The Back Rhodes of Our Genealogy
We hope you find your missing links among ours
Portraits of British Americans By Fennings Taylor, William Notman Published by W. Notman, 1867
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL RHODES, of the Canadian Militia, has the advantage of being a Yorkshire man. He is the second son of William Rhodes, Esq., of Bramhope Hall, in that great English county. His father was formerly a Captain in the nineteenth light dragoons, and was present with his regiment, under Sir George Prevost, at Platts- burg. His son, the subject of our sketch, like his father, adopted the profession of arms, and joined the sixty-eighth regiment of light infantry as Ensign, on the 18th of May, 1838. After serving for the period of ten years, he retired from the army with the rank of Captain. In the course of his career, he was ordered to do duty with his regiment in Canada. Such duty included the popular and attractive service of guarding the city and citadel of Quebec. The times _we write of were the halcyon times of peace, when the Queen's troops were not exposed to any serious professional perils. Parades were observed and repeated with scrupulous regularity. Sentinels were posted with exact precision, and were succeeded by other sentinels at exact intervals. Nothing more serious than the veering of the wind, or a change in the weather, broke the monotony of their " weary way." The officer of the day went " his rounds," according to regulation, and in mess- room monotone answered the challenge, delivered with martial emphasis, " what rounds ?" with the stereotyped answer, " grand rounds!" Having noted the " all's well!" of the carefully instructed non-commissioned officer, the commissioned officer reported at head quarters the uniform intelligence that there was nothing to report. " War's alarms" were listened to as matters of interesting tradition, or read of as specimens of literary merit. Fossilized field officers, like well-preserved minstrels of other days, had the privilege of telling stories, prettily varied perhaps, but pleasantly wrought, of the shreds and scraps of personal experience, or local recollection. Grave narrators wrote histories, as a matter of course slightly one-sided, or strung together memoirs, somewhat fanciful in their structure and undeniably florid in their coloring. Thus tradition and history did homage to the past. The youth and manhood of the army listened to one, and read the other, giving to both a value of their own. Battles had been heard of, none had been seen. War, and the army list, were studied as duties. Peace, and idleness were put up with as necessities.
It generally happens, however, that when Mars is idle, Cupid is active. If the soldier on service escapes the gunshots of the former, he is exceedingly liable to the arrow shafts of the latter. In one way or another it is a condition of his profession, that he should be wounded. He was probably recruited for the purpose. The difference is, that whereas one class of wounds being reported by the commanding officer, awakens compassion in the nation; the other class being also reported by the same functionary, not infrequently- creates consternation in the family. Indeed, those wounds which require parental treatment are commonly more embarrassing to the commanding officer than those which are left to the skill of the surgeon. Again, though there was little danger that the flower of the English youth would become prisoners to any foreign force, there was, we venture to think, no small degree of anxiety lest they should fall into captivity to powers, not the less dangerous for being friendly. Thus, it followed, that the hopes of those who were absent did not always harmonize with the wishes of those who were near. Purposes in the distance, and influences on the spot, then, as now, not infrequently crossed and vexed one another. Far off friends took little note of the great law of local attraction, and were sometimes only brought face to face with its controlling powers when the season for analysis had passed away. Wherefore it chanced that people in the old world were affected with a marvelous amount of illogical surprise when they discovered that the social laws which were operative in England were not inoperative in Canada. They curiously overlooked the fact that gentlemen are appreciated, and for the like reasons, in both countries. Their residence in either land need not be an hermetically sealed hermitage ; for in the new world, as well as in the old, there are beings of gentle birth, near akin to the graces, compassionate in their feelings, and benevolent in their natures, who would rather share than sympathize with such distressing solitude, even though the sacrifice should include a life-long residence with the captive.
