Submitted by Anne (Nosworthy) Brooks - firstname.lastname@example.org
John Brooks, from Murray Harbour completed a survey on June 30th, 1876, regarding what life was like in the early days of his community. It is transcribed here in its entirety. Each question is followed by his response. In the interest of clarity and ease of reading, punctuation and capitalization have been added, as well as text in brackets; inappropriate capitalization within sentences has been removed. Transcribed by Anne (Nosworthy) Brooks. Document from P.E.I. Archives: Accession # 2702; no. 301.
- Are you a native of P.E. Island?
- When and where were you born?
- When and in what vessel did you come to P.E. Island? From what port did you sail?
- Were there many people in her, and were they used well?
- When and where did they land?
- Who were born, and who died on the passage?
I was born near Malton a Borough town in Yorkshire on the 2nd January 1800 and came to P.E. Island in the year 1822 in the Barque "Mary", Elsdon, which sailed from the port of Bristol, on board of which, besides the crew, were I think about 60 passengers who where used as well, as the generality of passengers; two Welsh families were landed at the Straits of Canso, being bound for the United States, the rest came on to Cítown where they landed on the 3rd June. There were no births and only one death of a child.
- What was the state of the Island when you came here?
The state of the Island was in general, uncultivated and presented the appearance of a forest, a few green fields, like oases in a desert, were to be seen along the shore.
- How did the settlers manage to get along at first?
They managed to get along as best they could, sometimes they had a little bread and meat to eat, but more generally they lived upon fish and potatoes. As the Master told the passengers, they had fish and potatoes one day for dinner, and potatoes and fish the next day for a change; sometimes they had nothing but lobster to eat.
- Who owned the first Mill in your settlement? Was it a saw, grist, carding or fulling Mill?
At the first place where I took up my residence were a grist and thrushing mill propelled by water owned by the late Hon. George Wright, but at Murray Harbour were the large saw mill and grist mill, the property of the late John Cambridge of Bristol, England which were resorted to by people far and near. Many, when water was scarce, coming from Nova Scotia with large boatloads of [illegible], and the saw mill supplied small vessels with cargoes of lumber.
- Where was the first Church built? Who built it, and what clergyman used to preach in your settlement? Before you had churches, where were religious services held? Did different denominations use the same building at different hours? Did they worship in barns? Were different denominations buried together?
At Charlotte Town there was a small 6x10 [illegible] Church of which Rev. Mr. DesBrisay was Clergyman or Chaplain. There were also a small Catholic and Methodist Church all of which have given place to the large Edifices now in CíTown. [name illegible] and Henry Smith were the builders of the English Church. There was a small [?] at Murray Harbour, seated with benches, which was built and occupied by Presbyterians and Methodists alternately, until unfit; [then] the Presbyterians got a church of their own. In other places religious services were held in private houses. I never saw them conducted in barns. The same cemetery is used by all denominations.
- What sort of roads had the early settlers, and when and who opened the first one in your neighborhood?
The roads were chiefly along the shore where small creeks were bridged over with slats, a path through the woods, where the trees were marked called a blaze, sufficed until roads were constructed by the peopleís own labour, and often have I heard Mr. Sullivan say that he had to leave his wife standing by one tree until he found another, with the mark for their guide lest they should lose themselves in the woods.
- Were there any shops or fishing stations near you, and where?
The only shop at Murray Harbour was one in which I was clerk, supplied with goods sent from England by Mr. Cambridge who carried on a large business in ship building, and the exportation of timber.
- Were there many stores in Charlottetown when you were a boy? Describe the town as it was then?
The prinicipal store in C Town was the property of the son of Mr. Cambridge, a small shop was kept by Mr. Murphy and a Cash store by Mr. [name illegible]. When I arrived at the port of CharlotteTown and saw the town from the deck of the vessel it had the appearance of a small village in England. The buildings were principally in the centre of the town, the outskirts of which resembled a common, with here and there a small cottage.
- What sort of schools had the people?
I only know of one school in C Town kept by Mr. Brown who for some time was principal teacher in the [illegible]. If there were any schools in the country they were like angels visits, few and far between.
- What old men and women do you remember? Where were they born?
