“The McPhatter Letters”


“Matthew McPhatter, The McPhatter Letters”

published by the Puslinch Historical Society, 1991.

A review by Terry Crowley, Wellington County History, Volume 5, 1991:


This collection of fifty-eight “letters” originated in 1897, when Matthew McPhatter approached many older people in Puslinch Township and collected their memories as individual letters.


The context in which to evaluate these sources lies within great historical interest in the lives of ordinary people in the past.  These particular documents are peculiar in this regard, in that they are both submissions from rural residents and Matthew McPhatter’s recordings of what people said to him of their settlement experience.  These “letter” documents are an exceptional source where ordinary farmers talked about their life histories.  Two qualities are especially important:  both men and women relate what has happened to them; and secondly, various nationalities are included.  Notice, for instance, the testimony of Silomie Borthwick, born in County Armagh in the north of Ireland and who had “responsibility for the farm” while her husband “being a stonemason, always worked at his trade in the summer”.




An Excerpt from the McPhatter Letters:


BORTHWICK: Written by Mrs. (Charles) Silomie Borthwick


The subject of this sketch is a very old resident of Puslinch, being born in the County Armagh, in the north of Ireland and now is 88 years old.  She arrived in Puslinch with her husband in 1833 and has seen all the early days in Puslinch.  Her memory is good and she can recollect many incidents that are worth relating.


          They cleared the farm where they now live: lot 22, 3rd concession.  Her husband, being a stone mason, he always worked at his trade in summer, and Mrs. Borthwick always had the responsibility about the farm which she bought from the Crown.  They had a family of sons and daughters who grew up as time went on and were able to make home more happy.


In those early days we hauled our flour from Galt on our backs, which we did for many years after we came to Puslinch.  We were making maple sugar and molasses in those days, and we would make money by selling maple sugar and later we made cheese to sell.


In moving here, we came by what is now called Galt but then was known as an Indian settlement.  Shades Road was north of here about a mile north of our farm.


Mr. Borthwick died in the year 1866.  He was a very intelligent man and belonged to the Freemasons.


The Indians were plentiful in the early days in these parts.  They had a wigwam nearby.  They were in the habit of visiting our shanty asking for food and sometimes they would pull the turnips out of the turnip patch, roast and eat them.


The wolves were very destructive in these days and would kill the calves and lambs in the neighbourhood.  Hunting for the cows in those days was a trying job.  Sometimes I would go down to the second concession as far as Willie Blue’s farm to find them, 5 miles through the bush.



“The McPhatter Letters”

are for sale by the Puslinch Historical Society via email


or may purchased in person at the Puslinch Township Municipal Office.