James E. Bennett – Early Carleton Place Butcher

James E. Bennett: Early Carleton Place Butcher

By Mary Cook

The Carleton Place Canadian, 1987

 

James E. Bennett had no way of knowing that the small butcher shop he opened in the late 1800’s would see four generations of Bennett’s in the business before the final chapter closed on one of the best known butcher shops in the Ottawa Valley.

Old photographs show a wiry, golden haired man of moderate stature.  He was born in Ferguson’s Falls in 1860, and came to Carleton Place as a child of 9, supposedly to take over his father’s blacksmith shop when he was old enough.  The shop was located in the empty lot between the Valleytown apartments and the first stone house going west on High Street, which is now a private parking lot.

But young James had no intention of becoming a blacksmith.  In an era when it was expected a son would follow in his father’s footsteps, young Bennett went off to be a herdsman for a well known businessman G. Arthur Burgess.

Around 1884, James E. Bennett decided being in business for himself would offer much more reward than looking after someone else’s cattle.  And so the first Bennett’s Meat Market opened its doors.  The store was located where Goofy’s Ice Cream parlor now stands.  The spot was considered a prime location.  Here some of the main businesses of the day were neighbors and a steady stream of people passed the shop each day.

He hired Charlie Devlin to help out and the two of them did all the work…and it was all done by hand in those days.  One side of the shop held a large plank anchored just down from the ceiling.  Huge meat hooks held beef quarters, where the lady of the house could come, look over the selection and make her choice.  Hand saws prepared the meat, because electricity was yet to come to Carleton Place.

A two wheel cart, hauled by horse, carried a box with a lid on the back, and a step for the driver; from the cart, deliveries were made all over town.

James E. Bennett soon outgrew the small shop next to the bridge.  An  opportunity came up to move across and down the street, and the young businessman jumped at the chance.  He took his three sons, Harry, Gordon and Austin, “Onnie” into the business with him.  It was a location that was to see almost 70 years of continuous business by the next two generations of Bennett’s.

The store was a massive stone structure (unchanged today) that stood on the corner of Bridge and Bell Street.  It was distinguished by a huge tea pot that hung from the corner of the store between the first and second storeys.  The pot advertised Salada Tea, and one day in the 20’s when the town was celebrating Old Home Week, Ted and Jack Voyce climbed a ladder and painted the massive tea pot red commemorating the event.  No one knows where the tea pot is today.

In the very early days, before Bennett’s built their first abattoir, the shop had to close down in the afternoons so that the butchers could travel the countryside buying their meat.  They would arrive at the farms, strike a deal, slaughter what they had bought, and head back to town.  The first abattoir was on the 7th line of Ramsay near the old lead mines, and almost back to back with the Anglican Cemetery.

 In the winter time, the store also closed in the afternoon, but then it was time to haul ice from the Mississippi River.  The shop had an ice box, and two ice houses held the year’s supply.  Each day, ice had to be hauled into the shop to fill the ice box.  The Bennett’s didn’t have that problem in the winter.  The butcher shop was so cold the meat froze overnight, and stayed frozen all day.

All the Bennett’s, right from that first James E. who started the business in the 1800’s possessed a wonderful sense of humor.  James’ grandson Bill, remembers a woman coming into the store for a quarter’s worth of cooked ham.  It was a blistering hot day.  Bill’s grandfather James looked her square in the eye and said, “Hell, lady I wouldn’t open the fridge door for a quarter on a day like this.”  Apparently, the ice would melt as quick as you would look at it, and Bill says if his father was going to open the ice box door, it was going to be worth his while.

James E. Bennett built three houses in the Flora Street area.  One of them is occupied by his grandson Bill and his wife Lois.  Behind the house were stables where up to five horses were housed.  They were used as delivery horses for the meat market, and they knew the routes as well as the men who drove them.  One old horse, the story goes was so familiar with the routine of the business that when Findlay’s Foundry whistle blew at 12 noon, the horse headed for Flora Street with or without the driver.  “You better be on that cart when the whistle went, or the horse went home without you”, was the saying of the day.  In the morning a delivery man went door to door picking up order for meat.  There were no telephones, and this was the way the business ran.  The lady ordered from the delivery man, he rushed back to the store, filled the order and rushed back out to deliver it so she could cook it for the noon meal.

