Read the diary of ten year old Grace. When we first meet her, she lives with her family in Scotland, but what sort of adventures await her in the future?
May 20, 1820
Dear Diary, My name is Grace and I am ten years old. I live in a tiny cottage with my family on the edge of a town called Lanark in Scotland. My father works all day long on a nearby farm to earn a few coins to buy our food at the marketplace. He used to work in a huge mill in Glasgow. A few months ago, most of the mill workers lost their jobs and had to find new ways to feed their families. My older brothers and sisters all lost their jobs at the mill, too. We work hard to grow some vegetables in the tiny yard beside our home. The farmer that my dad works for gives him some extra milk and eggs sometimes. I have three brothers and six sisters so that's alot of mouths to feed. One of my first jobs of the day is to help my older sister, Mary, make breakfast. I have to stir the oatmeal as it bubbles in the big iron pot that sits over the fireplace. I hear her calling my name now.
May 27, 1820
Dear diary, Last week I helped my sister, Jean, clean some wool my father brought home. We washed and dried it. Today, my Grandmother used her spinning wheel to spin it into yarn. I love to watch her work as her fingers thread the wool onto the big wheel that goes round and round. Grandmother is making a blanket for my baby sister, Cecelia. If there's a little yarn left over, Grandmother says she will help me weave an apron for my doll. Grandmother says it's important for me to practice making things for my family. I want to learn to knit and sew and weave just as well as my Grandmother does because she is always making beautiful things for us.
June 3, 1820
Dear diary, Uncle James was here tonight. He brought his fiddle and played along with my father. Grandmother is always happy when her sons play her favourite songs. My sister and I grab some wooden spoons and pots to join in and keep time. I like to dance to the music until I'm tired and fall into my bed. Even my little sister, Christine, tries to keep up with the dancing. My oldest brothers, James and Robert John, are very good dancers. Music fills our home almost every night. Playing music and dancing is our favourite thing to do.
June 10, 1820
Dear diary, My father went to a little town known as Lesmahago, yesterday. When he came home, he gathered all my older brothers and sisters together. I had to watch over my little brother, George. I tried to listen to the conversation. It sounded serious. When my father was speaking, I could see everyone looked worried. I heard him talk about leaving our home. He said he had visited a man named Mr. Thomas Scott. This man was signing up a group of people from our county. My father added his name to the list. Many of our neighbours signed the list, too. The plan is for our family to travel on a ship across the ocean to a new place. My father said we will have to sell most of our things to gather enough money for the trip. I don't want to part with our things, but my mother says it's the way it has to be right now. Grandmother says going on a big ship will be an adventure. I sure hope she's right.
June 17, 1820
Dear diary, My sister, Mary, told me to choose two books that I love most. That will be hard because I love all my books. She said we would be putting them into one of the trunks that we are getting ready to take with us when we leave our home. Everyone in the family gets to pack a few of their favourite books. Mother will choose the best books for our schooling. I am hoping there will be some space to tuck my little doll into one of the trunks. We are packing dishes, clothes and lots of wool and weaving tools. Tomorrow, I have to go with my brothers and sisters to get checked by a doctor. Mr. Scott told my father that everyone has to get a needle in their arm so they won't get sick. I've never had a needle before so I'm a little bit scared, but my sister, Jean, said she would hold my hand so that will make me feel braver. After that, my mother says all of the children have to get their hair cut short. All my sisters have long, dark hair that gets tied back in ribbons. When she saw my tears, Grandmother reminded me that my hair would grow back. I know she's right, but I still wish it didn't have to happen just the same.
June 24, 1820
Dear diary, The trunks have been loaded on some wagons. Our neighbours have their trunks on wagons, too. We are leaving our home this morning. Grandmother is not coming with us. She says she is too old to make the trip. I am so sad. I can't imagine a new life without her. Grandmother has made all of us new things to take with us so we will think of her when we are in our new home. She gave my oldest sister, Mary, a brooch for her shawl. It's a brooch that Grandmother has had since she was Mary's age. My gift was a handkerchief with a Scottish thistle embroidered on one corner and the letter 'S' for our family name on the other. I'm going to keep it with me always. When I hug Grandmother for the last time, I will try my best to keep from crying, but as soon as I am loaded onto the wagon, I am certain I will sob into my apron for many miles.
July 4, 1820
Dear diary, I woke up this morning to the ear piercing sound of a rooster crowing in the barnyard of a farmer my father knew from his days working in the big Galbraith woolen mills in Glasgow. We stopped here to sleep overnight before we travel across town to the docks. Jean says we will get on board The Comet, a paddle steamer, at mid day and it will take us down the River Clyde to Greenock. Later today, when we arrive at the big seaport, we will get to see the giant ship that will become our home for the next two months as we float across the ocean. I've never seen a ship big enough to sail across the ocean. I think Grandmother was right about this being an exciting adventure. I wish she was coming with us. Mother says my job will be to hold the hand of George very tightly when we get to the docks. She will carry Cecelia and Mary will hold onto Christine's hand. My older brothers will carry our trunks and bags onto the ship. Everyone has a job. It's all been planned very carefully. Mary says there will be a large crowd of people and we will have to stick together so we don't get separated from our family. I will be sticking close to my older sisters because I don't want to get lost. I'm used to crowds at the village market in Lanark, but this will be much bigger than that, I'm sure. I'm nervous and excited at the same time.
I've never seen a ship so tall. The masts reach right up to the clouds. I made sure to stay close by my mother as we found our way up onto the deck of The Prompt. Our trunks were carried to the lower deck where we will sleep. Cecelia has been crying and my mother is trying to comfort her. Everything is new and different. There is so much noise with all the people trying to talk at once. Soon after we came on board, the deck hands directed everyone to go down the staircase to the bunks. I climbed onto a top bunk with my sisters. I feel so tired I am sure I will fall asleep as soon as I put down my pen.
July 6, 1820
Dear diary, After a day of being towed by two sturdy tugboats, The Prompt is floating on her own now. The big sails are completely unfurled and the breeze is puffing them out like giant pillows. My brother, James, says we are travelling at a speed of 8 knots an hour. We watched the land disappear into the horizon this morning. It was a bit sad to see my homeland gone for good. It made me think of Grandmother. I wish she was on this adventure with us. She would love to be on deck with the wind blowing in her face and the waves glistening with sunshine. I am getting used to our temporary new home. At night, we sleep in wooden bunks called berths. I share with my sisters Christine and Kate. Mary, Jean and Peggy share the bunk above us. James, Robert John and George share the bunk across the aisle. Cecelia sleeps with my parents. During the day, we can explore the upper deck when we have finished our meals. In the evening, the music starts and there is dancing in every corner of the ship.
July 15, 1820
Dear diary, We've been aboard The Prompt for ten full days now and have settled into many routines in our new life. We awake to the sound of crying babies. Sometimes Cecelia joins the chorus. That means all the mothers must hurry to feed their hungry children. Each of us must get ready to proceed to the upper deck if the weather is agreeable. My oldest sisters join in the bustle of cooking on the fireplace on the open air deck. Our family has joined together with our neighbours who are also on the ship to share cooking duties and mealtimes. When more than three hundred people try to cook and eat there can be confusion so each group of families takes a turn. I help Kate and Peggy get our bowls and spoons ready for our family. The food is welcome even if it isn't the same as we had in our homeland. I'm getting used to it and am thankful for it. After we wash up our dishes, my friends and I find some time to play together with our dolls. Grandmother helped me make one especially for the journey. She showed me how to tie a handkerchief to make a doll with a beautiful dress. My friend, Ann, has one, too. Together, we imagine lots of adventures with these special little friends.
July 22, 1820
Dear diary, My brother, James, has been reading the Edinburgh Almanack each day to check the calendar and tide charts recorded in it. He is very interested in such things. I like to listen to the facts about weather and the natural world. It inspires me to keep up with my lessons everyday. Every morning after our chores are finished, we write letters to make sure we don't forget our studies. We are lucky to have a teacher on board with us. Our family has joined with our neighbours to collect enough money to pay the teacher a small fee for a few lessons each week. Even though girls don't always get much chance to have formal learning, my sisters and I have spent any spare hours we could find enjoying the books in our home. Of course, we were taught the scriptures from our Family Bible when Grandmother was overseeing our needlework in the evenings. We would listen to the stories to learn how we should act each day. We have a hymnary with us to learn the songs we sing on the Sabbath when Captain Nairn holds a service on the ship's deck each week. It seems a little strange to get dressed up to sit in the very place we usually eat our meals, but Mother says it is important to present ourselves in our best form when we sing the hymns and listen to the sermon. I guess it's a chance to break up the routine that we follow every other day. It is a pleasant change to see everyone in their finest dress.
July 29, 1820
As soon as we finished our breakfast this morning, it was time to gather our sheets and overclothes for wash day. Everything has to be tied up in bundles and lugged to the upper deck where the large pots of water collected from the rain barrels have been heated and are waiting. We have to soak our belongings to loosen the dirt of everyday living and then rub them on a board to coax the stubborn soil and stains that remain. Then we hang them in the gentle breezes to dry and hope the weather remains steady so they don't blow away in a sudden gust of wind. Jean directs the whole process while Kate and Peggy do the scrubbing. I have to keep a keen eye on the drying clothes to make sure they all get safely back to our lower deck berth when the job is done. My father and brothers were told to bring three flannel and three lighter shirts with trousers while my mother and older sisters were instructed to pack a few dresses and two flannel petticoats. Each grown up brought a warm overcoat or shawl to guard against the cooler temperatures. We wear our bonnets on the upper deck with the strings tied tightly to keep them on our heads when the wind gets fierce. If a string gets loose and the bonnet is carried overboard, it is gone forever. I'm keeping mine tightly tied with a knot and bow.
