Excerpts from “Walk F” in “St. Catharines A-Z” by Junius, originally published in the St. Catharines Journal on June 12th, 1856.
In Walk F, Junius manages to take us on a very short jaunt around town listing the names of all of the families and where they lived. The fact that he could do such a write-up shows how small the town was at that time. Among them were names that I’m sure we all recognize if not from the city’s history then from street names: Hamilton, Merritt, Shipman, Clendenning, Hainer, Mittleberger, Parnall, Rykert, and Hartzell. He also goes on to talk about areas of land that had to be cleared to make way for people to build their homes. He describes one area of land as having pine trees that “stood about as thick together as they well could.”
The section of this article that I enjoyed most, read as follows:
“You have all read or heard of fish stories, wild goose stories, and various other kind of stories; but I think I could entertain you with a tolerably, big tough pine stump story.
The old critter in question, stood on Court Street, near where Mrs. Abigail Phelps’ residence now is, and was a whopper for size and roots. A certain greenhorn just fresh from the old sod, was engaged to extract it … He commenced to work at it, one Monday morning, and dug, shovelled, picked, chopped, bate and shilleighlaed it faithfully that week. He took the rest of the Sabbath, to recruit his weary body, then tackled it afresh and anew on the following Monday. He worked on through that week, toiling and sweating, cursing and swearing, prying and lifting, thumping and besting this old critter.”
The tale goes on and on and describes three weeks of intense, back breaking labour until the man, “Paddy”, eventually asks his boss if he can pay him back some money to relieve him of the work. The boss refused, so back Paddy went back to toiling away on the stump, when he said to himself:
“I’ll blow up the ship, so off he starts to the store for a quantity of powder… He got a large hole bored into the stump, woodpecker like, and put his large quantity of powder in. … Very early on the morning of the 4th of July, before the sun was yet up, Paddy sets off to his task, with more fire in his eyes, and more venom in his heart, than Guy Fawkes had, in his anticipated gunpowder Parliament expedition. … off went his charge of several pounds of powder, and another such a smoke, noise, concussion, rattling, shaking and flying was only once before heard of in this town, and never since … Paddy got to his breakfast and to his home, when our then worthy tory authorities and friends came rushing up to the scene of destruction swearing all sorts of vengeance … But as Paddy was voraciously eating his paratys and thinking of his pound … the Yankees had to return as they went only somewhat a little cop-fallen for the great pains they had taken to show off their loyalty, which consisted only of the loaves and fishes. Suffice it to say the old critter was blown all to tateration, and Paddy got his hard earned pound.”
It’s hard to imagine what today’s busy streets looked like back when they were nothing but dense forests. I imagine there were many “tough stump” stories to tell back in the 1800’s when they were settling this town!