John W. Gilchrist
Puslinch Lake is
the name given to a beautiful piece of open water in the southwest corner of
the Township of Puslinch, in the County of Wellington,
It is situated
(3) three miles from Hespeler, (5) miles from Preston and Galt, (10) ten
According to the Ordinance map, its surface level is slightly under 1,000 feet above sea level, and 655 feet above Lake Ontario, which eventually receives the overflow, via the outlet from the lake to the Speed River, about one mile above Hespeler.
It is set in a range of hills known to geologists as the Galt Moraine. The delightful contrast that it affords to the rugged nature of many of these hills adds much to its natural charm. Viewed from some of these hills, to the east or south in the morning, or form the west when the sun is declining on a calm summer evening, is impressive and delightful. Some prefer to view the lake when the summer guests have departed and the leaves have put on their autumn colours. When the hills, and the lake also, are covered with snow, many people confess to a gloomy, depressing sensation when visiting the lake during the winter season. Those best acquainted with its charms during the summer are most impressed by the dreary contrast.
The area is
about five hundred acres of clear water, besides a body of clear water, to
the north, known as “The Little
That these lakes
once occupied higher levels is shown by the raised beaches about the shores,
especially when a hill breaks in on the shore line, the wash of the waves and
the ice has carried the material of the hill a considerable distance. These raised beaches can be conveniently
observed on the
When at that level, the overflow went south to Mill Creek, then a glacial stream, whose waters at that time eventually reached the Mississippi, so some geologists maintain. When the ice melted in the present channel to the north, the lake sank to its present level and separated from the Little Lake, and excepting for the slow growth of the vegetation about some of the shores, has presented the same surface to the sky through the unnumbered centuries since the ice receded.
The intense resistance of the ice, to the forces that finally overcame it, can be observed on the hills and the huge boulders that crown some of them, especially to the east and south, the most prominent, on the south shore, locally known as Mount Begerow.
feature of both lakes
is that while neither have a visible inlet both have an outlet, the larger, of considerable
dimensions. The inlet exists, however,
in numerous springs that with certain conditions of ice can be observed
mostly on the eastern shore of the
No springs are visible in the small lake, but its beautiful, clear water suggests their presence. It is known to be quite deep and at one time teemed with fish, especially black bass, which were popular with fishermen. It was avoided by local pleasure seekers; this sentiment was probably due to one of the earliest settlers being drowned in its waters. A large marl bed on the east shore, which seems to be gradually extending, is another interesting feature. Drainage has reduced its original level considerably.
For many years, during early spring, great numbers of suckers swarmed up the lake outlet and the Irish Creek, and though captured by many contrivances, their numbers did not seem to lessen until recently. Spearing was very popular among the youth in the vicinity.
No systematic soundings have been made on either lake, though it is known that a depth of forty feet exists in the big lake, between the Big Island and Lyon Park, and a ridge of shallow water extends north and south of the Big Island, nearly the entire distance.
Excepting for the presence of water weeds in parts of the big lake, due, some claim, to the absence of the countless waterfowl that once fed on its surface, its attractions for small boats can hardly be excelled. Owing to its islands and wooded shores, it is seldom that winds cause waves unsafe for the smallest craft. Now that it has been reserved as a bird sanctuary, there is hope that birds may return. In the meantime, enterprising summer residents have been discussing means of destroying the weed patches and some experiments will likely be made in the near future.
No known data exists as to when the first white man visited its shores, though it could scarcely have escaped discovery by the intrepid French explorers and trappers. Neither was there any indication when settlement began, or that beaver lived in its waters or about its shores, the only fur that would attract trappers in early days. In 1874, while digging a well near the south shore, human remains were encountered, encased in wood; the condition of both bones and wood indicated that they had been placed in the sandy soil a long time before. As Indians, at that time, did not use wood in burial, the remains may have been placed there by some unknown explorers. Anyway, none of the earliest settlers knew anything about it until the spade revealed the decayed bones.
