|By Katherine Maude Baines (transcribed as originally written)|
My grandmother, that is my father's mother, Catherine Bancks, was the eldest daughter of William Bancks, a brass foundry owner of Bewedly, Worstershire, England. When my grandmother was quite a child, he sold his foundry and, with his wife and children, came out to Canada and settled on the shores of Rice Lake, where he built a mill and called the place "Bewedly" [Bewdley] after his native town in England.
In my grandmother's diary, she writes of how she and her father drove in to Port Hope to St. John's Church, now St. Mary's [St. Mark's] and after changing to her brown silk dress in the gallery of the church, she was married to Mr. Thomas Baines. After re-changing her dress, careful soul, she and her husband drove over to Cobourg where they spent the week-end with Mr. Baron, father of the afterwards Judge Baron of Stratford, Ontario. Mr. Baron later had a boys boarding school at Gore's Landing.
During the whole account of her married life in her diary, my grandmother always refers to her husband as "Mr. Thomas Baines" nothing even so familiar as "my husband".
I never knew "Mr. Thomas Baines" but I have many happy re-collections of my grandmother -- a very dignified old lady, dressed in black silk, a white widow's bonnet with streamers, and always at hand a box of peppermints.
My mother's grandfather, James Robertson was born in 1793 and came out from Berwick-on-Tweed about 1819 and settled with his beloved wife Margaret and his eldest child Catherine in Port Hope, on land which his father Peter Robertson had bought but never used. James acquired more land on what is now Walton and John streets and various farms in the surrounding district.
He built himself a large square brick house on the land on John Street and laid out the grounds with gardens and a trout pond. Great grandfather found the climate here, very cold and in every room of his house he had built a large fireplace, and my mother tells me how winter and summer a wood fire always blazed on the parlor hearth. In connection with this feeling the cold, in winter when it was necessary for him to drive out to his various farms, he used to make himself a false face of cotton to protect his face from the cutting wind. Another thing he always took with him on his drives was his gun. He had a great sense of humour and loved a joke. Driving along all arrayed in his false face, he would come across some farmer, who frightened already by the apparition, would have the gun pointed at him and my grandfather would roar, "are you you, or your brother,,if you are your brother I will shoot you."
This gun also figures in another episode in his life. After a fire which destroyed part of the main street, including his shops and some owned by a John Brown the story goes that after the fire he and John Brown disputed where the dividing wall had been and what one of them built up during the day was promptly pulled down by the other during the night. Finally grandfather stood over his wall with his gun all night, and succeeded in getting it so high that it could not be pulled down.
On his farm above Port Granby, then a flourishing lake port, he built a stone house after the manner of Walbeck Abbey, which was near his Scottish home. He rented the house but reserved the eastern wing for his own use, and his delight was to gather his grandchildren out there for the holidays. This house is in perfect preservation to-day.
Great grandfather was a great lover of animals, a family trait inherited by all his descendants and the earliest stories I remember being told were of "George, Jenny and Lion". George was his horse, Jenny, a little black hen, who laid very white eggs and Lion, his collie dog. In the house on John Street, the couch in the parlor was drawn across the open south window, weather permitting, and here the o1d gentleman lay down after his noonday meal for a sleep, his face covered with a large silk handkerchief. No sooner was he settled than gentle George would amble along and put his head through the window to rest his nose on his master's shoulder and doze off. Jenny would fly through the window and take up her position on his other shoulder and Lion lay at his feet.
On Sunday children and grandchildren all went to the Presbyterian Church and sat in the big square pew. The pews all had doors so each family brought their dog, who joined the family circle, except Lion, who for some reason felt that he should guard the pulpit, which was built very high with stairs leading up to it. He took up his position on the lowest step and stayed there throughout the long service, which lasted from eleven until two.
The old man died on August 11th l871, and my mother, then a girl of twelve, felt very important at the funeral, as to her was given the task of tying with a bow of "love ribbon" the band of crepe around the bearers' and the mourners' hats. As each hat was finished she placed in each a pair of gloves -- white for the bearers, and black kid for the mourners, who were also given wide black sashes to knot over their shoulders. Both the inside and outside servants were given black suits or dresses and it was with a real sorrow that they saw their master laid to rest in the old grave yard behind the church.
