Flora and Fauna
Historic Sites in Scarborough Heights
In the dimness of nightfall
"My children need shelter when they arrive."
The man tills the fertile soil
The full moon watches them grow
A girl awakens in the night
She sees the arms reaching upward
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".
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:
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:
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...
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