How did the townships of the County of Lanark get the names they bear? And how far back in time must one go to reach the days when the native Indians heard the tall forests of these townships ring to the first axe blows of surveyors and British settlers?
When the townships of this area were grouped together long ago to form the present County of Lanark their names already were the same as today. They had been given when they first were surveyed and opened for settlement in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The origins of some, such as the Scottish names of Dalhousie and Lanark, remain well known. The sources of others long have been forgotten locally and possibly are unknown to all of their present residents.
Investigation shows that nearly all of the fourteen townships of Lanark County were named in honour of greater or lesser British public and military figures of the time when this county was receiving its first large influx of settlers. Among them are the names of some of the leading men of that day who were associated with Canadian and British North American public affairs. Some wider local knowledge of the origins of these historic names seems worth preserving. They are among the oldest existing place names in the county, with such exceptions as those of the Indian-named Mississippi and the French-named Rideau. Together they form a permanent part of the record of the early inhabitation of this district by our forefathers.
Southern Townships First Settled
The townships of Montague, North Elmsley and North Burgess, on the northern borders of the waterways of the Rideau, are both the oldest and the newest townships of Lanark County. They were the first named and surveyed and received the county’s first settlers, but until about 1845 they remained a part of the adjoining district to the south which became the united counties of Leeds and Grenville.
Admiral Montagu and the American Revolution
Montague, the southeastern corner extending east along the Rideau River from Smiths Falls to beyond Merrickville and north to within two miles of Franktown, is the oldest township in Lanark County in point of date of settlement, naming and time of survey. Before it was named and surveyed in about the year 1797, the first farm land to be occupied north of the Rideau River was cleared and settled in 1790 by Roger Stevens and his family.
He had been an officer in one of the voluntarily enlisted corps of those American colonists who strove to preserve a British North America from revolution and who as migrating loyalists had shaped momentously the future of Canada. This Lanark County pioneer location became lot number one in Concession A of Montague township, near the mouth of Rideau Creek. Three years later Stevens had met his death by drowning and his Montague associate William Merrick had begun building the first mill in Lanark County at Merrickville.
The member of the prominent Montague family for whom the township was named appears to have been Admiral Sir George Montagu (1750-1829). He had been a British naval captain in the American Revolutionary War. At the outset of the war he had charge of blockading the ports of Marblehead and Salem. He captured the Washington, the first war vessel sent to sea from the revolting colonies, and he covered the embarkation of the main British force removed from Boston to New York. During the American Revolution and in earlier periods dating from 1748 his father John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), was first Lord of the Admiralty.
Chief Justice Elmsley
North Elmsley township was named for John Elmsley (1762-1805), Chief Justice of Upper Canada from 1796 to 1802, Speaker of this province’s Legislative Council in 1799 and Chief Justice of Lower Canada from 1802 until his early death. His land ownership in Upper Canada was measured in thousands of acres, and he maintained residences at Quebec, York and Newark. The home of one of his present descendants is in Lanark County at Appleton.
When the Canadian parliament buildings were destroyed in the Montreal riots of 1849 and Parliament began meeting for alternate periods of years at Toronto and Quebec, Elmsley Villa became the Toronto place of residence of the governor general Lord Elgin. North Elmsley township extends south from Perth to Rideau Ferry and Smiths Falls to Rideau Ferry and Smiths Falls. It contains the Tay Canal and is crossed by the highway running from Perth to Smiths Falls through Port Elmsley.
North Burgess township borders the Rideau from North Elmsley west to the Narrows lock and bridge at the junction of the Big Rideau and Upper Rideau Lakes. It extends north to the locally historic Scotch Line. While sometimes said to have been named for a mythical Earl of Burgess, the township is recorded as having been given its name in honour of the Rev. Thomas Burgess, Bishop of Salisbury. At Oxford University he had been a fellow student with Henry Addington (1757-1844), the late Viscount Sidmouth, English Prime Minister. Allan’s Mills and Stanleyville are localities in North Burgess township.
