Near and Far – At Home in the Tay Valley - West Wind Hardwood

1800’s – Ontario, Canada

The Nielsen Family is not the only folk here at WWH that have deep roots. My great-great grandfather (maybe another great is needed), Abraham Ferrier immigrated from Kirkintilloch, Scotland with his brother (and families) in response to the British Government’s offer of free land and promises of government support – those often proved unreliable.

Jean S. McGill researched the Ferrier family. In McGill’s book, “A Pioneer History of the County of Lanark” she provides a vivid description of the economic unrest that followed the Napoleonic wars. Two years of unusual prosperity were followed by severe depression – unemployment, low farm prices, reduced demand, and political disruption. Certain areas of England and Scotland suffered particular hardship, including the western Scotland area of Paisley and Glasgow. There, the weavers were especially hurt as wages, which had peaked at 25 shillings per week in 1803, fell to ten in 1816 (and then to around five in 1819).

This depression was the direct result of the war, during which prices in Britain were driven up by reduced competition from closed borders. The weavers, who, according to McGill, practiced their trade at home, extended their hours continually as competition increased and markets dropped after the war. Coincidentally, soldiers were returning in large numbers from the war to that same region – as it had been the largest supplier of troops–and seeking employment.

Picture proudly provided by Ferrier family ~ I am told that there are 13 Ferrier’s in this photo of the Barn Raising.
Barn-raising on the farm of J.D. Moodie, Scotch Line, June 30, 1886.

In these years of growth and expansion, it was not uncommon for communities to pull together with sawing bees or grain threshing bees. You’d have eighteen men show up to saw a pile of wood into stove-wood lengths. Then you’d return the favour.

When they started building silos, there would be sixteen to eighteen men who’d come over to fill the silo with grain. There might be two or three women who would help their neighbour with the mean – they usually had sixteen to eighteen men sit down at once. The next day, the men would move on to the next farm; that way, all the work was done.

You’d also have your barn raising when the men would raise the barn. All the barns originally were just timbers on the ground. You might have stones on the corners. So it was quite a job when they had to raise the timbers. First, they’d disassemble the timbers and take the wooden pins out, and then they’d lay them out and replace whatever needed to be replaced. Then, these 45 local farmers, who had 30’ long poles with a square pike in the end (they called them pike poles), would stand in a row and push ‘til a whole wall was up. Then the tenon would slide into the mortise and they would replace the pins……’s amazing how they would fit together so well.”

Excerpt from At Home in Tay Valley –
Celebrating Our 200
th Anniversary – Perth Military Settlement 1816 – 2016 Editor, Kay Rogers – Burnstown Publishing House, Burnstown, ON

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