August 5, 1820
Dear diary, When we awoke this morning, there was a big commotion going on among the adults. The weather had turned stormy overnight and the hatches that usually allow fresh, salty air into our living quarters had to remain tightly closed. Waves were spraying up on the deck above and there would be no going outside for breakfast. The women had to find enough food for their hungry families that could be eaten in the berths. It has been a long day of reading, writing and needlecraft with no time to stretch our legs on the deck above to break up the time. My sisters have been knitting all day long. I have been busy plaiting some yarn into a rope that can be sewn together to make a small mat. Grandmother taught me how to gather up scraps of yarn to make something useful. Nothing should ever be wasted, she always said. I like a leisurely day of handcrafts, but the air is stale and smells like musty, damp clothing. It will be good to get the hatches opened again to clear the air.
August 12, 1820
The stormy weather of last week has cleared and the sun is back again. It's a relief to be up on deck and back to what is now our familiar routine once more. Just as we were finishing breakfast, we saw a ship on the horizon. Gazing over the side of the ship, we watched it grow bigger and bigger as it came near and eventually passed by us. Some passengers watched until the ship gradually shrunk and disappeared on the distant horizon again. Robert says it was coming from the new land and heading to our homeland of Scotland. It has a long journey in front of it. I wonder what the passengers are thinking on board. Are they happy to go back home or are they sad to leave the new world? I wish I could ask them.
The afternoon was broken up by an announcement. Land had been sighted by the crew. Excitement filled the air and even the weariest passengers had smiles on their faces. The mood was brightened in every corner of the ship. The women immediately set about making plans for leaving the ship when it docked. Trunks would have to be re-packed for the next part of our journey. Even though Captain Nairn assured the adults that it would be more than two weeks before we would reach the docks in Quebec, nothing could dampen the flurry of activity that was all around us.
August 18, 1820
Dear diary. The spirits of our fellow passengers have continued to be bright. The anticipation of The Prompt finally docking at a port and the chance to get our feet on solid ground again is a welcome break from our daily routine. Our meals grow more meagre with each passing day. I am trying to learn the names of the many places as we are passing by them. We have rounded the southern coastline of Newfoundland and are in a body of water called the Gulf of St. Lawrence now. Yesterday, we saw some islands called St. Pierre, Langalde and Miquelon. James says the people who live there speak the language of France. Today, we saw what looked like a giant ship in the distance, but as we drew closer, James informed us that it was actually a large formation of rock known as Perce Rock because of a hole pierced right through one end of it. As we passed by, the temperature was dropping and a cloak of fog made it hard to see very far ahead. The ship has slowed to a speed of five knots to be careful. Another large ridge of rock sticking out from the coastline was covered in sea birds. The encyclopedia says they are Snowy Gannets. I've never see them before. I wonder if we will see more of them in our new home. I hope we arrive there soon.
August 24. 1820
Dear diary, There is so much to see as we slowly make our way to the mouth of a river named Saint Lawrence. We can see land close by on both sides now. A whale jumped out of the water right beside our ship yesterday. It made a gigantic splash. My favourite sight was a tall, white tower with a red dome on top. It looked like there was a flame flickering at the highest point. When there is fog, ships can see that light to warn them there is land nearby. When we were in the middle of the ocean, we didn't have to steer around obstacles. Now the crew must keep a watchful eye night and day. It was much colder today. James said the temperature was only fifty-two degrees. I needed a warm blanket wrapped around my shoulders when I was up on deck. It was worth braving the cooler weather to see the miles and miles of trees broken up only by a few fields of crops. People who live in this land must really like corn. It's planted row after row. I counted twenty houses along the shore. We even saw seals swimming in the water near our ship. People in this land sometimes call them sea wolves. Maybe that's why the village we passed was named Riviere-du-loup. My father said it was named after the people who lived here known as Les Loups. Either way, I really want to see a real live wolf. They sound like majestic animals. I read a story about wolves running wild in the forests of this land. Maybe, if we are lucky, we will get a glimpse of one.
August 31, 1820
Dear diary, The Prompt has been moving at a slow speed for days now. It gives us a good chance to see our new home. This afternoon, we floated into a big harbour with buildings lining the coast. It's called Quebec because it's located where the river narrows. In one place the bank reaches up so high, it's like a mountain. Robert says it's an escarpment. When we looked way up to the highest part, we could see walls made of grey sandstone. The captain says the Citadel walls were used to protect the territory. I wonder who would attack such a beautiful place. I spotted many church spires rising up into the sky. Everyone who lives here must go to church on Sabbath.
We waited for passing ships loaded with timber on their way to France to move before we finally came alongside the pier. The Prompt was tethered and sat still. Captain Nairn had given the men strict instructions for each family to follow. Trunks were to be carried off in an orderly manner. The women with babies and small children were to be allowed to disembark first. James and Robert John took our trunks down the ramp and our father rushed off with some other men in our group to find some wagons to take us to where we were to sleep. After fifty-seven nights in our berths, it might be strange to sleep in another bed. I guess our adventure continues.
The wagons took us to the barracks at the fortress we had seen earlier. Inside the air was damp and musty, but we've grown used to stuffy conditions. Cecelia cried all the way in the wagon. George held my hand so tightly, it was almost numb. Thomas Scott organized some members of the group to get us some food to eat before we were set to go to sleep. So far our new home seems hospitable. I am so tired I am sure to sleep soundly.
September 2, 1820
Dear diary, The morning sun gave us a new view of our temporary lodging when we woke up. Being confined to the deck of The Prompt for so many weeks made us eager to explore our surroundings on foot. Walking on firm ground again is a challenge. I still feel the tossing and turning of the sea. Father told us we had the day to explore so as soon as we had digested our morning biscuit and gruel, we set out on the dirt roadways to see the shops. Robert John led the way. The houses we passed by were pretty and appeared to be well cared for in the town. At one point on our journey, we found a staircase so steep that we had to hold fast to the sides and choose our steps carefully. At the bottom, we saw a row of shops, where a crowd of people were selling and buying items. The noise of the crowd reminded me of market days in Lanark. I guess our new home will have some familiar things.
Back at the place where we slept, the wagons were packed and we were on our way to the pier once more. This time we boarded a steamship that would carry us further along the Saint Lawrence River. The shores were too close together for a big ship like The Prompt to navigate so we watched as we sailed past it as it waited for its new passengers. I wonder who the big ship will carry on board next and where they will be going. I will miss its familiar lilt.
September 3, 1820
Dear diary, Darkness overtook the sky shortly after we left Quebec. We sailed all night and tried to get some rest after our day of adventure. This steamboat doesn't have the same sleeping arrangements that we had on The Prompt. Robert reported that we passed by a place called Trois Riviere. He said it means three rivers. There sure are many rivers going every which way in this place. The captain told us we were half way along our journey. I fell asleep and didn't see anything else until we came to a stop at Montreal. The noise of people shouting and babies crying woke me up suddenly. The commotion I heard was the excitement of people getting off the boat and once more loading everything they owned on a waiting cart. My father secured our rations of meat and bread. This will be our only source of food for the next part of our travel.
September 10, 1820
Dear diary, When we came to the end of our cart ride, we saw what would carry us on the next part of our journey. It was a boat, but a strange kind I had never seen before. The bottom was flat and wide. The sides went straight up like a box. We learned that we would be divided into groups of three families and luggage for each boat. Once we set off on the river, the boats floated along in a line, one after another. These boats were not very big, so we had to sit still when we were on board. We passed the days by singing and telling stories. Sometimes, the adults told the same story over again, but we didn't mind. If it was a good story, we were content to listen again. It was hard for the littlest children to stay still for the whole ride. I had to keep a close watch on George and Christine to make sure they didn't wriggle to close to the side of the boat. After about a week of floating by day and camping on the river banks at night under tarps that we carried with us, we reached a place known as Prescott. Here we could see steamships coming and going along the waterway. On the north shore, a tall fort named Wellington rose up keeping watch over the settlement. We were glad to finally dock and unload our belongings on solid ground once more.
September 12, 1820
Our day was spent walking alongside the carts that carry our trunks and provisions. We stopped twice to rest the oxen and give them a chance to drink at the river's edge. While stopped, we ate our meal of bread and pork. Our rations are getting very low so we hope to find a place with a fresh supply of food for the next part of our journey. Just before dusk, we stopped our caravan and settled into a sheltered area for the night. Mr. Scott reported that we were just outside a village called Brockville.
Morning came and we ate our mix of oats and water. The taste is bland, but Jean says we must eat it to keep our strength up. There will be plenty of time to enjoy our food when we get to our new home. Just the same, I miss the smell of freshly baked biscuits in the air when Grandmother was in the kitchen.
Brockville turned out to have a good supply of fruit trees and a kindly farmer we met gave us a basket of apples from his wagon as he headed home from the market. He said the fruit would do the children some good. He was right. The juice ran down our chins as we bit into the beautiful, rosy red apples. The treat gave us energy to face another day of walking.