North Elmsley and North Burgess townships were separated from their southern counterparts of the same names on the south side of the Rideau and were attached in 1845 to the jurisdiction which became the present Lanark County. Before this division they were named in or about the year 1798 and were surveyed as townships at periods between 1800 and 1810. Along their northern Scotch Line the first group of the county’s emigrants from Britain, natives of the south of Scotland, came to establish themselves as farmers in 1816.
Pioneers of 1816
Beckwith, Drummond and Bathurst townships, each named and initially surveyed in 1816, were the first townships of the county to be prepared for the opening of Lanark County for settlement by British emigrants and demobilized soldiers and sailors after the War of 1812-14 and the end of the long wars with France. With South Sherbrooke they continued for nearly thirty years to form the southern extremity of the new district. The fourth of the district’s new townships to be surveyed was Goulbourn, now part of Carleton County.
The Third Earl of Bathurst
Bathurst township, extending along the north side of the Scotch Line from Perth to Christie Lake and north to beyond Fallbrook was named for Henry Bathurst, Third Earl of Bathurst (1762-1834). He was Secretary for War and the Colonies from 1812 to 1827, years which in Canada ran from the beginning of the War of 1812 to the start of the building of the Rideau Canal between Kingston and the site of Ottawa. He had senior executive responsibility for the emigration and soldier settlement provisions which led to the founding of Lanark County.
The entire new district also was given his name. It became later the counties of Lanark and Renfrew and a large part of the County of Carleton. The earl of Bathurst entered the peerage as Baron Apsley and for several years was Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. Other places in Canada bearing his name are the town of Bathurst in New Brunswick and the Arctic’s Bathurst Islands and Bathurst Inlet.
Canada’s Defender Sir Gordon Drummond
In Drummond township in 1816 Perth was established as the new district’s regional administrative centre. Extending eastward on the upper Mississippi Lake to the location known as Tennyson, Drummond township contains the present smaller communities of Balderson, Ferguson’s Falls and Innisville. Drummond is the only township in the county to be named for a native of Canada. General Sir Gordon Drummond (1771-1854) was born in the city of Quebec. In his British army career he served in the Netherlands, Egypt, Ireland, Canada and the West Indies before returning to Canada in 1813 to become second in command of the forces engaged in this county’s defence in the War of 1812-14. His vigour and ability as a leader played a large part in turning the balance in British Canada’s second successful war of independence against the power of its southern neighbours. After becoming the administrator of Upper Canada in 1813 he was wounded at the conclusive winning battle of Lundy’s Lane. He was commander in chief and administrator of Lower and Upper Canada in 1815 and 1816 when the first large scale settlements of Lanark County were begun. In Quebec his name was given to the city of Drummondville in the County of Drummond.
Sir Sidney Beckwith Directed Settlement
Beckwith township gained its first few settlers in 1816, when the township was named and partly surveyed. It received its largest single group of early residents from Perthshire in the Scottish Highlands in 1818, and became the location of the town of Carleton Place on the Mississippi and the smaller communities of Prospect, Franktown and Black’s Corners. The township was named for Major General Sir Sidney Beckwith (1772-1831). Entering the army at the age of nineteen, Sir Sidney Beckwith served in India, under Sir John Moore in the Spanish Peninsula, and in North America in and after the War of 1812-14. He became commander in chief at Bom in 1829 and died two years later in India.
As quartermaster general of the British forces in Canada when the first main settlements in this county and district were made, Sir Sidney Beckwith headed the branch of the army in Canada which from 1815 to 1823 issued supplies to the several thousands of emigrants who, together with groups of demobilized soldiers, began the conversion of this section of Ontario into an inhabited region. Under the immediate direction of his military department from 1816 to 1822 the farm sites then being granted in the present County of Lanark and other nearby areas were assigned individually through local offices opened at Perth, Richmond and Lanark.