By 1931, over 22% of the population of Canada were immigrants. George and Annie Brown were among those who left England for Canada in the early twentieth century to make a new life for their family. Originally they settled in Peterborough where George worked for General Electric, but then lured by tales of inexpensive land in Temiskaming in Northern Ontario, they headed north to try their luck at homesteading in northern Ontario.
This is George Brown’s story.
Boring but True
I am thinking just now of a city on the border of Yorkshire and Derbyshire in good old England, a city world renowned for steel making, steel products and the famous Sheffield Plate, now you have the name Sheffield. The City is divided into districts, the one I have in mind is named Owlerton it contains the playing fields of a famous football team The Sheffield Wednesday Football Club.
Not far from this field a road named Bradfield Rd one day in 1907 or 8 a young man about twenty one years of age was on the roof of a very old building repairing it, the building was used by the young man as a workshop, he was a cabinetmaker also did a small trade as an undertaker, we may come back to that later in our story, but now back to the roof. The man looked down to the yard as he heard voices, to see a middle-aged woman and a slim attractive young woman about his own age, looking up, the girl said something to her companion which she divulged some two years later, which as using the language of that day, (I am going to wink my eye at that guy.) and so she did. They were the new tenants for a very old house close to the aforementioned workshop; the occupants were to be the girl, her grandmother and grandfather.
Work in the cabinet shop usually started about eight am dinner at noon and afternoon tea at the shop about four thirty pm. That was it, a way to get acquainted, so to the old house with the new tenants went the young man to beg boiling water to make tea, then they met, a few of these visits and a few eye winks then frequent strolls and an occasional theatre night or to church together and they were steady. These two people often look back to these days of courtship and some of the laughs and embarrassments of those days. One is especially remembered. Those days an undertaker measured the corpse then worked from the rough wood to make, polish and upholster the coffin, on the day of the funeral he had charge of the funeral and sometimes had to supply men as pallbearers, a horse drawn hearse and coaches for the mourners, it was customary those days for conveyances and pallbearers to meet at the undertakers establishment, he would fit out the pallbearers with white gloves, a black silk scarf over one shoulder and hanging down over the opposite hip; and a tall black silk hat, some of the hats were green with either envy or age the undertaker wore a frock coat black tie, black silk hat and white gloves, one of the pallbearers went to the old house to borrow a jug or pitcher to get refreshment for the men, the grandmother was in the kitchen , the young lady was looking out of the front window at the assembly, as the man entered the kitchen she called to her grandmother, come see the tall hat and frock coat with the little man, then she saw the man in the kitchen, there was the embarrassment. She alluded to her young man. The incident is still well remembered.
It is time these people became known to us by name, the young man was George Brown the son of William and Emily Brown he had living at that time, three older brothers and four younger sisters, they made up a family of poor but respectable working people, as were most working people and were raised as was general at that time on the staff of life (bread) which was made at home by the mother, sometimes butter on it or jam or meat drippings and one meal a day of some kind of meat, vegetables, and pudding, milk while costing only per pint was only used a little in pudding and tea the reason why is understood the fathers wages was twenty one shillings a week about five dollars then.
By the time our story opens the three elder brothers were married the father William was dead, leaving mother, George and four younger sisters, prospects was not very bright, we all had Sunday school training and George had a small faith in God as a gram of mustard seed. The day his father was buried he changed to working clothes after the funeral and worked all that night to finish a coffin for another departed soul. Business in general at that time was not good and work fell off in the cabinet shop and George tried to find work elsewhere he finally got a job for a bakery tending their horses, that on his fathers reputation as a horseman. By this time George had got to know his girl more she was a (Savage) but George did not scare easily and continued his love for her for that was just her name Annie Elizabeth Savage, she had a younger brother and sister Albert and Polly. Tom and Annie were her parents’ names they were hardworking and found it necessary for both to work so Annie Elizabeth was brought up by her grandparents Mr. and Mrs. John Malkin.
