An account of the beginnings of settlement in Ramsay township is continued. Extracts from a diary of a voyage from Greenock to Quebec on The Earl of Buckinghamshire, one of four sailing ships which carried eighteen hundred Glasgow district emigrant society passengers bound for North Lanark, have told part of the story of the Atlantic crossing of a number of the pioneer residents of Ramsay. This diary of one hundred and forty years ago was written by Arthur Lang, who settled with his family near Almonte in the year of the first opening of agricultural land in the township. He became a farmer and a school teacher there.
His story is resumed as the ship’s six hundred emigrants to northern townships of New Lanark are nearing the shores of the new world.
“1821, May 27, the Sabbath – At 12 o’clock we were in 43 deg. 45 min west longitude. Another lecture was given by Mr. Thomson, but the levity of some and the seriousness of others formed a striking contrast.
Storm at Sea
May 28 – A very heavy sea was rolling and continued the whole night. The first scene…was fourteen or fifteen of the passengers tumbling head-long on top of one another.
May 29 – Everyone is telling what a bad rest they got, for really such a tumbling of baskets, cans, bundles, basins and pots I never heard before. About sixteen of us had a good glass of rum at night in the forecastle.
June 1 – Still but cold air continues. We imagined ourselves off the banks of Newfoundland but Friday, June 1st convinced us we were upon them, for there were a great many fishermen around. Two French brigs passed quite close.
June 2 – One of our side sail booms broke and vanished. They got another soon.
Sight of Land
June 5 – This morning we saw land for the first time since we left Ireland. We saw St. Pauls on the right and Cape Breton on the left.
June 6 – The island of St. Pauls within a quarter mile of us. We sailed little the whole day, but were amused at a few land birds which flew about the rigging and an owl which sat upon the mast and sometimes flew around us. It was the first I had ever seen on the wing. Newfoundland was in view in the afternoon.
June 11 – We were in the mouth of the river at 5 o’clock this morning. The hilltops are covered with snow, but the rising ground near the water is completely covered with trees. A pilot came on board today. He seems to be an able, craft-looking man.
June 13 – Not a house to be seen on the north side at all. The hills on this side are just about as high as Paisley’s braes, and some of them higher.
June 14 – We have not gained a mile, but we came in view of a fine valley with a number of houses in it. The hills beyond that valley were as high to appearance as those I have often seen out of the mill windows over the tops of Dumbarton.
June 15 – There is a new scene before us this evening – trees to the hill-tops, cultivated plains – with ranges of white houses, for they are all in rows. The women appear to be enamoured with the prospects, and no wonder. Two boats came along side of us with herring, bread and tobacco.
June 16 – We saw Quebec and it looked beautiful. I got my feet on terra firma and really I was well pleased.
June 17 – This was the best working Sabbath I ever had. Nothing but bustle and confusion and everyone for himself.
June 19 – A child died this morning, but it was ill before it came on board. We arrived at Montreal this afternoon.
The Upper St. Lawrence
June 20 – A very wet day, yet we disembarked and were hurried away in small carts and the kind of trains used for loading heavy articles with ease. We arrived at Lachine in the evening and were huddled in a cold, damp reeky barracks.
June 21 – Early this morning the hustle began again. Nothing but hurry, packing up our beds and dividing our provisions, for we got three days provisions of loaf bread and six days of biscuit with pork and beef, and away we started for the upper Lachine, as they call it, but we passed and rowed till dark night. It was the longest pull I ever had. We landed at the place in the dark ; here nothing but hurry again for a bed. We slept in the open air and our heads were wet with dew in the morning.
June 23 – Another hurry began about sunrise. We got a hurried breakfast while they were passing through the locks. All the women and children that could walked, with a greater part of the heavy baggage which was taken to a place about three miles above by land carriage. The reason of this was that the rapids were so strong. We came to Cedars and loaded again and went about a mile farther up, and rested another night in the open air.
June 24 – Sabbath was a great day among the Romans and we did not leave the place till the church came out. It was about midday and we started pulling away and went to a place six or seven miles, where there are locks. There was a kind of fortress here. We got into the barracks, but a great many slept in the fields.
