The Morphys, Moores, and Willises of Carleton Place

20-Foot Square Unmarked Grave in Riverside Park

The Carleton Place Canadian, 27 December, 1956

By Howard M. Brown


In Riverside Park there lies a little-known site which is of some interest in the town’s history.  It is found at the extreme end of the town’s park, near Lake Avenue and close to the Mississippi River.  This was a burial ground, where members of one of the first families of settlers of the town were lain in a now unmarked graveyard.

Discovery of this site some ten years ago was reported at a Parks Commission meeting, at which the suggestion was made that the area should be marked as a historical site by erection of a cairn.  Pending the receipt of further particulars no action was taken.  The Canadian subsequently found from the late Alex John Duff, Beckwith farmer, that he recalled this burial ground in his youth in the 1880s as being at that time a little cemetery about 15 or 20 feet square, a gravestone in which bore the name Catin Willis. 

With the Morphys and the Moores, the Willises long were among the widely known earliest owners of farm land coming within the present boundaries of the town.  It is well recorded that the whole central section of the present town was first located to the Morphy and the Moore families in 1819 as Crown grants of farm land; the part extending north of Lake Avenue to four of the Morphys, and three hundred acres at the south side of Lake Avenue to three of the Moores.  William Moore is said to have aided in the founding of the town by opening its first blacksmith shop in 1820, the first year of settlement as a community.  About the same time the first marriages here were those of Sarah, daughter of George Willis, to William Morphy, and Mary, daughter of Thomas Willis, to John Morphy.  Well known descendants of these families continue to live in the town and district.

On a farm which reached the western end of Riverside Park George Willis, born about 1778, settled and raised his family.  Other Willises coming from Ireland and settling near Morphy’s  Falls between 1819 and 1821 were Henry, William, Thomas and Catin Willis.  When the present Carleton Place Town Hall was built, the central building on its site, said to be the second dwelling built in the town, was the home of Mrs. William Morphy,  daughter of George Willis, where she had lived to 1888 and the age of 85, a widow for over fifty years.  The Bathurst Courier at Perth, reporting her husband’s death in August, 1837, said in part:

“Fatal Accident.  On Friday afternoon last, William Morphy of Carleton Place, whilst on his way home from this place on horseback, in company with several others, met with an accident from the effect of which he died on Sunday morning last, under the following circumstances.  Between this and Joseph Sharp’s tavern the deceased and another of the party were trying the speed of their horses when, on approaching Sharp’s house at a very rough part of the road, his horse fell and threw him off, by which he was placed under the animal.  Severe wounds causing a contusion of the brain led to his death…….The deceased was a native of Ireland, and has left a wife and family to deplore his sudden death.”

Grandchildren of William Morphy and his wife Sarah Willis included William, Duncan and Robert McDiarmid, prominent Carleton Place merchants, sons of James McDiarmid, Carleton Place merchant, and his wife Jane Morphy.

George Willis Jr. (1820-1892) succeeded his father on the farm at the end of Lake Avenue (Conc. 11, lot 12) and there brought up a family long known in Carleton Place, including Richard, drowned while duck hunting in November 1893, and George E. Willis, photographer, musician and bandmaster, who died in Vancouver in 1940 at age 96 while living with his son Stephen T. Willis of Ottawa business college fame; William and John H. of Carleton Place, and daughters including Jane, wife of James Morphy Jr. the son of “King James” of the pioneer Morphy family.

The George Willis place on the river side during one period was the annual scene of colourful sights and stirring sounds on the 12th of July.  It was a marshalling ground and headquarters for the great Orange parade, with the Willis boys of the third generation prominent among the performers in the bands.  The names of George Willis, Senior and Junior, appear with sixty others on the roll of the Carleton Place Loyal Village Guards which mustered in 1837 and 1838 at the time of the Upper Canada Rebellion and “Patriot War,” and again with that of Catin Willis in the St. James Church monster petition of November 1846 for maintaining tenure of the Church’s clergy reserve land in Ramsay against claims of Hugh Bolton and others.

