“The McPhatter Letters”
“Matthew McPhatter, The McPhatter Letters”
published by the Puslinch Historical Society, 1991.
A review by Terry Crowley,
This collection of fifty-eight “letters” originated
in 1897, when Matthew McPhatter approached many older people in
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
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
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