Percy Agricultural Fair Results 1923

The Warkworth Journal, Oct 10, 1923 - Despite the very wintry weather on Friday, Warkworth Fair drew a very large crowd, almost equal to their best years, while the exhibits in nearly all lines were more numerous than last year, a high standard. A new feature at Warkworth Fair was the Stock Judging competition open to young men under twenty-five who have not attended an Agricultural college. When the contest was called eight young men presented themselves. They were required to judge one class of each of the following kinds of stock, heavy horses, dairy cattle, sheep and bacon hogs. Cash prizes were offered for the best work in judging each of the classes, and a silver medal with a suitable inscription, was awarded the contestant standing highest in the aggregate of all classes. The number of cash prizes awarded any one competitor was limited to two. In the event of any one competitor obtaining a sufficiently high standing to win more than two classes, the prizes would revert to the competitor standing next highest.

Read the entire 1923 Agricultural Fair results as published in the Warkworth Journal over a three week period:

Transcribed by John Charlton

Saturday Morning Accident

The Warkworth Journal, May 17, 1922, Warkworth & Vicinity ~ Saturday morning, when Mr. John Crookshanks’ horse started from the cheese factory and dashed into the village with a demolished trailing vehicle. The animal turned in the gate leading to Mr. C. Fowler’s home - one wheel missing a small boy by about three inches; and although there was plenty of space at the rear of Mr. Fowler’s home, it turned the corner of his house and jumped into his kitchen through the open door taking two wheels of the wagon with him. Very little harm was done in the kitchen, except the upsetting of a few minor house hold effects.

<i>Transcribed by John Charlton</i>

Furious Drivers

The Warkworth Journal, July 14, 1920 ~ The furious driving on our streets on Saturday evenings, by “smart alecs” from the country is a matter of much comment. When young men cannot drive through town, especially Saturday and Sunday evenings, without racing and acting like a lot of hobos, it is due time some official would bring the rowdies to justice or resign office.

<i>Transcribed by John Charlton</i>

The Site Of The Ancient Cemetery

Note: Transcribed by John Charlton, July 2008 from a single, loose, typed document found in a binder of loose papers located in the Warkworth Library. The document is niether dated nor signed, but may be reasonably attributed to Hank Smith who collected a number of testimonials from Warkworth and area residents in or around the 1980's.

The Site Of The Ancient Cemetery

Mr. Pettifer showed me where the site of an old cemetery was, wherein were buried the remains of the very first settlers in this area.

It was situated in a field wherein the old map in Percy Twp., out of the 1878 Atlas of Northumberland, was called Concession 2, Lot 13. In the old map, the property was owned by Samuel Jones and J. C. Curtis. The road leading past the old Cemetery is now called 29 Highway, and is about half a mile beyond the modern Cemetery called Warkworth Cemetery.

John Weatherson told me that the settlers whose Cemetery it was, must have been the first settlers in this region. They settled here before the old 1878 Northumberland Atlas existed. They probably came here in the late 1700's and very early 1800's.

One of the old houses in the vicinity used to belong to Mr. John Brown and his wife. One of their children was Mabel Brown. This was told to me by Harry Pettifer.

Bessie Smith later told me that a Mr. Art Reycraft married Mabel Brown, and then the two of them owned the farm with the Cemetery on it. Art was rather irrational in his behaviour. He tour out all the gravestones and hauled them away. One of the gravestones was used in the barnyard.

There used to be an old barn which belonged to Mabel and Art. Some young vandals went in and set fire to the old barn.

Art Reycraft lives in Campbellford now. Add.: 6 Bridge St. W. (phone number removed)

Bessie told me that Art and Mabel lived there around about the 1930's.

When Harry Pettifer and I went up to see Mabel's old house, there was only its back part still standing. The front part had a basement under it but its upper part was demolished, leaving a big hole where the cellar was.

At about 10 feet away from the house was a lovely spring fed well, whose top was about 2 feet to water. The depth of the water is about 6 feet. The water is very clear.

The place is used as a sort of a summer camping site, and there is a good quality trailor parked near the old house where someone comes to stay in the summers.

Ewart Hardy Remembers The Old House of John Brown and His Wife and Mabel

Mr. and Mrs. Brown always attended the Methodist Church, and Mabel, their daughter did too. Mabel married Art Reycraft. I heard that after they were married, Art went ahead and got rid of all the cattle. I don't know whether he went into Jerseys or not. Anyway, he just took over, and Mr. Brown didn't like it very well. I think that it was the man who came over to test the cattle told Mr. Brown what was going on, but Mr. Brown just said to him: “You tell him something, if you can, I can't tell him anything.”

Mr. Brown didn't like the fact that Art Reycroft was just turning everything upside down. From the way Art was acting, it looked as if he could very well have torn apart the graveyard and have taken its stones away. I didn't blame Mr. Brown. It is against the Law to disturb Graveyards.

I never knew anything about the names on the Gravestones.

Whether or not Mabel actually got married in the Methodist Church or not, I don't know. It was before my time. Mabel was quite a tall woman.

Mr. Merrill said that the name of one of those that were buried in the primitive graveyard, was a Mr. Jessop.

In the Warkworth Cemetery stands a grave stone whereon is written:

John Brown - 1863-1938
his wife
Annie B. Wood - 1870-1945

The old barn that was set afire by vandals was situated on the side of Highway 29 just opposite the Brown's house. A very little of its wooden structure remains shattered on the ground. A little of its roof structure lies on the ground, and its stone and concrete walls are still visible.

