch from a pedlar, the pedlar later turning up, much too late, to acquit the dead man!

The court moved to a schoolhouse and finally retired to another town without affecting the prosperity of Bath, which was, next to Kingston, the busiest shipping-port on the lake. But in 1855 the incoming railroad surprisingly swung its line some miles to the north. It was said that a magnate of the town “didn’t want no railroad in to spoil his grain-shipping.” Gradually fewer wagons came rumbling down to the wharf to meet fewer cargo steamers. Silence began to fall upon the village, and it has grown thicker and thicker ever since. Someone has written of the original English Bath, for which this one was named, that “as long as you can keep awake you may survive”—I am sure that the saying applies here.

But let me tell you that Bath is only in a light drowse compared with the trance-like state of Adolphustown, which we encountered some fourteen miles west. The name and the history of the landing place of the Loyalists had always intrigued me. I expected something rather pompous and ancient, but all we saw was a new stone church, a stark and shuttered old one, a small frame building which we were told was the town hall and a rather amusing old parish hall, complete with a rear gallery and low platform with watermelon-pink curtains over square windows at the back of the platform. The church of St. Alban the Martyr commemorates many important Loyalist patriots by an imposing band of porcelain plaques which encircles the walls of the church. These four buildings, several houses and a refreshment booth comprise the present Adolphustown, and I blame no motorist for flashing through, for all that is interesting here must be conjured out of history long past. The landing of the Loyalists over in that cove is the first chapter, and the old burying ground, with lettered names crumbling into dust on its stones, is the last.

The swarthy Dutchman, Major Van Alstine, with his company of refugees, was the first to arrive. Shortly afterwards a court of Common Pleas was set up and met in an early barn. The first buildings were begun, and the township was named for Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, tenth son of George III.

We got more of the feeling of these early days as we turned north from Adolphustown to the region of Hay Bay. We found upon its shores the earliest Methodist mission church in Canada. It is a square, wooden building, standing fortress-like on its grassy bank. The entrance is locked, the windows are sealed and shuttered. Over the plain, porchless door is an inscription on a wooden slab showing that it was built by the Reverend William Losee. Facing it stands a monument to Paul and Solomon Huff, 1791-92, erected by the Huff Family Association. These were members of a prominent family who supported Losee. Here the first camp-meeting ever held on these shores took place. Near by is a monument to Sir John A. Macdonald.

The waters of Hay Bay rippled blue in the sunlight, the fields were perfumed with clover and hay, Baltimore orioles flashed through the trees. There was not a soul in sight. But a hundred years ago people came from all over the countryside, by ox-cart and in their bateaux filled with provisions as well as passengers, filled with the excitement of the coming religious picnic. It was a peaceful summer scene, but wintry thoughts will obtrude. We could not help picturing the contours of this mission church during a February blizzard. As we drove back to Adolphustown an old woman with a dark shawl over her head, and a staff in her hand, came slowly along the road. Her eyes were on the ground. We slowed the car to a standstill, but she did not even look up as she passed by. Extreme old age was in her walk, she fitted in to the silence of the country road, something about her symbolized a part which was gallantly played in the early days.


At the ferry-landing for Prince Edward County a group of cars was waiting. We got into line and were soon floating over to Glenora, a village which lies at the foot of Macauley Mountain. Far to our right stretched a beautiful dark cape jutting into the bay. Directly in front of us lay a high ridge of land, through whose summit of dense trees a tiny steeple pointed upwards, at whose base clustered what looked, in distance, like a jumbled, irregular mass of stonework. On landing, this masonry disentangled itself into several buildings which turned out to be a fish hatchery (in process of hatching) a charming old grist mill, long abandoned, and next to it a stone house also deserted. Some huge iron pipes led down the hill towards the grist mill, which we are told was owned or leased by the Macdonald whose son was Sir John A., and we knew that hidden from us on the summit lay what the folders call “a curious, clear formation”—the Lake of the Mountain.

Seen at close range the first road to the summit appeared extremely precipitous. We drove through the village and found an easier ascent. We were enchanted with what we discovered—a little world on the top of the mountain. Here was a small church, a water tower, a stone building with wide French windows, which was being made over into a shop, an ancient house with a garden enclosed by an old-fashioned iron fence, lilac hedges flanking the turn of the hill on which the house was set, and the clear, circular lake, mysterious in its origin, lying there like one of those round, gilt-framed mirrors—only this frame was green. We lunched on the edge of a marvellous view, and afterwards drove along a country road, bordered by farmlands, still on the top of the world. Then we dipped down to the shore and drove through the village of Glenora to Picton, the county town.

The French called this country Presqu’Isle de Quinté—the “almost-island” of the lovely bay. And it seemed to us that Picton sounded one note, the perennial note of nature at its most productive; for through every season of the year the products of nature signify the chief industries of the region. The orchards, less talked of than those of Niagara, are at blossom time quite as beautiful, and the countryside is more picturesque. In autumn thousands of barrels of apples are lifted by steamers at bay ports for Montreal, thence to Great Britain and Belgium. Added to this is the enormous canning industry which the wealth of these farms and orchards has created. It seems incredible that the comparatively small county should possess sixty-five factories for the manufacturing of canned goods. A remarkable factor is that to-day the major part of these goods is transferred by water. The Picton harbour, therefore, sees great freighters coming and going until late autumn to carry the produce of its factories to all parts of the world. With this as intensive background it is remarkable that the town of Picton leaves in the mind such an impression of leisure as well as beauty.

Picton celebrated during the summer of 1937 its hundredth anniversary. But years count little here. One is in another world. There is a sense of timelessness about the region, a tranquillity that belongs in a peculiar way to islands where for a long time people have been more or less indifferent to the changing tempo of the outer world. The sweet old houses of Picton, along the shore road and in the town, heightened this impression. Castle Villeneuve is one of the oldest and most interesting of these houses. It was built by Phillip Low, Esqre, a barrister of the early years, and remained for long in the Low family. Its life flourished in the days of great parties, when balls were conducted in private houses instead of in hotels. The ballroom of Castle Villeneuve is decorated with murals painted by an English artist brought over to decorate the rooms. Elaborate cornices and marble mantels also remain. For a time the fine old place became a summer hotel, but has now been reclaimed and is privately owned. Rickarton Castle, a short distance along the shore road, a grey-stone towered mansion, is the residence of Brigadier-General Bernard R. Hepburn. Less striking but more typical of early building are some of the colonial houses, of which a score could be noted in this century-old town.

From Picton we drive towards East Lake through Cherry Valley, finding that it hardly lives up to its lovely name on account of the fact that hard winters have taken toll of most of the trees. It is in the Cherry Valley Church that sailors hold an annual service each spring to ask a blessing and be given Godspeed at the beginning of the season’s voyages. A memorial service for departed mariners is also held, and sometimes stories of their experiences during years of sailing with schooners and other early craft are related still by descendants of the first comers to these shores.

The East Lake Road brings us up to the famous Crescent Sand Beach, crowded in summer with bathers, tents, beach umbrellas and waiting motor cars. Suddenly the Sandbanks appear, looming like mother-of-pearl, miniature mother-of-pearl mountains, with deep hollows that hold golden and sometimes pinkish lights, stretching for a mile along a curve of the inlet. They are indescribably beautiful with their tawny feet set in the blue water of the lake. We saw them from a grove of trees near by, not wanting to go closer lest some of their uncanny illusion should be lost.

Now we are touching West Lake, which we leave for Bloomfield. En route we stop by the side of a huge tree-trunk which stands in the middle of the road with an umbrella-like cap on the top of its head. It faces Wishing Tree Inn. We go at once to make inquiries of the proprietor, who tells us that this was the largest maple tree in all the countryside. It was eighteen feet in circumference, and its huge leafy boughs overspread the road and cast their shadows into the garden of the Inn. Historians of trees say that it may be seven hundred years old. The Indians from the neighbouring islands who had found flint for their arrowheads came and held them here against its bark for good luck. “That was long ago,” said the proprietor of the Inn, “but people don’t easily lose faith in superstition, they still come here to touch the tree-trunk and make their wishes.”

We followed Consecon Lake to its name-village. Three churches here, two of them apparently unused, a charming waterfall and a piquant road sign which said: “Sorry to part—Bon Voyage.”

The island is dotted with churches. It was a stronghold of the early Methodist Church and its circuit riders. Some of them must have been most interesting characters. The Reverend William Losee, who founded the Hay Bay Church, was one. The historian of the county, Walter S. Herrington, K.C., excites our interest and curiosity about him—an earnest, fiery little man with a withered arm and, paradoxically, a Loyalist and a Methodist preacher! What is termed his “pathetic collapse” was caused by an unfortunate love affair in which “disappointment like a thunderbolt overset the mental balance of the first itinerant minister in Canada.” Just beyond Picton stands what is called The Old Chapel, really an early Methodist meeting-house. It is a square-built, white-painted clapboard structure, through whose small paned windows we saw a lovely panelled interior, plain and dignified, with low galleries and old-fashioned, high pulpit under a very fine sounding-board. It stands on the brow of a hill overlooking the water surrounded by its peaceful graveyard. We were told by a neighbour that services are held there twice every year.

The historic Indian Carrying Place, a narrow neck of land which connects the county with the mainland, is marked by a monument which denotes the fact that here Sir John Johnson in 1787 concluded his treaty with the Mississauga Indians. Here one may cross the old Murray Canal and drive up to Trenton, but we were loath to part with Prince Edward, and went on past the bridge leading to Belleville, skirting the waterfront drive to a point where there is a wonderful view across the strait to Big Island, with Deseronto shining in the distance, smoke from her chimney-stacks rising like pale grey feathers, and in the near distance, just below us in fact, a valley of the softest green and of swaying treetops. So we had nearly skirted the island—and all this time I have never set down the fact that, in the early days, the county lost its French name and became royal all on account of a hasty visit of Edward, Duke of Kent, on his return trip along the lake-front from Niagara. What is more, he named the three original townships of the county after his favourite sisters, Mary, Sophia and Amelia—and so they remain to this day.


After leisurely hours in the island came the rush of the highway. At Deseronto the effect is that of an upper and lower town, as one looks down from the road over roofs of the buildings. It was the smoke from one of these manufacturing plants, probably the iron smelters, that looked so fairylike from across Big Island. We are in Hastings County, which fronts the Bay of Quinté for thirty miles. There is an Indian reserve bordering the Bay. Some of the land has been leased to white men, but there are still Mohawk farms and farmers to be seen. An Agricultural Society flourishes, and a number of successful “fairs” have been held in the council house of the tribe. They recall stories of the famous Napanee agricultural fairs, great events of the countryside in former years.

Belleville was named out of no tribute to the beauty of its situation but because an old-time governor suggested an abbreviation of the name of his wife, which was Arabella.

We stopped for dinner at the Quinté Hotel and recalled an evening spent here with Sir Gilbert Parker, who, in The Seats of the Mighty and other books, wrote on historic French-Canadian themes. I remember that we talked on all matters but this countryside from which he came, and where his youth was spent; and this omission was perhaps a comment upon the fact that the region about us, rich in its natural beauty and resources, still holds little more of man’s patterning than is demanded for adapting it to his economic needs. It has none of the “composed” quality of the English countryside, for only a century ago it was wild forest, swamp and jungle. It is the towns, entirely man-made, that reveal the culture in which man’s life is set. The northern shore of Lake Ontario is dotted with towns and villages so nearly resembling one another that one must look closely into their local history to discern their differences. No perceptible distinctiveness shows upon the faces of these car-cluttered main streets, factories and foundries, or little public parks, churches and community halls that follow one another every few miles upon this prosperous road. There is a look not so much of haste as of economic restriction—for picturesqueness, indeed, the scene is not haphazard enough. Perhaps we have, as yet, very little consciousness of the beauty that lies in planning with an eye to form and order. We must be countrymen at heart, for nothing in the towns that we pass looks so charming and so rich as these opulent farms, their herds of grazing cattle and the fields of waving grain.

From Belleville one may wind back by country roads to many lovely small lakes, one of supreme beauty being Mazinaw Lake, in which rises a great rock, an early Indian shrine. The land about it and the rock is known as Bon Echo, the estate of Merrill Denison, the well-known playwright and author.

On the outskirts of Trenton there is much activity in connection with a Government air base. Extensive officers’ quarters are to be seen, but the landing field was empty as we went by. We liked the looming bridge, the great freighters at the dock, the old fort topping the hill in the distance and an admirable hotel in the main street. It is curious—but no, only human—how the goodness or badness of a hotel will, from a visitor’s standpoint, change one’s whole conception of a place!

In this town we cross the south entrance of the Trent Canal, a waterway that leads by a circuitous route across southern Ontario from this spot to the waters of Georgian Bay. It follows the Trent River to Rice Lake, an old English settlement, and thence into the region of the Kawarthas—a series of beautiful lakes which were the peculiar property of the Indians. Stoney Lake especially they guarded jealously for as long as they could against the inroads of the whites.

We drive rapidly, everyone drives rapidly along this highway except an occasional solemn farmer in a shaky car. Brighton, Colborne and Grafton are set in the heart of the prosperous countryside. The earliest surveys in their township were made by Augustus Jones, of Welsh extraction, who has left field notes of great historic value. He married a woman of high rank in the Mohawk tribe. Their son was Peter Jones, or Sacred Waving Feather, who was brought up until the age of fourteen in the Indian customs and religion of his mother’s people and lived the life of the forest. He afterwards became an influential missionary to the Mohawks. He laboured among them, he made trans-Atlantic voyages, and his comments on the times in which he lived are a valuable addition to early Canadiana.

The public square at Colborne has been a public square since 1790, when a first settler, James Keeler, a Vermont man, bought land here, brought in settlers, built mills and laid out the town, which is faintly reminiscent of a north England market village.

Grafton, a few miles further on, possesses one of the most charming and well-designed small churches, an English church, in the region hereabouts.

Cobourg breaks the road-spell with a long street of remarkably handsome houses, many of them set in ornate gardens, for years ago the old lake port became a resort of wealthy visitors. One distinguished visitor was Katherine Cornell, the American actress, who often came here in her youth. Before the days of its prosperity it had passed through many phases of development. It was once unkindly called “Hardscrabble,” in reference to the overwhelming difficulties of those who undertook to make a living in it, for the now-elegant residential avenue, its main street, was situated in the midst of a cedar swamp and consisted of little more than what is described as a “founderous” morass. A little later, what was known as the Cobourg District of the early Methodist circuit riders extended from Brighton to Bowmanville. Anson Green was one of the early itinerant preachers, and so was Egerton Ryerson.

