Winfield Brewster

Winfield Brewster

Winfield writes about his father-in-law, David Brydon who went from Scotland to Ontario one hundred years earlier.

The Floodgate

by Winfield Brewster, 1952

exerpt: pages 26 to 31


One David Brydon, Tenant of a small farm in Dumfriesshire came to Canada with his wife and family of small children in 1847, largely because of a lease expired, the smaller places were being appended to larger farms in an effort to counter the impending abolition of The Corn Laws which seemed to spell the doom of the small Tenant Farmer in Britain.

He was born at "Aberlosk" a farm in Dumfriesshire, of which his father and his Grandfather certainly, and the dear Lord only knows how many generations before them had been Tenants of His Grace, The Duke of Buccleugh.

His wife, Janet Glendinning was born at "Overcassock"' a thousand acre farm of which her people had been Tenants of his Grace time out of mind and which the family now own. My son, Jackson visited the place when he was overseas at the War and was indeed well received by the present Generation of the Glens.

Sandy Glendinning, brother of Janet, who was a personal friend of Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, and who himself wrote some readable poetry was living at Scarbro and Bryden stayed with him until he got located in Waterloo Township.

Because David's eyes were a bit weak he was unable to do much reading or writing by candle light, so in writing letters home he could only do a small bit in one night, an another night he would add to what he had previously written. Then when he had it all said, he copied in daylight what he had written and mailed it, retaining these original writings which are still in existence.


From these original writings certain highlights thought to be of some historic interest have been culled.

On July 31st, 1847, he wrote a brief letter to his father saying he had arrived safely at his brother-in-law's place at Scarbro.

On November 10th, 1847, he wrote a second letter, to his brother, Robert a school teacher at Eskdalemuir, going into considerable detail. "After spending two months at Scarboro, I set out in quest of winter quarters (the land is very dear at Scarboro and near Toronto) and travelled about ten days zig-zagging this way and that way and at last bought a wild lot of land (a hundred acres) 3 1/2 miles north of Galt. Then I rented a room at Galt and returned to Scarboro and rallied bag and baggage and arrived at Galt the last day of September. I commenced operations immediately and got a house erected and we moved out of Galt and entered our present dwelling the second of November, after having spent 23 weeks between the going out from Overcassock and the coming here. Galt is situate on the two banks of the Grand River with a bridge across something like Langholm. It is the finest situation and most flourishing place I have seen in Canada.

Our Place is a rough lot of pine and oak with a small matter of Beach, Maple Ironwood, etc. It runs 40 chains from east to west and 25 chains from north to south. (A chain is 66 feet.) the house is in the middle of the west end near the road. A Logg house 20 feet wide by 30 feet long, a cellar below, two apartments on the ground floor and a big loft. We have a cooking stove instead of a fire place and the house can be made warm as an oven if we wish it. I payed 800 dollars (a dollar is 4 British shillings) £160 Sterling and the house cost about a hundred dollars more.

We have the best of neighbors, James Hogg, Tailor in Esk; Walter Bone, William Rankin, John Miller from Teviot Head and a great lot; we have the father and 4 brothers of Wm. Shaw once in Eskdalemuir.

Go into Galt and you cannot fail to see some old Acquaintances and get a hearty welcome. I went last week to the home of James Cowan (now Squire Cowan of Waterloo) and bred my acquaintance. He is the most influential man in the Township, talented, kind and familiar and one of the Councillors for the District.


He says that the average income of a School Teacher may be set down at £50 Sterling a year, commonly 20 dollars a month, less or more according to circumstances. There is a number of Trustees elected in every district to superintend the School. They engage the teacher and pay him. The School Master has neither loss nor trouble.

In point of convenience this place is superior to Eskdalemuir. We can get anything in Galt and there is also a demand for every kind of article you can take to the market.

Fifteen years ago there were not 15 houses. Now there are more than 1500 inhabitants. Unless the health be a cause of trouble, in many respects the prospects are better. The Society is good, the Gospel is as truly preached and if I have not formed a wrong idea there is as much piety in this neighborhood as in many parts of Scotland.

In Galt there is an English Church, a Moderate, a Free Kirk, an Old Session and a Methodist meeting house, and on a Sabbath morning the people are pouring into Town as if there was a market in the Old Country.

