Susanna Moodie Cottage - 114 Bridge Street West, Belleville; Ontario
Susanna Moodie was a innovative writer of children's books, poetry, short stories, articles and novels , and belonged to a family of writers including her sister Catherine Parr Traill. She was a middle class Englishwoman well ahead of her times. She wrote her first children's book in 1822, and published many famous books in her career including Roughing It in the Bush (1852) and Life in the Clearing (1853). She also was involved in the anti-slavery movement, and wrote several books on the subject including The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave (1831) and Negro Slavery Described by a Negro (1831). On April 4, 1831, she married Lt. John Wedderburn Dunbar Moodie, a retired officer who served in the Napoleonic Wars. Approximately one year after they were married, Susanna and John immigrated to Canada, and settled on a farm near Peterborough, Ontario near her brother Samuel and sister Catherine.
Moodie continued her writing in Canada, and her letters and journals contain valuable information about early life in the new colony as well as her religious beliefs. She wrote about her "back woods" life, native customs, Canadian and American relations, wildlife, and the strong sense of community that existed in the new colony where she lived. It was during this time that her husband served in the militia against William Lyon Mackenzie in the Upper Canada Rebellion in 1837.
Being a middle classed English woman, Susanna Moddie did not enjoy living in "the bush", and Susanna along with John and their five children moved to Belleville in 1840 after John was appointed sheriif of the newly established counting of Hastings. After welcoming two more children, Susanna and John tragically lost their son John after he drowned in the Moira river in 1844.
Even though the family had suffered a tragic loss, Moodie did not stop writing, or being critical of radical reformers such as William Lyon Mackenzie. This made life difficult for her husband who shared her views, but had to work with many people who did not. It was during this time that Susanna started to explore other dennominations of Protestantism, and followed a "practical path" in respect to public worship - attending services and churches as they presented themselves versus adhering to one faith and only going to service rarely. While in Belleville, Susanna and John attended the Congregational chapel, Anglican, and Presbyterian congregations, as well as developed an interest in the mid-century craze of Spiritualism.
As Spiritualists, Susanna and John believed that they could make contact with their loved ones who had passed on via the services of a medium at a séance. After being excommunicated in 1845 from the Congregational Church that they helped found due to "disorderly walk and neglect of church fellowship", both Susanna and John delved deeper in this belief, and tried to understand it "scientifically". They both wrote and published many letters and journals concerning their séance's, which included reports of contacting their deceased son John and departed friends. In the summer of 1855, the Moodie's were visited by Kate, who was the youngest of the celebrated Fox sisters who were also known as the Rochester Rappers who acted as a medium at these seances. Other medium's included Susanna's daughter Agnes, her celebrated author and sister Catherine Parr Traill (even though she reported the spirits often abuse her and called her ugly names), and at times Susanna was a medium herself (and reported she succeeded in communicating were her drowned son). The Moodie's obession with obsession with Spiritualism began to lessen in the late 1850's and had disappeared in the most part by the 1860's.
The 1860's were a difficult time for the Moodie's with John's forced resignation of his sheriff's position in 1863, and with him not being able to secure another position afterwards. Because of financial straits, the Moodie's were forced to move to a smaller home at 114 Bridge Street West where Susanna sold painitngs to earn much needed income. It was during this time that John's health declined, and he then died in 1869. Susanna remained in this cottage in Belleville after her husband's death, and then moved to Toronto to live with her married children until her death at 81 in 1885.