At the terminus of a side street is a dignified white stone building with pillars and a green-shuttered cupola. It is the original Upper Canada Academy, a building erected for one of the first of the Methodist schools in Upper Canada. It was begun in 1832, at which time there was no college in the province where literary degrees could be obtained. Its erection was an heroic project, its cost far exceeded subscriptions. At last the trustees appointed the young preacher, Egerton Ryerson, to see what could be done in England. He returned not only with funds, but with the first Royal Charter ever granted by the Imperial Government for an educational institution outside the established church. The Academy was granted University powers under the name of Victoria College, and Mr. Ryerson became its first president. Fifty years later it removed to Queen’s Park, Toronto, having entered into federation with the University of Toronto. The fine old building is now a mental hospital.

Somewhere in Cobourg, it seems to us, there should be a memorial to circuit riders. No more heroic or colourful pioneers existed, and none would make a better subject for a sculptor’s imagination.

Through a grove of pine trees cresting a high ridge we drop down into Port Hope, whose residences are perched upon the hills, and whose main street winds through the basin-like centre of the town. In early spring Port Hope sometimes makes the front pages of Ontario newspapers because of the ramifications at floodtide of the Ganaraska River, which swirls down the main street making it a highly indignant canal. At other seasons the stream returns into obscurity, and Port Hope becomes again only a lake port. Old residents will tell you that it never acted up when its name was plain Smith’s Creek. This was also the first name of the village. For a brief time it was called Toronto, but finally got itself pleasantly and appropriately named Port Hope. Since 1868 it has been the seat of Trinity College School—a preparatory school for boys. At present the eyes of science are turned with great interest to the Eldorado Radium Refining Plant—the only one of its kind on the North American continent.

“After thirty years of production, just a few points over a pound of radium exist in all the world to-day,” says Dr. Marcel Pochon, the director of the plant.


From Welcome, a crossroads just west of Port Hope, one may follow the road north to Peterboro, through which the Trent Canal passes. Peterboro is an old and charming town on the Otonabee River. The district was originally known as Indian Plain. The first settlers came from the English Lake District, and the town has always been concerned with lake and river life. Of its early existence important details have been given by the Strickland family—by Mrs. Moodie in her Roughing It in the Bush, by her sister, Catherine Parr Trail, and by her brother, Major Strickland, who wrote a graphic account of a journey over the rough trails to Rice Lake, which was included in the Peterboro settlement, where, with other English families, the Stricklands had built their log houses.

It was the lumber trade which first made the town of Peterboro. Later, the Peterboro Canoe became world famous. Now people stop to look at the great lift lock of the Trent Canal, the largest of its type in the world.

Opposite the wide, old-fashioned market square is a row of stone houses. In one of them lived a remarkable early poet, Isabella Valancy Crawford. In her day Peterboro was only a village. The front windows of her modest home looked on shops and busy stalls where farmers came in to market their produce, but the back windows looked on beauty—on the rushing Otonabee River, ice-locked in winter, and in summer the channel for great drives of logs sent through to Lake Ontario from the timber stretches of the north. And of this early life, and of the Indian-haunted Kawarthas she wrote in authentic poetry, making them her own, and capturing their innate, their secret atmosphere for us.


Returning to Welcome and making another detour slightly north-west, we come to the post office of Canton and to some of the most delightful country estates in the province. Batterwood, a Georgian house with hedged gardens, terraces, and farmlands which carry the eye far into the rich countryside, is the estate of the Honourable Vincent Massey, Canada’s High Commissioner in London. Doneycroft, the home of Professor and Mrs. C. T. Currelly, and Glenwood Farm, that of Mrs. Henry Sproat, are situated comparatively close together at Canton.

Newcastle announces: “We are Proud of our Community Hall.” It stands on the main street and was presented by Chester Massey in memory of the fact that his father, Hart A. Massey, began his Canadian career in this town. The old Massey house, a delightful clapboard structure, is now a teahouse known as Newcastle Arms. A pleasant country road leading south brings one to the summer cottage colony on the lakeshore road.

An incident in connection with the mills which gave Bowmanville its earlier name of Darlington Mills, is that of the grinding from wheat, grown in this township, of two barrels of the flour which were sent to London to receive a prize at the great Exhibition of 1851. Quaint stories linger about the early mills. Letters were brought in by a post-mule, and in winter by a mail-sleigh. There came a Scot named Bowman in time for a little skirmish that occurred in connection with the reconstructive policy of William Lyon Mackenzie, who had certain followers at the mills. Bowman was an employer, he stood for law and order. His stores were used as a barracks for the loyal troops, so in time the town was renamed in his honour.

Oshawa is perhaps most widely known as the Canadian depot and plant for General Motors, under the aegis of Col. R. S. McLaughlin. The enterprise which has enriched and built up the town has also made a contribution of great beauty in “Parkwood,” the McLaughlin house and garden, situated in the heart of Oshawa. The garden is of definite architectural design in which stonework in walls, terrace and teahouse, yew hedges, greensward and brilliant flowerbeds combine to make one of the foremost of modern garden achievements.

Whitby is one of the old towns of York County which has remained largely residential. The Whitby Ladies’ College is set in fine grounds, and in the house, formerly owned by the Reynolds family, Edward VII was once entertained. The next town, Pickering, also contains a college—this one for the education of boys. West Hill flashes by. Then we are in the valley of the Rouge Hills. Shortly afterwards the cliffs of Scarborough are seen in the distance—those lovely white cliffs, rearing out of the water, which have for some strange reason failed to attract attention as the situation for an impressive residential suburb.

Suddenly the first bright red street-car appears at the end of a lighted avenue, and then begins the long run through Danforth Avenue, which finally leads one over a cement bridge spanning a wide and beautiful ravine. By which characteristic approach we enter Bloor Street, one of the main arteries of central Toronto.



Toronto to Newmarket and Lake Simcoe—Returning to Holland Landing—Barrie—Orillia—Midland—Penetanguishene—Georgian Bay and the fairylands of Muskoka.

From Toronto we may be going to Lake Simcoe, to Barrie or Orillia, to Muskoka or Georgian Bay—at any rate we take the main road north, or a parallel line. Going up Yonge Street we follow the central artery of Toronto’s life, and by short detours reach its most important areas. It shows us by the buildings on its long straight course how architecturally uneven, how clearly an outgrowth of rapid commercialism this North Toronto is—and also how much alive, how vital and magnetic. This central artery is something of a street symbol. It arose out of British determination, when John Graves Simcoe, first Governor of Upper Canada, re-made an old French post and planned four great thoroughfares, naming this one leading to Lake Simcoe for his friend, Sir George Yonge.

The first road north was made three centuries before, and was a footpath some four miles west of the present street. It ran along the east bank of the Humber River from the foot of the bay, and wound upward along the ridge that is now Riverside Drive on the first lap of the long portage to the west branch of the Holland River. If its trail had been followed, Toronto would have been a picturesque city of rivers and bridges, as well as a lake port.

Courtesy of Canadian National Railways.


To-day a dance-hall stands on a knoll of ground overlooking the lake, which was the foot of the “Carrying Place” that was the link between Lake Ontario and the upper lakes. In his historical record, Toronto During the French Régime, Percy J. Robinson, M.A., has immortalized this forest path of the Indians and the French. “This was no ordinary trail,” he says, “it was as old as human life in America. . . . Along this street, when it was only a narrow footpath in the woods, how many grotesque and terrible figures passed in the long years before and after the coming of the white man: war parties of painted braves; lugubrious trains of miserable prisoners destined to the stake; embassies from tribe to tribe on more peaceful errands; hunters wandering into the distant north in quest of furs; Hurons and Iroquois, Ottawas and Menominees, Shawanoes and Sacs and Foxes and last of all the debauched Mississaugas, spectators of the white man’s progress and participating with him in cruel and dramatic events; raids into New York, the defeat of Braddock, the tragedy of Fort William Henry, the fall of Quebec, the massacre of Wyoming. . . . Traders, too, of every description knew the mouth of the Humber . . . Dutchmen from the Hudson . . . French traders from Frontenac . . . English freebooters from Albany, they all knew the Carrying-Place.” Yet now all this rich historic past has faded into oblivion to the residents of Toronto’s modern Riverside Drive.


But we are on the new road that Simcoe laid out, with Toronto, to right and left, to north and south, simply seething with activity. We have left behind us the downtown section; the old waterfront, on which now rises the Royal York, the largest hotel in the British Empire; the department stores and international banks. At College Street, still downtown, we may turn west, passing a great city of a hospital, to Queen’s Park with its ugly, but how efficient, Parliament Buildings, and grounds studded with statues of premiers in frock coats, and the great University of Toronto, the original grey-stone building of which, erected in 1856, still excels in beauty her fast-growing family. The city sweeps up the hill. At the head of Avenue Road is the famous old Eton of Ontario, Upper Canada College. To the south-east lies Rosedale, where charming houses are built on sites for the most part overlooking ravines. West of Avenue Road is the hill section, where westward on the ridge tourists may visit a castle-like structure, once the residence of Sir Henry Pellatt—Casa Loma, which stands feudal-like, its feet plunged into a huddle of dingy streets.

Though we have left long behind us in our progress north the original town that Governor Simcoe laid out with such care, his four great roads—Dundas, Kingston, Niagara and Yonge—are more travelled over than ever before. They remain unchanged in name, as do the old downtown forgotten streets called Caroline, Frederick, George, Princess, Palace, King, Duke and Duchess.

Of the old brick era, when prosperous houses in York were generally built of this material, the most important survival is The Grange, which was built about the year 1817 by Mr. D’Arcy Boulton, upon the lines of an old English manor house. Later it became the residence of Professor Goldwin Smith, the distinguished Oxford professor and man of letters, thus symbolizing in turn colonial Toryism and the most advanced Radical thought of the period. The same house, still standing on its tree-decked lawns at the head of the old downtown John Street, has become an important art centre which includes a fine collection of sculpture, a permanent collection of pictures, with frequent loan exhibitions, and a College of Art. Another significant feature in the educational life of Toronto is the Royal Ontario Museum, which stands on the northern fringe of Queen’s Park—a huge stone pile containing many precious survivals of lost worlds of ancient culture. Its collection of Chinese paintings and vases alone is unique on this continent.

To-day the buoyant life of this city is concerned with many centres of diverse interests. The ancient town of York is as much forgotten as the trading post, Fort Rouillé, or the parental Indian camp. Yet modern Toronto is a strange mixture of Indian pipe-dream and British plan. It is still inherently a place of tom-toms and of warpaint; a festival city, laid out on lines of the soundest business sense. No painted Mississaugas ever danced on meadows, where nowadays heavy freight cars shunt, in brighter hues than Toronto can assume at a moment’s notice. For every week in the year, for every day in the week, except always Sundays, there is a special occasion. These events follow one another in rapid succession. There is the annual Canadian National Exhibition, the largest of its kind in the world and probably the most colourful, the Maple Leaf Gardens, holding thousands of people, where reverberations of sports, politics, music, the clash of silver skates in a crystal ballet—the most beautiful ever performed—follow one another incessantly as waves of air; the race tracks; the Winter Fair; the Horse Show; the summer Proms; the winter Symphonies; the Star Concerts; the Conventions; the tag days! The shops and offices pour out at night their thousands of workers, and the picture shows receive them. Shining limousines, a little later, contain their quota of silk-hatted and ermine-cloaked owners. Undoubtedly the business of pleasure flourishes here as nowhere else in Canada, and every enterprise is decorated with its rosette. Business and pleasure have made Toronto what it is—the pleasures of business and the business of pleasure.

Naturally a brightness; a briskness, a sense of crowds and movement brush about us on the Yonge Street Road. It is impossible to feel dreary even in the rain—too many people are travelling with us!


Just beyond the city limits lies Hogg’s Hollow, now York Mills, where the historic Montgomery’s Tavern, which figured in the William Lyon Mackenzie rebellion of 1837, as a rendezvous for “rebels,” stood, until comparatively recently, when it was pulled down.

Many small towns and villages string this road. Nine miles north, a wide view from the top of a hill shows the charming old village of Thornhill lying below. We sweep down into the valley, and up again, each time a little higher, until at Richmond Hill we are a long way above sea level. Aurora is an old English settlement, now the seat of St. Andrew’s College, a well-known school for boys.

Newmarket lies east of the highway. Here one turns off to drive along the shores of Lake Simcoe.

A little north of Newmarket lies the village of Sharon, a rose not as Oriental as the name would imply, yet it contains a bizarre treasure. The most obtuse traveller must pause to look twice at a strange building stranded by itself in a field near the roadside—a square, wooden structure of many windows, surmounted by two smaller replicas, each corner adorned by a temple in miniature, and all a blaze of glass in the sunlight. This is David’s Temple, one of the most un-Canadian of structures, and something of an enigma until you know what it is all about.

I heard its story first from an old lady whose grandmother was living when David Willson founded here his society called “The Children of Peace.” He came from New York State in the early years of the nineteenth century, an uneducated but devout mystic with a touch of genius. He loved God and music and architecture and the pursuits of peace. He built a Music Hall in Sharon. That was his first church, for he believed that music was of God, and so was “symbolic architecture,” and every line and curve of the temple that he built was symbolic. There was neither hammer nor axe nor tool of iron heard in the house while it was building, and it stands to-day securely held together by its wooden pegs. There are six great windows on each side, and four doors facing north, south, east and west. Inside twelve pillars represent the twelve apostles and an ark made of inlaid walnut, with attendant lamps of pure gold, once stood in the centre.

“There was a great service at midsummer in this temple,” said the old lady. “People came from all over the countryside to take part in it. The followers of David were dressed in white linen, they brought garlands of flowers to the feast and entered the temple in procession, carrying the ark at the head, and a silver band—the silver band of Sharon—played the music. There must have been a very impressive scene on the day that the dedication was made. I wish you could have heard my grandmother tell about it. There was a bugle-call from the dome of the temple, and the golden ball was raised into its place. A youth, clad in white, was raised high up above the people and he sang a hymn of praise that he had himself composed, to the joy of the morning, and the love of God, and the love of man one for the other.”

“And that is not all I could tell you,” she went on. “There are things about it that are mysterious and haunting. Once my grandmother saw the temple at night, when it was lit by wax candles—chandeliers of candles in every one of those many windows—and out of the temple came a sound of music. It seemed to create a spirit of divine beauty all around the place.”

