Port Hope, Canada – Primitive Port Hope

IT is possibly safe to say that a large proportion of the interest of travellers’ tales centres in the description of lands visited and people encountered, rather than in the actual adventures of the narrator. Recognizing this principle it would seem appropriate at this juncture to assume the view-point of the pioneer and look on the valley of the Ganaraska and its inhabitants, as they appeared to Myndert Harris and his comrades in the summer of 1793.

At that early date the valley was covered with a magnificent growth of cedars, through which the rushing Ganaraska came pouring down over the rocks. The hillsides on either hand supported a dense undergrowth, providing ample covert for both rabbits and partridges. Deer and bears roamed through the woods in large numbers and skilful huntsmen like the early settlers needed never to be at a loss for food. The stream itself emptied into a large marshy area, covering what is now the harbor and the low-lying land to the northward. Where the new harbor-basin now stands rose the island on which Mr. Harris the grass for his winter fodder that first year. One arm the creek skirted round this island by way of the present sit, of the elevators and then passed along eastward parallel t0 the Lake and separated from it by a gravelly bank. uniting with the other arm of the creek, the waters of two branches passed into the Lake through a narrow gap about where the old harbor intersects the shore-line.

The harbor-works have partially concealed the nature of the shore-line. To gain a correct conception of its form of outline it is but necessary to stand on the beach at the east side of the harbor and run a line across to the high ground south of the Grand Trunk Station. This line forms approximately the old shore and cuts off all that level tract known as Sandy Beach, which is a comparatively mod( .1 acquisition to the Town. To the east again the Lake carved out huge pieces from the land and is gradually wor ing its way inland.

Herchimere’s trading-post occupied a site northward from the point where the creek divided and on its western bank All about it rose the village of Indian wigwams. The presence of the trading-post here for more than a dozen years had attracted large numbers of the red men and there was always a constant coming and going amongst them, which added a liveliness to the place. The only other point of interest at that early date was the Indian burying-ground, situated in the woods near the present railway-station.

Such was the primitive appearance of the Town. As for its red inhabitants, it would seem that they were a peaceable lot, extremely loyal to the British Crown, and kindly disposed towards the white men. They spent their time chiefly in hunting and fishing and it was not an unusual sight to see the bosom of Lake Ontario covered with their canoes, as they fished for the mammoth sturgeon. Not a little wonderment did it occasion the settlers as they beheld the ease with which the Indians landed the fish in their frail vessels.

The personal deeds of but one Indian have been recorded and, as usual, it is by the evil he did that he is remembered. Cut Nose was a Chippewa from the vicinity of Lake Huron. He received his strange cognomen from the fact that in his early days part of his nose had been cut off. Coming to sojourn at Smith’s Creek, he soon began to display his evil propensities. Mr. Trull, who settled some distance up the lake shore, lost a straw hat one day. Soon after he chanced to be paddling down the Lake with two men and approaching Smith’s Creek, saw some Indians out fishing in a canoe. He made towards them to see what luck they were enjoying, when to his ill-concealed disgust, he beheld Cut Nose, who was in the canoe, brandish the lost hat aloft, with a devilish grin playing on his ugly face. It was impossible to take it from him. Shortly after Cut Nose took his departure for Rice Lake, where he presently entered into a bitter feud with some Crow Indians. The Crows conspired to murder him by enticing him into the trader’s house to drink, but Cut Nose was too sharp for them and, getting the treacherous Crow who had invited him behind a wood-pile, he soon put an end to him with a knife and started in to annihilate the others. Fortunately the trader secured the knife before much harm was done and Cut Nose took to his heels and made for his own country.