A History of the Rice Lake Indians by Mary Jane Muskratte Simpson
The story of a Lake
This has been the story of a Lake; whispered gently by lapping waves to the hearing ears of the earliest inhabitants who floated nimbly on its bosom in frail craft of birch-bark. The lake tells of bewildered voyageurs, of Champlain on the last lap of his historic raid; it thunders its disapproval of wars among the tribes, each decade bringing its change; the coming of the white man, the depletion of the forests, the ruthless slaughter of game, grunting its disapproval of the lowering of nets into its bowels to enmesh game fish. "You were content in taking one at a time," it whispered hoarsely. And speaking of the old superstitions, which always die hard, giving place to modern ethics.
Rice Lake flows diagonally, separating the counties of Northumberland and Durham, and derived its name from the abundance of the cultivated black rice which grew in the shallow parts of the lake. It is twenty-eight miles long, with an average width of three miles. Tributaries are the Otonabee River and the Indian River; it empties into the Trent River near Hastings. There are twenty-seven islands; of which Long Island, near Bewdley, is the largest, it contains about 200 acres. The smallest is Little Grape Island at the head of the lake, this is about twenty-five by thirty feet, on which grows one lone gooseberry bush.
The story is told of a pioneer settler, Mr. Rubidge, after whom Rubidge Street in Peterborough is named. He loved to fish from this little island, and the Ojibways of Hiawatha gave him the Indian name of "Zhaw-boomin", meaning "gooseberry"; He had a family of four or five girls who were known to the Indians as "zhaw-boomin-equassug", the Gooseberry Girls. One of them later married Reginald Drayton of Gore's Landing.
A reserve of the Chippewa is on the north shore, and on the south shore are the Chippewa of Alderville. Before the days of railways and good roads, this was the main route of travel. Large side-wheeled steamers plied between Hastings on the Trent and Peterborough on the Otonabee and carried passengers and freight between various points where the Government had built wharves. Huge flatboats or scows were snubbed alongside or towed behind these boats and carried freight, wood, and cattle. Some of the earliest boats on the lake were The City of Peterborough, a side-wheeler; the Rainbow, owned by Frank Burnet of Birdsalls; the Beaver, Tom Harris of Gore's Landing; the Monarch, the North Star, the Geneva, Golden Eye, and the Forest City. Many of these were piloted by members of the Harris family of Gore's Landing. Smaller steamers were owned and operated; the Firefly by Zack White, and one by James Wedlock of South Monaghan.
The social life of the surrounding district centred about the lake. Boats were chartered and picnics were held at Hiawatha on Dominion Day each year, and farmers' picnics were held at Jubilee Point and Idyl Wyld. On the inevitable scow in tow square dancing was enjoyed by the younger folk to the music of Albert Crowe's violin. Canoe races and baseball games were a popular source of entertainment; moonlight excursions were also much enjoyed. A picnic that was unique was held each year in September on Sugar Island owned by the Alderville people, who camped there during the autumn harvest of black rice. Tables were erected, and meals served to the public. Special items on the menu were wild black duck, fish, and black rice pudding. Frank Joblin, missionary at Alderville, visited the island each Sunday bringing services to his congregation.
In some of its moods the lake was vindictive and cruel, as each year it took its toll by drowning, natives and immigrants alike. Some of those who lost their lives by drowning in this past century were; James Simpson, Louis Gray, Francis Smoke, Allan Simpson, Ephraim Chase, Smith Tobico, and Alex Comego of Alderville, Brooken Crowe of Hiawatha. November 7th, 1913 Johnny Muskrat, aged 34, was drowned off Hiawatha; Delbert Smoke of Alderville in 1934. Huron Brant, a Mohawk of Hagersville drowned in Rice Lake in 1940. A triple drowning of three Alderville people happened at Healy Falls on the Trent in 1939; Francis Beaver, aged 39, his son, a child of eight, and Francis Baise. One of the most tragic accidents occurred in 1890 when three members of the Foote family were drowned.
Mr. and Mrs. John Foote and their small daughter had come out from England in a sailing vessel and settled at Hiawatha on the farm of Charles Anderson. A small picnic party started out gaily one day in a sailing boat owned and piloted by Ossie Cragg, a shopkeeper. A gust or squall came up suddenly and completely overturned the boat. John Foote, his eighteen-year-old daughter Jennifer and another three-year-old daughter were all drowned. Robert Cowie proved a hero. He was able to save the rest of the party but was unable to save the Footes who had been trapped by the sails; Robert Cowie was awarded a gold medal for bravery.