It was shortly after she told me all this that the temple, then abandoned and apparently dying in its field, was rescued by the York Pioneer and Historical Society, and made into a museum.


It is charming to follow the winding road around the southern bend of Lake Simcoe which is inserted into the landscape, a vast temperamental pool a hundred miles in circumference. It can be the bluest of the blue, the darkest of the dark, according to the mood of the skies that roof it. For generations its shores have held summer colonies at Beaverton, Atherley, Shanty Bay and Belle Ewart. Now we were tracing our way from Newmarket to Keswick, and along the lake road past Orchard Beach and Jackson’s Point to Sutton. It is in this district that a well-known English family, the Sibbalds, have lived for generations and made miles of lakeside country serene with fields, hedges, farmhouses and a little Anglican church of delightful construction that fits into the landscape so that it all looks and feels like a bit of old-world planning.

Roach’s Point was once chosen as the capital city of Ontario. At present it consists of many cottages and a few lingering fields. The truth is that Sir Peregrine Maitland once wrote to Earl Bathurst about it, before Ontario, as we know it, was born, suggesting that the east side of Lake Simcoe had many advantages. In fact he purchased a town site at Roach’s Point. It lay idle for years awaiting settlement that never came and then entered upon its happy destiny as a place of summer homes.

Returning to Newmarket we follow the curve of Yonge Street where it branches off to Holland Landing, once a place of importance, now a fishermen’s resort where fields of garden-truck flourish. It was a scene of activity during the Mackenzie rebellion and at one time was the polling place for the County of Simcoe, the only one for a huge constituency.

Up the hill from Bradford, and then over beautiful rolling country we drive towards Barrie, which should be, on account of its situation on Lake Simcoe, the loveliest of Ontario towns, but is, in spite of a few beautiful old houses with gardens running almost to the water’s edge, a place too carelessly planned. “Ovenden,” the famous school for girls, which comprises two of the best of the old residences, with their century-old gardens, shows the inherent beauty of this situation. The ornate Town Hall in Barrie has always seemed to me a strange museum piece.

An interesting old church of pioneer days still stands at Shanty Bay, a few miles north-east of Barrie on the Lakeshore Road. Shanty Bay is an old settlement, a neighbourhood which was once largely settled by half-pay officers. The church is built of mud-bricks, and has been kept in excellent repair. It contains a memorial tablet to Lucius O’Brien, one of Canada’s earliest artists, and not far distant is the large old log house built by his father.

From Barrie a triangular drive to Midland and Penetanguishene, and then south to Orillia, will bring us back to the Yonge Street Road.


Now by a pleasant country road which passes Midhurst, Elmvale and Wyebridge, we come to the oldest shrine in the Province of Ontario, that of Fort Sainte Marie near Midland on Georgian Bay. A stone church, called the Martyrs’ Shrine, and the Stations of the Cross, are built on grounds surrounding the old fort and what was the central mission station of the Jesuits from 1639 to ’49 when, after repeated attacks by the Iroquois, the fort was finally burned by the missionaries when they retired for safety to Christian Island.

To-day only the foundations of the four stone bastions of the fort remain. The new church, with its relics of the martyrs, the beautiful bronze groups, Stations of the Cross, which encircle the hill overlooking Georgian Bay, the Inn, the Shrine of the Little Flower on a tiny inlet of the lake, the museum, the palisaded Indian cabin, a replica of those which dotted the region three centuries ago, are now tourist attractions as well as the object of religious pilgrimages.

To those who can pour reality into the long past the spot is intensely interesting. The historian Parkman has vividly recalled it as it was for a short space, a little oasis in the wilderness carved out by men who were to pay dearly for their devotion to the Huron tribes—Fathers Brébeuf and Lalement. Here they created within the fort not only the mission chapel but a garden. Near by were their little fields of grain. They were good farmers as well as priests and they enjoyed the simple community life. Father Jogues, the inspired dreamer, came this way. He presented a verbal picture of this very landscape at the French court when he returned from Canada to bestir his people to a realization of the needs of the new-world mission, and came back to meet the vengeance of the Iroquois Indians.

Three miles east of Sainte Marie was the town of St. Louis. Three miles further the settlement of St. Ignace. The Iroquois first raided St. Joseph, near the present site of Barrie, where some four hundred people lived. They massacred people and priests, then came on to St. Ignace and St. Louis where Brébeuf and Lalement were conducting service and took them for torturing to St. Ignace. In 1930 the honours of canonization were accorded to these two martyrs, thus giving to Canada and the United States their first Roman Catholic saints. It is said that over a hundred thousand pilgrims visit this shrine every year. It was the first of all missions on this continent north of Mexico. And here occurs a strange contrast between the results of the methods of the humanitarian French priests, who actually contemplated martyrdom at the hands of the savages as an expected blessing and crowning event, and the cruel methods of the Spanish of the same period towards the Indians of the south. Now the Indians of the North American continent are entirely Christianized, while in many Mexican and South American districts they practise their ancient rites much more openly than in the past. Pagan altars are built within the sound of church bells, and dances, formerly without the law, are now performed for all to see in the village plaza. This is particularly the case in Guatemala in Central America.


Midland, an important Georgian Bay port, has been associated for years with lumber industry and with shipping. The Playfair-White shipping interests were among the most extensive in the Great Lakes. They began with the Midland Navigation Company, owner of the Midland Queen, one of the first vessels sunk by a German submarine in the English Channel, when she attempted to cross with a cargo of munitions and foodstuffs. There were many other vessels in the Midland fleet. After amalgamation with other shipping interests the firm was renamed and later sold along with the Midland Shipbuilding Company and Coal Dock to the Canada Steamship Lines. Among his many gifts to Midland, Mr. James Playfair presented St. Andrew’s Hospital, and it was through his efforts that the beautiful Little Lake Park came into existence.

Pillars at the entrance to Penetanguishene show figures of Ontario and Quebec, a relationship whose roots lie deep in the French régime. This was originally a voyageur town. It was settled by the French in migration from Drummond Island in the twenties of the last century. They gave it the Indian name, which signifies “Falling Sand,” because of high sandbanks near by. A native boulder set up near the English church tells us that La Salle passed this way in 1680 on his search for the Mississippi. From Penetanguishene Franklin set out in 1826 to find a passage through the northern seas from the Atlantic to the Pacific in two large outfitted canoes. He took with him to the Arctic two voyageurs from this settlement. There is the remains of an old stone barracks and officers’ quarters built in 1812, which, together with the old Soldiers’ Church, indicates that Penetanguishene must have been of some military importance. A Jesuit cross, built high on a stone foundation, overlooks the pier and lighthouse of Whiskey Bay. It marks the site of the supposed landing place of the indomitable French priest, Father Dollier de Caron, who accompanied the expedition of Champlain to these parts. It is interesting to know that here, where old feuds were most persistent, a war hatchet was buried recently in Huronia Park, denoting peace between Huron and Iroquois. On the outskirts of the town a cairn is set up in honour of Francis Parkman, the historian who has illuminated for all time the past history of this region.


Christian Island, the largest of the Georgian Bay group, lies a little to the west of Penetanguishene. It was upon this island that Albert Monague, the son of Chief Monague, at work on outlining the old forts on the island, discovered, in 1925, an astrolabe bearing the date 1595, nearly a quarter of a century farther back in time than that of Champlain, which was discovered on the portage which he was making from the Ottawa River to Muskrat Lake. These are the only specimens of this rare instrument in America. This one was no doubt employed by the French missionaries in constructing the earliest maps of the lake region. It is of copper, worn very thin, and is four and a half inches in diameter. Monague took his enigmatic find to Dr. F. N. G. Starr, of Toronto, the kind friend of the neighbouring Indians, who was at the time upon his own island at Go-Home Bay. Dr. Starr purchased the astrolabe, which is now beautifully mounted and encased in glass surrounded by a circular frame of wood. It is one of the priceless treasures of early Canada.

This whole region, the southern end of Georgian Bay, has a life and colour of its own and a certain untouched atmosphere that is felt even in its ports. But it is on the Bay itself, or living in some cottage far in the open spaces, that one feels its deepest essence and knows it as a place apart—a region in which the very air is so light and golden that it is no wonder that upon leaving it the first inhabitants drooped and died.

Upon this inland sea many rocks are laid like great metal ridges on the blue waters. There are rock islands on which trees have found a foothold and where ferns and lichen make soft grey mats, and rock islands bare as the palm of your hand, against which waves dash up with fountain-like spray. About them tides of colour rise and fall as the sun strikes warm or dims into hazy violet and grey. On some of them gulls rest as they have from time immemorial, the wheeling call of forgotten centuries in their cry. In mossy crevices wild orchids, spirea, milkweed and dog-roses grow, and in wooded places, which occur every now and then, the air is full of singing birds. These rocks are part of the oldest strata in America and sometimes, through a certain trick of light, mysterious cities seem to gleam in distance among their cliffs. The Giant’s Tomb, which may be seen from all parts of this region of the bay, has always been an Indian shrine as well as a landmark for sailors. Monument Channel is the waterway where centuries ago Huron tribes made a famous detour to evade the pursuing Iroquois. Apart from history, a vast deal of legendary lore might have been gathered, even a few years ago, around these caves and bays. For instance, somewhere on the Blue Mountains, to the west of the town of Collingwood, and not far from the shore of the lake, was a village near a great rock dedicated by the Indians to the departed souls of their ancestors who were supposed to pass that way to the Happy Hunting Grounds, and were it not that the existence of this particular village is recorded in the Jesuit Relations it would probably be relegated to the realms of Indian mythology.

The fertile lands on the southern shores of the Bay have for centuries been one of the finest fruit-producing districts in Canada. The Indians used the mountain slope for tobacco and corn, so much tobacco that it gave the tribes inhabiting the region the name Petun, or Tobacco Nation.


Returning south to rejoin the Yonge Street Road at Orillia, via Wabaushene and Coldwater, we are still in the county which takes its name from the lake that Governor Simcoe called after his father, Captain John Simcoe, who was killed during Wolfe’s siege of Quebec. One cannot drive through this region without recounting the coming of Champlain, who arrived from the upper reaches of the Ottawa through Lake Nipissing and the French River to the Georgian Bay. Attended by his Indians he explored the east coast of the bay, passing the spots where Parry Sound now is, and turning inland from the site of Penetanguishene down this very country, visiting various Huron villages, to the Indian settlement of Cahiague, where Orillia now stands. He had promised the Huron chiefs his help against the Iroquois, and at Cahiague they mustered a large war party to stand behind him. The Huron country was well populated. There were eighteen towns, of which eight were walled and palisaded. There were many chieftains, two thousand warriors and a population of over twenty thousand Indians. With an imposing escort, Champlain explored the heart of what is now Southern Ontario and returned to Cahiague for the winter of 1615.

To-day, with many other visitors, we picnicked at his feet in Couchiching Park at Orillia where he stands, a bronze figure nobly designed by the English sculptor Vernon March. He is booted and spurred, his plumed hat is in his hand and the wind from the bay which he faces seems to be lifting his cape in just the way it did all those centuries ago. The groups at the base of the monument represent the Indian in conference with Religion, shown by a priest holding up the cross, and on the other side with Commerce, as a trader hands out the proverbial string of beads in exchange for furs.

Orillia is a charming town, built on three terraces overlooking both Lake Simcoe and Couchiching Bay. We are now eighty-four miles north of Toronto. We drive on north and ever north, past Severn Bridge and Sparrow Lake until the first great red rock prefaces the town of Gravenhurst, where one may take a steamer through the Muskoka Lakes to the head of Lake Joseph, or motor around them on the fairly good gravel roads of the district.


After the regions of the Georgian Bay, into which things wild and primitive protrude themselves, and down which such ancient pageantry has passed, we enter a more or less modern fairyland. Everything here is on a miniature scale by comparison with what we have left. The lakes are smaller, the islands wooded, the water darker and softer. It is a residential as well as a tourist region; for fifty years and more many Ontario families have made it their summer home. It is a place of cottages and canoes, of fir trees, rocks, water-gardens and modern hotels. Time was when one lived quite a primitive life in Muskoka, and there still exists a unique feature of those days, but becoming rarer every season—the Supply Boat. The heyday of the Supply Boat occurred before the age of speed. It was the support of the first cottagers, the useful, necessary tramp of the lakes, the most welcome of all visitors. One can still picture this time from the deck of one of these boats, the pilot from his wheelhouse pointing out the beauties of various channels and islands, while below stairs the butcher and the grocer are busy with customers who shop comfortably from their own docks. One can spend most of the day on a supply boat travelling in and out of these intricate waterways, and still be just around the corner from home.

The passenger steamers are another matter; they are swift and modern. One day last summer I heard some passengers on the Sagamo talking, as we wound through the water-lanes of Lake Rosseau, and they said that lovely as the region is it is played out—that to feel the wilderness one must go further north. But I remembered steam-heated camps in distant ranges of the Rocky Mountains, and modern hotels in Alaska, and I thought with affection and respect of a certain log cabin that still tells a dramatic story of pioneer life in Muskoka. I stood on its porch the other day and watched an aeroplane circle the sky, its roar mingling with the noise of speed-boats that were rushing about the lake. When it was built, this region was worth in market value just nothing at all. Years later some campers discovered a fascinating summer playground. Several of them built cottages and after that values went up. Land was sold for a dollar an acre and many people bought islands. An island was more valuable than mainland because exclusive, and it was accessible for the reason that everyone lived in canoes. To-day, the islands go begging, because motor cars may be parked at the back doors of cottages along the mainland. Through changing times the little log house stood unchanged. Its owners watched the swift processes of what we call the modern era contented with their simple life. Then the woods and farmlands and shore front were divided and sold. A woman who was a pioneer cottager, but not a settler, bought the house. Everywhere about her she had seen native cabins such as this one ruthlessly destroyed, so she decided to preserve it and to strengthen and adapt it for her use without destroying its original beauty.

She set it on a stone foundation, built a wider verandah and raised its roof by means of stone pillars. She enlarged the small square windows to casements and took down partitions. The house was built entirely of pine logs, carefully dovetailed, its cracks chinked up with pea-straw and the logs covered with pine boards. Now the living-room is panelled in these recovered logs, and the pine facings and sills are satin-smooth and pink with age. The fireplace is made of native stone, covered with white quartz, which had been built in so that it looks rather like a giant clam-shell, and unlike many fireplaces seems to be an integral part of the structure. Into the pointed roof a diamond-shaped window of clear glass, set high, breaks the outer wall, letting in the soft green light of the forest.