Passing, however, from general observations to matters of narrative and personal history, we may chronicle, for the information of ourfair and courteous readers, that when quartered with his regiment at Quebec, the subject of our sketch fell into captivity to, and subsequently married, the only surviving daughter of the late Robert Dunn, Esq., of the last mentioned city, and grand-daughter of the late Honorable Thomas Dunn, tie supplemented the ceremony with a graceful compliment, for he made the country of the lady's birth the land of his own adoption. Colonel Rhodes resides at Benmore, a charming river-side farm, in the vicinity of Quebec. The estate was previously owned by Sir Dominick Daly, the present Governor-in- chief of South Australia. It may also be noted, that Colonel Rhodes not only succeeded by purchase to Sir Dominick's landed property, but he succeeded also by election to his political property, as his seat in the House of Assembly, for the County of Mcgantic, was not inaptly called. He was elected in 1854, and continued to represent the last mentioned County until the year 1858. Whether the
duties of a legislator were congenial, or the reverse, we have no means of knowing, but we are under the impression that he did not offer himself for re-election. If, however, he saw fit to withdraw from political life, it was from no distaste to do what he could to promote the well-being of all whom his example might influence or his services benefit. As a practical agriculturist, he lost little time in showing what might be profitably done, by judicious cultivation and well-selected stock, even in the face of a severe climate and long winters. Thus, he communicated valuable information to less instructed farmers. He personates the poetry of labor, for he is alike enthusiastic whether the subjects of discourse be "swedes" or " shorthorns." In this way he has done much towards carrying out the purposes for which the agricultural association of Lower Canada was created. Commerce, too, and enterprise, seem to have assumed for him airs of theoretical, fascination. He was, for reasons considered to be sufficient, regarded as a gentleman of mark in the early history of Canadian Railways, and his co-operation and assistance were evidently sought for by those in whose judgment such assistance was deemed to be valuable. Thus he was the elected President of the Quebec and Richmond, and of the Quebec and Trois Pistoles Railways; and at its incorporation he was a Director of the Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada.
Being of a sanguine, hopeful, and cheerful temperament, with an apparently inexhaustible stock of health and strength, it is no matter for surprise that Colonel Rhodes should with great zest have associated himself with others to advance projects, which in a legitimate and wholesome way were calculated to develop the resources of, and attract wealth to the country. Among many which would naturally occur to him, would probably be the two patent ones, which, in different forms, present themselves to almost all minds. First to create a market for the poor man's labor; and second, to establish a repository for the rich man's gains. To promote the former, Colonel Rhodes interested himself in the formation of the Quebec Warehousing Company, of which Company he was, and we believe is, the chairman. To secure the latter, he has, with others, exerted himself to establish the Union Bank, of which institution he is one of the newly chosen Directors.
Commerce and enterprise, whether they mean much or little, far- reaching industry or sordid thrift, will not probably be rated with the highest virtues. They have their rewards, however, and whether such rewards are real or speculative, actual or expectant, they serve to promote the individual about whom they cluster to a niche of comparative prominence in the empire of trade. He who is rich enough to lose money, next to him who is wise enough to win money, will, of course, be regarded as a chief among the candidates for commercial distinction. The gain and the loss, however, are almost inseparably associated with those contrivances and associations by which money is accumulated or diffused. He who interests himself in such projects may be moved by public considerations, but he ought to be moved by personal ones also. He should be sensible of the claims of his own industry and of the requirements of his own wealth. Thus in giving Colonel Rhodes credit for his zeal in behalf of the two enterprise we have especially mentioned, we are not blind to the fact that his interest may have, and ought to have run in the same groove with his exertions.
There is, however, one incident in the career of Colonel Rhodes, and of other Quebec gentleman with whom he was associated, which deserves particular notice. Though it was incidentally of a speculative and apparently of a profitable kind, the work, nevertheless, was originally undertaken because it was deemed to be a moral and social need of a city population, that its inhabitants should possess a place where they could be instructed and amused. Experience teaches that work is not deteriorated by being flavored with pleasure, neither is wisdom impoverished by being brightened with mirth. We -associate innocence with childhood, and observe with no feeling of regret the joy, which, like a " luminous cloud,"
a " 'light ineffable," seems, as if with a belt of beauty, to fold the sunny forms of youth. Joy, which is the charm of childhood, and the heritage of youth, may scarcely be regarded as alien to man's more advanced stage of being. The form in which it finds expression will necessarily change. It will in later life convey its feelings in language very different from the syllables in which it first learned to articulate its sense of happiness. Still, though cultivated and improved, the plant is the same. Its roots gather nourishment now, as then, beside the springs of mirth and joy.