Another act of heroism was recorded in 1907 when Madden Howard, a guide of Hiawatha, paddled out a mile and rescued two white men who would undoubtedly have drowned. He, too, was presented with a gold medal, in the Hiawatha Church, by the Hon. J. R. Stratton, and the Rev. George Dunkley, who referred to the lake at that time as "a boiling pot".
In the realm of sport, the Indian has always excelled. In the day when marathon racing was popular, Fred Simpson and Albert Smoke of Alderville, and Ben Howard of Hiawatha made great names in this most grueling of all racing. Fred Simpson represented Canada in the Olympic Games of 1908 and won an Award of Merit. In 1931 Earnest Crowe, manager of a hardball team, brought his men to victory over every team in the district, winning both the East and West Northumberland championships and the silver cup. In hockey, Everett Simpson of Alderville was goal-keeper for the Cobourg Junior Team; also for the Al Sirat Grotto team in Cleveland. In 1953 the Hiawatha Hockey team won the East Peterborough District Trophy.
Samson Comego, at the turn of the century, did much to promote the cultural life of the community, organizing a brass band. He was succeeded by Samuel Blaker. Peter Crowe, also a renowned music teacher, formed singing classes where sight-reading was taught. He, with his family, formed a famous concert troupe.
The name "Hiawatha" chosen for the reserve on the north shore of Rice Lake was from that of the chief character in Longfellow's well-known poem of that name; which is said to have been written at Garden River, a reserve near Sault Ste. Marie. The poem is interspersed with words and quotations from the Chippewa, or Ojibway, language; and the legends he relates are those handed down by the Chippewas from generation to generation. The Chippewa reserve at Alnwick, where a small part runs to the shore-line, called "Alderville" was named for the Rev. Robert Alder D.D. who came from England and lived for a time on the reserve. These two bands, being of the same tribe, paid friendly visits back and forth across the lake, at picnics in summer, and at Christmas and New Year's Day. In the now far-off-days, their banquets were known as Feasts.
Charlotte Crowe of Alderville, of concert stage fame, related interesting stories of her contemporary E. Pauline Johnston, as they had often appeared together on the stage in Toronto and in other cities. Stories of physical prowess have been handed down: Mrs. Susan Howard, an Indian woman of Alderville Hiawatha, while walking along near the track of the old railway saw a bear emerge from a hole. She killed it with an axe. In a moment, another bear appeared, and she promptly dispatched that one. Still another, a third, came forth to meet its fate by her trusty axe; three grown bears killed by a woman after their winter sleep. The animals were skinned, and the meat cut in strips and dried for summer meat.
An amusing story is told of a man of Hiawatha who while driving home in an inebriated condition by horse and buggy across the frozen lake saw the evergreens cut to mark a safe route over the ice. Thinking they were people, he said, "How do you do?" as he passed each one. On arrival, he asked his wife, "Where in tarnation is every one going?"
One of the most notable families who migrated to Alderville from Grape Island was that of Mr. and Mrs. James Crawford, who had one son, Louis, and seven daughters, all of whom reached maturity. They all married excepting one, who was a school-teacher. Mary married John Simpson; Harriet, John Rice of Hiawatha; Sarah to Mr. Loukes; Olive to Thomas Marsden; Eliza to Mr. Comego; and Elizabeth married Smith Tobico. These, with their families, formed a large part of the reserve.
Times of distress were also their portion when an epidemic of typhoid fever broke out in their boarding school. Many teachers and members of the staff and scholars succumbed to this dreaded disease as it was before the days of inoculation.
One of the most colourful habitues of the lake was Mr. Henry Delany of Cobourg who owned Rainy Island, then known as Rainy Point, for many of the islands in the lake were points before the building of the dam at Hastings raised the level of the lake and made them into islands. He was an ardent duck-hunter. Mr. and Mrs. George Ingham, merchants at Roseneath, were real benefactors to the Indians, assisting in their church services. Mr. James Macklin of Haldimand township conducted services at Alderville during revivals. The only church there is the United, formerly the Methodist. The present frame structure was built in 1870, but a church was built in 1838, where services were held for the surrounding countryside. The large bell was sent from England, and the Rev. McIvor presided at the dedication.