Mr. Merrill showed me where the old cemetery of the first settlers was situated. To get to it, on had to go along his property's west boundary right tot he end of his fence, then turn right for a few steps at his north fence.

Not one gravestone is visible there now, but by the slightly higher lay of the little field there, one can discern its position. There is an old spring well a few feet to the west of the old graveyard about five feet away from it. At the moment the old well is full of fence-wire and old fence cedar rails and tin cans, probably to keep the cattle from falling into it.

Transcribed by John Charlton

Memoirs of Pioneer Days in Ontario by Mary MacKenzie 1806-1880

I, Mary MacKenzie, born in Inverness, Scotland in the year of 1806.

Ach! What delight it is for me to tell my children and grandchildren about my young days in Bonnie Scotland. But mind you I had to work as well as play for we were not rich people. When I was twenty-one, I married John Ross, a man twenty years my senior. John was forever talking about the new country across the ocean, called, Canada.

The landlords owned most all the farms in Scotland and a man could never get much of a start.

"They paid such low wages," said he.

After we were married four years we decided to leave our loved ones and go to this new land. With our two sons, Hugh, three years old, fair complexion, red curly hair and blue eyes, he resembled my people, while Charles, one year old, darker complexion, brown, curly hair and dark blue eyes resembled his father.

We sailed in the summer of 1832, the weather being fine all the way over. After land was sighted, the captain told us he thought it would be better to go farther inland. So up the St. Lawrence and into Lake Ontario we went, landing at a small settlement called Cobourg.

A few settlers were on the wharf and after our chests were put ashore, a rugged Irishman stepped up.

"My name is Mike O'Leary," said he, "and I was after thinking you would like help to get your chests to a sheltered spot. You know the settlers here donít want the people coming on boats in their houses, afraid of cholera, they are."

After he helped John to put the chests under a nice large oak tree, he stopped for a friendly talk.

"How long were you on the water," he asked?

"Four weeks and three days," replied John.

"Sure and that was a quick passage. When we came over we were well out to sea and the sails had to be lowered, our vessel bobbed around like a cork on water. Some of those big swells of waves I thought would swamp our boat. After patient waiting the storm subsided and the sails went up again and the vessel was once more on her way."

"I'll be getting on now," said Mike, "if I hear of a vacant cabin, I'll let you know."

We were left alone out in this vast country.

"I will prepare our evening meal. John go to the nearest house for hot water while I build a fire place with stones and get our oatmeal, tea and scones out of the chest."

He had a pitcher of milk along with the hot water and it wasn't long before we had our porridge and the tea made. While we ate John told me of a man he was talking to, Mr. Monroe, by name. He told me of a vacant cabin we might get, near where his sister lives, about seven miles from here. He wants to visit his sister, and family so will take the oxen and cart and take our chests and the children and you. That news gave us more courage and we prepared to get rest, rolling the children up in blankets we lay down ourselves one on either side of them. They were soon sound asleep but John or I didn't sleep, we heard about Indians and wild animals in this country so we were going to be on guard.

Mr. Munroe came along early in the morning and we were soon on our way, the men walking beside the cart. The road through the bush was rough and the oxen made slow headway. We sighted the cabin in a clearance after six hours of travel.

"This is where the Neills live," said Mr. Munroe.

As we came nearer we could see the children at play, then they heard us coming and ran into the cabin. A woman came to the door watching us coming. All at once she started running towards us shouting, "It's Uncle Alex. It's uncle Alex."

What a joyous meeting! They had not seen each other for a very long time. Mr. Munroe told his sister who we were and where we wanted to go. She asked us to stop there for dinner.

"Unhitch the oxen, Alex, and turn them into the pasture," Rory said to the oldest boy.

"Run and tell your father, Uncle Alex is here."

Then she started to prepare dinner visiting with me as she worked.

"We are getting along well, we have a cow, pigs, a yoke of oxen, carts and a plough but we have been in this country for five years."

The men were looking over Mr. Neill's cleared land. He had a good patch of potatoes and a piece of wheat and corn.

After a good hot dinner we started on our way to the log cabin which was to be our home. About one mile farther on we came upon it in the thick of the bush. It was warmly built of logs, grouted in between them. Inside a bunk was built in one corner, a table of rough boards in the center with a fireplace on another side.

After unpacking our few dishes and taking the clothing out of the chests it made it more homelike. Mr. Monroe wanted to get back to his sister before dark for it was impossible to keep to the roadway at night and wild animals would be prowling around. We thanked him kindly for taking us to our abode and after we wished him a safe journey, he started.

We were alone again in Canadaís wild country. John and I explored the woods around our cabin and found a spring of running water. He then found his axe in the chest and cut some dry limbs which were lying around while I got a pail of water and it was not long until a roaring fire was on and the tea kettle boiling.

With our cup of tea, dried scones and oat cakes we were ready to get our bunk prepared for night. A long box was found under the bunk, this would be the children's bed. Before we laid ourselves down to rest, John hunted out the book and read a psalm and offered up a prayer to the Almighty for his care over us.

There were no doctors nearer than Cobourg and I told Mrs. Neill about my being in attendance on maternity cases in Scotland. She got word to a neighbour about me. One dark night we were awakened by a loud knocking on the door.

