Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Architecture of Early P.E.I. Farmhouses by Lucy Clayton

     This little booklet can be found at the Prince Edward Island Public Archives and Record Office (PEIPARO)
     There is no date on the booklet, however, a few online searches give little more detail except noting it was published in 1960.?
Below I transcribed the first three pages from the booklet.
     A great deal has been written concerning the history of Prince Edward Island, and much has been related about the houses of historical interest.  So, in this small booklet, the author has attempted to describe the farmhouses of the country-side with no regards to their historical importance.  Instead, she has placed the emphasis on their architectural differences.  Material for this project seemed scarce.  The author regrets there are so many lovely places off the beaten track she was unable to photograph.
Architecture of Early
Prince Edward Island Farmhouses
by Lucy Clayton
     For two hundred years Prince Edward Island was occupied only in the summer.  Fishermen, mostly Basques, Normans, and Bretons lived here at that period.  In 1650 one hundred and fifty years after Cartier's time, there were only three fishermen living here the entire time.  Incredible as it seems, they did not live near each other, one at East Point, one at St. Peter's, and one at Point La Joie.  In 1720 a large group of people came over from France, ones who really wanted to settle and farm.  Log cabins were quickly built before the severe winter set in.
     De Roma established an important settlement at Brudenell Point, or Three Rivers.  His ambition was to sail up the numerous rivers after beavers.  But the beavers were not plentiful as in the West.  De Roma built numerous log houses, barns and sheds, and did extensive farming.
     By 1749 there were numerous, cozy farmhouses on the Island.  The grain fields and pastures were rich.  Cattle was the main stock raised, also raised sheep and geese.  Two thousand Acadians, who moved here from Nova Scotia, found living conditions very difficult.  Their houses were in-adequate, their clothing was scantly.  Wheat and peas were the staple crops raised.  It is difficult to understand why the potatoe was completely ignored by the French.  At the end of the Seven Years War, they were forced by the English conquerors to return to France.  Only thirty families, who established themselves around Malpeque, escaped from the English.
     In 1770-1803 the English population grew from one hundred to five thousand.  Thee were three settlements, a Scottish one, organized by Montgomery, Stewart, and Macdonald, in 1770-75; the Loyalists, 1783-84; the Skye pioneers, who were brought out by the Earl of Selkirk in 1803.
    About this time Captain Holland surveyed the Island; this was an important occasion.  It greatly helped in the development of the Island, and the establishment of more villages and towns.
     The Skye pioneers each brought fifty to a hundred acres of land from Earl of Selkirk, and energetically started clearing land and erecting cabins.  The contingent from the "Polly Dykes" and "Oughten" settled around Belfast, Alberry Plains, Uigg and Orwell.  There were eight hundred pioneers all from Skye.  Skye is an island which belongs to  the Inner Hebrides, and is five hundred square miles in area.  Here there are deeply indented coasts, and in the center of in-hospitable moors and rugged mountains.
     Belfast is about twenty miles east of Charlottetown.  There was a hustle and bustle that first summer to get the log cabins built before the severe winter set in.  These were built of logs squared and dove-tailed at the ends.  The spaces between the logs were filled with moss or clay.  A ply of boards was nailed over all.  The roof was covered with pine shingles.
     Sir Andrew MacPhail, in his fascinating book, "The Master's Wife" gives such a vivid description of the building of a house on the Island a hundred years ago, that I am quoting verbatim, "the tools required were a chalk-line and black stick, a narrow axe, a board-axe, and a whip-saw - a tree was felled, trimmed of branches, and cut to proper length.  A strip of the bark was removed.  The line was fixed by a brad-awl or nail at one end.  It was blackened by passing it over a piece of alder-wood charred in the fire.  Then the line was drawn taut along the white strip, lifted in the middle, and let go.  A black line was left, by which the log could be hewn to a flat surface.  With his axe, he slashed off the sections between the cuts at a single stroke.  The log was turned on the flat, and the process repeated until a squared timber was secured.
     "Sill, posts, plates, rafters, joists, studs, were hewn from trees of corresponding size.  The boards were ripped from the largest logs.  A pit like a long grave was dug and skids were laid across.  The log was rolled on these.  One boy would enter the pit, and the other would stand upon the timber, and with a two handled saw they would rip off the boards.  The top saywer guiding the cut, the bottom sawyer doing most of the work.  For shingles a log was sewn across in short lengths.  The block was split with a wide iron wedge; the pieces were thinned at the end with a drawknife, and the edges made true with a jack-plane.  When the lumber was assembled the building of the house was a mere diversion, and the boys learned their trade as the work progressed.  To build a framed house was a long labour".
     The Loyalists arrived here mostly from New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Boston.  These settlers influenced the architecture of their period.  They, naturally, tended to fashion their new homes after the homes they had left behind.  About six hundred Loyalists settled down here, predominately in Pownal, Bedeque and Richmond Bay.
     The most outstanding feature of the majority of the farmhouses of a hundred years ago was a very tall gable, with window, in the front of the house.  In many of these gables there was an embossed, black star, rather like the hex signed used in western Pennsylvania, amoung the Mennonites and Ammonites.
     Island farmhouses differ from those in New England in having their carriage houses, woodsheds, and barns detached from the house.  This is undoubtedly due to the high windows that are prevalent a great deal of the time.  A fire in these winds would rapidly destroy a building or group of connected buildings.  The older houses had the same large fireplaces as the New England ones.  They also had the same big iron crane for hanging posts and the so-called Dutch oven.  The many buildings act as a wind break.  Farmhouses also have a fir "hedge", a long, tall line of trees planted on the north west side of the house...

      There are 44 images in the booklet - the following are a few that stand-out - all long gone!

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