This experiment in the preservation of original settlers’ cabins is quite important, for all through the northern lake districts there are very many of these places gradually going to rack and ruin in a losing battle against time and the elements, which should be saved and turned to use. After all, nothing modern can ever be made to fit so perfectly into the landscape as they do.

Each lake in this series—Muskoka, Rosseau and St. Joseph—has its own distinctive atmosphere, but perhaps nothing in the whole region touches in romantic beauty the little Shadow River, which enters Lake Rosseau near its northern end. One can hardly bear to hear a paddle dip in its silence, or to see the mirrored green of tree reflections broken by the water-ring that a paddle, however delicately used, must create.


Many lovely byways converge at Bracebridge, which is ten miles from the tip of Lake Muskoka and somewhat inland, so that naturally it is the hub of motor traffic radiating in all directions. From Bracebridge, to the north and west, a winding road leads through Port Carling, the central artery for boat traffic, to Port Sandfield and the Royal Muskoka Hotel—the first modern hotel to be built on the lakes. Its grey walls, red roof and Norman towers are set in acres of pine and spruce. When it was first built the Indians who still frequented the district found it a place of wonder and of amazing surprises. Years have passed since then, and still from summer houses high on the wooded cliffs people from all over the world have sat on summer evenings and watched lake craft drifting down to Carling in the soft magic of a northern dusk. Later in the evening there will be dancing to a city orchestra, but in spite of all comfortable modern amenities the Royal still holds a feeling of the old woodland Muskoka.


Above Bracebridge, on the Muskoka River, stands the mission house and stone chapel of the Cowley Fathers of the Muskoka district, who live a monastic life under modern conditions and do much religious and charitable work in the bushland country all about them. Near by, the Sisters of St. Margaret have come to work among the women and girls. The mission house, built almost entirely by the community, is very interesting. The refectory wing is a building beautiful in its simplicity, a long wide hall with high windows, rafters and fireplace, and guest-rooms above. The Norman church, built of local granite, is dignified and impressive. It shows what a satisfying effect may be got by the proper use of material at hand. The stalls are of Muskoka birch, waxed to a smooth finish. The altar stone is a single monolith of granite and was given by the men who worked on the building. The candlesticks are of birch, made locally. At the west end is a gallery, and under it a chapel furnished largely with memorials from a church at Byng Inlet in Georgian Bay, which was taken down when that settlement came to an end. The Angel windows in the screen separating this chapel from the church were formerly set over the altar at Byng Inlet. The crucifix on the altar is from the Pyrenees and is of the Jansenist period. Over it hangs a reproduction of a lovely old triptych by Hans Memling. The whole effect is one of great taste and beauty. It is a new note in the Muskoka scene.

Leaving the church we stopped to look at an iron bell, standing on a stone foundation and roofed over against the weather. We found that it had been brought to Canada a century and more ago, and was used for many years on a factory in Galt. When steam was introduced it was discarded and finally found its way to the church in Byng Inlet. After calling men to work for many years, and lying silent for many years, it has now entered the religious life. “In company with several other melodious bells in this town it makes a holy sound morning, noon and night,” said our guide. “We have to ring it punctually, for our neighbours depend on it for various household tasks.”


A little north of Bracebridge, Highway No. 11 into which at Holland Landing the Yonge Street Road really converges, joins the Ferguson Highway which takes us on to North Bay where it is linked up with the Trans-Canada. During the summer months Highway No. 11 is said to be the second most travelled road on the continent. The prevailing tenor of its traffic may be judged by the road signs, the most important of which have to do with dew-worms.


The Ferguson Highway leads up to Utterson and Port Sydney, where the trip to Lake of Bays may be broken by boat through Mary and Fairy Lakes, and Peninsula Lake which leads into the Lake of Bays. Or one may follow a road twenty-five miles west of Bracebridge, the Dorset Road, to Norway Point. Here a ferry takes one over to Bigwin Island, on whose south-west slope lies Bigwin Inn, an enormous hotel, really a series of connecting lodges, with a great baronial hall in which nine open fireplaces protect its guests from chilly evenings, where the best of music is provided, the foremost of sports, where indeed every art of up-to-date summer entertainment is at hand.

All this may seem alien to the untamed woodland about us. What has such a magnificent inn to do with the feeling for a natural outdoor life which one supposes has led all these people over Ontario highways? . . . To come close to nature without suffering from its disadvantages—this must be their aim.

But I have travelled miles north of North Bay to a cabin in Algonquin Park where one may live the life of another North. There you will find no electricity for light or heat, and a way-freight brings food and mail in twice a week. And further than that, in the depths of Algonquin and in the Timagami district, there are places where one may be completely lost—places where luxury would never dare to raise its head!

In Algonquin Park Tom Thomson, one of the world’s great nature painters, lived and worked. His mastery of colour and design came out of his passionate love of the Canadian north and his necessity to live with it. He must have realized how impossible it is to express this region in anything but in colour. It defies explanation in any other medium, certainly in words. Thomson would disappear among the islands of Georgian Bay or the recesses of Algonquin Park for months at a time, living the life of a pioneer woodsman. In the early spring he watched in these woods the earth’s awakening. In summer he cruised the park. Camping by himself he was, to the chance tourist, a mysterious hermit of whose marvellous skill as a fisherman many tales were told. To the native guides he was just as incomprehensible, “worse than any Indian,” they said. But his paintings are our deathless records of this northern region. The country he so strangely yet truthfully portrayed grew into his soul, as it must with all of us who need the support of its strength. And more than that, in the words of his understanding friend of many years, Dr. J. N. MacCallum, of Toronto, he lived “humbly but passionately with the wild.”


In the meantime, at Bigwin Inn, we shall go to see the latest Broadway success, admirably reproduced by a Canadian summer stock company in the dance pavilion, and then to the soughing of the pine trees outside the window of our well-appointed bedroom, we shall say farewell to the long road and call it a day.



From Toronto to Port Credit—Oakville—Hamilton—Fruitland—St. Catharines—Niagara-on-the-Lake—Niagara Falls and by the River Road to the Peace Bridge.

Fleet Street and Sunnyside Drive carry one over recently-made ground that is south of the old waterfront and the first streets of the town of York.

The waterfront:

Where the first paddles of the Indians sang,

Where the first sailboats of explorers shone,

Where the first fort was built,

Tavern and church and school,

And for the furtherance of social rule,

A lakeshore Promenade.


(“How do you like my new silk gown?”

“There’s an Indian captured at the fort, I hear!”

“ ’Tis said that the Governor has come to town,

And will give a great soirée in two weeks’ time!”)


This was muddy York,

This was royal York,

Its streets were named for families,

And the Governor’s three roads

Stretched north and east and west.

Still for the use of commerce,

When winter was once over,

The great lake was the best.

Drying roads and farmers coming to trade in town; railway tracks; factories; growth, as royal York went down before Toronto, Place-of-Meeting.

So the old era ended,

And a new town arose,

And still the tide was rising,

A wave that overflows

Up and along the lake front

Out on the three great roads

Faster and faster moving,

Builders and modern modes;

Steel framework ever soaring

Feeling the roof of sky,

Domes like a singing choir

And towers mounting high,

Merchants and mines and brokers,

Colleges, market, stores,

Music breaking across them

With a sound of distant shores.

Poets and priests and martyrs

Singing an uncrowned song,

Money the mighty maker

Rushing the town along.


(“How do you like my new silk gown?

I’m going to dance at the Royal York!

’Tis said that the Governor has come to town

And will give a great soirée in two weeks’ time!”)

Back to the Promenade!

Back to Fleet Street with its factories, and to Sunnyside—a Coney Island on the mainland.

In Exhibition Park there is a statue to a Toronto youth who stands with an oar in his hand looking across the water towards a rim of land known affectionately as “The Island.” It is Ned Hanlan, one-time champion of the rowing world. A little west of his old home, Hanlan’s Point, a great airport is planned. Further on, the wooded edges of High Park almost touch the lakeside drive, and if we should turn up one of its winding roads it would be interesting to explore a little wooden house, set in an old-fashioned garden, that is important in the history of Toronto; for its owner, Mr. John G. Howard gave over one hundred acres of this wooded land as a park to the city. His cottage-like house is now a museum, containing a picture gallery and portfolios of drawings, sketches and plans of early Toronto. He was an English architect of ability, who designed many of the important buildings of early Toronto.

We pass the foot of the Toronto “Carrying-Place” on the east bank of the Humber, near which is the site of the house of Jean Baptiste Rousseau, the last of the French traders, who a century and a half ago bartered for peltries at the mouth of the Humber River. In the words of the historian, Mr. Percy J. Robinson, “Rousseau was the last citizen of the old French Toronto and the first of the new English York.” St. John’s Road, in Toronto, commemorates the chief factor of the Humber, but of his dwelling-place not a trace remains.

This shore road (Highway No. 2) follows the curves of the lake, so that driving towards Hamilton we have always on our left a changing panorama of blue water, which stretches as if to infinity with no land whatever to be seen on the horizon. Sometimes houses are set near the road, with gardens running down to the lake. On the right there are houses, estates and farmlands.

The site and district of Port Credit was originally the happy hunting ground of the Mississauga Indians, for at the River Credit, which here enters into the lake, there was famous salmon fishing. Later it became a shipping port of some importance. Mrs. Simcoe, the wife of the earliest Governor of Canada, first told the world about the Credit River in a diary which she wrote during 1796 when, with her husband and his retinue, she was cruising the lake. A violent storm forced them to land here and, anxious to see the river, they engaged two Indians to take them some distance up the stream by canoe. Their arrival at the Credit Valley is pictured in a mural which adorns the lounge of the Mississauga Golf Club, some two miles north of the port, whose valley was once the possession of the tribe. Fascinating accounts of his work among the Indians, and the bush chapel which they erected near this same spot, are told in another diary—that of Peter Jones or Sacred Waving Feather, the Indian missionary.

At Clarkson there is the sign of the Blue Dragon Inn which stands opposite an attractive wayside market. A country road turning north from the highway at Clarkson will pass a bit of woodland in whose depths is a cottage owned by the well-known novelist, Mazo de la Roche, who has made this wedge of farm and lakeland her own through vivid figures which she has portrayed against this background. Further north, the road winds down to a narrow trail beside the Credit River, coming out at Erindale on the Dundas Highway. I never see the old English church at Erindale, high on its bank and half hidden by trees, without picturing scenes in which it played a part in the life of the Whiteoak family.

From Clarkson we drive on to Oakville, which used to be a typical country town, chiefly celebrated on account of its wonderful strawberry beds. It was also a port from which, by windjammers and schooners, coal was exported to American ports and wheat to all parts of the world. Now it is a sort of wealthy residential suburb of Toronto, and boasts country estates and large houses. We like to drive slowly through the outskirts of Oakville replying carelessly to our guests from here and there: “Yes, it really does seem to contain quite an atmosphere of southern English countryside, don’t you think?” Sometimes the guest may venture the assertion that few English places have so many swimming pools and other up-to-date features. . . But that is as it may be.

I am fond of the old side streets of Oakville that run down to the lake. I am fond of the Worn Door Step, an old-time roughcast cottage on a tiny bit of lawn supported by a stout retaining wall, where you can look on the ocean-like expanse of water, the pier and lighthouse, and the harbour from which the lake captains used to put out in days gone by.

Bronte is a sweet, old forgotten fishing village by the lake, of which you see nothing from the highway. But once it was a grain-shipping port, and it was romantically named after a foreign title bestowed on Lord Nelson by the Neapolitan Government when he was made Duke of Bronte, receiving with the title the market town of Bronte in the Val di Demona in Sicily.

The highway from Bronte to Burlington is particularly lovely, and the country seems to melt into the streets of this old settlement almost imperceptibly. There is near here a strip of breakwater on whose retaining wall hundreds of gulls are often to be seen resting against the wind, or flashing their white wings in the sunshine. Here one may turn off left to Burlington Beach, a narrow strip of land which encloses Macassa Bay, making a short cut en route to the Niagara District by way of the intersection of Highway No. 8 which will take one past Stoney Creek. An imposing monument marks the old battleground where, in 1812, an American force was surprised by the British leader, Colonel John Harvey, under General Vincent. The Gage farmhouse, where the American Generals, Chandler and Winder, happened to have rested that June night is now a museum.


Passing this turning point, for we are continuing through Hamilton, we are traversing what was once known as Wellington Square, a tract of many acres which was presented to the Mohawk warrior, Joseph Brant, as a Royal grant.

Just at the head of the Beach the chief erected a large house which was built of red cedar especially brought from the Thousand Islands. He furnished it in English style, and after his death in 1807 his youngest son, John, inherited Brant House. With him came his sister Elizabeth, known far and wide as “the Indian Princess.” She afterwards married a grandson of Sir William Johnson and his Indian wife Molly Brant, named Kerr, and here she lived with her husband and children. The historic importance of this house, along with picturesque descriptions of its hospitality by early travellers, has always fascinated me, and the sight of it, standing altered and alien, stripped of its glory and utterly desolate, was for years enraging. To-day we found what looked ominously like wreckage going on. But fortunately it turned out to be the beginning of a work of restoration. So far as we could gather, the plain-front plan, with its five upper windows, and two on each side of the pillared entrance-porch on the ground floor, will be maintained. I sincerely hope that the original garden wall of stone, long ago demolished, will be supplied in replica.

A workman, carefully separating the original lumber from the junk, showed us a rusty ring attached to a cedar beam. “An old gentleman came along here the other day,” he said. “He was concerned at seeing the house in wreckage. He asked us if we had noticed this iron ring, and said it should have been found in a second-storey room—which it was. His grandfather used to tell how people said the old chief strung his eldest son up by a rope attached to this ring and beat him till he died. According to the stories there were bloodstains in that same room. But, of course,” added the wrecker, “we saw nothing like that, just the iron ring, which was there sure enough. These old stories are probably fables.”

It was like a last wisp of smoke from a dying campfire, this rumour heard just off the crowded summer highway, as the ancient house was felled—the house into whose open doorway so many travellers used to step. They were entertained with lavish courtesy—a tradition of the Brant family. I am very much afraid that no prim restoration can restore the atmosphere that even the reading of old travellers’ tales makes picturesque in the extreme: the mirrors, the “fashionable” chairs, the romantic guitar, which the young Indian hostess played, squaw servants—one with a man’s hat on her head—serving in place of the black slaves that were in attendance upon the family in the earlier days of the house on the Grand River.

