Read APPENDIX of Canadian Crusoes A Tale of The Rice Lake Plains, free online book, by Catherine Parr Traill, on



Sarah Campbell, of Windsor, who was lost in the woods on the 11th of August, 1848, returned to her home on the 31st, having been absent twenty-one days. A friend has sent us a circumstantial account of her wanderings, of the efforts made in her behalf, and her return home, from which we condense the following statements:

It appears that on the 11th of August, in company with two friends, she went fishing on the north branch of Windsor-brook; and that on attempting to return she became separated from her companions, who returned to her mother’s, the Widow Campbell, expecting to find her at home. Several of her neighbours searched for her during the night, without success. The search was continued during Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, by some fifty or sixty individuals, and although her tracks, and those of a dog which accompanied her, were discovered, no tidings of the girl were obtained. A general sympathy for the afflicted widow and her lost daughter was excited, and notwithstanding the busy season of the year, great numbers from Windsor and the neighbouring townships of Brompton, Shipton, Melbourne, Durham, Oxford, Sherbrooke, Lennoxville, Stoke, and Dudswell, turned out with provisions and implements for camping in the woods, in search of the girl, which was kept up without intermission for about fourteen days, when it was generally given up, under the impression that she must have died, either from starvation, or the inclemency of the weather, it having rained almost incessantly for nearly a week of the time. On the 3lst her brother returned home from Massachusetts, and with two or three others renewed the search, but returned the second day, and learned to their great joy that the lost one had found her way home the evening previous.

On hearing of her return, our correspondent made a visit to Widow Campbell, to hear from her daughter the story of her wanderings. She was found, as might be supposed, in a very weak and exhausted condition, but quite rational, as it seems she had been during the whole period of her absence. From her story the following particulars were gathered:

When first lost she went directly from home down “Open Brooke,” to a meadow, about a mile distant from where she had left her companions, which she mistook for what is called the “Oxias opening,” a mile distant in the opposite direction. On Sabbath morning, knowing that she was lost, and having heard that lost persons might be guided by the sun, she undertook to follow the sun during the day. In the morning she directed her steps towards the East, crossed the north Branch, mistaking it for “Open Brooke,” and travelled, frequently running, in a south-east direction (her way home was due north) seven or eight miles till she came to the great Hay-meadow in Windsor. There she spent Sabbath night, and on Monday morning directed her course to, and thence down, the South Branch in the great Meadow.

After this, she appears to have spent her time, except while she was searching for food for herself and dog, in walking and running over the meadow, and up and down the south branch, in search of her home, occasionally wandering upon the highlands, and far down towards the junction of the two main streams, never being more than seven or eight miles from home.

For several days, by attempting to follow the sun, she travelled in a circle, finding herself at night near the place where she left in the morning. Although she often came across the tracks of large parties of men, and their recently-erected camps, and knew that multitudes of people were in search of her, she saw no living person, and heard no sound of trumpet, or other noise, except the report of a gun, as she lay by a brook, early on Thursday morning, the sixth day of her being lost. Thinking the gun to have been fired not more than half a mile distant, she said she “screamed and run” to the place from whence she supposed the noise came, but found nothing. Early in the day, however, she came to the camp where this gun was fired, but not until after its occupants had left to renew their search for her. This camp was about four miles from the great meadow, where she spent the Sabbath previous. There she found a fire, dried her clothes, and found a partridge’s gizzard, which she cooked and ate, and laid down and slept, remaining about twenty-four hours.

In her travels she came across several other camps, some of which she visited several times, particularly one where she found names cut upon trees, and another in which was a piece of white paper. Except three or four nights spent in these camps, she slept upon the ground, sometimes making a bed of moss, and endeavouring to shelter herself from the drenching rains with spruce boughs. For the two first weeks she suffered much from the cold, shivering all night, and sleeping but little. The last week she said she had got “toughened,” and did not shiver. When first lost she had a large trout, which was the only food she ate, except choke-berries, the first week, and part of this she gave to her dog, which remained with her for a week, day and night. The cherries, which she ate greedily, swallowing the stones, she found injured her health; and for the last two weeks she lived upon cranberries and wood sorrel. While the dog remained with her, she constantly shared her food with him, but said she was glad when he left her, as it was much trouble to find him food.

