Flora and Fauna
Home ] Up ] Tree Hunt ]



Studies: Publications

Educational Resources

Historic Sites in Scarborough Heights

Links for Toronto Links


Scarboro Heights Record

Search This Site

Table of Contents



The Tree

In the dimness of nightfall
The man works the branch with his axe.
It slowly arches downward,
As if bowing to his superior talents.
And then the next and then another.
He crawls under their quilt of green.
Sheltered from the biting November wind,
He sleeps till dawn.

"My children need shelter when they arrive."
He ponders the challenge ahead,
But only briefly.
He has work to do here in the forest.
Four upright servants of God give way to his arms.
He commands them to a new form,
And his children awaken
To the crackling glow of another lost friend.

The man tills the fertile soil
Enriched by generations of life
And demise on the forest floor.
But the trees are now gone,
Save that one 'neath he once slept.
He will let it's children prosper,
As his children have prospered
Through the triumph of toil and mind.

The full moon watches them grow
Together, side by side.
Two thousand glimpses into
Nature and humanity --
Their friendships and their rivalries.
Their relationship still unfolds
Often predictably,
Sometimes tragically.

A girl awakens in the night
Her sleep broken by a sound
Like popcorn, then a thud.
But the silence alarms her the most.
Familiar rustle outside her window -- gone
Moon-cast dancers on the wall -- no more.
She rises to behold the tree
Laying peacefully beside the house.

She sees the arms reaching upward
Asking to be helped back up
To resume it's quiet role
In the grand scheme of things.
The girl wonders -- what next?
What new purpose for her bedtime friend?
Stories could be told by that great witness of change.
And she would write those stories.


The Scarboro Heights Record V13 #8

Land Clearing and Logging Bees

Community logging bees often made an initial impression on the great forest and permitted the newly-arrived squatter, tenant or proud freeholder to plant a first crop. Logging bees could be dangerous events. At a bee in Scarborough in September, 1833, Joshua Hamblin, father of two, was killed almost instantly when a log was thrown across his body. 

In the 1830s, two young aspiring entrepreneurs from Lanarkshire, James Weir and James Neilson: "were noted bush-whackers... both boasted of making the foundation of their wealth by clearing land and chopping cordwood in Scarboro... both died wealthy".

After assisting to establish the [family] home, he [James Neilson] joined the late Jas. Weir, of Scarboro', in a land clearing and wood chopping partnership, contracting by the job. For the wood chopping they received 25 cents per cord for cutting and piling, and the land clearing was done at the same low ratio. James could cut, split and pile his three cords per day.

We can be fairly certain that sawing contests were an integral part of the Scarborough logging bee during the land-clearing decades. Sawing matches were evidently again quite popular during the winter months of the 1880's, cash being the prize:

A sawing match will take place in Malvern Village on Thursday, March 1st. Handsome prizes will be awarded. For cross cut sawing, there are prizes of $7, $5, $3; buck sawing, $4, $3 and $2; and for the boys' class with bucksaw, $3, $2 and $1. For particulars, see posters.

Colonial Advocate, Sept. 12 1833
Obituaries saved in the Fanny Annis Pherrill Scrapbook
Markham Economist, Feb. 22, 1883

 Cited in  Fairs and Frolics: Scottish Communities at Work and Play

The Scarboro Heights Record V13 #2



The McCowan brothers at Springbank on the edge of the Scarborough Bluffs were also actively clearing their land in the 1830s -- indeed it would have taken years to clear a farm. In 2005 we were very fortunate to receive another book from James McCowan's extensive library which had been kept together for almost seven decades by his youngest, son William. Inside the front cover someone had done some simple math -- 1898 less 1671 -- the book was then 227 years old.  One of the oldest books in James McCowan's library, The Rule of Conscience In all Her General Measures was dedicated to The Most Sacred Majesty of Charles II, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith &cc. Undisturbed, for a century, inside the book were a number of feathers, leaves and various paper items. Of immediate interest, in this context of trees and forests, was a short letter addressed to Mr. McOwan on A... 20 /38 from 39 King St., Toronto:


You will have the goodness to give me an acct of the wood you have deld and to whom you delivered the same.
                I am Sir, your obd serv
                Joseph Lee.

Joseph Lee had a general store at 39 King street and may have been a clerk of the Bank of Upper Canada under director William Proudfoot, a friend of Robert Stobo of Scarboro. It could be that the McCowan brothers had a contract to mill their trees into marketable lumber, perhaps using Lee as a middle-man.  The ravine -- with it's very steep watercourse and numerous springs -- immediately beside the McCowan farm by the lake had incredible potential for an extremely powerful sawmill. According to a lifelong resident of the area, Mary Muir, there had been a dam across the stream in the early 20th century. It seems quite possible (though not proven) that the McCowans ran a sawmill here in the 1830s. 

While the pioneers were generally quite thorough in clearing the land of the huge pine, oak and beech, most good farms kept a woodlot of several acres. One reason for the woodlot was for a home-heating fuel supply. In the 1890s, on his farm in northeast Scarborough, William P. McCowan sold more timber from his ten acre woodlot -- from a note found in yet another of the old McCowan books. Another generation of McCowans continued planting hundreds of trees as erosion control.

One final note on this old book... In spite of his financial troubles and bankruptcy in early 1831, the James McCowan family somehow managed to stay on at Auchanbeg, Lesmahagow, until at least Nov. 18, 1832. James' third son had written into the last page of this book...

David M'Cowan
in Auchinbegg, Lesmehagow
Eighteen hundred and thirty two years
aged fifteen years and 25 days this 
eighteenth day of Novr 1832 years

According to the family bible, David had been born on Oct. 24 between 11 and 12 at night, 1817.  

A few months later, in the spring of 1833, James and Margaret McCowan took their family to Canada.

The Scarboro Heights Record V16 #1



Southern Ontario still has great timber resources -- and some of these valuable logs just rot on the ground. Here's someone doing something about this problem


Visitors Since August 25 2007

Hit Counter