John was near seventy years old his earning capacity was about over, they lived in the old house poor but happy, Annie went out to work as a housemaid coming home once a week to see them and spend the evening with George in ways that lovers can devise. In the summer she went to work at Buxton Derbyshire a medicinal water resort, about thirty miles from Sheffield. To travel thirty miles those days was quite an expense for a housemaid so she had to stay put, George had a bike occasionally on Sunday he would start about seven am ride the thirty miles, spend a few ho7rs, now of loving remembrance with his dear Annie, then ride back to the City. The grandparents where not well their finances were poor, so Annie’s Aunt Bertha husband and I don’t remember how many children moved into the old house with the old people. In the fall Annie’s work at the resort was over for the season she came home to the house full to overflowing with people she not being strong generally, was not in good health after her summers hard work. George was the main support at his home, his small faith in God brought prayer about he position of his loved Annie and his own, they decided that Annie should share George’s room at this home, on New Years day 1909 George took a Savage to be his loving wife making her a savage Brown. (NB) an account of the wedding) Much imagination is not needed the futility of this plan a mother four sisters a young wife, a lot of detail might be told of this, we all know the heartaches a situation like this could bring. The young couple bore it till it was unbearable But God reveals a way out of difficulties.
The old house in which Annie’s grandparents lived was part of a building, which hundreds of years before had likely been a homestead it was built of stone the walls about twenty two inches thick the roof heavy oak rafters covered with stone about two inches thick and eighteen inches wide and different lengths laid as shingles are today, the ground floors were stones slabs, which were kept clean by scrubbing, then rubbed by soft sandstone, the cooking range was built in the wall an open fire in the center a large oven to one side and a water tank at the other. That was the cooking that made kettle and saucepan black hence the old saying() The upstairs floors of heavy oak boards of all widths and various size cracks between the whole building was heavily plastered inside and out, all outside whitewashed ever year. The opposite end of this building comprising of one large room downstairs and two smaller rooms upstairs was vacant at this time. The couple had very little money, no furniture except a mahogany French bedstead with a solid straw mattress on top of which would be a feather or wool flock, loose cushion affair that was shook up and flattened out everyday. They had to make do with the straw mattress for a while.
Annie bought a pair of second hand blankets and a very few other household needs. Since her aunt was living with grandmother she loaned pots and pans and other household furniture. So began housekeeping together. But not for long was their humble bliss to be theirs. Life became unbearable for the grandparents, they were not well in health and incoming of their daughter husband and a swarm of children did not help them so in they came with Annie and George. George went to work at the bakery stable about five o’clock one morning and as he was grooming a young new horse, she kicked him in the face. He was off work quite a while and when ready for work again his job was filled by someone else, he tramped from place to place trying to get work at his trade or anything at all to earn a living, he tried door knocking to sell weekly life insurance, it brought in money to buy bread but not always enough for butter and other needs. Mans extremity is Gods opportunity, an older brother Walter worked as teamster for a firm of wholesale grocers for about twelve years Annie’s grandfather had done business for years with the same firm on the influence of the two George being the son of a horseman he got a job as teamster, although a cabinetmaker he held his own. The work was from seven in the morning to when finished delivery and putting horse to bed any time from six to nine at night for twenty four shillings a week. The house was not so happy as could be desired. Annie was pregnant and very weak she had an upset stomach all of the time, valiantly she kept the old house clean and as tidy as she could.
Youth and age have in some cases differences, the old people had got lax in their ways, untidy, unpredictable irregular in their meals, sometimes rising to get breakfast for eleven in the morning, going to bed anytime of the day and eating anytime, they kept their own table in food which made cooking conflicting. A midwife was arranged for the coming event and George got home form work about nine pm Dec 5, 1909 to find Annie uneasy after a while grandmother sent him off to get the midwife, she called to him from an upstairs window and said they had scarlet fever in the house but she had made arrangements with another midwife to take over, away tramped George to the home of this one, a lot of walking was done. Does the telephone and hospital mean anything only the ones who have experienced these things can fully know? Just in time the midwife came to the old house and George Jr. was born the first of what was to be a loving family of boys and girls to bring joy and cares to a loving couple.