Ledgers of the day reflected the simple way of life and how business was carried on.  Some entries carried only the first name of the customer, or it might simply state the last name and beside it how much was owed.  It could read “Bells…12 cents”.  The amounts were small, and when the account was paid, there was no receipt given.  A simple pencil line through the entry showed the debt was cleared.

There was co-operation between the shops too.  Sometimes a ‘debtor’ would leave a shop in a huff…invariably it was over a bill.  Bill says, “someone would rush over to the other butcher shops and say Mrs. So and So left us and she owes .40 cents.

Well, he’d send the message back…’she won’t get a cent of credit from us until she pays the .40 cents.’  That’s how business was done in those days.”

As stated in a previous story, much business was carried on in a reciprocal manner.  Bennett’s had agreements with at least two other merchants in town.  Cameron’s blacksmith kept their horse shod, and Bennetts supplied their meat.

Once a month a tally was made to settle the difference.  The same system worked with Nichols Mill.  The mill supplied all the lumber Bennett’s needed, and the meat market filled the Nichols meat needs.  Once a year, the two businesses would have a reckoning.  The tallies were usually just a few dollars apart.  They’d say, just forget it.

Wipe the slate clean and let’s start over again, Bill Says.  After James died, his three sons took over the business.  By the time the second world war broke out, Onnie was on his own as everyone who worked for him joined up, leaving no staff to run the store.  Young Bill was taken out of school in Grade 11.  He was to remain working alongside his father for more than 40 years. 

Bill remembers the store he did chores in when he was just a little boy, long before he knew he would eventually be taken into the business.  “There were meat counters all along the back.  The floors were covered with sawdust.  Barrels of pickles, herring and sauerkraut lined the walls, and we built a little booth for Dorothy Malloch.  She was our cashier, and when you got your meat from the counter you took up a little slip of paper and paid Dorothy.  Later Isobel Wylie and Ruth Ferguson joined the staff.  A big stove sat in the centre of the floor, and boy did it got cold at night.  And in the daytime, when the fire died down, we’d throw in a roll of wrapping paper if we ran out of wood.  It was cheaper than wood, too.  It didn’t give off much heat, but it kept burning all day long.”

The first electricity the store had was purchased from Art Burgess who built a small power plant east of the present Medical Centre on Lake Avenue.  Burgess sold power to several industries and businesses before the town was hooked up to outside power.  For the first time Bennett’s were to have electric refrigerators.  It was perhaps the biggest improvement ever seen in the business.

As a young boy Bill always had a pony to the envy of all his friends.  “But Dad had an ulterior motive in buying me a pony and cart.  It was his way of initiating me into the business at an early age, because while everyone else was out playing, I was expected to use the pony and cart to deliver meat,” he says.

The business grew during the war.  But the workload of looking after the rationing books was enormous.  That job had to be done when the store was closed and the place was quiet.  There was never enough butter and bacon to go around, and it was a “first come, first served system.”

Prices went up during the 40’s.  They were a far cry from what they were in the early days of James E. Bennett, according to early ledgers.  Two pounds of beef sold for .14 cents; two and a half pounds of steak for .23 cents, and pork chops and sausages for .12 cents a pound.

As the seventies came to a close, the Bennett’s Meat Market was approaching almost 100 years of continuous operation.  Onnie was ready to call it quits.  And so was Bill.  The business was sold in 1978 ending an era unmatched by any other retail business in the town’s history.

James E. Bennett had established a reputation for honesty and service early in the game.  It was carried on for three generations.  The businessman left his mark politically as well.  Like almost every other merchant he took his turn in municipal politics, holding the office of mayor from 1904-06.  He set a pattern for what he expected the business to be…a service industry that met the needs of the town honestly.  He probably expected his sons, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to carry on as long as they were able to do so, and in the same fashion.  Had he lived, he would not have been disappointed.  Today, the old stone building still serves as a meat market, as Danny Joly continues to meet the same high standards set by that original butcher more than 100 years ago.  James E. Bennett would be pleased.

The Lime Kiln

The Lime Kiln…99 years of history

By Mary Cook

Carleton Place Canadian, 1987

 

The Ottawa Valley, and particularly Lanark County was fast gaining a reputation in the lime industry just before the turn of this century.  An enterprising local industrialist, Napoleon Lavalee (after whom Napoleon Street was named) capitalized on that reputation and built what was to be a long lasting, Carleton Place industry.  When the end product was realized, lime was carted off to help build some of the most prestigious buildings in the Nation’s Capital.