In the very early days my mother tells me that for the evening service each family had to provide themselves with candles which were stuck at the corners of the pews. An old friend told me of how her mother once made her a dress out of one of these scarves, and my brother says she and her sister always met grandfather after a funeral to get the mourning scarf.
Funerals in those days were very much more impressive and picturesque than in these hurried days, friends and relatives came from all the surrounding country, and this meant giving up the whole day as over, the none-too-good road, the horses did not make many miles an hour. If these good people had arrived from any distance cake and wine were immediately served if it was too early or too late for dinner. The funeral was always in the afternoon. The hearse was drawn by black horses draped with what looked like heavy black fish net, edged with black tassels, and on their heads nodding plumes. Plumes were also placed along the sides of the top of the hearse. One of the humourous masterpieces of John Leach in "Punch" at the time depicts an undertaker looking out of his door and saying "A fine day, a very fine day, just enough breeze to stir the plumes".
The bearers walked on each side of the hearse, which was followed by the minister, who was always driven by the doctor -- the two chief beloved and honoured friends of the fami1y.
Port Hope and the country west, out what we now call the Lake Shore Road, was justly noted for its many springs of pure water, so consequently, distilleries were built, not only in Port Hope but at Port Britian [Port Britain] and Port Granby and whisky sold at twenty-five cents a gallon. It was such good whisky that it was exported even to England and Great-grandfather on one of his visits back there saw a sign in a hotel "Port Hope whisky sold here".
There was also another industry in Port Hope which has passed quite out of existence "Elliott's hoop factory", -- hoops not for barrels but for ladies skirts.
Port Hope also at various times had small schools known as Dame Schools where some well-meaning lady would try to pass on the little she knew of the three 'rs, but the tales I have been told of a couple of these schools the knowledge gained was very slight. In one, the boys did gardening, cut and piled wood when it was necessary and the girls sewed patches for a quilt. The discipline in the school when the 'rs were being taught was administered by a long hardwood pointer over knuckles or shoulders, in fact so severe was one dame that she tried to put a pin through the tongue of my uncle for some slight misdemeanor. But by the time the children got to the High School things were very different and the admiration they speak of their teachers of seventy years ago is still very real.
Here is a funny little ditty that composed by one of these High School girls and told me by my mother.
Speak gently to the new-laid egg,
For eggs are brittle things
They cannot walk until they're hatched
And have a pair of wings.
So let the hand be very light
That lifts them from the keg
For there is no hand however skilled
Can mend a broken egg."
Another tale told me was of a good lady by name Mrs. Knight, who was small in stature being not quite five feet in height, who kept a small grocery store, where as a side-line she sold home-made confectionery which was sticks of candy. My mother used to go to buy a penny worth and the large penny was put on one side of the scales and the candy on the other side. If the stick perchance, was heavier than the penny, Mrs. Knight would carefully bite a piece off the stick till the scales balanced. So very close was she in her transactions that the then popular expression to describe such a person that they would "skin a flea, for its hide" was applied to her.
Many of these large pennies in use at this time will be found to have holes in them and these holes were put there for for a very practical reason, the pennies being large and heavy, many could not be carried so for handy reasons they were strung on a wire ring and hung up where they could easily be added to or taken to make change.
Some of the curious ways of selling things seventy-five years' ago were -- oysters in the shell were sold in kegs, small, holding a couple of dozen to barrels holding many hundred. Blueberries in the summer were sent up from the province of Quebec in small logs cut in half and hollowed out by hand. Partridges were sold at twenty-five cents a pair unplucked. Butter from the Port Hope Fair was ten cents a pound. Turkeys likewise brought ten cents a pound.
In those far-off days of the early seventies, two boats, the Rochester and the Corinthian, made daily trips of Charlotte, N.Y. and there was great under-selling of tickets by their respective pursuers. To obtain passengers the officers would stand beside their boats enticing passengers by quoting rates and once when the bidding was very keen Grandfather and my mother obtained return tickets for fifty cents each. Who would not travel?