Catin Willis, born in Ireland in 1795, settled as a young man in Ramsay on the present northern outskirts of Carleton Place (con. 8, lot 2w) when that township was opened for settlement in 1821.  He died there in 1869.  His name appears as contributor to the Carleton Place fund for providing and operating a curfew bell in 1836.  The Church Wardens of St. James Church here in 1845 were Catin Willis and James Rosamond, founder of the Rosamond textile manufacturing firm.

William, another of the first Willises here, took up land in the 4th concession of Beckwith (lot 18W) in 1820, securing his location in the usual way through the district settlement office and performing the settlement duties required for obtaining a patent to his land, which lay east of Franktown.  Franktown, then usually referred to as The King’s Store at Beckwith, and later named possibly for its sponsor, Colonel Francis Cockburn, had already been approved for surveying into town lots, and had the taverns of Patrick Nowlan and Thomas Wickham for the accommodation of travellers, in addition to the government supply depot for the Beckwith settlers.

George Ramsay, Ninth Earl of Dalhousie and Governor General of British North America, made the Nowlan inn his stopping place, accompanied by Colonel Cockburn, during a one day visit in 1820 in the course of a tour of inspection of the Perth, Beckwith and Richmond settlements.

Henry Willis landed from Ireland in the early summer of 1819 with his young family on the sailing ship Eolus, whose passengers included the families of Beckwith settlers Thomas Pierce, James Wall and William Jones.  He first settled on the 2nd concession of Beckwith (lot 13W) near Franktown, and later moved to Carleton Place where he is found as a contributor to the 1836 curfew bell fund and on the roll of the Loyal Village Guards of 1838.

Henry was an unsuccessful 1838 petitioner with Captain Duncan Fisher for preferential purchase from the Crown of a farm lot extending near Indians Landing (con. 11, lot 11), adjoining the farms of George Willis and Captain Fisher.  Those providing certificates of facts in support of this petition were Catin Willis, John Moore, William Willis, Greenwall Dixon, and Edward J. Boswell, Anglican “Missionary at Carleton Place.”

Thomas Willis is shown by Beldon’s Lanark County Atlas of 1880 to have been an inhabitant of the new village of Morphy’s Falls in its first year, and to have given his daughter in marriage then to John Morphy.  John (b.1794, d.1860), another of the family of six sons and two daughters of Edmond Morphy, built his home for his bride at the east end of Mill Street on the present Bates & Innes lands.  It stood there for over fifty years after his death, and last served as the watchman’s house of the Bates & Innes mill.  The large family of John Morphy and his wife Mary Willis, raised in that pioneer home, included Abraham Morphy of Ramsay, near Carleton Place; and Elizabeth, Mrs. Richard Dulmage of Ramsay, who was born in 1821 as the first child born to the first settlers in Morphy’s Falls.

It is possible that further consideration will be given to providing the added note of interest and distinction to the town, and to its popular Riverside Park, which would be furnished by a cairn and tablet at the Park denoting some of the ancient origins of the town.

Carleton Place Public Library 110th Anniversary, November 3, 1956

Carleton Place Library’s 110th Anniversary Marked

Ottawa Journal, 03 November, 1956

By Howard M. Brown


Residents of Carleton Place are celebrating the 100th anniversary of one of the town’s oldest institutions, the public library.

Special activities have been held to mark the event, for the library is the oldest in this part of Ontario, being in operation since 1846, a year before the Bytown Mechanics Institute founded the first library in Ottawa.

Its history actually goes back to an earlier date, for a predecessor existed in the form of the Ramsay and Lanark Circulation Library as early as 1829.

The Carleton Place library began with 16 subscribing members and in the first year the number jumped to 144.  It has served the community ever since, and today more than 1,000 persons use its facilities regularly.

David Lawson served as the first librarian.  Records show that in 1851, officers of the Library Association included James Duncan, a blacksmith, as president; William Peden, storekeeper, vice-president; David Lawson, secretary, and Robert Bell, MLA, treasurer.  Directors included the pioneer editor, James C. Poole; George Dunnett, a storekeeper, and Duncan McGregor, a blacksmith, all of Carleton Place, and two farmers, Thomas Patterson and John McCarton of Ramsay Township.