Napoleon Lavalee built the first kiln on the very site of the present one in the mid-1800s.  It was a crude affair, but served the purpose well.  Many years later the new owner Bill Cameron updated the equipment, and laid the foundation for what was to become a major contributor to the lime industry in Eastern Ontario.

The stack kiln Bill Cameron built was more efficient than the “pits” put in by Napoleon Lavalee.  They rose high in the air, looking like big chimneys.  New buildings were added to smooth out the operation, and for many years…going into the 20s, Bill Cameron was able to offer steady employment to a clatch of hard working employees.  Then the 30s rolled in with all their ramifications.  There wasn’t an industry untouched by the depression.  There was no exception.  But Bill Cameron was a very unusual man.  He felt for his employees, most of them trying to support big families on meager wages.  To lay them off would have been devastating.

Margaret Lesway Henderson was just a little girl when her family moved next door to the lime kiln on Napoleon Street.  She remembers very clearly those depression years.  And she especially remembers how Bill Cameron did everything in his power to keep his men working.  The lime business had slowed to a crawl.  So the men were sent to the bush lots to cut cedar.  Cord after cord of cedar was hauled into the yard.  Bill Cameron must have wondered if he would ever use it all, when, and if the lime business ever picked up again.  “I was just a young girl, but I can remember so well those huge piles of cedar.  And every day the workers would haul in more.  Mr. Cameron stock piled the wood just to keep his men employed, because the alternative was to lay them off, and that would have meant terrible hardships for many of the town’s families,” Margaret recalls.

George Briscoe of Beckwith Township was Bill Cameron’s shanty man.  Through good management, the business held on all through the 30s.  With the 40s came a new interest in the lime business, and prosperity.  In 1944, Bill Cameron was ready to call it quits and he sold the Lime Kiln to another enterprising young businessman, Stuart Neilson.

The Napoleon Street business saw its greatest changes after Stuart Neilson took it over.  He moved it from a piece meal operation to an efficient, more scientifically run business.  It became a 24 hour pursuit.  It was moved from a rather primitive procedure to a sophisticated performance that saw many changes and innovations in the Napoleon Street business.

The procedure had to basically remain the same, but Mr. Neilson made vast improvements.  He changed the shape and the functions of the kilns and was able to produce twice as much lime as the old time kiln.

However, many of the jobs leading up to the burning didn’t change or changed only marginally.  Trucks replaced the horse-drawn wagons for hauling the limestone into town from the 4th and 5th concessions of Ramsay.  Shirley Sheinfield can still see in her mind’s eye those trucks lumbering up past her house on Napoleon Street, and the familiar sounds relative to the procedure of burning lime.  “You heard this steady ‘bang’ all the time.  That was when the big pieces of limestone would be dropped into the kiln.  It was like thunder, and it was constant,” she says.  She also remembers a horse by the name of Queenie.  The horse was used to power the winch which hauled the limestone up to the top of the kiln.  “Queenie was kept in a field across the road.  Of course, there were no houses there then…just an open field.  And I can still hear the man who drove the horse yelling ‘giddyup Queenie’.  I guess those are sounds you never forget, because they were so constant”, Shirley said.

John Neilson, Stuart’s son, remembers the horse powered winch very well.  He was just a young boy when his father put him to work.  “My job was to drive the horse to operate the winch.  It was a simple operation.  The lime was broken into big chunks in the quarry, then transported into town on the trucks.  This breaking process was done by hand with big mallets.  Then the pieces were loaded into big steel boxes.  The horse was driven in continuous circle to wind up the cable which hauled boxes to the top of the kiln.  Then the boxes of lime were tilted at the top by a tripper, and the limestone fell down into the kiln for burning.  But it was my job to keep that horse going”, John remembers. He also remembers his father as being a hard task master.  There were no privileges just because he was the owner’s son.  “He demanded when I did a job, that it had to be done right, or I would have to do it all over again”, he recalls.

