The tales tools tell
You can learn a lot about your ancestors by studying the equipment they used from day to day
by Ruby M. Cusack
Queries have been grouped together to cover the year 1998 and can be viewed at Queries-1998
As we were finishing our breakfast of milk, pancakes, molasses and fresh pork, Dad reminded us to hurry home after school. But how could we forget this special day! Halloween was over and there was lots of frost in the mornings. Old Man Winter was fast approaching.
We rushed home after school, changed into our old clothes and put on our rubber boots. Cliff hastily grabbed a bunch of feed bags from the horse barn, while I found the D-handled shovel and put it in the back of the truck. We were going to Ora Saunder's mill to get sawdust!
Cliff and I stood at the edge of the huge yellow pile and held the bag open while Dad shovelled in the sawdust. Meanwhile the whine of the saw cutting the logs made music to our ears. We loved the smell of balsam and new wood and forgot about all the sawdust that was finding its way down our boots. But we must not forget to dump those boots out before going into the house or Mum would be none too pleased.
At five o'clock the mill shut down and stillness surrounded us. We continued to bag sawdust as a full moon shone over Bloomfield.
The next day, Dad built a low board fence or form about a foot from the foundation of the house. After school, we helped dump the bags of sawdust to make the banking that would keep the cellar warm and the floors draft-free during the cold winter months.
As our house was being banked for winter, I would think of the children of years gone by who helped out in the many tasks of preparing a home for winter. Our home was old, probably built before 1830. The foundation was made of rocks from the field. Trees had been cut from the forests and were hand hewn with a broad axe to make the sills. The tools that were used to build this house are worlds apart from the power tools of today.
Recently, I attended a meeting of the United Empire Loyalists' Society, where Bill Titus did a presentation on antique tools. The double-bitted axe had been made at the Campbell's Axe Factory in Saint John. I was intrigued with the stories of the broad axes. As I rubbed their smooth handles made from ash or hornbeam, I felt very close in spirit to those strong men of yesteryear. Vivid pictures came to mind: The young bride watching as her husband hewed the logs for their first home . . . Children playing as father cut shingles for the new barn . . . Men cutting firewood. On and on the images flashed.
Eric Sloane - artist and writer - discovered a number of quaint old tools on his 18th-century farm. He was so impressed by the artistry and sturdy realism of pioneer builders, he began to learn about life in the days when the settlers had little more than strength, endurance and inexhaustible resources to pit against their surroundings. He lavishly adorned his book, "A Museum of Early American Tools," with pen-and-ink sketches of not only the tools but the wooden and metal artifacts that our forefathers made with them. The many variations of the broad axe is my favourite chapter.
Researching creates a craving to learn everything possible of the daily lives of our ancestors. Gaining information on the tools that played such an important role adds greatly to a better understanding of life in the years gone by.
Ruby Cusack is a genealogy buff living in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Readers are invited to send their New Brunswick genealogical queries to Ruby at firstname.lastname@example.org. When E-Mailing please put Yesteryear Families in the Subject line. Please include in the query, your name and postal address as someone reading the newspaper, may have information to share with you but not have access to E-mail. Queries should be no more than 45 words in length.
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