September 14, 1820
We have turned our direction and are heading north. Mr. Thomas Scott says we could reach the village of Perth in another day. We met some farmers along the way and paid a small sum of the money we have left to have our luggage carried on wagons pulled by horses. The trail is hard to follow in places where the trees are close together. Sometimes, we just have to pick our way through swampy ground. The men have to carry the trunks through the worst spots so the horses can make their way without the weight. Parts of the trail have planks laid down, side to side. This makes for a bumpy, but welcome ride if we are able to take a turn on the back of the wagon for a while. I am excited to see New Perth. I wonder if it will be full of shops and maybe there will be a market with more juicy apples. I can imagine the taste now.
September 15, 1820
Dear diary, This morning we set out walking with the promise of reaching New Perth before night. About mid day, we came to a clearing and could see a river ahead of us. The river was flowing swiftly so we followed it along until we came to a bridge made of logs. We could see a large building on the other side. When we made our way over the bridge, the men were directed to the building and told to give their names and the number of grown ups and children travelling in their group. Mr. Scott confirmed that we could stay in the barns and stables we could see nearby. I felt grateful for the chance to sit down for awhile. When our father and brothers returned from the building, they had food for us to eat. Robert John said the building had rations of food and an office inside.
The night was long and noisy. There were horses and men coming and going around us. It was good to have a roof over our heads again especially during the rain shower last night. Father says that he will be going on ahead with three other men from our group. They have hired a guide and as soon as they draw their lots of land at the office, they will be leaving. We are to stay here in New Perth until he returns. James will look after our needs.
September 18, 1820
Dear diary, I am wondering how my father is getting along and if he has found our new home. I hope he returns with news soon. We took a stroll in this new place today and I counted about twenty houses. They are colourful. There are a few stores with food and clothing. I wonder who will buy these things. Robert John says that many of the men in the village used to be soldiers and they have money to spend on such things. For now, we will just content ourselves with the food we get from the storehouse.
September 20, 1820
Dear diary, Today, we saw a curious sight. When we were strolling around town to exercise our legs, we saw a crowd gathered near the Inn on the corner. When we got closer, we could see a man sitting on a bench with something in his hands. There was a group of children kneeling in front of him so they could watch closely. We could see him holding a small, wooden figure that looked like a boy. The figure was balancing on a stick. The man could make the boy dance on the stick without falling off. It was an amazing sight and entertained the crowd of adults and children alike. Robert John heard someone in the crowd say that the man was a retired soldier and could often be found outside the Inn performing different acts that people came to watch. We will look for him again when we are out around the village.
September 24, 1820
Dear diary, This morning, our mother reminded us that it was the Sabbath and we would be taking extra care when dressing and preparing for the day. On our walks, we had noticed four churches in the village. One that we passed by had eight windows to let in the light. It had a tall bell tower and a spire that reached up high. Mother said that was the church that we would be attending when Reverend Bell preached his sermon. We heard the bell toll and arrived in time to be seated on some planks arranged for benches. Reverend Bell spoke for a long time and we sang all the hymns we knew best. It was exciting to be in a real church again. Our voices filled the air and I'm sure people all over the countryside heard us.
September 27, 1820
Dear diary, Our father has returned with great news. He has found and secured a beautiful lot of land for us. All of us were excited to hear the details of our new home. He says it has a sparkling, clear spring that fresh water flows from night and day. There is a pond nearby that deer pass by for a drink. A short walk down a well worn trail he found a long, narrow lake that stretches as far as the eye can see in either direction. Father says that plenty of fish are sure to be found in its waters. James and Robert John are planning to build a boat as soon as we reach our land. All this news gives us strength to take on the final part of our journey. Bags are being organized. We have to make our way across two waterways and so most of the trip will be on foot. Father says we will have to carry whatever we are taking with us to our new home. Some of our belongings will stay in New Perth until the river ice freezes and our brothers can haul the trunks on sleighs. Once again, the grown ups have to decide what we need the most and leave the rest behind for now. Books are heavy so only our Family Bible and our diaries will travel with us. Father will pick up our provisions after we cross the first river. A man named Colonel Marshall has built a storehouse to hold supplies. Father says he has a kind character and will help us on our way.
September 30, 1820
Mother had us up and dressed well before the light of dawn had brightened the sky. We didn't mind because we were too excited to sleep anyway. Father said that if we got a good start, we could make the trip to our new home before darkness overtook us. We travelled on wagons for a few miles out of New Perth until we came to the first waterway. A boy named Malcolm Cameron was waiting at the river's edge with a raft to take us safely across to the other side. It took quite some time to take all the people in our group and their bags to the other shore, but once we were ready to go ahead, we made good progress on the trail. We ate some fruit we picked from trees along the way. Our next stop was a river bank with a scow waiting to transport us across to a log building on the other side. The sign on the tree had the words this is Lanerk painted on it. Colonel Marshall greeted us and instructed us to take a rest while the men picked up our supplies. Mother fed Cecelia when she had the opportunity. We were anxious to see what items we would be taking to our new home. There were blankets to carry over our shoulders. Some items were carefully placed in the middle of the woven material and tied up like a sack. We set out again with no time to waste. After a couple of miles, we came to a junction of two trails where some of our group headed north. Our family and three others turned onto the trail that led north east. This group would be the closest neighbours we would have for some time. I was glad Ann's family was staying with ours.
It was almost dusk when we stopped in a clearing where we saw some tarpaulins held up by a few poles. The men said this would be where we would spend the first night in our new community. We could eat and sleep. I was glad we had new blankets to share.
October 1, 1820
In the morning, we woke up after a good night's sleep in our new community. It feels like home even though it is strange to us and very far from other people. Mother reminded us it was the Sabbath and we would be preparing to worship together with the other families. Mr. Affleck took out his Family Bible and read some favourite scriptures. He spoke about our journey and we all gave thanks for our good fortune to be here in our new home. We sang some hymns loud enough to be heard for miles even though there was no one around us. We ate together and afterwards we separated and made our way to our new lots of land. We will be returning each night to stay with our group until we can get a shelter built for our own families. I am glad to see my friend at the end of each day. Staying together will give us an advantage of sharing work and meals.
October 3, 1820
We visited our new home again today and it is beautiful. There are trees of every kind and a bubbling spring to give us water to drink. My father and brothers have started a shelter at the bottom of a knoll beside the spring. I helped Peggy and Kate carry small, rounded rocks that we found nearby to the stream and we started to build a ledge around the water. Mother said we would need a ledge to keep the water clear when we dip our bucket in to it. It's hard work, but I am so happy to help my family that I don't mind. At the end of each day, we can see the benefit of our work. At night, we still return to our community group. Father says it won't be many more nights before we can stay in our new shelter. Each day's work gets us closer to a home of our own.
October 6, 1820
Dear diary, We will sleep in our new home tonight. We have carried all our things to the place our father has chosen for our shelter. I will miss seeing Ann and the other neighbours each night, but being in our new home is the most exciting thing. I think I will sleep well in my new bed even if it is a bit lumpy. We gathered the cedar boughs that Robert John cut off the trees that grew by the pond and have made a flat pile to soften the hard, cold ground. We put one blanket over the boughs and use the other one to cover us. We sleep close together in our little shelter of cedar poles and brush. I love our new home.
October 7, 1820
Dear diary, This morning we woke up in our new home. The sun rose and shone a ray of light down through the tree tops onto our little clearing where our spring bubbles over the rocks and makes its way down a little creek to the pond. Father has fashioned a bucket out of a stump and Peggy has the job of getting water for our breakfast. We eat gruel each morning and our mother is determined to use the flour we brought from New Perth to make some biscuits as soon as a proper fireplace is built. Our mid day meal is made up of the pork we have left. James has made a fire amidst some stones and the meat will roast all morning while we work to improve our home. There is so much to do. Father says that we will be carrying all the stones we can find to start work on the fireplace. My sisters and I will work on this as long as the light of day allows us to see our way. We have to stay in pairs when we venture even a short distance away from our shelter. Mother is caring for Cecelia and Christine and keeping the fire going while we find the stones. George is able to carry the little stones we find. The fireplace will stand at the north end of our cabin. James and Robert John are using the axes we brought with us to cut down trees for logs. Father is looking for the perfect corner stones on which our cabin will sit. When these are found, men from our group of neighbours will arrive to help move them into place. Father hopes to be able to organize this plan when we meet our neighbours on the Sabbath.
October 8, 1820
Today is the Sabbath and after we ate our morning meal, we set off to meet with our neighbours and hear Mr. Affleck talk. I was happy to see Ann and hear her news. While there, Father was able to secure a plan to move our corner stones. Two neighbours will follow the trail to our shelter early tomorrow morning and with the help of James and Robert John, they will move the stones into place. When that job is done, we will be able to see where our cabin will stand. I am so excited to see so much progress. Everyday, we are closer to having a real home.
