A Mono Pioneer!
Orangeville Sun, October 27, 1898
A few days ago, the editor of the Shelburne Economist had the pleasure of an hour's conversation with Mrs. Alex Laidlaw, one of the first settlers of the Township of Mono. The interview took place at the home of her son John, with whom the aged lady now resides, two lots south of Primrose on the Prince of Wales Road.
Mrs. Laidlaw, whose maiden name was Margaret Frame, was born in Scotland on February 2nd, 1803, and when nineteen years of age she came to America, landing at New York, where she lived until 1825, when she married Alex Laidlaw. After two years' residence at Le Roy, New York State, they moved to Rochester, where they conducted a market garden very successfully. William Large, a brother-in-law, who had been to Toronto (or York, as it was then called), had secured 500 acres of land at what is now known as Mono Centre. Of this, 200 acres was made over to Alex Laidlaw and 100 acres to John Turnbull. It was about Christmas of the year 1832 that David Currie, having been unfortunate in the purchase of some property in the States, arrived at the Laidlaw home in Rochester with his wife and two children, on their way to Canada, and persuaded Mr. and Mrs. Laidlaw to sell their market garden property and go with them.
Mrs. Laidlaw says she was loath to do this but finally yielded. At that time she knew nothing of the wilderness of the forest, to which she was about to be removed the following spring. Between Christmas and New Year's, Mr. Laidlaw and Mr. Currie started with horses and wagon loaded with some of their best furniture, and drove around the head of Lake Ontario. It is needless to say that a change of conveyance was found necessary ere the journey was completed, and horses and wagon were sold and oxen and sleigh procured, however, in due time they arrived safely at Mono Centre and started on the task of making homes for themselves. In the spring of the following year they returned to Rochester for their wives and families, arriving back at Mono Centre on May 1st, 1833, and receiving a warm welcome from the families of the Messrs. Henry, Turnbull, Rogers, Lundy, Patterson and a few others who had arrived previously. From Mono Mills the women and children were compelled to walk and drive a cow, and Mrs. Laidlaw told of her first experience in "The Devil's Glen" - as even at that early date it was so designated by the letters carved on the bark of a tree. Before arriving at Mr. Henry's, they came to a tavern kept by one O'Shea, which had the usual primitive outfit of whiskey and a tin cup.
At Mr. Henry's, the children were given their first treat of Canadian maple sugar and syrup, and they enjoyed it greatly. Mr. Laidlaw's family at that time consisted of three children and an adopted child, now Mrs. McNaughton of Orangeville. Soon they were in their new home and engaged in the arduous tasks of the early settlers. One day, while Mr. Laidlaw was absent on an errand, their log house took fire and was burned to the ground, together with the contents and a considerable sum of money. This was a great misfortune which the kindness of neighbors only partially alleviated, but soon another humble dwelling was reared on the Laidlaw homestead. Indians were occasionally seen in the neighborhood and the loss of the Horning and Van Meer children from the Horning's Mills settlement was the cause of great consternation.
The Horning's Mills settlers passed Mono Centre on their journeying's to and from the front, and Mr. Laidlaw's was frequently made a stopping place by these people. Mrs. Wm. Silk, sr., the 98 year old lady who resides with her daughter, Mrs. Rich Slack, of Melancthon, and to whom references was made in last year's Christmas Number of the Economist, is well known to Mrs. Laidlaw, the former having frequently stopped with her. The first Sunday school at Mono Centre was held in Mr. Turnbull's kitchen, and the first Presbyterian preacher to hold service was a Rev. Mr. McIntosh, who was stationed at Niagara, but who came into the settlement on foot to Mr. Henry's house, where the first preaching service was held. Some years after, when it was proposed to erect a Presbyterian church, Mr. Laidlaw gave an acre of land for that purpose.
Mrs. Laidlaw is in good health in mind and body and moves quite smartly. As we sat in her presence while she recalled the celebration in her native village of Kilbride over Wellington's victory at the battle of Waterloo and the capture of Napoleon Bonaparte, we were impressed with the marvelous powers of mind and body possessed by her. These were matters of yesterday, but events that transpired so long ago that few who lived at that time are living now to relate them. She remembers the ringing of the church bells, the illuminations, the gathering of the crowds, and the fact that this night, contrary to all rules of the Frame home, she and her brother remained out until a late hour, without reproof of any kind.
Mrs. Laidlaw has been living in Mono nearly 66 years, and never lived off the farm until about three years ago. Her grandson, Mr. Herbert Laidlaw, is now the occupant of the old homestead, which is known as "Craiglea." There are three surviving sons, Alexander of Toronto; William, at Fort Francis; John, at Primrose; and one daughter, Mrs. Wilson, at Fort Francis. She has 43 grandchildren, 31 great grandchildren and 3 great great grandchildren.
Originally published by the Orangeville Sun, October 27, 1898
Courtesy of Dufferin Museum & Archives
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