We would haul the
treadmill outside the barn doors and put the front end up on a bench that was
made for that purpose to give it a slope, the steeper the slope, the faster it
would go and the horse would have to walk faster. The bigger the horse the
better. Then we put on a big wheel. This wheel was about five or six feet in
diameter, then a long belt to the thresher that was on the barn floor. This was
not a modern machine. It was just a series of pins set in a couple of rollers
but it knocked the grain out of the stock. Then we had to fan it with what they
called a fanners. This was run by hand and it blew the husks off the kernel.
This was hard work and I tried to steer clear of this job if I could.
Then sawing the winter's wood was another great day. The
same procedure was taken with the tread mill except we had a saw instead of a
thresher. This was far from modern but this was some sixty years ago. In later
years Uncle Jack got what was known as a gasoline engine. I had long since left
Mann's Mountain, but someone told me he nearly came to grief one day. He played
with it as a kid plays with a new toy. It seems he took the cylinder out and
fooled around awhile, then he put it back and forgot to put the bolt back and
that connected it to the crank shaft.
engines developed about 2½ horsepower, they had two massive wheels, one
on each side, with a handle on one side that went into a groove when the
machine started. lie gave the wheels a turn, the spark plug fired, the cylinder
shot out like a cannon ball and went right through the barn wall. If anybody
had been there he would have been killed for sure. Uncle Jack found out that a
gasoline engine was no plaything and he left it alone after that. We got along
fine, Uncle Jack and I. He seemed to like me and had great patience with me.
Earsal and Hanley and myself were still having a ball and we were straying
farther away, even to Matapedia and coming home later every night, so my
Grandmother and Aunt Annie were worried, but this went on for some time. One
day they told me if I didn't come in earlier they would lock me out. A couple
of nights after that we went to Matapedia and stayed till the wee hours in the
morning. We got a ride home with a fellow that was going our way and he brought
us home, when I arrived home the door was locked. The boys said: "Lets go over
to our place and sleep in our hay loft." As our driver was quite drunk by now
we carried him into the barn and buried him in the hay and dove in ourselves.
Now this was a winter night and cold.
The hay was like ice
and we nearly froze to death. We were treambling and our teeth was chattering.
It was a lesson for us but a hard one for me. Not long after that one morning I
went to the barn to do the chores. I felt awfully queer and so weak I could
hardly stand up. I went back into the house and told my Grandmother I was sick.
She felt my head and told me: "You have a fever, go right to bed." After awhile
my Grandmother, my Aunt Annie and Uncle Jack came along too, they were quite
concerned. They looked at my throat and tongue and diagnosed my case as a
bealing throat and I am sure that is what it was and I was very ill for a
couple of weeks. Aunt Annie and Grandmother looked after me with great care and
kindness and nursed me back to health. When I was feeling better I left Mann's
Mountain and went home. A few years after my wife and 1 went up there to pick
berries but things were changed, the boys were gone and so were those lovely
twins, and I left Mann's Mountain for ever. I was there only one summer and one
winter but I learned to love the place and the people and still have a place in
my heart for those farms and hills. I understand all the people have moved
away. My Grandfather's house has burned down and all the other buildings have
been torn down and taken away.
Uncle Jack has since
passed on and Aunt Annie moved to the foot of the hill. The twins got married
and moved elsewhere. I always hoped to see them again but I never did. Where
the boys went I do not know except to say I saw in the local paper where Earsal
had passed on. I suppose that Plann's Mountain is a wilderness now and the
fields have grown over with trees, and where once you could hear the voices of
people at work and children at play and the noise of the mill, now only silence
broods over those once beautiful farms. Let us leave it so.
ago barn framing was a dying art but a good framer was still in great demand.
Young men were not just learning the trade anymore. He showed great skill and
was proud of his craft and with a few simple tools he plied his trade. His
tools were a measure stick, a broad axe, a whip saw, chisel, a peeve and chalk
line and of course three men and a horse. They would go into the bush as this
work was generally done there. First they would pick a suitable place for their
whip saw pit. The best place for this was on the side of a little hill or
knoll, so they would not have to roll the logs
Then they would build a bench by sinking two posts
in the ground and cutting them off about seven feet above the ground, then
placing a log on top from post to post, then three logs were extended from the
bank to the bench, then a few small logs were placed to make a platform for the
top man to stand on and the pit was finished. I had the occasion to see two
whip saw men at work on one of these pits. It was hard work and no job for a
weakling. As there was no shortage of timber in those days, the framer could
take any tree he chose. They cut as many logs as they thought they would need,
then haul them to the top of the knoll where they could roll them out on the
skids to the front of the saw pit. Before they start to saw they must flatten
the log where it crossed the three skids, then strike a line along the log that
is to be sawed. The top man will guide the saw along this line. A whip saw is
about seven feet long and ten inches in the middle and tapering to a handle at
each end, at right angles to the saw. If I remember correctly, it only sawed
going down. When they had one slab sawed they turned the log, flat side down
and so on till they had a four square timber, then sawed them to the right
dimension, working from dawn to dusk.
It was surprising
the amount they could saw.
Now for the barn. The framer
used a ten or twelve foot measure stick. He would lay it off where the studding
and corner posts would be. He cut little marks with his jack knife. The
studding will be perhaps six feet in between for horizontal boarding, for
vertical, ten feet, as there would be a beam or girt running crosswise about
half way up the wall frame. The studding mortise was four by four inches and
two inches deep. The corner ones were bigger and deeper. When the framer had
this laid out and marked, one man would chisel the mortise out, another would
make the tenon, then the framer would lay this measure stick aside and get a
new one. For the windows, doors and braces he may have one for each individual
job. All this does not seem to be very complicated but it was not as easy as it
looked. Not many men on the Restigouche could frame a barn.