"Who's there," John asked?

"It's Wm. McLeod," said the man, "from over country some two miles away. My wife is expecting a little one and would like Mrs. Ross to come to her."

I got up, dressed and went with the man, guided by the light from his lantern through those two miles of wild woods. We didnít get there any too soon. By daylight a fine baby boy was born to gladden their home. That was the start of my going as midwife but I told the expectant others to give me more notice so that I could leave victuals prepared for John and the children. With the small change I asked it helped us to live.

John was busy clearing around our cabin, getting a plot ready to spade for potatoes in the spring. A neighbour noticed he had several short cuts of cedar logs.

"Mr. Ross," said he, "you want to lay those aside and in the winter make sap troughs and spiles ready for the run of sap in the spring."

Then he told him how to make maple syrup. We were quite taken back there was so much work about it, because in Scotland they thought maple trees ran syrup when they were tapped. However, we borrowed an iron kettle and tapped the maple trees in the spring, boiling the sap outside, although it was dark and smoky tasting. We thought it a great treat. The boys often said when they were grown up there never was a snack tasted better than a piece of bread and butter with maple sugar shared on top. The boys were growing like bad weeds, John teaching them to read and write as there was no school closer than Cobourg.

Willing hands will always find work and so it was with me. Neighbouring women had more work than they could manage and they often sent for me to help. One time I was asked to churn and work up butter. All that I got for my pay was a small pail of butter milk. On my way home I sat down on a log and had a good cry but I think her conscience checked her because the next time I went she gave me some butter along with the butter milk to take home.

Four years after coming to the country my little daughter, Margaret, was born. She resembled her father more than she resembled me. The boys helped care for her so that I could get on with my work. The land was being cleared more each year, the men having bees in the summer, rolling the large logs in piles and burning them while the women helped prepare the dinner for a lot of hungry men. We had earned enough to buy a pair of little pigs and when they were about six months old we traded them with a farmer for a milking cow. Wasn't it nice to have our butter and milk now?

Coming home one day I told John that neighbour Stuart wanted to know if we would take a field of hay to cut on shares.

"Yes, it will come in good for our cow in the winter," said John.

At it we went John and I cutting with scythes while the boys with hand rakes put it up in small winrows to be left to dry for a day before we put it in coils. John then took a field of wheat on shares, he cutting with cradle, the boys raking while I tied their bundles into sheaves.

After leaving it for some time in stocks John told us it was ready to be threshed out now. Laying some boards on a level piece of ground and spreading the sheaves out, he flailed the grain out.

"Mary, I am taking the wheat to Baltimore today." John said.

Next morning away he went with the bag of wheat on his shoulder getting back in the afternoon with his flour.

The next spring, Mr. Graham came over to ask John if he would take the job shearing his sheep on share for wool.

"That would be a good offer," said I, "then we would make warm clothing."

So we took the job. After the wool was washed it was taken to the carding mill to be made into rolls. Then I spun some of these rolls into yarn and dyed some of them with sumach dye for our dresses and shirts for John and the boys.

After laying yarn away for socks and stockings the rest went to the weavers to be made into full cloth for menís suits and flannel was made from my dyed yarn for dresses for Maggie and me and shirts for John and the boys.

"Mother , can you make our suits," asked Hugh. "Yes, my boy I learned to sew at school in Scotland."

Cutting out patterns I was ready to sew when the cloth came back with Maggie's help. Maggie was also able to knit and used to take pride in knitting socks and mits for her father and brothers.

Hugh and Charles were helping the farmers now and it was not long before they earned enough to buy a team of horses, harness and a wagon and we quite often made the trip into Cobourg. One day on our way coming home Hugh told us of a job he and John could get drawing goods around to different small towns when it came in on the boat but he said they would have to be near their work. They both talked it over and thought they might try it.

They went the next day to look for a house and came home telling of one they could get for low rent, a lovely, large brick house but the people around said it was haunted.

"It will not bother us," their father said, "we have done no harm."

In a few days we moved, but before we got unloaded a neighbour, Mrs. O'Toole came over to tell us about the ghost. By the time she finished her story the men had the load off laughing at Mrs. O'Toole and her ghost story. We scrubbed the house all through. There was one room on the third storey which had a dark stain on the floor. I took ashes and soap trying to scour it off but it was of no use it did not disappear. We were there some time when one night we were awakened by light footsteps going upstairs to the third storey then lively dance music started. When the waltzing feet made so much noise overhead John would get up and light the candle and taking his cane knock on the ceiling shouting, ìbe quiet up there. Then he would take down his bible and read to us. Finally a blood curdling scream rent the air and the dancing feet came pell-mell down the stairs, then all was silence again. It happens on the same night every year according to what Mrs. O'Toole had said. This event did not frighten us away but before the next winter the boys were tired of teaming and wanted to farm.

Going to the land agents they decided to look at a farm in Brighton Township about forty miles east of us. It suited them well and they made terms with a money lender to take up the mortgage with interest at 10%. Quite an under-taking, I would say, and their father was old but they were just in their prime.

Charles often used to tell me, "I just try to tire myself out but itís no use. I don't know what it feels like."

And this was often said after his working from morning till night.

Hugh was always a good business head and always wanted to get ahead financially. Not long after we had settled on the new farm he informed us he was going to get married and wanted to go on another farm he liked better. So we had to borrow money to pay him off.