The land in this neighborhood is not so rich as it is in many places in America, but I think poorness of the soil is made up for in other respects. Our land is middling quality and it will be a rough job getting it cleared but I can sell the timber."

NOTE: Brother Robert later came to Canada, taught school at Hespeler and at S.S. 19 Waterloo Township and for years acted as Superintendent of Education in this District.

In the fall of 1849 a letter was sent to his brother-in-law telling how things were going. "The Crop is all in the barn and we may have perhaps 150 Imperial Bushels of wheat, say 100 bushels for sale at 2/10 per bushel, but a small sum after all. The other kinds of crop do not bring in much money. Farming is a sore and poor way of making a living.

In 1850 he wrote his friend John Bell:

"Last winter I chopped about eight acres of land and with very little help cleared it of timber, plowed it over and put in wheat and fenced it. The plan of clearing land is to cut down the brush with a sort of Hedge bill, then cross cut the fallen trees, then cut the growing trees and hew off all the branches and throw them into heaps, then when dry weather comes set it on fire. Sometimes there is a terrible blaze, sometimes a very poor go. Last summer we had a bad burn and in such cases the land is to plow. You would think the plowing of new land a curious project. I have had a serious job building houses, first a dwelling house, one for Robert next, then a barn, then a Bire. I have used 10,000 feet of boards and nails out of number. Paying for work is out of the question. The product of a man's work will not pay his day's wages, so every man has just to work away and do his best.

We have had only a middling crop of wheat, a fair crop of oats and a good crop of potatoes. Pork is about 2 shillings for 14 lbs."

On April 5th, 1850, he wrote another friend at home.

"Being at Galt yesterday I got your letter of March 6th. I was glad to see it and more so to find tidings of my Father ....

I had the oxen and waggon at Galt yesterday. Every step was to the knee in Glar. We had a curious winter. Fresh and frost, rain and snow, never many days alike. There has been little done with the sleigh. I had about 300 loggs and there are only 100 taken away. The want of snow is a bad job in this country.

Everything can be carried so much easier on the sleigh than on a waggon and quicker,"


Some time (possibly some years) later, for no date is given, he says "If I guess aright this is the second of March and still it snows. We have had no rain since December. Just snow and frost and more snow. The best winter I have seen for sleighing. I have travelled to the saw mill drawing loggs twice each day for forty days endways.

My pay was $138 dollars. I drew 137 loggs. Every mortal thing is dear. Wheat was two dollars a bushel of sixty pounds. A Sovereign for every stone of flour. Oat meal a British shilling more. When you come to Canada bring plenty of money. There are plenty of holes to put it into. Wood is a scarce article. I have been saving the growing wood for six years, but now coal from New Castle is in use in the Towns and Villages. Galt has consumed a large quantity this winter but wood cannot be dispensed with.

We have about 550 logs on had this winter. This causes me to wish for snow. A saw logg is a piece of a tree 12 or 14 feet long and from one and a half to three and four feet in diameter. We get commonly five out of a tree. Two men can make about twenty in a day."

"I think that a hundred years from now Canada will be a rich country. The Railway Mania has got across the Atlantic and we are to have a railway at Galt for certain."

NOTE: Railway built about 1857 from Galt to Guelph.

"A good cow is worth £8 Sterling. An ewe lamb £1 4d. and a hog about 16 shillings. Pork is fourpence a pound. Beef and mutton the same. Dry pork, six pence. Cheese, eight pence.

Tailors are horrid dear and blacksmiths worse if possible. Masons look for two dollars a day."

NOTE: Through the courtesy and kindness of Hon. Norman O. Hipel of Preston I am able to state that according to the Lumbermens' table a log of twelve feet long 24 inches in diameter contains 300 board feet of lumber when sawn. 30 inches in diameter contains 507 board feet of lumber when sawn. 36 inches in diameter contains 768 board feet of lumber when sawn. 42 inches in diameter contains 1083 board feet of lumber when sawn. 48 inches in diameter contains 1462 board feet of lumber when sawn.

When one considers these figures and the fact that it took 80 loads to deliver 137 logs to the saw mill, it will be seen that there were large pine trees growing on this lot one day.