Without any apology I interrupt my humble narrative to bring to my readers of whatever stage and station you may have been born into, or grown into be it high or low rich or poor All must have that faith of which George had abundant life which by that faith can be had by all now and through eternity by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the grace he gives freely to all who receive the seed of faith in good ground. First then, what is good ground I suggest it is a contrite heart, what is nature that is not sufficient for our life here, or any life hereafter when we come to that self helpless stage we should have a contrite heart, and therefore good ground for the seed of faith second how is that seed planted always by the third person of the trinity the Holy Sprit suing mostly other in whose hearts and lives the seed of faith is cultivated by ourselves watered and fed by Gods Almighty Loving had. They are used by God in numerous ways Gods wonders to perform, the planting of the seed maybe a kindly word a loving deed, a forgiving spirt, the preaching of the gospel from the pulpit and Sunday school teacher in the lesson or even a humble endeavor such as this story. This faith can by the Grace of Christ bring into life nature and fruits of faith as recorded in Hebrews Cap 11 12 and 13. Experience proves to me that God will keep all that I have surrendered to him for time and eternity we must all trust and see for ourselves that the Lord is good. I would like to add one more bit of testimony that the Highest of our commonwealth agrees with me by the concluding words of the Christmas message to his people By King George the sixth 1939 quote form M. Louise Haskins The Gate of them Year. And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown and he replied Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of god This shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way. So I went forth, finding the hand of God tred gladly into the night and he led me toward the hills and the breaking of day in the lone east. So, heart, be still. What need our little life, to know if God hath comprehension? In all the dizzy strife of things both high and low God hideth his intentions. In closing and before returning to our narrative I must quote from a hymn found in Sankey’s Hymn book.
God holds the key of all unknown and I am glad If other hands should hold the key, Or if he trusted it to me I might be sad.
About the time George Jr. was born, his uncle Arthur met with an accident at work losing the sight of one eye he got compensation for the loss and it and money raised from selling his household effects provided funds for Arthur, his wife and two young sons to migrate to Canada, making their home in the district of Peterborough, Ontario so they were followed a year or so later by another brother Walter his wife, one son and three daughters, the youngest girl born five days after George Jr. You will recall George and Walter were teamsters for the same firm. His leaving brought another shilling a week to George for taking over his responsibility trying out young horses for the firm previous to purchase the extra shilling (or twenty four cents) helped Annie a little with her household expenses for by this time Jessie Elizabeth the second child had arrived her coming into the world caused the same chasing for the midwife but she was a little late and Jessie was lustily calling for attention and the mother was in great need too. This was the 11th Jan 1912. The mother and baby were made comfortable and settled ten days in bed and a diet of oatmeal gruel for the mother regular meals not being allowed in those days Annie got around again with more work to do now another child to do everything for extra, but it was another to share her love and more can be done for love than money. The next year passed, with its difficulties and trying times mostly for Annie. The care of two young children and the old loved ones she could not control. George was away almost all his waking hours at work Sundays he went to a Baptist Church where a large men’s pleasant Sunday afternoon was held about four or five hundred members a good orchestra lots of singing of gospel hymns which kept alive his little faith in God. George Jr. pulled a pan of hot soup on his feet Annie’s strength of determination and physical weakness was tested She carried the two year old big son a quarter mile to the street car then about the same distance from car to hospital for his feet to be cared for, love was sufficient to supply the strength this trip was twice a week for several weeks. At another part of George Jr’s life he had some other infant ailment so away he and Annie went to the Sick Children’s outpatient hospital she was going to make sure he got well, she took him week by week till the Dr told her a big strong boy like him needed no more treatment These trips always took half a day, her great grandparents were handy to take care of baby Jessie. Grandfather was getting too old and weak to do any work; he would sit in his favorite chair and rock the baby’s cradle by the hour content so long as he had tobacco to refill his pipe. The baby day cradles were mostly made of wood, sometimes wicker, a hood at the head to keep the drafts from the baby and cockers under the boom, baby’s clothes weighed almost as much as some of the babies it was a big job for the mother to undress the baby, give it a bath which was given on her knee, no one dare open the door till baby was dressed again in the countless garments with their tapes and safety pins.