Peter McRostie was librarian from 1887 to 1909, during the period when the town hall, which had housed the library over the years since, was opened in 1897.

Mr. McRostie retired a year before he died at the age of 78 and his daughter, Miss Emma McRostie, became librarian.

Miss L. Elliott, present librarian, was appointed in 1941.  She takes a special pride in the library, for she sees in its shelves evidence that a high standard was set at the beginning in collecting its volumes, and has been maintained ever since.

On the library board are chairman E. H. Ritchie and directors Mrs. E. S. Fleming, Mrs. H. T. Rhul, Miss B. C. Brown, Miss Elliott and D. McLaren.

The anniversary celebrations included presentation by 12 boys and girls of a play, “The Marvellous story of Puss in Boots”, under the supervision of Miss Elliott.  There was also an “open house” at which was a special showing of pictures, maps and other documents relating to the library’s early days.  It was made available through the courtesy of Howard Brown.

An anniversary cake was presented and the guests were entertained at a social period by members of the board.  A number of former residents were on hand from Ottawa, Toronto and other points.

Carleton Place Public Library 110th Anniversary Celebration, 1956

Public Library Celebration Thursday, Friday

Carleton Place Canadian, October 25, 1956


Plans have been completed for the celebration of the 110th anniversary of the founding of the Carleton Place Public Library.  The event will be marked on Thursday and Friday evenings this week. 

On Thursday evening, a group of boys and girls will present a play “The Marvelous Story of Puss in Boots” by Nichols Stuart Gray.  On Friday evening, the public is invited to view a rare collection of early scenes marking the history of Carleton Place.

The following story of the Public Library has been prepared for The Canadian by Howard Brown of Ottawa and formerly of Carleton Place.  He is an authority on events of historical nature in this area.

Public Library Once on Grounds

Of Central School

By Howard M. Brown


With the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the founding of the present community library of the town of Carleton Place being commemorated this month, some features of its origins may be recalled in acknowledging our debt to its founders.  Its organizers included leading citizens of the day, whose public services were marked by the forming and administering of other of this community’s institutions which we have inherited.  In 1846 this Library was established by sixteen subscribing members, and with sixteen volumes which were increased in the first year to 144.

In honoring the local pioneers who aided in civilizing this district by adult education through community libraries, the present Carleton Place library’s predecessor, the Ramsay and Lanark Circulation Library, may be given the first place in time of origin in this immediate neighbourhood.  Instituted in 1829, and located on our northern outskirts when Morphy’s Falls at this site contained but a handful of village residents, it both served the citizens of the Carleton Place district until the Carleton Place library was begun and continued to operate for some years thereafter.

When the present Carleton Place library was in its first year, members of the earlier library association were holding their eighteenth annual meeting, followed by a gathering at Houston’s Inn in joint celebration of the birthday of Scotland’s Robert Burns and the anniversary of the founding of the Ramsay and Lanark Circulating Library Society.  Its volumes, numbering over five hundred, were then located in the Anglican Church which stood at lot 16, 1st concession of Ramsay, opposite the Union Hall and schoolhouse at that crossroad point between Carleton Place and Clayton.

A Carleton Place Library Association notice of April, 1851, shows our town library had then been moved to the village school house, a school house built with public funds on the grounds of the present Central School in 1842 and enlarged in 1850.  The 1851 notice follows in part, as a record contrasting with library conditions of today.

“The members of the Carleton Place Library Association and Mechanics’ Institute are requested to observe that in consequence of Mr. Lawson (Postmaster), from not now having time at his disposal to attend to the duties of Librarian, which he has hitherto discharged with so much attention, accommodation and civility, having resigned that office and having advised the removal of the Library to the School House as the most suitable place, to which, by the permission of the Trustees, it has consequently been removed, the undersigned will attend to their wants at such times as may not interfere with his professional duties (as schoolmaster).

