West River Pioneers

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 2.49.37 PMAs we dig ourselves out after the latest major blizzard, consider this article that appeared in The Guardian on September 13th, 1947, that describes the lives of our early ancestors, “The West River Pioneers”. It notes that the article was written by Alex C. Shaw.

West River Pioneers

The borders of West River, in the year 1800, had but few settlers. the land was covered with a heavy growth of birch, spruce, hemlock, and pine. After this date, and especially in the years 1804, 1806, 1808, and 1812, emigrants began to arrive and locate on the lands fronting on the West River and its tributary, Clyde River, then known as “Dog River”. Repeated trips of the ship Polly brought many of the emigrants from the western islands of Scotland. The same class settled the greater part of Township 65, excepting a settlement of Irish emigrants near Nine Mile Creek, Canoe Cove, Argyle Shore, and Desable were also settled by emigrants from the western part of Scotland.

Courageously facing the heavy forests, although by no means used to cutting down or hewing lumber they soon became expert and skillful lumberers. After cutting away a small space as near the river as possible, a house was erected, mostly of round logs, dovetailed at the corners, the chinks between the logs being tightly caulked with moss, the roof was covered with bark taken from fir or spruce trees or else sedge grass from the marshes, which was abundant. The floor was the ground, smoothly packed and a huge fireplace often in the centre of the floor with a hole in the roof for the exit of the smoke, constituted the pioneer dwelling. Chimneys were built as soon as possible, oysters being burned for lime, as they existed in immense quantities.

The houses were built near the shore, as there were no roads and the river was the only means of communication. The cellars of these houses can, in many cases, yet be seen, these being dug after a floor of lumber was placed in the dwellings. When a space was cut down, the wood was cut in lengths and, after being dried in sun, were piled and set fire to, being kept burning until converted into ashes.

Potatoes and grain were hoed in, all the members of the family being engaged, and the crops raised from the rich virgin soil were wonderfully large. Year by year the area for cultivation increased and the conditions of the people became better; the thrifty housewife manufacturing flax for many uses in the family, as sheep could not yet be raised or kept from bears, which were very numerous. The nearest approach to Charlottetown by land was a crossing at Bonshaw, then by a blazed footpath to Milton, then turning in a southerly direction to the town, a distance of nearly forty miles being travelled.”

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