Tag Archives: Frelighsburg

Life Was Not a Piece of Cake in Ely

Life Was Not a Piece of Cake in Ely

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Gears Falls Dunham Quebec- Photo BANQ

In 1799 John Wales built a log house on a better than average lot in Dunham, Quebec, but after listening to bogus information he heard that Ely was the place to call home. John and his friend decided to head out and see what the supposed new colony offered. Even though they were determined to become one of the permanent settlers of Ely it seems like they didn’t investigate the matter thoroughly. In previous years other settlers had attempted to settle there only to remain for barely two years as it was starvation, or move on.  It seemed to be a mystery to John and his friend what had happened them and there were few clues to what might have passed. A number of the original settlers were upper-class gentlemen who were not accustomed to manual labour; the group included very few farmers or skilled men so they were doomed from the start.


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South Ely-BANQ

But sometimes people are stubborn as was John Wales, who had already spent 11 years toughing it out in nothing more that could be considered a backwoods life. No matter how bad things are however, you can make things worse. Mr. Wales packed up what he thought was enough provisions for a year that would be enough for his family. Being a generous man he welcomed all those that stopped at his home for a day or two until they would prepare a home of his own.

Needless to say the family’s provision’s ran out sooner than expected and he had to make a decision to travel to Frelighsburg which was over 46 miles away. It was the dead of winter when he began his journey with only his sled and a yoke of oxen. Because the snow was deep he was forced to make his own road through the snow for much of the distance to Frelighsburg.

As the days passed by his family became alarmed at his long absence and worried about their own existence. They had little left to eat and ate solely bread made from coarse cornmeal that John’s wife prepared in a mortar. This was no easy thing as the corn needed a lot of cleaning and they had to pull broken grains, cob, and rocks out as well as be religious about ‘picking’ the grains to save a tooth or two. The whole family hoped that he would be back soon with something better for them to eat as starvation was eventually going to knock at the door soon.


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Ely photo- BANQ

Finally, one night after more than a week after his departure, his 8 children were roused from their slumber by an unusual noise below. Hearing their father’s voice they descended the ladder from their upstairs berth and baking in the open hearth was a good size shortcake then called Soda Cake. Before baking powder hit the scene in 1856, making anything was not a piece of cake. In addition to beating air into their eggs, they often used a kitchen staple called pearlash, or potash, made from lye and wood ashes, and this agent was difficult to make, caustic and often smelly.

You would think Wales would have thought twice about living in Ely having to travel so far for food, but he carried on even though his cattle was being eaten by bears and crops were constantly being destroyed. Cold and isolation could take its toll on families who found themselves literally snowed in for weeks at a time.

His family eventually moved back to Dunham having had just about enough in Ely, but one son remained with John Wales. The work was relentless, and the story goes that his son undressed only once during the course of three months at night as the local bears kept them busy. Pigs, sheep you name it became meals for these Bruins and such were the incidents in which Mr. Wales shared during his stay in Ely.

Years later John finally gave up and moved back to Dunham in 1812. He settled comfortably on a lot of land owned by his grandson Orlin Wales and lived there until he died. Of all the family Orlin was said to be just like his grandfather as local history writes. He began the first cheese factory, became postmaster and was a strong man of the community.  For his Grandfather it was a long and painful road getting to a life he felt happy with. Life is hard, but there are moments, sometimes hours – and, if you’re really lucky, full days – where everything feels just right.


During the early 19th century, baking soda was introduced for baking goods in the United States. An early baking soda quick bread: “Soda Cakes,” was first presented by Mary Randolph in a 1824 book called Virginia Housewife. As a result of using leavening agent, American shortcakes became lighter and fluffier than the original shortcake.

By 1850, strawberry shortcake was a well-known biscuit and fruit dessert served hot with butter and sweetened cream. During the early 19th century, baking soda was introduced for baking goods in the United States. An early baking soda quick bread: “Soda Cakes,” was first presented by Mary Randolph in a 1824 book called Virginia Housewife. As a result of using leavening agent, American shortcakes became lighter and fluffier than the original shortcake

SODA CAKES- Mary Randolph

Dissolve half a pound of sugar in a pint of milk, add a tea-spoonful of soda; pour it on two pounds of flour–melt half a pound of butter, knead all together till light, put it in shallow moulds, and bake it quickly in a brisk oven.



