From Henry4 Laycock. Published in the Meaford (ON) Monitor.
March 20th 1880, To the Editor of The Monitor.
Sir, - In the last issue of The Monitor I read a letter written by one from St. Vincent, now at Pembina Mountains. I ask permission to contradict some of his statements, as he runs down the country. He surely must be homesick.
By his statement we have been frozen in since October; he also said the thermometer ranged from 30o to 60o. I beg to say that the month of October was as pleasant as I ever enjoyed and during November not below 30o;
I have kept a record of the cold; on November 17th it was down to 10o below zero for the first time; it came warm until 4th of December, when it was down to 12o. It has ranged from 20o to 40o from the 20th of December till 20th of Jan.; the coldest night was Christmas eve when the thermometer froze up; you may think that cold, but my brother and I rode from our work 4 miles in the sleigh without a box and were not frost bitten.
I have been threshing in company with Thomas York this fall and winter out of doors, there being but few barns in Manitoba. As to the winds they are no worse than in Ontario with this exception, they have greater sweep.
As to people being frozen to death, reports are exaggerated; one young man of Pomeroy, 10 miles from the mountains, was coming from Winnipeg with a yoke of oxen and sleigh, he lost his way and camped for the night, he was sick when he left home; it was supposed he laid down to sleep and never woke. We had two storms or blizzards in January; if anyone got lost on the prairie then they would likely be frozen to death, for you could see nothing 10 rods away.
As to people starving to death, there are not as many as in Ontario; however I have not heard of any being kept by the council. Prairie fires have left some rather bare, but by subscriptions they have not suffered. We lost #300 worth of hay, stables and grain. Mr. Henry York and son about $400 in grain, hay and stables.
Allow me space for a little news of the neighborhood, and our homesick neighbor may rest.
There has been quite a quantity of game shot on the mountains. Mr. A. Stephenson and brother shot 6 large elk, average weight 350 pounds when dropped; the deer go in droves; men hunt on horseback; wolves and fox can be seen nearly every day; it is too cold for smaller game; prarie chicxen [sic] are numerous around the bush, but they are too poor for meat; the ducks are all froze up.
Since commencing this letter it has been rather cold and stormy; firewood and fencing takes up the time; there is some sawlogging done. A fine grist mill three stories high, a good saw mill; gristing and sawing rather dear.
At Nelsonville, not "Yolsonville", as in a former letter, this village is progressing rapidly, three general stores are supplying the wants of the people, we have two medical men who make it a point to charge well; there being no market farmers have to take their grain to the city; the sooner the railway comes through this part of the country the better. The people are building the bridge over Red river now, they have been running the cars on the ice drawing ties and timber.
Coal has been found on the Louris river, 100 miles west of this place.
The crops here turn out well; one farmer by the name of Thompson had 50 acres under cultivation which yielded 1750 bushels. Threshing is charged by the bag, nine cents for wheat, seven for oats or barley. Flax grows well here, timothy hay does well, peas in some places.
Some of our friends have an idea that the land is so flat that it cannot be drained, but it is not so; the land rolls to the North and East, ravines carry off the water and empties in the marsh which gives hay that grows from two to eight feet in height; the highest grass that grows is called bone grass. It is not fit for fodder.
There are several good creeks running through this section, with wood along the banks. Ten miles from here the Boyne runs East, with plenty of timber along its banks; it is very crooked. Not having travelled out of the vicinity of the mountains I could not describe exactly. The mountain is supposed to be 400 feet higher than the level of the land.
We have received a letter from H. Long, son of A. Long of St. Vincent; he is residing on or near the big Saskatchewan, he likes it well. I must remark another yield of grain, two young men harvested 1,700 bushels, they had only one team. The black-birds are a scourge here, bad on the oats, but not so bad on the prairie as on the timberland. We opened our potatoes to-day, they are all sound. The snow drifts around the buildings badly on the prairie.
We think the gentleman who went home to St. Vincent from here must have been bitten by the mosquitoes, they are a nuisance in wet places; a few years and we will have banished them. Thanking you for the privilege in your column, I remain, Respectfully yours, HENRY LAYCOCK
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