At one time, the
lake formed part of the reserve granted by Governor Haldimand to the Mohawk
Indians, and would doubtless be visited by their hunters. In fact, early settlers told of a few
families of Indians camping near the Little
The few Indians seen by the earliest settlers were of a very peaceful nature. Mr. Archibald McAlister was the first born near the lake, Rear Lot 6, Concession 2. He and his brother, Alexander, played with Indian children, they talking Gaelic and the Indians their language. While playing on one occasion, a wolf sneaked out of the bush and carried off one of the first lambs produced in the little clearing. Mr. John Thomson, who settled on Lot 10, 1st Concession, used to tell of an old Indian who occasionally fished Mill Creek and excited surprise by wading into the stream , bending down, and taking a drink.
Mr. James Little, who settled north of the lake in 1838, was regularly visited by an Indian hunter and his squaw, for several seasons, who exchanged venison and baskets for flour and potatoes. As the flour, at that time, had to be carried from Galt, the trading was not likely too extensive, however, the Indians seemed to have been satisfied. Simple as these tales may appear, they would break the oppressive loneliness of early forest life and furnish a pleasant contrast to the blood curdling tales of less favoured places.
survive as to the first white man known to have lived at the lake, the most
favoured being that of a French official, of some sort, locally known as “The
Monk”, who lived in seclusion on the Big Island, about the year 1825. Surveyor Gibson commenced operations about
1830, and shortly thereafter, settlers began to arrive. As there was no prospect of further
seclusion, “The Monk” departed, leaving no historical record of whom he was
or where he came from. A small
excavation, near the southwest corner of the
Father Sandelin, assisted by members of his church,
notably Mr. Thomas Collins and the Barrett family, early pioneers in the
vicinity, had erected a small but very attractive stone church on the
originated at about this time, no less than a chest of gold, featuring a
settlement of pioneers from
In 1840, the
Presbyterians built a small log church on
In 1841, a
school was built near the present No. 11, and in 1843, another in Killean, a
mile south. A small private school was
maintained about this time by Mrs. Eagle, on
Bush paths were
mostly abandoned and the regular road allowances opened up. Much remains to be written about the
intelligent enterprise of these early pioneers. During these years, the visitors to the
lake were most likely those who could walk to it and those who liked to hunt
or fish. By the early fifties of the
last century, roads were opened and log bridges spanned the streams, and the
lake became really famous. As it was
the only extent of water between
Several small inns, or taverns as they were then called, appeared, to cater to the wants of pleasure seekers, a supply of serviceable boats being most important. To those engaged in clearing off the forest among numerous insect pests, with the intense heat of the sun pouring into the small clearings and the biting smoke of the clearing fires, the lake, with its cool breezes and shaded shores, must have been a delightful contrast. A day at the lake was enjoyed to the utmost and furnished pleasant memories, to be recalled long afterwards.
Many of the
early settlers were experienced boat men, on both salt and fresh water. A season’s sailing on the
prominent of these was a race, for Five Dollars, donated by the late David
Stirton, member of Parliament. The
race was between oarsmen from
Another larger boat, built by Mr. Holm, was large enough to take the entire congregation to the church on the island. Experiments with large boats on the lake have not always been successful.
Vast numbers of wild duck, and often wild geese, used to rest on the lake during their migration, especially on the return journey, and they were assiduously hunted. While the timber remained about its shores, there was also other game, some of which still remain. The most prominent hunter was Harry Pierce. Stories of his prowess still linger. Ten wild ducks with one shot was his record. He also preferred to bring down his game when it was on the wing.
