A 1996 Interview with Edith (Welch) Russell

Interview with Mrs. Edith (Welch) Russell
December 1996

Interviewers/Participants: Tom Macgregor, Carol Moffatt, Alice Hutton, Samantha Hodder

Source: Under the Floorboards: An Oral History of One Room School Houses with a Focus on Stanhope Township by Samantha Hodder - U-Links Centre For Community Based Research

Edith Russell's words are in bold italics. The participants ask Edith questions and also talk amongst themselves.


Now what was the story about Old Sewter?

Oh! oh I don't know, it's just Old Sewter, It was just a light, that's all.

Did you ever see the light? Now, there were people name Sewter, right?

Oh yes.

Just around past the point

Yes, they lived around past the point.

And what happened? Did he die, or did she die or what was the?

Well, they don't know what happened to her, that was why Sewter came, I guess. She lived there, him and her, and all of the sudden, nobody knew where she was, they never knew. They never saw her anymore, and nobody knew. They thought he must have did away with her. That's why they talk about that light.

But was the light after he died or after he was gone?

Well, he lived there well after she left, and then the Uptons had the place. But gee whiz. the light still stayed there, on that hill and be all ... one night it came from the point over there to my dad's front door, he went back and forth and back forth. So Mr. Cooper over here sent Lizzie over to see who was sick they thought they were running back and forth with the light, you see. Well, there was nobody sick, nobody knew anything about it, it was Old Sewter.

They used to call this light, the light Old Sewter.

It was just a bright, bright light.

Didn't you tell me story sometime about the boys, your brothers, somebody sleeping in the barn and the light coming into the barn?

Well, anyway, they used to have a dance about every week a square dance and they were here, at my dad's house this night, and there was a lot of the river drivers and I don't know who all else. But somebody came in from outside and said "Old Sewter is out there tonight" and they had never seen Old Sewter. So they looked out and there was Old Sewter turning around in the hills there, so they thought, and they wanted to go and see. So some of them walked the road, some of them walked the lake shore and the guys, they were going to see if they could see Old Sewter, and by the time they get over there, the darned old light was down around the house, outside of the house. So they got closer and closer and closer and the next thing they knew it went inside the house. All the Uptons were in bed. So this light went inside the house, and they thought well, we'ii just go and see. So some of them got over the fence and some of them got through the fence, and they went over and watched, over at the window, and they could see was there was dishes on the table from where they had had lunch before they went to bed and everything. Some big jackass was getting over the fence and knocked the rail off, and (clap) the light went out. They had to come home then. But they were so tickled they saw Sewter. but anyway.

Do you remember some story, as a kid or something, your dad was out fishing, or checking some lines or something, and it was foggy, or he couldn't find his way home, maybe in a canoe or something? And he'd say "come on Sewter, show me the way home."

Oh yeah, he'd come to the shore and light up. And my brother Bob and Amy had got in the canoe, and old George and Annie, George Deacon and his sister, they used to come over, paddle over, and get Bob and Amy, then they used to go over to Coopers to visit Lizzie, at night you know, so coming home they would come along and Bob says, "0h it's awful dark," and Bob says "wouldn't it be nice if Old Sewter here to light us to shore?" And by God, there was Old Sewter right on the shore. They were just about going to land when he said that, and there he was there. Oh! they were so scared they pushed the canoe back in and went way down the shore some place, and let Bob and Amy out, and she said "I never ran so hard in my whole life to get home because I was so scared." Then they got telling us the next morning. They had come home and went to bed and I guess all the rest of them and I guess all the rest of them were in bed. They were scared about his Old Sewter light and the shore!

So were most people afraid of Old Sewter, or was he just dead?

Well, I don't know... they weren't afraid of him, but just felt haunted or something. But George Deacon one night, he was over here at my dad's for mail, and he always come across in a canoe, and at night he was going home, I guess he'd stayed late, and it was dark; and he said he was paddling along and paddling along, and this light sailed past him, and he thought it was somebody in the canoe first, but he said. I wonder about the light, and they said after a while it come back towards to him, and they said he said "Good night, sir" (clap) and the light was out.

