Sharing Memories, Week Thirty-Four: Canada’s Centennial (4)-Part One of Three

 

Confederation’s Armed Defenders Recalled : First Part

Carleton Place Canadian, 28 April, 1966

By Howard M. Brown

 

When agreement was being reached for the attainment of Canada’s Confederation, the borders of the present provinces of Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick were manned with Canadian and British forces prepared to repel invasion.  The strange enemy was the private army of the Fenian Brotherhood and its so-called Irish Republic of North America.  It was based in a northern United States flushed but worn by its Civil War success and lacking to this extreme degree in an attitude of friendship for Great Britain and Canada.

The Fenians and their followers quickly formed a misguided but large and reckless organization.  Their preparations had been carried out with the tolerance of the United States government during the term of office of one of that nation’s worst presidents.  Canada, by the Fenian plan, was to become Irish Fenian territory from which, with the aid of other nations, Ireland would be freed from England’s rule.  Then Canada might possibly be handed over to the United States. 

The Fenian Raids against Canada in 1866, renewed in 1870, came from a fertile soil for this mad scheme.  Calling their organization an Irish Republic, the American Fenian leaders and their delegates from most of the then existing states of the union met in Cincinnati in September, 1865, and adopted a paper constitution modeled on that of the United States.  Its active parts were its War Department and its Treasury.  Foot-loose soldiers trained in the Civil War were available by the thousand and not averse to conquest and plunder.  The tools and the spirit of war were in abundant supply.  With more able Fenian direction Canada might have paid dearly.

The main encounters of the 1866 Raids were in Welland County and in the Eastern Townships in the first week of June.  They were recalled in the first installment of this story of invasion dangers accompanying our Confederation, for which local and national Centennial celebrations now are being prepared.  The Eastern Ontario points considered most threatened were Cornwall, Prescott, Brockville and Kingston.  Some two thousand troops hastily placed at Cornwall included parts of two British regiments and militia of Cornwall, Argenteuil County, Kingston and Ottawa.

At Prescott a force of similar size included several companies of British troops and militia units of Hawkesbury, Belleville, Gananoque and the Ottawa area.  Two of the latter companies were those of Fitzroy and Pakenham.  Prescott’s Fort Wellington was strengthened and supplied with artillery reinforcements.  Kingston’s fortifications remained garrisoned by British troops.  Its district district militia units of rifles, infantry, artillery and cavalry went on active service standing.  With lighter forces of the Ottawa area the capital city of Ottawa also was garrisoned.

Brockville’s defences were provided by the rifle companies of Brockville, Carleton Place and Perth and the infantry companies of Almonte, Perth, Brockville and Gananoque, under Lieut. Colonel James Crawford.  A principal historical account of the Fenian Raids published in 1910 states:  “These companies were exceedingly efficient, and did great service in guarding the riverfront and railway communications at Brockville.  Col. Crawford and his troops received great praise from the Major-General for the very satisfactory manner in which they did their duty on these trying occasions.”  (John A. Macdonald, writer of the 1910 history of the Fenian Raids, served on the Niagara frontier in 1866 and 1870, founded and edited the Arnprior Chronicle, and was a captain of the 43rd Battalion, Ottawa and Carleton Rifles.)

Captain James Poole’s newspaper’s report of the departure of June 3 of the Carleton Place company for the front said in part:

“After having been on the alert for about twenty-four hours awaiting an order to proceed to the frontier, a hurried dispatch was received about midnight on Sunday that the volunteer companies of Carleton Place and Almonte should be ready in about an hour to repair to Brockville by a special train.  At 2:30 a.m. on Sunday the train arrived bringing the Almonte Company of Infantry under the command of Captain Gemmill.  The Carleton Place Rifle Company commanded by Captain Poole and Lieutenant Brown were in waiting, having been accompanied to the station by over a hundred of our citizens.  At the request of Captain Poole the Rev. J. A. Preston addressed the men.

It was a solemn and moving sight, the moonlight giving a dim view of the outline of the ranks and the friends and relatives moving to and fro as they took leave of those near and dear to them, discharging their duty to defend out hearths and homes against the invasion of a lawless band of marauders.  As the train left the station three hearty cheers from the citizens rang the air, lustily re-echoed by the true men whom we hope to welcome soon again.”