Margaret Henderson remembers the yards as a great place for adventure.  There were many things to interest a young child back in the 30s.  Piles of stone were everywhere, and the robins and ground sparrows used to build their nests in the piles.  “We used o position ourselves in front of the piles and watch the birds in their nests.  We would even see the eggs hatch out.  I remember the horse too.  I’m not sure if it was Queenie, because the horse I remember never had a driver.  It just knew and would slow down or stop altogether, and then the man on the top of the kiln would let a roar out of him, and the horse would start up again.  I can remember that.  We used to think that was very funny.  Our biggest joy was at Christmas time.  Those sleighs filled with limestone would go up the street, and we kids would run and jump on the back of them and get a ride.  We loved that.  We weren’t allowed to go back where the lime was being ‘drawn off’.  That was considered a very dangerous place for a child.  But I remember one time two young lads were back there where they weren’t supposed to be.  Well, one dared the other to jump in the ashes which had been taken out of the bottom of the kiln.  You’d never know they were hot to look at them.  The young lad jumped in and he was very seriously burned.  He spent months in the hospital, I know.  We were never allowed back there, and I don’t know how those got there, but they did”, Margaret reflects.

She also remembers that the Lime Kiln had the only well on the street.  “We were all allowed to use it.  Everyone who lived on that part of Napoleon Street would go up to the Lime Kiln with their pails and bring the water home.  It was years later when water was finally put up the street and we didn’t have to haul it from the lime kiln any longer.”

John Neilson remembers when the business ran 11 months of the year and employed up to 15 men.  “Dad kept it going 24 hours a day.  We fired with slab wood, and it took a lot to keep it going, but it was a big business right up to about the mid-60s, and hauling in limestone was stopped altogether in the early 1970s”, he said.

By the time this account of the lime kiln is read by Canadian subscribers, most of the antique equipment will have gone on the auction block.  A sale today (Wednesday) will all but eliminate the workings of the Lime Kiln.  Old machinery, an antique truck, bits and pieces of history of one of the town’s long time industries will have gone to the highest bidder.

But for people like Shirley Sheinfield and Margaret Henderson, memories of that site will be with them always.  Last week Margaret took a walk past the lime kiln, up the street she called home for many years. “So many……..flashed that part of the old drive shed where Mr. Cameron kept a beautiful old buggy.  It was very fancy.  It had lights on it, and a lot of brass.  We kids used to pry open the little window closed to our house, and we’d crawl in and sit in that buggy and pretend we were somebody really important.  I can remember those weigh scales and the sounds of those trucks rolling over them.  I remember the day a team of horses ran away, and how if I hadn’t stepped back, they would have run right over me.  Last week I saw those piles of ashes.  We kids would get huge cardboard boxes and climb to the top of the ash pile and slide ….was having as much fun as we were having.  It will be hard to see that landmark gone.”

But that’s exactly what is going to happen to whatever remains after the auction sale today.  John Neilson said the last fragments of the yard will eventually be cleared away.  When the final board is hauled away, all that will remain will be memories.  Lime is still being manufactured.  But the process is much different.  The calcining remains the same, but large rotary lime kilns have replaced the primitive stacks.

It will take a long time to clean up the final remnants of the business Napoleon Lavalee started almost 100 years ago, but the memories of the site will remain with many for years to come.

Carleton Place Herald Advertisements pre-1850

Humor and Spice News Contained in Old Time Ads

Carleton Place Canadian, 27 February, 1958

By Howard M. Brown

 

Impressions of some of the varied local conditions of the earlier days of this district may be gained from the old time advertisements published in its newspapers.  A random selection of these will be taken as illustrations of the fading Ottawa Valley scene which was viewed from the nineteenth century newspaper office of the Carleton Place Herald.

Those which follow in the present column are advertisements and similar contributed announcements reproduced in abbreviated form from the Perth Courier, one of the first and the oldest of existing Ottawa Valley newspapers.

They are the period before the establishment of the Herald at Carleton Place.

Subscription Rates

The Bathurst Courier is printed and published in Perth, Upper Canada, every Friday morning by James Thompson.  Terms 15 shillings if paid in advance, 17s.6d. if not paid till the end of the year.  Postage included.  Produce taken in part payment.  Agents at Bytown, Pakenham, Richmond, Carleton Place, Horton, Lanark, Dalhousie, Sherbrooke, Smiths Falls and Merrick’s Mills.

September 18, 1835.

Flourishing Village

Staple and fancy dry goods, groceries, liquors-also for sale, a few first rate building lots in the flourishing village of Carleton Place. – W. & J. Bell, Perth, August 14, 1834.

Pioneer Pastor

Died, at his residence in Beckwith, Upper Canada, on September 12, 1835, the Reverend Doctor Buchanan in the 74th year of his age, and the 45th of his ministry.  He has left a widow and nine children to mourn his loss.

