Ontario Visited is pleased to introduce our Video Series, Ontario Re-Visited ~ Discovering Your Roots.

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Ontario Re-Visited ~ Life as a Pioneer!

Pioneer life revolved around providing the basic necessities of existence in a northern wilderness — food, shelter, fuel and clothing. Pioneering life was integral to family life and provided social stability for the settlement of a larger population across the country.

Founding and Settlement

Some pioneer settlers brought personal belongings, including furniture, kitchen utensils, books and ornaments. Some settled on land prepared or within reach of villages or towns. For most, however — especially before roads, canals and railways provided communication and transportation of goods — pioneering on all of Canada’s frontiers meant isolation, deprivation and hardship. Success was often measured by sheer survival. Yet, usually within a few years, primitive pioneering was followed by relative comfort, and the prospect of security and even prosperity for one’s children. Persistence, optimism, thrift, resourcefulness and the acceptance of unremitting hard work became character traits valued by succeeding generations long after pioneer conditions had passed.

Pioneer houses varied according to local building materials and the newcomers’ origins and means. But in all cases, dwellings had to be designed to withstand Canada’s long, cold winters. A settler’s first house was usually a one-room structure made of logs, fieldstone, spruce poles or prairie sod. Frame or brick houses with partitions, second storeys, glass windows and shingled roofs signaled the end of pioneering. The original dwelling was often then converted to a stable.

Furniture was often homemade. Consider, for example, the chair made from a barrel. Cloth for blankets and clothing, carpets to cover wood floors, pails, and children’s toys were also homemade. The mending of boots, harnesses and tinware sometimes had to await the arrival of a travelling tradesman.

Providing fuel for the huge fireplaces, which were usually the dwelling’s only source of heat, was a constant chore. Timber was plentiful in many areas but still had to be felled, trimmed, cut into lengths and carried home.

Original historic “Art Sketch” by Susan ‘Shadow’ Caron

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