To be continued……

 

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK THIRTY-TWO : Canada’s Centennial (2)

 

Invasion Threatened When Local Units Trained

By Howard M. Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 31 March, 1966

 

Fifty years before Canadian volunteer soldiers began to leave their home towns in 1914 for overseas service, men equally prepared to risk their lives for Canada were forming the first active service military units of many Canadian towns.  Their fortunately brief defence service was in the years of the Fenian Raids of the 1860’s, when the last armed invasions of Canada came to challenge our national Confederation.

Among these defenders were more than fifty men of the Carleton Place Rifle Company.  The Carleton Place Rifle Company was formed at the start of the first expansion of a trained and permanent volunteer militia of the old Province of Canada, made to meet the risk of possible war between the United States and Great Britain at the outset of the American Civil War.  Like those of neighbouring localities and others throughout the province, it replaced a venerable succession of local but normally untrained and unarmed companies of the original sedentary militia.  A view of the participation of this community, then an unincorporated village, in Canada’s first major development of its own military forces is given in the pages of the locally published weekly newspapers of that day.

When war threats and consequent militia expansion came in 1862, local demand led to the formation of the first trained and equipped militia company to be based at Carleton Place.  In January of that year, in the words of the local Herald editor:

“At a meeting of some of the inhabitants of Carleton Place and vicinity, held at Lavallee’s Hotel on Saturday evening last, it was unanimously resolved that: – ‘In view of the unsettled state of affairs between the British and American governments and the possibility of war, it is expedient that a rifle company should be formed in this village and neighbourhood, to aid in the defence of their country.’

A muster roll was then opened and signed by those present at the meeting.  Several others have since added their names, making in all upwards of sixty.”

This number, including some young men of nearby farms, appears to equal nearly half of the total number of men of ages 18 to 40 living then in Carleton Place.

The gazetting of the Carleton Place Volunteer Militia Rifle Company came in December, 1862, with James Poole as captain and John Brown as lieutenant.  Within a month it was equipped and undertaking military training.  The Perth Courier in December stated:

“Volunteer Rifle Companies are organizing in all parts of the country.  In Carleton Place a Company has been Gazetted under Capt. Poole.  The volunteer movement if properly encouraged will soon result in twenty or thirty thousand well disciplined men.  Let it be made imperative on every Militia officer to be well drilled, and Canada would soon have her militia on a footing that would be ready for all emergencies.  At present the supply of Drill Instructors is sadly inadequate.”

The newly authorized company was first paraded in greatcoat uniforms on New Year’s Day, when its captain, news editor James Poole, wrote:

“According to notice given, the members of this company assembled in front of the ‘Herald’ office on the morning of New Year’s Day.  After being dressed in the coats and accoutrements forwarded by the Government from Quebec, they were drilled by Robert Bell, Jr., nephew of Robert Bell, Esq., M.P.P. for the North Riding.  They paraded the streets several times, and from the manner of performing the drill, dictated by their youthful teacher for the time, have given great promise of future utility, should any unfortunate occasion arise.”

By mid-July it was announced:

“In a few days the new clothing will be ready for distribution, and Carleton Place will be able to turn out one of the best looking Rifle Companies in Canada.  The Company will continue to drill as usual every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening.”

Another summer notice stressed the need for target practice, as judged by the captain of the Carleton Place Company, who published the names and scores of marksmanship of each of some sixty militiamen:

“A rifle shooting match was held near this village on Saturday last, the 15th instant, between the Carleton Place Rifle Company and the Infantry Company from Almonte.  The Riflemen were requested to be in uniform at the armoury at six o’clock in readiness to march to the station to meet the Almonters. 

The Riflemen were uniformed in the regular Rifle dress – dark green tunics and grey pants, with red facings, dark belts and shakos to match.  The Infantry wore the scarlet tunics, gray pants, white belts and shakos trimmed to suit.  The shooting was conducted under the able management of Sergt. Cantlin.  The shooting on both sides was bad, and much below the average, there being but a few men in either company sufficiently practiced with the rifle.  The following is the score of points…”

(Totalling Almonte 107, Carleton Place 106).

A mid-winter inspection of these two companies in February, 1864, as reported by Captain Poole, showed the required drilling which lay ahead:

“The Almonte Infantry and Carleton Place Rifle Companies were inspected on Saturday last by Lt. Col. Earle of the Grenadier Guards, accompanied by Brigade Major Montgomery.  The attendance of both companies was much below what it should have been – The Almonte Company mustering only 27 including officers, and the Carleton Place Company 43.  The Colonel was well pleased with the condition of the arms and accoutrements of the men; but did not compliment them very highly on their proficiency in drill, which was owing to their very irregular attendance during the fall and winter.”