George Jr. was now three years old the baby almost one year. It is after Christmas Jan 1913. The habits of her grandparents was day by day getting Annie down. They fed themselves breakfast near lunchtime, other meals any time of the day after Annie had got the dishes put away, then she would have dishes again, the four years of marriage caring for husband who had long hours at work, the two children and the two old people who were much improved in health there was no alternative but moving, they found a small house of three rooms one above the other in a back yard and rented it, by this time they had some housekeeping necessities, cutlery was bought at second hand shops and other things they were compelled to have was got in much the same way After four years of marriage George Annie and family were for the first time in a very humble home on their own. The unpleasant time Annie had with her dear old grandparents did not impair her love for them, she walked the two miles each way frequently to see them and help as she could, grandfather was taken to his bed in March and passed away Annie felt bad, this had happened so soon after moving she developed a very sick stomach.
The brothers who had gone to Canada corresponded with George telling how much better their living was and what a wonderful country Canada was George went to the lantern lectures put on in England by the CPR showing wonderful pictures of farming in Western Canada George got the emigration fever, he was in a dilemma what to do, what would be best for his wife children and himself, his faith in Gods guidance was still in his soul which prompted prayer about it. A letter came from brother Arthur offering to land one hundred dollars to help in fares. Annie with much misgiving and George decided to sell the few household effects and try Canada. The passage was booked the Doctors medicine did not help Annie, it was thought passage would have to be cancelled, about two weeks before date of sailing George went to the drug store told the chemist about Annie, he made up medicine it saved the day. George was still driving team for the wholesale grocer, and about this time he was called to his employer’s office. Employers in England those days were shown a lot of awesomeness by employees so George knocked at the office door waited for the come in, cap in hand said you sent for me Sir. Mr Goodall was a kindly old gentleman he said I did and went right on to tell George what he had to propose, our firm has got our first motor truck a five ton as you know Brown, we have had to hire a driver for it, he will only drive the truck, what I would like you to go to the factory at Newcastle on Tyne for one month, they will teach you to drive and how to make roadside adjustments, you would come back and with a helper take over our truck, with the two of you handling the load the truck would be rolling instead of standing. This was a very good offer to George, trucks were not allowed to travel over twelve miles per hour. No one could drive without a license. Anyone who could afford a car could afford to pay a driver. What do you say, Brown? Well, Sir said George as you know I have two brothers in Canada, my family and I are to sail for there in two weeks time. He was surprised, think it over and if you want to take up the truck you can cancel your passage to Canada and get your money back. It was taken in faith to God and under his guidance it was decided for Canada, final preparations were made the tearing away from loved ones.
They sailed on the Corsican May 29th, 1913. Annie and children were seasick for a day or two George had a queer feeling in the stomach after that all enjoyed the good eats everyday, and arrived in Quebec June 9th disembarked there and spent hours in the immigration sheds customs and personal inspection the ship was full of immigrants some for almost every part of Canada. Finally through this ordeal they were on an immigrant train for Peterborough Ontario arriving about eleven am June 11th. No one at the station to meet them in a strange country they waited a while then started to walk up George St, went to a restaurant for a cup of tea made enquiries about the address of brother Arthur, down this street along that one up another, and so on, street cars were running in Peterborough at that time but the family walked carrying Jessie the baby most of the way which was about two miles in a burning hot June sun with heavy English clothes on. What a time! Arriving at Arthurs place about one o’clock. Arthur and his two sons were just about to go to the station to meet the second immigrant which had gone through two hours earlier, they had been to beet the first one a seven in the morning. Telephones were not in such common use then. After lunch George, Arthur and the boys took the boys wagon to fetch cabin luggage, Arthur had left farm work and was working at the DeLaval separator factory. The other brother Walter and his family had left Peterborough to try their fortune in Northern Ontario which was now open for settlement. The heavy luggage came which included George’s tools about two days later next morning he went out to find work, there was a lot of men at the main gate of the General Electric factory Mr. Dooby the assistant superintendent did the hiring for all departments. He got off the street car at the gate, looked over the crowd as he did so, then went into the gatehouse for his list of men required, called out for machinists and other tradesmen after which he turned to George, attracted maybe by his English appearance and said, what are you? A cabinetmaker said George, OK hers