While the deer
remained about, they were often observed bounding over the shallows to escape
the wolves. When the deer took to the
lake when frozen smooth, they often became prey to the wolves, for the hoofs
of the deer were almost useless on smooth ice. An intrepid settler, Mr. Neil Currie,
commandeered a deer from the wolves on the ice by scaring them away with a
blazing pine knot, a method he used to light his way through the bush. However welcome venison might be as a
change of diet, it is not recorded that anyone else tried this means of
securing it. The last deer that was
shot in the water was in front of
A strange grove of magnificent chestnut trees on the southeast hills has always been a puzzle to local observers. If, as some maintain, the seed was brought by Indians unknown, centuries must have passed since, for trees to have spread and flourished as these did. This variety of chestnut did not grow anywhere near. Hunters’ tales yet linger of the numerous black squirrels in these trees.
For more than a
quarter of a century, after these days, the lake was somewhat secluded, with
promiscuous gatherings on statutory holidays, and large or small picnics on
other occasions. However, in 1876, the
A change in the
license regulations caused the smaller inns to close up, and pleasure seekers
centered at the hostelry maintained by the late Alex Parks, on the site of
In 1879, Mr.
George Sleeman purchased the property now known as
novelty lasted, long strings of horse conveyances, during the summer season,
were on the roads from all points of the compass, making for the lake. These were picnics, composed of friends and
relatives, who usually went to the
There was one
notable exception, distinct and national.
That was the annual gathering of the
The first actual
settler was Mr. Alex Lamont, who purchased Lot 6 on the north shore of the
The brothers Peter and Alexander Lamont were also the first of a long procession of musicians, one, a piper, and the other, a violinist. Though never seeking publicity or prominence, they cheerfully assisted their neighbours, and many a pleasant hour they beguiled, that might otherwise have been dreary enough.
Afterwards, Piper McLellan, with his son, Malcolm, provided the indispensable music at many a gathering. The lake has always been fortunate in music; the best performers were not at all above showing their skill, either vocal or instrumental, when visiting the lake. Parties from the adjacent towns often brought skilled performers and orchestras, the most notable being maintained by the late Velton Limpert, of Hespeler, and assisted by members of the Jardine and Kribs families, who frequently visited the lake during the seventies and early eighties of the last century.
While the steamer plied the waters, the dancing was on an open platform on the island, where the dew fell heavily at night and interfered with some of the delicate instruments. Even the obliging violins would often become faint and tweaking. The dew did not effect the accordion however and an accomplished performer, Mr. August Begerow, lived on the south shore and played for scores of merry dancers with the sweetness and exactness of his race. He was sometimes assisted by local violinists, Mr. Archibald Ramsay, William Young, and Anthony Robertson. Mr. Barnard McQuillan was also the life of numerous parties.
Many of the visiting performers deserve mention if their names could be recalled. Those few now remaining, who were fortunate enough to hear the music of these delightful performances coming over the still water on a pleasant summer evening, are not likely to entertain a high regard for the raucous jazz and machine music so prominent in recent years. However, each generation has its own way, and if the members of the present generation enjoy themselves as their predecessors did, they may well be envied.
Next in importance to the music was a good floor manager, usually called “The Caller off”. Most parties would have one or more young men who could call “the mazes”. The most prominent local talents were Mr. J. J. Gilchrist and Mr. Donald McCaig, who would call an infinite variety of figure dances.
The many charms
Mr. Thos. Ellis was the first Justice of the Peace. There were few misdemeanours, an occasional small fine or reprimand serving the requirements of law and order. Mr. Ellis represented Puslinch when Wellington, Waterloo, and Grey formed a county council, in the years 1848 to 1851, and when the Wellington County Council was formed, Mr. Samuel Taylor was representative, years 1857 to 1861. Mr. Taylor had the additional distinction of possessing the first lumber wagon in the vicinity. Succeeding Justices of the Peace were Robert Little and Peter Gilchrist, both having had previous municipal experience.
With the steamer going out of commission, the time and expense of horse-drawn vehicles, as well as attractions elsewhere, the lake became somewhat secluded for some years, but the advent of the motor car changed all this, and now the lake may be considered “rediscovered”.
◄ end of document ►