On Thursday of last week she followed the south towards the junction with the north branch, where it appeared she had been before, but could not ford the stream; and in the afternoon of Friday crossed the north, a little above its junction with the south branch, and following down the stream, she found herself in the clearing, near Moor’s Mill. Thence directing her steps towards home, she reached Mr. McDale’s, about a mile from her mother’s, at six o’clock, having walked five miles in two hours, and probably ten miles during the day. Here she remained till the next day, when she was carried home, and was received by friends almost as one raised from the dead. Her feet and ankles were very much swollen and lacerated; but strange to say, her calico gown was kept whole, with the exception of two small rents.

Respecting her feelings during her fast in the wilderness, she says she was never frightened, though sometimes, when the sun disappeared, she felt disheartened, expecting to perish; but when she found, by not discovering any new tracks, that the people had given over searching for her, she was greatly discouraged. On the morning of Friday, she was strongly inclined to give up, and lie down and die; but the hope of seeing her mother stimulated her to make one more effort to reach home, which proved successful. When visited, she was in a state of feverish excitement and general derangement of the system, and greatly emaciated, with a feeble voice, but perfectly sane and collected.

It is somewhat remarkable that a young girl (aged seventeen), thinly clad, could have survived twenty-one days, exposed as she was to such severe storms, with no other food but wild berries. It is also very strange that she should have been so frequently on the tracks of those in search of her, sleeping in the camps, and endeavouring to follow their tracks home, and not have heard any of their numerous trumpets, or been seen by any of the hundreds of persons who were in search for her.

A more dismal result than the deprivations endured by Sarah Campbell, is the frightful existence of a human creature, called in the American papers, the “Wild Man of the far West.” From time to time, these details approach the terrific, of wild men who have grown up from childhood in a state of destitution in the interminable forests, especially of this one, who, for nearly a quarter of a century, has occasionally been seen, and then either forgotten, or supposed to be the mere creation of the beholder’s brain. But it appears that he was, in March, 1850, encountered by Mr. Hamilton, of Greene County, Arkansas, when hunting. The wild man was, likewise, chasing his prey. A herd of cattle fled past Mr. Hamilton and his party, in an agony of terror, pursued by a giant, bearing a dreadful semblance to humanity. His face and shoulders were enveloped with long streaming hair, his body was entirely hirsute, his progression was by great jumps of twelve or thirteen feet at a leap. The creature turned and gazed earnestly on the hunters, and fled into the depths of the forest, where he was lost to view. His foot-prints were thirteen inches long. Mr. Hamilton published the description of the savage man in the Memphis Inquirer. Afterwards several planters deposed to having, at times, for many years, seen this appearance. All persons generally agreed that it was a child that had been lost in the woods, at the earthquake in 1811, now grown to meridian strength, in a solitary state. Thus the possibility of an European child living, even unassisted, in the wilderness, is familiar to the inhabitants of the vast American continent. Although we doubt that any human creature would progress by leaps, instead of the paces familiar to the human instinct. It is probable that the wild man of the Arkansas is, in reality, some species of the oran-outang, or chimpanzee.


"where Wolf Tower now stands."

The Wolf Tower is among the very few structures in Canada not devoted to purposes of strict utility. It was built by a gentleman of property as a belle vue, or fanciful prospect residence, in order to divert his mind from the heavy pressure of family affliction. It was once lent by him to the author, who dwelt here some time during the preparation of another house in the district.


"... as civilization advances."

Formerly the Rice Lake Plains abounded in deer, wolves, bears, raccoons, wolverines, foxes, and wild animals of many kinds. Even a few years ago, and bears and wolves were not unfrequent in their depredations; and the ravines sheltered herds of deer; but now the sight of the former is a thing of rare occurrence, and the deer are scarcely to be seen, so changed is this lovely wilderness, that green pastures and yellow cornfields now meet the eye on every side, and the wild beasts retire to the less frequented depths of the forest.

From the undulating surface, the alternations of high hills, deep valleys, and level table-lands, with the wide prospect they command, the Rice Lake Plains still retain their picturesque beauty, which cannot be marred by the hand of the settler even be he ever so devoid of taste; and many of those who have chosen it as their home are persons of taste and refinement, who delight in adding to the beauty of that which Nature had left so fair.