October 10, 1820
Robert John, James and our father are spending every day felling trees. Mary and Jean are gathering and piling the brush that they remove from the trees. My brothers have placed the bottom logs on the corner stones. Kate and Peggy are digging a shallow trench to use as storage nearby so we carry the dirt to the base of the logs and pack it in under the logs to fill the space. A local hunter was passing through our community today and offered us some venison. We will pack it carefully in our storage in the ground to keep it cold and away from animals that would try to take it. It will feed us for a week if we can keep it from spoiling. We have almost enough stones for the fireplace collected so our next job will be to find a place in the creek where the clay is easily dug up and it will be used to pack the holes between the logs that are being put into place. This will be a job that requires care to keep from getting wet. The water is very cold at this time of year. Kate says the spade is useful to bring the clay to the surface and then onto a rock where it will be left to dry. My job is to take George and find as much moss as we can to use with the clay. This will pack the spaces of the walls of our cabin to keep the wind and rain from coming through. With all this work to be done, sleeping at night is easy even with the sound of a few nearby wolves howling in the night.
October 14, 1820
Dear diary, Mother has been busy directing the construction of our fireplace. She is eager to have a proper place to cook and bake. The stones have been placed in the clay my sisters carried from the creek and it has made a sturdy base. Robert John and James have been carrying firewood to pile beside our home. The pile is growing taller and taller everyday. A fire in the fireplace will be burning night and day to cook our food and warm our home. A few logs are in place in the walls of our new cabin. In a few days, neighbours will help lift the top logs up into place and we will pack the seams between the logs with mud and moss that we have been collecting.
October 20, 1820
Dear diary, By the time the sun set yesterday, the logs had all been carefully notched and placed nearby. Neighbours arrived today. All the men lifted the logs up and the walls of our home are in place. We have been working all day to poke the mud and moss into place. When we find a big space to fill, James says we should find a flat rock to fit into it. The clay will hold it in place. When I am inside the walls, I fell like I am home.
October 25, 1820
Dear diary, Our neighbours arrived this morning to help us build our roof. First poles were raised and notched together to form a peak. Slender basswood logs that had been hollowed out on one side and split lengthwise to make a trough were piled up nearby ready to be lifted into place. These troughs were fit together by placing them over and under each other. We worked all day and have most of the roof completed. My brothers will pack moss in the seams to keep us dry and warm.
October 27, 1820
Dear diary, Today, we finished our roof and our neighbours came to see the final logs being secured. James climbed up to the peak and fastened a pine bough to the end of the roof line. He said he was following the tradition of topping off the construction of a building. All our neighbours had done the same thing when their cabins were completed. It was a time to celebrate and we all ate a meal together at our new home to mark its beginning.
November 1, 1820
Mother has made good use of our new fireplace. This morning, she baked biscuits. When our cabin fills up with the smell of baking, it truly feels like home. Robert John made a table and two long benches from some trees he cut down. The oldest members of our family have a place at the table when we eat our meals. I sit with George and Christine on stumps set nearby. My brother says he will make us some proper seats soon. I don't mind waiting. I just look around our cabin walls and remember my family is safe and happy.
November 8, 1820
This morning, our mother organized a laundry day. Jean found a good spot with a flat ridge of rock along the creek to wash our clothes. It is downstream from our spring so we were able to keep our water for cooking clean and safe. Peggy, Kate and I gathered up the clothing. First, we soaked the cloth in the creek. We had to put some rocks on top to make sure it didn't float away. After some time had passed, we pulled the cloth from the water and used branches to thrash it to loosen the dirt. Then we rinsed it once more and wrung it dry with our hands. Back at the cabin, Mary had set some slender poles on the stumps near the fireplace to hang the clothing on to dry. Our hands got so cold that we had to take a few minutes to warm them by the fire. James has promised to make a large tub that we can fill with water that we heat on the fireplace, next time. It took all day to wash and dry our clothes. Mother says we will be making our own soap soon and will be able to do a proper job of laundering then. For now, it is nice to have clean clothes to wear.
November 15, 1820
Dear diary, James and Robert John brought home a tasty meal this morning. When they were exploring the shoreline of our lake, they found a long, narrow, black rock that extends out into the water. They were able to carefully walk out along this rock to reach a pool of deeper water where they could fish easily. They caught enough to feed our family today and we will smoke the rest over a fire for another day. My brothers are eager to build a boat when spring arrives. The lake will provide us with a steady supply of fish year round.
November 20, 1820
Dear diary, Mother kept her promise of making soap. The ashes from our fire have been piling up and when we poured some rainwater over them, something called lye floated to the top. The water with the lye in it was poured into our big pot and it was heated over the fire. Some pork fat we saved in a cup was dropped into the liquid. Peggy and Kate took turns stirring the liquid in the pot. The smell made it hard to take a deep breath. I had to make sure that George, Christine and Cecelia didn't get anywhere near the boiling water. I took them for a walk along a little trail that led to our pond. We saw a pair of ducks swimming along the bank. They were excited to see the birds and couldn't wait to tell Mother when we got back to our cabin. When we returned, Mother listened to their stories while she ladled the thickened liquid in the pot into two small crocks to cool and be stored for laundry day.
November 27, 1820
Dear diary, When my father got up to stoke the fire and get it ready for the morning cooking, he noticed something had changed overnight. The ground that had been covered in wood chips and brush around our cabin when we went to bed now had a light dusting of snow on it. He called Mother to the door to see the sight. Soon after, we were all awake and pulling our blankets around us to venture out into this new world. Christine squealed with joy. George ran around making tracks wherever he stepped. We were cold when we finally returned to the cabin and went straight to the roaring fire. Mother quickly got the biscuits baking and the porridge bubbling in the cook pot. Our day was filled with new challenges with the snowy ground outside the door.
December 1, 1820 Dear diary, Robert John has kept busy building a laundry box for Mother. He used a sharp tool and a wooden mallet to carve a hollow space in a sturdy log. We can fill this trough with water we heat on the fire and soak our clothes in it. To go along with it, he carved a smooth board with ridges on one side. We can rub the cloth along those ridges to help loosen any stubborn dirt before we rinse it. Mother is very happy to see a proper tool for laundry. Jean and Mary are also thankful to see the new trough. It means we can wash our clothes inside our cabin. Now that snow covers the ground and the creek has sheets of ice around the edges in the morning, doing laundry inside is a relief.
December 4, 1820 Dear diary, James and Robert John have been making plans to travel to New Perth and retrieve our trunks we had to leave there. Now that snow covers the ground, they have made a pair of wooden sleds with smooth runners to transport the heavy load across the frozen trails. Everything has been organized and they will leave early tomorrow morning. Mother has made a list of items she needs for the coming weeks. She is hoping for some salt, sugar and flour. Father says there are enough coins left from our last allotment for small amounts of each. They will return in a few days. It will be exciting to open our trunks once more and be reunited with our belongings.
December 8, 1820 Dear diary, Just before dusk, James and Robert John made their way along the creek following a path made by some deer and arrived back at our cabin. They were tired from their travel. We all ran to greet them and see what they had bundled on the sleds. Our trunks were there and some sacks with supplies Mother had ordered. We helped carry everything into the cabin and could hardly wait to open the trunks. Mary and Jean found a place for the cooking supplies on a corner shelf. The trunks were soon opened and we saw books and cooking pots inside. There were a few dishes that would come in handy for our meals. Mother was pleased to see some cloth she could make good use of in our new home. Peggy and Kate discovered the yarn and needles they had left behind. They were happy to be reunited with these and made quick plans to knit mittens and socks to keep the family warm in the winter months ahead.
December 15, 1820 Dear diary, The mittens that Peggy and Kate made for us kept us warm enough to venture out in the snowy landscape for some fresh air. We walked along the padded track the deer had made along the creek. It gave us an idea for a game in the snow. Our neighbour, Ann, had taught us to play it when we visited her family last week. The game is called Fox and Geese. To play, we make a track in a wide circle with several pathways that lead to a safe spot in the middle. One person becomes the Fox and chases the other people who are Geese as they skip around the circle and up and down the pathways. George got the idea, but Christine forgot to stay on the pathways and ran around chasing everyone she saw. She will learn how to play with practice. At two and a half years of age, she is still very young. After all this fun in the winter air, we made our way back to the cabin for some hot tea.
December 24, 1820 Dear diary, Today is the Sabbath and we are preparing to follow the trail through the woods to the cabin of the Affleck family. We will pack some baked oat cakes that Mary and Jean made to share with our neighbours. All the families will bring something and after we hear Mr. Affleck speak and give thanks for our health and our good fortune to be settled in these new homes, we will share a meal. I will see my friend, Ann, and be able to tell her about the fun we had playing the game she taught us. We all look forward to visiting and sharing good food and stories of our daily lives in this new place. My only wish is that Grandmother could have come with us. She would love it here. I hope she is in good health. I miss her very much. Maybe I could write a letter to her. I will ask Mother when we return to our cabin this evening.
December 28, 1820 Dear diary, I've written the letter to Grandmother. Mother says it cannot be sent. It would cost money to post and we do not have any to spare for that purpose. I wrote it anyway. It helps me to remember the wonderful times I shared with Grandmother. She is living with my Aunt Jean now. I hope she is happy. I know she will be busy knitting and making useful things. I often think of her when I am stitching by the firelight. I hope that if I keep practicing, someday my stitches will be as fine as hers.
December 31, 1820 Dear diary. We have a busy day planned. Mother is stirring up dough for oat cakes. Mary and Jean are scrubbing the cabin from top to bottom. James and Robert John have found an especially big log for the fire. This will be the first time we mark Hogmanay in our new community. All the preparations make it an exciting time.