We did not correspond much with our folks in Scotland for it cost a shilling to send a letter and money was scarce.

However, John came home from the post office one day saying, "Mother I got a letter for you from Scotland."

All work was stopped as he read the letter. It was from my widowed sister's oldest boy, James saying he was coming to Canada and would write again when he landed at Montreal. We anxiously looked for that letter to come.

After four weeks waiting the letter came saying he was writing from Montreal and would be in Brighton the following day. Charles being a lover of good horses was up early in the morning giving them extra grooming then hitching them to the democrat away he went to meet James. Toward evening we saw them coming and we had supper ready for them. I had no need to look twice at him to know he was Mary Annís boy, he was so much like her. It was in the small hours of the morning before we ever thought of going to bed with so many questions to ask him about all the folks back home and him telling of the large steamboat he came on.

"Why aunt, it couldn't get up your narrow river the St. Laurence."

James was a blacksmith by trade. After he was rested he wanted to know where he would start up business. After looking around he decided upon a place four miles east of us at Codrington. It was a good farming community, therefore there would be plenty of horses worked.

"James," said I, "You're welcome to your board and lodging until you get a start."

"Thank you, Aunt," said he, "I will be glad to accept your offer."

Walking back and forth to Codrington he soon found short cuts through the fields and woods. Charles noticed Jamesís boots were worn out so off came his new pair to change with him. They thought a lot of each other these cousins and it could be said of Charles that he could have climbed a good deal higher if he hadn't been always turning around to help somebody else up.

James got along well and when winter set in he bought a house near his shop making payments on it every month. He would come up to our place every Sabbath morning to go to church with us.

"Auntie," he said, one day, towards spring, "I have written to my sister, Marion, to come over this summer and keep house for me, and I just got word back to say she will come."

"I am glad to hear that James," I said. "After working hard all day you need a substantial meal."

True to her word, Marion came the next summer and a bonnie lass she was.

We had our own hard luck that summer. Charles while shearing sheep met with an accident; the sharp point of the shears piercing his knee so deep the joint water ran out. It began to swell and he suffered great pain. The doctor lanced it several times but it was no better. Another doctor was called in and the two decided the limb would have to come off.

A neighbour, a Mr. Harnden, heard of this and sent for a special doctor of his from Brighton a Dr. Ledster. Just as the other doctors had their instruments on the table ready to start, up drove Dr. Ledster. On examining the knee he told the other doctors just where to lance and with good results. Charles asked in a weak voice if the doctors thought his leg would have to come off.

"Oh, no" said Dr. Ledster.

"That gives me courage," said Charles. "I believe I can get up and walk"

We had to hire help in Charlesí place. Maggie and I working out in the fields too. She was a strong lass and it was her delight to cut out around the man working in front of her, coming in first with her swath. She took her place on the waggon when drawing in to the barn and the man taking away at the window would have to work hard to keep from being buried in the hay. Charles gradually picked up strength and that winter was able to draw cordwood into the village of Warkworth to pay for his doctor bills. The hogs fattening were killed in the cool weather, two being kept for our meat for the year.

Charles came in one afternoon in late autumn saying, "I am going across to see James and Marion."

"Mind not to be late in coming home," said his father.

"No" said he, and away he went.

In the afternoon it clouded over and at four o'clock it was dark. I knew John was worried so I went to the door to listen every five minutes or so. At last in he walked a sorry sight, black soot from head to toe.

"What happened," we said in the same breath.

"Wait until I get my breath to tell you," said Charles.

"Dark settled down so quick when I got in the woods it was as black as night. When I was about half way through the woods I heard a movement over my head and upon looking up I saw two balls of light. I knew right away that it was a wild cat and I had been told never to turn my back to run away or they would spring upon you. With my eyes glued on those balls of fire I started slowly to back away. Once I stepped on a dry limb which cracked like a pistol. I thought all the trees were falling on me, then I realized the noise had disturbed the crows in the tree tops but it didn't scare the wild cat, it kept about the same distance from me. I stepped on a stronger limb and reaching down slowly picked it up, never taking my eyes off those glaring ones. With this stick in my hand more courage came to me. At last I was out in the clearing and my pursuer turned away with angry yowls. I turned like a flash running into half burned trees which halted my speed for a second but I never let up running until I saw the light of home, and here I am safe and sound."

At family worship that evening we thanked the Lord for sparing our boy's life.

Marion and James announced one Sunday on their weekly visit that I would soon be seeing my sister.

"Are you daft?" said I.

"Not much, unless it is with overjoy," said Marion. "Yes, we expect mother, brother and sister to come next summer."

"It is almost too good to be true, I never expected to see my sister again," I told them.

However, James coming up early one June morning told us they were to arrive in Brighton the next day and asked Charles if he would go to meet them.

"Sure I will," said Charles.

So hitching his horses to the democrat, away he went next morning bringing the family all home with him. I was at some work outside when they arrived. Seeing me coming to the house they told their mother to hide to give me the impression she failed to come. After giving my new niece and nephew a hearty welcome I looked around for Margaret Anne. They could not keep from laughing and out she jumped from behind the door and we were locked in each other arms.

"Mary, I never would have known you," said my sister.

It was no wonder. I had grown so course and tanned. She had not changed much, refined and kind to both old and young. My grandchildren called her Auntie-Grandma.

