Susanna Moodie to John Vickers
June 13 1872
Patrick Hamilton Ewing Collection of Moodie-Strickland-Vickers-Ewing Family Papers (National Library of Canada)
Lakefield, North Douro
My dear Mr Vickers,
I feel so glad, at the good news of Katies postal card, that you are better, that I must write and tell you so. May God grant you my dear son renewed strength and add many years to your valuable life. It is good, however, sometimes to stand in the entrance of the dark valley, and feel how near we are to the unknown future, to deepen our trust in the unfathomable love of God, and in his mercy shown to us through his beloved son, and to shew us how little in comparison is all the wealth of this world. May you dear John, obtain the true riches is my most earnest prayer which comes warm from the heart of the old mother, that loves you and your dear ones very much.
But I am not going to write a sermon to one better and kinder than myself who I have no doubt knows and feels more than I can express upon this momentous subject.
I have felt so anxious about you and Katie and the dear children, that it has made me sick and nervous. Ague chills are very common here, owing I think, to the high back waters flooding a large swamp in our rear, of about a mile in extent, which is full of dead trees and decaying vegetable matter, and the weather between the constant thunder showers is sultry or quite cold. The stinging of the black flies like one of the plagues of Egypt, ditto mosquitoes. In other respects, I am very comfortable indeed as my good sister and kind niece do all in their power to make me so. We have a pretty merry little child the size of Ethel, in the house. Poor Harry Traill's little girl, who lives with her grandmother, and makes the house very lively with her original prattle, for it is a clever funny little creature and though only 4 1/2 years old, reads as well as many of the grown up natives, and makes very droll shrewd remarks on what she reads. Her adoration of dolls is most amusing. She has quite a regiment of dolls which she makes out of rags and bits of stick, and to whom she talks and gives most sage advice -- and she generally sleeps with them all, but one, she keeps in her arms. Her maternity is most extraordinary. She promises to make a beautiful woman.
And now I must tell you about our trip on tuesday up to Stoney lake in the steamer yclept, The Chippewa. Robert ran in about 10 on tuesday morning and asked us if we could be ready in an hour, and he would send his buggy to take us to the landing. It was not a picnic only a small family party and he would bring all that was necessary. Aunt was quite delighted and little wee Kate was sent to Mrs Percy's who could not go, the house shut up and we were soon ready for the start. Percy called in, and advised me to walk with him, as he thought that the Buggy would scarcely hold two fairies like Aunt and me. I was of his opinion and off we went. The walk was rather long, and the day, the hottest of the season so far. When we reached the landing, we found Mr & Mrs Clementi, their niece Miss Smith, Sherry Macdonald, a pretty young lady and Kate Traill, sitting on a log near the boat, not making love to the black flies, but the black flies paying their devours to them. We were soon joined by Robert and his wife, Roland and his Mary, George Strickland, Charles Boker, the two Miss Stricklands Robert's daughters, Mr and Mrs Barlee, and good old Isaac Garbutt who happened to be a passenger on the boat. The only beaus for the three young ladies were George and Mr. Boker.
Well, we had a delicious sail up the lakes to Julians landing on Stoney lake, but though the waters remained the same as of yore, all the scenery I once knew along the shores was quite changed. Our old place I should never have recognized. The woods about it are all gone, and a new growth of small cedars fringes the shore in front. There is a tolerable looking modern cottage on the spot, that the old log house once occupied, and the old barn survives on the same spot on which it was built, more than 30 years ago, but the woods that framed it in, are all down, and it has a bare desolate look, and is used as a place for feeding young cattle. The back waters from the mill dams have drowned all the trees on Moodie's Island 1 which still bears the name, and it has become a very ugly place to what it was in the hand of Nature.
These drowned lands spoil the once pretty shores of the upper Katchewanook lake and the scene is greatly changed all the way up the Young's old place. The falls there have been blasted out to make the canal into Clear lake, and the great beauty of the place, while in the wilderness, is greatly diminished, but a pretty Catholic church and burying ground, and a small picturesque group of cottages, gives an air of civilization to the once romantic place.
At the Lock, Old Garbutt, introduced me to Pat Young, the Lock Master, and the son of the old Miller at the rapids at whose hospitable log house, Katie and Aggie reposed white Pat, Mat and Betty Young, paddled us up in canoes to Stoney lake, and on our return feasted us with all sort of Bush Dainties, and for the first and last time in my life, I drank coffee made in a frying pan. Pat was Young then both by name and nature, he greeted me with intense Irish glee, and asked after the two pretty little girls he carried down in his arms asleep to put in Moodie's canoe at night, and sure, was he not delighted to hear that they both had married Irish husbands and that little Katie was the mother of nine children. 'Sure she was always the clever stirring little thing.' On we went through the grand scenery of Stoney Lake. That is just the same, and its Islands, there are 1200 in it, must remain as they now appear to the end of time. Great bare red granite rocks crowned with scrub oak and pine. Some are many 100 feet high and heave up like the bare bones of some ancient world. It is quite a labyrinth of Islands, how people can find their way through them is the wonder. How I wished that Katie could have seen them. It is a wonderful place, so vast, so wild and lonely, the waters so blue, the dark woods frowning down upon them from their lofty granite ridges that towered far far above us. The time will come when this will be one of the sight seeing places in Canada. We got our dinner on board, the Parson and Robert S. doing the honors of the place -- the prey excellent and every body hungry enough to enjoy it. At Julian's landing, we went ashore, I could not climb the big sugar loaf rock, and I believe that Katie Traill was the only one that did. She said the view from it was magnificent --
Mrs. T. the parson and I, went into the woods to hunt for ferns, but I hunted up a snake, and grew rather shy of the ferns. It is not pleasant to see an emblem of old Scratch wisking his tail among them. But enough of this. I see you are tired. We parted here with Roland and George, who by the bye seemed very sweet upon Miss Smith. On our return I had a long chat with old Isaac Garbutt whom I found a very intelligent man. The wind sprung up to almost a gale and we landed at Lakefield just in time to get home before an awful thunder storm, which returned again in the middle of the night and recommenced bombarding us with renewed vigor. It is raining again today. I shall not be able to post this as it shews no sigh of leaving off. It has rained nearly half the time, since I came up to Douro.
Do you know I have been amusing myself with fishing in the river that flows opposite Aunts gate, and succeeded in catching plenty of perch and sunfish. I tried my old receipt of fish soup and found it excellent, far richer and nicer than beef soup. Aunt and Katie thought it very good. The black flies are too bad now for fishing. They will be all away by the end of the month. I have not heard a word of B.V. news since I left. I wonder how all the folks are. You must thank dear Katie and Jack for me for the postal cards which were no small comfort to me. I hope and trust, dear John that this will find you still mending. You should take a trip somewhere when able to walk again, to recover your strength and not work quite so hard for the future. You are too precious to us all to throw away your life for the dollars.
My tooth has given over aching at last -- and I have not got rid of it. I cannot afford to lose it as long as it will stay in. Goodbye my dear son. May God bless and quickly restore you to health and comfort. With kind love to the darling Katie and all the dear boys and girls and much love to yourself, believe me ever to remain,
Your affectionate Mother Susanna Moodie
Aunt and Kate beg love and kind regards to all. If Robert is with you give him my best love. I will write to him soon. I suppose your visitors were McIntires --
1. Moodie's Island, which retains its name today, is located in Lake Katchewanooka to the northwest of the Moodie clearing. It was likely drowned with water level increases in the 1840s. See Recent Archeological Investigations along the Margins of Lake Katchewanooka and Select Sections of Smith and Douro Townships and the City of Peterborough (York North Archeological Services 1988), map 15.