90 Black Bass In Less Than 2 Hours Once Caught, by Howard M. Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 14 June, 1962

In the early days of Carleton Place’s Vacationland of the Mississippi, most of the tenting lakeside vacation dwellers seem to have taken only a casual interest of the frying pan in the excellent fishing that was available.  Their numbers included few duck hunters, though the duck hunting season then started in mid-August.

Very large catches of fish and bags of ducks by other town and district fishermen and hunters were reported, and earlier the similar wholesale shooting of now extinct passenger pigeons.  The harvests of fish and ducks by some went to the town’s food markets and restaurants, then a legal selling operation.  Occasional notes in the local newspapers told of catches of fish in what were considered newsworthy quantities and sizes.

Fish Stories

Of the larger game fish, black bass were prominent in reported catches, before an apparent increase or dominance in numbers of pike and the later introduction of pickerel.  Introductions of whitefish and lake trout in the Mississippi Lakes in the eighteen eighties were unsuccessful.  The whitefish experiment was made in 1884, year of the formation of the “Carleton Place Game, Fish and Insectivorous Birds Protective Society.”  On May 1st this newspaper reported:

“Through the active agency of Mr. Joseph Jamieson, M.P., about 300,000 fry of the white fish species were deposited in the lakes here last Saturday.  The fry came in three large tin cans from Ottawa and in charge of an expert.  The Morning Star was chosen, and accompanying the expert were Deputy Reeve William Pattie, Thomas L. Nagle, Joseph Wilson, and William Bell.  The first can was emptied into a quiet cove near Squaw Point, the second off the Landing at Prettie’s Island, and the third in the channel reaching into the Big Lake.  In three years maturity will be reached and propagation set in ; and the fish grow and increase to between eight and twelve pounds.”

According to our fishing news note of early September of the same year, “Mr. Sid Anable and son Hiram went off in a skiff Friday morning last at 3 a.m., reached the mouth of the Innisville river at 6, and fished from 6 to 9 a.m., catching 37 black bass, five pike, and sixty rock bass.  On one side of the boat they caught minnows for bait.  On the other side the rods had not a moment’s rest.”  Several weeks earlier in a record catch, as reported in the Carleton Place Herald, “The Messrs. Anable last Friday caught ninety five black bass in the Innisville branch in less than two hours.  Among them were some very heavy black bass.”

Fish from large catches sampled by local newsmen were fairly sure of receiving public mention.  A corrected report of an August 1890 outing, previously misprinted in this column, said in part: “One morning last week a party composed of Rev. Father O’Rourke, Maurice Burke and the old standby Sid Anable in five hours landed sixty of the finest black bass we have ever had the opportunity of tasting.  The fish weighed on an average three pounds each.”

A similar news note of the following July stated:  “Mr. S. J. McLaren caught thrity-two fine black bass up near the Big Lake lasts Thursday.  The previous Friday he made a haul of forty-two.”

The Perth Courier a decade later reported in July, 1903:

“There has been some excellent fishing in the Mississippi waters at Carleton Place this season.  Many good catches of black bass and pike have been reported.  Among them, John Butts and James Umpherson frequently bring down from fifty to sixty fine fish in a morning’s catch.”

Duck Shooting in the Eighties

Down from the eighteen eighties came samples of similar news stories of the abundance of ducks on the Mississippi Lakes.

An October 1883 account said:

“A party of Ottawa gentlemen were out duck shooting on the Mississippi last week and succeeded in bagging no less than one hundred and forty of them.  Mr. Hugh Moore of Carleton Place, who was one of the party, shot a fine deer at Squaw Point near Wylie & Company’s shanty, for which the Ottawa men gave him eight dollars.”

According to a late August report of the following year, “Messrs. Glover had a very successful duck hunt last week.  One day they killed forty-six.  The C.P.R. restaurant took four dozen of the luscious fowl.”

Present Lake Problems

This last series of brief glimpses of activities on the Mississippi of over fifty years ago in recent numbers of The Canadian has been designed to recall a few more of the many ways in which these waters continued to serve from the first years of settlement as one of the leading natural assets of the Carleton Place area.  The decades of large scale lumbering and of industries based on local waterpower were followed by the rise of hydro-electric power and a decline in industrial uses of the lakes and river here.  Now the Mississippi from Carleton Place to Innisville serves in the role of a recreational area which is attracting growing numbers of some thousands of seasonal residents and visitors yearly.