They shall obtain an exchange of books on the second Saturday of each month, from 2 p.m. to 4 o’clock; and if this be required at other times, it will be necessary for them to send or bring in their volumes with a note on paper with the numbers desired in lieu thereof, observing to note always more numbers than their quota, which at the utmost is limited to four, to prevent disappointment.

The undersigned will, at his leisure, enter the numbers they get and lay the volumes aside for their call on any subsequent day.  It is his desire, however, to have the exchanging confined as much as possible to the occasion of his vacant Saturday, the second one of each month.  On that day a meeting of the Directing Committee is also expected monthly at the same hour and place.

To the present very valuable collection of works, which has been lately enlarged, an accession of new works ordered from New York is daily expected, the same having arrived on this side of the lines.  Former subscribers who have been for some time out of receipt of volumes should consider the gratification that reading useful works affords to all members of the family, and resume their station on the role.  How pleasant, useful, and improving to all in the house would it be were they to engage the young in reading aloud to the other members of the family while engaged in sedentary occupations!

There is no restriction with respect to distance from the seat of the Library, except particular punctuality in returning the books by safe hands and regular prepayment of subscriptions; so that persons at the distance of Franktown, Ennisville, or Bellamy’s, may under these circumstances become entitled to the benefits of the Library.

The Officers and Directors of the Carleton Place Library Association and Mechanics’ Institute for 1851 are – President: James Duncan; Vice President: William Peden; Treasurer: Robert Bell, M.P.P.; Secretary: David Lawson; Librarian: Johnston Neilson; Directors: George Dunnet, Duncan McGregor, James C. Poole, Thomas Patterson, Ramsay, John McCarton, Ramsay.

(signed) Johnston Neilson, Librarian.”

Two years later, in October 18, 1853, a local newspaper editorial by James C. Poole recorded and supported a proposal of establishing a News and Reading Room as an addition to the existing circulating library.  A following notice of April 5, 1865, announced “the Carleton Place library will be open on Monday next, and on the first Monday of every month hereafter.  Person wishing to read can on payment of 25 cents per quarter of a year.”  A reorganization of the Library took place in 1883.  Provincial legislation of 1895 enabled its conversion in 1897 from a subscription library, under its original auspices of the Carleton Place Library Association and Mechanics’ Institute, to a Public Library free of subscription dues.  Its location was moved in the later year to the newly erected Town Hall, where it has continued to serve the public with steadily increasing facilities for the past sixty years.

Billy Moore: Boy Scout Pioneer

From The Carleton Place Canadian, 1987

By Mary Cook

It was 89 years ago that a young British immigrant to Carleton Place by the name of Billy Moore began what is now believed to be the second Scout troop in Canada.  The first was formed in Merrickville two years before.  But for Billy Moore, scouting was the best thing that could happen to the young boys of his adopted town of Carleton Place, and he wasn’t long in gathering together a group of boys and marching them over to the Anglican Church to prevail upon Canon Elliott for sponsorship.


Billy Moore had fought alongside Baden-Powell in the Boer War in Africa in 1899, and he was so impressed with the British Colonel and his values that when Baden-Powell started the world Scout movement, Billy wanted to be in on the gournd floor.  Billy’s friendships at the time of the Boer War include that of another young Britain, Winston Churchill.


Some of the very first member’s included Billy’s own son, Percy,  who was to later lose his life in the first world war.  Other charter scouts included Dawson Emerson, Cecil Bryce, Jimmy Prendergast and Skinny McGuire.


The first headquarters were in space loaned to Billy by the Bates and Innes Mills.  It was an old warehouse on Bridge Street, but it served the purpose well.


It was here that the movement went on to produce the four youngest King’s Scouts in Canada.  They were all under 13 years of age at the time.  These four young boys were Howard Foote, Jimmy Misner, Walter McIlquaham, and Gibson Craig.  Tests were much harder in those days than they are today.  King’s Scouts had to win five badges which was no easy feat.


Max Gladish has fond memories of his early scouting days under the guidance of Billy Moore.  “I remember it cost us five cents a week to belong.  My grandparents lived just around the corner from the Moore’s who at that time lived on Lake Avenue East.  My grandfather, George Turner paid for my first uniform in fact.  They were great friends of the Moores.”


