By Lyle Pretty
Published in the LCGS newsletter, March, 1997.
It is thought our forefathers came from the Normandy region of France before settling in England. The French name was thought to be Pitre. The name first appeared as Prytty on the Subsidy Rolls, Suffolk, England in 1327. The name Pretty appears on the rolls in 1428 and again in 1524. The name Pretty is derived from the Old English praettig and is thought to come from the Latin practicus meaning skilled.
Daniel Pretty, our forefather, was from Wiltshire, England on the Salisbury Plains near Stonehenge. As a young man he was a shepherd on the Plains. The date of his birth is still uncertain as each census records appears to disagree with a previous one. It appears he was born between 1794 and 1796.
He enlisted in the 76th Regiment of Foot and began his military career in Spain. Eventually his regiment made its way into France and engaged the Napoleonic armies. On march 31, 1814 they made a triumphant entry into Paris.
Daniel and his regiment along with many others left France in early summer of 1814 and sailed off to North America where the British and American armies were engaged in war. In August 1814, Daniel arrived in Canada and his part in the conflict would begin at Lake Champlain in early September. On December 24, 1814 the Treaty of Ghent was signed and the war was over. He would remain in the army for a few more years.
On May 11, 1821 Alexander Wark, his wife and three children, Margaret was one, sailed from Greenock, Scotland for Quebec. The journey aboard the ship Commerce lasted forty days and they arrived in Quebec on June 20, 1821. They were placed on a steam boat for a two day trip to Montreal. Their luggage was placed in wagons provided by the Government and hauled to Lachine, ten miles away. At Lachine, the passengers were put in flat bottomed boats for the journey up the St. Lawrence River. The men had to wade in waist-deep water to guide and pull the boats through the rapids. After six days on the water, they arrived at Prescott. There they waited on horses and wagons to take them 74 miles to New Lanark. Alexander Wark and his family left Prescott in late July and the land journey took several days. At Lanark they received their land ticket and chose their 100 acres. On August 7, 1821, forty-eight days after arriving in the New World and almost three months after leaving Scotland they settled on their property, the west half of Lot 18, concession 6 of Lanark Township. Their first priority was to build a dwelling to house the family during the coming cold Canadian winter.
Daniel Pretty was discharged from the military in mid 1816. Little is known about where he was and what his occupation was between 1816 and 1825. Perhaps at a church gathering or other social event, Daniel met Margaret Wark. She was about seventeen years of age when they arrived in 1821. Daniel would have been about twenty-four years old in the same year.
In 1824-25, Daniel and Margaret were married at the Presbyterian Church in Middleville, Ontario. For two years they lived on a farm near Middleville and it was here that their first child, Maria, was born.
They settled on a land grant of 100 acres that had been abandoned by the original owner, Neil Barr. The land was rocky and untillable. It was located on the east half of Lot 14, concession 8 near Rosetta. The Government exchanged this lot for the east half of Lot 6, concession 6, Darling Township, Ontario on April 18, 1830. Here he spent the rest of his life. He did not apply for his land patent until six years after he had acquired the property.
Their daughter Margaret and first son Thomas were born on the property at Rosetta. The remainder for the family were born at the farm in Darling.
Neither Daniel or Margaret could read or write and signed any documents with an “X” to which a witness testified was their “mark”. When Thomas was able to read and write he looked after all business matters for them.
When Daniel was discharged from the army he was given ten articles from the Government Stores to get started in civilian life: blankets -3, lock and key -1, latch and catch -1, barn hinges -1 pair, banon hook -1, bill hook -1, beefing hook -1. He was also given ten pounds of wheat to plant on land cleared by hand from the forest. In the fall, the grain was cut by hand and threshed with a flail. A bag of wheat was carried to the nearest grist mill, at that time Brockville, sixty miles. The flour was carried home for baking. There were no roads, only bush trails. The rivers had to be forded as there were no bridges at that time.
There were no cows or pigs so the settlers had no milk or fat to cook with. There were no horses to haul produce. Oxen were used as beasts of burden if and when the settler was fortunate enough to get one or two. Trees were felled with an axe and logs hewn with a broad axe to make timbers for building houses and barns. Handmade nails were a scarce commodity and they did not have glass for windows.
Our forefathers were truly remarkable people.