James Stevenson – mixing his metaphors in a letter – 1880

This is a letter from my great great grandfather, James Stevenson ( b.1810 ) in July 1880.  He died  in September 1880. I think it is to his brother-in-law James Crinklaw who lived in Marietta Nebraska.

Sand Creek, 24th July 1880

Friend James,  Your letter was received …time and thanks for the information which was contained in it. Janet paid us a visit 2 weeks ago and I showed her your letter, as those you sent to her were all short ones. I got through taking the cures for a good  time but I have been sick ever since; in fact I was not well when I began it.  But you know that “need makes the wife trot” _ I wished to calm a little to keep the wolf from showing his nose at the door.  If we sit all day with our hands folded it is not to be expected that the Almighty will put a piece of bread into our mouths. He helps those who help themselves. This waiting, for “something to turn up” has been the rumination of thousands. Looking to the top of a ladder will never get one to the top of a building. So if we wish to surmount difficulties which may be in our way, we must not listlessly look at them as obstacles which it is out of our power to overcome; but with a firm resolve and a disposition which will stand no opposition, trample them down one by one as they approach as mountains in appearance will make them dwindle down to the size of molehills; and with health of body and God’s blessing added, success must ultimately follow. _ My liver is badly affected, and I have been taking medicine for 2 weeks. It has helped me somewhat, but the pain in my side is not gone yet.  My strength and what ambition I had, seem to have left me.  I have a sluggish feeling and am inclined to sleep. Bess has stood out all summer hoeing + weeding. I could get no one to hire. Not a potato or any other vegetable would we have had is she had not seen to the garden.  We will have more potatoes than will serve us, if they are a good crop.  Besides working in the garden she has all along seen tot he watering, feeding and pulling weeds for the hogs, which have done well under her management.   She is in good health being able to eat her breakfast between 5+6 every morning.  There is some talk of Ellen Fleming going west in September to take up hadn’t in Holt Co where her brother Andrew and John Gaiene are going. She told Bess that she was going your way to get a carpet wove and offered to take Bess + her carpet along with her.  I have no doubt but what she will go , provided my health Improves any, as she is anxious to see all who are connected with her.Harvest has just commenced, Wheat is late this season but will be a better yield than was expected some time ago, _ Corn will be an abundant crop.  Bess wished Georgina to tell Ellen that she is well and will perhaps see her before too long.  I send you a “Face Press” along with this letter,  I should like to go to Knox Co to see the folks, giving you a visit as I passed along, but I must wait for more strength to undergo the journey. My respects to Georgina and all your family, in the meantime believe me to be yours truly,  

 

James Stevenson

P.S. write when you feel like it.

*** Linda D. Crinklaw,  who has done extensive research about the Crinklaw family adds this information about James and the “James” to whom the letter is addressed:

“I believe the letter was sent to Neligh, Antelope Co., Nebraska to James Bainard [1817 Coventry, England- 1894 Neligh, Antelope Co., Nebraska] , husband of Georgina Spiers (Crinklaw) Bainard, half-sister of your Elizabeth (Crinklaw) Stevenson, wife of James Stevenson.   Georgina (Crinklaw) Bainard is Family #9 in George Fraser’s book.  Note that the letter ends, “My respects to Georgina and all your family.”  I think the Janet to whom the last letter from the James (person being sent this letter by James Stevenson) is Janet Elizabeth Bainard, daughter of Georgina (Crinklaw) and James Bainard.  In other words, James Stevenson showed her the letter written to him by her father, James Bainard, who wrote her only short letters.  Janet Bainard was a school teacher, and after teaching in Illinois in the 1870s, she taught by 1879 in Saunders Co., Nebraska four miles from the home of her uncle, Walter Crinklaw, Sr., in Marietta, Saunders Co., Nebraska.  Her aunt, Janet (Crinklaw) Gilchrist and her husband, James Gilchrist, also lived in Marietta, Saunders Co., Nebraska in 1880. Your Stevensons were living in Sand Creek, Saunders Co., Nebraska in 1880.  The Bainards (James and Georgina) moved from their farm in Illinois to Neligh, Antelope Co., Nebraska in 1880.  James Crinklaw, Jr. had apparently from your letter left the Stevensons after setting up the garden for them in 1879 according to my letter. He must have been gone in 1880 and not there to help your Elizabeth.  James Crinklaw, Jr. had his own homestead in Antelope Co., Nebraska by 1885, but left it c. 1886 and disappeared for awhile. “