Log schools were being built through the country which served as a place of worship on Sunday's. The teacherís salary was about seventy-five dollars and they boarded around with the families in the section. Alex Anderson was the new teacher when coming to our place to board he brought his violin along. The neighbours came in the evening to hear the music and have a dance. I could see Maggie and the teacher were greatly taken up with each other. Maybe I was selfish but I didnít want Maggie to get married. She thought if she married a teacher she wouldnít have to work so hard.

While I was at the barn one day up drove Alex with a fine horse and cutter, robe hanging over the back of the seat and another over his knees. Maggie must have known he was coming for she was ready to step in. Like a flash it came to me they were off to be married. I ran from the barn to stop her but the horse was too fast for me. I was just in time to catch the flying robe. I hung on to this until it came loose and I fell in the snow crying with disappointment. She came back that afternoon telling me she was married. What could I say then; I didnít want to hold a grudge against my only daughter.

Alex kept on teaching for several years then he bought a small farm near ours. Charles was not long after Maggie getting married. He met a pretty girl at Hughes and after a short courtship brought his bride home in June 1863. An addition was built to the house so we each had our own rooms.

My husband was eighty-three years old now and I could see he was failing. In the following March he passed peacefully away. My grandchildren were arriving and I was kept busy between three families and they had sorrow as well as joy.

Hugh and his wife were married ten years when she died very suddenly leaving four small children. I went with them for a year. He then married again and I came home. Maggie was the next to have children and I went when her twin daughters were born. Charles' wife's turn was next. In the spring she had a fine baby boy whom she called James.

At the time of the Finian Raid we got a terrible scare. The men were away to the shanty and the women were left alone. A neighbour, Miranda Dingman came in to borrow some yeast to set bread.

"Have you heard the news?" she said. "The Finians have crossed the border and will soon be invading our homes, coming nearer and nearer.

"That's them coming now," said she. We all huddled in one small bedroom but to our delight they went on.

"I'm not going home tonight," Miranda said.

We laid crosswise in the bed so as to be all in one room. At midnight we heard someone at the door and starting to walk across the floor. A great jingle of bells brought Miranda to her feet just as the intruder struck a match to see what he had stumbled over. To our surprise there stood Charles home from the shanty.

"What's going on here," he asked, seeing me in a dead faint and the other women looking like ghosts.

As they gazed at the floor where lay the string of bells with which the baby had been playing. They told him about the Finians and that they had just gone by with loud screeching. Charles began to laugh.

"I heard that too, neighbour Wells bought a new waggon and there being no grease on the axel of the wheel caused them to heat and that made the screeching noise every time the wheel turned."

Peace was restored after a while Miranda being accompanied home by Charles. I have been asked why it is that Scotch people enjoy old age. I don't know unless the pleasures of their young days are so impressed on their mind that they cannot bear to part with them.

I have written of some of my joys and my sorrows and I hope that some of my descendants in years to come will pick up this story and share my memories with their children.

Source: Jim Potter, Bill & Rita Pettey
Transcribed by John Charlton

1851 Description of Percy Mills

An Early Description of Percy Mills (Warkworth)
And The Old Mill Stream That Ran Through It

The Village called Percy Mills is situated on Lot No 16 & 17 in the 3rd concession of Percy and has four well stocked stores, one Tannery, four Blacksmith shops, two Waggon Makers, four Shoemaker Shops, two Taverns, one Town Hall - brick, 28 feet by 45 and cost 275 pounds, has one Grist Mill, two Saw Mills, one carding machine, one Roman Catholic Chapel, one Chapel for other denominations of Christians.

A large and never failing stream of water runs through the Village an easterly course and empties into the River Trente six miles distant. The stream during the Spring and Fall seasons is navigable for boats of considerable burden. There are annually immense quantities of square lumber and staves floated down its current into the River Trente and taken from thence to foreign markets.

Benjamin Franklin Ewing

Source: Excerpt from the 1851 Census of Northumberland County

Transcribed by John Charlton

The Irishman In Percy

Excerpt from “The Irishman In Canada” (pp. 372-379)
Published 1877 by MACLEAR & Co., Toronto

Difficulties and Decisions

In Percy we find a representative man-a namesake of the late James O’Reilly, but apparently no relative. James O’Reilly, born of Catholic parents, in the Parish of Mourne, near Killeel, County Down, in 1800, was one of a large family of sons. He emigrated to Canada in 1830, and having been raised on the sea shore, naturally took to the water, and for the summer worked a “batteau” in Quebec. In the fall he removed to Upper Canada, and in the succeeding August married Ellen Dunne, from the County Kildare. He still clung to the water, working on the old Durham boats. Shortly afterwards he removed to Queenston, where he was for some time in the employ of Hon. John Hamilton.