The future quality of this latest phase of development of the lakes, and the trend of its value to Carleton Place and to the adjoining townships, can be expected to depend in part on whether land and water use in this recreational region receives the community guidance and assistance needed.  Such needs, as seen by some observers, include improvements in lot and building restrictions, and the promotion and application of policies to prevent unsanitary or offensive conditions, game law and traffic misconduct, and water pollution, among others.

Improvements and precautions of varying degrees of adequacy have been provided in some such respects in recent years under township, provincial and national government auspices, and at the instance of several lake community associations and by the Mississippi Lakes Association of Carleton Place.

Lakes A Town Asset

The Mississippi Lakes Association is a pioneering illustration of how our water recreational resources may be maintained and improved in the interests of the town.

In an earlier age, an incidental effect of the towing of great rafts of logs down the Mississippi Lakes to Carleton Place appears to have been the prevention of excessive waterweed growths over wide areas.  After the ending of nearly a century of rafting on these waters, rank growths of underwater weeds gradually spread, choking navigation and speeding the growth of mud shoals by slowing the normal flow.  In this way a large part of the lakes and river here was being progressively ruined for boating, swimming and the most popular types of fishing.

Now for nearly 20 years weed cutting machines have been operated by the Mississippi Lakes Association of Carleton Place.  Initiated by public-spirited citizens including the founding president, Mr. E. H. Ritchie, and bought and maintained by voluntary public support, these machines, together with other activities of the association, have been instrumental in keeping a large lake and river area in good usable condition.

The erection of additional scores of summer cottages of lengthening seasonal use and the occupation of an increasing number of year-round residences on the lake shores has followed this checking of the lakes’ deterioration.  Among the yearly products of this continued lake maintenance and development are additions to the volume of business of local merchandising and service trades, with the prospect of a continuing contribution of useful proportions to the population and general business and tax revenues of this area.

These gains can remain only if the lakes remain a desirable summer resort region.  The principal attraction inducing most of the lakeside summer visitors and residents of today to come here and to buy and continue to occupy property here is a readily accessible lake with water which has been kept fit for swimming and fishing and boating, activities of newly soaring national popularity.  A lake shrunken in usefulness and attraction by wide spreading weed beds, and with future boating by newcomers and others endangered by unmarked rocks, submerged piers and shoals, would not meet this modern test.  In that case many summer residents, both owners and tenants, soon would go elsewhere.  Such business benefits, instead of increasing, would decline accordingly.

It would be a greater loss to the town than appears to be generally recognized if insufficient assistance for this Lakes Association work were to lead to the eventual abandoning of our waterways near and in the town to their approaching weedy stagnation of fifteen or twenty years ago.

The Association’s prime mover and president since its founding, Mr. E. H. Ritchie, indicated a year ago his intention of asking to be replaced, after his many years of vigorous and successful direction of this Association’s activities.  The Mississippi Lakes Association at present is in urgent need of more Carleton Place members who are willing to give some of their time and ability in the spring and summer seasons to its particular community services, by helping in the management of the association’s work and annual membership fund collection campaigns on the lakeshore roads and in the town.

An enthusiastic response to this need and opportunity will ensure against a decline and ultimate loss of a large part of the water vacationland for which Carleton Place now serves as the headquarters.

Story of First Steam Boats On The Mississippi, by Howard M. Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 31 May 1962

One of the newer features of the Carleton Place area is the growth of its Vacationland of the Mississippi during the past few years.

It is a growth recorded in increases in numbers of summer homes bordering the Mississippi Lakes, and in the larger numbers of summer visitors seen each year on the township roads to lakeside sections and on the streets and in the stores of Carleton Place.

The multiplying numbers of boats on the lakes and the river tell the same story.  There now are probably larger numbers of motor-propelled craft afloat here in an average summer day than could be seen in the course of a year a generation ago.  Between this recent change in the face of the lakes and the countless years of the birch bark canoes of the Indians, there lies a time of little more than a hundred and twenty five years during which these local waterways have been used for transportation, for supplying food and water and water power, and for recreation.

The record of this intervening time since the beginning of agricultural settlement and commerce shows that the use of steam powered engines on these waters began with the development of the region’s lumbering industries.  It may be surprising to recall that the days of the steamboat lasted as long on our Mississippi as has the period of boats with gasoline engines.  Throughout the same times sailboats, canoes and rowing skiffs have been used in varying numbers and types.  Other water craft of such contrasting kinds as commercial barges and rowing shells for racing are now locally things of the past, as are the odd sailing catamarans at one time in limited vogue.