I Knew it Wasn’t Petticoat Junction!– Eastern Townships History

Angry Mobs, Wolves and Bloodsuckers –Selby Lake

Hobos, Apple Pie, and the Depression–Tales from 569 South Street

Memories of UFO’s Earthquake Lights and Gale Pond

Was Frelighsburg Really Slab City?

Was Frelighsburg Really Slab City?


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Nestled in a valley of orchards at the foot of Mount Pinnacle, Pike River runs through the midst of the small village of Frelighsburg, Quebec. That same river once supplied water power that some hoped would provide manufacturing and increase population in the area. I am sure none of the early settlers would imagine that now instead of “roughing it” dining tables that serve fine food and cheesecake are clustered on a terrasse that flanks the Pike River.

From the time of its early settlement in a town that was called “the last stop before the border into Vermont”, there were eight roads that met and centred in the village, and these roads in turn branched out into thirteen or fourteen roads. Everyone thought that the small hamlet was going to grow rapidly, but the village lots were rented out on long leases and annual rents rather than being sold, and people just didn’t want to deal with the consequences of not owning their own properties.



Eastern Townships Resource Centre–CA E001 P058-010-05-002-009

There was a  grist mill and a saw mill, and the owner of the land near the river kept all the water power rights to himself. The word ‘share’ was not in his vocabulary and the end result was that the village industry did not grow, nor did the population.


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John S. Gibson is said to have been the first area settler and stumbled upon what is now Frelighsburg in 1790 and built a log home which later became a grist mill. He wasn’t much of a man for progress or settling down, but more of a thrill seeker, almost losing his life a few time to the Indians. He died at the age of 89, but not before he disposed of what he owned along with the land where Frelighsburg now stands for the price a dog. Yes, he took a dog for payment.

Mr. Owens was said to be the man that made that ‘canine deal’ with Gibson, who in turn flipped it to Cenroy and Yumans from St. Johns who made a few improvements, and then they flipped it again to Abram Freligh. Freligh for whom the town is named, was a physician of German origin who moved up to the Townships from Albany, N. Y. His son Richard Freligh represented Mississquoi in Provincial Parliament and he also built the Freiligh mill in 1839.

Frelighsburg also suffered the plundering from the Fenians, and a sum of $15,400 was offered as compensation to the suffers of this raid which is about $221,496.95 in 2017. What I found most interesting was that the name of the town changed like other small rural towns of the day.  It was first known as Conroy’s Mills after another mill owner until Mr. Freligh arrived in town. In the early part of its existence it was also called Slab City.

The story goes that years ago a number of men from the surrounding country all happened to meet to have a few drinks. Those initials glasses of spirit turned into way too many and things began to get out of hand. One of the drunken participants was a gentleman from Dunham who was refused another drop by hotel keeper Joel Ackley. The drunken man became indignant and began to launch a tirade of angry words against the hamlet of Frelighsburg  which he called Slab City.  They say he chose the name Slab City because of the great quantities of sawdust and slabs, which was a slang word for bark in those days.

I wonder if the hotel had served the fabulous maple glazed smoked salmon, the bbq ribs, the salmon mousse and the cretons that the local supermarket now does if he would have been so harsh. It was pretty wild to even consider the town to be named such a name seeing there was only a slab fence and a slab house that was built by the local blacksmith named James Willis. When I was going through newspaper archives I found an article about the Fenian Raids and they named both Frelighsburg and Slab City as being affected. So was Slab City really Frelighsburg, or was it just a location nearby?

In 1942 Frelighsburg was reported in the newspapers to be changing its name to Lidice in homage to the Czecho-Slovakian village that was savagely raised to the ground in July of 1942. Later a response from the town was that the whole world had it wrong; they were in no way about to change the name. Names are not always what they seem, especially with villages, towns or cities– names change– but memories don’t, so no matter where you lay your hat, you can call it what you want– but just make sure it’s documented properly so people like me don’t question it years later.