a ticket, report at the carpenters shop at one o’clock with your tools. It was a new kind of woodwork for George terminal blocks, controller covers, finger blocks and a lot more wood parts which at that time was used in electrical work. The hourly rate was twenty five cents per hour fifty nine hours a week fourteen dollars and seventy five cents per week. That had to brought to English money to make comparisons which was roughly fifty six shillings about twice his earnings in England The cost of living not very much dearer, butter twenty five cents per pound eggs eighteen cents dozen a hind quarter of beef for nine cents a pound liver almost given away. A four roomed house outside toilets, not bath, eight dollars a month. About two months rolled on, Arthur got a teamsters job in the bush at Cochrane Northern Ontario away he went leaving his family and the newcomers together. They lived just outside the city and decided to move closer to the CGE only staying there about two months it was noisy with railways yard traffic. During this time the other brother Walter came to see them he had been to Montreal to see his family off for England for a visit which lasted quite a while. He told about New Ontario in glowing colors he had gone to a district called Milberta working as a blacksmith and helping on homesteads then to a mining town Elk Lake which was booming then, finally taking up one hundred sixty acres of bush land for a homestead. The family moved to High St. to a new four-room house, large summer kitchen, outside plumbing, and a big garden. By this time the hundred dollar passage loan was repaid Annie had been to a lot of auction sales and rummage sales getting together the real necessary house-keeping requirements (Lizzie) Arthur’s wife and her two boys decided to move to a house by themselves Annie, George and two children were on their own again but not for long. She missed her grandmother. They really missed each other very much. Grandma decided to come to Canada She was to sail on the same boat the Salvation Army band of Peterborough returned from England on, it was feared she might decide not come she well on in her sixties the ship Empress of Britain had gone down but she came 1914 bring a lot of her treasured possessions with her. Soon after her arrival World War one was on Oct 25-1914 Annie the third child was born business was interrupted by the war lots of men out of work George was laid off from the CGE the City had to give a lot of relief. George went around the music stores picking up odd jobs refinishing pianos, he was at one of these stores when he got a call home arriving he found the house full of neighbor women grandmother had gone upstairs to get baby and fallen down baby and all. The dr. came baby was alright but grandma had bruised her head and broken her arm. The women were excitedly trying to get Grandma undressed and in bed, making such slow progress the doctor put them all out and said George and I will do this job she was a stout short old lady and it was a job her arm was set, she was made comfortable. In the spring George go a job at a firm doing the laying out of steel for windows, after a while the CGE started to make (primers) ammunition parts.
The family had moved again to Park St and another girl, Lily, had joined the family, making four children, George wondered again what to do lots of single men were civilians, he though he would like to do something in the war effort, to the CGE he went Mr. Dooby recognized him as one who had worked on munitions he got a job at ten cents per hour less than he was getting at the steel sash factory, in those days tool makers in Canada were so few so machinists had to be toolmakers and machine fitters and farmers carpenters and anybody had to operate machines. George was given a night inspection job, in about five or six weeks he was shop foreman under a department superintendent with about sixty men and one hundred and twenty girls to keep busy what a job that was! The sixty men were not too bad, but girls, everyone with something different in their makeup some smart operators, some plain dumb or lazy running off to the washroom where they had sanctuary from foreman or any man, other sensible girls had to be sent after them. Mr. Dooby came through the department twice a day. He noticed one dumb Dora. He asked, is that girl any good? George said not much, fire her then next day he came along the girl on the job I said fire that girl, I did, said George This happened for three days fired but coming back. Mr. Dooby gave up saying anything she deserves her pay for her nerve. George had long hours seven in the morning to six at night to make sure everything was in order with the night men and sometimes Sundays. Saturday nights Grandma would look after the children George and Annie would go down city. Stores were open until eleven pm those days fruit stores put down prices towards closing time and ever cent saved counted as they went from store to stores along the streets they would meet a lot of young women who would nod or say hello to George and most wives don’t care for that and Annie was no exception. How do so many girls know you she would ask? He had to explain on hundred and twenty girls employed under his supervision and some leaving other doming almost all of them with a different makeup some had to flattered praised for their work or threatened with dismissal for poor work or too many visits to the washroom. It needed integrity and diplomacy and no man had enough of what it takes to fully understand them. After nine or ten months at this job it dawned on George his