To make provision for what we have termed a need of our nature, the subject of our sketch, with many other gentlemen, met and subscribed money for the purpose of erecting a public building which was very fittingly called " The Music Hall; "—perhaps the most spacious apartment of the kind in the Province. As a pecuniary speculation, the scheme, we have reason to believe, has turned out to be in the last degree unprofitable. As a social contrivance of moral excellence, it remains and we hope will continue to remain, a monument of the wisdom and generosity of those who projected, and who made sacrifices to build it. "Glorious Apollo" may not have been seen in person, nor the " nectared sweets" of his divine lute actually tasted. Still the " golden tongue" of music in notes of silver, has often been and will often be heard within its walls.
" A tuneful mandolin and then a voice
Clear in its manly depth, whose tide of song
O'envhclmcd the quivering instruments, and then
A world of whispers, mix'd with low response,
Sweet, short and broken, as divided strains of nightingales."
Age has, for a while at least, under the influence of music forgotten its weight of years. The mind, overwrought, has got rid of its burden, and even care, at the touch of its benign flattery, has recognized the " sweet uses of adversity." There is a subtle, humanizing mystery in music which belongs to feeling, not to narrative—which lingers on the memory even when the words to which it was fashioned have passed away from the mind. In the midst of such festivals of pleasure as the Music Hall affords, it may not be amiss to note the names of those who projected and who contributed towards the erection of the building, and to whom the public is indebted for one of the most charming social attractions of the ancient capital. This review of gratitude will include the subject of our sketch.
Though Colonel Rhodes has sat in Parliament, we are not aware that he has the misfortune to be moved by any special political aspirations. He has, as we have said, from his position and energy, been selected for various situations of responsibility connected with the enterprise, commerce, and monetary institutions of the country. Such selections, however, were not made because he was especially qualified, by experience or study, to deal with the subjects of railways, trade, or banking. Political science, railway economy, or comparative currencies, have not with him, we incline to think, been matters of severe study. They and he belong to the country and its progress. His friends and neighbors, for reasons of their own, have thought fit in some way to associate him with such subjects; and he, on his part, has not been unwilling to shew his sense of their partiality by contributing what he possesses, namely, time, means, and zeal, some patience, and more industry towards promoting the "wealth, peace and happiness of the country."
Like most country gentlemen, Colonel Rhodes was from his boyhood more or less conversant with the sports and pastimes which are inseparable from country life in England. The worlds of the East Riding and the game preserves of the North and West Ridings of Yorkshire, have, we venture to think, made his acquaintance in his character of a sportsman. It is moreover probable that sport " in the purple," as represented at the great racing carnival at Doncaster, when all Yorkshire leaps into the saddle to ride or look at the St. Legcr handicap, has not escaped his observation. Colonel Rhodes may be congratulated if on such a day, and at such a scene, he had the grace to look at the high-conditioned beauties, in all their daintiness of motion, with speculative interest only, and thus avoid all perilous, to say nothing of pecuniary anxiety as to which particular badge of silk and gossamer should be mingled with the winning horse, and with the well-won stakes.
But though Colonel Rhodes put aside the dangerous fascination which is supposed to surround the jockey's silk, we venture to think he took no precautions against the more wholesome attractions of the scarlet cloth, the dainty coat and delectable buckskin, the perfect mount, and the exhilarating accompaniments of hounds and huntsmen ; to say nothing of—
" A southerly wind and a cloudy sky."
Had he continued to reside in England, it is probable that he would now be petted and cherished in the community of fox-hunters, for he is, we incline to think, a style of rider who would be more apt to take than shirk a fence. He would certainly be prized by many, besides rustics, in the country round, for those qualities of strength and activity which are regarded as among the prime graces of manhood.
" In wrestling nimble, and in running swift,
In shooting steady, and in swimming strong,
AVell made to strike, to leap, to throw, to lift,
And all the sports that shepherds are among!"