Eastern Townships Resource Centre–CA E001 P058-010-05-002-026








Clipped from Daily Ohio Statesman,  19 Jun 1866, Tue,  Page 3






Clipped from Dunkirk Evening Observer,  22 Sep 1942, Tue,  Page 8


Clipped from The Ottawa Journal,  22 Sep 1945, Sat,  Page 13




Clipped from The Burlington Free Press,  21 Aug 1871, Mon,  Other Editions,  Page 2



Clipped from Vancouver Daily World,  14 Mar 1894, Wed,  Page 1



I found the #perfect #cheesecake in a little town called #Freighlisburg . 😍 Deux Clocher#mtldining #grahamcrust#whippedcream #creamcheese#quebec #foodielover #foodporn#igfood #dessert #gateauaufromage#bromemissisquoi #Qc

If You Went Down the Forest Road–Abbott’s Corners



Marker that separates Quebec, Canada and the United States


Did you know that settlers used to make their way in the forest along where the road now leads from Abbott’s Corners to Richford, Vermont as early as 1798?

There really isn’t many early records to show who ‘cleared the first patch’– but Ebeneezer Clark was the first one noted who came up from New York in 1795 and took a small piece of land between Frelighsburg and Abbott’s Corners– which was later owned by Hagan heirs. A few year later he settled on a piece of land owned by Chauncey Abbott, and the rest is history. Mr. Scofield in his day owned as many as 30 dairy cattle and a dairy that rivalled anyone in the county.

Dr. Jonas Abbott came from Bennington, Vermont and settled on his grandson Chauncey’s land and later went to Kingston, Ontario and made a fortune as a druggist. Abbott later returned and retired in the area and Abbott’s Corners was named after Dr. Abbott.

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Here is an Abbott’s Corners Directory — 2 miles from Frelighsburg–http://mapcarta.com/24109322


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    Photo–Greig Morrison 


ABBOTT’S CORNER – From — Missisquoi Genealogy
A small post village, situated in the parish of St. Armand East. It is distant from Bedford, the chef-lieu of the county, 13 miles, Clarenceville 28, Dunham 7, Frelighsburg 2½, Pigeon Hill 8, Philipsburg 15½, Sweetsburg 14½ , St. Johns 42, and Farnham 22½  miles. Population about 100.

Abbott E. B., farmer
Abbott Mrs. Chauncy C., widow
Ano Joseph, laborer
Baptist church, rev. A. L. Arms, pastor (non-resident)
Bridge A. E., farmer
Broe John, blacksmith
Carpenter Mrs. Alice M., widow, postmistress
Carpenter Edwin, farmer
Chadburn George, farmer
Comstock H. S., farmer
Corse A., farmer
District School, No. 5, Miss Bessy P. Sweet, teacher
Dwyer Mrs. P., widow
Goodhue Peter, farmer
Hope Miss Harriet
Jenne Albert, laborer
Macey E. B., carpenter
Macey L. F., farmer
McDermott Michael, farmer
Methodist church (Canada), rev. James E. Richardson, superintendent, Frelighsburg Circuit, resides at Frelighsburg
Post office, Mrs. Alice M. Carpenter, postmistress
Powers Ernest, school teacher
Powers Joseph, shoemaker
Richardson rev. James E., superintendent, Frelighsburg Circuit, Canada Methodist church, resides at Frelighsburg
Rodgers Mrs. A., widow
Scofield Columbus, retired
Scofield Lewis D., farmer
Scotield Mrs. L. D., widow
Scofield P. A., school teacher
Smith H. H., carpenter
Smith M. A., school teacher
Sweet Miss Bessy P., teacher District School No. 5
Tracey Edgar S., carpenter
Tracey Harvey
Tracey Miss Ella, school teacher
Tracey Mrs A., widow
Whitman Mrs. M., widow Rodman
Whitman S. R., J.P., farmer
Woodard Henry, plasterer


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News