The oldest man I remember was the father of Richard and Theophilus Chapple who for most of his time was confined to his bed. I think the oldest man at Murray Harbour was Nicholas Hugh a refugee from the States during the American War. The oldest women were Mrs. Brehaut and Mrs. Penny; if the time of their birth is essential I will endeavour to supply it. The oldest men and women now living are Mr. Beck and Mrs. Robin both of whom have attained the age of 90 years, a little more or less.
- Who had the first wagon, gig, jaunting sleigh, cariole, cart or plough in your settlement? What was the tackling made of? Who had saddles, and what were the cart wheels like?
The Rev. Mr. Banaford [unsure of this name], Methodist minister, had the only wagon and Hon. George Wright the only cariole I know of at Charlotte Town. At Murray Harbour, Mr. Sullivan had the first wagon, Mr Clements the first gig, Mr Sullivan the first jaunting sleigh, cart and plough. To the best of my knowledge, he and Mr. Brehaut Senr? got cart wheels together. The horses harness was made partly of leather, partly of green hide or rope to supply the deficiency, horses were few and saddles fewer still. I had a saddle before I got a horse. The wheels referred to above were spokes and [illegible] but some were made of blocks of wood sawn from a thick log, and holes made in the centre for the [?].
- Were the houses shingled or thatched? When was the first frame house put up in your locality?
The houses were shingled or boarded and battened. Thatch would be too combustible for wooden houses. I have seen many roofed with bark. First frame houses 1830.
- What was the price of oats, butter, potatoes, &c, sold for?
The price of oats was 1/6 barley 3/6 and wheat ? pr bushel, butter ?, beef ?, and pork ? and eggs ? dozen. [prices are in shillings and pence and difficult to decipher]
- When was the first Court House built?
- Which is the oldest house in town, and who lived in it?
- Were there any forts or batteries in Charlottetown when you first remember it?
Some of the old residents in C Town can answer these questions better than I can.
- Who was the first blacksmith, tailor, shoemaker, saddler, cooper or carpenter, in your settlement?
James LeLacheur [was] the first blacksmith, John Taudevin the first shoemaker. There were no saddlers till recently; a [ ? ] of Mr. Brown and John Hooper have commenced at Murray Harbour. Mr. Henry Phillips [was] the first carpenter and all the people from Guernsey were coopers. The only resident tailor is Mr. Wm. McLeod as the women make mostly all the menís clothes, [so] tailors are at a discount.
- How was grain taken to the Mill in old times, and was oatmeal manufactured as it is now?
Grain was taken to the mill in old times in boats but there was no apparatus for the manufacture of oatmeal.
- When was the road opened from blank to blank? (not answered)
- Who do you think built the dykes round the marshes, and what were they intended for?
I never saw any dykes round the marshes and donít know what they were intended for.
- How many people lived in your settlement when you first knew it?
In the settlement of Murray Harbour and vicinity taking in the whole township of Lot 64 there might have been 500 people men women and children.
- Are any of the old people living yet, and who?
Some of the old people are living yet. Mr. Beck, Mr. and Mrs. Brehaut, Mr. and Mrs. Robin, Mr. and Mrs. McKay, and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Machon, Mr. and Mrs. Bart LeLacheur, Mr. James Bell, the writer and Mrs . B.
- Were dances and frolics more kept up than they are today?
Dances and frolics are amusements of the past, many of the people who practised them are dead, and some [practices] are dying.
- Who was the first settler in your part of the country?
I think Mr. Cambridge was [illegible] with the first. Mr. James Irving and Mr. Penny were the early settlers. I donít know who was the first.
- What old schoolmasters did you know, and can you tell anything about them?
John Stewart was the first district teacher in this settlement. He has been dead a number of years. Patrick Ryan was the second; he was drowned in the harbour of Halifax. The writer was the third who taught 25 years.
- Was there more snow, and were the winters colder than now?
There was considerably more snow, and the winters were much colder than now. Snowshoes were an indispensable requisite. The oldest man living here now says that he would as soon thought of going out in winter without a coat on his back as without snowshoes on his feet.
- Do you know of any one who used to carry on the seal fishery?
- Did you ever see the Sea Cow, or any traces of it on the Island?
I have never seen any but have heard and read of them coming on the North shore of the Island, and when pursued making their way across to the Hilsborough. [ Hillsborough River?]
