Historical Survey 1876, Unknown, b. Wood Islands, res. Desable area - Accession Number, 2702, Item 315, PEI Archives.

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Submitted by Christine Gorman

1876 Author Unknown - Public Archives of Prince Edward Island, Accession Number 2702, No. 315

Unanswered questions are omitted. [Square brackets are mine.] Thanks to Kevin MacDonald.

1. Are you a native of P. E. Island?


2. Where and when were you born?

At Wood Islands, Lot 62, 29 December, 1813.

9. Who owned the first Mill in your settlement? Was it a saw, grist, carding or fulling Mill?

Thomas Todd, Esq.. A Gristmill.

Before that we had to go to Tryon. Some with an ox and sled; some with a hand sleigh hauling their bushel or two of wheat after them.

10. Where was the first Church built? Who built it, and what clergymen 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?

The first church in DeSable was built under the auspices of the late Rev. Donald McDonald. Before that, religious services were held in barns or dwelling houses, and in the open air, or wherever the people would get room. The late Rev. Alexander Crawford preached occasionally here.

11. What sort of roads had the early settlers, and when and who opened the first one in your neighborhood?

The first settlers had no roads at all. When the tide was out, they went around the shore. We took our surplus produce to Crapaud in boats. After that with horses and carts round the shore.

12. Were there any shops or fishing stations near you, and where?

Not any.

16. Who had the first wagon, gig, jaunting sleigh, cariole, cart or plough in your settlement? What was the horse tackling made of? Who had saddles, and what were the cart wheels like?

The cart wheels were made of sections of a stout birch tree, sawed to about 5 inches thick and about 2 feet in diameter, with a hole in the middle for the axle with nothing but the bare wood to work upon. On a pair of these wheels was fixed a rough box with a tongue attached to the axle. A pair of oxen yoked to what without a particle of harness but a crooked stick (called a yoke) with a ring in the middle and a hollow at each end to rest on the neck of the ox. A wooden bow fitting the neck was shoved up through the holes in the yoke and fastened with a wooden pin above.

17. Were the houses shingled or thatched? When was the first frame house put up in your locality?

The first houses were covered with white birch bark and thatched over that.

18. What was the price of oats, butter, potatoes, &c., sold for?

The price of oats [was] 16 to 18 pence; potatoes and butter [were] about a shilling.

21. Were there any forts or batteries in Charlottetown when you first remember it?

Yes, both.

22. Who was the first blacksmith, tailor, shoemaker, saddler, cooper or carpenter in your settlement?

First blacksmith - Mr. Arch'd McCalder; first tailor - the late John McKinnon; first carpenter - the late Alex'r McQuarrie, boat builder. A man named William Blones [?] made the first proper cartwheel about here some forty-five years ago.

The late John Lane was the first house painter.

23. How was grain taken to the Mill in old times, and was oatmeal manufactured as it is now?

Oatmeal had to be sifted [?] after coming from the mill till about 30 years ago.

24. When was the road opened from DeSable to Argyle Shore?

About 45 years ago.

25. Who do you think built the dykes around the marshes, and what were they intended for?

I think Nature built the dykes round the Marshes. The Spring tides overflow the marshes once a fortnight and often leave some floating debris at the highest point they reach. That meeting such stuff as is carried off the lands by rains and floods thus forming a miniature dam which from the same cause would be always accumulating and in the course of ages, would make such dams as those round the marshes, though the same cause may never make them higher.[?]

26. How many people lived in your settlement when you first knew it?

About a dozen families.

27. Are there any of the old people living yet, and who?

My mother, 89; Mrs. N. McNivin 92; Mrs. Arch'd McKinnon; 84 years.

28. Were dances and frolics more kept up than they are to-day?

Yes, much more so.

29. Who were the first settlers in your part of the country?

Several settled at the same time, McKinnons, Stuart McCalder and McPhersons.

30. What old schoolmasters did you know, and can you tell anything about them?

My first schoolmaster was one James Lambert, a good arithmetician, but of irritable temper. He had no control over his pupils, but such as wished to learn got on very well with him.

31. Was there more snow, and were the winters colder than now?

There was much more snow, probably owing to the forest not being cleared off but I think they were not colder, not much warmer neither.

32. Do you know of any one who used to carry on the seal fishery?


33. Did you ever see the Sea Cow, or traces of it on the Island?

I have seen some of their skulls near the shore, considerably decayed, at De Sable, about 50 years ago.

34. What wild animals were in the Island in your young days?

Bears, foxes, loupservirs, martins, otters, &c, &c.

35. Where used the mails to cross in Winter?

At the Wood Islands.

36. How long did it take letters from England to reach here? And what was the postage paid?

37. 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.

Some of the Town people will better answer these.

38. Who was the first native white man born on the Island? Who was the first born in your settlement after coming here?

The first born in DeSable was the late Neil Stewart.

40. When was the first wharf of bridge built in your settlement? Who was the contractor, and how much did it cost?

The first bridge over DeSable River was built about 45 years ago. There is no wharf yet.