From his records we cull a few items which may be revealing:

In 1850 he sold to sundry persons hay at $9.00 to the value of $89.05. The year following hay at $7.00 a ton to the value of $20.45, and in that same year 216 bushels of charcoal out of one pit and 290 bushels out of a second pit were sold to a Mr. Michael, a blacksmith at Galt (presumably for use in his forge) at four and one-half cents per bushel and another 97 bushels, this at five cents per bushel.

On February 11th, 1856, he took a receipt signed by P. Jaffrey for $2.00 for advertising the farm for sale in the Reporter for nine weeks from the date.

On March 22nd, 1860, he signed an agreement with Lewis Kribs and Ephraim Pannabaker whereby they agreed to build him a dwelling house on his farm 24 x 32 feet, nine feet in the clear, shingles to be laid 5 1/2 inches to the weather, a plain cornice 10 inches wide; to be sided with inch boards perpendicular with strips to be dressed outside. The frame to be scantling with hewn joists, sills and girders, and sawn sleepers. Two outside doors, one panelled, the other battened. Four inside doors battened. Four windows, 10 x 14 glass. 1 1/2 inch flooring, tongue and grooved; one cellar stairs, one chimney. The house to be divided into kitchen, sitting room, two bed rooms and closet as directed. The owner to furnish material and board and prepare foundation. The parties of the second part to do all carpenter work and plastering in a good and workmanlike manner before the first day of December next in consideration of ninety dollars of lawful money of Canada to be paid by the owner, his heirs or executors.


In 1863 he threshed 44 bushels of spring wheat of which he sold 24 bushels and 229 bushels of fall wheat of which he sold $205.53 to Jacob Hespler who got also eight bushels for gristing fees.

On August 2nd, 1863 he paid Christian Pabst $55.00 in full of contract for building foundation of barn.

On December 27th, 1865, he sold Tobias Gingrich 136 lbs. of beef at 6 cents per lb., $8.16.

There is a letter he received which bears the date September 22nd, 1847: Sir, --- I have this day sold to you lot of land in Waterloo County, No. 3, for the sum of two hundred pounds currency and upon receiving the above sum I will give a free deed and to be paid on or before the first of November, 1847. (Signed). Robert Scrimger

For a moment I digress, just to clear up one point.

The pound Sterling was $4.86 2/3, but the British Shilling used to pass current over the counter at 25 cents and so the £160 Sterling spoken of by Brydon as the purchase price of his farm would be $800.00.

The Halifax Pound or Pound "Currency" was four dollars and therefore the "Two Hundred Pounds Currency" mentioned by Scrimger would likewise be eight hundred dollars.

The twenty cent piece (20 to the pound) and the four dollar bill issued by the Canadian Government were both common at the beginning of the present century but the "York Shilling" or "Yorker" valued at 12 1/2 cents had by that time become quite scarce. This was a silver coin larger than our ten cent piece but not so larger as a quarter.

The twenty cent piece was the bane of every merchant's existence and unless he used great care he was apt to find, come night, a flock of them in his till, taken in as quarters. You could tell a twenty cent piece from a new quarter by the feel, but if the quarter was worn it was harder to distinguish between the two coins that way.

The quarter shewed a Crown on Victoria's head while the 20 cent piece shewed a sprig in her hair like on the 1858 and 1859 copper one cent piece.

Clerks in stores used to try out their hearing in this way; one of them would take a handful of quarters with perhaps three or four twenty cent pieces mixed in, and toss the coins one after another on the counter, the other lads standing back would call the twenties by their ring. It is surprising how adept one became at this little game.

Back many years ago it was the custom, and a nice one, for a Political leader, who had spoken to remain on the platform after conclusion of the meeting, so those who had heard him might have the honor of being presented.

One time, John A Macdonald was at Galt speaking in the Town Hall and after the meeting my old friend was one of those to be presented. He was formally introduced to the great man who took him by the hand and ventured, "I doot you're Scotch". And the old man answered AYE. And a Tory? asked John A. And the reply, "Aye Meester Macdonald". Then John A., placing his left hand lovingly on the old gentleman's shoulder and giving his hand a little extra squeeze told him "You're a rare bird".

To which let me add AMEN.

Written by Winfield Brewster 1879-1962.