History Lesson Part 2

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Merry Meet all,

I have come across more history of the past. This is to be a small series of a firsthand account of what life was like in 19th century for my family. I will let them tell the story:

Women had to spin, knit and weave to make clothes for the family. A few people kept sheep. We did and when the appropriate time came, boys did the shearing. Then it was put in big bags and put aboard the steamer bound for PEI where it was washed. It came back aboard the steamer to Pleasant Bay and it was my Mother’s job to card the wool with the help of her little elves. She had a big loom, which was kept upstairs. She then made wool, blanket and cloth for winter for clothing. Mother and the girls were handy with the knitting needles and soon some of the wool was made into socks, mitts, toques and sweaters. In the winter, of an evening, rag rugs were made for the floors. We had an old foot pedal sewing machine. My mother brought the machine from New Brunswick and she made beautiful quilts from whatever she could salvage.

 My earliest recollection was when I was around 2. My father had made a cradle for me. Now times were hard, money scarce so one had to really put on their thinking caps. So what he came up with was a rocking cradle. He had a wooden barrel he cut in half-length wise then smoothed the edges and made rockers for it. Then my mother made a mattress. She took a piece of cloth and made a pillowcase, stuffed with straw. That was my bed. I can remember Simon Fraser rocking the cradle much to my delight. My younger brother and sister used the cradle

 

The women worked hard then. No electricity, no washing machines or any of the appliances we take for granted today. No clothing stores – people shopped by catalogue the T. Eaton Company and later on, Robert Simpson.

 My mother was an Acadian. My mother made a lot of our clothing. She was a good seamstress. We had a treadle sewing machine, a loom and a spinning wheel that we kept upstairs. Our own sheep too. How she ever did all she had to do with so many children – today I just marvel at her courage, patience and devotion to her family.

 My father taught us to make our own moccasins. In the summer we loved to run barefoot. Times were hard and necessity the mother of invention. That sure applied to us. When I think back I’m amazed at how clever people were – so isolated and yet they were never stuck. Ideas would just flow. It is true put a group of people around the kitchen table and bingo that’s were problems are solved and new ideas bear fruit. Money was scarce however, each family was self-sufficient.

 Will Carter – bought WC songbooks’ through the Winnipeg Free Press. Loved to yodel. Later when I had children of my own, I used to sit on the big rocking chair by the old kitchen stove, one child on each knee and one hanging on my back and rocking and singing Old Strawberry Roan and many more simple, yes, but happy memories.

 Dry cell battery radio. We all gathered around the radio to listen to the Joe Lewis fights. For days after, we’d be conceited enough to think we could even challenge the brown Bomber. Oh yes, black spider, the lone Ranger, the Shadow, Maw Perkins, great music from Wheeling, West Virginia. At 3 a.m. before leaving on the long walk up to the wharf during fishing season sometimes to make extra money, I’d stay and fillet and get home by 6 p.m. No trap haulers then as the old song goes, we owed our souls to the company store. Robin Jones. Fishing licenses were 25 cents. Fall fishing. We used to catch mackerel. We never see these big fish anymore. We would bring our catch in, split the mackerel down the backbone. Then they would be salted, put in barrels, and then we would sell them to Banks Limited. Years later, we would filet them and try to sell on our own.

 In the fall we would spread manure on the fields. In the spring, we’d sew a good patch of oats and lots of hayseed. By the end of august, we would cut the hay and oats, keep in mind everything was done manually so we would rake the hay into long rows and we’d do the same for the oats. When the hay was dry it would be put in the barn and the oats would be put in a separate place in the barn. In the fall Jimmy Donaldson would come with his threshing machine. We’ [d thresh the oats an usually have two large bins full. He would only charge $5 for all his hard work. We always had enough food for our animals. We had a horse; some cattle, sheep, hens and we raised a hog for the winter. No electricity, no fridge or freezer. So, we’ butcher the hog and a cow if we had the latter to spare, if not, we’d buys a barrel of salted western beef. The hog we salted in a barrel, the hams would be left on top in the brine to cure for a couple of months. Then they would be hung in the attic to dry out. Later it was painted with liquid smoke. It was absolutely delicious.