Now, George Deacon, they would have lived over where Shalom is now.

You can't scare George Deacon. but he was scared that night.

That's where they lived, over where Shalom is now, it was Ackerman's cottage?

Yeah, that's right.

What kind of a light was it, was it a lamp, or was it.

Well, it was just a bright, bright, bright light, about that big around.

At that time there wouldn't have been a lot of different kinds of lights, no flashlights, you'd have a lantern, that'd be the only light.

So when did people stop seeing Old Sewter?

Oh. years after that, we never see it anymore now. Some people say, I heard them say that they thought they'd go and dig up, see if they could find her body, cause they think he did away with her. Isn't it funny they didn't get after him years ago?

Now wasn't there some story there was money buried up there too, do you remember any about that?

Oh yeah, they thought that he had buried his money, and there were people digging. But I don't know if they ever found anything.

Did they have children? They never had any children?

I don't know, I don't know.

It does mention it in the book, in Nyla Reynold's book, it mentions about Sewter, but I think it's just like a line.

It is, cause I know when you say that, I go Oh! I know that, but there's no story around that.

I remember the old house was down around just past what we call the point, do you know where Timber's lived, over there, they had a couple of cottages for rent, well, just before it, there's a couple little blue cottages up there, that's where the sight, where the old house was. We played a joke on somebody a couple of years ago.

With a light, right?

Yeah, and my mom with a sheet on, running. A light shining on her.

Did you socialize much with the river drivers? Did they come down?

Oh yeah, they all did. they used to come down, lots of times.

And would they be all local boys, anyway? Would you have known them, or did they come from other places?

Lots of local guys, yeah.

Did you ever see an alligator on the lake, you know the boats with the big wheels on them?

Yeah. they had one on there when they were drawing the logs from the river, over to the Halls Lake Dam there. They had a great big boat.

Now that would be owned by the lumber company, would it?

Yeah!! My brother took me for a ride on it and I got sick. Oh, I puked all over. I don 't know why it made me sick, maybe it was the smell of the gas. or something.

Who would have owned that boat?

Oh, I guess the Gull River, I don 't know. I think the Gull River owns that there,

That was the logging company, or?


Yeah, the Gull River Lumber Company

I was thinking it was Hay, or something like. that...

Hay, who's Hay?

Well, there used to be the Hay Lumber Company up on Kennisis, but that might have been in later years, I don't know.

That house is kind of deceiving in that picture, because it must have gone back for miles. There was wood shed after wood shed and there was all kinds of buildings, there was the winter kitchen and the summer kitchen, all the buildings in behind. And then at the far end, the outhouse was attached. (to E: I'm saying how the outhouse was at the far end of all those buildings) If you ever got caught short, I remember as a kid, you had to plan, it was a long run to the back end, through all those doors, remember all those doors?

But you didn't have to got outside to go.

No, that was the big convenience, but it was a long way back through those buildings.

When did the hydro come through?

Oh, I have it marked on ... it was quite a while ago, in 19—, oh shoot, I don't remember when. I've got such a poor memory; But anyway, we were allowed to get the hydro, I'll tell you, right then we got

And what do you remember when you got the hydro, was it the lights?

I don't think we were built here, because we got the phone in then, that was 1963.

Oh, it was before that, though.


Cause in the old farm house you had power in here, didn't you?

No. Yes, we had the phone. Cause my dad, he was kind of in on it with the bunch of them, and they got some kind of a phone, remember we all had the phone that ring, and it hung it on the wall. I still have it on the wall. (and the phone rings!..)

If you had to quit school so young, was that typical for girls to have to stay home and help the family?

All the girls were gone then, I was the only girl in the home.

But, for other families around here, did other girls have to quite school to stay home and help

I don't know, no, I don't think so.

So how come you did then, was it just because you had a big family?

I suppose it was because we always had people in to get meals.

Did you ever wish that you went on in school, did you ever wish that you could have stayed in school?

Yes, yes I do.

Did you like school?

Sure did.

