"Cold, Cold, Cold!"

A detailed account of life in the former Moore Township in the early to mid 19th century is provided by John C. Geikie in his book Adventures in Canada; or, Life in the Woods [1882.  Originally published in 1864 as George Stanley: or, Life in the Woods.  A Boy's Narrative of the Adventures of a Settler's Family in Canada].  The following excerpt paints a picture of winter:

Toward the end of December the river froze.  This was, in great part, caused by large blocks of ice floating down from Lake Superior, and getting caught on the banks, as they went past, by the ice already formed there.  For one to touch another, was to make them adhere for the rest of the winter, and, thus, in a very short time after it had begun, the whole surface was as solid as a stone.  We had now to cut a hole every morning, with the axe, through the ice, to let the cattle drink, and to get water for the house, and cold work it was.  The cattle came down themselves, but when, a year or two afterwards, we got horses, they had to be led twice a day.  It was very often my task to take them.  Riding was out of the question, from the steepness of the bank, and the way in which their feet balled with the snow, so I used to sally out for them in a thick greatcoat, with ears of my cap carefully tied down, to prevent frostbites; a thick worsted cravat round my neck, and thick mitts on my hands.  The floor of the stable was invariably, a sheet of ice, and over this I had to get out the two horses, letting the one out over the icy slope at the door, and then holding the halter till the second one had slid past me, when, having closed the door, with hands like the snow, from having had to loosen the halters, I went down with them.  When the wind was from the north they were white in a step or two, with their breath frozen to their chests and sides, the cold making it like smoke as it left their nostrils.  Of course they were in no hurry, and would put their tails to the wind and drink a minute, and then lift up their heads and look round them at their leisure, as if it were June.  By the time they were done, their mouths and chins were often coated with ice, long icicles hanging from the hair all round.  Right glad was I when at last I had them fairly back again, and had knocked out the balls of snow from their shoes, to let them stand firm.

The cold did not last all the time, else we could never have endured it.  There would be two or three days of hard frost, and then it would come milder for two or three more; but the mildest, except when it was a thaw, in January, were very much colder than any that are common in England, and as to the coldest, what shall I say they were like?  The sky was as bright and clear as can be imagined, the snow crackled under foot, and the wind, when there was any, cut the skin like a razor.  Indoors, the fire in the kitchen was enough to heat a large hall in a more temperate climate.  It was never allowed to go out, the last thing at night being to roll a huge back-log, as they called it, into the fireplace, with handspikes, two of us sometimes having to help to get it into its place.  It was simply a cut of a tree, about four feet long, and of various thicknesses.  The two dog-irons having been drawn out, and the embers heaped close to this giant, a number of thinner logs, whole and in parts, were then laid above them, and the fire was "gathered" for the night.  By day, what with another huge back-log to replace the one burned up in the night, and a great bank of other smaller "sticks" in front and over it, I think there was often half a cart-load blazing at a time.  In fact, the only measure of the quantity was the size of the huge chimney, for the wood cost nothing except the trouble of cutting and bringing it to the house.  It was grand to sit at night before the roaring mountain of fire and forget the cold outside; but it was a frightful thing to dress in the morning, in the bitter cold of the bedrooms, with the windows thick with frost, and the water frozen solid at your side.  If you touched a tumbler of water with your toothbrush it would often freeze in a moment, and the water in the basin sometimes froze round the edges while we were washing.  The tears would come out of our eyes and freeze on our cheeks as they rolled down.  The towels were regularly frozen like a board, if they had been at all damp.  Water, brought in over night in buckets, and put as close to the fire as possible, had to be broken with an axe in the morning.  The bread, for long after we went to the river, till we got a new house, was like a stone for hardness, and sparkled with the ice in it.  The milk froze on the way from the barn to the house, and even while they were milking. (pages 131 to 134)