The First Oil Lamp

 

A family named McCloskey once lived on lot 425, sixth range, now the property of Johnny Donaldson. Whether they were related to the fifth range McCloskeys is not known but Johnny does not think they were. He remembered seeing one of them, John McCloskey, who had a store on St. Michael street in Quebec city, long after the family had left here.

 

The site of their home is marked by a clump of poplar trees and lies across the road from where Danny Stewart now lives. years ago this spot was always referred to as "McCloskey's poplars". The late Jack Powell told about one of the McCloskey men being killed by a fall­ing tree while clearing land and, he remembered as a child seeing the then parish priest of St. Catherines, Father John O'Grady, riding up on horseback to McCloskeys to comfort the bereaved family. This must have been about 1860.

 

Pete Powell said that McCloskeys was the first household on the sixth to acquire an oil lamp; tallow candles being the only illumination previously and, in the very early days, a bit of rag stuck in a saucer of rendered fat was often all that some people had for lighting. When the news broke on the range that McCloskeys had bought some mysterious object called an oil lamp. it created quite a stir and, on the evening after it got about. everyone who could walk or hobble headed to McCloskeys to see it. Houses were small then and not all the curious could get inside and those who could not had to stand about the yard and view proceedings as best they could through the kitchen window. When it was deemed sufficiently dusk, Mrs. McCloskey brought out the lamp and, placing it on the kitchen table, lit it. The room burst suddenly into brightness and exclamations of astonishment and wonderment were heard on all sides, everyone present declaring that "twas brighter than the day" and "you could pick up a nadle from the flure" ! All this proved too much for poor Mrs. McCloskey who, not yet being used to oil lamps and no doubt bursting with pride, turned the wick higher--and higher--when to her dismay her once gloriously lighted kitchen began to grow dark as the lamp globe blackened and, in a few seconds. the room was as it was before the lamp had been lighted.

Mrs. McCloskey panicked; she seized the globe intending to wipe it clean

on her apron. but it was red-hot and she dropped it on the table smashing it into smithereens.

 

Within a short while the McCloskeys were left alone in the darkness as all hands made for home with many a remark that "It would be the likes of poor Mrs. McCloskey to be taken in by these new-fangled things" and that "candles were the only way to light a house and  would be for years to come".

 

Pete Powell