Those early scouts remember the camping outings to McCreary’s Shore on the Mississippi as being a wonderful time of fun and learning experiences.  Max was the camp bugler, so he was the first out of bed in the morning.  Everyone slept in tents and Alice Moore, Billy’s widow, remembers taking a few Carleton Place boys into her tent in the middle of the night because they were homesick.  “One young man who will remain nameless because he is a grown man still living here used to cry for home every night.  Nothing would console him.  Eventually, we’d have to bring him in our tent and bed him down beside Bill and me.  This went on for the entire duration of the scout camp,” she laughingly remembers.


Billy Moore had a wonderful sense of humor, with just the right ring of discipline in his voice.  He could laugh at little mishaps and setbacks, but he was adamant about protocol in the movement.  Everything had to be done to the letter.  There was no such thing as ‘almost right’.  It was either right or it was wrong!


Eventually the scouts moved their headquarters to the Sample Rooms of the Mississippi Hotel.  This is where the countless travelling salesmen set up shop to show their wares to the valley merchants.  But room was made for the scout meetings, and they continued to meet here for many years, compliments of the McIlquham family, owners of the hotel.


Sometime before that period however, Tom Graham who was in the scout movement for a few years in the troops earlier days remembers meeting in a building next door to where Knowlton’s Grocery Store used to be….across from the present Maple Leaf Dairy.  He guesses that would be around 1914.  “Billy Moore was awfully good at what he did.  Sometimes though, he had relax the rules.  Some of us couldn’t afford the full uniforms, so we were allowed to go to the meetings with just a tie, or that little scull cap, or we never could have belonged.”


It appears that the Scouts moved around a bit with their meeting place.  Probably because most of the locations were obtained rent-free.  At one time some of the original members recall the meetings being held in the Orange Hall as well.


Max Gladish remembers how solemn the initiation services were.  Billy Moore demanded and got a high level of decorum.  “It was a bit awesome, but we really felt it was something special to belong to the scouts, and it all came together at initiations.  I can remember all the candles.  I don’t remember too much about the ceremony itself, but I do remember kneeling and the candles, and how Billy would move about initiating us, and stressing the importance of discipline, and being true to the Scouting movement.  He had a great sense of pride and he expected us too to be proud of being scouts.”


By 1937, scouting was well established in Carleton Place.  It had been organized for 27 years, and dozens of young boys had joined and gone on to high standing in the movement.  Billy Moore continued to be the leading figure, and he worked at broadening the horizons of scouting on the local level.


That was the year a young Max Gladish was one of the scouts who would be trying for his Royal Life Saving Society medal.  Billy Moore was determined that his boys would have a good run at it. “We were taken to the Chateau Laurier for the tests.  I’ll never forget the thrill of swimming in that big indoor pool.  If we were going to be trying for that medal Billy Moore wanted to be sure we had the best possible facilities.”  They passed with flying colours.


In the late ‘30s, there used to be a vacant lot on the corner of Albert and Beckwith Streets, across from the present Rebekah Lodge building.  Later Ed Beaton was to build the brick bungalow that is there now.  Billy Moore thought it would be nice if the scouts learned a bit about building.  So he got permission to build a log structure on the site, and he put his troops to work on its construction.  Bill oversaw the building, and the Scouts were understandably proud of the finished headquarters.  It stood on the site for many years.


Cliff Bennett, for many years a leader in the local Scout movement, has fond memories of his mentor.  “We all respected Billy Moore.  I recall a Regional Camporee, which was a competition camp for local patrols held at Hopetown.  Billy was the guest of honor, even though by that time he was in his ‘90s and that was in the ‘60s.  He was keenly interested in everything to do with scouting, although his active involvement had passed.  But he always kept up on the troops and I can remember going down to his house at the end of Allen Street next door to the curling club, where he lived out his last years.  Those visits were just like campfire days.  He would talk for hours about early scouting days, and his dreams for scouting in the future.  And he’d talk about the Boer War and his friendship with the scouting founder, Baden-Powell.  It was like being in another time frame.  I cherish those memories of those visits very much,” Cliff says.