Temperance Convention

A convention of delegates of the Bathurst District Temperance Society was held in the Methodist Chapel, Carleton Place on February 23, 1836.  The Rev. William Bell was appointed chairman of the meeting and the Rev. T. C. Wilson, secretary.  The secretaries of the five societies whose delegates were present gave an account of the formation, constitution and present membership of their respective societies.  Memberships are Perth 511, Mississippi and Ramsay 295, Lanark 187, Richmond 57, and Franktown 18.  There are several other Temperance Societies in the District –

Thomas C. Wilson, secretary.

Credit Restricted

The subscribers having held a meeting at Carleton Place, Beckwith on March 10, 1838, herby notify the public that they have adopted the resolution of Carding Wool and Dressing Cloth, at their respective places of abode, for ready pay only.  The prices will be as low as the circumstances of the individual establishments will admit of, and merchantable produce shall be taken in payment at cash price.  Edward Bellamy, Ramsay; Elijah K. Boyce, Smiths Falls; Isaiah K. Boyce, Drummond; Silas Warner, Merrickville; James Rosamond, Carleton Place; Gavin Toshack, Ramsay.

Rapine and Bloodshed

To the inhabitants of the townships of Drummond, Lanark, Darling, Dalhousie, Bathurst and North and South Sherbrooke, comprising the First and Second Regiments of Lanark Militia.  Another attempt to invade these provinces is about to be made by numerous bands of lawless citizens of the United States, associated with disaffected persons who have left this country.

Rapine and bloodshed will mark the progress of these diabolical disturbers of our quiet homes.  Be ready to march to the frontier on a moment’s notice. – Wm. Morris, Col. Com’g, 2nd Lanark Regt., Alex McMillan, Col. Com’g, 1st Lanark Reg’t. Perth, 2nd November, 1838.

Beckwith Schools

Wanted immediately.  A common School Teacher for the Second Concession of Beckwith.  None need apply wh cannot give satisfactory reference as to character in every respect.  Apply to the Trustees or to the subscriber. – William Moore, Beckwith, 15 April, 1839.

Gentleman With a Cloak

A hint to Stage Drivers.  It would be well if stage drivers be more on their guard and first ascertain who they are giving passage to, and if such are their Own Masters!  Before they enter into a contract with them, or they may get into trouble.  On Thursday morning, the 11th instant, a gentleman with a cloak was quietly taken from our door, by the Brockville stage on his way to the land of liberty.  This was our newspaper boy, an Indentured Apprentice! – February 19, 1841.

Medical Card

Card. – Mr. William Wilson, surgeon, Licentiate in Midwifery and late of Glasgow University, begs to inform the inhabitants of Carleton Place and surrounding territory that, having come to reside among them, he has opened apartments in Mr. Rosamond’s building opposite the residence of R. Bell Esq., where he will be ready to wait upon or be consulted in any case requiring medical advice or interference.  He refers to the length of time he has resided in the country and the attention he has paid to those diseases peculiar to the climate. – Carleton Place, April 6, 1841.

Mountain Dew

To the Temperate – but not Teetotalers.  Malt whiskey for sale.  1,000 gallons of very superior malt whiskey is offered in quantities of not less than 3 gallons.  Merchants and Innkeepers will be supplied at the moderate rate of 4s.9d. per gal.  This whiskey is strongly recommended, being made by an experienced distiller, Mr. Peter McEwan, from the Braes of Breadalbane in the Highlands of Scotland, who in former years, with his drop of ‘mountain dew’ over his shoulder, played the game of hide-and-seek with the Gauger, with glorious success.

Having just got a new tub erected which will contain 1,400 gallons at a distilling, he hopes yet to enjoy a good share of public patronage, notwithstanding the progress of teetotalism – ‘go it, ye cripples!’ –

William Lock, Perth

April 29, 1841.

Pakenham School

A public meeting was held at Pakenham Village on June 16 in reference to the school of that village.  Mr. Andrew Russell presented regulations including the following to the consideration of the trustees, subscribers and others.

Hours of attendance from 10 to 4 with an interval of 15 minutes; and 5 minutes in the course of the former and 5 in the latter meeting.

The exercises of Saturday to consit of a repetition of the weekly lessons, with questions on the first principles of Christianity.

The school fund to be a pound per annum, with half a cord of wood or two and sixpence, the former payable in February and the latter on or before the 1st of December.

For purchasing maps and other classics apparatus, each subscriber shall advance an additional sixpence.

Pakenham, June, 1841.