- What wild animals were in the Island in your young days?
The bear, the [?] were, and the fox, the latter of which were so numerous that they would howl around the dwellings of the first settlers and keep them awake all night.
- Where used the mails to cross in winter?
To the best of my knowledge the mails crossed in winter where they cross now.
- How long did it take letters from England to reach here, and what way (was) the postage paid?
It took letters from England 4 weeks at least to reach here and the postage paid was from 3/ to 4/ according to the part they came from. The postage on a letter from Malton to Bristol 200 miles was 1/.
- Which was the first Island Newspaper? Who printed it, and where was his office? When was the next one started? Name all the Island papers you remember?
The only newspaper published in the Island was a small paper by James Hasgard Esq. called the Callander [Callender?], which when he was appointed Queens Printer, he called the Royal Gazette and afterwards Haszardís Gazette. His office was on First Street, running northward, [then] South to the westward of the Market Square. The next one started was the Palladium, afterwards called the Examiner; besides I remember the Herald, Islander, P.E. Islander, Monitor Ross Weekly, the Argus, and the Presbyterian.
- Who was the first native white person born on the Island? Who was the first born in your settlement after coming here?
I donít know.
- Who were the chief business men in your young days?
John Cambridge Esqr, and Lemuel and Artemus Cambridge Esqs., Donald McKay , who was wrecked and perished on an island North of Cape Breton, and his brother who went to Australia. James Peake Esq. succeeded the Cambridges.
- When was the first wharf or bridge built in your settlement? Who was the contractor, and how much did it cost?
The first bridge was built about the year 1827-8 and the wharf soon afterwards, but I donít recollect either the cost or the contractor.
- When did you get a post office, and who kept it?
A post office was opened here about the year 1835 and kept by Mr. Thomas Bell.
- Who built the first vessel in you neighborhood, and how long was ship building carried on?
The first vessel was built by Mr. Cambridge and has been carried on from nearly the beginning of the century.
- How did the people of Murray Harbour get to town before they had their present roads? State at length any information you may about the mode of travelling in the early history of the Island.
The road I travelled first was from C Town to the Three Rivers in Dec. 1823. After leaving a black manís house at the head of Vernon River, I did not see a house of any kind till I came nearly to Mr. George Atkins whither I was going. There was only a bridle path on both sides of which the trees were blazen to guide the traveller on his way. I crossed a brook at the head of Montague River where [there] was a saw mill and woe to him who should fall off his horse into that brook on a frosty day. I went aboard the ĎMaryí with his papers, and looking across to the site of George Town saw one or two buildings, which reminded me of the luconic expression of the sailors, [who said] that when we came to the Island we should see a town containing one house, two barns and pig stye. But the improvements in George Town have been eclipsed by the rising town of Summerside where in Sept. 1824 there was only one house in which I slept one night. The Murray Harbour road which I travelled in the spring of 1824 with the exception of one house, was the same as the Three River George Town Road. I can only refer to the Malpeque road which I travelled in January 1824 with several sleighloads of goods. On the first day we got to Bagnalls where we lodged that night. The next day Mr. Wright was taken sick and I returned with him to Bagnalls and then persevered after the sleigh, and we staid [stayed] at Smiths, a tavern at Margate having travelled 12 miles the second day. The next day we reached the Ship-yard Lot 14 where a ship for Mr. Cambridge was going to be built; being ignorant of the ice on the Grand River we were told that we crossed some dangerous oister [oyster] beds.
- How did you get the mails?
When any person went to C Town he [?] all the letters in the post office. If they had been there long they were delivered.
- Who were the first and oldest brewers you remember?
Mr. Thomas Pethick [unsure of name] was brewer for Hon. Geo. Wright when I came to the Island, who afterwards, in connection with Mr. Wright established a brewery in C Town.
- What is the oldest wayside tavern you know of?
The travellers rest on St. Peterís Road was the first I know of.
- Were there any salmon, gaspereaux or shad, in our rivers when you were a boy, and what rivers had most of them? Are there any in your locality now?
There were a few of all these but I never saw any, and believe there are none now.
- On their way to and from Charlottetown, how did people living at a long distance away, get along when night overtook them on the journey? How far could they go in a day, and did they often meet with any dangers? How did they find their way?