January 1, 1821 Dear diary, A first footer came through our door at the stroke of midnight. It was William Penman, Ann's older brother. He brought a piece of coal for warmth and a branch of evergreen for long life. Mother had a treat of cake and tea ready for him. Robert John and James visited the Affleck and Penman cabins at the same time. It means we will all have good luck and fortune for the brand new year. I am glad we can continue the traditions of our homeland even though we are so far away in our new home.
January 6, 1821
Dear diary, I overheard the grown ups talking this morning. Father was telling Mother about an offer Mr. Penman had made. Even though there are only four families settled in our new community, there are a number of children in need of schooling. I heard Father say that the Bible verses the children learned in the evenings were important for building good character and behaviour, but regular instruction in reading, wrtiing and arithmetic was required. The Penmans have the smallest family with just four school age children and two others grown up already. They have suggested that they could make room in their cabin to hold classes a few days a week. Father said that a new neighbour has moved onto the land beside our lot in the last month. He doesn't have a family. His name is Mr. Foley and he has been to The University of Dublin. Father plans to ask him if he would consider holding classes for the neighbourhood children. I have heard of that place, but I have never met anyone who has been there before. I wonder if Mr. Foley has a whole trunk full of books for reading.
January 10, 1821
Dear diary, It's all been set. Mr. Foley has agreed to hold classes for the neighbourhood children. He will stay with each family in turn for the next month while he finishes getting his cabin ready for winter. Each family will provide him with some firewood, baking and a warm place to stay in exchange for the lessons he will teach. There is enough room for ten children to attend school in the Penman cabin. I hope my parents will say that I can go. I want to learn everything I can about the world and be able to read the books that Mr. Foley might have brought with him. Some grown ups think that girls should stay at home and learn to bake and sew instead of going to school. If I am not allowed to attend school, I will be so sad.
January 11, 1821
Dear diary, It's been decided. Mother said that I should go to school. She says that she can manage to care for the little ones with the help of Mary and Jean who, being older, will remain at home. So Peggy, Kate and I will go to school. I am so excited I can hardly sit still to eat my meal. My friend, Ann, will be attending, too. I will get to see her more often. We will have fun exchanging news. This is the best news. I know I will hardly sleep at all tonight.
January 15, 1821
Dear diary, My dress is freshly washed and Jean has promised to help me with my hair that has just grown back long enough for ribbons. Mother has made bannock for us to take for our mid day meal at school. Robert John will walk with us on the trail along the creek and through the wooded area to the Penman cabin. It is hard to settle my excitement.
School was just as wonderful as I thought it could be. I sat beside Ann and we spent our recess time catching up on news. Mr. Foley brought a Book of Knowledge with pictures and stories from all around the world. He says we can read it whenever we finish the daily lessons he has assigned. We must remember to do our work with care and attention, he told us. I am so happy to be at school.
January 23, 1821 Dear diary, This morning when we made our way along the trail that leads to the Penman cabin, we came across some feathers in the snow. There were both light and dark brown feathers and some of them had black marks on them. Robert John said the bird had probably been burrowing in the snow and was discovered by a wild animal out hunting. When we looked nearby, we could see animal tracks leading away from the trail and disappearing behind a tree. Kate picked up one of the feathers and carried it to the cabin where we showed it to Mr. Foley. He said we could look in his Book of Knowledge after finishing our lessons to see if we could find out more about the bird. When we didn’t see a picture that matched the feather, Mr. Foley promised to look for some sketches he had in one of his trunks and bring them to school the next day we had lessons. On our way home, we picked up all the longest feathers we could find and took them home to make some pens and a duster. Mother was pleased to see what we had found.
January 27, 1821 Dear diary, Mr. Foley had a surprise for us when we arrived at the Penman cabin this morning. He brought out a black case with a handle. Inside the long, flat case were sketches of animals and birds. Mr. Foley said he had purchased these from a friend in Dublin before he left his studies there. We searched through the birds to find a match for the feathers we had found. We finally found a bird that had similar feathers. It seems the feather probably belonged to a grouse. I wonder if grouse are plentiful in this land. We will remember to look for more signs of these birds and maybe we will be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of one.
February 4, 1821 Dear diary, I felt tired today. No one got much sleep last night. Poor George was coughing all night long. Mother stayed by his side and did her best to comfort him. When the sun was just about to rise, Mary and Jean got the oatmeal bubbling in the pot. It was the Sabbath and after our morning meal, we headed off along the trail to the Affleck cabin. Mother and Jean stayed behind to care for George. Father promised to speak to Mrs. Penman about a remedy for George's cough.
When we returned from hearing Mr. Affleck speak, Mrs. Penman came with us. She brought a black bag with some tiny bottles and a small sack. Mother and Mrs. Penman talked for a few minutes and then gave everyone directions. Kate was sent to fetch more water from the spring. Robert John was told to put more wood in the fireplace and stoke the fire. Mary got the cooking pot ready for the icy water. I was sent to gather some blankets from our mattresses in the loft. Peggy read and sang to Christine and Cecelia to keep them quiet and let the grown ups do their work. Jean got a flour sack from the shelf. She put it on the table ready to be used. Mrs. Penman got to work and pulled a tiny pouch full of seeds out of her bag. She told Mary to grind a few of the seeds into a powder and pour it into a bowl. Jean added some flour from the shelf. Warm water was added and the mixture was stirred to make a paste. Mrs. Penman carefully put the paste onto the flour sack and folded the sides in toward the center to make a small square. Mother was busy rubbing some oil from one of the tiny bottles onto George's chest. The flour sack was placed where the oil had been rubbed. Jean said that we would know the treatment was working when George's skin started to turn a rosy colour. Mrs. Penman carefully lifted the sack and checked the skin every few moments. She said there could be danger in burning the skin when treating a young child. The treatment was repeated five times. When she had finished, Mrs. Penman directed that all the blankets that could be spared be kept on George to keep the heat around him.
James walked Mrs. Penman home. She promised to return tomorrow morning to check on George and provide some relief for our mother. We will surely get some sleep tonight after such a day of activity.
February 5, 1821 Dear diary, After a good night's sleep, we woke up to find George feeling much better. He was able to sit up and eat his morning meal. His cough was almost gone. Mrs. Penman arrived to check on him. Mother was tired and rested for awhile. Mary and Jean spent the whole day scrubbing the cabin and everything inside it. Peggy and Kate carried bucket after bucket of icy water from the spring. The fire in the hearth was well stoked all day to keep the wash water in the big iron pot ready to be used. With all of us living in one room, Mother says it is important to keep all our things as clean as possible, especially when one of us is suffering from an illness. I am so thankful that George is feeling better.
February 7, 1821
Dear diary, Mother opened up one of our trunks this morning and found a small piece of cloth. It was a beautiful pale colour. After Mrs. Penman had been so kind to care for George, Mother said that we would be making a gift to show her our gratitude. Jean found some thread in the trunk. She has been practicing her needlework in the evenings and Mother asked her to stitch a thistle like we would see in our homeland on two opposite corners of the cloth. When she finished, Mother said we would plan to walk along the trail to the Penman cabin tomorrow and give it to Mrs. Penman.
February 8, 1821
Dear diary, After our morning meal, we got dressed warmly and set out along the trail to the Penman cabin. When we arrived at the door, Mother knocked and soon after, Ann appeared and welcomed us inside. We all crowded in to get a good look at Mrs. Penman's face when she saw our gift. When Mother presented the embroidered cloth, Mrs. Penman had a bright smile and looked very pleased. She complimented the quality of the stitching and said it was very fine. Mrs. Penman asked Ann to get the water ready for tea and insisted we sit down for a cup before our trip back home in the cold weather. When we had finished our tea, we headed back along the trail and when we reached our home, Mother said that it was always important to properly thank a person who helps you out in a time of need. I am glad Mrs. Penman liked our gift.
February 15, 1821
Dear diary, When we met on the Sabbath, Mrs. Affleck, Mrs. Penman and Mother talked about making a quilt for Mary who is the oldest girl in our community. They agreed to look for any cloth that they could spare to use for the quilt. Mr. Affleck had finished making a frame for quilting from some poles he had cut down. It was planned that the women and girls would meet the day before each Sabbath and begin the quilt with the cloth they could find in their trunks. Father says that when the snow melts and we clear more land, we will plant our first crop of flax. When we harvest it, we'll be able to make our own new cloth to provide clothing for our community. Until then, we will use the cloth that we brought with us from our homeland.
February 17, 1821
Dear diary, When Father woke up this morning, he stoked the fire for our morning meal. When James tried to go outside to fetch more wood for the fire, he couldn't open the cabin door. Robert John helped him push on the door and move the snowdrift that was blocking it. When they finally got the door open, they saw that snow had fallen all night and blocked the path to the spring. They worked to make their way to get enough water to make our morning meal. We were all disappointed to hear that the trail we were planning to take to the Affleck cabin to work on the quilt was blocked with deep drifts. After our midday meal, we worked on our quilt pieces at home. I wanted to see Ann and the other girls. I will have to wait for another time to attend our first gathering to quilt in our new community.