In the centre of Alderville Reserve is the cemetery where a twelve-foot shaft of marble marks the grave of our beloved benefactor, Elder Case. He laboured, lived, died and was buried among the people whom he loved. On one side of this monument is the inscription:
"Sacred to the memory of the Rev. William Case, the Father of Canadian Methodist Missions to the Indian Tribes, Died at Alderville, October 19th, 1855; and on the reverse side of the square is cut:
"Sacred to the memory of the Rev. John Sunday, a Chief of the Ojibway Indians, one of the earliest of Father Case's converts, and a most useful and intelligent and faithful Missionary, Died at Alderville, December 14 th, 1875, in the 30th year of his Ministry."
A third side carried: "These Holy and Apostolic men laid a large foundation and others have been largely thereupon. This memorial is erected by Ministers of the Methodist Conference, and the Alderville Indians."
The Rev. Sparling died later at Alderville and was buried beside the other two ministers. At Centennial Services in 1937, Dr. Stephenson conducted a memorial service and it was held at this monument. A wreath was placed by Robert Marsden, who, in 1855, had attended the funeral of Elder Case. In Alderville Methodist Church a marble plaque has been placed also in memory of the Rev. Case, with this inscription: "Erected by the Alnwick Indians, in grateful memory of the Rev. William Case who died in Peace, October 19th, 1855, aged 75 years. 'He being dead yet speaketh'."
In earlier days much of the work fell to the women; who, in addition to their regular duties, braided corn husks into doormats, peeled strips of ash to the desired thickness and wove them into baskets. They made boxes and small canoes of birch-bark, with intricate designs embroidered with porcupine quills. These were bound with a sweet-scented grass, but through the fostering hand of the Government, other arts are being learned.
In 1947 a Homemaker's Club was organized by Mrs. Benson Brant of Tyendinaga, representing the Indian Department. The first President was Mrs. Alfred Simpson, who held that office for four years; she was succeeded by Mrs. James Bigwin Jr, and the presidency is now occupied by Mrs. John Simpson. Their aims and objects are for a better way of life. Sewing is taught, and at their yearly competitions on the various reserves demonstrations of many phases of homecraft are given.
The Indian has always been deeply religious. Long before the coming of the white man he sensed the presence of the Great Spirit. So that when the conflict and upheaval of 1914 came they enlisted almost to a man, joining the ranks of their white brothers in the common cause; Freedom, which has been the goal of all down through the centuries.
Enlisting from Hiawatha in the First World War were: Johnson Paudash, William Anderson, George Paudash, Henry Muskratte; Hanlon Howard and Robert Anderson. The last-named was killed in action. Those enlisting in the Second World War were: George Paudash Sr; and George Paudash Jr; William Musgrave, George Cowie, Allan Anderson, Walker Loukes, and Elmer Paudash. The last lost his life in the Air Force during action over enemy territory.
Two Honour Rolls hang in the Alderville United Church. The first:
|John Beaver||William Blaker||Stanley Crowe|
|Edward Beaver||Joshua Blaker||Joseph Chubb|
|Ross Beaver||Victor Blaker||Alfred Chubb|
|Isaac Beaver||Austin Beaver||Moses Marsden|
|George Blaker||Samson Comego||Norman Marsden|
|Samuel Blaker||William Hagar||Robert Franklin|
|Henry Comego||William Franklin||Stanley Hagar|
|Allan Comego||Arch Simpson||Noah Smoke|
|Peter Comego||Robert Tobico||David Wheeler|
|Smith Comego||William Stevenson||Allan Tobico|
|Alex Comego||John Tobico|
|D. M. Crowe||Moses Smoke|
And the second, of this last war:
"We record with pride and gratitude the names of members of the Alderville Reservation United Church who are serving their King and Country".
