Building the Homestead
The forest would have been an obstacle for the settlers, but was also a blessing that provided wood for heating, building and furnishing (and in the case of the Guernsey settlers, barrel making). In Europe, most of the settlers had probably lived in a 2 or 3 room cottage made of brick, stone or wickerwork covered in plaster 9.; building a log cabin would be as foreign to them as it would be to you or me! It’s unclear how they learned to build their first cabins, but they likely had some kind of community support. Since John Cambridge had a background in carpentry and cabinet making, he may have provided some guidance to the people he helped to settle here, or he may have had an employee to help the settlers in building. Or maybe since the loyalists had experience building in the new world, they were able to help them out. We can really only speculate, as most settlers were too busy surviving to chronicle their early years!
The first houses the settlers built would have been just enough to get them through the winter; one or two rooms, with plaster, mud or moss filling the gaps between the logs. None of these early structures survive today, since they were built fairly crudely, but they wouldn’t have gone to waste! Some of the early homes would be integrated into the larger, more finely built homes that would follow, while others would be used to house livestock. The houses would have been placed by a body of water, like the Northumberland Strait, a river or the Harbour. Cambridge built his home in Beach Point, and Machon’s point still bears the name of the family who settled there in 1806. The Murray Harbour cemetery is located at the original Lelacheur homestead,3. which they then traded with Cambridge to settle in Guernsey Cove. This pattern of settlement was necessary as the lack of roads made the waterways of PEI the main modes of travel, and the only thing even close to a road would have been the paths in the woods eventually formed between neighbouring farms.
Sometimes newcomers wouldn’t have time to build before the weather turned cold. When this happened, Cambridge would lodge new immigrants above his store house for the winter. The Guernsey settlers were said to have stayed above his store,10.although it’s hard to image so many people staying in one building; it may have been that they managed to build a couple of houses, which housed some of them, or maybe some of the families boarded with their new neighbours. Cambridge always started new settlers off with seed and enough to get by for one year. It was a big investment to make to settle his lot when most of the absentee landlords of PEI were unwilling to bother; no doubt he asked for a fair return. Cambridge is known for asking for wood in exchange for land, and he may have required some labour as well.