42. Who built the first vessel in your neighborhood, and how long was ship building carried on?

The late Thomas Fairbairn built one and only one about 40 years ago. Mr James Palmer has built several lately.

43. How did the people in DeSable 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.

Those near the coast used to go in boats in summer, others would take bridle paths through the woods. I have known persons to go twenty miles to Town, crossing at Dockendorf's on their way, going, and not getting back that way. [They] travelled round the North River by Moore's Mills and were back again by next morning through deep snow with heavy loads on their backs.

A house of entertainment was then kept by one McAuley near Mabey's Bridge; this was some fifty years ago.

46. What is the oldest wayside tavern you know of?

The Sun Inn (Collin's at present) Lot 31.

47. 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?

Salmon and gaspereaux have frequented the West River since I can remember.

48. 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?

The early settlers though generally poor, were, as a rule, hospitable and there were settlers within such distances as enabled the travellers in most cases, to reach some place where he would be cheerfully provided with the best fare his generous host could procure, and in many cases, the traveller and his horse, both, would be taken in to the house when there was no other place for the horse.

51. 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?

The house generally had one or more windows. Not much carpeting. Kerosene [was used] as soon as imported. Cooking stoves came into general use about 16 years ago. Several had them before that time.

52. Were oxen used for ploughing and farm work, and are they so used now in your settlement?

Oxen were so used, but are not now.

53. Who were the first Doctors you remember, and where did they live?

The late Dr. McGregor. He lived at the East River.

57. Do you remember of any period of great distress for food on the Island?

I don't remember.

58. Do you remember early frosts, destroying the crops, and in what year? Any, and what steps taken to meet the case?

The potato blight struck here in the year 1846.

60. Were there many bears 50 years ago , and were they dangerous?

They were pretty numerous and destructive on sheep and cattle, but not very dangerous only when defending their young.

61. Do you know of the old settlers cutting through the ice and taking shell-fish in winter? Did you ever hear what distances they had to travel for food? Give all you know on this point.

Some persons travelled from the shore of Lot 30 to Tryon, round the ice, with hand sleighs for a few yellow potatoes.

65. Was game more abundant in old times than now? Were wild pigeons ever here?

Some were much more abundant. I have shot wild pigeons myself some thirty years ago.

67. To what extent did hogs exist on beachnuts 50 years ago? Was it difficult to catch them in the beginning of winter?

Hogs generally came home about Christmas, quite fat from the beachnuts, but their flesh would be softer and not as good as when hand fed. Some few would be pretty wild and difficult to catch.

68. Of what breed were the horses of your earliest recollection? What kind of horned cattle, sheep and pigs, had farmers then?

The horses were those we called the Old Island breed, a race that would stand more hardship than any we now have. The horned cattle were as good if not better than general run of horned cattle now.

73. How were potatoes cultivated, dug, disposed of, or preserved for winter?

As they are now in new land, among stumps. Now that is by making a little hole with the hoe, and placing three seeds into it, and covering them with the earth.

Dig out again with the hoe, and preserved in pits (When there was no cellar room.)

Some kept them in greenhouses, viz., a house with double walls about 21/2 feet apart, the space filled with earth; with a door at one end, and all covered over with earth to make it frost proof.

76. State the process of making wool into cloth, including "thickening."

The spinning and weaving were done pretty much as at present when done by hand, but the thickening was quite another process. I remember having seen my grandmother with about a dozen other women formed in a circle on their knees on the middle of the floor, having a piece of cloth equally divided among them, each having hold of her share, and all striking the cloth on the floor to the tune of a lively Gaelic song, each joining in the chorus with the greatest glee imaginable.

79. Have you known of ploughing being done in January, February or March, and in what years?

The late Neil McNeil of Crapaud, and Mr Alan McDougall of Argyle Shore both ploughed on the 12th day of January, 1842.

86. Who owned or manufactured the first threshing machine; what was the date, and describe its make.

Mr. Charles McQuarrie owned the first. It was double geared; three or four horses walked in a circle, each attached to a shaft about two feet above the floor.

87. When was the first mower or reaper introduced; what was it like?

The first was the "Manny" Machine.

88. What traces of the French occupation are you acquainted with? Give all the particulars you can on this head.

Some French muskets have been turned up by the plough on the west side of DeSable River.

[In another's handwriting....information from Donald McEachern, Savage Harbor.]

90. Have you ever seen any weapons of stone used by the Micmacs of this Island in their savage state?

I have seen some of the stones used by the Micmacs in their savage state, viz. Such stones as they put on [torn copy] arrows. These stones were found at Savage Harbor. They were of a very hard material, and flat, three-corned stones made very sharp.

There was a Graveyard at Savage Harbor used by these savages. It was close to the bank. As the bank broke away, bones of unusually large size were to be seen.

99. Was Gaelic, or Irish, or French, more generally spoken than at present? What changes are taking place in this respect?

Gaelic was more generally spoken than at the present time and very few Scotch people there were who did not speak it.

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