Exploring my ancestry -the Stevenson link

I have shared the diary of Peter Porterfield as he crossed the Atlantic in 1855 and told you about James Crinklaw who came from Scotland in 1833 to London Ontario.  How did these two families unite?

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Betsy Crinklaw Stevenson.

Betsy Crinklaw, my great great grandmother, born in Minto, Scotland in 1807, was the third child of James Crinklaw and Elizabeth Watson.   In 1836, in St. Thomas, Ontario, she married James Stevenson, also a Scotsman who had immigrated to Canada.  They had four daughters, all born in London Ontario within six years.  Then the family up and moved to Nebraska where a census in 1880 lists James as a teacher and Betsy as a housekeeper. In a letter from James to a relative just before his death, he describes “Bess” as a hard worker and gardener in 1880. She died in Neligh, Nebraska at the age of 86.

 

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The only one of the James and Betsy Stevenson girls to stay behind in Ontario  when the rest moved to Nebraska was their second daughter, Mary, who married Peter Porterfield and became my great grandmother.  Now, all of the photos that I have of the Stevenson’s make them look pretty severe.  Betsy, as an old lady, was a bit scary.  Even as a young woman she looked like a guy in drag.  James Stevenson had eyes that bugged out of his head.  But Mary, my great grandmother, their daughter looked quite refined.  And my grandmother, Mary and Peter’s daughter (photo below) was a beautiful young girl.

 

Mary Porterfield with new boots

My grandmother, Mary Porterfield Geddes in 1895, age 12.

Leather masons apron belonging to James Stevenson mid 1800s

This leather Mason’s Apron belonging to James Stevenson.

My father passed on to me a leather Mason’s apron that belonged to James Stevenson. It is not very big and pretty fragile but it is intriguing to possess something that belonged to my great great grandfather in the mid 1800’s,  maybe 175 years old.

I also have the Western Union telegram sent from North Bend Nebraska from his daughter Margaret (Caddick)  to her sister Ellen (Thorson) announcing the death of their father, James.  It spares no words.  “Father dead. Buried on Wednesday.”

 

 

J Stevenson Death

Ellen’s nephew, James, also ended up with a poem written by James Stevenson the year before he died.  It was found tucked in his daughter, Ellen’s family Bible.  It is a long ode with lots of Scottish brogue, entitled,  The Dying Christian Scottish Father. Copies were made and distributed to various family at the time of his death but I have the original, typed on pinkish paper and signed by James Stevenson, himself.

The Dying Christian Scottish Father

You can also read a letter that James Stevenson wrote just a couple of months before his death in 1880 in the next post.

 

Finding my past relatives – 1. The Crinklaw’s

My exploration into the diary of my great grandfather, Peter Porterfield, got me looking further back into my family ancestry.  Using a combination of links that I found on Ancestry.ca,  some hints from newly discovered 4th to 8th cousins using the Ancestry DNA analysis and a book that my Dad had left me called The Crinklaw Families in the United States and Canada, compiled in 1972 by a fellow named George Mason Fraser,  I was able to learn more about that side of the family.

Peter Porterfield, whose diary of his journey to Canada in 1855,  I shared last month, married Mary Stevenson on January 25, 1863 in a little hamlet called Belgrave Ontario. Belgrave is where my father was born. Periodically we would drive through this little town and he would point out the house where he was born.  My parents and Geddes grandparents are buried in the Brandon Cemetery just north of town and about half a mile from where Dad was born.