At Brant House we are close to the southern sweep of the Beach, which was known in early days as the Head of the Lake. It was a great gathering place for Indians. In Brant’s day it was no uncommon sight to see the narrow strip of land covered by hundreds of canoes drawn up to the glistening shore in attendance upon chiefs come to hold council with the great Indian hero, or for the annual distribution of prizes. Just beyond towered Burlington Heights, for which the Beach served as portage and barricade. These heights, now gouged out for railroad excavations, canal building and road-making were in their day considered almost unassailable. They played a conspicuous part in the military preparedness of the early nineteenth century, especially in 1812-13. It was from here, as base, that General Vincent achieved his victory over the American army at Stoney Creek.


Dundurn Castle, to the left of the highway as we enter Hamilton, stands upon these heights, two hundred feet above the waters of the Bay. It was built over the foundations of the homestead of the Beasley family. Its owner, Richard Beasley, was a United Empire Loyalist, who carried on an extensive trade with the Indians, and it was upon his farm that General Vincent on his retirement from Niagara took his stand. Later on, the present imposing structure was created by that famous Tory, Colonel, afterward Sir, Allan Napier MacNab, who was knighted for military exploits during the Mackenzie rebellion. He was descended from a Scottish family who owned a place in Perthshire called Dundurn—hence the name of the ambitious structure which he erected at Hamilton. It was always a complacent house, with a bit of swagger about it, but set apart from other Tory houses of its day because it was, at the time, extravagantly picturesque. It was intended to be impressive, and strangely maintains its atmosphere to-day, although its owners have departed and it is now a public museum. The rooms, filled now with trophies of the past, are spacious and delightful. The billiard room and bowling alley form a wing enclosing a courtyard with terraces beyond. The front of the house faces the bay, and on its verandah the MacNab, glorious in his swaying kilts, received many a grandee.

In the heart of the city of Hamilton the note of its surrounding farmlands and orchards is repeated. The open-air market is famous. In summer there is a great colour-massing of produce and for blocks the streets around take on the market environment and trucks are converted into stalls. It is one of Hamilton’s most characteristic aspects. But the town is also an important industrial centre, as many factories and foundries along the bay front in the eastern district will testify. It is in this eastern section that Hamilton has lately acquired sixty-five acres and laid out Gage Park. On flat land, but against a hilly, wooded background, enormous parterres of flowers and dwarf shrubs, rose gardens and playgrounds are set, and a beautiful fountain, designed by John Lyle, with a frieze of Dancing Children, by Florence Wyle, presented to the city by the Gage family, is approached by a miniature canal in which water-sprays are set, somewhat after the manner of the gardens at Versailles. Against their green background the fountains are most effective.

To find the private gardens one must drive towards the mountain—a ridge of the Niagara escarpment—which rises gently above the city. The mountain is not alarming. It is indeed quite moderate in aspect and distinctly friendly. From its height one naturally obtains a fine view of the city which lies below it; steeples, towers, rooftops, the surrounding country and the bay beyond. But as you drive down through leafy roads and avenues, the hidden beauty of this residential section is unfolded. For a century people have been living here, so that the houses and gardens, old and new, are delightfully blended.

At the corner of John Street and Arkledun Avenue stands Bellevue, a stone mansion whose orchards run up the mountainside behind the house, and whose front gardens used to command a wonderful view of the bay. It is probably the oldest considerable residence in Hamilton, built by one of the earliest settlers, Charles Durand, and sold by him in 1812 or thereabouts to George Hamilton, for whom the city was named.

About the first settler in Hamilton, Robert Land, a romantic story is told that during the American revolution, as he conveyed an important message to the royalist camp, he was fired upon and wounded, his house burned and his family, as he supposed, seized and murdered by the Indians. He left for Niagara and then came to the shores of Macassa Bay where he turned farmer. One day after many years had passed, a woman and two young men appeared at his threshold. They were his wife and children. After their escape from the Indians, Mrs. Land had returned to her house and traced her husband to his place of concealment. Finding it bloodstained she came to the conclusion that he had been murdered. She took her children to New Brunswick and at last came westward to her father’s home at Niagara. There rumours of her husband’s survival met her. It is hard to realize that a hundred and fifty years ago a distance of fifty miles through trackless forest was an adventure which took this woman weeks to accomplish. But she set out on foot with her children and braved the forest. The reunited family lived and died in their little house in the woods. Thus is early history written in family chronicles.

The coming of these United Empire Loyalists, of which the Beasley, Land and Hamilton families are among many, is commemorated by a fine memorial group—a settler, his wife and two children—designed and carried out by the Marsh family, English sculptors, and placed in Princes Square.

A new impetus in educational life in Hamilton is marked by the coming of McMaster, its first university.


It was not until we were well past Hamilton that the thought occurred to us! We had left the apple lands and now beside the peach orchards, vineyards strayed. We were at the entrance to the grape country, which skirts Lake Ontario between Hamilton and Niagara. The air was full of perfume, and the sky was full of colour. Suddenly all about us these vineyards stretched. As far as the eye could see there hung the grapes, blue-black on their withering yellow vines. There unrolled before us the idea of a wine tour in miniature. In spite of a high-powered car it should be leisurely, observant, it should be full of small conversations with growers in these gentle villages along the road.

Fruitland! The very name was a gateway. Then Grimsby, where the peaches pressed in upon the grapes. The sign of an inn appeared and we realized that it was lunch time. We ate at a south window. The sun flooded our small table, and we had lake trout and fresh vegetables from nearby gardens, and green, deep apple-pie and cream. But though we were beginning a wine tour and the smell of grapes was in the air we were not allowed by the laws of our province to order a glass of its own native wine with our luncheon. So what artistic incentive was there! The joy of writing is to record whole moments, in which reality and imagination are blended.

“This is all imagination!” said we, drinking coffee and gazing about the dining-room where everyone looked as unhappy as coffee drinkers usually do—for they are only a shade less miserable than tea drinkers, whose systems are drenched with tannin.

Therefore we left the wineless inn and went on through the warm afternoon past small open-air markets, and pumpkin patches, and hillsides flaming with wild aster, and woodlands flaming with bright leaves, and there was always the purple and yellow of the grape vines. Interspersed there were many wayside announcements that shouted “Hot Dogs” or “Free Air,” or sang “Beer on Ice,” or chanted “Black Currants. . . . Grape Vines. . . . English Gooseberries.” Near the village of Beamsville we passed a particularly inviting barn where windows had been set in, facing the road, filled with shelves which were crowded with curios for sale, and then we came to Vineland, where the grapes encroached into the village street. The winding road took us on to Jordan, where at last we stopped at a winery on the main street. Here I hoped to have my first instructive conversation and purchase a modest bottle. A number of cars were drawn up in front of the building, and several customers were in advance of me. Behind the counter a young man was answering questions and filling orders with hauteur that seemed unpromising. As I arrived at the wicket I felt the elbow of a lady behind me suggesting haste.

“Yes, madam?” asked the clerk sharply.

“I wonder,” said I on the spur of the moment, with cheerful friendliness, “if I might see the manager?”

“The manager has gone to Toronto.”

“Is there anyone else about?” I continued.

“Anyone else?” returned the indignant clerk. “I’m about, madam! Can I serve you?”

There is no use, I said to myself as we drove on, one might as well give it up. One can’t invent a wine atmosphere when not a trace of it actually exists. The country is beautiful, but prim—far too prim. One’s kingdom for a touch of southern Europe where life itself is the thing and there is gaiety and warmth in the countryside. You cannot make bricks without straw, I said, and so we progressed complainingly beneath the crimson ramparts of the Niagara escarpment that leads one from the village of Jordan ten lovely miles to St. Catharines.

“I see a small winery, or some such place, just ahead,” said Gerald, hopeful to change the subject. But the name alone was discrediting. It was called “Sunniland”—which might as well be “You-Cum-Inn,” or any other Americanism. But all the same we stepped straight into Italy!

A small room, a small table, a small man with dark eyes who, surprisingly, made a gesture of welcome, so that it was easy to tell him that I had come not only to price his wines, but to talk about an industry which seemed to me very interesting.

“Well, naturally, I am interested also because I have come a long way to make wine here!”

“You are French or Italian?”

“I am Italian,” he said proudly. “From the district of Bracciano some miles north of Rome. It is a good district but,” with a shrug, “it is not so very much better than this!”

I glanced at Gerald in the waiting car, who had made a similar statement only a moment ago.

“You would like to buy a few bottles of my wine?” . . . I scanned the list.

“Yes, if you can bring me anything half as good as the Chianti we used to buy in Florence and Rome for a lira a pint.”

“But that was expensive for Chianti—a lira a pint! . . . Let us see—taste this.”

He drew from under his table a bottle and a glass.

I beckoned to Gerald and in a moment there we all were, sitting on the front stoop in the sun with three little glasses on a soap box between us.

In the first place the wine was good. It had the rusty, slightly bitter taste of genuine Chianti, the Italian peasant’s claret, but it was a little softer than Chianti.

“As these are Canadian grapes I do not call this wine by an Italian name,” said our friend. “It is not an expensive wine, but it is made with care. That is the secret of a small winery—the process must be conducted slowly and with attention to detail. Any other form of manufacture is fatal to success—absolutely fatal. You can drink this or any other good mild wine all day long as we do in Europe, like water, and with no harm to anyone. But the rough process of quick wine-making, that is very bad.”

“This,” we said, “is like drinking the grapes themselves.”

“That is as it should be,” he replied. “But what you drink is very different to that which is called grape-juice here—something warmer and stronger than that, eh? . . . My little manufactory is in the rear of the shop, and it will give me much pleasure to show you the way in which I conduct the process. It is a small plant, but I am not ambitious for a large one.”

Just then some motorists drew up before our platform and the proprietor disappeared to wait on them. A farmer walked across the road and sat down on the step. “You folks from the States?” he asked agreeably.

“Why?” we countered.

“Just thought you was interested. Saw you talking to Giovanni as I call him. Never can pronounce his real name so don’t try. A lot of Americans used to visit this spot, but I guess you are Canadians.”

“That does not prevent our interest in native wines. In fact, we’re actually on a little wine tour!”

“You don’t say! . . . Well, it’s a real business. Expanding every day. I ought to know—I’m a grower.”

The grape-grower looked rather like a character out of one of Merrill Denison’s plays. He told us that he had forty-five acres under cultivation and had little or no trouble with pickers—in itself a startling announcement as we knew fruit farmers. Then Giovanni appeared and we were four around the modest soap box. Gerald suggested sampling a white wine, and ordered a bottle of Tokay. It was not so good as the claret had been. Three years ago when it was bottled there may not have been a long warm season, or a late autumn. A short season is our trouble, for the wine-grape must ripen slowly, and in Canada nature is not so leisurely, so abundant of slow warmth as in the South. “Nature is, indeed, often in a hurry,” said Giovanni sorrowfully.

We went to see his large wooden vats. We mounted on chairs and boxes and saw the steaming, perfumed “mash” at its slow work of fermentation. In the case of red wines the entire mash is fermented. The stalks of the grapes are previously removed in order to prevent tannin, and great care is taken that the stones are not crushed. White wine “mash” is pressed in perforated wooden tubs, the remaining husks being used for making “after-wines” and vinegars. We learned that the “must” which trickles out from the “mash” before pressing is very fine, and may be fermented by itself into a superior quality of wine. When the wine is clear it is drawn into larger casks for storage and these should be of oak. Filled with the young, undrinkable wine they must stand in storing cellars, well sealed against atmospheric disturbances, while the chemical process that refines them goes on. No wine is “bottle-ripe” until after two or three years.

“Four years is more like it,” said Giovanni. “I think that here in Canada they bottle too quickly. In some cases I hear that they even throw in raisins and sugar to hurry things up. Then you get a drink that is far too strong and heady. It should be a long process—I assure you of that!”

But how simple and primitive it really was—the steaming mash, the wooden vats and casks, the cool little cellar. A process of nature which needs no artificial and elaborate machinery, one of the few natural industries left in the world.

“You see, people get kind of mixed up on the liquor question,” said the grower. “They group spirits and beer with wine. Good wine is the simplest, healthiest drink in the world. Our first care is to discard tannin, as I told you before. And, say, you ought to see our pickers fatten up at the work! There is a lot of food value, not to speak of iron extracts, in grapes. I have known some pickers put on several pounds in a week.”

“Do you often have set-backs as to bad seasons?” we asked.

“Not so bad as the peach men,” he told us. “But a good vineyard is expensive because it is of slow growth. It is better not to crop until the third year and there is an immense amount of cutting back, pruning, training and experimenting. Then, of course, the vine is so fruitful that it soon exhausts itself by over-production. We have to keep the clusters carefully trimmed—even the berries on the clusters usually require trimming. But we are getting help from experts who have been brought from France and other countries and are becoming interested in Ontario wines. The government is coming to our help also. It is as anxious as we are for better wines. I’d like to see the crude, over-proof stuff knocked on the head. It’s bad for people, and the good wine ought to have a chance. The quality of grapes will improve, too. We are working on soil conditions.”


Nature seemed to be in league with the vineyards this lovely day. It was impossible to think that the warm nectar of the air might soon be chilled by autumn winds. For a moment we felt that this serenity was intended to remain. But a sudden wind blew a whirl of leaves to our feet. We said good-bye to our host. Our little wine tour was ended.


St. Catharines goes into the Encyclopaedia Britannica on account of the remarkable quality of its mineral spring, which was known to the Indians as “magic water” long before the British stumbled upon it in the eighteenth century and erected a log cabin to mark the spot. They called it St. Catharine’s Well. Shortly afterwards a settlement grew up around it, and in the matter of a few years ambitious plans were set going. This Welland County is geographically important, and is the most sheltered and fruitful district of all Ontario. Bordered on the west by the Niagara River, and the giant interruption of its falls, the problem of water transportation arose. It is said that the idea of cutting the Welland Canal came through the necessity of its promoter, William Hamilton Merritt, to secure a water supply for his mill. In 1829 the first canal was opened. Since then it has been several times enlarged and was taken over by the government. It is one of the most used waterways on the continent.

In one of the old Merritt houses in St. Catharines a portrait, really very unusual, shows the seated figure of the founder with a background in which the canal stretches behind him in a soft landscape that suggests this fertile, smiling land.