Get you out of doing a bunch of work here, I guess.

So what did you have to do then if you had to stay home and help, did you have to milk the cows and get eggs, and cook and clean?

Well, we had about 7 cows to milk and all the cows to feed, and the pigs to feed. And I had to do all that.

That's a lot of hard work.


You must have been strong.

Well, I did it.

And then the cows used to get

And then I had to put the cows away in the pasture, the first thing we know to be aware if the lock went.

Yeah, get way up in there.

Then, as soon as I got back there was all those beds to make, four beds to make in one room, and "bring all them lamps down, and fiIll them with oil" I never was idle a minute till noon time. By that time my mother had maybe the potatoes peeled for dinner time.

-----side two of audiotape----

....I never thought to take anything.

Did they give you anything in return, did they leave bread, or meat?

No, not a darn thing.

But that was OK, it was just a gift that you could give to them?

Yeah, that's what we did.


....Would that have been more pay than the neighbours would have had?

I don't know, no.

Did the other neighbours, did they work, did you think, or did they just stay at home and grow vegetables and tend their cows?

Yeah. look after their farms.

Did people farm, did they sell things from the farm to the town?

I don't think so. They'd have just enough for themselves.

Wasn't much of a living, was it?

No, we always of had lots of potatoes. and vegetables, and because we raised our own, and we always had lots of meat because we always had a sow. or a sheep, or something to kill, or two or three pigs, we never went without meat.

Who did the butchering?

Oh, my dad, he was a butcher. He had a butcher shop in Minden.

Oh really?

Yup, for a few years while they lived there, then they bought. He got rid of it, and they bought (in 45)? You know the Faulkner place? You know our, when they have that lovely light way up in the sky, well, they bought that house.

Oh, where Elgin Stouffer was, you mean? Geez, I din't know that.

Yeah, yeah. Well, my dad bought it. and then later on he wanted to be near the lake, so he bought this place, and it's where they remained.

Oh. I see.

So your dad didn't get this as a land grant? He didn't get it from the government?


He bought it later?


Who was here before?

People by the name Hall. That's why Hall's Lake is called.

Did you tell me at one time there was remnants of an old log cabin?

Yes, but not on this spot. Over near, near where my mail box, down the road a bit farther. There was a log cabin.

Towards the creek.

That's were the man Hall lived.

And he was a trapper?

And dad bought the property, that old log cabin was tore down.

And he bought it from Hall? Was Hall still around?

I guess that's who he bought it from, I don't know.

Because some say that Halls Lake was named after a man named Hall, but he was killed by Indians, apparently.

No, I don't, I never heard that. Maybe he was, but that was his old shack out there by the front of Murray 's place over there, only it was across the road.

But here wasn't much left of it, wasn't there it just like a little bit, some logs at the bottom?

No, it was all gone, no, logs, yeah.

So, did you go to Minden very often?

No, I just went that once.

So then, in later years when you got married, what year was it you got married?

1927, I think it was.

1927, and where did you live right then as soon as you got married?

Well, we had that Parsonage in Carnarvon. It wasn't a parsonage.

Where was that?

The parsonage in Carnarvon, some building, it was nice, we had 3 bedrooms upstairs. and we had a nice living room and kitchen.

Oh is that the one that's next up from the bowling alley, up from Medleys?

Yeah, yeah.

Maybe about the first one now.

Oh, where they have the two Dobermans?

It's a brown, insulbrick building, siding on the outside, you know the old shingles, sort of a tan brown colour. It used to be a couple houses up, I think it's the first now, some of the other houses are gone now.

And they called that the parsonage?


But the church was across the pond?

But did the minister live there at one time or something?

I guess so, it must have been, I don't know.

So then you lived there, and that's where mom, where all the kids born there, like mom and uncle Elmer and auntie Doris, or?

No, Doris was born in that house. (points)

And so, you lived in Carnarvon there.

And we moved to Toronto for another seven years.

So at that time in Carnarvon, was the bowling alley there then?

No, just the restaurant on the corner, cause Muriel Parsons used to look after.

Now, is she the one that became Muriel Medley?