February 18, 1821
Dear diary, The snow still blocks the trail and so we were not able to make our way to the Affleck cabin this Sabbath. We spent the day reading stories from our family Bible. Mother said that we should each tell what we were thankful for and when it was my turn, I said I was grateful for my family and that George was feeling better.
February 24, 1821
Dear diary, The trail is packed down again and we walked along it to the Affleck cabin with our quilt pieces. When we arrived, it was exciting to see all the women and girls gathered there with the cloth they had brought for Mary's quilt. Each family had found a few pieces they could spare. We got to work on sewing some of the pieces together. Mother had asked me to bring along my handkerchief doll for Cecelia and Christine to share with Jane Affleck who is one year of age. Ann brought her doll along, too. Archibald Affleck, who is one year younger than George, shared a toy his father had made for him from some wood and the boys played together while the grown ups were busy sewing. Mrs. Affleck served some tea and we talked about how much snow had fallen and how glad we were to be able to get through the trail once more.
March 2, 1821
Dear diary, Jean noticed that when she woke up this morning the sun was already starting to brighten the sky. She usually awakens before the sun rises. James said this means the days are getting longer and that signals that winter will be coming to an end and the snow will be starting to melt. The sun will feel warmer each day. I am glad to hear this news. It will be good to have warmer weather again. Mr. Foley says that he has a book about the moon and the sun that we may read when we finish our lessons.
March 7, 1821
Dear diary, The snow is disappearing around our cabin. The trail is almost bare ground again. I am excited that winter is almost over. The water in the creek is starting to rise. Mother says we all have to keep a careful watch over Christine and Cecelia to make sure they stay a safe distance from the water's edge. They are still too young to know the danger of playing near the fast current.
March 14, 1821
Dear diary, Robert John and James saw a group of people following a path on the other side of the narrow lake today when they were catching some fish for our mid day meal. The people were carrying supplies on their backs and pulling some sleds loaded with blankets and animal skins. Robert John said the group travelled all the way along the shore to the far end of the lake and disappeared out of sight. James shouted a greeting to the group. One of the grown ups called back and waved his arm in the air. I wonder if we will see them again.
March 16, 1821
Dear diary, James and Robert John made a trail along the shore of the narrow lake. They were hoping to find the group of people they had seen before. They came across a group of trees that they could tell had been growing there for a long time. When they reached the end of the lake, they saw a fire and some poles holding up the hides they had seen on the sleds. They went closer and saw a large pot hung over the fire with steam rising all around. One man saw them and came over to greet them. James said the smell of what they were boiling in the pot was sweet. The man gave James a little package with something light brown inside. When Mother saw it, she was happy. She knew she could use it to sweeten our food. We enjoyed the taste. We haven't had any sugar for most of the winter.
March 17, 1821
Dear diary, When I woke this morning, the smell of fresh biscuits was drifting through the cabin. Mother had made more than we would need for the family's morning meal. She wrapped some in a piece of cloth and told James and Robert John to take the biscuits to the people they had met at the end of the lake. She told them to hurry so the biscuits would still be warm when they reached the group. When they returned, James said the people had been happy to receive the gift. Mother said it is always important to return the kindness of others.
March 20, 1821
Dear diary, The weather gets warmer and warmer every day. I have noticed that the first beam of daylight comes in the window at the end of the loft where we sleep earlier each morning. James has been measuring the length and marking the direction of the shadow made by a stump outside our cabin. He says he can tell by the position of the shadow that the beginning of spring is here. He learned this from reading the Edinburgh Almanack he brought with him. He heard a blackbird singing yesterday. It showed a flash of colour on its wing when it flew to the willow tree along the creek. James says it will be looking for the best place to build its nest. I hope I hear one when I am walking to school some day.
March 25, 1821
Dear diary, The snow has melted off the trail completely. The ground is muddy and we have to wash our boots in a puddle near the cabin door. Father, Robert John and James spend every day cutting trees to clear a place for us to plant our first crop when the ground thaws. Mary and Jean clear the brush and pile it up for burning. We will save enough of the ashes to make soap and candles. Father says he will travel to New Lanark with Robert John soon. They will take along some ashes to trade for flour and salt.
March 28, 1821
Dear diary, Father and Robert John left for New Lanark just as the sun began to rise this morning. They hope to meet with the clerk of the storehouse when they arrive. They will return in a few days with supplies. James is recording the shape and position of the moon each night before going to bed. He tells me that the moon will be completely round in the next week.
March 31, 1821
Dear diary, Father and Robert John returned with supplies today. They were delayed by a day because of a terrible rain storm. They had to take shelter in a stable in New Lanark before leaving to come home. If they had been caught in the rain during their travels, they would have been drenched without any way to stay warm. It was kind of the farmer to let them rest the night in the shelter.
April 5, 1821
Dear diary, James was correct about the moon's shape. It was completely round last night. Mother said it would be alright for us to stay up a little later to see it rise up high above us in the night sky. It had beautiful glow.
April 7, 1821
Dear diary, The wind blew hard all day. The smoke from the burning brush blew around filling the air. It was hard to catch a breath outside. It swirled all around our cabin. When Father, James and Robert John came inside for their meal, the smell of the smoke on their clothes made us cough. I don't like to breathe the smoke. Father says there will be much more burning of trees and smoke in the air before our land is cleared enough to plant a crop.
April 14, 1821
Dear diary, My father works from when the sun rises until it goes down to clear our land. James and Robert John work by his side. Jean, Peggy and Kate have been piling brush as the trees are cut down. Today, Mother told me that next week would be the last time I would be going to school at the Penman cabin for a while. I knew this would happen soon. Peggy and Kate have been working on the land for some time now. Warmer weather is coming and I am needed to pile brush and pick up stones beside my sisters. I need to help my family now. Everyone has a job to do to prepare for the spring crop. There will be other times to read and write at school. Mother said she had spoken to Mr. Foley about borrowing some books to keep up my studies in the evenings. He agreed that I could borrow a few each week. That will be a way to keep learning new things. Mr. Foley has such interesting books about the world.
April 19, 1821
Dear diary, Today was my last day at school. I said goodbye to Ann and the others. Even though I will see them in two days time on the Sabbath, I was sad that our time at school is done for now. The other families will need their children to work on clearing the land and planting crops, too. Mr. Foley will also need to work on his own land to clear the trees and plant some crops. The families in the community have made a plan to help him whenever they can spare a few hours. Father says it is important to help Mr. Foley so he can stay in our community to teach the children.
April 25, 1821
Dear diary, I'm tired tonight. I worked all day picking up small stones and piling them in a row. Father showed me where to place them. The stones will mark a line along a concession. James says someday there will be a road there. For now, it's just a footpath through the trees that we use to get to Mr. Foley's cabin when we have bread to share with him. The stones will help everyone know where the boundary lies.
April 28, 1821
Dear diary, Today, I had the most exciting adventure. I was picking stones from the clearing and placing them along the boundary line. When I stopped to place a stone, I heard a curious sound. It was like a soft, cooing sound. I don't remember hearing a sound exactly like that before. When I looked around to find where the sound was coming from, I noticed a little bird moving very slowly through the brush. I had to look carefully to see it as it was the same colour as the ground where it was walking. I was sure it would fly away as soon as it saw me, but it didn't. Instead, it started to make its way closer to me. I stood as still as I could be as it got closer and closer. The bird was pecking at the ground as it moved along the brush. Finally, it was almost at my feet. I wondered what it would do next. I didn't move at all. I stood perfectly still. It began to make the cooing sound again. It turned its head to look at me. This bird wasn't afraid of me. It was very curious, though. It pecked around the ground looking for something to eat. Then suddenly it puffed out the feathers on its neck and stood up as tall as it could reach. In a few moments, the bird looked at me and then turned around and continued pecking along its way. I stood still, watching it for as long as I could see it. Then it disappeared slowly into the brush just as suddenly as it had appeared. I could hardly move from excitement. I have to tell Ann about this bird as soon as I see her again. Tomorrow is Sabbath and I will have a great story to share with her. I hope I see this little bird again.
April 29, 1821
Dear diary, After Mr. Affleck finished speaking to our community this morning, I had a chance to tell Ann about the bird I had seen. She could hardly believe my story. Ann wished she could have seen this little creature. When I described its colour, she reminded me of the feathers we had found in the snow. The colour and patterns were the same as the bird I described. She said the bird must be a grouse. I think she is right about what kind of bird I saw. We were both surprised at the tameness of this bird. Most birds and animals are frightened by people. What made this bird so curious and willing to come close to me? Ann and I decided that we would keep watching for any signs of this bird. I have returned to the spot where I saw it, but I have not seen it again.
May 3, 1821
Dear diary, Robert John has built a new tool for us to use to get the soil ready for planting the seeds. It is called a harrow. He used a long pole and bored holes all along it. Then he made little pegs to fit in the holes. These are called teeth. The teeth will dig into the ground and clear roots and vines from the soil as we pull it along. This is hard work. I will take my turn with my sisters. We walk in one direction along the length of our clearing. Then we turn and walk back in the opposite direction. Back and forth we walk until we have covered the whole patch of ground. We have to make sure everything is cleared away so the little seeds will have a chance to grow. My legs and back are tired tonight from pulling the harrow. Father says that our community will try to get a team of oxen to help with pulling out stumps and clearing the land. I hope this happens soon. Until that time comes, it is up to us to do the hard work.
