Diary of Early Algoma Settler Paints Vivid Picture of Pioneer Life -Circa 1976
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Diary Of Early Algoma Settler Paints Vivid Picture Of Pioneer Life


Special To The Star

IRON BRIDGE — Coming to this area at a very early age at the turn of the century qualifies Ruth Chevis as a pioneer. But she likes to dip back into what she calls the real pioneer days and the life of her father. Robert Sadler.

Robert Sadler, according to his only daughter, was a man who liked to do things that were a bit out-of-the-ordinary. In his early days he lived with his parents. Thomas and Hannah Sadler on their farm near Harrietsville. in the London Ontario area.

The energetic young man entered wholeheartedly into the work on the farm , driving oxen (later, horses), helping clear land, planting, harvesting, cutting wood and logs, looking after sheep, pigs and cows, but still found time for many other interests besides his sideline, trapping.

He always tried to better his meagre formal education: he learned shorthand (and even taught it to others), how to plav such musical instruments as the violin, flute and guitar, became adept at drawing and painting and wrote poetry,all with commendable results.

Travelling about to different areas helped satisfy both his natural curiosity about the country and his spirit of adventure.

In 1885. he made a covered wagon and set out that spring for Parry Sound. It took him around nine days to make the trip to a place called Kearney, where he had purchased some land. To say the least, it was an arduous trip. His five-year diary started around 1883 and entirely in shorthand, tells it all.

In recent years. Mrs. Chevis. with the help of relatives, has been getting the thick volume typewritten, thus revealing a detailed, interesting story.

The covered wagon trip began. "As the winter passed away. I began getting ready to go northward. I got a set of harness and fixed it up. got a little plow for $1.50. fixed up my old fanning mill (for cleaning grain), bought a wagon for $29 and made a big wood rack. 16 feet long and four and a half feet high, with a kind of caboose rigged up over the front."

"I had a little box stove, eight bags of oats. chop, three bushels of potatoes, hay. a cupboard, a bag of cornmeal and oatmeal. some pork. flour. salt, sugar, my fiddle, revolver and fishing tackle as well as the implements."

He had $10 in his pocket and intended camping wherever possible. Though it was terribly cold, with rain, sleet and snow, he finally made it over roads which were very poor and rough.

"I stopped at noon, made some tea and got a good dinner by the roadside and greased the wagon each day." he recorded.

By the time he reached a couple of miles past Huntsville "where the hills were enough to kill a team." he had to leave part of his load at a family farm.

He continued on in the endurance tost and finally reached his farm that night. He stayed there a month, planted a crop and then returned home with a wagon full of hay. The whole trip had cost him nine dollars.

Before returning to Parry Sound in the fall, he updated his covered wagon, "covering it over and clapboarding the sides."

In March. 1888. Robert Sadler married Maria Knott.

"I had four brothers all older than I. My father brought my mother and three brothers to Kearney to live. Another brother was born there and in a year they moved back to Harrietsville where I was born." Mrs. Chevis recounted. "The next year. 1900. we moved to Algoma to Thompson Township (Dean Lake)."

Mrs. Chevis said that minerals were found in a rock near their place and a mine went into production — her father building the main office building from cedar logs. In 1907 a bush fire raged through the area and the mine was destroyed.

"Before the Dean Lake bridge was built in 1908. the only way to cross the Missis-sagi was by scow. One time one of the mine officials fell off it and it was said that his heavy fur coat kept him floating until help came.

Harold Chevis. her husband, in addition to farming, used to press hay for farmers throughout the area. The couple raised a family of eight.

Mr. Chevis died in 1951. Mrs. Chevis. who now has 23 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren, still keeps busy in her home in Iron Bridge and like her dad. has many hobbies — one of which is painting With oils.

Photo Caption: Robert Sadler with ox team, which supplied turn-of-the-century power

Edith Cameron, Author
Media Type
Item Type
A newspaper clipping about the pioneers of the area like Robert Sadler, the article tells of the tales his daughter Ruth Chevis knew about her fathers youngest days.
Date of Original
Summer 1976
Date Of Event
Local History
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 46.28336 Longitude: -83.23318
Creative Commons licence
by-nc [more details]
Huron Shores Museum
Agency street/mail address:

1 James St. P.O. Box 460

Iron Bridge, ON P0R 1H0

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Diary of Early Algoma Settler Paints Vivid Picture of Pioneer Life -Circa 1976

A newspaper clipping about the pioneers of the area like Robert Sadler, the article tells of the tales his daughter Ruth Chevis knew about her fathers youngest days.