Church Schism

We the undersigned elders and trustees of the Presbyterian Church in Ramsay in connection with the Church of Scotland beg leave to state –

 When two ministers styling themselves the Bytown Presbytry gave a notice of a Presbytry meeting, in a most illegal manner, to be held in the Ramsay Church to moderate in a call to Mr. McKid, while an appeal to the Synod was pending, the Church Trustees with the concurrence of the Session did the, to prevent that meeting only deliver the keys to Mr. Wylie as collateral security for the debt on the church property, with instructions to shut the door against the pretended Bytown Presbytry.  (signed) Andrew Toshack, Duncan Cram, elders; James Wylie, James Wilson, William Wilson, Robert Bell, John Gemmill, David Campbell, trustees. –

Ramsay, September 8, 1843.

Stolen Pocketbook

Stolen.  From the subscriber’s Great Coat pocket, in the Inn of John McEwen, Carleton Place, a large pocketbook, containing $18 in bills, promissory notes amounting to about 90 pounds, a small memorandum book and sundry other papers.  The notes were all payable to the order of the subscriber.   All the makers of the said notes are hereby cautioned not to settle with any other person presenting them for payment. –

Samuel Young, Carleton Place,

February 15, 1844.

Concert Ball

Mr. Archibald McArthur of Ramsay is induced to give a splendid Concert and Ball on Friday, April 4th in Mr. Peter Young’s barn, 8th line Ramsay, which will be fitted up expressly for the purpose.  He has acquired the valuable assistance of Mr. John McFarlane, the celebrated Musical Bell player;  Mr. Joseph Docherty of Ramsay, the Solo singer; Mr. John Brennon of Perth, the Clarinet player; also Mr. Peter Young, Ramsay, comic singer, whose powers are well known.  He has procured the valuable assistance of a Flute Band, and a number of other performers, along with your humble servant who will do all in his power to amuse them with the Patent Kent Key Bugle.

Tickets are 1s.6d. each, reserved seats 2s each; to be had of Mr. John Gemmill, merchant, Carleton Place.  Mr. Alex Snedden and Mr. David Leckie, Ramsay, also at the door on the night of the concert.  Performance to commence at 7 o’clock precisely. –

March 24, 1845.

Licenced Inns

Return of licences issued in the Bathurst District in the first half of the year, 1847:

Township of Beckwith Inn licences – Ann Burrows, Donald McFarlane, Archibald Gillis, Thomas Kidd, James Jackson.  Carleotn Place, Robert Mclaren, Manny Nowlan, Napoleon Lavallee.

Beckwith Shop licences, John A. Gemmill, Carleton Place.

Township of Ramsay Inn licences, James Coulter, Edward Houston, James McAllister, John Wright.

Stills, Bathurst District, Peter McArthur, Beckwith; Thomas Findlay, Lanark; Robert McLaren, Perth. –

Anthony Leslie, Inspector of Licences, Bathurst District.

Ploughing Match

Results of the Ploughing Match conducted by the Bathurst District Agricultural Society on the farm of William Walllace, 8th Line Ramsay, yesterday.  The judges James Wilkie, James Black and James Duncan, reported the following winners:

Old Ploughman’s Class – 1st, Lawrence Naismith, 2nd Robert Cowan (James Drynan’s man), 3rd Matthew Millions, 4th James Stewart.

Young Men’s Class – 1st Wm. Young (son of Peter Young), 2nd Robert Steele, 3rd Wm. Young (son of Robert Young), 4th Peter Cram.

Four prizes awarded in each of the two classes were in the amounts of 25s., 20s., 15s., and 10s.

James Bell, secretary, B.D.A.S., Carleton Place,

October 18, 1848.

Law Enforcement in Lanark County

132 Constables Once Patrolled Lanark, Renfrew

Carleton Place Canadian, February 20, 1958

By Howard Morton Brown

 

Some of this district’s law enforcement officers and ways of caring for indigent persons are recalled to view in this installment of a series of records of former local social conditions, which concludes with a brief glimpse of work and leisure in Carleton Place’s distant past.

Law Enforcement

The constables who assisted the sheriffs of the judicial district of Bathurst and of the later counties of Lanark and Renfrew in maintaining the law were once part time officers.  Sheriff of the two united counties from 1852 to 1866 and of Lanark County from 1866 to 1903 was James Thompson.  His predecessor for ten years had been Andrew Dickson of Pakenham.  Sheriff Thompson, first editor and one-time owner of the Perth Courier and county sheriff for over fifty years, lived until 1912 and the age of 100.

