At the Village of St. Anns, situated three miles east of Smithville along the Jordan River, lived Jacob Fisher, of Pennsylvania, Dutch origin, and his wife, who was a Cline. He ruled his household with an iron will and his word was law in his home. Like the average Penn Dutchman he had strict religious views and habits and believed in the admonition ‘Do not,’ ‘Thou shalt not,’ as a cure for all the problems of life. His family were expected to obey his every will and whim and while he believed that they did so, they on the other hand had no intention of regarding his law as final. He had three sons, Peter, James and John and all three loved hunting and fishing better than working in their father’s tannery. They were good hunters each of them being a splendid shot. These men who were my father’s uncles, used to visit at my home about twice a year, staying from two to three days. Those were great events in my boyhood life, as these old men lived in their past and the conversation was of early days, and of their early life. Deer and bear stories held me in rapt attention. These three brothers at this time were all over seventy years of age. One of them lived to be past eighty and the other two over ninety years of age. They were strong, stalwart sons of pioneer days who retained their health and mental powers at these advanced ages. Jacob Fisher also had three daughters, Mary (Polly), Sarah and Katherine. It was said that these girls would never marry as Jacob would not allow the young men to keep company with them. No one seemed to be the right one to court old Jacob’s daughters, and few got the chance to do so unless it was unknown to their father.
These girls were full of life and loved the out-of-doors, the forest, and all things of Nature. They could handle a gun or ride a horse without a saddle and at a gallop. Here were six young people with blood coursing through their veins, living a life in tune with nature. Jacob their father, however, could not reconcile this coursing of young blood to his idea of fatherly authority and religious piety. He, like many a father of certain races and times, and even some of our own time, did not or would not grasp the truth, ‘that young blood must have its course,’ and that if the bit is kept too tight at home the young will have their blowing off of steam, away from home; and here begins deception. Their recreation and amusement is without home guidance, as the home is kept in the dark as to these doings. But these young Fishers were by no means spoiled in this way. Their pleasures were harmless and natural, and had no evil results in after years.
On what is now the Jerry Taylor property then known as Middle-port, lived one Samuel Page, a Taylor, a down-East Yankee of English parentage, and his wife, Hannah Cornnell. They had seven children, one son being James Dowlin Page, born in the United States in the year 1801. James was serving his apprenticeship in the Tannery of Jacob Fisher at St. Anns, being a fellow worker with the three Fisher boys.
Jim Page, a lad of twenty, spent much of his leisure time with the Fisher boys and they became warm friends. In due time he became acquainted with the three Fisher girls. Mary, or Polly as she was generally known, with her rosy cheeks and happy disposition, appealed to the romantic side of young Jim’s nature. He encountered the usual opposition of Jacob Fisher, her father, and like the other suitors, had to meet Polly secretly, or at best, very rarely with her father’s knowledge and consent. A regular correspondence was kept up between these two, with Polly’s brother John acting as mail carrier. Many a happy evening was spent by the young people of which Jacob knew very little. Polly’s sisters, as well as her brothers, were fond of Jim, and made it as convenient as possible for these young people to meet. Soon the friendship of Jim and Polly ripened into love, and Polly’s father heard from time to time of frequent meetings which aroused his suspicion and increased his antagonism, and at the same time his watchfulness.
He gathered together all of Polly’s best clothes, and belongings and as a precaution, locked them where she could not obtain them. It was then that Polly and Jim planned to outwit the old gentleman. Polly her sister Sarah, and Jim attended a religious meeting, and as the three slowly walked homeward, Jim appeared sad and in a reflective mood. “Polly,” he said, “for some reason your father does not like me, and is strongly opposed to our friendship, while I do not know the cause of his opposition, I do not feel that we should longer oppose his will. While your friendship has been one of the brightest spots in my life, yet we must remember that Jacob Fisher is your father and his wishes must be considered.” “Yes, Jim, while I feel that all you say may be true, you surely know that father opposes his daughters going out with any of the young men who feel disposed to be friendly with them. Do you really mean, Jim, that we must no longer be friends?”
“Not just that, my dear Polly. I trust we may always be friends, and I appreciate the friendly co-operation of your brothers and sisters. I trust that we shall all remain friends, but I think it is for the best that you and I should part as close friends, and that I should meet you as I do your sisters, as an acquaintance only.”
“Perhaps,” said Sarah, jokingly, “it is Jim’s wish as well as father’s that you should adopt such a plan.
