Imagine raising a large family in a pioneer home along the Little Bonnechere without electric lights, central heating or the comforts of modern living. Dennis McGuey and his wife Margaret did just that on this homestead. Here they raised a family of nine, in a house of squared pine timbers and under a roof of scooped cedar logs. It included a kitchen, dining room and bedroom, and a large room where transient labourers stayed over. Men traveling this part of the Old Bonnechere Road would get a meal and a bed at the McGuey stopping place for twenty-five cents a night at a time when they might be earning a dollar a day. Mind you, the bedroom was shared with twenty-five other men and the simple bed was a mattress of balsam boughs topped with a heavy wool blanket.
Dennis McGuey trapped bears, hunted and maintained the two log dams upstream. Margaret McGuey took care of the house, ran the stopping place and made butter to sell to the lumber camps. Their sons helped at home until they were old enough to work in the lumber camps; their daughters assisted with the cooking and cleaning, and cared for the younger children. After the chores were done there was always a little time for some good old-fashioned play with homemade toys, for this was a time long before video games and other modern-day diversions.
An Opening for Wildlife
Clearing a densely forested area for a homestead was a huge undertaking in the 1800s. Using only horse and manpower, a small plot of land likely took a family an entire summer to cut and clear of stumps and roots. Over 150 years later, the evidence of such hard labour remains in the form of a forest opening at the McGuey Farm. Here, species that prefer open space to dense woodland habitats, make their home.
On your walk, listen for chestnut-sided warblers or perhaps even a field-loving savannah sparrow or bobolink. In the spring listen and watch for the American woodcock, as the males engage in their phenomenal aerial display in an attempt to impress females probing the moist ground for worms.
As you look around the clearing note the border between woodland and field, where dense shrub growth increases supplies of woody stems. This is a good area to watch for browsing deer and moose. The open field beside the quietly flowing river also provides plenty of opportunity for observing a variety of bird species including the broad-winged hawk.
- remains of isolated pioneer homestead