pay was not near so good as some of his men who were operating machines, he approached his superintendent for one dollar per day raise in pay. He promised to see the powers that be about it, after two days, George said it his demands were not met by the third night he was through. He could have the same kind of job in a city eighty miles away that was kept to himself as he did not want to leave Peterborough. He stayed from work next day by nine thirty a messenger from the firm came to the house with a note to say the department super wanted to see him. No message was sent back. The same thing went on for two days. The morning of the third day George went to see him, the dollar raise was offered and after another days rest went back to work. The department super had a calling down over the affair the number of primers accepted by the government inspectors has dropped from seventeen thousand to seven thousand in three days. George and his boss got along a lot better after that. Two million primers were made in about two years by the CGE. The employees were transferred to other departments in the plant. George alone was left to wind up, each day for two weeks. Mr. Dooby came to see him asking and answering his own question Brown do you want to go back to the carpenters shop? No, not enough pay there for you now, ending up by transfer to the controller department building controllers for street cards etc, an entirely new job for George. He looked for his first pay it was the same as he had as foreman and stayed at that till one night in May 1918 he left his name and number and the gatehouse, got his final complete pay. At eleven the next morning and the whole family boarded a train fire thirty that evening May 28, 1918 five years to the day leaving England. We should not let our family get away from Peterborough without a look at their social and spiritual life in this five years. Those days people from the mother country were all expected to be in some way musical. It is hard to know how a newcomer was found out but in some way the church choir learns of about nine or ten churches invited George to their choirs, he had been brought up in the Congregational church and sang in the choir from eleven years of age. It was decided to try the Baptist church in Park St it being the closest to where they lived, a namesake Dr. Dug Brown was the minister, the people sincere and friendly, the family attended church, and Sunday school in the afternoon. Annie had a lot of grit in the Sunday school, your George went in the primer class Jessie with her mother in the women’s bible class, and as each new baby came along it went with the mother to Sunday school. It was a big job to get the children nicely dressed to go and keep them from getting messed up on the way, one of them sitting on her mothers knee in class would pull mother hat and do all kind of baby tricks. One day, another lady gave her a chocolate that ended Sunday school for a while, mother and baby was chocolate coated. Social life those days was much at the church or the homes of church or the homes of church people, the family including grandma went to one oyster supper at the church, the first for any of the family. Everybody enjoyed the oyster stew, except young George but his share was not wasted Grandma ate it. This was the days of silent movies. Annie would take the children to odd matinees, all of them for ten cents. Butter those days twenty five cents, a whole pigs liver five cents, other things in comparison. Those days fraternal orders were well attended George joined the IOOF Peterborough 111 They had a choir for degree work George was in it. He also joined the Peterborough Choral and cot a lot of pleasure singing with them such as the Messiah Elijah etc, he still did some piano polishing for the music stores as a side line, on one occasion he took six old parlor organs and a large table piano as payment for his work. He took the carpet up in the living room put in the old organs with the idea to overhaul them and resell which he did making fairly good on them, the large piano went in the dining room but it only stayed there one week. Annie say move it, the piano was out of tune and terrible discord between man and wife, it was sold without loss but no profit. The winter of 1917 and 18 Park St Church had two weeks evangelistic meetings which were well attended resulting in a number of people being brought to the time of decision to accept Gods offer of redemption, through the redeeming blood of Christ. Annie accepted, George and long prayed for this and their love for each other was blessed by their mutual love to Christ. Annie wanted to be baptized. The minister had several chats with George about the two being baptized together after arguing that a Congregationalist was a good Christian as a Baptist, George to help his wife was baptized with her, since he has wondered why he argued and was thankful to God for his leading and answers to prayer. They received the right had of fellowship a special communion service the Sunday before leaving Peterborough for the north. Getting ready to do on a homestead needed prayer and a lot of thought and work deciding what to take. It was decided to take the best of their furniture, their chickens, they bought a sow, some duck eggs for setting, warm winter clothing for the whole family, lots of groceries all together about fifty six hundred pounds of freight to go at a special settlers rate as was also their railway tickets. Grandma decided not to go north she was waiting for the war to be over to go back to England and stayed with friends in Peterborough.