Baden-Powell once gave Billy a flag.  He was very proud of it, and kept it for many years.  And then as he was less and less able to take an active part in the local scouting movement, he wanted someone who appreciated the history of Carleton Place’s troops to have the flag.  “He gave me the flag.  I was so moved.  But I knew the flag really belonged to the whole Canadian Scouting movement, and so I presented it to the Scout Museum in Canada,” Cliff says.


Many years ago, a trophy was made out of a bit of twisted wood.  It was nothing spectacular…just a piece of wood form the Ottawa Valley.  It became the Billy Moore Trophy.


Rare Collection of Early Scenes for Library Display, Carleton Place Canadian, 18 October, 1956, by Howard M. Brown

At the Carleton Place Public Library, a collection of scenes of local bygone times will be on display on Friday, October 26.  With several of the earliest maps of the Lanark County area, and a few public documents of the same period, it is expected to provide an attractive feature of the commemoration on October 26 of the one hundred and tenth year of the existence of the library.  A list describing some twenty-five photographs  and maps will be available.

Pictures of local scenes have been gathered covering a period from the first decade of the present century to as early as ninety years ago.  Among them are a view of the Carleton Place Rifle Company Brass Band at Brockville during the Fenian Raids of 1866, Carleton Place street scenes of the 1870’s , and groups of local foundry and railway shop employees photographed fifty to sixty years ago, provided by Mr. J. W. Patterson.  Copies of these and most of the pictures included in the exhibit, have been acquired by the Public Archives of Canada by reason of their interest in illustrating the local history of this district.

Persons willing to provide old photographs of local public interest for the same purpose are invited to communicate with Mrs. Evangeline Ruhl, Miss Bessie Brown, or Mrs. E. S. Fleming.

Views of the lumbering period of the past century represented one of the many gaps in the small collection which might be filled by pictures probably available in the town.  Similar notable subjects at present missing are early textile views and agricultural scenes.

Copies of four or five ancient maps, made available by the Public Archives for this exhibit, will provide possibly the best geographical record of Lanark County settlement ever placed together on public display.  A large scale map of 1833 is believed to be the first detailed map of the district showing lot lines, roads, villages and mills.  Another shows the names of many of the land owners of a hundred years ago in Carleton Place and six surrounding townships of the county.

Prominent among the old documents to be shown will be a three page list of the Library’s books in the first year of its existence.  Some 140 volumes are recorded.  By classes, these first books of the Library may be grouped as, geography and exploration 29, fiction and miscellaneous 23, philosophy and ethics 22, history 20, biography 18, religion 16, science, engineering and agriculture 15.  A copy of this venerable list has been presented by the manuscript division of the Toronto Public Library for use in marking the Carleton Place Library’s 110th anniversary.  Another document of considerable interest, obtained in Photostat from the Librarian of the Public Archives at Ottawa, is a Carleton Place citizen’s petition of 1871, with over sixty signatures, dealing with selection of the location for the first Carleton Place Town Hall.  The building erected was the present Victoria School, formerly called the Town Hall School.  The petitioners were mostly south side residents advocating location of the hall on the south side of the river, a course followed twenty-six years later with completion of construction of the present Town Hall, in which the Public Library now has been located for almost sixty years.

For the rare opportunity of examining these graphic examples of our district’s storied background, no admission fee will be charged.

Public Library Open House on Anniversary, The Carleton Place Canadian, Oct. 11, 1956, by Howard M. Brown

At the Public Library Open House on Friday evening, October 26, there will be a display of photographs, maps and other interesting documents and exhibits relating to former days in Carleton Place.

A number of these historical reminders of persons and events of earlier times have been lent to the library board for the celebration of the 110th anniversary of the founding of the library, by Howard Brown of Ottawa, formerly of Carleton Place.

For some years, Mr. Brown has been delving into the early history of the town and district and is a recognized authority on the subject.  It is expected Mr. Brown will be present to display the treasures which he has accumulated in his years of research into records and archives of the local past.

All citizens are invited to this Open House celebration of an important event in the town’s history.