In the summer of 1834, he, with a comrade, Lawrence Cranitch, a native of Cork, set out for Percy to “locate” land. They went by steamer to Cobourg, then but a small village, whence they proceeded on foot to the Township of Percy. They came to view some land owned by Revd. John Carroll, Point Pleasant, Niagara, but finding neither roads nor neighbours, and being unused to backwoods life, they gave up the prospect in disgust. They had proceeded to Cobourg, where they met Mrs. O’Reilly on her way to the backwoods. After gaining some idea of the hardships of the life of the backwoodsman, her husband had sent word that she should remain where she was, but the messenger had delivered a wrong message, viz: to come immediately. Here was a coil. On leaving Queenston, Mrs. O’Reilly had sold at a sacrifice every article of furniture not easily removed; the remainder she had with her. Her husband, after explaining the difficulties to be encountered, and the hardships to be undergone, left the future course to her decision. She, in the spirit of the heroine of Victoria, answered, “In God’s name, let us go to the woods.” His comrade, Lawrence, or as he was familiarly called, “Larry” decided to throw in his lot with them. They all returned to Percy, where a hospitable Irish Protestant, William, or as he was called, “Billy” Wilson received them with the generosity of his race. The two men proceeded to their lot which they occupied in partnership, and began “underbrushing.”

Now their hardships began. It may, however, be remarked, that throughout the early years of their settlement, the hardship fell principally to the lot of O’Reilly, “Larry” being a bachelor, and free at any time to leave for the “shanties,” and having less care and expense. O’Reilly’s situation now may be imagined.

Living in an old “lumber shanty” without a door, unless a blanket hung over an opening in the wall may be so described, and with other openings in the centre of the roof-troughs-to permit the free egress of smoke and the ingress of light, as well as wind. Rain or snow; with small means and a large stock of inexperience, but with plenty of health and strength, and strong hope for the future, he began to hew from the primaeval forest a home which he could call “mine,” where agents, bailiffs and the tithe proctors were unknown.

During the following winter, while Larry went to the “shanty,” O’Reilly occupied, with his wife, a house belonging to his friend, “Billy” Wilson, and here his eldest daughter was born. In the spring of 1835, they removed to their new home in the woods, situated six or seven miles from the nearest known settler. They were twelve miles from the nearest store or mill - Percy Mills, now Warkworth - and about thirty miles from a post office. He had to carry the grist on his back twelve miles. Having no team, he had, after underbrushing, to “change works” with some more fortunate settler, that is to say, for one day with a team, he had to work two in return. He had, besides, to earn a living for his living family, and as there was no settler near, he had to go to the front of the township, a distance of eight, ten or twelve miles, where ever some one might perchance require rail-splitting, logging, reaping with either the sickle or the like, carrying his pay home on Saturday night.

In the mean time his wife remained in the woods with no one to speak to, no company but her infant daughter, unless strolling Indian hunters came for a loaf of bread in exchange for venison. A nightly serenade of wolves did not add to the cheerfulness of the lonely dwelling, But never was the slightest insult offered to her; never was imposition practised, or other advantage take of her lonely and helpless position by those untutored children of the woods. Perhaps the courage with which she bore hardship and isolation engendered respect in the minds of the aborigines, and was her best sheild.

Sickness in the Bush

Had these been the extent of the hardships, they would probably soon have surmounted them, as settlers were beginning to come in. But now the bread-winner for the family was stricken down by the great enemy of the backwoodsman - fever and ague.

Other diseases may be thrown off and the former strength recovered, but where the ague takes firm hold of a man his previous strength is never regained. Thus James O’Reilly, the backwoodsman, a man of one hundred and seventy or one hundred and eighty pounds, with broad chest and erect carriage, who at the age of forty had not known what sickness was, and was as vigorous as when twenty -one, was in three years hopelessly prostrated. He never completely got rid of the ague. During the continuance of the fever, he became delirious; when it passed he frequently fainted, and, though afterwards in good health, never thoroughly recovered his former vigour. It is very easy to realize what difficulties and hardships such sickness entailed. The husband fallen sick, the wife did not escape, and so their substance was consumed. Their furniture, and even clothing, had to be given for doctor’s bills. But all difficulties must have an end, and theirs proved no exception. Settlers came in; roads were built; villages arose in suitable positions; as their family grew up their labour became less onerous, and if not rich, they were independent and respected.


In a pioneer’s life there are many points worthy of remark, the most important of which relates to religion and its influence on the lives of the settlers. Thus on O’Reilly’s migration to the back-woods there was no minister of his persuasion permanently established nearer than Belleville, a distance of forty miles. There the late Reverend Father Brennan was missionary for immense distances both up and down the lake, and could, therefore, but seldom visit any one locality. The consequence was that many of the people became indifferent or careless. Sometimes eight children of the one mother were baptized at the same time, private baptism having been previously administered. Thus it was a standing joke with an old Protestant friend that he was the “priest” who christened the children of the O’Reillys. Subsequently the settlers in this locality were visited by Father Butler, of Peterborough.

The first priest permanently established in their midst was Reverend Edward Vaughan, who arrived in 1845. Picture the life of a minister of religion in those times. Then buggies were not in use for there were no roads to drive them on, travel being either done on foot or on horseback. His life was not one of either case or luxury. Mr. Vaughan’s mission included the Townships of Seymour, Percy, Asphodel, Dummer and Belmont, which still remain the same mission. Father Vaughan was soon recalled. By his removal the mission lost a most zealous pastor and charitable man. He was succeeded by the Reverend J. Bernard Higgins, who had kindred difficulties to surmount.

In 1852 Father Higgins was removed and the Reverend James, now Vicar-General Farrelly appointed, who erected a priest’s house at Hastings, which , when O’Reilly “moved in,” had not a house of any kind or a tree cut where the village now stands. At that time there were two wooden churches erected by the present pastor, Reverend John Quirck, one at Hastings and one at Norwood, besides a frame church at Campbellford. Warkworth Church has been enlarged. During Father Vaughan’s time any small room would hold the congregation, but now commodious churches are becoming crowded. These churches have been erected almost wholly by the Irish people.