The American Civil War ended in the spring of the following year.  Within six months the Fenian Brotherhood in the United States was building its resources for its expected conquest of Canada, and in November, Canadian troops were posted for several months duty at border points from Prescott to Sarnia.

In Lanark County, contracts for erecting drill halls were let early in 1866 at Carleton Place and Almonte.  Construction of the Carleton Place armoury was aided by the promise of a £50 grant by the municipality.  It was built by William Pattie on the Beckwith Street site of the recently demolished skating rink bordering the park which then was the village market square.  Supported by its hand hewn beams, it remained a useful memorial of the perils of the 1860’s until destroyed in the town’s great fire of 1910.  Its use was granted at times for other community purposes ranging from the Beckwith Agricultural Society’s exhibitions of the 1860’s and the ambitious annual choral and musical festivals of the 1880’s to a series of Bishop R. C. Horner’s Hornerite revival meetings.  Almonte’s armoury was built for the combined purposes of the militia and the exhibitions of the North Lanark Agricultural Society.

When Fenian preparations in March had indicated they then might be about to attack, and ten thousand Canadian volunteers had been called for duty, no invasion occurred, although two minor ones were attempted.  Captain Poole’s Carleton Place newspaper reports of this time said:

“The rumors of a Fenian invasion have created a great stir through the country.  The volunteers are called for service and have responded nobly.  In our own village the company is filled up and is drilling three times a day.  The men are billeted on the inhabitants and have orders to be ready at a moments notice.”

Postponement came in two weeks, when it was reported (March 28) that:

“The prospect of a Fenian invasion of Canada is so far distant that the government feels justified in disbanding a portion of the volunteer force.  An order for the disbanding of the Carleton Place Rifle Company was received on Monday evening.  The bugle was sounded, and in a few minutes the whole company were at their posts.  They naturally thought that marching orders had been received, and were rather disappointed.

The new drill shed is to be completed by the first of September.  We would again express our gratification at the manner in which the company have conducted themselves while under arms.”

Forces on each side of the international boundary continued to prepare for a coming encounter.  Other views of the Canadian preparations will follow in the next section of this story of the times of Confederation.

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK THIRTY

Late W. J. Welsh Recalls Story of Fire Department

By Howard Morton Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 04 July, 1963

 

Some fire department recollections from the early days of Carleton Place are concluded in this installment.  It recounts the late W. J. Welsh’s memories of some locally famed firemen, of firemen’s annual picnics and balls of more than half a century ago, and of the origins of the town’s present fire company and its predecessor during his childhood.

The Ocean Wave Fire Company was established under its present name by the Carleton Place municipal council in 1875.  Jack Welsh, widely known as “Baldy”, the grand old man of Canadian competitive paddling, died in Carleton Place in 1957 at the age of 96.  His story which follows was written by him in 1917 and was first published in this newspaper:

“What a flood of pleasant memories the name of this fine fire fighting force revives.  To those who know it in its splendor today a short sketch of its origin and early days might be of interest.  While I will not try to confine myself strictly to data, the nearness of it will suffice.

About the years 1868 or ’69, the need of some better means of fire protection than the bucket brigade was apparent and with that end in view a meeting of the village was called to discuss the matter.  The meeting was called to order by the late James Poole, editor of the Herald and captain of the volunteer company at that time.

It was held on the street near Glover’s carriage shop, and the chairman’s rostrum was the corner of the log fence where now stands the English church rectory.  A fire company was formed with Mr. Poole as captain, but they had no engine.  At that time, Robert Bell, who was a great lover of flowers, had a small hand engine or more properly a pump which he used for watering his garden.

He offered them this.  While it was a first class article for its purpose and there is no record of it being a failure at a fire, we will judge that it was a success.

Old Members

Among the members of the company at the time were:  W. Patterson, Alex. Wilson, William Glover, J. S. Nolan, William Rogers, William Pattie, J. R. Galvin, Nathaniel McNeely and others.

A larger engine was purchased as the brigade became more efficient and the need grew greater.  This was the ‘Defiance,” the first engine purchased by the village.  It was a hand engine, commonly called a man-killer.  Next was purchased the original Ocean Wave, also a hand engine but the most powerful of its kind at that time.