And is that where the bear was?

Oh, the bear was across the road to the farm house, that's where they had the bear.

OK, do you remember that bear?

Yes, I remember that bear. I was scared of him.

I have a picture of that bear, drinking a soda pop.

Was it a pet bear?


Did they have him in a cage, or fenced in?

Well, they didn't for a long time, but then they did. They put some kind of a thing down by the lake. But he wouldn't stay in it.

So what happened with the bear?

There was some tourists come along and they bought some pops to give to the bear. And Muriel said to them. Muriel Medley, she said "Don't try to get the bottle back or take it away from them. When you give it to them, just stay away from them." So the kid climbed under the fence and was going to get the bottle, and the bear bit him. So that's why they were having a trail over it. We all had to go to Lindsay, or supposed to go to Lindsay, we got down there and they had cancelled them all.

But they shot the bear didn't they?

Oh yeah, they got rid of the bear.

But you were working or something in the snack bar at the time, or something, weren't you?

No, no. Muriel had a little snack bar.

How come you had to go to court?

Well, I don't know because, I was there when she sold the kid the bottle, and I heard her tell the kid not to get in the cage, or under the fence.

So that corner, that was the Harrison's farm, wasn't It?


Did they own both sides on the road, then?


Then who had the store then in Carnarvon? Was that Rogers?

Yup, Roger's store?

And now, did they have gas there, did they sell gasoline?

I don't know. .. yes, they did, they had a gas tank around the back I think so.

Did you look after that store, or something, for a while?

No, but used to look after Sinclair's.

I don't know why I got that idea.

They had a booth there.

A booth for what?

Sinclair Russell used to have a booth for his dance hail.

Like a snack bar, is that what you mean?


And where was his dance hail?

Well don't you know where his dance hail was? Just up from where the store?

So up near Madisons? That building where Madisons is, now it's called "J Kalloos" is that the building?

Halsons Marina.

Two J's restaurant.

No. You know before you go up that hill to go to Maple Lake, or Haliburton, it's right on the right hand side, after you pass the store you go up, great big dance hail.

In around now where his old Russell house is?

Well, Cliff Harrison lives on that side of the road, and then not much further was the dance hall.

No, I don't know where that would be either

Is it just near where you went in, just near the road where you drove in to Uncle Sinclair and Aunt Mabie's house.

Before you get there.

Before that, so the house there where Ralph Joyce lived, that in along there.

On the other side of the road.

There's a school in there, a school house in there.

A school house, oh yes.

Was it along there, along that side of the road?


Before the school house, though, maybe.

Sometime ago they tore it down. I just can't remember.

I remember than talking about it at Uncle Sinc's funeral, something about the..

I've never heard that before, I never knew there was a dance hail up there, I never knew that.

Oh yeah, we had a lovely big dance hail, and the people from all over, Haliburton and all those used to come and it was packed.

What was it called?

It was just called the dance hail, I don 't think it had any special name.

But that was long before Medley's was built?

Oh yeah.

Yeah, I remember at Uncle Sinc's funeral, I think Neil, his son Neil, gave bit of a history, or somebody did, and read out a thing talked about this dance hail that I didn't, I thought it was down near where old Madison's was, cause that Uncle Sinc who built that, I think.

So you know where the Cowan's farm is? Up the bill there.

Yeah, Cowan's farm.

So, it would have been down the bill from that.

Yeah, George Starwell(?) on the same side there.

Cause that road has changed quite a bit, that road used to come in right in front of the store and come out and now it goes straight through.

Do you remember the Skeldings?

up to E: "1 think every cottager on the lake has boats

Now, when you were younger did you have boats'?

Oh yeah, my dad had two good Peterborough Canoes. And I'd go, I used to paddle, I'd go out fishing or anything.

I guess there was better fishing then there, was it?

Yeah. (laughing)

Which newspaper did you used to get to read the news of the area?

When we were small we used to get the Times, the Minden Echo, but then they changed the Echo to Haliburton.

And then it was the Minden Progress, or something.

Progress before, yes that's right.