Wolves and Bears

Among the hardships of life in the woods there is hardly anything, as we have already seen, more distressing to the settler than the presence of wolves. Their hideous howling, their treacherous and ferocious disposition, and their destructive habits make them a formidable enemy. Every night sheep, calves, and such helpless animals had to be secured from harm. This was usually done by building a square pen of rails which was then weighted. This pen had what was called a “slip gap” for the admission of the sheep. The space between the rails left the poor shivering animals in full view of their terrible foes. The snow was frequently tramped as solid as a road on all sides of the pen. Wolves hunt in packs. They surround a sheep pen and encourage each other with their dismal howls, seek for entrance, and woe to the poor animals if any weak part is discovered in the pen. The pack usually send out a scout, an old and experienced wolf which will view the ground before a raid is made.

In old times the large chimneys were the only means of warming the houses or “shanties” of the settlers. The fire was kept up with wood being piled at night at the side of the hearth. At one or two o’clock one morning the family was disturbed by the dog which rushed madly against the bolted door and then ran off only to return with greater force. O’Reilly arose to see what was the matter. There was a moon. By its light he saw a large wolf that chased the dog. Seizing a stick of wood, and advancing towards the wolf which retreated, he cast the wood at him. The animal deftly dodged the stick and returned after O’Reilly to the door. O’Reilly pelted him with sticks of wood which the wolf cunningly avoided, without leaving his post. Finding stick-throwing to no purpose and bethinking him of an old musket which he possessed, he determined to try that. The musket was not in very good condition having the barrel bent, or as one of his friends said, “built for shooting round corners.” He fired without striking the wolf. No sooner was the report heard, however, than every fence corner, stump, and stone seemed alive with dismal howls.

On another occasion O’Reilly started before daylight to a neighbouring pond to fish for bass. Having caught a nice string of fish he was returning when he heard on every side of the path through the woods howl answering howl. He was in the centre of a scattered pack. Pulling the fish from the rod on which he had them strung, he cast them away, thinking the wolves would be detained to devour the fish. He soon reached home, and subsequently visiting the place he found the fish untouched. Wolves evidently are not fond of fish.

Bear stories are plentiful. While laid up with ague, O’Reilly had a hired man, who proved a lazy fellow. He frequently neglected his work which should have been done. Some wheat in the stack having become wet and sprouted was taken down and set around to be given to the pigs. The man, one night after dark, acknowledged that he had not fed the pigs, and was dispatched to do so. What was his horror on, as he supposed, seizing a sheaf of wheat, to find that he had a live bear by the shaggy coat. Bruin gave an angry growl and left.

An old Indian Chief, Penashie, with his two grandsons, started out on a hunt in the woods. The old man proceeded to the flat while the boys took the ridge. After advancing some time the old Indian discovered a cub on a tree, and rashly fired. He only wounded the young bear, whose cries brought the mother to its assistance before the Indian could reload his gun. The bear immediately “went” for the Indian, who, for his age, used his feet in a very lively manner. Knowing that he would be caught if he moved in a straight line, he ran in circles round a large basswood, closely followed by the bear. Such a race could have but one end. But luckily the young men had been attracted by the report and came running to see what their grandfather had shot. They found him not the hunter but the hunted. They shot the bear and none too soon, as the old man was completely exhausted.

Two white hunters named Perry, with a horse and a small dog were going through the woods, and seeing a cub in a tree, although wholly unharmed, determined to take it home in a bag which they happened to have with them. One of them climbed the tree whose branches approached the ground. On the approach of the man the cub began to cry, which brought the mother to the foot of the tree. Here she proceeded to climb after the man but was seized by the dog in the rear, which so exasperated her that she turned to punish his temerity. Immediately letting go and keeping out of her reach, he returned on her attempting to climb the tree, and thus kept her employed until the man had bagged the cub and handed it from the limbs to his comrade on horseback below. He then dropped on to his horse and left the field.


Nearly all the early settlers were distinguished for their kindness to each other during sickness and more especially the Irish and Scotch settlers. In spite of religious and political prejudices and in defiance of contagion, the sick were tended with the utmost care.

There was another trait of character not so praiseworthy. Many of the early settlers contracted a pernicious habit of “visiting,” or as it used to be called “cabin hunting.” Thus the wife with the “baby” would go to see some of her neighbours, and have “tea,” which would consist of all the “good things” that their scanty means could afford, and often at the expense of their future necessities. The husband went in the evening to carry home the baby.

