One of the first trails to be laid out as a road when the forests on the north side of Carleton Place were opened for settlement is still in use in Ramsay township. Called later the old Perth Road, it was opened one hundred and forty years ago by Josias Richey, government deputy surveyor, to give access from Lanark township to “the Grand Falls in the Mississippi in Ramsay” for the original settlers there. Across the middle of the township it follows the southern edge of the broad Precambrian ridge of Wolves Grove, on a course which possibly for many centuries was an ancient route in the travels of Indian hunters.
On completion of the survey of 60,000 acres which prepared Ramsay township in January of 1821 for settlement, and before the summer arrival in the township of over a hundred families of Glasgow emigrant society settlers and others, the first thirty farm locations in Ramsay were obtained by newcomers from Scotland, England and Ireland.
Choosing their hundred acre lots at places most readily reached by the main trail running easterly across the township, these first thirty men of Ramsay included, in the eighth and ninth concessions, William Foster, William Hawkins, Thomas Lowrie, Edward McManus, Robert and Thomas Mansell, James Metcalfe, Andrew Rae, Archibald Wilkie and Catin Willis. Those choosing farmsites at the same time nearer to Lanark township in the first, second and third concessions of Ramsay included William Chapman, Thomas Foster, John Gemmill, Patrick McDermott and James Smith.
In midsummer about four hundred men, numbering with their families over eighteen hundred persons, arrived at the one year old village of Lanark and began to select locations for farms in Ramsay, Lanark, Dalhousie and North Sherbrooke townships, under the supervision of Colonel William Marshall, North Lanark settlement superintendent. They were emigrant society settlers from the Glasgow district who had reached the port of Quebec in June on four ships.
Most had been hand loom cotton weavers. Others were tradesmen such as carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers, and cotton spinners. With them came the versatile Rev. John Gemmill, Presbyterian minister of the first church of Lanark village and of the north half of Lanark county, who practiced also his skills as a medical doctor and a printer. Many of those who located in Ramsay township on some of North Lanark’s best agricultural land were forbears of present well known residents of Ramsay, Almonte and Carleton Place.
Ramsay Emigration Diary
The journal of Arthur Lang is one of the few remaining accounts of this large migration to have been recorded by a Ramsay settler in the first year of the inhabitation of the township. His concise personal chronicle tells with candor of his experiences as one of the six hundred Glasgow district passengers sailing from Greenock on the Earl of Buckinghamshire. With his wife, two sons and four daughters, he settled on the east side of the Mississippi River (Conc. 10, lot 14) near Almonte, where he lived until his death in 1849. He was one of the township’s earliest school teachers at Almonte. His long-lived eldest son William Lang (1811-1902), a famer in Huntley and in Beckwith and born in Paisley, spent his last days at the home of his daughter Mrs. John Cavers in Carleton Place.
The Arthur Lang record of his seven weeks sailing from Greenock to Quebec and of the inland journey fails to join in the gloom of his fellow diarist John McDonald, who was not the John McDonald of Ramsay township. McDonald’s Narrative of a Voyage, published in Glasgow in 1822, describes his passage on another of the four emigrant ships, the David of London, and gives a disconsolate view of a pilgrims’ progress to Lanark and of the new settlements there. The extracts which follow are a selection from the entries in Arthur Lang’s authentic contribution to the story of the last four large organized group emigrations from Scotland to Lanark County in Upper Canada.
An Emigrant Ship of 1821
“April 28 – Having got everything ready we left the Old World and started for the New…..There was a little disturbance at one time about the payment for some butter but that passed over and the day ended peacefully.
The 29th began with the roaring of children and I believe ended in the same way. I cannot but admire the moderation of the captain in his conduct toward the passengers. They seemed to be in good spirits…..
May 1 – We lost sight of land today. It was a beautiful day… (marred) by confusion and noise. Bed-time came with its usual attendants, darkness and the roaring of children.
May 2 – There was plenty of rum going today, and great laughing at the odd ways of some of the men and women. Some got drunk and were very troublesome to many of us. One of them was put in irons for his stupidity. At 12 o’clock last night we ran aground (off the Wicklow coast). We kept too close to a large rock, the bowsprit almost touching it. There was little fear or excitement because we did not know the danger.
Escapement From Shipwreck
May 3 – We got from that perilous situation with hard labor at 11 o’clock….A pilot came along side us – I believe that unless he had got a large sum of money he would have rested on his oars in his boat with little concern and watch the ship go to pieces. (Natives were gathered in readiness to plunder the possible wreckage).
May 4 – We are just lagging as usual without wind, distributing and disputing about our provisions.
May 5 – Not until today have I been able to look up on deck, but was forced to endure intolerable stenches, and the bocking of poor souls wishing to be back again, though it were to live on water gruel at home. Aye, and I’ll be off before I come back again if I were once there.
May 9 – I have been tolerably well and most of the passengers also, still the trifling disputes continue. Such a gang to fight about a bucket of slat water, a matter in which five minutes would have set both parties right.
May 10 – Nothing but the usual bustle occurred today, except one incident where a man got a mark with his own pot, contending for the place where it hung.
May 12 – A fine looking ship from China, last at St. Helena, passed us, all well.
May 15 – A schooner from Baltimore, bound for Liverpool has hailed us, and our captain told them we were in 15 deg. 30 min. west longitude.
A Fair Wind
May 16 – There is……..the fairest wind we have had since we left Craig Isle. From that Craig till this day we have been sailing against the wind. We have been sailing so far south that sailing north west is very near our course to Quebec.
May 17 – A very good day and nothing occurred but the usual bustle for food from morning to night. We had no time but to make ready our victuals. Our room is so small both above and below that we appear to be in continual confusion.
May 18 – It is curious to me at least to see how our spirits freshened with the breeze.
Sabbath, 20th – We had a sermon about 12 o’clock today. There was a decent little group of young and old with their faces clean and their expressions serious.
May 24 – The ship went at ten knots for a good part of the day and the sea rose higher than I have ever seen it.
May 25 – A fine day but not much wind. It was considered on this day that the passengers were not as well used as they ought to be by some of the crew. The mate had struck a man before this with a handspike, but the little man he kicked resented the blow. It produced new regulations.”