The pig, chickens, and a lot of personal baggage had to go on the same train as the family, household effects by freight, the journey to the unknown started via Grand Trunk Railway to change trains at Blackwater Junction, then again at Orillia, waiting in the waiting room for hours for the train from Toronto, the children went to sleep on the benches. Annie worried that they might get colds. George went around the streets of Orillia to get some warm milk for baby Lily who was now a little over one year old, locating a Chinese restaurant and got the milk. Meals for the family was provided from a large basket Annie had packed. Daylight came as the train rolled on through the now familiar towns of Gravenhurst and Bracebridge to North Bay, for there on thorugh the Temamgamie Reserve bush country, then Cobalt, Haileybury, New Liskeard, which has developed to good farming country but then looking from the train they saw miles of burnt over land interspersed by green bush small log houses and stables some with children around in jeans and bare feet, some of the shacks miles apart. As she saw them Annie remarked in deep sympathy with the people who lived in them, poor souls however can they live in such places, little thinking she was on her way to the same kind of life. George had some idea and prayed to God that she would be able to bear it. They got the Earlton junction and another change of trains, one going to Elk Lake a silver mining centre that as declining after a boom, the families destination was Wabun, two small frame buildings on the side of the track one a waiting room with a stove in it the other a freight shed surrounded by green bush, here the family, baggage, chickens and the pig were put off the train and away it went to Elk Lake ten miles away.
Not a soul to be seen anywhere George wondered if God had really approved the move or if the idea of being the owner of one hundred and sixty acres of land had been mistaken for Gods leading, he silently prayed, Annie and children cried.
She wondered why George had not first made a trip, the reason was it cost money and again two brothers had homesteads there for five years and he thought more development would have been made in that time, he was disappointed to say the least. After sitting on the baggage for about half an hour, a man with a horse and jumper came out of a bush trail, he asked are you the Brown family from Peterborough? Getting an affirmative answer, he said the brothers had no known when to expect them. Mail came in to Leeville station five miles from their homestead every other day one of the brothers had gone for mail, when Mr. Godgen left his place for Wabun to get groceries that had come in on the train, he said it was three miles north to their place, he would like to take the family in but he just had one horse and the groceries would be a load for it on the jumper, a jumper was made of two birch trees that had grown with a bend in the heavy end stakes were put in these runner which would set about forty two inches apart, with a deck about eighteen inches high. He got the children and Annie on the jumper, he and George walking for a trappers shack a quarter on a mile in the bush. The trapper was away but he left them there to make tea the basket of food was about all gone, all were hungry, so the duck eggs taken for seeding was cooked and eaten, Mr. Hodgins took home his groceries. The brothers got the letter telling them the family was arriving that day, the one brother had walked five miles each way after the train had come in then the two harnessed a team to their jumper and got to the trappers shack just after dark to find everybody tired but still fighting black flies and mosquitoes and continued the fight for three miles to the homestead. It was not a super highway, at times the jumper would float through the muskeg next almost tipping over on rocks. The men walked and I think bad as it was, it was safer than riding that bus. The family wore city clothes and boots. George a suit, very light boots and stiff stand up, turned down collar, about two and one half inches high all looked and felt a sorry mess after their first bush trip exposed skin peppered with blood spots the back flies made when the stole their meals.
There was no banquet for the newcomers, but all were hungry and Aunt Emma’s tea biscuits were good. All were tired, the children were put to bed, grown ups sat and talked as long separated relations do, then to arrange for sleeping, it was a log cabin with two bedrooms separated form the living part by a single board partition about six feet high it was typical of the ones Annie had remarked about as they were past on the train.