The taste for the chase inherited or acquired in the old country, knew, as we conjecture, little abatement when Colonel Rhodes left England to take up his residence in Canada. The conditions of the sport and the character of the game underwent considerable change, but the old love and the old relish remained the same. The climate of Canada enables him, without detriment to his agricultural pursuits, to indulge this taste. When the earth has donned her winter mantle; when the snow has been scattered "like wool;" when all domesticated animals are housed in their sheltered nooks; when all within is snug, and all without-is bleak; then the agriculturist may become the sportsman, who, as in the case under review, need not be sought for at Bcnmore, where he lives, or at boards of commerce where bank directors, men with long pockets, meet; but, if you would find you must look for him among the wild hunters of the frozen north, with whom in " icy halls of cold sublimity," or amidst the everlasting verdure of eternal pines, " the green-robed senators of mighty woods," he can make his watch fires and chaunt
in unison the old refrain,
" A chosen band in a mountain land,
And a life in the woods for me.''
Mr. J. LeMoine, in his picturesque collection of literary " Maple Leaves " has not inaptly spoken of Colonel Rhodes, as " the great northern hunter," and as such we are especially glad to be able to make him the text of this sketch. Indeed, in all occupations connected with the chase, Colonel Rhodes, we venture to think, has few superiors ; for he is an ardent and hard-working, as well as a studious and successful sportsman, who has patiently observed the habits of moose and caribou, and appears exactly to know what either of those animals and their tribes would do in any given emergency. The limits of this sketch will not permit us to describe the outfit, the animals, or the sport. It must suffice to mention, that the moose is not usually regarded by gentlemen chasseurs as a suitable object of sport, and it has therefore been very generally abandoned. Hunting the caribou (the American rein-deer) is however quite another thing. He is to our Canadian hunters what the red deer is to the Highlander. He is, in his habits, an incorrigible nomad, and therefore gives plenty of occupation to his pursuer. He roves at will, and apparently has no fixed place of abode. Sometimes he is seen on the very crowns, the " frosty pows," of the highest mountains, whose "snowy scalps" are swathed in clouds. Then again he is found hidden away in cozy winding ravines, beside some brawling " burn;" it may be for the convenient purpose of drinking its waters, or for the congenial one of listening to its music, or for the considerate one of finding shelter for the fawns and their young. Or again, he is found, it is difficult to understand why, except for Shylock's reason, that, " 'tis his humour !" in the coldest and bleakest spot of what is called " stag ground." The creature may be understood when he takes position on the crest of a mountain, that he wishes to observe and see that no enemy approaches. He also may be understood when he seeks the sheltered ravine, that he wishes to enjoy a little domesticity. But, except upon the hypothesis of conjugal estrangements, it is not so easy to conjecture why he should choose, at any time, to abide in the third spot which we have mentioned, whose only recommendation appears to be that it possesses all the bleak qualities of the mountain without its elevation, and all the sheltered qualities of the valley without its seclusion. In fact, it looks like a place of penance and mortification, where there is little comfort for the deer, and less for the hunter.
The Quebec " Daily Mercury," of January last, has some very good remarks on the sport, and they are the more worthy of iuser- tion here, because they relate to a chasise in which, we believe, the subject of our sketch took a conspicuous part.
Of late years a good deal of attention has been annually drawn to the sport of hunting the caribou. This arises from our young men cultivating habits of sound morality, and showing a desire to excel in fields of exercise where the body and the mind find healthy recreation. The object of caribou hunting is to give reality to the use of the rifle; and a better training cannot be imparted to any young Canadian than the practice of contending with the climate in the pursuit of the wild animals of his country. The qualifications of a good caribou hunter are endurance, both mental and bodily, sufficient strength to carry his own body through the day, good sleeping powers at night, and as perfect a nervous system as can be attained. This latter qualification, so essential at (he last moment, the pulling of the trigger, can be best promoted by practicing moderation in all things, especially in drinking and smoking. A caribou hunter ought to drink a glass of water daily as a rule, never touch spirits except when ill, avoid strong tea or coffee—in fact, any habit which tends to weaken the nerves. The advantages of the sport are apparent in an increase of health generally, an eye which can see many things unobserved by ordinary men, and a physique which makes the transport of your own body from one place to another a matter of pleasure, instead of being a labor and a fatigue; last, though not least, a practical knowledge is acquired of what poor people call la misere, a state of body by no means so disagreeable, as nature provides through the appetite a splendid sauce for the plainest food, and the warmth of a fire is a luxury to a half-starved man, more enjoyable than the best furnished house.