It required 40 men to work it, but when it was going it was a fire fighter.  It would throw a stream of water over Zion church spire, a feat our streamers are not capable of today.  In order to give the engine a fair trial and initiate the firemen into the proper working of it the Renfrew fire brigade were invited down.

They were a large fine-looking body of men.  The trial took place on the bridge and as the husky firemen forced the breaks to the cry of “Heave Her Down,” the stream rose towards the sky and the dam at the same time which caused the late James L. Murphy to exclaim with rapture, “The Ocean Wave.”  From that day so well remembered the Ocean Wave was christened.

The late William Patterson was the next captain, followed by the late T. L. Nagle, D. Moffatt, Thomas Lever, James Warren, Alex. McLaren and Wm. McIlquham.  The hand engine gave way to the steamer and the “Sir John” was purchased and still another steamer was added.  Now with a first class waterworks system, Mort. Brown’s and the Hawthorn factory auxiliary power, we stand as second to none as a well equipped town.

A chief engineer was attached to the brigade in the person of the late James Shilson whose mechanical ability was a wonder.  The company made a wise selection.  He was followed by the late James Doherty.  The next chief, Mr. McIlquham, brought the company up to a high state of efficiency and what Billy can’t accomplish in the way of fire-fighting with the Ocean Waves would be a shame to tell.  As a mechanic of man-power he had no superior.

Steamboat Picnics

While firemen have built up a company they did not forget the social side of life.  Years ago the firemen’s picnic was the event of the season.  It was held on Pretty’s Island, and the date was fixed to correspond with the ripening of John McCann’s corn – his contribution to the feast, as that was a big item on the bill of fare.

The steamer Enterprise was donated free by Senator McLaren.  He also gave a substantial cash donation to purchase groceries and the said groceries to be purchased at Sibbitt’s.

One fireman was hiding a basket containing a bottle of ‘milk,’ under a clump of bushes at the water’s edge when smash came a rock over the bush and when he got the water out of his eyes the bottle was gone.

While the women spread the table cloths on the ground and were emptying the well-filled baskets, the corn and tea were bubbling in the boilers sending forth an appetizing odor that could be felt over at Shail’s Settlement.

A glance at the names of the committee in charge of the picnic is enough to convince the most skeptical that a better day’s outing could not be held – such names as the late Sid Anable, Bill Whalen, Bill Patterson, Joe Wilson, Alex. Wilson, Oliver Virtue.  Wylie’s barge was towed along for a dancing platform for the home trip and with the late George and Dick Willis playing the fiddles – it was not called an orchestra in those days – such foot-inspiring music was produced by these two musicians as has never been equaled.

Annual Ball

The annual ball was another event that was looked forward to as the ball of the season.  Started years ago in Newman’s hall, it outgrew that.  The first record I can find is 1882.  Then the old town hall and Pattie’s hall were each used until the present town hall was built.  Supper was served in the different hotels until they secured their present quarters and with their own outfit have served as many as 600 visitors from all over the country.

McGillicuddy’s orchestra, of Ottawa, – some class in those days – furnished the music.  A comparison of the program in those days is worthy of notice.  It consisted of a Grand March, Cotillion Quadrille and Varsuvienne.  And to see them hit the floor, yea, couldn’t they dance.

I have lately seen three generations of the same family dancing at one time, the grandmother having attended the first annual ball.  Of late years Valentine’s orchestra, of Ottawa, and the Hulme Family, of Prescott, have furnished music.  While the profits have varied from a small sum to hundreds of dollars, with their usual generosity, they were able last year to give $50 to the Red Cross.  The athletic and gladitorial side of the brigade was not neglected during these years as the numerous victories of fleet footed hose reel and giant tug-of-war teams testify competing in every town from Pembroke to Brockville.

They proved their mettle.  When you think of a team of such men as Chief McIlquham, Adam Pretty, John Morris, Chief Wilson, James Loftus, William Hurdis, Tom Johnston, Jim Rogers, Alex. Wilson, John D. Taylor, John Willis, John Dolan and the late James Warren, it was easy to understand why they were victors.

Time has laid its hand heavily in the ranks of the company and very few remain in 1917.  The old spirit created years ago and which has made a single success of this valuable asset to our town, still remains and when the last trumpet calls and each man has received his reward we will find them not sitting “around the fire” but basking in that celestial light – the reward of all who have been good and faithful firemen.”

Baldy

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK TWENTY-EIGHT

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.