Belgrave 1910 1

My Grandfather,  Ernest, was a blacksmith in Belgrave for some time and four of the Lanark County Geddes boys moved to that district in the  early 1850’s.  But I digress.

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My great great grandmother,                    Betsy Crinklaw  1807 – 1893

Mary Stevenson’s mother was Elizabeth Betsy Crinklaw.   I have long had a photo of this woman when she was quite elderly,  taken in Neligh, Nebraska.   In fact, I blew this photo up to poster size and gave it to my son-in-law when he married my daughter so he could brace himself for old age with one of Betsy’s great great great grandchildren.  For some time Kate and Dave had that poster hung in their kitchen.

Betsy was born a Crinklaw in Minto Scotland in 1807 to James Crinklaw and Elizabeth Watson.  James had two wives and scads of children by the time he was done and his issue now includes thousands of descendants.

Rumor had it that the family lived across the river Tweed from Sir Walter Scott and that James Crinklaw and Sir Walter were “friends” on some level.  Sir Walter Scott was the early 17th century equivalent of J. K. Rowling,  turning out books of poems and novels ( e.g. Ivanhoe, Rob Roy).  Apparently James Crinklaw was a farmer or gardener and Sir Walter loved the garden in his Abbotsford castle, across the river from where James and Elizabeth lived.   Scott died in 1832 and James moved the family to Canada in 1833. Conjecture has been that he was jobless when Walter Scott died and this precipitated his move to London Ontario.

But this is probably just a Crinklaw legend.  In 1972 James C Corson, honorary librarian for Abbotsford sent a letter to George Fraser basically bunking the idea that James Crinklaw ever knew Walter Scott because the famed Sir Walter wrote voluminously and journaled and never mentioned a Crinklaw.   Nevertheless, James did live across the river when Walter Scott was at Abbotsford and in those days the region was not heavily populated so there must have been some neighbourly acknowledgement or recognition.

James Crinklaw

My 3rd great grandfather James Crinklaw and his second wife, Janet Smith

A visit to Abbotsford castle will have to be on my bucket list since it has been restored to its original grandeur and even if James Crinklaw was not sipping scotch with Sir Walter, he was, at least living in the neighbourhood when this castle was at it’s peak and Sir Walter was cranking out books by the dozens

James Crinklaw (my 3rd great grandfather) died in 1864 at the age of 87 and is buried along with his two wives in Pond Mills Cemetery in London, Ontario. ( at the eastern end of Southdale Road near Highbury Ave).   I grew up just a few kilometres from there about 100 years later, not knowing anything about this ancestry.

Next up- James Stevenson,  Betsy Crinklaw’s husband and my Great Great Grandfather.

 

Rhinos and rainbows

Unknown.jpegLast night I went to see Rhinoceros at the Bader Centre for the Arts.  I knew several friends who were in it but had no idea what it was about.   I was a bit disoriented at first, not sure where it all was heading or why.  Tied together by the notion that there were a few rhinoceroses seen about town and they presented both curiosity and perhaps even threat, the rest of the night was a series of vignettes – monologues and poems and dance and music – that were largely written and performed by local people.

As the evening wore on I could better understand the thread.  Basically it was a comment on diversity in our community and on our streets and, in the long run, we are all unique and in some way a rhinoceros to others.   We need to be tolerant and open in seeing new people or people that differ from us in whatever way.

Now this sounds a bit preachy but that was not how it came across. It was a bit of a grab bag and some of the performances were a bit awkward but all were heartfelt. I was not bored for a minute.  There were so many ideas and thoughts coming at me that at times I felt I needed a bit more time to reflect on what I had just heard.

My friend and I talked about it for an hour after the show and today I ruminated on the theme several times.   This is a great credit to the production.  Theatre can both entertain and cause reflection.  This one did both.

