Confederation’s Armed Defenders Recalled : Second Part

Carleton Place Canadian, 28 April, 1966

By Howard M. Brown


Carleton Place Volunteers

The company’s roll books list the men of the Carleton Place Rifle Company on active service at Brockville in 1866.  Service medals were worn long afterwards by many Fenian Raid veterans of this district, and their ultimate obituary notices recalled their response at this early time of homeland danger and attack.  There were fifty-seven of all ranks on the June active service roll of the Carleton Place Rifle company, including Captain James Poole, Lieutenant John Brown, Ensign Josiah Jones Bell, four sergeants, six corporals and a youthful bugler.  Since many descendants of this ‘noble fifty’, as they were termed on occasion in later years, now live in the Carleton Place area and other parts of Eastern Ontario, their names will be recalled here, with their occupations and approximate ages where these now have been found.

Captain Poole, then age 39, publisher of the Carleton Place Herald, may have become a familiar figure to regular readers of these occasional local history notes.  Lieutenant John Brown, age 32, succeeded his brother-in-law, Archibald McArthur in 1868 as head of the principal wholesale and retail merchandising business in Carleton Place and died ten years later.  Ensign Josiah Jones Bell, born in Carleton Place in 1845, a son of Robert Bell, who for some years was North Lanark’s member of the Canadian Legislative Assembly, had graduated from Queen’s University in 1864 and was that university’s oldest living graduate when he died at his Rockcliffe home in 1931, at age 86.  He was a journalist and, among other newspapers, a publisher of the Brockville Recorder.  Later he became an editor of publications of the Mines Department of Ottawa, and he maintained an active interest in early Canada including military history and Indian lore.  In the Red River Rebellion expedition to Fort Garry in 1870 under Garnet Wolseley,

Lieutenant Bell left Carleton Place to serve in Manitoba as an officer of the First Ontario Battalion of Rifles shortly before Fenian raiders assembled again in arms on the Quebec and Ontario border. 

William Morphy (1833-1873), sergeant, a son of local pioneer settlers William Morphy and Sarah Willis, had been treasurer of Beckwith township, including Carleton Place, and was a business real estate owner.  His stone residence, which he named Spring Side Hall, remains on Lake Avenue at Campbell Street.  Sergeant William H. Moore, then 39, ran a Carleton Place shoemaking business.  Sergeant Daniel McArthur, clerk, age 27, was a relative of Archibald McArthur, merchant and first owner of the town’s textile mill operated for over fifty years by the Bates & Innes firm.  Sergeant William Neelin (1828-1900), shoemaker, whose wife was pioneer John Morphy’s daughter Barbara, became a general merchant and real estate dealer.

The six corporals of the Carleton Place company serving during the 1866 raids included Robert Metcalf, age 32, a well known local hotel proprietor, and David McPherson and David McNab.  Corporal John M. Sinclair (1842-1926), then a medical student, born in Beckwith at Scotch Corners, was a doctor in Carleton Place for over thirty years.  Corporal James Kilpatrick, age 31, was a cooper, and Corporal William Patterson (1840-1908), was then a furniture maker and dealer and later also an undertaker, founder of the town’s present firm of that name.

The company’s fifteen year old buglar, Robert William Bell (1851-1923), a grandson of the Rev. William Bell of Perth, was the younger son of Robert Bell, the long-prominent Carleton Place figure in business and public affairs who was then the Inspector of Canal Revenues of the Canadian government.  Robert junior graduated as a medical doctor at McGill University in 1873 and practiced at Peterborough, where he was Lieut. Colonel of the 57th Battalion of militia.  His later professional career was in the administration of Ontario mental hospitals.  It was due to his aid, and to the sustained public honouring of these volunteers, that particulars of Carleton Place militia company roll books of Fenian Raid service were published in 1898 by Carleton Place Herald editor William H. Allen.  Its veterans of this area were parading then in Dominion Day celebrations.

There were forty-three privates in the ranks of the Carleton Place Rifle Company in its June, 1866, service on the St. Lawrence River front.  They included Maurice Burke (1839-1911), a cooper; Andrew Coleman, age 33, shoemaker; and James D. Coleman, 22, who already had been a soldier in the Union Army in the United States Civil War.  James Doherty Coleman, (1844-1919), of the Gillies lumber company at Carleton Place and Braeside and later a Manitoba senior employee of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, was the father of a family including C.P.R. president D. C. Coleman (1879-1956), E. H. Coleman, Canadian government deputy minister and ambassador; George T. Coleman, former Carleton Place mayor and senior railway official, and Mrs. A. R. Garson of Carleton Place. 

And then private William Cram, age 22, was a son of Duncan, Beckwith farmer.  William Dack was later a Carleton Place merchant.  John Doherty (1840-1891), son of William of Glen Isle, became a Beckwith farmer and operated a marble cutting and stone quarrying business.  William (‘Big Bill’) Duff, then age 25, ran his retail dairy and his lakeshore farm, which once included Lake Park, until his death in 1914.  William Enright, A. Adams, Peter Ferguson, Robert Fleming and Archibald Hamilton also were in the 1866 ranks.  William P. Gray, 26, was a painter, and John Henry (1838-1892), a Ramsay farmer near Carleton Place.  Ephriam Kilpatrick, age 18, was a cooper, as was Francis Lavallee.

Jacob Leslie (1835-1909), serving at age 31, was a furniture maker and undertaker.  His Carleton Place business was continued by his son George, who in turn was succeeded until 1951 by W. H. Matthews, a former mayor.  James Moore, 25, was a shoemaker and Archibald McCallum, 21, a sawmill worker, as was also Lachlan McCallum (1834-1915), who long was the captain of the big sawmill steamboat “The Enterprise.”  James McFadden, age 30, was a shoemaker; Drummond McNeely, 27, a carpenter; Nathaniel McNeely, 38, a blacksmith; and George McPherson, 26, a butcher and later a hotel-keeper.

Private James Moffatt, Absolem McCaffery, William McEwen, Alex. Romey, William Rorrison, Donald Stewart (‘Donald the Piper”), James Storie and David Williams were others of the Carleton Place ranks of ’66.  Private William Pattie, carpenter, building contractor and second mayor of Carleton Place, was then age 23; and William Rattray (1845-1894), Beckwith 11th Line farmer, was 21.  John Sumner, 17, was a son of John Sumner, merchant, who had been lieutenant colonel of the 3rd Carleton Battalion of the sedentary militia.  Patrick Tucker, 30, was long a Carleton Place shoemaker; and John Wilson, 19, was a son of Dr. William Wilson.

The Willis families were represented by four sons in the 1866 Fenian Raid defence service of the Carleton Place Rifle Company.  The youngest, Catin Willis, age 17, was a son of Catin Willis (1795-1869), pioneer Ramsay farmer near Carleton Place.  Richard Willis, 25, George E. Willis, 22, and James Willis, 21, were born on the farm of their father George Willis (1820-1892) at the west end of Lake Avenue.  George E. Willis, who lived until 1940 and the age of 96, was for some years a Carleton Place photographer.  Photographs made by him remain in many old family albums of this area.  (His son Stephen founded the Willis Business College in Ottawa.)  Richard, who was drowned in 1893 while duck hunting in the lower Mississippi Lake, was the father of the veteran Mississippi rivermen Henry and George Willis.  John Cavers, William Beck and William Cram, all of the Carleton Place area, returned from the United States in 1866 with Chicago’s  No.1Company of Volunteers for Canada to serve in their country’s defence.

To be continued…..



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