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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”