When the first settlers arrived in the County, it was heavily forested with white pine and oak. Big Island, in particular, was said to be heavily wooded with beautiful timber. Trees, however, were an enemy to the early settlers. They had to be cut and the stumps removed before fields could be made suitable for crops, and densely wooded areas posed a hazard for the traveler, as the paths to neighbours’ farms were poorly marked and the way indicated only by blazes.
Many stories are told of children lost in these woods, never to be seen again. Children were often sent on errands through the woods, or to take food to the men working in the forest. They were always admonished to stay on the path; the trees were so thick that any sense of direction was soon lost and children could wander in circles for days without finding the path again. Many stories are told of wild animals curling up with children, saving them from freezing at night and some children managed to survive on wild berries and roots until they were found or stumbled into a settled clearing, but many of the children were never found and their bodies never recovered.
Childhood was precarious enough without this added hazard; accidents and disease carried many away, and children were so prized that orphans were automatically taken into neighbouring families, where they were brought up with the same care and attention given to natural children. Childless couples would often “borrow” children to live with them for months at a time. In some cases, great persuasion had to be used to get the children back!
Stories reprinted with permission of Author Janet Kellough from her book “The Legendary Guide to Prince Edward County”.
This is not a “history” of Prince Edward County in the usual sense. Although many of the stories in this book are true, many others have obviously been embellished in the re-telling. They are, however, “real” stories – they have all been told, at one time or another, by people in the County. Stories have survived here where they have disappeared in other localities. Because of the County’s geographic isolation and because so many of the “old families” still live here, tales have often been passed from generation to generation.
Although I have not fabricated any details, I often found different versions of the same events. Every attempt was made to verify historical detail, but in cases where I found varying accounts, I simply chose to use the interpretation I liked best.
Thank you to all the people who told me stories …
Copyright ©1994 Janet Kellough, All rights reserved
Published by Kellough Productions, Picton, Ontario 1994