Describe Business Places 100 Years Ago
By Howard Morton Brown
Carleton Place Canadian, 16 May, 1963
Start of High Street
On the Perth road, now High Street, a dozen of the village’s buildings of 1863 extended from Bridge Street along the north side of the road for a distance of about two blocks. There was only one building on its south side, the large stone house torn down several years ago, at the corner of Water Street. It was built in 1861 by John Sumner, merchant, who earlier at Ashton had been also a magistrate and Lieutenant Colonel of the 3rd Battalion. Carleton Militia. Beyond this short section of High Street was farm land, including the farms of John McRostie, Peter Cram, the Manny Nowlan estate and David Moffatt. The stone farm houses of John McRostie and David Moffatt are now the J. H. Dack and Chamney Cook residences.
The buildings on the north side of High Street were rented houses owned by John McEwen, William Neelin, William Moore and Henry Wilson; and the homes of Mrs. John Bell, Arthur Moore and James McDiarmid; together with Joseph Pittard’s wagon shop, and two doors west of it near the future Thomas Street corner, the new foundry enterprise of David Findlay.
Bell Street Businesses
Bell Street an even century ago had some twenty five buildings scattered along its present four blocks. William Street already had a similar number. The section from Bell Street north to the Town Line Road, as the first subdivision of the future town, had most of its streets laid out as at present, but north of William Street they held in all only five or six houses.
The block of Bell Street next to Bridge Street was the second early business section of the town. The first business there had been started about thirty-five years before this time by Robert Bell, together with his elder brother John and assisted for some years by his younger brother James, sons of the Rev. William Bell of Perth.
The new Sumner Arcade on its Bridge Street corner was built on the site of the original 1829 store of Robert Bell, in which the post office once had been located for many years. The Sumner store was adjoined by several frame shops, William Moore’s tavern, later run by Absolem McCaffery, John McEwen’s hand weaving establishment, Mrs. James Morphy’s home, and near James Street, the late “King James” Morphy’s shoemaking shop.
On the south side of this Bell Street block were several shops with living quarters, including buildings owned by Mrs. Morphy and William Muirhead. Down by the river side was an old tannery, once owned and possibly built by Robert Bell. It had been owned for some years by William Morphy junior and was bought in 1861 by Brice McNeely, who built the present stone building there where he continued a leather tanning business for forty years or more. At the other end of the block rose the venerable Hurd’s Hall, a relatively large two storey frame building then newly built, with its upper floor serving as the first public concert and meeting hall of the village other than the churches. It was built by the young Dr. William Hurd, son-in-law of James Rosamond. He had his medical offices there and lived in the former James Rosamond stone residence still standing on the corner across the street.
Going east on Bell Street, the second block from Bridge Street was occupied by the homes of Dr. Hurd and William Muirhead and, on the river near the present electric power plant site, by the sawmill owned by William Muirhead and leased then by Robert Gray. The third block, between Edmond and Baines Streets, had the large frame Church of England on its north side, and on the south side Robert Gray’s house and a building near the river owned by William Muirhead and apparently occupied in connection with the sawmill. On Bell Street’s last block, the north side had the home of Absolem McCaffrey, grocer and liquor dealer, the Wilson stone house then occupied by its builder, Dr. William Wilson, and a rented house owned by Robert Bell. On the river side of Bell Street here there were two rented houses and the home and wagon shop of George McPherson, bailiff and carriage maker.
William Street and The Railroad
North of Bell Street, William Street extended east for five blocks from Bridge Street. It was a route to the railway station, and was occupied by about thirty buildings, almost all on the north side of the street. Its tradesmen’s shops included two cabinet shops, a blacksmith shop, a wagon shop and two shoemaker’s shops. Residents owning their homes on William Street included William Peden and Patrick Struthers, general merchants; Joseph Bond and Horatio Nelson Docherty, shoe makers; Richard Gilhuly, blacksmith; Walter Scott, tailor; Mrs. David Pattie and Henry Wilson.
The stone Presbyterian church, later to be occupied by the St. Andrews congregation, and the old Cameronian Presbyterian church stood at either end of the last block which extends to the railway line. The railway station for the line opened four years earlier from Brockville to Almonte and at this time in course of construction to Arnprior, stood beyond the eastern side of the village at about the site of the present Legion Hall. A long shed beside it held cordwood used for locomotive engine fuel, and the station master’s residence was nearby toward the Town Line Road.
George Strett, then called Boswell, was open in 1863 from Bridge Street east to the railway station and Morphy Street ran from Bridge to Baines St. This section to the Town Line Road was not built on, except for three lone houses on George Street. Homes on the Ramsay Township side of the Town Line Road and east of Bridge Street were those of Mrs. John Tweedie, Frank Lavallee, cooper, and James Dunlop, cabinet maker and millwright.
Residents Of A Century Ago
Among other residents sharing the Carleton Place village scene of a century ago were the families of Jacob Leslie, cabinet maker; George and Robert McLean and Henry Beck, carpenters; Alexander Dalgety, carpenter, Hugh McLeod, miller; James Duncan and Duncan McGregor, blacksmiths; Joseph Gilhuly, carriage maker; James McFadden, and William Moore, shoemakers; also William Kelly, saloon keeper; William Paisley, carter; John Cameron, John Neil and Robert Knox, labourers; William Bradley, weaver, and William Nowlan, painter; Joseph Thompson, railway switchman; Thomas Hughes, station master and Frederick S. Haight, M.A., school master.
Resident clergymen were the Revs. John McKinnon, Presbyterian; E. H. Masey-Baker, Anglican; and Lawrence Halcroft, Baptist. Younger tradesmen of Carleton Place who the census year of 1861 were unmarried employees and apprentices included William Taylor, tinsmith; Alex Ferguson, George Griffith and Thomas Garland, blacksmiths; James Munro and William Laidlaw, carpenters; Henry Cram and Thomas Code, carriage makers; also James Moore and William Ferguson, shoemakers; Richard Willis, labourer; Charles Sumner, chemist; and William Metcalf, painter. David Moffatt, Moses Neilson and James Scott were apprentice printers and John Brown, Finlay McEwen and James Patterson were clerks.
There were about a dozen residences of stone construction within the central area of the Carleton Place of 1863. They included the homes of Hugh Boulton, Jr. grist mill owner (later Horace Brown); Dr. William Hurd (formerly James Rosamond’s and later William Muirhead’s), Napoleon Lavallee and Robert Metcalf, hotel keepers; Archibald McArthur, merchant; Allan McDonald, carding mill owner; Duncan McGregor, blacksmith; James Poole, publisher; John Sumner, merchant; Henry Wilson and Dr. William Wilson.