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Great Canadian Houses

Susanna Moodie Homestead, Lake Katchowanook, Canada West - c 1854

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
On Lake Katchowanook, JH Caddy c 1854
Orig. wc - Size - 12.5" x 18.5"
Found - Hamilton, ON
Period frame

Historic Site

Susanna Moodie Homestead, Lakefield, Ontario


The site of the Moodie Homestead, on the point of land below the Moodie Farm. Today the lakeshore is occupied by rental cottages.

A hundred metres back from the point, to the right, is the marker below, on the land once farmed by Dunbar and Susanna Moodie.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

The land has largely returned to what it looked like when the Moodies first saw it: wild, tangled, swampy, and still thoroughly useless as farmland.

Go to JH Caddy 1

 

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Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005

The Susanna Moodie Homestead: One canoe heads up towards Young's Point, and Stoney Lake, as another is touching shore, its occupants talking with someone standing by, another sitting on, a log, just below the Moodie Homestead on Katchewanooka Lake. This is the site for two of Canada's most famous books of the nineteenth century, by one of Canada's most famous authors - the lake itself, produced several more famous Canadian books...

The inscriptions on the back of the paintings might very well have been written by John Caddy himself. If, a century and a half later, two knowledgeable auctioneers have never heard of this place, what chance is there that, in 1854, anyone but the artist knew the location of this picture and wanted it written down. The highly unique "L" should be easy to match to known samples of JH Caddy's writing.

We believe this is the only certified picture in existence of Susanna Moodie's homestead on Katchewanooka Lake.

Above the famous sisters in later life, Susanna Moodie (1803-1885) left, and Catharine Parr Traill (1802-1899).

Above, the only other picture ever printed - in Catharine Parr Traill's Backwoods of Canada, in 1836 - that might be an approximation of the Traill, or the Moodie homestead, or a combination of the two - or indeed neither because the waterfront, so important to both their homes, is entirely absent from the picture.

Below, Susanna Moodie on her porch, with Dunbar her husband in front, at their later house on Bridge Street, in Belleville, Ontario, many decades after they had left their homestead on Katchewanooka Lake.

Roughing it in the Bush - 1852

In the 1850s everyone in Canada West, and Canada East (Canada before it became a Dominion in 1867), and untold thousands more in Great Britain, knew all about Lake Katchowanook, or Katchewanooka, however you chose to spell it!

It had been the wilderness home of Susanna Moodie, who had written her two famous books, "Roughing it in the Bush" (1852) and "Life in the Clearings" (1853), from her experiences in setting up a homestead, in a clearing, on this tiny lake. Her sister, Catharine Parr Traill, who also homesteaded a mile further south, had written "The Backwoods of Canada" in 1836, and added further notoriety to the spot with her "A Canadian Settler's Guide" in 1855.

When they arrived on the shore of Lake Katchewanooka - Catharine in 1832, and Susanna in 1834 - their husbands built cabins entirely surrounded by wilderness forest. But they had another neighbour who was already homesteading in the area.

His name was Lt. Col. John Caddy. Not we hasten to add, our Capt. John Caddy, who at the time was in the Caribbean painting the views of the British colonies, which today are in the British Museum, but perhaps a relative.

Sometime after 1844 - when he settled in London, Ontario - Captain Caddy ended up on tiny Lake Katchewanook. (The Moodies and Traills had both left the lake in 1839.) Did he decide to visit Lt. Col. Caddy?

There is a more likely destination. Did he seek out Catharine Parr Traill, who had written "The Backwoods of Canada" in 1836, and still lived in the region. Caddy was an adventure seeker of note and perhaps recognized a soul mate. He certainly would have read her book.

Or perhaps he came here, later, in the 1850s, after Susanna put the place on the map with her two best sellers recounting her wilderness adventures in this remote homestead!

For some reason Caddy chose to seek out this spot and paint this large picture in a totally nondescript place of what can only be the Susanna and John Dunbar Moodie homestead on Katchewanooka Lake.

Capt. Caddy would have devoured both of Susanna's books eagerly. And just as he had sought out the remote Mayan ruins in 1838, he probably decided to seek out this location, and paint this famous Canadian adventure landmark before it was transformed by civilization. There is no other reason for him to have undertaken the rigours of a rough journey to this remote location other than to connect with the place made famous by the two sister authors.

On the same trip Caddy also travelled a few kilometres further north along the river to where he painted the scene of Stoney Lake above. It is hard to believe that he was not, in fact, deliberately trying to capture, with watercolour, the emotional passage written by Susanna Moodie when she first saw the same scene of Stoney Lake above.

Go to JH Caddy 2

The Moodie Homestead (1834-1839)

Why do we say the cabin he painted is the Moodie homestead? Because little is better! As Susanna Moodie wrote:

"The lake on which our clearing stood was about a mile and a half in length, and about three quarters of a mile in breadth; a mere pond, when compared with the Bay of Quinté, Ontario, and the inland seas of Canada. But it was our lake, and, consequently, it had ten thousand beauties in our eyes, which would scarcely have attracted the observation of a stranger."

Susanna mentions no other homesteads on this tiny lake except that of her sister, Catharine, who lived a mile further south, where the lake has narrowed into the Otonabee River. The Moodie homestead was really the only one "On Lake Katchowanook..."

The reference to "near Lakefield" is helpful too. It really meant not "at Lakefield," where the Traills and Sam Strickland - Susanna and Catharine's brother - had homesteaded, off the bottom end of the lake. Seen in these terms, "near" meant "distant" from Lakefield. The only homestead that fit this scenario was the Moodie place, further up, "On Lake Katchowanook."

What we have, then, is Capt. John Caddy's watercolour of the famous homestead of John Dunbar and Susanna Moodie only a few years after they left it.

A fabulous historic location, featuring a famous Canadian writer, painted at the time, by a Great Canadian Painter.

Another Great Canadian Heritage Treasure, saved from the trash heap of History by the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum.

Go to Catherin Parr Traill