Transcribed by John Charlton

1823 Census ~ Early Percy Township Records

Population 171

Over 16
Males Females Females
  Over 16 Under 16 Over 16 Under 16
William Erington 2   2  
Ruben + Vina Malery 1 1 1 1
Simons + Rebecca Mallery 1 3 1 2
Orsamus + Doireos Bronson 2   2 1
Thomas Wilkins + Mary Wilkins 1 3 1 5
Russell Merrills 1      
James Waldron 1      
James J. Merriam + Sally 2 4 3 3
Allen Brown + Charlotte 1 2 1 1
William + Elisabeth Townsand 1 2 1 1
John Curtis + Lucrecia Curtis 1   1 1
James Warner + Annis 1 2 1  
Comfort Curtice 1      
Daniel Platt + Sarah 2   2  
John O Jenks 1 1   1
John Warnor 1      
John M. Balfour + Lucy 1 3 1  
John Cary + Lucinda Cary 1 1 1  
Joseph C. Lane 1      
Giles Stone + Sally Stone 1   1  
James Stone + Sarah Stone 2   1 1
William Stone + Catherine 1 2 1 1
Nathan Stone 1      
Joseph Stone 1      
John + Hannah Platt 1 1 1 4
James + Marah Platt 2 2 1 1
Henry Zufelt + Elisabeth 1 2 1  
Charles Tripp + Pheboe Tripp 3 2 1 2
Jonathan Tripp 1      
Charles Tripp junior 1      
Wm. Masters + Mary 1 3 1  
Philip & Catherine Waldron 2 2 2 4
Joseph Sparrow + Elisabeth 1   1 2
Jacob Dingman + Mary 1 1 1 1
Samuel + Mary Dingman 3 3    
Stephen Curtis + Mary 1 1 1  
David Cummings 1      
Emery Perry + Mary 1 2 1 1
Benjamin Cummins 1      
Michael + Prudence 2 4 1 2
Samuel Carson + Elisabeth 2   2 2
James Platt town Clark of Percy Jan 1823

Source: MS - 16 Reel 8 Ontario Archives

Transcribed by John & Ruth Charlton

1822 Census ~ Early Percy Township Records

Population 214

    M over 16 f over 16 M under 16 f under 16  
John M. Belfour 1 1     Mary
John P. Jinks 1 1 1 1  
John Warner 2 1      
John Platt 1 1 1 3 Hanah
Giles Stone 2 1 1 1 Sally
James Stone 1 1     Elisah
Nathan Stone 1        
John Cary 1 1     Mary
Wm. Stone 1 1 2 1 Catherine
Wm. Erington 3 2   1 Mary
Wm. Carter 2 2 2 3 Sarah
Thomas Wilkin 1 1 4 4 Ruth
Simons Mallery 1 1 2 4 Sarah
Ruben Mallery 1 1 1   Livina
Orsemiares Brunson 1 3 2 1 Doris
James J. Meriam 3 1 2 6 Salley
Allen Brown 2 1 2 2 Charlette
Wm. Townsand 1 1 2 1 Elisebeth
Samuel Dingman 4 1 4   Mary
Benj Cumings 1        
David Cumings 1        
Emery Pery 1 1 2   Mary
Stephen Curtis 1 1     Mary
Charles Tripp 4 2 4 2 Jane
Charles Tripp jur. 1        
Johnathon Tripp 1        
James Warner 1 1     Annes
Philip Waldron 3 1 2 4 Catherine
Gerod Dingman 1 2     Elisebeth
Jacob Dingman 1 1 1   Mary
Comfort Curtis 1        
John Curtis 1 1   1 Luivetic
Miccol Crydermon 1 1 5 1 Denie
Daniel Platt 1 1     Salley
Rusel Merill 4 2 2 1 Livina
Wm. Scott 1 1 1   Amerilia
Stephen Brown 1 1 2 4 Rachel
Henri Zufelt 1 2 2   Mary
George Zufelt 1 1 1   Lory
Syres Coats 1 1   1 Phebe
Wm. Masters 1 1 3   Mary
Samuel Carson 1 1   1 Elisebeth
James Platt 1 1 2   Mary
Isaac Platt 1 1 3   Promelba
Wm. Curtis 1       Mary
Joseph Sparrow 1 1     Elisabeth
Jonathon Wright 1 1 2   Jane
    65 48 58 43 214 Total
a list of the inhabitents of Percy in 1822
Stephen Brown Clark

Source: MS - 16 Reel 8 Ontario Archives

Transcribed by John & Ruth Charlton

1821 Census ~ Early Percy Township Records

Population 147

Stephen Brown 1 1 1 2
Isaac S. Platt 1 1    
James J. Merriam 3 2 2  
William Townsand 1 1    
Ruben Mallery 1 1    
William Carter 2 3 2  
Orsmus Bronson 1 3 1 1
William Scott 1 1    
Roger Merles 4 2 1 1
Giles Stone 3 2 1 1
James Stone 1 1    
John Platt 2 1   1
John Warner 1      
Syrer Coats 1 1    
James Platt 1 1   1
Benj Cummings 1      
David Cummings 1      
Stephen Curtis 1 3    
Emery Perry 1 1    
Cumfort Curtis 1   1  
John Curtis 1 1    
Samuel Dingman 4 1 3  
Jerred Dingman 1 1    
Phillip Waldron 3 4 1 2
Charles Tripp 5 2 2 1
Bradley Hawley 1 1    
Michel Cryderman 1 2 3  
John Wilken 1 1 3 1
Henry Zufelt 2 4 1  
Colbey Lane 1      
Samuel Cronkite 1      
Jacob P. Dingman 1 2 1  
John P. Jenokes 1 1 1  
Simmons Mallery 1 2   2
Allen Brown 2 2   1
William Masters 1 1    
58 Males Over 16
24 Males Under 16
51 Females Over 16
14 Females under 16
Senses of Percy In 1821 Stephen Brown Clark
32 Heads of families

Source: MS - 16 Reel 8 Ontario Archives

Transcribed by John & Ruth Charlton