“God forbid,” said Jim. “I am not following my heart now, but my head. I feel that these secretive meetings are very unsatisfactory.”
“Well, Jim,” replied Polly, “you know best. Perhaps, after all, we are wrong in opposing father’s wishes.
“Let this be our last secret meeting then, Polly dear,” said Jim with his arm about her waist, and a tremor in his voice.
Thus they parted, and Sarah was the only one who actually shed any tears that night. The following day when opportunity offered, Sarah informed her father of what had taken place the previous night, and Jacob was well pleased. He now unlocked Polly s clothes and belongings and fully believed that Jim had given her up.
He became less watchful of Polly, whose plans were carefully laid. It was wash day and Polly’s turn to perform that task. She had a twinkle in her eye and yet at times a serious expression might have been discovered in her countenance had anyone been observing her closely.
The clothes were hung out to dry and after the evening meal, Polly proceeded to bring them in from the lines.
An armful was carried in and taken upstairs, after which she quietly crept into her room where sundry garments and belongings werepiled in hasty confusion. Raising the window softly she tossed an armful of clothing out of it. After this rather unusual performance, she went down the stairs and out to the lines to gather in more of the morning’s washing. This she took upstairs and repeated the former proceeding at the open window. Below this window was a young man whose heart was thumping so loudly that he could hear the pulsations ,and he imagined that everyone in the Fisher home could hear it distinctly. He was sure that every sound he heard was Jacob Fisher approaching from the house. Listen! What was that sound? Were the well-laid plans to be frustrated at the last minute? He crouched in the shadow of a big bush and waited. Soon a cat was seen scurrying across the yard, and Jim breathed again. He was sure he had never heard so many sounds real or imaginary in so short a time before. And yet, what was but a few minutes, seemed hours to him. The clothes which Polly had tossed out of the window had been received by his waiting arms, all except a pair of shoes which caught in the branches of a tall lilac bush, and remained to tell the tale of their departure. Jim hurried home with his bundle of clothes, having crossed the bridge and followed the road to his father’s house. Polly was to cross the ice of the Twenty Creek and join him at his home a mile and a half distant.
When the young man arrived home, the first question which he asked his mother was as to whether Polly had yet arrived. His mother, ever ready for a bit of fun, shook her head, and Jim was about to rush back to find her, fearing she might have been overtaken, or that she might have broken through the ice. His mother told him to place Polly’s belongings in a certain closet, and as he opened the door out stepped Polly, with a smiling face.
Jim owned a horse, his only possession; another was borrowed from a neighbor. Both were saddled and bridled and waiting for the young couple to start on their journey. Mounting, they rode to Niagara Falls, N.Y., where they were married. Jim was twenty-one years of age and Polly was eighteen. After the marriage ceremony they returned to Canada, staying at a tavern until morning.
Jacob Fisher had the surprise of his life on the following morning, when the tell-tale shoes were discovered hanging to the lilac bush and Polly’s absence was discovered. Taking his shotgun from its holder he strutted about, declaring that he would shoot man, beast or the devil.
The people in the village were glad to hear that one of Jacob’s daughters had been captured, and the distillery rolled a barrel of whiskey out of its doors and invited the men to help themselves, and many that day drank Polly Fisher’s good health and happiness.
Upon their return, Jim traded his horse for a team of oxen, after which he took up one hundred acres of land at Burlington. He worked with a surveying party and cultivated his land with his team of oxen, and with Polly s help they prospered. About this time Polly’s sister Katherine became ill and died. The family were afraid to approach the father about Polly’s return, but Jim Page’s mother did not fear the old man and she suggested to him that he send for Polly without asking Jim to return.
The result was that Jim and Polly both came to the funeral. Jacob relented somewhat and decided that he would give Polly a present. I presume he did not call it a wedding present; it was just a present, a sort of peace offering. He said: “I am going to make Polly a present of a sheep as soon as I get its wool sheared off. A short time later Jim Page and his wife came to Smithville, where they purchased three hundred acres of land near the Twenty Mile Creek on which a son and son-in-law, namely, Calvin Page and John Davis, Sr., now live.
Here he started a tannery, a shoe shop where several shoe makers were employed and a blacksmith shop, as well as farming his land. About this time Jim was made a Deacon in the Baptist Church at Beamsville, where he and his family attended divine service, and he was known during the reaminder of his life as ‘Deacon Page.’ Old settlers still speak of him as ‘Deacon.’ This young raw-boned Down-East Yankee, who had dared to snatch away one of Jacob Fisher’s daughters, prospered. He had twenty horses, a good flock of sheep, and a herd of cattle besides his business ventures.