They continued plodding on until they either reached home, or came to a house where they could stay all night. I have been thru day and crossing from C Town going at the rate of 15 miles a day, and have often been in danger and sometimes thrown out of danger. Once I had my ankle joint dislocated. When very dark I looked up and could see an opening where the trees had been cut down for the road. In some cases people have been so bewildered that they had to turn their sleighs over for shelter, and some have perished with the cold.
- Have any of the early French settlers removed from the Island? How many, and where did they go to; and who is the oldest French people you can speak of?
I know very little about the French; many of the people here are Guernsey people.
- Where was your settlement situated, and who were its leading me?
I think that Murray Harbour is so well known that this question needs no answer.
- How were the first houses lighted in the day time? Were they carpeted? When did people begin to use kerosene? How long since cooking stoves came into use?
I never saw a house, however humble, without a window; carpetsÖthey had none. I do not speak of rude [unsure] cabins where the same hole answered for the egress of smoke and the ingress of light.
- Were oxen used for ploughing and farm work, and are they so used now in your settlement?
Oxen were used for ploughing before they had any horses but they are not used for that purpose now in this settlement.
- Who were the first Doctors you remember, and where did they live?
Doctor H. Croase [unsure] was the first I remember and the only one I consulted before Doctor Kay came to George Town.
- When did mussel mud come to be used as a manure; did many farmers use it at first, and how was it dug and carried from the beds?
There is no mussel mud here; perhaps some of the mud diggers will answer this question. There were some diggings in use but as they didnít find the mud here to answer, they are all abandonded.
- How many mud diggers in our neighborhood?
None at present.
- When was your first ferry started? What kind of bridges had the people 80 years ago?
There was a ferry across the South River from the beginning of the settlement until the bridge was built. The first bridge in this locality was a floating bridge constructed with logs fastened together so that men and horses could walk over.
- Do you remember of any period of great distress for food on the Island?
I remember periods of great distress for food on the Island, when the potato crop began to fail about the year 1845. Flour was in great demand and the importation there of commenced in a large scale.
- Do you remember early frosts destroying the crops, and in what year? Any and what steps taken to meet the case?
The crops have been frequently injured by early frosts. I am told that about the year 1920 the potatoes were all in hills, and out of a hill containing 80 potatoes, only one or two would be uninjured. The only steps that can be taken to meet the case are to sow and plant early.
- What is the earliest time of the season the rivers have been frozen, what the latest time of breaking up in spring; when did navigation begin earliest and close latest?
I am unable to answer these questions correctly.
- Were there many bears 50 years ago, and were they dangerous?
I have been in close proximity to them but never saw one running at large. At a bear hunt, Lot 49, a large bear caught Mr. Phillip Lane by the leg and dragged him over logs and windfalls, but he was soon released and the bear killed.
- Do you know of the old settlers cutting through the ice and taking shell-fish in winter? Did you ever hear what distance they had to travel for food? Give all you know on this point.
I donít know of any person cutting through the ice and taking shell fish in winter, but I have seen people cut through the ice and fish for trout and spear eels; they dig on the shore for cow husks [unsure] to eat and clams for bait. They went to Bay Fortune for [illegible].
- Do you know anything of a plague of mice, and when did it happen?
The plague of mice was before I came here. Old Mr. Beck remembers it well. They cut the grain off close to the ground, and often cut it up into junks 3 or 4 inches long. Some people dug deep trenches round the grain and [they]destroyed great quantities of mice, but their numbers came [?] down the less, till they all disappeared at once.
- Do you know anything of a great storm called the Michaelmas gale, and when was it?
I remember a great storm on the 13th Sept 1839 which swept over this part like a hurrycane [hurricane]; the trees were in leaf and loaded with nests, and the ground was soft with rain, and the woods fell before the wind, like a field of grain before a heavy roller.
- Do you know anything of fires laying waste considerable sections of the country, and are their effects still perceptible?
There have been so many fires laying waste considerable sections of the country that I cannot particularize. After the storm blew down the woods and the trees were dry, the fire burnt them nearly all up, and its effects are still perceptible in the scarcity of firewood and fencing.
- Was game more abundant in old times than now? Were wild pigeons ever here?