May 7, 1821
Dear diary, Father was ready to sow the seed on our clearing this morning. He walked back and forth from one end to the other tossing seed on the ground in front of him. James followed in his footsteps with a tree branch from one of our cedars near the pond. James carefully dragged the branch over where the seed had fallen on the ground. The soil gently covered the seed to protect it. Father said that we are not to walk on the seeded ground. The seeds need time to germinate and can't be disturbed by footprints. We stood some sticks in the ground around the area where the seeds have been planted to remind us not to walk on there. Every day, I will check for signs of the little seeds growing into plants and poking through the ground. Father says we will hope for lots of gentle rain and sunshine to help our crop grow.
May 14, 1821
Dear diary, This morning, Mother sent me out with my sisters to look for some yellow, springtime plants she needed to make tea. We had to walk along the path to the clearing around our pond. On the bank of the pond we saw what we were looking for right away. Kate brought along a little basket and we filled it with the yellow heads of the dandelion plants. When we got back to the cabin, I helped Peggy pluck the little yellow petals off the flower heads. Kate brought a pail of water from the spring and poured some of it into a pot. When the water boiled, I dumped the yellow flower petals into the pot. The pot sat on the side of the hearth until evening. Then Mother poured some of the tea into a cup and was very pleased with the taste of it. She said she would send us back for more flowers in a few days.
May 17, 1821
Dear diary, It has been rainy weather for three days now. It makes the leaves on the trees grow. Some of the little seeds we planted have sprouted and are poking their heads through the soil. Father showed me how the little flax seeds were sown very close together so that the plants would be crowded when they grew. He told me that would make the plants grow tall and thin. This would produce delicate fibers in the stem of the plant. It takes a great deal of careful planning to grow a good crop. When it gets tall enough, we will harvest the flax and make our own linen thread.
May 19, 1821
Dear diary, Every day now, I can see more of our little plants poking through the ground. This morning a flock of wild turkeys passed through our land and they stopped to feed on the little plants. They liked the fresh, tender seedlings. A few of them used their feet to dig up the tiny seeds that hadn't grown yet and eat them. Father sent me out to chase these birds away from our crop. He said if they ate all our plants, it would be a disaster for our family. They will likely come back so I will have to keep a keen eye out and shoo them away if I spot them.
May 24, 1821
Dear diary, We had an exhausting day today. Everything started out like any other day. Jean and Mary got up before the sun had risen in the sky. Peggy and Kate hauled water from our spring for washing and cooking. Father went out to work in the fields with James and Robert John. Mother started the meat roasting on the fire. I went to pick some more dandelions for Mother's tea. When I returned with a basket full of the yellow flowers, Mother asked me where George was. I said I didn't know. We went outside the cabin to look for him. We started to call his name. We didn't see him anywhere nearby. Mother thought he had gone flower picking with me. I thought he was in the cabin with Mother. It soon became clear that George was missing. Mother was trying to stay calm, but I could tell by the speed she was moving about that she was becoming frantic inside. With all the shouting, Father and my brothers came running back to the cabin to see what was causing the stir. By this time, everyone was searching the bushes around our cabin. Father called us all together and made a plan. We would go in pairs and search in each direction. Mother would stay at the cabin with Christine and Cecelia in case George wandered back there. Robert John and I were to head in the direction of the pond to see if George had tried to follow me there. We searched the banks of the pond and all through the cedars along the trail. Father and James went further through the forest toward the narrow lake. We could hear George's name being called by others searching. When there was still no trace of George, Mother sent Kate to the Affleck cabin to summon help in the search. The community members quickly made their way to our cabin. Mrs. Affleck stayed in the cabin with Mother to try to ease her worries. She made some tea to soothe her frayed nerves. Finally, we heard Father's loud, bellowing voice shouting the word, lorg. That means found in the language of our homeland and had been the agreed upon signal to let everyone know George had been rescued. We all ran to the cabin to find out if George was really back safe and sound. Father carried him into the cabin and laid him on the bed. He looked sleepy and a little bit confused about all the fuss around him. Mother watched over him and never left the bedside for the rest of the evening. Mary and Jean got busy serving food to all the neighbours who had helped us in our time of need.
May 25, 1821
Dear diary, After a good night's sleep, George told us what had led to him being out in the forest all alone. He said he had followed me to the pond, but along the trail he had heard the sound of a bird in the trees. He followed the sound thinking it might be the bird I had seen before. He wanted to see if he could get close to it like I had been able to do. The bird kept flying through the trees and George kept following the sound. Before long, George had lost his way and didn't know which way would lead him back to the cabin. When he had walked for a long time, he lay down beside an old log and fell asleep. He didn't wake up until he heard Father's voice calling his name. James said he had wandered far away from the trail and almost to the end of the narrow lake. After George had rested and Mother was sure he would recover from his adventure, she reminded us all that we were to travel in pairs and always keep a close eye on the little ones. There was danger in the forest and we were to be wary of it at all times. We all promised to be very careful and stay together. We didn't want to worry Mother again.
May 27, 1821
Today was the Sabbath and when we gathered at the Affleck cabin, we all gave a special thanks for George's safe return to us. Mr. Affleck spoke of the dangers that are all around our new homes and said we must always keep our guard up against them. We all pledged to be mindful of the forest and how easily it can bring tragedy to our lives.
June 2, 1821
The month of June has arrived and Mother has set her attention to planting a dooryard garden to grow the herbs she needs for cooking and tending to our ailments. For a few weeks now, she has been carefully preparing a patch of ground just to the side of the cabin doorway. Kate and Peggy used the hoes that our family was given when we arrived last fall to break up the ground and make it ready for planting the tiny seeds. Mother showed them where she wanted the rows drawn. Today was the day she was ready to plant. James had read in his Almanack that the risk of frost had passed and it would be safe to plant the garden. Mother had told us she wanted to be cautious and wait until the weather was more certain. If her little seedlings were touched with frost, they could be damaged and she would lose the chance of a good crop of herbs. She planted some lavender, mint and chamomile. Mother was especially happy that her seeds of plantain had survived the journey from our homeland. She is hoping they will grow so she can use them for curing many of the family's illnesses. The plantain plants will be most helpful to soothe the bug bites we get whenever we are working in the fields.
June 10, 1821
Today marks one year since Father called us all together and told us he had made the decision that our family would leave our homeland and travel to our new home. I remember how strange it all seemed. It makes me think of Grandmother. I wonder what she is doing. I wonder if she is in good health. I wish I could see her again. I would have so many things to tell her. I always think of her whenever I carry the handkerchief she gave me when we said goodbye to her. Maybe I will write another letter to her. Even though I know it will not be possible for me to send it to her, I want to write it just the same.
June 14, 1821
After we had finished our morning meal, we gathered all the baskets we had in our cabin and a few pots, too. We put on our bonnets and prepared for a walk along the trail. When we got to the banks of our pond, we headed in a westerly direction on a new trail that James and Robert John had been making with their axes. It led us through thick cedars and we had to walk along some tree trunks that my brothers had felled and placed in some damp, swampy ground. I had to take Christine's hand to help her balance on the trees as we crossed to where the ground was dry again. In some places the branches of the cedars reached across the trail and as we passed by and brushed the trees, swarms of black insects surrounded us and we had to swat at them. When we had made our way a little distance through the trees, we came to a rocky ledge. We were able to climb up along the side of the ledge. We could see across the whole ridge of rock because the trees didn't grow there. James led the way and Mother carried Cecelia. Jean held George's hand to keep him from slipping and falling. Soon we could see why we had made our way to this rocky ledge. The ground was green and red. Little green plants covered the ground all along the ridge. The grown ups knelt down and started to pluck the red berries off of the green plants. The berries were tiny and the red juice squished out onto our hands. I started to fill the pot I had carried. George and Christine were eating the berries they found and soon their faces were red with juice stains. Mother said we could eat a few, but most of the berries were to be put in our baskets and pots. Mother had a plan for this fruit. She was going to make a fresh strawberry pie. When we had picked as many of the berries as we could reach, we headed back along the new trail and back to our cabin. We were thinking about the pie Mother was going to bake and how delicious it was going to be.
When we reached the cabin, Christine was crying. She was pulling at her hair and scratching her head. Her face was covered with berry juice and so Mary removed Christine's bonnet and started to wash the stains off of her little face. When the berry juice was gone, Mary could see tiny spots and knew that Christine had been badly bitten by the insects that had swarmed all around us when we were picking the berries. The insects had made their way under Christine's bonnet and got into her hair. Mother quickly told Jean to get some oatmeal and add some water to it to make a paste in a bowl. Mother carefully spooned the paste onto Christine's face where the bites were starting to swell into bumps. Mother said the oatmeal would help to treat the bites and ease Christine's discomfort. On Sabbath, Mother would ask Mrs. Penman if she had any lavender she could spare to help guard against the insects for future walks along the trail. The pie would be a treat, but the tiny black pests had almost spoiled our adventure.
June 21, 1821
Dear diary, Yesterday, we made our way to the Affleck cabin for Sabbath and Mother was able to ask Mrs. Penman for some lavender. We brought a little home in a handkerchief. We will use it to protect ourselves when we plan to make our way through the trail to pick berries again. Christine is feeling a little better, but still scratches her head quite often. We have been preparing more baked food than usual today and are getting ready to meet the other members of our community. Father says we will be gathering together in an open area where we can mark the longest day of the year. We will give thanks for our crops and the warm weather that helps our plants grow and provides food for us. After today, the hours of sunshine will be a little less each day. Our whole family will remain with our community members until the sun begins to set and we make our way home to our cabins before darkness covers the trail.