|Arthur Beaver||Roy Smoke||Lawrence Marsden|
|Alvin Beaver||James Smoke||Bruce Marsden|
|Edward Beaver||John Sunday||Norman Marsden Sr.|
|Ivan Beaver||Wilfred Sunday Sr.||Norman Marsden Jr.|
|William Bigwin||Wilfred Sunday Jr.||Raymond Blaker|
|George Blaker||Cecil Tobico||Leslie Marsden|
|Lawson Chase||Arthur Wheeler||Howard Smoke|
|William Chubb||Alfred Loukes||Robert Marsden|
|Stewart Comego||Daniel Simpson||Leonard Smoke|
|Gerald Gray||William Stevenson||Albert Bigwin|
|Alvin Hagar||Ephraim Blaker||Clifford Smoke|
|Amos Marsden||John Beaver||Earl Smoke|
|Thomas Marsden||Oliver Crowe||Stewart Smoke|
|Everett Simpson||Walter Crowe||Donald Smoke|
|Eldon Smoke||Robert Franklin||Elmer Beaver|
|Reginald Smoke||Fred Marsden||Beatrice Smoke|
In 1927 a committee was formed under the leadership of the Indian Agent W. R. Coyle, and the Rev. Harold Wilding and a large monument was erected on the Alderville village square, on land donated by William Loukes. This imposing monument, approximately fifty feet high, stands at the centre of the reserve on Highway 45 at an intersection where five roads meet; and across from the old post office where William Loukes was the postmaster for years before the day of rural mail delivery.
Three upright columns represent the Trinity. These are set on an octagonal concrete base, and surmounted by a large square block laid perpendicular from one corner, representing the Four Square. It is enclosed with a chain of cast iron joined to nine concrete blocks in memory of the nine men who were killed overseas; and thirty-five links of a handsomely carved wrought-iron stand for the thirty-five men who enlisted. It was unveiled September 25 th, 1927, with an attendance of five thousand people to a dedication service.
A marble plaque on one of the pillars reads: "Col. Neil F. McNaughton, Our Friend; the first sod turned August 21st, 1927 by Mrs. N. Marsden, unveiled September 25th, 1927 by Clarence McKeel". An address was given by Col. F. D. Boggs, K. and addresses by Judge E.C.S. Huycke and others.
The troop commander at the service was Major J. M. Bygott, and Rgt. S-Maj. E. J. Johnson was commander of the Firing Squad. Walter Lowe was the trumpeter for the sounding of the Last Post.
The Committee who were in charge of the work were, chairman; W. R. Coyle; Chief N. Marsden; Rev. N. Wilding, Sec-treas; Mrs. N. Marsden; F. Simpson, Mrs. F. Simpson and ex-Chief T. Marsden. It was designed and erected voluntarily by A. H. McKeel and Son of Campbellford.
The endeavours of our early missionaries bore fruit when several Indian men joined the ranks as Class Leaders and ordained Ministers in the last century. These were John Sunday, John Simpson, Henry Chase, William Marsden, Allan Salt, George Blaker, and Richard Black. Those who chose the teaching profession included Wellington Salt, Alton Bigwin and John Loukes; the latter is at present teaching school at Alderville. Ex-Chief John Beaver is a graduate in science at Queen's University.
Among the many missionaries who laboured so zealously among the Indians, from "Father" Case and the Rev. Jeffries, it would be unfair to single out one man; but at the turn of the century, the work of the Rev. George Dunkley of Hiawatha is worthy of mention. He worked untiringly for the parish, fought the liquor interests openly, and had the Mission House painted and repaired. His flowers and garden were the show-place of the district. He stayed with us until he passed on in July 1910 at Hiawatha, two days after he had preached a sermon.
In Alderville Frank Joblin showed a similar interest in the welfare of his congregation. Ministering to the sick, Mr. H. Lander was also an untiring worker at Alderville and Hiawatha for many years. Mr. Fred Dodson and the Rev. H. Wilding, our last Missionary-teachers, were worthy followers of the pioneers. Present pastors who are devoted to their task are the Rev. Malcolm at Hiawatha and the Rev. J. N. Lovelace at Alderville.
Our outstanding Chiefs who have worked for better living conditions were Robert Paudash, Mitchell Chubb, Moses Marsden, and John Smoke.
The dugouts and cedar canoes of the natives have been replaced by the fishing boats of the American tourists.
In closing, maybe give thanks first of all to the Giver of all good gifts, and bow in veneration before the early missionaries who braved the terrors of the forest to bring "Tidings of Great Joy". And last, but not least, to our own forefathers, who never failed to give thanks to "Manitou", the Great Spirit. An unconquered people, who preferred peace to war; and whose prayer was "O God, may I never judge another until I have walked at least two weeks in his moccasins".
May we, who have not the ears of our forefathers, pay a tribute to Rice Lake; which gives life and sustenance to man, bird, and beast. May it always look out on a world of Peace and Harmony, and flow on, ad infinitum.