June 25 – Early in the morning we left this place and sailed to the outlet of Lake St. Francis in the river St. Lawrence, and lay the whole day for the want of wind, or perhaps some other cause we know nothing about.
June 26 – We had a long voyage today and labored hard the whole day from 5 o’clock in the morning till dark. The scenery is grand…..
June 27 – Hard labor prevents me making many remarks. There are many pleasant sights in the river. At night we came through the canal in the middle of a wood and at the head of it there is what they call the “Long Soo”, a terrible rapid about nine miles long, and some of the merchants boats will run it in twenty minutes. We rested there for the night.
June 29 – Up early and out at the oars again as hard as ever. I took very ill this day and was not able to work. Excessively hot every day. We rested about five miles from Prescott.
June 30 – After a short sleep under a heavy dew we arose as soon as we could see, and after sailing a short space we came to Prescott. There is a lonely looking town on the opposite shore. The societies that came in the ship Commerce came to Prescott in the evening.
July 1, the Sabbath – This is really a day of rest, and after getting breakfast I took a tour through the woods to see how they looked. I saw nothing they produced but strawberries.
July 4 – This day is the anniversary of the States of Independence and there seemed to be some rejoicing on the part of the people on the other side of the water. “
From Prescott the eighteen hundred men, women and children gradually were conducted in wagons and on foot to Brockville and on the rougher roadways from Brockville to Perth and to Lanark village.
Lanark and Ramsay
At Lanark the women and young children remained, many in huts thatched with pine and balsam branches, while the men sought their lots, made little clearings on them and put up shanties built of the logs of the clearings. Writing on July 19th, Arthur Lang said:
“I set out for Ramsay Settlement to pick out 100 acres, but after six days hard labor travelling through swamps and untrodden paths through woods I had to return without land, and now I have to do the same thing over again….The greater part of the forest, the underwood or bramble, is not so thick as at home but a great deal of it is worse to go through than the worst of Crucatone Wood….conceive Paisley Moors, for instance, all grown over with large trees, some fresh and green, others half rotten and a great many rotten from top to bottom, and almost as many lying in all directions as are standing with not a living creature to be seen or heard except a bird or two, and the owl screaming in your ears at night.”
As less than half the British government’s expenses in connection with the society emigrations to North Lanark of 1820 and 1821, its cash loans to these settlers exceeded 22,000 pounds. Over 7,000 pounds in loans was advanced to those of 1820, who numbered 167 men and, including their families, over eight hundred persons. At the same rate of 8 pounds sterling for each man, woman and child, over 15,000 pounds was advanced in cash loans to the society settlers coming to North Lanark in 1821. After fifteen years during which transferable titles to these settlers’ lands were withheld against the loans, and therefore also their provincial voting rights, it was decided that repayment would not be required. Speaking of the day his society was paid the second installment of these government advances at Lanark village on November 1, 1821, Arthur Lang wrote:
“I received the second installment of money which was paid in sterling. If you had seen the foolishness of some who were willing to spend and be merry and the sad countenance of others who had lost the most of their families, I am sure you would have looked with contempt on the one and your hear strings would have ached for the other.”
Four months after his family’s arrival at Lanark, November 12th briefly wad marked for the Langs as the day when, in Ramsay by the Mississippi, “my family came to my own house.” The winter’s snow came five days later, and November 26 and 27 “were very frosty, the river in some places was frozen quite across.” Finally after a winter of tree cutting the first spring in the new land came in mid-April, with a note of ‘wet days’. The river has swollen very rapidly and the ducks are sporting plentifully on the water. I noticed the pigeons came to the woods on the 4th for the first time.”
A well-known resident of the thriving township, Arthur Lang, farmer and local school teacher, became one of Ramsay’s first two representatives on the council of the Lanark and Renfrew district when, in 1842 and seven years before his death, the province’s first district councils were elected.
Other settlement stories will follow in a later installment of tales of the beginnings of Ramsay township.