Game was much more abundant in old times than now, and there were plenty of wild pigeons here and the farmers had to keep their eyes open, lest the pigeons should snatch up all their seed grain.
- Was any fox hunt ever held on the Island; when, and under whose auspices?
I never heard of any organized fox hunt, but the people would hunt for [illegible] when they thought they could catch him.
- To what extent did hogs exist on beachnuts 50 years ago? Was it difficult to catch them in the beginning of winter?
Beachnut pork was very common but soft and unpalatable. Sometimes the pigs could not be got home before the middle of winter, and sometimes not at all, but they [?] wild in the woods.
- Of what breed were the horses within your earliest recollection? What kind of horned cattle, sheep and pigs, had farmers then?
Mr. George or Joseph Tinelly [unsure of name] of Gulcers [unsure] Point can answer these questions better than I can.
- When and by whom were artificial grasses first introduced?
I cannot tell.
- Do you remember how long since Sweedish Turnips were first cultivated?
Sweedish turnips began to be extensively cultivated when the potato began to fail. Small quantities were raised before, which is pretty much the case now.
- What variety of potatoes had people 30 years ago, and before then?
The only variety of potatoes 30 years ago were the old true blues and white and yellow monsters.
- When was two-rowed barley introduced?
I donít know.
- How were potatoes cultivated, dug, disposed of, or preserved for winter?
Some potatoes were dug with the hoe, but most of them were ploughed up and gathered in the usual way. They were preserved in cellers, or greenhouses were [where] Jack Frost could not come at them, some were preserved or rotted in pits called potato [?]
- Was rye raised to any extent in this Island?
Rye was raised in small quantities but I think it has been abandoned.
- Was flax grown generally? State the process of its cultivation and manufacture?
Flax was and is now grown in small quantites; it is spread on the grass to bleach and is then broken, [?], spun and wove for bags and towels.
- State the process of making wool into cloth, including "thickening" ?
Wool is made into cloth by carding and spinning, dying, weaving and thickening, all of which was done by the hand. The process of thickening was accomplished by parties [unsure] collecting together and tossing it up, and rubbing it on boards till the presiding old dame said it had gone in enough. These were called thickening frolics.
- How was barley pearled in old times? Have you ever seen a barley pounder?
Barley was pearled in old times by a barley pounder. I have seen one and used it.
- Who owned the first metal mounted plough in your settlement; where was it made, and what kind of plough had they before then?
I canít say who owned the first metal mounted plough in this settlement. The woodwork was made by a carpenter; the mountings were imported [unsure] and fixed in by a blacksmith. They had wooden ploughs before then plated with iron. The coulter and share were much the same as a metal mounted plough.
- Have you known of ploughing being done in January, February or March, and in what years?
I think ploughing has been done in all these months but canít say in what years.
- Do you remember of any great drought in the Island?
The Island has frequently been visited with great droughts, but I donít know of any particular drought, some have been great, others greater, and some greatest, and I donít know which.
- Do you know of any whales or grampuses being taken in our rivers or bays?
There was a great whale drifted ashore somewhere about Pownal Bay which a great many people went to see. I think that [on] one occasion a number of grampuses swam up into Vernon River and the people intercepted their return by a string of boats and captured many of them, but the people there know better than I do.
- Who was the first to use lime as a manure in your neighborhood?
I think Charles LeLacheur built the first lime kiln and was perhaps the first to use it, however he has dealt more in lime than any one else.
- What sort of shoes did people wear 60 or 70 years ago?
Some wore green and some tanned hide moggasons [moccasins], and some no shoes at all. But I suppose all who could afford it wore boots and shoes same as we do now.
- Do you know any manuscript or writings in existence that would throw light on Island history?
I donít know of any manuscripts that would throw much light on Island history.
- Who owned or manufactured the first horse rake in your settlement?
Mr. Henry Brehaut owned the first horse rake in this settlement and his son Henry made it.
- Who owned or manufactured the first threshing machine; what was the date and describe its make?
Mr. Brehaut owned the first threshing machine; it was made by Mr. Nanan [unsure of name] and imported from Pictou about the year 1850. It was propelled by two horses walking [illegible] and the machinery was of cast metal which was very brittle and often broke in frosty weather.
