The early settlers had to endure many hardships. They were not accustomed to working in a forest, they were susceptible to injury, food was scarce while the land was being cleared and then there was the weather – hotter summers and colder winters. Solitude was another hardship as many of these Scots previously lived in a cluster of several families, whether in a well traveled area or in a remote glen.
Many of our first families came over as part of a group and settled as a group. Often they were able to pick land close to a relative or friend. However there were exceptions whereby a lone settler would enter the district and be given a location well removed from others.
The late Lawrence and Margie (MacKenzie) Wilson used to tell the story of one such settler in Earltown. His name has since been forgotten. The settler took a less travelled trail into the community and located his proposed grant deep in the forest at a considerable distance from the nearest settlement. He set about erecting a crude shelter and started to clear his land. After many days, potentially weeks, he was in despair with loneliness and homesickness. He was about to abandon his grant and seek another situation closer to Pictou.
Then early one morning he heard the echo of an axe biting into a tree. He followed the sound and in short order discovered not only another living soul but someone that he knew from the Old County.
The settler always claimed that the sweetest sound he ever heard was the bite of that axe.
PS Alex MacKay of Vancouver has recently provided notes of his late father, John A. MacKay, with a similar version of this story. The forlorn settler was his ancestor Donald MacKay of MacBain’s Corner. When investigating the sound of the axe, he discovered that his new neighbour was his half brother, Big William MacKay.