St. Catharines itself is known as an educational as well as an industrial city. Besides its many public schools there is Ridley College, a well-known private school for boys. A charming feature of the city is its Civic Rose Garden, in Montebello Park, where rare specimens of hybrid roses are cultivated to great perfection. The present Welland Hotel is on the site of the early log cabin at St. Catharine’s Well and the mineral waters are as strong as they were centuries ago. From a glass-enclosed gallery on its roof a panorama of gardens surrounding the houses of the city may be seen, and on a clear day, Lake Ontario in the distance.

Port Dalhousie, three miles from St. Catharines, was once, in a small way, a distinctive lake port. A long flight of wooden steps used to take one from the sedate upper town to the fishermen’s settlement below. Now it chiefly calls attention to itself in Lakeside Park, a fine bathing beach with a large dancing pavilion.


A few miles beyond St. Catharines we turn to the left on a paved road which runs through the small village of Virgil to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

This village of Niagara is the essence of old Upper Canada. In summer it is full of sweet-william and peonies, of larkspur and roses; and there are carefully-marked old houses; and occasional meetings of the Historical Society. The memory of a hero, Major-General Isaac Brock, pervades the place. His ghost, in a scarlet uniform, with a cocked hat and a sword fairly leaping from its scabbard, is everywhere to be seen. That he was a noble and spirited hero makes his hold secure; it almost seems as though the village leans upon the drifting aura of his wraith.

It is true that, from time to time, a few wealthy strangers have been known to come and build modern houses. But they are sympathetic to the quiet life of the place. They have not even beckoned a modern hotel. The Queen’s Royal, which was a social centre for over fifty summers, has closed its doors; the provincial highway between Toronto and Buffalo sweeps by without entering; and the village thinks of Brock, and his day of glory and his four funerals, and every year or two it presents another memorial tablet to a fallen hero or an ageing building.

The town has had nine names, beginning with Ouinagara and ending with Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was the seat of the first Parliament of Upper Canada in 1792. The earliest newspaper was begun a year later. After the decisive episode of the War of 1812 known as the Battle of Queenston Heights, it was left a “smoking ruin in the hands of the enemy.” Fort George was built by order of Governor Simcoe after Fort Niagara, across the river, was lost to the Americans. It was here that Brock and his aide, John McDonnell, were buried in October, 1812, and the neighbour fort across the river answered shot for shot with those of Fort George. Twelve years later these bodies were removed and carried up the steep ascent of Queenston Heights.

Of the old Navy Hall, a series of four buildings, just one, probably the Parliament Building, remains to be seen.

The greatest treasure in Niagara’s historical house is the cocked hat of General Brock, with white ostrich plumes, red and white cockade and gold-plated chain. Pamphlet No. 5 says:

It must be confessed that General Brock never wore the hat, as when it arrived for him from England he lay in a hero’s grave in Fort George. A letter is in existence written by him to his brother: “All the articles I ordered have arrived except the cocked hat, for which I am sorry, as on account of the enormous size of my head I find it difficult to obtain a hat to suit me.” . . . This hat was used at the different funerals, being placed on the coffin in 1824 and again in 1853, when many old soldiers asked permission to try it on.

Indeed, it is at present what you might call tattered.

We went up the village street towards the camp grounds and officers’ headquarters to see The Wilderness on King Street. And there we heard a romantic story and found a lovely house. The land on which it was built was given by the Indians, “in return for many good deeds,” to Mrs. Daniel Claus, daughter of Sir William Johnson, and widow of their Superintendent. To acquire the property the Indians sold a part of their holdings on the Grand River. The first house was burned when the Americans fired the village in 1814. This one was erected during the next five years on the same plan as Longwoods, Napoleon’s house at St. Helena. Year by year the Indians used to come to receive their presents, sitting under these great trees against which the rambling one-storey house looks diminutive. There is a marvellous Balm of Gilead, over two hundred feet high, and six feet in circumference; and a huge oak, said to have been brought over a century ago from the grounds of Windsor Castle. The Mohawks, under Brant, coming down from the headquarters of the Six Nations, could see it from a long distance over land or water. They must have thought well of their lordly gift as they sat in its shade waiting for their presents and treaty money.

William Kirby, a Yorkshire man, the author of the celebrated historical romance, The Golden Dog, lived quietly and usefully in Niagara for many years in a modest house on River Street. And accumulating in his desk, afterwards to be stowed away for years in the attic, were diaries and documents and letters of considerable importance. Here are copies of Indian treaties, and observations as to the doings of the countryside, with some awareness of the outer world; and letters conveying the pleasure of Queen Victoria in Le Chien d’Or, and from Lord Tennyson and the Duke of Argyle and others. Niagara’s literary house is linked by marriage to one of its oldest families, for Mrs. Kirby’s mother was the daughter of Daniel Servos.

Something wise and old, belonging not so much to pioneer life as to well-ordered family existence, comes to one in Niagara. Palatine Hill, the Servos’ homestead, some two miles from the village, is a quaint wooden dwelling which, on a summer day, is set on the edge of a grassy amphitheatre of daisies. But step over the doorsill and time seems to stand still, as though for a moment you could catch a detached fragment of old life.

This family was of Prussian origin. Christopher Servos came in 1726 and his son served under Sir William Johnson in 1759. Palatine Hill was an important estate. The long drive to the house from the entrance gate was lined with the dwellings of farm hands, carpenters and millers. For the amphitheatre of daisies was occupied then by grist and sawmills, busily at work, and part of the house was used as a government store. People came from long distances to have their grain ground and to buy provisions and furs. Near the house is an old barn in which American dragoons were quartered for a time. In the family graveyard lie four generations of the same name.

It was pleasant to be received by a daughter of the Servos family, here where old names seem linked through the generations. To come from The Wilderness and the home of William Kirby to the quaint rooms of Palatine Hill was like a little round of social activity with pleasant ghosts, all connected by friendship or marriage. The Historic Room at Palatine Hill is full of echoes of pioneer adventures; an old saddle used by Grandmamma Frey when chased by Indians as she was carrying dispatches, news of escaped slaves, and rumours of Assemblies at Navy Hall, when French counts and their ladies, American commissioners, governors and their parties, and neighbours, such as the celebrated Mr. Tom Talbot from his castle of Malahide near St. Thomas, came to dance with the élite of Niagara.

This house is still remote, strangely untouched. The low rooms, filled with mahogany and walnut, and crowded with bric-à-brac, are full of yesterdays. Why is it that no high-set house achieves the distinction of one which appears to be on the level of the ground? This one feels as though it had sprung naturally into being, and was not unhappy in old age. It exactly fits its surroundings—an echo of early Ontario, into which such glorious courage went.

Everyone goes to see St. Mark’s Church near the centre of the town. It was founded in 1792 and built fourteen years later, burned in 1812, restored in 1820 and enlarged to its present dimensions in 1843. Some fine stained windows have been placed in the church from time to time, their soft light falls on tattered old flags and many memorial tablets. One of the most interesting is inscribed to Colonel John Butler, His Majesty’s Commissioner for Indian Affairs, one of the founders and first patrons of this church. He was born in New London, Connecticut, in 1728. In the war with France for the conquest of Canada he was distinguished at Lake George in September, 1755, and at the siege of Fort Niagara and its capitulation in July, 1759. In the war of 1776 he took up arms in defence of the unity of empire, and raised and commanded the loyal American regiment called Butler’s Rangers. He died in Niagara in May, 1796, and lies in the family burial ground near the town. Another tablet is to William Kirby.

St. Andrew’s Church is a little more difficult to find. It is on Simcoe Street and is the loveliest thing in Niagara. I think it is one of the most perfect churches in Canada. That high façade of deep-red brick against which, supporting a narrow porch the full width of the building, grey pillars stand in such glorious contrast! The support for the spire is a wooden shuttered square, above which the structure becomes octagonal by the use of pillars. The church as we see it is the work of Kivas Tully, of Toronto, who renovated and altered it after it was struck by tornadoes—two of them!—in the fifties. The congregation was founded, as I understand, in 1794, and the first structure built in 1804. This was burned during the American invasion, but the old log schoolhouse, now covered with clapboard, still stands. The interior remains a perfect memorial to the ancient Scottish Church. One steps back into an entirely different world, an entirely different sense of life and worship. Faded crimson damask is folded behind the high walnut pulpit to which slender circular stairs ascend. Over the pulpit hangs a sounding-board, below is the precentor’s desk. These face an encircling gallery and a square of “table” pews each with its own door. There are side aisles of “slip” pews, and at the back are the large square “family” pews with plenty of room for footstools, heaters and anything else that people wished to dispose therein when they settled down after a long drive for the all-day kirk sessions of the Presbyterian Sabbaths of generations ago. The carpets and footstools in these pews have all the appearance of originals, and we were touched to the heart by their distinguished shabbiness.

I asked the corresponding secretary of the Historical Society of Niagara what she meant by telling me that these central pews are called “table” pews. She told me that still for Communion Service boards are laid across them covered with white linen, upon which the Sacrament is set, so that all may sit at the table of the Lord.

Everything about St. Andrew’s is so beautiful that we should unite in prayer that it may be for ever unchanged.


We followed the River Road from Niagara to Queenston. The river just approaching Lake Ontario is quiet here. It moves steadily after its shimmering rush over giant walls. It is about three miles from Niagara, along this road, that one comes upon a handsome estate facing the river, that of Mr. W. K. Jackson, of Buffalo, New York. A small cottage within the grounds, sheltered by a thick hedge of box, would certainly escape the attention of anyone who was not on search for the home of one of the most picturesque figures in early Niagara history. This is the Count Joseph de Puisaye, who was a noted figure in Europe after the French Revolution, in which he played a strange part, first in sympathy with the people and their drastic reforms, then, alarmed at their excesses, back to his own party. He escaped with his life, and in 1797 applied to the British government for funds to form a Royalist settlement in Canada. And so he became the leader of a forlorn cause. He embarked with a little train of Royalists, some soldiers and two charming ladies; the Marquise de Beaupoil and the Viscountess de Chalus, with their waiting-maids. Some of the party stayed at Quebec, but de Puisaye and his friend the Count de Chalus attempted a settlement at Niagara.

By a side drive, leading to Mr. Jackson’s estate, we approached a little clapboard house. We found that it was being repainted a glittering white. On the back porch we discovered its present tenant, who obligingly took us through the small low-ceilinged rooms, with second-storey dormer windows set in a sharply-sloping roof. Built against one end of the house is an old structure, now roughcast, supported by stone buttresses. It has a vaulted interior and two divisions and is called a powder magazine. The story is told by an old gardener that there were some ancient French pear trees in the garden, relatives perhaps of those of the Bâby mansion near Lake Erie, trees of a rare variety that de Puisaye undoubtedly planted. We had heard stories of social life, piquant even for those days, and of bygone parties, legends of which are handed down only in old pamphlets. In one of these a letter from a friend in Kingston thanks the Count for a present of peaches and speaks of having bought for him for only a hundred piastres, “une petite negresse.” De Puisaye went to England to finish his History of the French Royalist Party begun here, and he never returned. He died at Blythe House near Hammersmith. There was no Canadian settlement.

Now bereft of every personal possession of its first owner, the house looks soulless, though admirably cared for. One has to refurbish it mentally as best one can.

We asked for a rose from the Count’s garden—they were blooming in profusion—and were given a handful, which adorned a friend’s dinner table in Buffalo that evening. With pride we told the forgotten story of our Count. But it was capped by two of the party who, not to be outdone, related the fact that La Salle had built the Griffin at their own back door so to speak. They live on Cayuga Island opposite La Salle on the American side.

As we progress towards Queenston the river becomes swifter and more troubled. High above the deep-red cliffs that jut into the green water on the American side are the painted roofs of many summer houses; high above the trees and leafy lanes on this side rises a tall shaft which elevates the form of Brock and makes him a dominant feature of the whole Niagara scene. His character recalls more than the memory of a brilliant commander who often led his small forces to victory over armies twice their size. It reaches beyond his strategies to the support and devotion of his men and his own last order—“Don’t mind me! Push on”—when at the Battle of the Heights he was fatally wounded. This, his love for men, has returned to surround his memory here where every country lane and every curve of the terrible and beautiful river is full of frontier history.

A suspension bridge forms the connecting link between Queenston and Lewiston, N.Y., and here are the docks of the Canada Steamship Lines, from where one can make a short sail down the river and across Lake Ontario to Toronto. From the water an effective view is obtained of the beautiful Fort Niagara on the American side. Up from the docks buses and cars twist and turn around the steep hill to Brock’s Monument, on the site of which the General was killed, and under which he was finally buried. On the Heights there is also a monument to Laura Secord, who walked through the bush for twenty miles to convey information to the British forces before the battle of Beaver Dams. From the top of Brock’s Monument, which is 186 feet high, an amazing panorama of lake, river, falls and countryside is to be seen. It was at this dizzy eminence that we once heard two ladies deciding between themselves that Laura Secord must have been equally famous as a girl scout and a candy-maker.

Far below lies the village of Queenston. A bit of the wall of a printing office used by William Lyon Mackenzie may still be seen close to the highway at the foot of the slope, and in the village the house where General Brock’s body was carried after his death is pointed out.


At Queenston we made a little detour to the village of Stamford by turning west on Highway No. 8 to St. David’s. Here we are at the forks of St. David’s Ravine Road, and the old Portage Road around the falls. We wanted to recall the unfamiliar story of Stamford, how it was old and once ambitious, how Sir Peregrine Maitland built a vice-regal residence there, when Niagara was the capital of Upper Canada, and brought with him some military friends, the Dees, and Ottleys, and Mewburns, and others, and they all lived in a comfortable, old-world fashion with the Village Green in the centre and the Church of St. John the Evangelist, which they founded and furnished, on the edge of the Green.

The road wound through beautiful country until we came upon the formation of sandbanks upon which considerable machinery for its exploitation had been set up. All this was once the Maitland estate. Here was the great house that Sir Peregrine had literally built unknowing upon the sand—a place of twenty rooms, of gardens, terraces and lawns and peacocks strutting on the lawns. Not a trace of it is left.

Stamford, when we arrived in that village, seemed to be sound asleep. But we woke someone who unlocked the tiny church, which may hold a hundred people and must have been an exquisite place before they removed its ancient pews of black walnut and the choir stalls, of which only one remains. The original pulpit and altar of walnut are left, also what used to be known as the servants’ gallery at the back, and an old alms-plate of heavy brass. The Maitlands’ square pew with its coat of arms has disappeared. In fact, as far as possible the historic importance of the church has been destroyed, and yet, strangely enough, a hint of what it once was somehow survives.

