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.
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.
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.
where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and theSherbrooke Record and and Screamin’ Mamas (USACome and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place. Tales of Almonte and Arnprior Then and Now.