“I will now,” says our Indian historian, “narrate a single circumstance which will convey a correct idea of the sufferings to which Indians were often exposed. To obtain furs of different kinds for the traders, we had to travel far into the woods, and remain there the whole winter. Once we left Rice Lake in the fall, and ascended the river in canoes as far as Belmont Lake. There were five families about to hunt with my father on his ground. The winter began to set in, and the river having frozen over, we left the canoes, the dried venison, the beaver, and some flour and pork; and when we had gone further north, say about sixty miles from the white settlements, for the purpose of hunting, the snow fell for five days in succession, to such a depth, that it was impossible to shoot or trap anything; our provisions were exhausted, and we had no means of procuring any more. Here we were, the snow about five feet deep, our wigwam buried, the branches of the trees falling all about us, and cracking with the weight of the snow.

“Our mother (who seems, by-the-bye, from the record of her son, to have been a most excellent woman) boiled birch-bark for my sister and myself, that we might not starve. On the seventh day some of us were so weak they could not guard themselves, and others could not stand alone. They could only crawl in and out of the wigwam. We parched beaver skins and old mocassins for food. On the ninth day none of the men could go abroad except my father and uncle. On the tenth day, still being without food, the only ones able to walk about the wigwam were my father, my grandmother, my sister, and myself. Oh, how distressing to see the starving Indians lying about the wigwam with hungry and eager looks! the children would cry for something to eat! My poor mother would heave bitter sighs, of despair, the tears falling profusely from her cheeks as she kissed us! Wood, though in plenty, could not be obtained on account of the feebleness of our limbs. My father would at times draw near the fire and rehearse some prayer to the gods. It appeared to him that there was no way of escape; the men, women, and children, dying; some of them were speechless, the wigwam was cold and dark, and covered with snow!

“On the eleventh day, just before daylight, my father fell into a sleep; he soon awoke, and said to me: ’My son, the good Spirit is about to bless us this night; in my dream I saw a person coming from the east walking on the tops of the trees; he told me we should obtain two beavers about nine o’clock. Put on your mocassins, and go along with me to the river, and we will hunt beaver, perhaps, for the last time.’ I saw that his countenance beamed with delight and hope; he was full of confidence. I put on my mocassins and carried my snow-shoes, staggering along behind him about half a mile. Having made a fire near the river, where there was an air-hole through which the beaver had come up during the night, my father tied a gun to a stump with the muzzle towards the air-hole; he also tied a string to the trigger, and said, ’Should you see the beaver rise pull the string, and you will kill it.’ I stood by the fire, with the string in my hand; I soon heard the noise occasioned by the blow of his tomahawk; he had killed a beaver and brought it to me. As he laid it down, he said, ’Then the great Spirit will not let us die here;’ adding, as before, ’if you see the beaver rise, pull the string;’ and he left me. I soon saw the nose of one, but I did not shoot. Presently, another came up; I pulled the trigger, and off the gun went. I could not see for some moments for the smoke. My father ran towards me with the two beavers, and laid them side by side; then, pointing to the sun, ’Do you see the sun?’ he said; ’the great Spirit informed me that we should kill these two about this time in the morning. We will yet see our relatives at Rice Lake. Now let us go home, and see if our people are yet alive.’ We arrived just in time to save them from death. Since which we have visited the same spot the year the missionaries came among us.

My father knelt down, with feelings of gratitude, on the very spot where we had nearly perished. Glory to God! I have heard of many who have perished in this way far up in the woods. -- Life of George Copway, written by himself


... on first deciding that it was a canoe._”

The Indians say, that before their fathers had tools of iron and steel in common use, a war canoe was the labour of three generations. It was hollowed out by means of fire, cautiously applied, or by stone hatchets; but so slowly did the work proceed, that years were passed in its excavation. When completed, it was regarded as a great achievement, and its launching on the waters of the lake or river was celebrated by feasting and dancing. The artizans were venerated as great patriots. Possibly the birch-bark canoe was of older date, as being more easily constructed, and needing not the assistance of the axe in forming it; but it was too frail to be used in war, or in long voyages, being liable to injuries.

The black stone wedges, so often found on the borders of our inland waters, were used by the Indians in skinning the deer and bear. Their arrow-heads were of white or black flint, rudely chipped into shape, and inserted in a cleft stick. A larger sort were used for killing deer; and blunt wooden ones were used by the children, for shooting birds and small game.


"... the Christian mind revolts with horror."

There is, according to the native author, George Copway, a strong feeling in the Indians for conversion and civilization, and a concentration of all the Christianised tribes, now scattered far and wide along the northern banks of the lakes and rivers, into one nation, to be called by one name, and united in one purpose their general improvement. To this end, one of the most influential of their chiefs, John Jones, of Dover Sound, offered to give up to his Indian brethren, free of all cost, a large tract of unceded land, that they might be gathered together as one nation.