June 28, 1821
Dear diary, Today, I went along with James to Mr. Foley's cabin. He has so many books and he said I could borrow some anytime I wished. I had finished the ones I had borrowed before so I returned them and brought a whole new armful home. James brought along a sachel to carry the heaviest books. My brothers and sisters were glad to see the new books to read by candlelight in the evenings before going to bed. It is always enjoyable to have some new knowledge to think about as we drift off to sleep at night.
July 6, 1821
Dear diary, This morning, I walked around our crop of flax and noticed all the beautiful, blue flowers that were blooming. Father says that is a sign that our crop is growing well. When seeds form on the plants, our crop will be ready for harvesting. Then we will have many hours of work to do each day. For now, I am going to enjoy the delicate flowers that I see in our field.
July 12, 1821
Dear diary, We have not had rain for a whole week now. Father says we will need to carry water to our flax crop to keep it growing and healthy. We will take turns carrying buckets of water to the flax plants. Our spring provides us with all the water we need every day. We will carry water to our crop twice a day to keep it growing until the rain comes again. Robert John has carved a wooden pole that fits over our necks and hooks a bucket on each end. This means we can carry two buckets at a time while balancing the weight on our shoulders. This will make our watering job a little easier.
July 14, 1821
Dear diary, The rain came down in gentle drops today. It lasted all day. We were thankful for the rain on our crop. It fell softly on the little plants. It was a day to catch up on reading and writing in our cabin while the rain took care of the watering job for us.
July 21, 1821
Dear diary, Today was a day we will not soon forget. Just after we had finished our morning meal, Mother sent Kate and Peggy to pick some fronds for our mid day meal. They walked along the trail to the pond nearby. The plants they were looking for grow on the banks of the pond. They each carried a basket to fill. Peggy went along one side of the water while Kate was on the other side. They were busy filling their baskets when Peggy stepped close to the water's edge to reach some fronds. Kate heard our sister call out. When she looked across the water, she saw Peggy had fallen and could not get up. Kate set down her basket and rushed around the pond to help. When Kate tried to help Peggy stand up, she knew the situation was serious. Peggy's leg was stuck in the mud. Her leg had slipped down into a sink hole right to her knee. and she couldn't pull it out of the swampy water and muck. Kate tried to pull our sister out, but Peggy's leg was stuck fast. Both Peggy and Kate started shouting as loud as they could. I was walking by the spring and heard their voices calling for help. I called Mary and Jean. We all rushed in the direction of the voices. When we reached the pond, we saw the problem. Jean quickly found a log that had fallen. Together with Mary, she pulled the log beside Peggy. We used the log to keep from sinking into the mud so we were able to pull Peggy out of the muck and onto the log. Her leg and clothing was covered in mud. We helped her to the trail and made our way back to the cabin. The swamp water and mud was so dirty that Peggy had to bathe in the creek before she could enter the cabin. Mother made her some tea to revive her energy after her ordeal. Jean and Mary set about the task of cleaning Peggy's clothes. It took all the time until our evening meal to clean the dirt from Peggy's dress. We will be careful to stay away from the water's edge at the pond from now on.
July 28, 1821
Dear diary, Father inspected our flax crop today and it is almost ripe. He noticed some stems are beginning to turn a yellow colour and a few of the green seeds are beginning to change from a pale green shade to a light brown colour. He said we must be ready to act quickly in a few days time. The flax plants will have to be pulled out by the roots and we will have many days of hard work to harvest our crop. It will take all of us working in the field to get the job done.
August 2, 1821
Dear diary, We have been harvesting our flax crop for three days now. We work from earliest daylight until the light fades when the sun goes down. Robert John and James helped Father pull the flax plants out by the roots. It takes much strength. My sisters and I use a few stalks to tie the sheaves of flax into bundles. We have to stand the sheaves up on their ends to form stooks so the stalks will dry in the sun and breeze.
August 9, 1821
Dear diary, Our stooks are almost dry. Father says we can soon begin the next step in harvesting our crop.
August 10, 1821
Dear diary, There is news in our small community. A family has arrived on the lot just down the trail from the Penman cabin. Robert John met our newest community members when he visited the Affleck cabin today. He said it was a family of 8 people with 4 grown ups and 4 young children. I wonder if there is anyone the same age as me.
August 14, 1821
Dear diary, Another lot has been settled by James and William Thomson. They were visiting the Affleck cabin to ask if there might be some chance of help with building a small cabin. Mr. Affleck told the men that the community would find a way to help. He would speak to the other men. He invited the newcomers to join the community on the Sabbath and meet the other families. They agreed to return to meet the others.
August 19, 1821
Dear diary, We travelled along the path to the Affleck cabin today. Mother had baked a few more loaves of bread than usual to give to the Thomson men when they arrived to join the service today. She said it would be hard to get enough to eat until they had a proper place to live. The community men all agreed to give a day of work to the new men. In return, the men would help clear some land for their new neighbours at a later time when they were settled in their cabin.
August 17, 1821
Dear diary, Father checked our stooks of flax again this morning and reported that they are dry enough for the next step. Robert John made a tool for us to use to remove the seeds from the stalks of the flax plants. He cut a small board and hammered some nails through the wood. We only have a few nails left from the supplies we got when we arrived here. We will pull the stalks through these nails. Kate has the job of catching all the seeds from the flax plants and storing them so we can make linseed oil.
August 18, 1821
Dear diary, We finished removing the seeds from our flax crop. James and Robert John helped Father carry the flax stalks to a small creek away from our spring and pond. This creek has an area where the water flows into a small pool. This is the best spot to soak the flax so it won't poison the water we need to drink. They put the stalks into the water and piled stones on top of the stalks to keep them down in the water. We will leave the plants in the water for at least a week. The water will soften the stalks so that the bark of the plants will begin to break away from the fibers. inside.
August 24, 1821
Dear diary, Father has been checking on our flax plants every day and says they will be ready for the next step soon.
August 25, 1821
Dear diary, James was walking along the path toward Mr. Foley's cabin and met some strangers with a scout looking for a new lot where they will live. He found out that the group is known by the name of Whitton. They were also weavers from our homeland. James said that there are no women or children in the group. Their lot is just down the trail from our cabin. It is exciting to have more new people join our community.
August 30, 1821
Dear diary, Father decided today was the day to remove the flax plants from the pool of water. Robert John and James helped Father pull the stalks from the water. The whole family helped to carry the soggy stalks from the pool to a sunny spot where we could lay them down on the ground to dry. Each day we will use a stick to turn the stalks over and let the other side dry in the wind and sun.
September 4, 1821
Dear diary, This morning, Father told us to move the dry flax stalks to a ridge of flat rock nearby and lay them out along the rock. We each found a good, small rock to hit the stalks and break the bark off of them. Now that the bark is softened, it falls off the stalks easily when we hit it with the rocks. Robert John was using a wooden mallet to separate the bark from the flax. Kate and Peggy picked the stems up and scraped the tiny bits of bark that remained off of the stalks. Then we all gathered the stems into a long flat basket and carried them back to our cabin. We made many trips to move the whole crop one basket at a time.
September 10, 1821
Dear diary, When James finished his morning meal, he got ready to travel along the trail to the Affleck cabin. Mother asked me to go along with him to take some fresh herbs from our garden to Mrs. Affleck. I was excited to see Ann again. When we arrived at the cabin we noticed a stranger talking to Mr. Affleck. This man was about the same age as James. We learned that his name was Thomas Thomson. He was asking Mr. Affleck if there was a limestone kiln already in the area. Mr. Thomson has learned the work of stone masonry from his family and hopes to find work building a mill in the area of Lanark. He is hoping to build a cabin on his lot next to the Affleck lot. James is also hoping to get a lot of his own soon. James and Mr. Thomson talked about helping each other with the work of building cabins. James promised he would help clear Mr. Thomson's land as soon as our flax crop has been harvested.
September 15, 1821
Dear diary, We had a long day of work today. Peggy and Kate used the hackle that Robert John made for us. They carefully pulled the flax fibers through the spikes to separate them and make sure any bark still clinging to the flax came off. Mary and Jean will take the separated strands of flax and wind it into large skeins. Mother is very particular about how the skeins are wound so we need to take great care.
September 16, 1821
Dear diary, After our morning meal, we walked along the trail to the Affleck cabin to hear Mr. Affleck speak. He reminded us of how much we had to be grateful for in our new home. James, William and Thomas Thompson joined our group to listen to Mr. Affleck's words. I noticed something curious on a paper Mr. Affleck had passed around to collect the names of the newcomers to our community. The Thompson name was spelled in the English way. I will record it that way in the future.
September 25, 1821
Dear diary, Mother sent me along with Peggy and Kate to gather the things she would need to colour her linen thread from the flax crop. We gathered some bark from a broken branch of an apple tree along the trail to the pond. We will grind it up to make a brown colour. We also found a small grove of sumac trees with bright, red clusters of berries up on a sunny, little spot on the side of a hill. The berries will give our thread a rich shade of copper.