Steamboats of Romantic Names

Steamboats of romantic names and impressive size, most of them locally built, operated between Carleton Place and Innisville from the eighteen sixties to the nineteen twenties.  While serving mainly for industrial towing and incidentally for pleasure excursions, several of the larger ones were designed for paying their way by the carrying of passengers and goods.  That aim was attained only briefly, if at all, even in a time when summer roads remained bad and automobiles and trucks did not exist.

The first steamboat on the Canadian Mississippi was launched in the year of national confederation.  It was built here by John Craigie, who had opened a riverside shingle mill producing for the United States market with machinery of his own invention.  His boat, like the last steamer to be built and used here, was given the name of the river.  An announcement of August, 1867, said, “The little steamer Mississippi is now making regular trips between Carleton Place and Innisville, carrying freight and passengers.  Excursion parties desirous of seeing the lakes, or fishing, shooting ducks, gathering berries, etcetera, can have the use of the boat at reasonable charges.”

A larger steamboat was wanted for the ambitious plans of the Mississippi Navigation Company, incorporated two years later with an authorized capitalization of $100,000 to build locks at Innisville and Fergusons Falls and transport commodities expected to include sawn lumber and iron ore for rail shipment at Carleton Place.  Headed by James H. Dixon of Peterborough, the company’s local directors included Abraham Code, M.P.P., then of Innisville, John Craigie, Robert Bell and Robert Crampton.  The new steamer, the Enterprise, built here by John Craigie for the short lived navigation company, was launched in October, 1869.  James Poole, secretary treasurer of the company, said in May, 1870, in his Carleton Place Herald:

“The steamer Enterprise has now made several successful trips between Carleton Place and Ennisville.  We have not had time or opportunity, owing to the demolition of our old building and the erection of new premises, to avail ourselves of the pleasure.  We notice also several packages of freight leaving the steamer.  We believe that our spirited member, Mr. Code, is sending his manufactured cloth to Montreal by steamer via Carleton Place.  Soon also picnics and other social gatherings will be the order of the day.  When the locks at Ennisville and Fergusons Falls are built the property of our beautiful village will be a fixed fact.” 

The navigation scheme collapsed and in the spring of 1872 the Enterprise, in a neglected state of repair, was sold by auction.  The Enterprise operated on the lakes and river in the service of the lumber industry under the ownership of Peter McLaren and the Canada Lumber Company for about twenty-five years.  It was made available throughout those growing years of the town as an excursion steamer for many summer and social activities.

Other towing and excursion steamers were added on the lakes in the eighteen seventies and eighties.  Among them were the Witch Of The Wave, The Morning Star, the 43 foot Ripple, and the 30 foot Mayflower.  In the eighteen nineties there were added the Commodore, which was to see many years of service, the big 80 foot shallow draft paddle wheeler the Carleton, and the Lake Park hotel’s 40 foot Lillian B.  Smaller private steamboats included the Nellie, the Four Macs, the Lizzie, the Reta and the Carmelita.  After 1900, with several of the oldest steamboats no longer in use, the Nichols’ 26 foot tug, the Belle, was launched in 1903 and Mr. S. Cooke’s larger Mississippi in 1905.  The hulls and engines of both were built in Carleton Place by the John Gillies Estate Company, as were those of the lake’s largest steamboat, the Carleton.

Carleton Place Boat Builders

The leading Carleton Place builders of skiffs and other small boats of superior quality, starting in the eighteen seventies and continuing his individual craftsmanship for fifty years, was Adam Dunlop.  The John Gillies Boat Works, which began operating here in the eighteen eighties as a branch of the Gillies machine and engine manufacturing plant, produced boat engines and marine craft for national distribution for about twenty-five years.  The company’s master boat builder, J. S. Ferguson, before coming here already had taken exhibition prizes awarded at Quebec City and London, England, for boats of such variety as a thirty foot racing shell weighing only thirty four pounds and a Gaspe fishing boat.

For the Gillies firm Mr. J. S. Ferguson directed the making of vessels ranging from paddle wheeled steamboats to standard types of gasoline launches, and large and luxurious cabin boats finished in fine woods for shipment to such places as the St. Lawrence’s Thousand Islands, Montreal and western Canada.  At the time of the company’s plant fire of 1906 it had some twenty or more employees.  When this Gillies business was closed after the death of James Gillies, Frank Walton, former Gillies boat builder for many years, continued to build hulls for gasoline launches and other boats at Carleton Place.

Ramsay Objected To Justice Meted in 1830’s, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 19 April, 1962

Resident magistrates and other municipal reforms were among the governmental needs seen by progressive residents of Ramsay township in the ninth year of the settlement of the township.  These views of a Ramsay township gathering were sent to the Perth editor for publication.

