Last week, the story of the founding of The Carleton Place Canadian was told. In this issue the writer goes on to tell of the editor’s writing style in the early days.
Local news items of the 1880’s and 1890’s, preserved in the late Victorian style of writing of William W. Cliff, first editor of the Canadian, include a record of minor events unlike any told in the personal columns of later day newspapers. An assorted selection of Editor Cliff’s writings has been gathered for second publication, purporting to picture the ordinary life of the town and the times as he saw it. Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town, title of Stephen Leacock’s leading work, perhaps might be applied suitably to some of the thumb-nail sketches of Mr. Cliff, who writes of the same class of subjects. The record here commences at the circus in the summer of 1885.
Shell Games at The Circus
“The circus on Saturday was accompanied by a host of banditti who robbed the people right and left. The number who grabbed at the enticing shadows was legion. Some lost $5, some $10, others $15 and $20 ; one man lost $40. An Elder lost $5, a sexton $5. The losses of these innocents may be multiplied by four or five for rough conversion to present currency values. The circus itself was billed as “W. H. Harris Absolutely New World Famous Nickel-Plate Shows. Menagerie of Trained Wild animals and Congress of Celebrated Equestrain Stars. The only Umbrella-Eared Elephant. The largest and most savage den of Lions in captivity, entered and performed daily. The handsomest Royal Bengal Tigers on this continent, pulling against The only Male and Female Samson Horses and Elephants. M’lle. Dora, Wonderful Tatooed Fejee Island Cannibal. Performances at 2 and 8 p.m.”
Sermons at Funerals
“In speaking of our article last week on delays at funerals, the undertaker enlarged upon it in the following illustration. A number of years ago there was a funeral at Ashton ; one Crozier had died. The day was of piercing strength noted at the Wilkie funeral ; the house small ; the attendance large ; the hour 11 a.m. The Minister who officiated considerately remarked that as the weather was so cold and the crowd outside so large he would say but a few words. His sermon lasted one solid hour. A brother Minister who was present arose and, after expressing deep sympathy for the shivering masses without and guaranteeing but a few words, spun a sermon two and a half hours in length! During his delivery one by one the outside public left and sought the genial hostlery nearby. All got drunk and were soon in a glorious fight, and at 3 o’clock none were left to escort the remains to the grave save the mourners and pall bearers.”
Return from the Riel Rebellion
“At 3 o’clock Monday morning the 65th Regiment of Montreal dined at the Junction Restaurant. Shortly after 9 o’clock the 9th Regiment of Montreal steamed in, 330 of them. The Toronto Cavalry, a fine body of dilapidatedly clothed men, came in on Tuesday morning from Winnipeg. They had their horses and full equipment with them. The men expected to be in Toronto Tuesday night. They were still in Carleton Place Wednesday, waiting on repairs at the Maberley sink hole, which went down again Sunday after carrying freight trains all day.”
Battle Royal near Cloyne
“It is reported that Mr. Caldwell’s men and those of Mr. McLaren (lumbermen) have had a battle royal somewhere near Cloyne. Both factions seem, in some places, to be always loaded and ready to go off at the touch of some secret spring. At Innisville however, a few days ago, we saw the men fraternizing and apparently pleased to be near each other. One of Mr. Caldwell’s men of Cloyne writes to say the recent reported collision between the Caldwell and McLaren men was a misconception. ‘Peace and unity prevail between us,’ he adds. The disturbance was between Mr. Caldwell’s men and the villagers.”
Morality on Toboggans (1886)
“Stockholders in the Toboggan company, Messrs David and William Findlay, Robert Patterson, A. T. Hodge, R. J. E. Scott, C. B. Mansell, R. Riddle, J. A. Goth, and A. T. Taylor, entertained one of their number, Mr. Geen, to an oyster supper at Mr. Glover’s Monday evening. Mr. Geen was the projector of the sliding movement here and is now leaving. Each member of this club is obliged to pledge himself against the use of intoxicants before receiving the badge of membership. Profanity is also muzzled in like manner, thus preserving tobogganing against corrupting and debasing evils.”
“To Mr. R. F. Oliver, entirely, does the credit belong for the harmony, mentioned last week, which characterizes the motion of the vast and intricate machinery in Mr. Brown’s new mill. No assistance whatever was supplied by Messrs. Goldie and McCullough of Galt.”