Dave and rhinos 2.jpgAs the actors called out that they had spotted a rhinoceros on the street,  I was reminded of a trip to Uganda in 2013 with my friend, Dave Kay.  We went to a rhino sanctuary where we were out with a guide looking for a few of the (huge) rhinos that lived in the forest there.  We came across a few.  Dave was more brave than I was to get a look at them.  I hung back with my camera – if the rhino charged it would get Dave first.  And our instructions were, if the animal charged to climb a tree.   Can you imagine me scrambling up an acacia with a rhino snorting down on me?  The guide said that when they charged it was usually a false charge and they would stop short.  Usually was the operative word in that sentence for me.   We survived.

Pride 3And to fit the diversity theme, this happens to be Pride weekend in Kingston. Today there was a parade down Princess Street with lots of colour and gaiety in the old sense of the word.

I remembered the first summer I lived in Kingston, there was an article in the Whig Standard with a photo of a same sex kiss-in on the steps of City Hall.  This was seen to be provocative and somewhat astounding.

One report of this incident reads: “Although the ceremony itself lasted only fifteen minutes, it attracted over 400 onlookers and was described as “a kiss that reverberated throughout Kingston.” The public’s responses to the kiss ran the gamut from curiosity to outrage. Most of the crowd applauded, but some showed their disapproval by booing.”

Today there were hundreds of brightly clothed celebrants of diversity in the parade down our main street.  Kids, families, soldiers, church groups, members of parliament.

The rainbow seems to have replaced the rhinoceros.

Pride one

 

 

 

A Manic Monday

After waving good day to the grandkids as they headed off to school, I walked  to the nearby conservation area in Whitby, just east of Toronto and spent an hour with nature. Just me and the birds and bunnies and butterflies  and wildflowers.  I felt like Snow White.  I saw no humanoids for at least an hour but did encounter some wild turkeys, two deer, lots of curious chipmunks and a big turtle.  I had my 12,000 steps in by 10 am.

By 12:30 I was in the heart of Toronto. Incredible, really, to go from solitude to the vibrant centre of Canada’s biggest City in what seemed like a heartbeat.

I will be working in Toronto all week.  I always find the core of the city invigorating.

I lucked out when I checked into my hotel to find that I was upgraded to a “club room” with lounge access and a full breakfast.  I headed over to Church Street for a long overdue haircut, figuring that the Gay Village are might be my best bet to get a good haircut from a new barber.  I was right!

And tonight I met a colleague,  Gail Gray,  for dinner.  Gail and I worked in tandem in Bosnia for 10 years.  My friends in BiH will be delighted to know that we get together annually and reminisce.

Here is a Toronto selfie I took today. Can you find me?

The high seas continued…in 2017

Just as I have trouble imagining conditions of the trip my great grandfather took across the North Atlantic 162 years ago, he would not have believed the experience I had this past week on the Volemdam cruise ship where the biggest hardship seemed to be prohibitively expensive satellite WiFi.

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Our room on the Volendam.

The Volendam is a 785 foot long, 63,000 ton Holland America Lines ship that cruised to Alaska along the inner passage and in the North Pacific.

With 1400 passengers and 620 crew, this ship offered a relaxing week with tons (literally) of food, a casino, pool that sometimes had waves in it as the ship waved from side to side, several dining rooms and bars, a 500 seat theatre with nightly entertainment and a deck boardwalk that allowed me to walk my 10,000 steps every day.  In fact, over the past seven days I have, according to my phone pedometer, walked over 75 km and climbed 125 flights of stairs.  IMG_1399.JPG

We stopped at Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan and spent one full day cruising around Glacier Bay.  Photos of those excursions will follow. But for today, the photos will be of the boat itself.

Grandfather Porterfield, who likely ate salted meat, beans and rice for five weeks would have been astounded by our ships kitchen and the incredible selection of tasty food available to us.

All in all this was a very pleasant week of relaxation and decadence and I can only say good things about the Holland America Lines ship, crew and holiday experience.

I wonder how my great grandchildren will travel?  A space station vacation, perhaps?

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The elevator mats always reminded you of what day it was.  Otherwise it was hard to tell!

