Eagles And Vultures Once Flew Around Mississippi Lake by Howard Brown, from the Carleton Place Canadian, December 22, 1955

“The Canadian is fortunate in receiving a number of articles from Howard Brown of Ottawa concerning early hunting and fishing stories around Carleton Place.  The series includes one on the first game club, deer hunting, bird protection, Mississippi fishing, the beaver, wildcat and lynx, introduction of pickerel to the Mississippi.  The first article follows:

 Hunting and Fishing Stories of our Grandfathers

Lanark and Renfrew counties, well supplied with woods, lakes and marshes, have a record as a favourite fishing and hunting district which antedates their first English speaking settlement.  Referring to the immediate neighbourhood of Carleton Place, William Bell, pioneer Lanark County pastor and an observant man if not an experienced fisher or hunter, wrote soon after his 1817 arrival at Perth:

“The Mississippi Lake, its length about 12 miles and its breadth varying from four miles to half a mile, affords an abundance of fish for the settlers in the neighbourhood, who kill them with spears in great numbers in the spring when ascending the river to spawn.  Some of the islands in the lake are still inhabited by Indians, whose hunting ground is on the north side and who are far from being pleased with the encroachments our settlers are making on their territories.

The animals most troublesome to the farmers are squirrels, brown and grey, equally destructive to crops both in fields and gardens.  They do most mischief in the spring by taking the seed up out of the ground.  I have seen a field of Indian corn entirely ruined by them so that it was necessary to plant it a second and even a third time.  The number killed by some farmers in a year almost exceeds belief.  There is another species called the black squirrel but it seems scarce, being seldom taken.

Of birds there are many kinds.  The principal are eagles, vultures, owls, night hawks, fish hawks, cranes, geese, wild ducks, partridges, snow birds, teal, wild pigeons, blackbirds, thrushes, larks and various other kinds.  The wood pigeons pass to the northward in the spring and return in the fall in immense numbers.  Great numbers of them are taken in nets, but they are more frequently shot, and are generally found to be fat and good eating.  When they happen to alight upon a field they scarcely leave a grain, if not disturbed.”

The story of these famous clouds of passenger pigeons, which usually frequented wooded regions rather than farmers’ fields and which, at 40 cents a pair, were still sold on the Ottawa market in the 1870’s, is well known.  After wanton whole sale killing they were exterminated from the continent to the last bird.  Some larger fur bearing animals, such as the marten and fisher, the lynx and the otter, soon retreated in these counties, like the Indians themselves, before the axe and the plough.

 First Game Protective Club:

 Forty years after the white man had settled in the local scene to dispossess the North American Indian, the second generation in this area, had begun to lessen the seeming abundance of some useful wild animals and birds to a point at which a local Game Protective Club was undertaking enforcement of existing legislation (19-20 Vic. C, 94) for their preservation.  An 1859 Carleton Place announcement gave notice that a sportsmen’s club, composed of persons resident in this and adjoining townships and prepared to prosecute and punish breaches of the game laws “exists in this village as some unseasonable slaughters of game may yet learn to their cost.  The Club has thought proper to offer a reward of $5 to be paid by the Treasurer of the club to any person giving such information as shall ensure the conviction of offenders.  The company have also employed a Lawyer to conduct their business and attend to the prosecution of all parties complained of without respect of persons.”

 The seasons of prohibited hunting still left a six months open deer and moose season from August to January, six months of grouse or partridge hunting from September to February, and gave no protection for waterfowl beyond an eleven week closed season from mid-April to the end of July for “Wild Swan, Goose, Duck of kinds known as Mallard, Grey Duck, Black Duck and all kinds of Teal.”

 An 1862 visitor observed: “There are few villages in the interior, off the main streams the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa, that can rival Carleton Place in scenery and we know of few places where a day or two’s fun can be better appreciated than up on the Mississippi Lake.  In fact fishing and hunting has become almost an institution among the inhabitants and the fame of the Mississippi Pike and Ducks and we may add Deers or Dears, has reached distant sections of the Front.”

 The Game Protective Club, interested chiefly in increasing the deer population, became the Lanark and Renfrew Game Protection Society, as formally constituted at a March 1861 meeting of district deer hunters at Pakenham, home town of the then retired Andrew Dickson, prominent as a deer hunter as well as in Eastern Upper Canada public affairs. 

Cases of convictions for winter killing of deer in the closed season were cited at the Society’s meetings.  “A Law Abiding Hunter” wrote to the deer-hunting editor of the Carleton Place Herald at the end of the 1861-62 season:

 “It is estimated that upwards of 700 deers were butchered on the crust last winter and spring in the Counties of Lanark and Renfrew, and that about 150 deer have been killed in these counties in the past year during the time allowed by law.  In settlements where liquor can be procured the most of the venison that the Indians kill is sold to procure whisky.  It is stated that one Indian, who stopped near Arnprior, killed no less than 90 deers on the crust last winter and spring – a crime.”

Early court records of deer hunting in the two counties were not limited to cases for deterring hunting out of season.  Others concerned appropriation of hounds or of the hunter’s quarry.  In an 1865 trial at Almonte dealing with an October deer hunt at White Lake, magistrates James Rosamond and John Menzies, after hearing many witnesses, dismissed a charge based on the information and complaint of a Pakenham resident to the effect that James Poole, W. Morphy and James Cram of Carleton Place “did with force of arms take and carry away one deer the property of John McManagle.”  The implication of the decision seemed to be that hunters stationed at a lakeshore in shooting and attempting to keep possession of deer which had been run out by another hunting party did so at their peril.

Remarkably large packs of dogs were maintained by some deer hunters.  Andrew Dickson, ex-sheriff of the United Counties and onetime warden of the Provincial penitentiary at Kingston, was once reported to be the owner of over thirty.  In the same period large numbers were kept by James Poole of Carleton Place.  A granddaughter’s account of Andrew Dickson’s last farewell to hunting and to his dogs is given in Senator Andrew Haydon’s Pioneer Sketches in the District of Bathurst.

     The scene is in 1868 at the Dickson home in Pakenham :

“The last time I saw my grandfather was just a week before he died.  The dogs had broken out of their kennels and rushed into the house, Sport, the favourite, on the bed, the place of honor, earned by years of devotion, and the other dogs with noses resting on the quilt, and on the gray old plaid they had so often followed.  The tears ran down his face, but he beckoned to me.  I took the whistle, which I could hardly use for crying, I led the way to the kennel, but Sport would not come.”

     In the early 1880’s the district game supply and the hunting restrictions both continued to be generous to the hunter.  A pair of hunters are reported returning to Carleton Place from a five week deer hunt in which they shot forty deer, followed by an advertisement “Good Venison for Sale,”  James Presley opposite the Methodist Church, Carleton Place.  Moose in the Upper Ottawa were meeting a similar onslaught which they could less readily withstand.  A Carleton Place “Protect the Moose” editorial May 1887 said:

     “Steps are being taken to have the Governments enforce more stringently the laws for the protection of this noble game.  As an instance of the terrible slaughter of moose deer that has gone on in the Upper Ottawa this season, it is mentioned that Montreal man who hunted on the Mississippi River killed 27.  A Pembroke man killed 40.  It is computed that all the carcasses would weight 53,600 pounds.  The Montreal man killed his moose during the legal season, but his companion killed during month of March and is reported to be killing yet.”

     Restrictions following 1887 included in the case of deer a season limit of 3 to 5 per person depending on the size of the hunting party with a season opening November 15th.

    

 

 

 

 

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