Read the diary of ten year old Grace. When we 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.