I must record the Village Green, and add that it has been slightly marred by a tennis court at one end, about which electric lights are festooned. A cow should be gently grazing there—but one cannot expect too much. As we retraced our way to the River Road, slowly now through the beautiful late afternoon, the story unfolded in our memory like the sudden sound of a long familiar song:

There was a sound of revelry by night,

And Belgium’s Capital had gathered then.

The Eve of Waterloo; the ball given at Brussels by the Duke of Richmond for his daughter, Lady Sarah! She who had inspired that deathless, romantic dance was afterwards to marry Sir Peregrine Maitland, and to become the first lady of a small Canadian capital and the mistress of a great house that was destined to be built upon sand. Lady Sarah, who must have sat demurely, or otherwise, in the little church whose door we had just closed—another link in the intricate chain of associations which bind old countries with new ones.


As we draw nearer to the Falls the road becomes more formal. It is as though a house were set in order for a distinguished guest. Splendid stone masonry appears in a high retaining wall bordering the river, with a raised sidewalk so that views of the canyon may be had by pedestrians. This runs all the way into the town of Niagara Falls.

Just below Queenston, the world’s largest power development, the Ontario Hydro-Electric Power Commission, is imposingly housed. Three great bridges are flung across the river. They look so everlasting that it is hard to realize it was only in 1848 that the first iron basket carried passengers across on the site of the Lower Steel Arch Bridge. The Falls View Bridge, at the town of Niagara Falls, connects it with that of Niagara Falls, New York.

At the Whirlpool Rapids we meet the terrific aftermath of the descent of the river over its rocks. It is an expression of natural violence too overpowering for admiration, though, when viewing the panorama of Niagara Falls as a whole, I school myself to think only the right thoughts. I mentally discard the hotels, restaurants, tourists, brides and grooms, taxi drivers and motorists—of which latter I am one—that cluster on the brink. I summon memories of the past. I agree with the person standing next to me that all this must have been a most surprising sight to its first spectators, brown, yellow or white. But I do not echo the invariable question: “I wonder what they felt like when they saw it first!” because I know the answer.

Father Lewis Hennepin, a Recollect missionary with La Salle’s expedition, was one of the first of the white race to adventure here, and certainly the first of all writers to secure the story of the discovery of the cataract and its effect upon the observer—a world scoop in news-telling indeed! Yet his account entirely lacks the exaggeration of an impassioned feature writer, and the equal insincerity of poetic fancy, when let loose on a world wonder. He merely wrote down the actual fact of his discovery and his impressions, with clear and firm precision, in a book which he called, A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America. He says: “On the 6th December, 1678, St. Nicholas Day, we entered the beautiful River Niagara which no bark had ever before reached. Four leagues from Lake Frontenac there is a vast and prodigious cadence of water which falls down after a surprising and astonishing manner insomuch that the Universe does not afford its equal. It is so rapid above this descent that it violently hurries down the wild beasts, while endeavouring to pass it to feed on the other side, they not being able to withstand the force of its current which inevitably casts them down headlong above six hundred feet. . . . At the foot of this horrible precipice we meet the River Niagara which is not above half a quarter of a league broad, but is wonderfully deep in some places.”

The wild beasts had ceased to struggle with the cataract when the prize writers began to assemble at Niagara. To find how true to the raging spirit of these waters Father Hennepin’s commentary is, it need only be compared with that of Charles Dickens, who writes with horrible sentimentality. Standing on Table Rock he declared that “the first effect and the enduring one, instant and lasting, of the tremendous spectacle is peace. Peace of mind, tranquillity, calm recollections of the dead, great thoughts of eternal rest and happiness, nothing of gloom or terror. Niagara at once stamped upon my heart an image of beauty, to remain there changeless and indelible until its pulses cease to beat forever.”

Whatever else of mad beauty, insane nervous beauty that is always shot through with restless terror, the rapids, the cataract and the whirlpool of Niagara afford, a suggestion of peace and tranquillity they cannot hold to any rational mind.

Wet with spray as we passed Table Rock House, where people in oil-skins descend by elevator into a subterranean tunnel which leads to a lookout on the edge of Horseshoe Falls, we followed the driveway of Queen Victoria Park, which borders the river for several miles. The Park is laid out with gardens, lookouts, benches and pavilions, bathing pools, tennis courts and all the rest of it. It is when we leave the Park and Rapids behind us and are once more in the country that the effect of the spectacle which we have just encountered impresses itself upon us. I think that this is the way to see Niagara Falls; not to make of it a special excursion, unless one comes from afar and is never likely to behold it again, but to follow the river casually, as one follows the opening movement of a symphony, knowing that the interlacing themes are inevitably working towards a climax to which our nerves are already strung, and from which they will relax in the fading modulations of the close. So the soft fields and peaceful gardens, the winding road beside the now tranquil river, release the tension of Niagara’s magnificence and bring us into common day once more.

General Brock, who had become lost to our vision in the confusion and uproar of the Falls View, now brooded over the landscape again, though, driving south, we were obliged to look backward to see his tall column emerging over the treetops. This River Road leading to the Peace Bridge becomes increasingly beautiful at every mile. To-day the early wheat was ready, fields encroached to the edge of the asphalt road and farmers were scything down the grain. Cherry orchards were red with fruit. The Devil’s Paintbrush, or Hawk’s Flower, was visible on all sides in solid masses of brown and flame-coloured velvet.

At Chippawa we came to the upper end of the old Portage Road around the Falls, where the French built a stockade in 1759 and during the American revolution the British built a blockhouse. Cargoes of supplies were hauled by wagon up this road from Queenston, and loads of furs were here transported downstream for Lake Ontario. During the Mackenzie Rebellion of 1837 Colonel MacNab with two thousand men made this place a stand to fire upon what were quaintly called “the reformers”, who had entrenched themselves on Navy Island just above the Falls. They were dislodged, and their little supply boat The Caroline was cut adrift and sent over the falls—but with no reformers inside.

Here are located the intake works of the Queenston-Chippawa Power Development. Water is carried through a canal thirteen miles long to the power plant below Queenston.

The islands above the cataract are a study in themselves; Goat Island, the Three Sister Islands, the Dufferin Islands, Grand Island. Grand Island, wide and pear-shaped, is in sight from the time we leave the driveway of Queen Victoria Park until we have almost arrived at the Peace Bridge which connects Fort Erie, Ontario, with the city of Buffalo in New York State.


Often as we had sped through Fort Erie and driven over the Bridge, this was our first visit to the fortification which lies hidden away along the Lake Erie shore, a matter of a half mile from where the highway turns down to the Customs Office at the Bridge. I am sure that few people ever find it, though it is one of the most interesting of all Ontario forts. It has been many times bombarded, yet part of a wall of solid masonry remains standing behind the grass-grown moat. A monument, comparatively lately erected, says: “These ruined walls and ramparts, built in 1805-07 formed part of the third Fort Erie dismantled in May 1813 and rebuilt in the next year. In July 1814 it surrendered to invaders who made it the strong point of an entrenched camp. Here their army, defeated at Lundy’s Lane, fled for shelter. It was unsuccessfully besieged by the British in August and September 1814 and evacuated 5th of November 1814.”

The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada contributes a tablet commemorating the enterprise of Captain Alexander Dobbs and seventy officers and men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines who captured the United States ships of war Ohio and Somers, in Lake Erie off this place during the night of 12-13th August 1814.

Across a dividing strip of water now shine the towers and skyscrapers of the city of Buffalo. It was strange to think that in a quarter of an hour, if the Customs were kind, we should be driving into the heart of a modern American city, and that the year 1812 and its fratricidal controversy would at once become too remote for serious consideration. But to study the road, any road, without collecting these time-worn facts is impossible. They are our links with the past, and this link, the old fort, although a bit worn, we placed in thought with many others that we had found along the road—that road, lake and river bordered, of towns and villages, farms, estates, orchards and vineyards that had formed the vivid panorama which extends from royal York to Niagara—and beyond to the Bridge of Peace.



The Dundas Highway—Then through the central towns of Woodstock, London and Chatham to Windsor, where the journey began.

Southern Ontario is geographically rather like the shape of a foot with a high instep, whose big toe forms a neck of land between Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair.

The Dundas Highway—No. 5—for some distance from the outskirts of Toronto runs level through the country, with just enough rise and fall to hold one’s interest. It is one of Governor Simcoe’s four great roads, and was destined from the first to be a main highway. For this reason, grants of land had been given to important people, and early settlers were of good stock from the Old Land.

About fourteen miles west of Toronto on this road a little stone chapel in the village of Dixie was, this day that we passed, about to celebrate its hundredth year. Mr. W. Perkins Bull, a native of the county of Peel, and a custodian of its records, described in a word the story of this and many other Ontario settlements of the time, when he said that in those days—the days of the bitter 1836 election and the rebellion incited by William Lyon Mackenzie—men fought and argued all day, drank together all night and met peacefully in the chapel on Sunday.

Dixie, Islington, the latter with a picturesque red brick church set on a tree-y knoll beside the highway, and Cooksville are suburban postscripts of Toronto. From Cooksville a road branches north to the pleasant town of Brampton. The landscape changes to real country and we drive on past Erindale and Waterdown to Clappison’s Corners, which has a romantic sound but turns out to be a gas station and the juncture of roads branching in several directions.

Dundas, a most picturesque town in a beautiful valley, lies to the south. It is here in the name-town of this road that its exact history is described in a cairn recently erected by the Historic Sites and Monuments Committee bearing the inscription:

Dundas Street, the Governor’s Road, Planned by Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe in 1793 as a military road and commercial highway between Lake Ontario and the River Thames to promote settlement of the Province. Laid out and constructed by the Queen’s Rangers under his orders and named in honor of Hon. Henry Dundas, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies.

Still on the Dundas Highway we turn to the Paris road which runs past Peter’s Corner to St. George, to Paris upon the Grand River, and so to Woodstock, which I hope that no traveller will drive hurriedly through.

The main street of Woodstock is a pretty exact replica of almost every main street in Ontario, but the town has interesting features of its own. One of these is St. Paul’s Church, for long a place of fascination to visitors. It was Anna Jameson, the English writer and art critic who, visiting Woodstock a hundred years ago, described the place as unique among Ontario towns. I cannot understand, and no one has ever explained why, in the years following the Napoleonic Wars, when many officers resigned their commissions abroad and emigrated to Canada, so many military and seafaring men should have decided to locate just at this spot, for it was no more naturally attractive than many other regions. But locate they did. And though to-day, apart from the English church which they built and where the names and histories of many of them are written in tablets on the walls, little visible trace of them remains, all records show that here, in early Woodstock, pioneer life was tinged with an aristocratic flavour. The settlement was founded by Vice-Admiral Henry Vansittart, a distinguished English naval officer, who sent a brother officer, Captain Andrew Drew, to locate and report on lands purchased by Vansittart, who wished to establish his sons in Canada. Mrs. Jameson gives a delightful account of the Admiral’s house which she visited in 1836. She says that he had already expended upwards of twenty thousand pounds in purchases and improvements. “His house,” she says, “is a real curiosity. It is two or three miles from the highroad in the midst of the forest and looks as if a number of log huts had jostled against each other and stuck there. I imagine he had begun by erecting a log house, then in need of space had added another, then another and so on, all different shapes and sizes and full of a seaman’s contrivances, odd galleries, passages, porticoes, corridors, saloons, cabins and cupboards. If the outside reminded one of an African village the interior was no less like that of a man-of-war. The drawing-room, which occupies an entire building, is really a noble room with a chimney in which they pile twenty logs at once. Around this room is a gallery, well lighted with windows from without, through which there is a constant circulation of air. The Admiral has, besides, so many ingenious contrivances for warming and airing his house that no insurance office will insure him on any terms. Altogether it was the most strangely picturesque building I ever beheld. . . . On Sunday we attended the pretty little church in Woodstock which was filled by the neighbouring settlers of all classes.”

This church of St. Paul’s, for some reason that I cannot explain, reminds me of an oversize ship’s cabin. It is of conventional English Church type, with old-fashioned box-pews from which the doors have been removed. It is almost panelled with tablets to military and naval personages of high station. But something in its tidy plainness, something in its slant, brings a feeling faintly nautical and completely remote from the atmosphere of to-day.

The houses of the founders of the church and the town have generally faded from the picture. The first Vansittart house did burn! The one he afterward built has been allowed to disappear; but his name and many of his associates are perpetuated in streets, among which are Graham, Bexley, Riddell and one which is called after his friend Major Drew. It was Major Drew, afterwards senior naval officer for Upper Canada, who organized the task of cutting out and destroying the Caroline, the United States supply and munitions boat of Mackenzie’s short-lived “provisional government” that was located on Navy Island, which we saw on the Niagara Road. Colonel Drew gave the land on which St. Paul’s Church was built and he lived in a house designed by Nelson Bendish, a nephew of the famous Lord Nelson.

We drive past the village of Beachville whose importance has been long outstripped by its younger rivals, Woodstock and Ingersoll. We are in the township of Zorra, at one time a settlement of Scottish Highlanders who brought with them traditions of a very different sort from those of the aristocrats of Woodstock. The Highlanders were settled in the midst of a forest land, to their Celtic imaginations full of supernatural terrors. Ghost stories fill the old histories of the region. There are also accounts of the Zorra church, where a great Communion happened once a year when people gathered from miles about and Highland hospitality, not unaided by alcohol, flowed around and about the grave religious observance.


This open rolling country through which we drove towards the valley of the Thames held little trace of the old Ontario enemy, the forest. In all the province there was no more determined fight against its inroads than in this region, far from lakeshore or great rivers, which was destined to be rich farming country when once it was uncovered. So the chief ambition of the first settlers was to vanquish the vast army of trees which enveloped the land, trod it down, hid it, would have buried it if possible. Dreadful things happened in the forest; children were lost in its depths and never found, men were maimed and often killed in felling trees, Indians lurked everywhere in its gloom. The march of the forest was steady and inevitable as the surge of the sea. In summer it went forward, sending out a great advance-guard of seedlings and young trees. Winter was its ebb-tide of frost and snow. The beauty of its dark arches carpeted by undergrowth, interlaced with brilliant flowers, and the fascination of swamps, alive with butterflies and fern, were lost to these people. They saw only a sinister enemy, and with puny weapons and painful labour they laid their enemy waste as best they could. Every settlement that emerged from the trees was decorated with the bodies of the slain. There was a certain satisfaction in letting these bodies lie and rot in the sun. So accounts of London, the Forest City, during the first years of its existence are mainly comments upon new streets, rough roads, low, wooden buildings—and stumps. How dark it must have been! The only light came from the windows of small houses, stores and taverns. For night travel there were tin lanterns, with holes cut in flowery patterns on the sides, and a tallow-dip dimly burning therein.