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Crossing the Atlantic in 1855 – 7 – Montreal!

May 20 Sunday

Sails up today.  Some very pretty places on the riverside.  We passed close by a town called Three Rivers, its name drawn from the three rivers that join into one and empty into the St Lawrence close to it.  

We have been sailing through St Peters Lake this forenoon.  At the head of this lake we came to a curious place, actually sailing among plantations…thickets of weed, the water running through the thickets which gave it a wild looking appearance.  About 9 o’clock we came in sight of our destination haven, Montreal.*  The lights of the town were to be seen. It was too late to anchor in the harbour.   This is my fifth Sabbath now on the “Home”.  I have been indeed highly favoured as I can say I have been amongst the healthiest and the ship all our voyage. And now that we are near prospect of being landed in a strange country, may our ever Kind Father in Heaven be with and guide us all times by his Counsel and afterwards receive us into glory there to meet to part no more forever.

May 21

We took up anchor between 6 and 7  and were immediately towed into the harbour.  It was this morning five weeks ago that I left Marnoch for America.  This morning at 10 I went ashore act montreal and set my feet for the first time on the often heard of and famed land of America.  I went through the town with a letter I had to a Mr Kingston, St Paul’s Street. , the gentleman who had charge of me.  I was 34441_std.jpgnearly struck with the horses running about, they were so nimble , little creatures, their cards or what they have for them consist of 2 wheels and an axle with two long sticks, something like a ladder laid on the centre of the axle with stuck out behind for a piece and 2 spring shafts.  They appear always to be running at a trot, sometimes at a gallop.


This afternoon mot of the passengers got their luggage off the ship to go on board a steamer to sail early in the morning.  We were all sorry to part with each other as we have been very agreeable and neighbourly all along the voyage. It is not likely we will all meet again in this world. Oh, t
hat we may all be fitted for spending never ending eternity with each other there to part no more forever.

May 22

Went aboard the steamer “Fashion” ** which sailed at 1 o’clock for Port St Lewis.  We met a good number of rafts in the canals and stopped at a number of ports to stop at and get off and take on luggage etc.  I got a fine view of Montreal.  I saw two parks thickly set with apple trees all in rows, near the town. 

May 23

Arrived at Port Lewis 5 am, this morning, got my trunk o the wagon which runs daily to Huntingdon.  Our road was none of the finest, a great part of it being laid with planks of wood as the ground appeared vert be very soft in some places.  The wagon went past Mr Reid’s and I was, owing to this lucky chance, landed at the very house about 10 o’clock in the forenoon, tired enough of the first drive I got in an American stage wagon.

Thus I am landed safely here, 5 weeks and 2 days from the time I left my own dear home.  There is a great cause for thankfulness on my part for the great blessing of good health all along this voyage.  I can likewise commend Captain Poole being very careful of us all along, and of missing no opportunity of forcing on the way as fast as he could.  The men were kind to us in their own way but mind at times with oaths and bad language, a habit to be regretted and so prevalent especially among these sailers who are exposed to dangers night and day and not knowing how soon they may be ushered into an eternal world where “he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.”

And now, may that god who is the same yesterday, today and forever be with me at all times and guide me with his counsel in a foreign land. May he enable me to discharge the duties now before me with all faithfulness, keep me from every evil, may and at last to bring me into His Own Kingdom in glory, there so spend with him a never ending Eternity.

*Montreal had a population of about 60,000 in the early 1850’s and was a busy port, receiving many immigrants to Canada from Ireland and Scotland.

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**The Fashion, was a sidewheel steamer like the one below,  built in 1847 in Michigan – 160 ft long and 25 ft wide. It suffered a number of accidents and repairs and in November 1856 was drawn ashore and abandoned in Bayfield, Ontario.

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A letter to Peter Porterfield from Huntley, Scotland – sent in 1862.  You may remember that Peter set out from Marnoch, Scotland and when he arrived in Huron County, Ontario he named the hamlet where he lived Marnoch.  

