Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sutherland’s: A “Truly Happy Community”

Upper Canada Militiaman 1837-1838

The Upper Canada rebellion had consequences for Thomas Sutherland and his community. While it was a time of significant stress, he also profited financially, renting at least two properties to Her Majesty’s Troops (who later had to pay repairs to the tune of 14 pounds, 5 shillings). It also seems likely he made money feeding and watering (or wining) the troops. In exchange, they enhanced the community’s lively social life. From a letter dated Sutherland, Moore, River St. Clair, 5th March, 1839:

…I was told, in Toronto, “you are going to the land of Swamps and Indians”—I found it that of smiling Farms, good old English faces, and good old English hospitality….. The River St. Clair with a rapid current and clear green waters, winds through high and picturesque banks from Port Sarnia to its entrance into the Lake. The whole distance, with the exception of a reserve of 4 miles for the Indians, consists of flourishing farms, with here and there a pretty English cottage, breaking the uniformity of the rude but comfortable log house…..

….Most truly does the motto of the Albion, “caelum, non animum mutant,” &c. [those who run across the sea change their sky but not their state of mind] apply to the English part of Canada; loyalty burns in every heart, hospitality reigns in every family, and now that little temporary quiet has again revisited it, happiness beams in every face.

The officers of the Volunteer Corps assembled under Col. Wright, hastened to take advantage of the opportunity to give a Ball and supper. I was really surprized [sic] on entering the room to find it tastefully decorated with evergreens, and with the Union Jack and the Ensign of Old England hanging in graceful folds around it; much less did I expect to see such a numerous assembly of pretty and well dressed women; I had seen nothing of the kind since I had left home and fancied myself once more in merry old England, enjoying her winter revels. The dance was gaily kept up till daylight, when we all entered our sleighs and drove home.

The week after, a wedding took place near us, and after the pretty blushing bride had received the nuptial benediction, we sat down to an excellent dinner where, as on similar occasions, the glass and joke passed merrily round, until we were summoned to the ballroom, where we were soon engaged in threading the mazes of the gay quadrille; then came the supper—that glorious termination of a well spent day—and with it the song and blessings on the twain that day made one, and then the heartfelt “Hip, hip hurrah,” and then to bed and they to bliss.

Hardly had we resented from our previous pleasures when the gallant Colonel who commands the frontier gave a dinner party to the officers of his corps, followed in the evening by a ball; and here let me pause to expatiate on the feed; the cooking was worthy of an artiste; and long shall I revel in memory on the inimitable curry, the fish and venison.—The ball was delightful; the music good; all gay and goo humored; and until three o’clock, with the pleasing interruption of an excellent supper, we danced and sang and sang and danced.

Capt. Fisher, the worthy adjutant of the regiment, then took up the ball; and as he excels in the field, so was he found a “trump” in the ball-room. All his anxiety was to promote the hilarity of the evening, and what with his good music, good wine, and hearty welcome, not to omit excellent supper, he amply succeeded. At three o’clock we separated, to wish to return again.

Several more parties are, I understand, talked of, though not yet decided upon; and thus, in enjoying themselves in causing enjoyment to others, does this truly happy community pass its winter. There is none of the cold formality or starched ceremony of would-be great people; a hearty welcome a spare bed, and a set at the mahogany, or, rather, black walnut, await you wherever you go: and for myself, I can only say, that I came here a stranger, and was received as a friend.

No comments:

Post a Comment