Six adults and five children in this small place, till other arrangements could be made. This cabin stood on the north half of lot five owned the next lot to the west in a clearance of about three acres another log house stood it had a fairly large general purpose room two small bedrooms, it had a peak roof which gave storage space reached by ladder. Double deck bunks were made from sapling trees for the children mattresses made a double bed for George and Annie. The freight arrived in a few days, it was stored in the freight shed at the track, to be brought in as opportunity came along, a special effort was made to get the absolute essentials, such as bed springs, mattresses, bedding and stock food. This was the beginning of June and the last of the belongings came from the track in November. About five hundred pounds was a load for a team of horses on the jumper, one Sunday morning a special trip was made for the parlor organ. It was a good load over those roads. A few weeks went by Sunday was much like any other day to all in the settlement. George and Annie decided their children should have Sunday school in the house. Annie played the organ George read the bible and gave the lesson, neighbors children were invited, they came some in overalls, most of them bare feet and tousled hair, they joined in the hymn singing, the loudest were mostly out of tune or time. After the children had their bible lesson, some of the parents would come to the house for a sing, and so Sunday was brought to the backwoods. As yet no effort had been made for the children’s education. George wrote the board of education for instructions, trustees were elected land was donated for school ground and a log building erected, Miss Miller engaged as teacher, this did not come till George had built a fairly large story and half log house on his homestead which was considered the mansion house in the size and furnishing although the downstairs had no partitions as yet upstairs divided by rough boards into three rooms the walls being covered with heavy building paper it was about half a mile from the closest neighbor, all that could be seen of each other was smoke above their chimneys. In this house the teacher was domiciled and with the children walked over a mile to school carrying their lunch. I have got too far ahead in our narrative, so we must go back to the settlers effects stored at the railway track, the dressers containing winter clothing were not brought in till late summer, the drawers on opening it was found that considerable goods had been stolen from them It was reported to the provincial police at Elk Lake and armed with a search warrant a shack near the track was searched a few of the stolen good found the man arrested and charged, remanded let out on bail, the roughly estimated value of the goods stolen was one hundred dollars, a few weeks later George received a money order for thirty five dollars from the police but the thief went free. Piece by piece the furniture was placed in the house, making it look more homey. It had been unoccupied for a couple of winters so had heaved on the north side making the floors slant to the south, wedges put under some points of the furniture to make it stand straight. Annie scrubbed the rough floor boards at least every week and used duster and elbow grease on the furniture to make it shine. She made a big variety of food from a limited supply of essentials. Bacon rind was cut off to flavor pea soup vegetable water was used for the same.
Fresh meat was a rare treat it was brought in along with grocery supplies about once a month from Earlton or New Liskeard and a trip out on the train meant a tramp to the track of three mils over rocks and through swamps so the women stayed put and one man made the trip and not too often. Train fair cost money. The government homestead inspector Mr. Wm. Craig had inspected and approved the south half lot six con three Tudhope, George had paid his first Twenty dollars terms for the land was fifty cents per acre, sixteen acres to be put under cultivation, a house at least sixteen feet by twenty feet to be built, and lived in by the settler, six months out of each of three years, so now George was the holder of one hundred and sixty acres and a bank balance of the same number of dollars to provide for the family of six. Milk was procured from Walters place, the chickens and pig were installed in a log building George built on his homestead, next in line was a cow. Annie and George did not know anything about farming so they went to Walters place in the evening to learn to milk a cow. Brother Arthur as instructor Annie tried twice then gave up.
George mastered the art of milking a cow in three lessons, a cow was bought without money on a six months bank note, the government allotted some money to start a road from Georges homestead to the railway at Leeville a distance of about four miles to join with one mile already built north from the railway. Walter was put in charge, all settlers worked on it, tree stumps had to be taken out brush cleared and burned and strict care had to be taken in burning, the centre was crowned by team and two handled scraper taking earth from each side forming a ditch. George had discarded his starch collars and city clothes light boots changed for high top water proof boots, moving around the bush, sometimes the ground was solid then muskeg or swamp, some of both occurred on the road liens, to carry the road over the swamp, trees were cut to sixteen foot lengths, laid close together in the swamp and clay put on top, this was called a cordaroy road, nine hours at this work paid for the cow and bare necessities for the home.
After supper George and George Jr. and sometimes Annie would pick up old logs, tree roots stack them in piles to dry for burning, that job a strong back and arms more than brains. The summer wore away October 1918 came and with in uneasiness for Annie, in all this excitement leaving the city living in the bush, had upset her calculation so she went to New Liskeard Hospital about the middle of October the hospital was full of flue patients even the nurses had it, she stayed for a few days, then went to a house in New Liskeard Mr. Saunders took in maternity cases, there the second boy Leslie was born Nov eight tree days before the armistice of the first war. Annie’s nurse took the flue as did the baby and his mother. They were………………..
Unfortunately George Brown’s autobiography ends there, in mid sentence. Busy earning a living for his wife and children, George never completed his memoirs.