Peter and Mary (Stevenson) Porterfield 2a.jpgThis is a portrait of an older Peter Portefield and his wife Mary Stevenson, my great grandparents.  They were married on January 25, 1863 in Belgrave, Ontario and Peter died on December 5, 1907 at the age of 73. He is buried in Brandon Cemetery, Belgrave, Ontario. 

And finally, this old clock sits in my living room still keeping good time. It was purchased in 1880 by Peter Porterfield and had a 2 year warranty. 

Clock

Crossing the Atlantic in 1855 – 6 – Gulf of St Lawrence

 

May 14

There is the same range of land to be seen when it is clear southwest from us. There are a great number of houses along the seacoast occupied by fishermen, I believe, but there also appears to be some land improved.  This is now part of Lower Canada.

May 15.

We are not advancing much.  There is land on every side of us today. Sometimes we are not very far from the shore.  I saw a whale again this morning sporting about the ship.   We have been all engaged in helping the sailors today by pulling ropes etc when turning the ship about.  

St L lighthouse.jpgMay 16

A change of weather again, rain falling heavily around us.  There were two vessels ahead of us and one turned out to be our late companion the Rose from Plymouth.  She had a great number of passengers, 330 in all, who were all taking a look over the ship’s side. Some of them looked to be rum looking characters.  We are all very thankful that we were not among such a mass.  She has now been six weeks at sea when we have only been four. There is to be a doctor on board the ship tomorrow for inspecting us before we land. 

I saw a number of large white fishes in the forenoon of the whale type. I believe the name for them is Porpoise.  A large number of them swam along the ship’s side.  Another ship named the India from Kinach Ireland passed us about 6 o’clock with a great number of passengers on her.

May 17

Lying at anchor this morning… I never saw so many houses together all spread up and down the river side as far as we can see always before us.  They are white and have good appearance when the sun shines.  I believe thy extend on this way all the way to Quebec.  Not many large houses among them.  About 3 o’clock we passed McPherson’s Island. by 6 we were lying at Quarantine Bay, waiting for the doctor to inspect us. He merely looked at us and went away again!

May 18. 

The scenery is very beautiful today, a great many houses on the north side of their the river with their land all laid off in long narrow steps from the shore.  Between 2 and 3 o’clock a steamer named the “North America” came down the refer and our Captain engaged her to tow us to Montreal.  We expect to be at our journey’s end tomorrow night. We are now at a place called Point Levi, with harbour and some shipping.  In sight of Quebec. 

Point Levi, on the south side is  a pretty place and has a large crunch with a beautiful spire and a seminary.  We are not in the harbour but lying out on the river.  We are all getting impatient at so many trifling forms we have to go through. 

There appears to be a good deal of traffic here on the river, steamers going between here and Point Levi every hour of the day.  At 8 o’clock a gun or cannon, I am not sure which, is fired off every evening and at 12 o’clock noon.  We hard it fired off tonight from the fort on a high cliff at the river side. 

May 19

The Captain and a few passengers went ashore this forenoon. At about 2 o’clock about 20 pound of shot was fired off from the fort, the echo one every shot was like thunder, the day was so calm. It reminded me of the siege of Sebastopol.  I heard a rumour that it was because Sebastopol was taken of the truth I can not tell*.

About half past three we lifted anchor and “set sail”,  our steamer towing us on the way… we got a fine view of a Montreal steamer that passed us,  longer than any I ever saw before. This has been the warmest day we have had yet.

 

The progress up the St Lawrence seems to have been a bit slower since the ship requires wind to propel it and the river is more protected than the open ocean.  Eventually the ship will have to be towed by “steamers”, paddle wheel boats,  that must have been busy as tugs for the several sailing ships of immigrants and goods landing in Canada.

