In the late 1800’s recreational camping became trendy.
Many of the people living and working in the cities needed to get away to relax in the country. Consider that after all, many of those people came from the country to start with and went to the cities to get work.
Seeking refuge from cities not as we know them today but still bustling and crowded for those that lived there.
John Muir was a Scottish-born American naturalist, author and early advocate of the preservation of wilderness in the United States. While my ancestors lived in Canada it was not unlikely that they had hear of Muir and this movement.
The movement toward nature and camping was hardly fringe. Public figures would get involved and work together to create an organized system of national conservation and as Peter Fish, Editor at large for “Sunset” magazine said this “they encouraged people to get out into the wilderness for the preservation of their sanity ad their souls.”
At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, many families camped in relative luxury, traveling on modern railways to arrive at a site with fully furnished tents already erected for them, not unlike the mobile home vacationers of today. Not quite so for my family. They were average hardworking folk who probably came to the country to visit family and get back to their roots.
Necessities as food, clothing and shelter were what was needed. If just for a few days then this would not be too difficult to put together. Meals would have been simple using canned foods that could be added to freshly caught fish and cooked over an open fire. Voila dinner served.
Other things such as crackers and dried beef or dried beans could be carried in tins safe from animals.
Forget the chairs and tables. Rocks and stumps worked just as well for tables or chairs. Or even a blanket spread on the ground in nice weather did the trick. Blankets and or comforters could be joined together to create a sleeping bag.
During the first half of the 20th century, even soft goods like sleeping bags and clothing were a chore to pack and tote, since they were bulky being made from heavy canvas, cotton, or wool. I am not aware how my ancestors got to where they were going, but things had to be transported by either rail or horse and wagon. While the train would be faster it would be difficult to carry a lot of baggage. The trip by wagon would have been a long one.
The McEwans were city folk but the Knights and Ostroms were from Northumberland County, north of Cobourg. If they were to take the train to Cobourg, family would have had to meet them there and take them up north.
These camping trips would have forced togetherness with family and friends, where you could be inspired by nature. They would have shown their true pioneering spirit.
While reading up on this I came across a photo of the Bluestone Campers group, circa 1900 from the Port Hope area. The caption with the photo read as follows: “Summer is approaching and so is camping season . . . if the weather ever decides to warm up!”
This week read all about my pioneering great-grandmother Frances Knight - Ostrom