One of Colonel Playfair’s Speeches
“In this issue we produce a speech delivered over thirty years ago in the House at Toronto by Colonel Playfair, the Member for South Lanark. It deals with the question of the location of Ottawa as the seat of Government. We are under obligation to Col. Playfair’s daughter, Mrs. Alex Hunter, now of Michigan, for these interesting reminiscences. The salient features of the Colonel when on his feet were fluency and enthusiasm. Mr. Bell informs us he frequently lost himself when addressing the House and, being also a local preacher of much renown, would address the Honourablees around him as ‘brother members’ and ‘my Christian brethern.’ Mr. Colin Sinclair revives for us a period when the Whigs of the age gave him their united strength. The Colonel and the late Archibald McArthur stood shoulder to shoulder. After the election all the Colonel’s old proclivities broke out in all their Tory excessiveness, and Mr. McArthur never forgave him.”
The Prophecy Fulfilled (1889)
“About fifty years ago Mr. Robert Bell, who has reached the age of 78, predicted in a speech he delivered in a little old log cabin by the side of the river, where the as yet unorganized and ungrouped Presbyterians used to worship, that the people of Carleton Place would see with their own eyes the silk and tea products of the Empire of Japan passing through on their way to the markets of Europe. A couple of years ago he saw the first train of tea passing through Carleton Place. It is now so ordinary an event that the people cease to wonder.”
A Curious Gang
“A curious gang came up from Almonte one night last week, a mother and two daughters, all drunk. They went off, thank Heaven, on the Brockville Train.”
First Elections as a Town
“Dr. Preston sits on the throne of Carleton Place – a dignity of no inconsiderable magnitude. All the morning he and his fleet Kitty Freefoot were spinning around the Town starting out the voters. In the afternoon with a change of flyer his energy never lagged. Mr. Burgess was out all the live long day with a spanking team from the aristocratic stables at Orklan, and other teams and other friends spent the day in his service. After the result was known a number of the victors made speeches in triumphant tones in the Opera Hall.”
A Noted Man Gone
“Mr. Lavallee at Rest. Napoleon Lavallee was born in the Province of Quebec Feb. 20, 1802. At fourteen years of age he left home and began to paddle his own canoe. He worked for the North West Fur Company that subsequently was swallowed up by the Hudson’s Bay Company, for whom Mr. Lavallee continued to operate. At that time most rapid of transits was accomplished by dog trains, and these the young adventurer handled with pride and skill. Leaving that country he made his way to Toronto, where he worked at his trade as a cooper, and then pushed on down the Mississippi as far as New Orleans.
At last he arrived in Ogdensburg and seemed to settle down. A gentleman there who was a friend of Mr. Bellows, then a merchant of many departments at Carleton Place and our first Postmaster, was asked if he knew a good cooper, and recommended the young Paul as ‘a steady honest fellow.’ The result was that Mr. Lavallee came to this spot, in the year 1830. He worked with fidelity for Mr. Bellows for many years and then set up for himself. He did a tremendous business all over this country, making tens of thousands of flour and pork barrells, butter tubs and like articles, chiefly with his own strong skilled hands, during a portion of this period occupying the office of Government Inspector of Pork.
Giving up his business he bought the Carleton House, built by James Bell, and ran it until his love of roving broke out furiously, and he made plans for a trip to California. He had married the Widow Paris, an amiable and athletic young woman. She had come to this country with her husband, Mungo Parks Paris, whose father was a friend of the famous African explorer, and along with them were his brothers John and James Paris, David Pattie and Adam Beck. It was the cholera year that they landed in Montreal, and young Paris died. The widow came on to Carleton Place with the others of the group, and in 1833 married Mr. Lavallee. When he resolved to go to California she and her son Hugh Paris accompanied him, as well as a young man who had been clerking for Mr. McArthur. They did not tarry long in California but pushed on through South America and finally wound up in Australia.
One day a mine caved in, and Hugh and the young clerk were smothered. Mrs. Lavallee could not endure to stay longer in that place of sorrow. They came back here much poorer, and the hotel business was resumed. Mr. Lavallee prospered and the Carleton House became too small. He erected a larger hotel, the Mississippi as it was when Mr. McIllquham bought it. Mr. Lavallee joined Rev. Mr. Fairbairn’s Church, 8th line Ramsay, largely through respect for his friend Mr. Robert Bell, who from the start was his guide, philosopher and friend, and managed for him for a period of sixty years all his financial operations. The personality of no citizen has been so marked as that of Mr. Lavallee. He had no claims to educational advantages, but measured everything and founded his decisions on merit always. He was famous for his powers of entertainment in the line of narratives from his own affluent experiences.
There were no children of the union, but through the years a number were adopted and well educated. The pallbearers were Col. John Summer, Abner Nichols, Walter McIllquham, James Gillies, John McDonald, and John F. Cram.”