From 1816 until 1842 the post erected on the east bank of the Fort Creek was the scene of trading activity ; but the water rising higher each year, rendered the buildings uninhabitable, and in the latter year the final structure of the amalgamated companies was raised. Mr. Severight had been followed by Mr. Nourse, who became not only the Bourgeois but the first magistrate the district could boast, but he, too, had passed away ere the new buildings were completed,
They were reared on the site of the ancient Fort at the foot of the rapids and thither each year did the ” Red Brigade,” under Sir George Simpson, find its way on its journey to the Red River district and back.
What few letters reached the Factor came through the United States, the rest of the people were no longer interested in the outside world, save when the chant of the voyageurs was heard in the distance. Then everybody came down to the shore and great was the excitement as the brigade swept into sight, singing with their bell-toned yokes,
Le fils du Roi s’en va chassant,
AVec sou beau fusil drargent,
Visa le noir, tua le blano, etc.
Le bon yin m’endort, Et l’amour me reveille_
with the refrain,
En roulant ma boule.
Sir George who was the son of a Presbyterian minister, created opportunities for advance. ment and rose to eminence through his own endeavour, nor were his efforts of a selfish nature, for it was on account of his exertions in searching for traces of the Franklin expedition that he was knighted by his sovereign.
His advent at Sault Sainte Marie was an event for factor and habitants, for the voyageurs were immediately taken possession by the people for a season of merriment, while the chief and his agents went through the books and stores of the Company and concluded with a lordly banquet.
When the days of inspection were over, the canoes were once more shipped, this time above the rapids, and the ” Red Brigade ” was seen no more for a time.
A grist mill at this period was set up, the miller receiving as his reward for work done, one-twelfth of the grain submitted.
Joshua Trot now became one of the characters of the slowly growing community, establishing a store on the river shore, at Windmill point, almost due south of the Jesuit church, and here he lived for many years, charging unheard of prices for his goods, inviting unsatisfied customers to trade ” next door,” and stirring continually by his oddities the sympathy of the residents
When visits were paid on New Year’s Day to the Factor by the villagers, the cask of whiskey was tapped and a health drunk by all to the headman of the Fort.
When any of the fair ones were chosen by the sterner sex and a marriage was agreed upon, then word was sent to the priest at Manitoulin Island, or perchance the Factor was impressed into the service, and all indulged in a general rejoicing and festivity over the bride and happy groom
” La Chanson des Noces” was always sung on such occasions, and its sentiment must not be taken too literally by those who would try to appreciate the humble happiness of these gentle people.
Beside the silent river
And running brook I wander,
And light regard my wedding morn,
As children think of play.
But, hark ! the trees are shelt’ring,
The birds who plaintive, say,
” Alas ! how wretched are the maids.
Who face their wedding day.”
Full sternly then her father
Addressed his drooping daughter,
‘Twas not blind fate nor ignorance
That moved you ‘gainst your will,
Pull oft’ to ears unheeding
Was told life’s earnest meaning.
The past is gone, the future comes,
Life may be happy still.
Comes now the wedding morning,
Maids are the bride adorning.
What garments must a virgin don
On such a festive day ?
Upon her head the cap of care,
Bound on with sweet long-suff’ring,
Her gentle form must modestly
Be robed in white array,
Good-bye to you. my father,
Adieu! my dearest mother,
My relatiVes a long good-bye
I leave you all today.
‘Tis not until a year goes past,
Nor for a little season,
A home for both we now must make I leave you all for aye.
This was not the only song which was heard in the lowly log homes.
From manly throats were raised the strains of ” Alouette,” now so vociferously sung by university men the Continent over, and there were heard as well the chansons that had been brought across the waters from La Belle France centuries before and whose melody and words were little changed by their transfer to the New World.
But who will undertake to describe those early days with any degree of power.
Men who lived before the town took so lately its sudden leap into prominence sigh for the ” good old times ” that preceeded these present, while those who were among the settlers of forty years since, think with regret of the happy days of the ” then,” but old folks, whose age is measured at the four scores and over, sit by the fire of a Winter night with their progressive grandchildren about their knees, and as they recall from the past sweet memories of their own childhood and youth in the (to us) misty years of the nineteenth century in Sault Sainte Marie, even these whose heads are bowed with the snows of many winters, think and speak longingly and lovingly of those times and feel that such a measure of happiness and contentment as they knew then will not again be theirs until the final journey has been taken, the great divide been crossed, and they, at last, have entered the Blessed Ishpeming.
So does time mellow all things. And they who are now the children and remain to take in their turn the place of these reverend grey heads, will tell, perhaps, the story to other little ones of their happy childhood and longingly dwell upon the memory of their ” early days.”