So much for preamble; now for a hunt alone! To be alone in the woods conveys a feeling such as Adam may have felt when he was without a companion. " On one occasion," says an experienced hunter, living not a hundred miles from Quebec " 1 followed an ' old track,' thinking it would lead me somewhere, probably where other deer might be, and after I had crossed one mountain and ascended another, I suddenly came upon other tracks which showed me that I was in the vicinity of some females with their young ones. After getting safely to the leeward of the tracks I found the game very much at my mercy, as I had only to proceed cautiously and keep my eyes very actively employed. After advancing some distance I saw a deer lying down. Off with the cover of the rifle,—a glance at the caps,— shuffle out of the snow shoes, and the deer is counted as my own, as I had not been seen. On examining the ground again, I saw another deer alongside the former one, and, at a short distance, the head of a third. I consequently made arrangements to fire, shoot one on the ground, shoot another as it jumps up, shoot a third as it advances to its wounded comrades, then kill a fourth and a fifth as they, in their confusion, rush up to the dying deer. After reloading, I found four deer dead and one wounded. The dead deer were immediately beheaded, their bellies opened and the wounded deer followed. Two more shots soon brought him down. The next day I spent (having brought one of my men with me) in skinning and transporting the meat, which weighed about 700 Ibs., to a neighboring lake, whence it could more conveniently be carried to Quebec."
In some instances the caribou have to be approached by crawling on the ground. "On one occasion of this kind," says our friend, "previous to the final stalk,it being very cold weather, I had one of my men badly frost-bitten, as he dare not move for some time for fear of alarming the deer, so we had to retire, warm ourselves by running about and eating, and then recommence the attack. Out of the five deer we got three—having missed two, through our fingers freezing on the triggers."
The best style of caribou " camps " are tents made of double cloth, warmed with stoves. And by washing the body daily in the snow, an amount of comfort and cleanliness can be obtained which few people would suppose. The snow also makes the skin cold-proof. The washing in the snow is of course a strange sight for the Indian to behold:—a nude white man rubbing himself with snow always draws forth remarks of an amusing or alarming character. Caribou are decidedly increasing. Their great enemy is the carcajou or glutton. The caribou killed by gentlemen hunters are fewer than those formerly killed by Indians, the best of whom prefer an engagement with " lea Messieurs " to the chances of the woods; in fact the caribou hunt is regarded as the period when these men see a little money; and a feeling is rapidly growing that it is more profitable to keep the caribou as an attraction to the gentlemen than to destroy them for the mere value of their skins.
The Game Laws, so far as the caribou is concerned, are well observed, yet the best protection for it is to kill the carcajou by all means, and to encourage young and inexperienced hunters to employ the old hands as guides. In fact, a caribou is not an animal for a poor man to make money out of; he is emphatically a gentlemanly mark for the accomplished chasseur, taking his hunters into the wildest places and most romantic scenery of our Northern mountains. For we have no mountains too high for a caribou to climb, ncrr crags so barren that he cannot find food on them, neither is there a lake or a hill-top which he does not visit during some period of the year.
The phases of the sport are very varied and very interesting. The dreary country, tortured as it is into wild fantastic shapes of hideous ruin, in which the caribou most commonly abides, or through which he roams, is enough to appall a druid, or make a witch stiffen with fear. Nature, with the agency of earthquakes and volcanoes, has in the violent characters of wrath trenched the land with convulsions and cursed it with sterility. It is peopled with such monuments of desolation as mock, even while they provoke inquiry. Happily for the hunter, he does not commonly wait to examine what is perplexing, when in the pursuit of what is attractive. The somber setting is lost sight of in the central life of the picture. The gloom of nature is forgotten in the glow of sport. Tims the victor, as he bears his trophies home, thinks not unkindly of the waste in which they were taken. With the tastes of an adventurer and the experience of a sportsman, with boundless territory and magnificent game, it is no wonder that Colonel Rhodes should be a " mighty hunter." Neither is it a wonder that his friends and neighbors should, by common consent, write his name in red letters, and place it conspicuously on the muster-roll of those who may fitly be called the Nimrods of the North.