"Look_out"_(Transport_Steamer)_on_Tennessee_River_-_NARA_-_5289791_restored.jpg*Sebastopol was under siege throughout 1855 as part of the Crimean War against Russia.  That chapter of the war did not end until late 1855 so Peter was wrong about it being taken.  I wonder how news spread in those days or what the delay would be.  No internet or news channels and as we have seen it takes a few weeks to get across the Atlantic by ship to bring mail or journals.  The image below is of the battle of Sebastopol in 1855.

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Crossing the Atlantic in 1855 – 5 – Land!

May 10

I was awakened by 4 in the morning by the Captain calling to us to rise and see “land, land!”  The land to the North West of us was covered with snow and extending along the sea for considerable distance – high, rugged cliffs that put in mind the Crags of Gaurie in appearance. We have been only about 18 days without seeing land.  I am told where we are sailing today this same vessel, the “Home” was ice bound for a month last year.  There were eight Glasgow ships tied up with the ice for nearly two months last year not very far from the place we are sailing today.  

Voyage

There was more land made its appearance to the south of us called St Paul’s Island*.  We are out of the Atlantic today and in the Gulph of St Lawrence.   It is three weeks since we left Glasgow.  How short to look back to it, time files on, how needful to improve it to advantage so that we may not have to look back upon it when we come to leave this “passing show” with sorrow and anguish of heart.

*St Paul Island is off the northern tip of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in the Cabot Strait between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.  Foggy conditions and rocky cliffs have, over the years, claimed about 350 ships, earning the island the nickname “Graveyard of the Gulf”.  One year after Peter Porterfield passed this spot, 82 people lost their lives in a shipwreck on the rocks of St Paul Island as described in this NY Times article published in June 1856.wreckonrocks.jpg

May 11

Toward afternoon a ship came down to us before we were aware as we could not see very far because of mist.  She was a passenger ship named the ‘Rose of Plymouth” bound for Quebec. Her Captain and our one spoke to each other from a distance of 20-30 yards.  He told us he saw land this morning but had turned back as he thought he was taking the wrong woad.  Our captain though we were right, on the other hand.  About 4 o’clock the mist cleared off and we saw, not at a great distance, a long range of rocky cliffs extending along the sea coast and a great deal of woods back from that all covered with snow. I can now say that I have seen part of North America but, dear me, what I have seen appears to be very cold!

About 7 in the evening a Wherry boat with a number of pilots on her came along side of us and one of them came on board our ship and will, in the course of a day or two, take command of our vessel until we get to Quebec.  He is a French Canadian and has wintered at a place called Green Island.  He told us that he had spoken to a vessel which sailed 15 days before us from Glasgow and she was not 3 hours ahead of us hwhich shows we have been favoured with a good passage as yet.

May 12

“Tacking” today – that is going awhile as far as we can safely and then turning the ship about and got for a while in the other direction but al the while e making for our desired haven as fast as we can.   The Captain again spoke to “The Rose” from Plymouth. The had been 5 weeks at sea already and is just lacking bout like ourselves.  This afternoon is very calm, hardly a breath of wind, the water like a sheet of glass with the sun shining brightly.  I don’t think I ever saw anything more beautiful than the scene around us tonight. Everything is so quiet and the water so smooth.  About 4 o’clock two large whales were seen near the ship.

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May 13  Sunday

A most beautiful morning, not a cloud in the firmament to be seen. We are now in the St Lawrence and expect to make the harbour of Quebec in the course of 2 or 3 days.  About 9 o’clock we came in sight of a lighthouse to the northeast of us.  It was quite dark and the light had a good appearance. Shortly after that a vessel, a brig, was observed bearing down on us to the windward. In a short time she was almost along side of us and as the wind was still very high, our captain was afraid that she would come in contact with our vessel.  After sailing along side of us for awhile she got clear of us, being a lighter vessel.