Local magistrates of the district at the middle period of Andrew Dickson’s regime numbered forty-three, three at present Renfrew county points and forty in the Lanark area.  Beckwith township’s magistrates in 1846 were Robert Bell, James Conboy, Robert Davis, Peter McGregor, Colin McLaren and James Rosamond.  Prominent names of magistrates in other townships then included John G. Malloch, Alex McMillan, Roderick Matheson, John Haggart and John Bell, all of Perth; John Balderson of Drummond, John Hall of Lanark, James Shaw of Elmsley, John Lorne McDougall of Horton and Alex. McDonell of McNab.  Magistrates of Ramsay township at the same time were Wm. Houston, Wm. Rae, Wm. Wallace, James Wylie and W. G. Wylie.

Part Time Constables

 Constables appointed for Lanark and Renfrew counties for the depression year of 1858 at the spring General Quarter Sessions of the Peace numbered one hundred and thirty-two.  There were twenty-one for Drummond township including Perth, nineteen for Beckwith including

Carleton Place, nine for Montague including Smiths Falls, and numbers from two to nine for twenty-four other townships.  Including some long-lived citizens and sons of district pioneers, the constables appointed for Beckwith township an even one hundred years ago were –

Carleton Place:  Joseph Bond (1805-1902, shoemaker), Hugh Boulton Jr. (1839-1887, miller, farmer), Abraham Morphy (1835-1910, farmer), Absolem McCaffrey (later grocer and liquor dealer), David McNab (1822-1903, saddler, later miller), Nathaniel McNeely (blacksmith), George McPherson Sr., (wagonmaker, later bailiff), Wm. Rorrison (builder) and Walter Scott (tailor).

Franktown: Allan Cameron (farmer), Arch. Campbell (1815-1899, farmer), Wm. Gibson, Robert Lever (cabinet maker), John Morris (blacksmith), and Michael Murray (shoemaker).

Ashton: Arch. Campbell (Con. 9, lot 27) and James Conn (merchant).

8th Concession:  John McEwen

9th Concession:  Alex. Stewart (1792-1892, merchant, Black’s Corners)

Residents of Ramsay township appointed to serve as constables in 1858 were Wm. Coleman (Con. 8, Lot 6), Patrick Corkery (Con. 3, lot 10), Wm. Gilmour, Duncan McGregor (Almonte), James Robertson (Con. 1, lot 15), Norman Shipman (Almonte), and James Toshack (Con. 8, lot 24, Bennie’s Corners).  Among similar appointments for Perth was Anthony H. Wiseman as High Constable.

Town Police

 Joseph Bond and Alvin Livingston were among the longer-term constables of Carleton Place’s village days.  Alvin Livingston became local full-time constable when appointed in 1885 at a salary of $350 a year as “Chief Constable, Street Commissioner, Collector of Young Man’s Statute Labor Tax and Sanitary Inspector.”  He had served in an earlier seven year period as constable and lock-up custodian at a $60 a year salary.  Occupant of the same post of chief constable for the lengthiest period, dating from about 1894, was Hugh MacConachie Wilson, with his once familiar greeting to street-loitering youngsters, “Weel noo, b’ys, ye’d better be movin’ an.”

County Jail

 Some of the kinds of century-old criminal charges which led to jail confinement are seen in a list of the offences alleged against the occupants of the united counties jail at Perth at one time in 1862.  Its prisoners at this time, grouped by kinds of offences charged, were – breach of indenture by leaving his master, 7; theft or larcency, 5; murder, 1; assault with an axe, 1; concealing birth of a child, 1; lack of bail, 3; and vagrancy, 3.  Including an additional six confined as mentally ill, the jails inmates were eleven men and sixteen women.  The united counties jail of 1862, then about to be vacated in favour of a new structure, was a small two storey bastille with stone walls of a thickness of almost three feet.  A barricade of brick, elm and oak composed the second storey floor.

A generation later a similar number of Lanark county occupants of the jail at Perth, mostly “tramps sent in from Smiths Falls and Carleton Place”, included such prisoners as a man charged with stealing a horse and buggy, and “a boy twelve years old, a boot-black and a very cunning youngster, awaiting trial for stealing a gold watch and fourteen dollars.” (July 1898).