Some of these buildings were huge with many braces and
cross beams. Sometimes stock and hay barns were in one building and a hay loft
over the top of the stable. This helped to keep the animals warm, but this
would further complicate the framing.
Bear in mind that
this was all done in the bush with a few simple tools and no plans except
perhaps a sketch the framer would draw himself. He and the owner would consider
the size of the building and the style, the framer would have a picture in his
mind. Even so it was quite a chore. This work had to fit when they started to
raise the barn or they would be in trouble.
I recall a
little story of two framers who were jealous of each other. One fellow went
over one night to where his rival was framing. He cut a bit off the measure
stick. He never could understand what happened when he started to raise his
When the mortise and tenon work was complete, the
lumber was hauled to where the barn was to be built and put in proper order so
there would be no confusion when they started to assemble the parts. Now they
are ready for the barn raising. The owner would plan a day when he could get
plenty of help. It would have to be a week day because people didn't like to
work on the Sabbath. He would enquire around and gather a few fellows who would
be glad to give him a hand. The women folk, with a little help from the
neighboring women, would prepare dinner that would please these hungry men.
Dinner would be served at noon as they usually did in
those days. Roast pork, roast beef, chicken or whatever was decided on.
Delicious homemade bread, pies, cakes and jam would be on the bill of fare.
Calories was an almost unknown word, so they had nothing to worry about. This
would be a gathering as well as a barn raising. The neighboring men would
arrive early in the morning. Perhaps there would be ten men or so. The framer
would get busy placing them. Some would carry the material, others would
assemble the walls. This was done on the ground and the complete frame was put
together and holes bored and pins driven through, then all hands would lift the
wall. They would use pike poles when it got too high, then put temporary braces
till they got the four walls up, then no braces were needed. To place the
rafters they would build a staging. If it was not too big they could finish the
framing in one day. The boarding could be done by a couple of men. Sometimes
the walls would be boarded in before it was raised. Of course that only applied
to a small barn. The shingles on the roof were split shingles. This was done by
cutting cedar blocks about two feet long and splitting off slabs with a knife
called a fro, a special knife made by a blacksmith.
very thick and strong. It was held by one man, another man hit it with a wooden
mallet. If these shingles were laid correctly, they were quite waterproof. Only
the boards and shingles were nailed.
These were square cut iron nails and could be
made by a blacksmith. The frame had no nails. As there were few sawmills on the
Restigouche River the farmers found this was the only way to build their barns.
Some can still be seen today. Gradually things changed, sawmills came into use.
When I was a boy they still built framed barns. I have seen these barns and
admired the workmanship, but I have never seen one being framed. On my
Grandfather's farm on Mann's Mountain all his buildings were done by hand.
Even after the sawmills were being used more extensively,
the farmers thought the frame barn was the best. The whip saw, the broad axe
and the fro can be seen in the museum, but the barn framer had gone into
As you know I had
three uncles on my mother's side of the family, Jack, Bill and Marcellus and
because that name was so long they called him 'Son'. Uncle Jack was the one
that I remember best. He was a carpenter and sled maker. One fall my father was
away to the lumber camp, we were alone, so he came to live with us for the
winter. He fixed a workshop over our storehouse and water house as we got our
water from a brook that came into the building by a waterspout and went out the
other side. That is where we spent many happy hours, building little water
mills and playing at the spout, but let's get back to Uncle Jack. Jack was a
very close man with money, or to be more exact, he was plain
One day he said to me and a couple of my brothers
and my cousin Howard who lived next door to us: "Boys, said Uncle Jack, I will
give you ten cents apiece if you will carry in the rest of the wood that is
outside." As the wood was cut in the fall and hauled in long lengths to the
yard then sawed into stove wood, and it was our job to bring it in anyway, we
thought what a bargain - ten cents for carrying in our own wood. It seemed to
us quite a big job but in about one half hour we were finished and went
upstairs in the workshop to get our pay from Uncle Jack. He looked at us for a
long minute as though he hadn't heard us right, then one of us spoke up and
said: "Don't you remember you said you would give us ten cents if we carried in
the wood?" Then he seemed to remember and reached into his hip pocket and took
out a pigs bladder bag with a drawstring in the top, opened it up and looked
inside, then thought a little more, figuring out how he could get out of this
scrape, then he had the perfect solution, and with a sad expression on his face
said: "I have no change now but I'll tell you what I'll do, I will give you an
order on Mr. McCracken for some sweeties." We didn't know what an order was but
we had no choice but to agree. Now Mr. McCracken kept a little store down the
road a mile or so.
We started for there and when we told
Mr. McCracken that Uncle Jack had given us an order for some candy, he said:
"don't know your uncle and I never heard of any order." We went back to the
shop and told Uncle Jack what Mr. McCracken had said, he looked puzzled a
moment said: "Well, well, a strange man is Mr. McCracken. " That seemed to
settle that. However that is not the end of the story. We swore vengeance. Now
as I said Uncle Jack was a sled maker and we thought of a way to get even. He
had just finished painting a beautiful new hand sled, so we waited our chance
and it came a day or so later. We called the boys together and planned just
what would do. Then we had perfect crime. We brought the sled downstairs
without anyone seeing us, carried it back into the swamp, that was not far
away, and with the axe which we remembered to bring along for that purpose, we
broke that beautiful piece of handiwork into small pieces and hid them as best
we could. It was a perfect act of vandalism. Uncle Jack searched high and low
for that sled. He even accused someone of stealing it, but as far as he was
concerned, it disappeared without a trace. That the only act of vandalism I
ever did in my life and I still wonder why we would do such a thing to Uncle