No one can write of those days and omit a distinguishing feature of the countryside—its taverns. There were two or three at every crossroad, and one in each town block. Over the rough, heart-breaking roads swung the comforting signs. The pole like a beacon signal stood high holding the swinging sign. It is a matter of history that on the Goderich Road in the middle ’eighties there were forty taverns scattered along its sixty-five miles. The special designs of these signs were said to be romantic. There was the Hope Hotel, on the corner of Talbot and Dundas Street in London, with its graceful figure resting against an anchor and gazing into far-off space. The Rob Roy, on Dundas and Richmond Streets, with the kilted Highlander. The Prince of Orange, on Dundas and Clarence, on a white horse, his sword pointing out the fleeing Jacobites.

And here and there, at odd hours of morning, noon and night, the men of the district drank no more, and certainly no less, than their contemporaries in Great Britain or the United States.

That amazing imperialist, Colonel Talbot, whose influence spread all over this community, and is recorded to-day in London in the street which bears his name, made a speech on temperance in 1832 which crowned his career. It was at a moment when Canadian Liberals were advocating not only a new policy but worse than that, a sort of prohibition. The Colonel began characteristically with “Silence and attention,” and went on to declare that the Radicals had “commenced their work of darkness under cover of organized damned cold water drinking societies.” His exhortation met with the enthusiastic approval of the populace. A fanfare of drums, torchlights and songs of victory followed the magnificent Colonel home to Port Talbot.

It was Governor Simcoe who named the first village New London, though he thought first of a really fascinating title, “Georgina-on-the-Thames,” in compliment to his sovereign. He even suggested that the village might be suitable for the capital of Upper Canada, because of its central position and situation on the forks of the Thames. It was indeed quite a little town a century ago—as democratic and go-ahead as its neighbour, Woodstock, was exclusive. To quote once more the irresistible Anna Jameson: “The population consists chiefly of artisans; blacksmiths, carpenters, builders—all flourishing. I have seen nowhere such signs of progress and prosperity. The jail and courthouse, comprised in one large and stately edifice, seem the glory of the townspeople. As for the style of the architecture I may not attempt to name or describe it: but a gentleman informed me, in rather equivocal phrase, that it was ‘somewhat Gothic.’ ” It may be added that the jail and courthouse still occupy the brow of a hill on the corner of Dundas and Ridout Streets, and are to my mind still a “large and stately edifice.”

Some years after Mrs. Jameson’s first visit the village became a garrison town with a barracks which cost the then incredible sum of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. This event drew a different society. Important public building began, and the founding of houses by established families. The little town slowly rising out of the forest did not lack such families, and in some cases their descendants live to-day in homesteads that are nearly as old as London itself.

Houses have taken their place in the pattern of this book, as they always have done and are doing, in the growing, changing pattern of this and every province of Canada. After all, we are British, and the politics, agreements and disagreements of Great Britain and her colonies are interwoven with the social fabric. Tea-tables have played a distinct part in the life of important houses—and beauty has always played its part. All through early Canada, certain houses of French and English families have formed a social and political chain from one end of the country to the other. Halifax, Saint John, Fredericton, Quebec, Montreal, Kingston, Toronto, at each place were these hospitable centres, where distinguished guests were entertained as a matter of course, where affairs were discussed, careers created, and movements forwarded.

Eldon House on Ridout Street was built by John Harris, a British naval officer who came from England with the Bayfield Survey, and while stationed at Lake Erie married a daughter of Colonel Samuel R. Ryerse, for whom the little settlement was named. The diary of her daughter, Charlotte Harris, contains an intimate picture not only of a beautiful colonial mansion on the banks of the Thames, but of nearly all the makers of history of the Ontario of her day. The rambling house is set in a great expanse of wooded ground which is terraced down to the river, and a sleepy stream, one of the many tiny inlets of the Thames, separates this part of the estate from the truck farm and kitchen gardens beyond. Packed with the treasures of three generations the interior of the house is as full of life, for all its serenity, as the century-old rose tree that blooms with firm determination under the drawing-room window.

The story of the rose tree is the story of the house, for when Mrs. Harris left Port Ryerse with her children for the new home which her husband had just built, she brought, by wagon through the forest, furniture and family heirlooms, old silver, and a magnificent grandfather’s clock bearing the Ryerse crest. These things were packed into a huge travelling cart. Then, not satisfied, she turned back to possess herself of a little rose tree from the garden. She and her children have departed now, but the clock ticks on in the shadowy hall and the rose tree in the sunny garden sends out a hundred pink blossoms every year.

Thornwood is another historic house, built nearly two decades later, in 1852, the residence of H. C. R. Becher, Esq., who was the legal adviser and intimate friend of Colonel Talbot. On the walls of the drawing-room hang a well-known portrait of the Colonel, and a rare water-colour—extremely valuable—of the interior of the log “castle of Malahide” at Port Talbot. The library contains old documents and books, pictures, autographs of famous persons, among them a letter from Thackeray who was a guest at Thornwood. The immense gardens, which like those of Eldon House face the river, are surrounded by a twig fence of great height which recalls in contour the pictures of ancient Canadian palisades. Behind the fence is a fine avenue of pines forming a walk around the grounds. From the rose garden one sees, across the wooded meadows, the Gothic tower of the University of Western Ontario.

On Ridout Street South stands Beechwood, another notable house, the residence of the late Colonel W. M. Gartshore. In the avenue, and to the left of the lovely old house, are huge beech trees, one of which is two centuries old. Beneath its boughs one could almost build a modern bungalow.

The trees that remain from the primeval forest form avenues for streets and shade for gardens. They still attract wild birds, especially warblers, of which there are a great many in London. In spring I have seen orioles and cardinals, as well as the usual singing birds, robins and meadow-larks, flash through the branches of blossoming fruit trees in this very garden at Beechwood, and it is one of the loveliest sights in the world.

The grey-stone tower of the main building of the University is as beautiful on nearer view as when softly framed by the foliage of Thornwood. Just beyond the northern limits of the city stretches a great campus, approached by a fine bridge which crosses the north branch of the Thames. The Arts Building, the Building of Natural Sciences and the Library Building are only a beginning. In the distance the towers of St. Peter’s Seminary may be seen, and there is also Brescia Hall, a women’s residence. The architect, whose treatment, in Collegiate Gothic, of the first buildings has proved most effective, has laid out a scheme for the relative location of all the buildings that will be required by the university for the next two centuries.

Impressive work has also been done in medicine for the needs of the Western counties. There is the Queen Alexandra Sanatorium for tuberculosis, a lasting monument to the generosity of Sir Adam Beck, known for his remarkable work in the development of Hydro-Electric. Victoria Hospital, the Institute of Public Health, the Children’s Memorial Hospital, nurses’ residence, and the University of Western Ontario Medical School, are an imposing pile; yet the Hospital, like the University, is still in the making. The story of these places is not so much one of past and present, but of present and future. This is also the case with its industrial life, always to me a fascinating side of cities. Manufacturing exists on an extensive scale, although it does not seem to permeate the city, which from many angles still appears to be set in the forest.

In Springbank Park the drives are lined with beds of flowers, and from all over Western Ontario picnic parties come. Victoria Park is in the centre of the city, and Queen’s Park is where Western Fair, the largest in Ontario after Toronto’s, is annually held.


We travel deeper into the region of the River Thames. It has been known to create at least one disastrous spring flood, but in summer it is a shallow, lazy stream. A century ago it was much used for steamboat travel. Tom Talbot’s road continues through the county of Kent, and it is probable that descendants of his settlers are at work now in the farmlands stretching on both sides of the straight and level highway. Cornfields, great dusky green patches of waving beet-tops and tobacco fields stretch beside us, and, as on the Lake Erie Road, negroes are occasionally to be seen, walking along the footpaths or working in the fields.

We were driving south. I felt it distinctly as I rolled along from London to Chatham in a crowded bus. I was determined to do at least one snatch of the way in this long journey by bus and alone. I am used always to travelling alone by train, and never alone by car. Nothing, I think, gives one such a sense of peace as when the Pullman steps are folded up into the mysterious quarters where they retire when the train starts, and one sinks back into a chair or berth in a dreamy state of transition into which no interruption enters. But a bus can never take the place of a train. A bus contains all the disadvantages of a car and none of the advantages of a train. You are neither alone nor with friends, neither comfortable nor distinctly uncomfortable. You are on the road, but not of it as you are in a car. To-day I was wedged in tightly beside a stout old man who talked to me about the potato crop. As I was not interested, I talked to him about the Indian Chief, Tecumseh, because we were coming into the place where he had played a conspicuous part. But the stout man was no more interested in Tecumseh than I was in potatoes.

“Did you ever hear of a Baldoon Settlement in these parts?” I pursued, determined to get something in return for the annoyance of being jammed against the window on account of his mammoth weight. His mind seemed to be a complete blank until I mentioned Great Bear Creek, which he said was the first name for Sydenham.

“Yon was the place where they set the crofters,” said he. So we gradually worked into a conversation in which I found that there were still people about whose grandfathers had known of the settlement in this county by the Earl of Selkirk of some ill-fated Scottish followers at a place he called Baldoon. As much of the country was marshy many of the settlers fell victims to malaria and other ills and gradually faded out of the picture.

“But mind,” said my neighbour, “now that you speak of it I recall that there are a couple of streets in Chatham named Selkirk and Baldoon.”

“Did you ever hear of old Dr. Troyer, from Long Point, who used to come down to Baldoon to help the Highlanders out when they were in trouble on account of witchcraft in the neighbourhood?”

“That I never did,” he replied, “but if I were you I would go to see Tecumseh Park in Chatham—it’s a nice place.”

On this friendly footing we parted, and at the William Pitt Hotel in Chatham I was picked up by a relative of a non-historic turn of mind. So we glided all too quickly through the region made romantic as well as historic because it was the last stand of one of the noblest figures in Indian life. Tecumseh Park at Chatham is so named because at this spot the Chief crossed the bridge over the creek dividing the military reserve from the town site and encamped with his warriors after General Proctor, whose ally he was, had evacuated Detroit and the ruins of Fort Malden. Proctor had failed to burn his bridges behind him so his retreat was really a flight from the pursuing forces of the American General Harrison up the valley of the Thames.

A few miles east of Chatham, on Highway No. 2, there was once the Indian village of Moraviantown, where Tecumseh, enraged at the poor spirit of his commander, made his last stand and fell fighting for the British. All about us, as we passed the place that marks this old, half-forgotten combat, farm labourers were working in the fields. It was strange to think that these tasks which had been done for centuries in other countries had hardly begun in Ontario when the Indian chief and his followers stood here and paid their share in blood for this land, the smiling County of Kent. Charles Mair, in his drama Tecumseh, makes the Indian say as he came in September, 1813, to Moraviantown, the field that was to be his deathbed:

This is our summer—when the painted wilds,

Like pictures in a dream, enchant the sight.

The forest bursts in glory like a flame

Its leaves are sparks; its mystic breath the haze

Which blends in purple incense with the air.

The Spirit of the woods has decked his home,

And put his wonders like a garment on

To flash and glow and dull and fade and die.

                . . . My field is here!

Here must my people’s cause be lifted up

Or sink to rise no more.

So this ground, completely subdued now to utilitarian ends, has at least called forth a song. Because of it the whole country seemed to have added meaning. Of course for rich crop-producing lands and for the coming and progress of great industries we must be grateful—but there is a point where they lose all individuality and turn a country into a nation of robots unless those also come who bear gifts of memory in their hands and gifts of interpretation. To thousands of tourists, the drive down to Windsor is through farming land and towns not unlike those in most parts of North America. Only when we have artists sensitive enough to relate our story in their various mediums will the land really come alive. As it is, an English art critic of a hundred years ago sent me to a church in Woodstock to-day; and Charles Mair in my school days made this ancient Moraviantown arise out of the dust.


The day was wearing on. Through the late summer twilight a faint haze that one often finds in the air on nearing Windsor because of the bordering marshlands—the same haze that Tecumseh saw—was around us now. Tired of cutting into the long procession of cars that was hurrying towards Detroit, we drove more slowly, so that across the meadows we could hear the birds beginning their late songs. Near by the Thames was occasionally to be seen, flowing very languidly in the heat.

I had made a very wide circle of the province that I had set out to rediscover. Many things I had planned to do had not been possible to overtake in one summer or in one book; byways that I knew and loved had to be neglected. What had mainly impressed me was the distinct difference in atmosphere, manner, building and people of the dozen routes that I had followed. Each route induced a mood of its own. The shores of Lake Erie were as different from the Grand River Valley as the latter was different from the North Shore of Lake Superior, and the people were to some degree at any rate, shaped by their environment. The tobacco planter had a different viewpoint from the farmer, and he from the river man of the Ottawa. I thought of those lonely distances, that endless unpeopled road that led us from Mattawa to Ottawa, as I listened to the uninterrupted swish of the cars that passed us by; for we were meeting a procession going north that was longer than the one of which we ourselves were a part, southward bound.

These people could hardly have found even the Middle West hotter than Ontario was to-day. They left behind them hills and valleys and small lakes as beautiful as those of Ontario. What, I wondered, are the essential differences that make for attraction? My road map does not reply clearly, nor does the verbal map that I have been so intent on drawing up. For the thing is not to be found in mere landscape, or in industries, architecture or monuments. The foreign flavour of travelling a dominion rather than a republic—this coming and going so easily from one country to another—it is not altogether that. But a land with a frontier still almost unexplored: a wind from the north bearing the knowledge of emptiness in which airports and ’planes are midget-like: freedom and farness; all these may possibly contain something of the answer.

At any rate I shall end as I began;

“This is my land. I’ve overheard it

Making a promise out of clay. All is recorded—

Early green, drought, ripeness, rainfalls,

Our village fears and festivals,

When the first tractor came and how we cheered it.

And as the wind whose note will deepen

In the upgrowing tree, who runs for miles to open

His throat above the wood, my song

With that increasing life grew strong,

And will have there a finished form to sleep in.”

A promise—that is the answer. A promise—this is Ontario!


Mis-spelled words and printer errors have been corrected. Where multiple spellings occur, majority use has been employed.

Punctuation has been maintained except where obvious printer errors occur.

Illustrations have been relocated due to using a non-page layout.

[The end of This is Ontario by Amelia Beers Warnock Garvin (as Katherine Hale)]