In the council held at Sangeeny, where were convened Indian chiefs from lakes St. Clare, Samcoe, Huron, Ontario, and Rice, and other lakes, it was proposed to devise a plan by which the tract owned by the Sangeenys could be held for the benefit of the Ojebwas, to petition Government for aid in establishing a manual-labour school, and to ascertain the general feeling of the chiefs in relation to forming one large settlement at Owen’s Sound. At this meeting forty-eight chiefs were assembled.

There is much to admire in the simple, earnest, and courteous style of the oration delivered by Chief John Jones, and will give to my readers some idea of the intelligence of an educated Indian:

“Brothers, you have been called from all your parts of Canada, even from the north of Georgian Bay. You are from your homes, your wives, and your children. We might regret this, were it not for the circumstances that require you here.

“Fellow-chiefs and brothers, I have pondered with deep solicitude our present condition and the future welfare of our children, as well as of ourselves. I have studied deeply and anxiously, in order to arrive at a true knowledge of the proper course to be pursued to secure to us and our descendants, and even to those around us, the greatest amount of peace, health, happiness, and usefulness. The interests of the Ojebwas and Ottawas are near and dear to my heart; for them I have often passed sleepless nights, and have suffered from an agitated mind. These nations, I am proud to say, are my brothers, many of them bone of my bone; and for them, if needs be, I would willingly sacrifice anything. Brothers, you see my heart.” [Here he held out a piece of white paper, emblematical of a pure heart.]

“Fellow-chiefs and warriors, I have looked over your wigwams throughout Canada, and have come to the conclusion that you are in a warm place [query, too hot to hold you]. The whites are kindling fires all round you [i.e. clearing land].

“One purpose for which you have been called together, is to devise some plan by which we can live together, and become a happy people; so that our dying fires may not go out, i.e. our people become extinct, but may be kindled, and burn brightly, in one place. We now offer you any portion of the land we own in this region, that we may smoke the pipe of peace, and live and die together, and see our children play and be reared on the same spot. We ask no money of you. We love you; and because we love you, and feel for you, we propose this.

“My chiefs, brothers, warriors. This morning” [the speaker now pointed with his finger towards the heavens], “look up and see the blue sky: there are no clouds; the sun is bright and clear. Our fathers taught us, that when the sky was without clouds, the Great Spirit was smiling upon them. May he now preside over us, that we may make a long, smooth, and straight path for our children. It is true I seldom see you all, but this morning I shake hands with you all, in my heart.

“Brothers, this is all I have to say.”


"... and aimed a knife at his throat"

The period at which these events are said to have occurred was some sixty or eighty years ago, according to the imperfect chronology of my informant. At first, I hesitated to believe that such horrible deeds as those recorded could have taken place almost within the memory of men. My Indian narrator replied “Indians, no Christians in those days, do worse than that very few years ago, do as bad now in far-west.”

The conversion of the Rice Lake Indians, and the gathering them together in villages, took place, I think, in the year 1825, or thereabouts. The conversion was effected by the preaching of missionaries from the Wesleyan Methodist Church; the village was under the patronage of Captain Anderson, whose descendants inherit much land on the north shore on and about Anderson’s Point, the renowned site of the great battle. The war-weapon and bones of the enemies the Ojebwas are still to be found in this vicinity.


"This place she called Spooke Island"

Spooke Island. A singular and barren island in the Rice Lake, seventh from the head of the lake, on which the Indians used formerly to bury their dead, for many years held as a sacred spot, and only approached with reverence. Now famous for two things, picnics and poison ivy, rhus toxicodendron, many persons having suffered for their temerity in landing upon it and making it the scene of their rural festivities.


"and nothing but fire."

The Indians call the Rice Lake, in allusion to the rapidity with which fires run over the dry herbage, the Lake of the Burning Plains. Certainly, there is much poetical fitness and beauty in many of the Indian names, approximating very closely to the figurative imagery of the language of the East; such is “Mad-wa-osh,” the music of the winds.


"but it was not so in the days whereof I have spoken."

From George Copway’s Life.