Resolutions of a Public Meeting held in the Township of Ramsay on Monday the 4th January, 1830.

Resolved, 1st– That this meeting, viewing with alarm the manner in which they have been treated by his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for this District as far as concerns their Town Meetings, will petition His Excellency Sir John Colborne concerning the same.

2nd – That his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace are obliged by Law to grant a warrant for calling and holding our Town Meetings, and also a Constable to preside at the same.

3rd – That without said Warrant, a lawful intimation and a presiding Constable, our meetings are illegal, and of course our whole procedure at said meetings.

4th – That our present situation is not only unpleasant but disadvantageous, having neither overseers of roads, assessors, nor any office bearer whatever in the township.

5th – That some of our office bearers have been put to blush by those in authority, when applying to be installed in office, by being told they were not legally elected, as this town meeting was illegal.

6th – That the want of resident Magistrates in this township has and still does put us to great disadvantages in many respects, and the more particularly as concerns our office bearers, causing them to travel from home to Perth (no Magistrate being nearer) for the express purpose of being sworn into office, under the penalty inflicted by law, a distance of from twenty to thirty-five miles.

7th – That petitions formed on the basis of these Resolutions be drawn up and transmitted to the Hon. W. Morris Esq., M.P., to be by him presented to His Excellency Sir John Colborne on our behalf.

John Hutchinson, President ; William Wallace, Vice-president ; Committee : John Buchannan, James Bryson, Robert Carswell, Daniel Shipman, John Gemmill, Michael Corkery.

Needs of North Lanark

Public meetings of residents of North Lanark townships were held in January and March to consider the government’s claims for repayments of cash advances made in 1820 and 1821 to many of the settlers, and the civic disabilities of these settlers.  Commenting on the first meeting of the year the Examiner editor wrote :

We understand that a meeting of the delegates from the four Townships, Ramsay, Lanark, Dalhousie and North Sherbrooke, will be held this day, the 22nd January, in the village of Lanark, for the purpose of taking into consideration the condition of the Society settlers, and the profriety of petitioning the House of Assembly to grant them all the civil privileges which our constitution bestows.  Two persons deputed from each of these townships will attend.

We have received a communication from an esteemed friend pointing out some of the difficulties under which those labor who have not yet received their Deeds.

A further six years of struggle for responsible government were to pass before these numerous Scottish Emigrant Society settlers of 1820 and 1821 and the Irish assisted emigrants of 1823 were to receive their deeds and their voting rights.

Postscript of Military Administration

The last vestige of settlement assistance to North Lanark under military auspices and the approaching return to Scotland of the former settlement superintendent Colonel William Marshall were marked by a public dinner at Judson’s Hotel given in May, 1830, by “the Gentlemen of Perth and its environs, in order to express their high sense of Col. Marshall’s honorable character and many amiable qualities, and the regret they felt at his removal from this Colony.”  In April the government’s sale of “The Government store house at Lanark with nearly two acres of ground attached, together with the outbuildings erected by Colonel Marshall” had been made by auction.  It was followed by the purchaser’s advertisement in the Examiner: 

To Let.  The House and Premises in Lanark formerly occupied as a Government Store and lately fitted up as a retail store.  From its central location and bordering on the river Clyde, it possesses advantages either as a private dwelling or for a person in business.  Terms moderate, apply to W. Fraser, Esquire, Lanark, or at Perth at the subscriber. – April 27th, 1830.  W. Fraser.

Perth Pictured in 1829

A parting editorial picture of Perth in the winter of 1829-30 is given in terms of praise and future promise in the Bathurst Independent Examiner.

Our merchants and operatives are all busily employed and seem to be flourishing.  A complexity of rival interests has brought the price of all store goods to their proper level, so that the settlers do not, as many did formerly, travel a great distance to a neighbouring district to sell the surplus produce of their farms and to purchase articles for the use of their families.  The stores are abundantly supplied with goods of the best quality, which several of our merchants import directly from the home market.  The few stores in this town must, at the present time, contain nearly 20,000 pounds worth of goods.

A number of excellent houses have been built in the course of last summer ; some are making rapid progress to completion.  The public buildings are neat and commodious.  The houses of public worship for the different denominations (with the exception of the Methodist chapel, which is partly raised) are decent and comfortable, not to say elegant, considering the age of the place.

Although a large number of Half-Pay-Officers and Pensioners are settled in the town and its environs, whose habits are supposed to be of the most convivial kind, it has not been found necessary to establish….a temperance society.  The industrious and respectable population live in the fullest enjoyment of harmony and sociality, notwithstanding that a few Lawyers have crept in among us.