 Fish was also put in brine. Then we would do some codfish to dry. The method we used was to salt and stack them, leave for approximately two weeks, then wash the salt off and build a flake, spread the fish to dry in the sun.

Everyone in the settlement had at least one horse, and several cattle, sheep, hens and pigs. The gardens were a sight to behold. The term organic wasn’t in vogue then but everything was organically grown. As a boy I remember we would clean out the barn, the side of the barn piled manure and in the fall it was our job to hitch up the horse and spread manure on the fields. My mother truly had green thumbs. She grew the most wonderful vegetables and our cellar was delight to behold. The cellar was the whole size of the house and we had a trap door in the kitchen floor so we didn’t have to go outside to get the veggies in the winter. Along one wall we had big bins full of potatoes, cabbages were hung from the beans, parsnips, turnips and carrots were on bins on the opposite side of the wall. In a room off the kitchen we had barrels of salted cod, mackerel and beer. Beans and hazelnuts were stored in a cupboard upstairs to dry and the job for us kids was to shell them. We would go blueberry picking around the middle of August in a place in Red River called the Bald Hill. Would you believe me if I told you would take the milking pails to put the blueberries in – that is how plentiful they were. My mother would then bottle them for future use. She would make pickles. We also picked wild strawberries but that job was time consuming a shuteye were terribly small. My sisters used to go to Polletts cove where there is an abundance of wild strawberries.

 We had a cellar (50) under the house and in the fall, when the crops were harvested, it was time to put everything indoors. We had bins of potatoes, enough to last until the next summer, carrots (in a box of sand), cabbage (on beam, outside turned black and peel off wound rot when hanging up), parsnips (did not keep too well – in sand from the beach), onions (in a bag – did not keep too well), turnip (in a bin), pumpkins (not long – you have to keep moving around), rhubarb (stewed in jars), plums, wild strawberries and lots of blue berries. Of course, there was a big family so we had to have lots. We made butter which was stored in tubs so we had our own milk, cream, curds, sometimes our cows would go dry so we would have to go out to our grandfather’s place at fox back and he always had a good supply. I loved my grandfather. My sisters and I would go for the milk and he wouldn’t let us go home without a piece of bannock and a glass of milk. He made maple syrup from his many trees and he crafted butter tubs so these two items brought him in some money. Grandfather died in our home when I was 11 years old. What a hard life he had. His dear wife, Ellen Fitzgerald, died during childbirth. They are buried out at Fox Back with another son who died of scarlet fever when he was ten. So he raised the other seven children as best he could under very difficult circumstances. Canned deer, partridge and rabbits. Open can and put in a pot – stew. Salt beef in a barrel. Salt codfish.

Hens for the table but no fridge so we just killed when needed. Eggs. Two pigs – one for the family and the second sold to cover the cost of feed. A cow was slaughtered for the winter and pickled in a barrel. Oats were grown for the horses and for our porridge. Our mother used to bake breaks a couple of times a week.   We could start off with eight bags of flour and a bag of white sugar and a bag of brown. Tea came in big wooden boxes and was sold by weight. Kerosene was bought for the lamps, molasses bought in barrels and purchased by the gallons. We gathered hazelnuts and stored them in a jute bags under a hay mound. Later in the fall we’d bring them inside and store them in a closet. The kids would get together and husk them for baking. The older boys set snares for rabbits and used slingshots for partridge. All in all we thrived in spite of the lack of money.

Caught fish. Salted about ½ barrel of cod. Pickled and they kept all winter. Not like today. It’s illegal to catch a fish – not fit to eat anymore.

 Ellen’s sister married an English soldier and went to India where she died and is buried at the bottom of the Himalayan Mountains. Hard to believe eh?

How different life was then. This is truly a snapshot of the past. This is also when food was food, long before we heard of genetically modified food. I hope you enjoy reading this. 

Blessed Be, Lady Spiderwitch )O(

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