Jacob Fisher, his father-in-law, relented, and often visited Jim and his family when attending quarterly meeting in the old Methodist Church. He used to weep and apologize to his son-in-law for the way he had treated him as a young man, but Jim said, “I’ll just let him cry a bit; it will do him good.”
Jacob spoke of Jim as one of the best sons he had, and the happiest relationship existed between the families during the remainder of their days. A tribute to the life of Jim Page was paid by a pioneer who knew him well in these words: “He was a loyal Canadian citizen, who always said he loved the land of his adoption. He was a grand man whose encouragement was worth more than some people’s money. When he spoke in public he was on the side of justice and fair play. He was a jolly, Christian man, congenial and good company for young and old. He was most cordial in his home, joked with his family and provided in abundance. He was a loving father, but had a stern look and rebuke which commanded respect and obedience. I loved him as a father and yet no blood tie bound us together.” Such is the tribute paid to Deacon Page by one who knew him as few men did.
Jim and Polly raised three sons, Alfred, the father of the writer, Calvin, who still lives on the old homestead, and James, who as a young man went to the State of Kansas, where he died. His descendants still live in the United States. Deacon Page also had several daughters, warm-hearted, christian women, who are all dead but one, Mrs. Calvin Patterson, now over eighty years of age, who lives at Smithville.
When Deacon Page purchased the old home at Smithville, many Chippewa Indians roamed the forests. They were spoken of as Grand River Indians, who had a trail from Smithville to the Grand River. The Deacon allowed these Indians to remain on the uncleared land, but as time went on and the land became cleared nearer to the back of the farm he had to ask them to move on. They were peaceable and quiet and never gave him any trouble. Jim’s mother who outlived two husbands, her second one, a House, lived in a separate home near her son on his farm. Here she died. Besides raising a large family the Deacon took two poor boys to raise, one Eli Doan and the other Jim Parker, who was of low mentality.
At the time of the American War Canadian men of the latter type were taken over the line, innocent of the purpose of their journey. Here they induced them to become intoxicated in which condition they were signed up in the army and when they sobered up the following day they discovered that they were soldiers in the American army. It is said that these heartless recruiters received as high as six hundred dollars for the men they secured in this way. Jim Parker was allured in this way into the American army and went through the campaign without a scratch. He received his discharge and a roll of bills which he soon gave away. He returned to his home at Deacon Page’s and furnished a great deal of fun for the men about the place. With a stick for a gun, Jim would show his audience how they charged in the army and it was well to keep out of his way, as he made it as real as possible. Fifty-five years ago July ist, Dominion Day was celebrated in Smithville for the first time, and among other features they had a Calithumpian parade. Jim Parker had a dread of Fenians and the boys were ever playing tricks on him in which Fenians usually figured. To start Jim for home at his fastest gait all that was necessary was to call Fenians.’ On the evening of the celebration, Jim was at the home of Nathaniel Hill, across the Twenty Creek from Deacon Page’s. One of the boys still dressed in his Calithumpian costume and carrying a shot-gun, came to the door of Mr. Hill’s home and asked if a man by the name of Parker was there. The girl who opened the door, scenting the fun, said that he was. “The D fool,” saidJim. “Well, I want him,” said the man with the gun, and Jim bolted for the back door, and ran for home. When visitors were leaving Deacon Page’s home Jim would say, “Well, give my best bespects to the folks at home.” Another character who worked for Deacon Page was a Scotch shoemaker, who took pride in his name, which he said was William Maxwell Gordon Drummond, which left no doubt as to his nationality. It was said that he had been an old sea pirate. He died in Smithville and was buried in the Methodist cemetery His epitaph, which he wrote himself, was as follows:
My name, my country, what are they to thee,
Whether high or low my pedigree.
Suffice it stranger, thou seest a tomb.
Thou knowest it hidesno matter whom.
And so Polly and Jim lived happily, surrounded by their children, absorbed in useful labor, and devoted to a Christian service, until Jim reached the age of sixty, when he crossed the Silent River, leaving be- hind an unblemished name to his posterity.
His wife lived to the age of 83. Polly Fisher, an aged widow and mother, peacefully slept away, sitting in her old armchair.