Business and industrial activity in Carleton Place, when viewed over the years of the community’s life, may be seen to have traced a normal pattern. Periods of expansion have been followed by times of little change ; years of reduced business activity have been succeeded by years of renewed growth.
The greatest early period of growth took place in the 1870’s and 1880’s beginning in the year of Confederation. A more than threefold increase in population, to 4,200 accompanied it. With the town’s population remaining relatively constant through the early 1950’s at some 4,500, a glance seventy years back to a year of the expansive 1880’s may permit some degree of comparison with life in the same area today.
A description of the town’s business and public institutions of 70 years ago has been found in a special number of the Carleton Place Herald of 1887. A few details of the scantily recorded first years of the community are included as its introduction, probably provided tot he young editor, William H. Allen, by the erudite and elderly Robert Bell.
Mr. Bell, former Member of the Legislative for Lanark and Renfrew and later for North Lanark before Confederation, and Dominion Inspector of Canal Revenues, was a leader in the town’s affairs for most of the period from 1830 until his death here at age 86 in 1894.
He was a son of the pioneering Rev. William Bell of Perth, whose children included Rev. Andrew Bell, William and John Bell, prominent early merchants of Perth and Carleton Place, Robert Bell, M.P.P. ; Isabella, wife of Judge J. G. Malloch of Perth ; James Bell, once of Carleton Place and one time banker and County Registsrar at Perth ; and Rev. George Bell, first Canadian-born graduate of Queen’s University and Registrar and Librarian of that university. In much abridged form the 1887 story follows:
“A Brief History of Carleton Place – Its Manufacturing Industries, Its Advantages and its Population. December 1887:
About seventy years ago Edmond Morphy, with his wife and two daughters and his six sons, John, William, James, David, Edmond and Thomas, became (in 1819) the first settlers in the forests that then grew upon the site we now occupy. They owned 400 acres of land, lots 14 and 15 in the 12th concession of Beckwith, skirting the banks of the Mississippi River. The river was at that time, in the part that now divides the town, a long stretch of rapids, since changed by the construction of dams to a tolerably placid stream of fair depth in about half our corporation limits, and terminating in a more abrupt and higher succession of falls and shorter stretch of rapids.
Morphy’s Falls and Bolton’s Mills:
A few other settlers shortly afterwards joined those mentioned. Until 1830 the river at this point and the settlement or hamlet shared in common the name of Morphy’s Falls. IN 1830 Caleb Bellows, the postmaster, proposed a change in name, and Carlton Place became the recognized designation, changed about twenty years later to Carleton Place. It is supposed that the village was named after Carlton Place, a location in Glasgow, Scotland.
In 1820 a mill site was purchased by a Mr. Coleman, who in turn disposed of it to Hugh Boulton, who built a grist mill. Its site was where Mr. Horace Brown’s oat mill now stands, (corner of Mill and
Beckwith Streets, since converted as McGregor’s Automobile Body Shop). The first millstone ever used here abouts was made by Hugh Boulton, and the identical millstone now lies down by Miller Brown’s storehouse.
By the terms of his purchase from the Morphy’s of the mill site, Mr. Boulton was to have the mill running by a certain date. He found that he had miscalculated, and that he could not import a stone and have it delivered in time to fulfil his contract. He went up the lake somewhere about ‘Buchanan’s place’ and obtained a large piece of granite and made the stone himself, thus triumphing over difficulties and starting his mill on time. At about the same time a saw mill, on a small scale, was built just on the opposite side by Mr. Boulton.
A few houses were also erected in 1820, the Morphy brothers being among the builders. William Moore opened his blacksmith shop, and Robert Barnst embarked embarked in his trade as a cooper. A general store, an inn and a potash factory were opened at the close of the same year by Alexander Morris. The general store and hotel shared the same roof.
The building stood flush to the river bank on the second lot on Mill Street below Bridge Street. Two years later another store was opened by John (or William) Loucks. The first merchant to open a store really worthy of the name, having a general assortment of merchandise unmixed with offshoot enterprise, was Caleb S. Bellows. His place of business was on the site occupied by James L. Murphy’s Riverside Store, at the southwest corner of the Bridge Street bridge.
Francis Jessop, Distiller:
In the time of Mr. Bellow’s activity there were two distilleries in operation for several years. One of these was owned by Mr. Bellows and was situated where the Canada Lumber Company’s large mill now stands, near the north end of the dam. The other was owned by Francis W. K. Jessop and was nearby, just below the present site of McNeely’s tannery at, Mr. MacKay’s bakery premises on Bell Street. This Mr. Jessop, who also had a brewery in connection with his distillery, was an eccentric individual with strange ideas in many matters of everyday life, and with personal habits radically discordant to the general mind.
He had his abode in a corner of the distillery building. His bed chamber surpassed any ordinary ‘bachelor’s hall,’ strange and fantastic evidence being borne of a dearth of a woman’s care. He was an easy-going genius, and had his good sides. He was the first man in these parts to wear a beard and moustache, and after a length of time others were led to adopt the same habit in those times a novelty.
About Mr. Jessop’s marriage, later on, there was a thread of romance. He had in England a brother who was a captain in the British army. This brother’s wife had a sister who was rather cultured and, moreover, rich. She was a slave-owner, and all her environments were those of ease, independence, affluence.
Somehow a pen and paper courtship sprang up between the distiller at Morphy’s Falls and this lady of wealth. The result was that, although no other means of acquaintance had ever existed between them, the distiller induced the fair writer to break off all her home ties and come to him at Morphy’s Falls. The change in circumstances was a sweeping one after she became Mrs. Jessop ; from ease and luxury in England to a home in these backwoods, in a little log house on the river just about where now stands the blacksmith shop of the Canada Lumber Company.
Battle of the Ballygiblins :
From the Weekly Register, a paper printed in York, the 1823 and 1824 volumes of which are among Mr. Robert Bell’s archives, we extract the following :
Two press reports on the Ballygiblin Riots of 1824 follow, coloured by the Perth correspondent to the disadvantage of the Irish minority faction ; and referring to the opening militia brawl at the Morris tavern on Mill Street here and the ensuing turbulent week of encounters in the neighbourhood of Carleton Place and Almonte ; featured by renewed fighting, marches, counter marches, gunfire, casualties and arrests. The verdict of the government inquiry reflected little credit on the one-sided and inflammatory conduct of military and civil authorities of the local district who were involved.After the first troubles mentioned, a decisive struggle took place just out of town on the clergy reserve in Ramsay, to the right hand side of the road, towards the lead mine. The set-to was spoken of as the Battle of the Ballygiblins.”