The Old Old Trail is Winding

     Remember the old song “There’s along, long trail a-winding into the land of my dreams?” It is now the “Old, Old Trail” and it still winds, and takes us back to the old home area at Stokes Bay. To keep our memory green, and maybe the memory of a few others who remember us, we shall make a few notes of our trip back there in early summer.

     There is always a trip back to “Little Egypt” where Murrays, Martins and McCulloghs lived in our early days. In earlier times there were McLeods, McKinnons, Adams, and closer to Swan Lake, the Hillyers. They - the Hillyers, are still there. Of the Murray family the only one left in Stokes Bay is Mrs. Vincent Elliott, our sister, and Jeanne lives in California, and then there is “Yours Truly,” in Lindsay - that is, Town of. There are no other Murrays or McIvers left.

     By the way, the name “Little Egypt” came from the Bible Gen. 42, verse 5, and in Acts 7, -11 - 12. The settlers there were no doubt so glad to see their first crops flourish that they called it “Little Egypt”. There was truly corn in Egypt! It could refer to any grain or crop.

     The farm to the North of the Murrays was owned by the John Martins, and in our young days only Mrs. Martin and son Murdock lived there. They later moved into Stokes Bay, where Murdock built the house across the river, now owned by McArthurs. To the north of the Martins was once the property of our great grandfather, Malcolm McIver – known as “Malcolm-the-bone”. This piece of land is now owned by his great, great granddaughter, Jeanie Colton of Brantford. Jeanie wants to keep it the way it is, unless the beavers turn it into a lake. They are certainly working on it.

     There are few signs of any buildings left today. They are either burned down, or torn down. The site of the Murray house on the hillside, is completely overgrown with trees and briers. But on the hillside yellow iris grow every year. (In Scotland I noticed that yellow iris grew in profusion along many streams and rivers.) Across the road from the original Angus Murray home, was my father’s first farm. The house was a large log structure covered inside and out with wide boards. There was also a big log barn and stables.

     There I was born and lived until I was six years old. When it was time for us to go to school at Stokes Bay, our father sold the farm to Lyman Pacey, and bought the hundred acres belonging to the Wyborn family, just south of Grandfather McIver's farm, now owned by Doug McLay. The Brown family own the old home. (Grandfather’s place)

     When the farm was sold we moved across the road into Grandmother Murray’s place for the summer, Dad’s old home. The house was ell-shaped, and of course, all log. There were two rooms downstairs and two bedrooms. Upstairs was all one room with a window that opened out like a little door. We were quite intrigued by it.

     It was a happy summer for us there, and we remember the moon coming up and to our young eyes, it looked big as a wash tub. I guess that was another reason for calling that spot “The Valley of the Moon” as some romantic soul dubbed it.

     Our other grandmother, Mrs. John McIver, was impatiently awaiting our move into our new home near her. I remember she and her two sisters, (who to our eyes were great ladies, visiting from the States,) coming out to see us. It was a mile and a half through the bush, and the visiting aunts were a little scared, and put out, too, to find us living in the wilds. Before they left they emptied their purses of change and gave it to us. All that shiny silver! We were not old enough to appreciate money – and there was no corner store!

     That summer we remember a boy and girl coming in one evening, and then staying all night with us. They were Russell and Christabel Boyle. They were on their way home to Miller Lake from Lion's Head, and as evening came on they were afraid to proceed further. I remember Christabel shared my bed, and Russell slept with John. Company was a big thrill for us to have someone stay all night. Nobody cared whether the bedroom was posh or not – welcome was the main idea.

     Down the road from the house was a large flowing spring where McCullogh’s geese came to swim and puddle. We were scared to death of them as they seemed to have a thing about us and took after us when ever we came in sight. We were always careful to take a quick look before we got near the spring.

     The Martin house was occupied by the Johnathan Hill family at onetime. I think Mrs. Hill was a former Mrs. Shaw, and her children were Clara, Ruby and Wilfred. The last two went to school with us at Stokes Bay. Mr. Hill was an Englishman and said to be "very well read." I know they were out there at the time of the great flu epidemic. I remember we were all sick, and they came to see us and sat on a snowbank and talked to us through a window. We were so happy to see them as no one would visit anyone with the flu. We thought we were going to be locked up forever. Other tenants at the Martin house were the Ed Rouse family and we think a Bestward family also lived there. There could be others. We believe that considerable property out there now belongs to the Budvet family.

     Mr. Budvet had wonderful stories to tell about Russia and we wish we could remember them. One story concerned his uncle, who was a well-known doctor in the city where they lived. When called to see a patient, the doctor would be bundled up in furs in his sleigh, and his driver would stand up in the sleigh and lash the horses on to greater speed, and as Mr. Budvet put it “the vind vould be streaming through his viskers.” And the driver would be shouting “make way for Budvet, make way for Budvet!” Honest, that's all we remember. His was a life that should have been written up, as one who had real tales to tell of hardships on the Bruce Peninsula. He and his lady have all gone to rest now, but his family have all done well.

     Will the old ways and old trails all disappear or should we give heed to Isaiah 58, verse 12, “And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shall raise up the foundation of many generations, and thou shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.”

     We promise that we shall not write one more word about the Old Old Trail!

Pages 21 - 23 of Old Timers’ Tales
A History of Stokes Bay and Area
(Bruce Peninsula)
By Helene Scott