- When was the first mower or reaper introduced; what was it like?
The mowing and reaping machines were introduced by Mr. Stevens of Orwell about the year 1860. They were imported from the States and cut grass well, but made poor work at grain. I thing the makers name was Manning.
- What traces of the French occupation are you acquainted with? Give all the particulars you can on this head.
The only French that I was at all acquainted with lived at Miscouche. I donít know anything about their occupation with the exception that some of them kept ovens and baked bread for our shipyards.
- Do you know anything of the existence of moose on the Island?
I have never heard of a moose being seen on the Island.
- Have you ever seen any weapons of stone used by the Micmacs of this Island in their savage state?
I have never seen any weapons of stone used by the Micmacs except the head of an axe.
- Any other information not covered by these questions, you are respectfully requested to put down in your answers. (not answered).
- Note down your own name and Post Office address, and the names of those giving you items of information.
John Brooks, Murray Harbour South, Mr. Vere Beck and Mr. Henry Brehaut have given me items of information.
- How were weddings celebrated in time of your earliest recollection, and have any changes taken place with respect to marriages and weddings?
As I was married when I came to the Island I am not very well versed in the celebration of marriages. Most people marry in accordance with the form of the Church of England except the Presbyterians and Catholics, but I donít know of any changes.
- What amusements were prevalent in old times, and what changes have taken place in this respect?
The amusements prevalent in old times were a variety of frolics, such as thickening frolics, stumping frolics, spinning frolics and dancing frolics, sometimes rafling frolics, but these are things of the past. Singing and reading are more generally practised.
- Were drinking habits more prevalent in your earliest recollection than now, and illustrate the change, if any?
Drinking habits were more prevalent in my earliest recollection than now. When I was [a] clerk for Mr. Cambridge from 1822-1827, I measured out about 10 [illegible] annually as an average, now there is not a dram sold in a store or a man drunk to be seen.
- What changes have taken place in regard to the amusements, comforts, habits, and mode of living of the people, and illustrate by examples?
A summary of the changes which have taken place in regard to the amusements, comforts, habits and mode of living of the people; [illegible] in the fact that drinking and frolicking have given place to industry and sobriety, fish and potatoes, practically, to bread and meat, burnt barley for coffee without sweetening to tea and sugar, or molasses, homespun and moggasuns, [moccasins] to broadcloth and boots; ignorance and vice to knowledge and virtue, comparatively speaking. Exception in some cases may be expected but such are a few of the advantages which result from an increase of knowledge. An eminent writer hath said, Ď O wisdom how wide are the triumphs, and how charming is thy savvy. My home is with one of glory, and thy sceptre a sceptre of truth, bright and majesty are round about thee. Thou gives beauty and grandeur to the universe. Thou soarest [unsure] to the heavens above and descendest to the depths beneath. Thy dominion is an everlasting dominion and thy throne [or, time] is for ever and ever.
- Have you known of cases of witchcraft, or belief in witchcraft, or charms to exist in the Island; and can you mention instances of belief on those or kindred subjects, or name persons who resorted to charms or fortune-tellers?
I have known of no cases of witchcraft. Some believe in witchcraft and charms. I have heard of some cases, but I pay such little attention to these things that I cannot relate to them correctly.
- Were the people formerly as comfortable as now? In either case were they formerly happier than now, as a rule? What is your opinion in this respect?
The answer to these questions have been already anticipated. The people in dress are gayer and more refined.in living, more sumptuous in deportment, more elevated most in appearance [and] more respectable, but that they were formerly happier than now, in either case, depends upon the state of their minds. The wicked are like the troubled sea which cannot rest is the language of inspiration whose waters cast up peace and light.
- Was Gaelic, or Irish, or French, more generally spoken than at present? What changes are taking place in this respect?
Gaelic, Irish and French were more generally spoken that at present. Every succeeding generation speaks less of these languages and more of the English and in course of time they will die out and only English be spoken.
These answers have been hastily written during the intervals of a busy season, errors and defaceing will be met with, but if pointed out they will be corrected and made more comprehensive. Such as they are, they are humbly submitted, to the gentlemen who are interested, therein by their Humble Servant
30 June 1876
Transcribed by Anne (Nosworthy) Brooks, September, 2004