Indigents in Jail

Care of Lanark County’s nineteenth century aged indigent residents without family or other private means of support was provided by the available public shelter, the county jail.  There a few respectable elderly citizens without friends or money could be housed and fed and classed as vagrants.  The Grand Jury report of inspection of this institution for imprisonment of alleged criminals related in part in December, 1880:

“The Grand Jurors for our Lady the Queen, have examined the jail and they find it in a very satisfactory state.  There are only two persons committed for crimes and these are of a comparatively trifling character.  We are glad to find there was only one insane person confined in the jail.  The rest are aged persons who have been committed under the Vagrancy Act.  Mr. Kellock who has filled the office of jailer for the last thirty years has resigned.”

The Lanark County House of Refuge was opened formally in 1903 when public figures of the county invited to speak at the ceremony, including Lanark’s members of Parliament, Hon. J. G. Haggart of Perth and Bennett Rosamond of Almonte, provincial members W. C. Caldwell of Lanark and Lt. Col. A. J. Matheson of Perth, Senator F. T. Frost of Smiths Falls and former provincial member Dr. R. F. Preston of Carleton Place.  The disappearing old order is seen in a Carleton Place editorial comment on the death of two residents of the county, one of Beckwith and the other of Drummond, in 1901 in the county jail.  Like others before them, they had been consigned to spend their last years in jail as provision for their maintenance in their helpless old age. 

“What better arguments do our County Councillors want to warrant them in proceeding with the House of Industry than deaths in such circumstances?  Poverty, from whatever cause it comes, is not a crime.  The only crime of these two elderly citizens was their poverty, yet note their obituaries.”

Hospital Proposals

 A revolutionary plea for state support for the building of hospitals had been offered by the Carleton Place Herald in its first year of publication.  Its young editor of over a century ago suggested: (Feb. 7, 1851)

“Public Hospitals – The want of hospitals for the indigent infirm in this part of the Province is beginning to be felt as a serious inconvenience.  It has become a pretty heavy tax on the benevolent part of the community to be obliged to support those who are unable to support themselves.  We would therefore suggest the idea that the Provincial Legislature enact that a sum equal to that raised for the Lunatic Asylum should in like manner be raised for the erection and support of three hospitals, to be situated at the most convenient points in the province.”

Sixty years later the building of a hospital at Carleton Place was proposed and discussed at a Town Hall public meeting held in 1910. William Thoburn outlined the origin and growth of the Rosamond Memorial Hospital at Almonte.  Dr. Bruce Smith of Toronto, Inspector of Hospitals, attended and estimated the 1910 cost of a suitable building and equipment at $1,000 a bed, and the cost of annual maintenance in a town of the size of Carleton Place at $3,500 to $4,500 a year.  With local capital being invested in industrial expansion of value to the town, including a hydro electric plant and foundry and woolen mill enlargements, and with installation of an expensive municipal waterworks system in prospect, it was decided not to duplicate the facilities of available neighbouring hospitals.

Earning a Living

In ordinary ways of earning a living, the nineteenth century’s old days seem by present standards to have been for most people a perennial struggle for subsistence unlike anything known in Canada’s recent decades.  Supported by its farming background, a sturdy race was able to survive independently and commonly to enjoy its life through intervals of moderate prosperity and recurrent times of industrial and trade unemployment, widespread bankruptcy and meager existence; with little organized assistance for its physical and social casualties.  There was another side to the conditions in which some of these generations gained their livelihood.  It is found in a simpler, less hurried and now generally unacceptable way of life.  A glimpse of its ending is seen among recollections written some seventy-five years ago by George Lowe, a seventy year old resident of Carleton Place: (July 1884)

“This day twenty years ago I came to Carleton Place, near the close of the Civil War.  At that time property was of little value.  I took charge of the railway station.  The only industries in the place were the grist mill, run by Mr. Bolton, Allan McDonald’s carding mill, Brice McNeely’s tannery and the saw mill run by Robert Gray, with one circular saw.  David Findlay’s foundry was just starting.  The lead mines were about closing down then.  Twenty years ago it may be said there was no such thing as employment here for anyone and, strange as it seems, no one seemed to wish for work.  Their wants were few, and those wants seemed to be soon supplied.  Smoking around, a good deal of fishing on the river, and a little loafing about the taverns, put in the day.  One day was the history of another.  Living was cheap then, but when those public works started – saw mills, wollen mills, etc. – then the whole place wakened up, and there has been no more industrious race than ours.  From the progress of this place in the last twenty years what shall it be at the end of the next twenty.”