Before he settled in Gloucester Township on land that is now part of Ottawa, Braddish Billings traded in timber along the Rideau and Ottawa Rivers. In 1810 he and a crew of other ex-patriot American “skedaddlers” took a raft of white oak barrel staves from the Rideau Front to Quebec City, a venture which proved to be disastrous. Included in his crew was his nephew, Elkanah Stowell, the narrator of this tale fifty years later.
A leader of an anti-American faction in Upper Canada was Scottish-born Deacon (later to be Archibishop) John Strachan of Cornwall, a founder of the infamous Family Compact. He made it his business to persecute squatters (like Billings) on the Clergy Reserves.
Also in the political mix were agents of the American president James Madison, some of them Methodist circuit riders, who sought to identify deserters and to determine the likelihood of local support for the imminent American invasion.
These elements add a sinister context to a true chronicle of adventure and romance on the Canadian frontier.