Converted Indians are thus described in the “Life” of their literary countryman, George Copway:

Chippewas of the River Credit. -- These Indians are the remnant of a tribe which formerly possessed a considerable portion of the Elome and Gore Districts, of which, in 1818, they surrendered the greater part for an annuity of 532_l._ 10_s._ reserving only certain small tracts at the River Credit; and at sixteen and twelve miles creeks they were the first tribe converted to Christianity. Previous to the year 1823 they were wandering pagans. In that year Peter Jones, and John his brother, the sons of a white by a Mississaga woman, having been converted to Christianity, and admitted as members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, became anxious to redeem their countrymen from their degraded state of heathenism and spiritual destitution. They collected a considerable number together, and by rote and frequent repetitions, taught the first principles of Christianity to such as were too old to learn to read, and with the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and Commandments, were thus committed to memory. As soon as the tribes were converted they perceived the evils attendant on their former state of ignorance and vagrancy. They began to work, which they had never done before; they recognised the advantage of cultivating the soil; they gave up drinking, to which they had been greatly addicted, and became sober, consistent, industrious Christians.

J. Sawyer, P. Jones, Chiefs; J. Jones, War-chief.

The Chippewas of Alnwick were converted in 1826-7 They were wandering pagans, in the neighbourhood of Belleville, Kingston, and Gannoyne, commonly known as Mississagas of the Bay of Quinte; they resided on Grape Island, in the Bay of Quinte, six miles from Belleville. They resided eleven years on the island, subsisting by hunting and agriculture. Their houses were erected partly by their own labour and by the Wesleyan Missionary funds; these consist of twenty-three houses, a commodious chapel and school, an infant school, hospital, smithy, shoemaker’s shop and joiner’s. There are upwards of 300 of these Indians.

The chiefs are -- Sunday; Simpson; G. Corrego, chief and missionary interpreter.

Rice Lake Chippewas. In 1818 the greater part of the Newcastle and Colburn districts were surrendered, for an annuity of 940_l_. These Indians have all been reclaimed from their wandering life, and settled in their present locations, within the last ten or twelve years. The settlement is on the north side of the lake, twelve miles from Peterborough. Number of Indians, 114; possessing 1,550 acres, subdivided in 50-acre lots.

Chiefs -- Pondash, Copway, Crow.

Deer were plenty a few years ago, but now only few can be found. The Ojebwas are at present employed in farming instead of hunting; many of them have good and well-cultivated farms; they not only raise grain, enough, for their own use, but often sell much to the whites.


"... that an outward manifestation of surprise."

A young friend, who was familiar with Indian character from frequent intercourse with them in his hunting expeditions, speaking of their apparent absence of curiosity, told me that, with a view to test it, he wound up a musical snuff-box, and placed it on a table in a room where several Indian hunters and their squaws were standing together, and narrowly watched their countenances, but they evinced no sort of surprise by look or gesture, remaining apathetically unmoved. He retired to an adjoining room, where, unseen, he could notice what passed, and was amused at perceiving, that the instant they imagined themselves free from his surveillance, the whole party mustered round the mysterious toy like a parcel of bees, and appeared to be full of conjecture and amazement, but they did not choose to be entrapped into showing surprise. This perfect command over the muscles of the face, and the glance of the eye, is one of the remarkable traits in the Indian character. The expression of the Indian face, if I may use so paradoxical a term, consists in a want of expression like the stillness of dark deep water, beneath which no object is visible.


"bracelets of porcupine quills cut in fine pieces and strung in fanciful patterns."

The Indian method of drawing out patterns on the birch bark, is simply scratching the outline with some small-pointed instrument, Canadian thorn, a bodkin of bone, or a sharp nail. These outlines are then pierced with parallel rows of holes, into which the ends of the porcupine quills are inserted, forming a rich sort of embroidery on the surface of the bark.

The Indian artistes have about as much notion of perspective, or the effects of light and shade, as the Chinese or our own early painters; their attempts at delineating animals, or birds, are flat, sharp, and angular; and their groups of flowers and trees not more graceful or natural than those on a china plate or jar; nevertheless, the effect produced is rich and striking, from the vivid colours and the variety of dyes they contrive to give to this simple material, the porcupine quills. The sinew of the deer, and some other animals, furnish the Indian women with thread, of any degree of fineness or strength. The wants of these simple folk are few, and those easily supplied by the adaptation of such materials as they can command with ease, in their savage state.


"is Mount Ararat."

Mount Ararat, the highest elevation on the Rice Lake Plains, for nearly two years the residence of the Authoress and her family.