This is my fourth, and to all appearances, my last Sabbath for sometime at see if we get on as we expect to do. We can not be too thankful for being so highly favoured with a quiet passage.  Last spring, I believe the average number of days for each emigrant ship that sailed for Quebec was 49 days.  I have seen a great deal of strange sights since I left Marnoch and well may I say with the Psalmist, David  “O, Lord, how manifold are thy  works, in wisdom has thou made them all, the earth is full of thy riches so is this great and wide sea, etc. Psalm 104, verses 24 etc.*

Psalm 104

*The bible in these photographs belonged to Maud Code Porterfield (1879-1976) –  Peter’s daughter-in-law.   My brother and I knew her as a dear little old lady with a shaky voice who lived with her sister in Wingham, Ontario.  Her sister, Sadie, was Alice Munro’s grandmother.  I have a clock belonging to Aunt Maud and my middle name, Alex, is after her husband, Alex Porterfield, a favourite uncle of my Dad’s.

Alice Munro, who won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013, describes Aunt Maud and Uncle Alex to a tee in her somewhat autobiographical book, The View from Castle Rock, calling them Aunt Charlie and Uncle Cyril.  Aunt Maud and Aunt Sadie appear in many other Alice Munro short stories as well.  

In the 1920 photo below, Alex is on the left, Aunt Maud on the step looking sideways,  my grandparents, Ernest and Mary,  are the thin man next to Alex and the woman standing by the older woman and the old lady in the rocking chair is Mary Stevenson Porterfield,  Peter’s wife.   I think the man in the middle is William Porterfield,  a brother visiting from Calgary. And in a Where’s Waldo moment, my Dad, Stewart Porterfield Geddes is in a pram on the porch to the left of Aunt Maud!marnoch1

Crossing the Atlantic in 1855 – 4 – The banks of Newfoundland

May 7

brig-sketch.jpgVery cold, snow falling heavily all forenoon.  A large iceberg at a great distance on the horizon and a Newfoundland schooner prosecuting  the seal fishing passed us and about 9 o’clock a French boat passed us, likewise for fishing.  I have plenty of clothes on me but for all that have been shivering all day, every other body apparently in the same condition. 

One of the passengers named Lillian Allan has two children, the oldest a girl of 4 years of age is newly out of the measles.  The other, a boy about 8 months has taken them.  His body is all over with the rash and he is likewise getting teeth right now.  The parents are hardly getting any rest at night just now with the boy and have plenty to attend to during the day.  We have not a great crowd of passengers on this ship but from what I have seen here would advise nobody to attempt a voyage of 5 to 6 weeks to America or anywhere else with a lot of young children as they are terrible care and handful.*

May 8

There was a ship along side of us this morning. Her name was the Non-Such of Liverpool, bound for Quebec.  She is a larger vessel than ours. There was a pretty good wind at the time and we, being so near to her, got a splendid view of her in full sail.   I think there is nothing looks so grand as a ship in full sail at sea, getting up and then down again among the waters.

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Screenshot 2017-04-11 14.05.07.pngWe have been sailing for a number of days back on what they call the banks of Newfoundland.  We have not seen land of yet.

One of the passengers, a young lad, went upon deck with a lot of dishes to get them washed in the forenoon.  Got that done and was just at the top of the stairs coming down again when suddenly the ship gave a lurch and thee whole lot are tumbling down to the bottom of the stairs – plates, bowls, cups and saucers etc,. a lot of them broken and of no further use.

The wind has been somewhat unfavourable for the last 24 hours or so and we have changed our course several times of late. I could not but admire the quickness of the sailors when turning the chip about, every man at his place, some orders given and then a final yell from the Captain and then the pulling on the ropes and “halloing” commences and in the course of 2 or 3 minutes sails and ships are turned.

May 9

Snow falling heavily with some mist, very little wind…We have been on the lookout for land all day but have seen none yet.  The Captain says we will see land by 4 o’clock tomorrow morning.

I am still amazed that this lot is blowing around in the cold and snow in the Atlantic with only sail for power and a sextant and maybe a nautical clock to find their bearings.   I am curious how that actually works!

* And we think that traveling for 4 hours with kids in the back of a car with an iPad and earphones is a challenge!