1921 Canadian Census Release Date

Census returns are in the custody of Statistics Canada and the records are closed until 92 years after the taking of a census, when those records may be opened for public use and transferred to Library and Archives Canada.

On 01 June, 2013, the 1921 Canadian census will be transferred to Library and Archives Canada.  LAC informs us that “only microfilm copies of this census exist and they will digitize the microfilms and make them available online as JPEG and PDF images shortly after their release date.”

More information is available here: http://thediscoverblog.com/2012/03/27/1921-census-countdown/

I would not expect this census to be available for public viewing for a few months after the June 1st  date.

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK TWENTY-FIVE

Life in Lumbermen’s Shanty on the Mississippi

Carleton Place Canadian, 14 March, 1963

By James Sidney Annable

 

(Contributed by H. Morton Brown)

Some scenes of the Ottawa Valley’s great square timber era have been preserved in a group of boyhood recollections of a native of Carleton Place, James Sidney Annable, continued here.

As a young boy Sid Annable left his home in Carleton Place to spend a winter in the early eighteen eighties as a cook’s helper at a Boyd Caldwell lumber camp in the forests of the upper Mississippi River district.  Over fifty years later he presented his version of his experiences, which follows here in a shortened form.  Allowance may need to be made in some respects for the long interval between the time of his youthful employment and his time in writing of it.

“I left home to go to the head waters of the Mississippi River as a cook’s flunkey in the shanty of Boyd Caldwell, Sr., pioneer lumberman with timber limits near Ompah.  We outfitted in Lanark village and travelled by wagons.  There were about thirty teams of horses.  The wagons were loaded with bob-sleighs and tools, along with provisions to feed seventy men that winter.  The foreman in charge, we shall call him Bob Price, was six feet tall and weighed about 200 pounds.

Wagons were loaded to capacity with flour, beans, black molasses, salt pork, sugar, tea etc.  The cook wagon was equipped with utensils and food already cooked to feed the crew of teamsters, axemen, roadmen, sawyers and river drivers.

At Lavant Station near Ompah our camp site was already staked out.  On our arrival at Snow Road the ice was on the inland lakes and creeks.  We arrived with a number of men sick with colds and sore feet.  Many of them had to cut brush roads.  At last the wagons arrived.

Building the Bush Camp

We lived in tents while the shanty was being built out of hemlock logs.  Trees were felled and axemen notched the ends and locked them on the corners, boring an augur hole through each tier and driving dowel pins of ash and hickory to hold the corners intact.  When the walls of the shanty were up and the plates were hewn out, rough timbers were placed on top of them.  Rafters were made out of tamarack and spruce tapered from eight inches at the butt to four inches on the top.  The pitch of the roof was about thirty degrees.

The roof was made by hewing out the centre of eight inch split logs with an adze.  They were placed alternately, first concave and the next convex, allowing the edges to lie down snug in the concave side.  This made the roof watertight and almost air tight when completed.  Ventilation was provided at the eaves, and by the big open chimney which carried off the smoke.

Around the south end of the shanty, bunks were constructed three tiers high and five feet wide, each to hold two men.  The beds were made soft by cutting cedar boughs and filling the bunks with them.  Each man had to make his own bed, the blankets being furnished.  Pillows were ‘out’ until flour sacks were empty.  They were filled with straw and in time everyone had his pillow.

The cookery was a log box about six feet wide and eighteen feet long, filled two-thirds full of sand.  Tamarack wood in six foot lengths would burn and crackle at both ends of this fireplace.  A post was set in the centre with iron bands, with loops for the large iron pipe that supported the cooking utensils over the fire.  When we were boiling spuds, beans and ‘sow belly’, the beans when boiled soft were placed in a two foot cast iron kettle with a cover which projected out over its edge.  These were buried in the hot sand and ashes overnight.  They were ready to serve for breakfast piping hot, flavored with blackstrap molasses, and with plenty of salt pork browned to a golden hue.

The bread was baked in the same way, the huge loaves coming out of the Dutch oven with crust on all sides.  They were cut in wedges.  At meal time each man took his tin plate and tea basin and knife and fork, and stood in line until the cook or the cook’s devil would help him with his food.  After each meal each man took care of his dishes and utensils and put them on the rack ready for the next chow time.

Days Work Done

When the day’s work was done and supper over, the boys, seated on the long benches that ran in front of the bunks, would enjoy themselves by playing euchre, pitch or old sledge for tobacco or any of the goods that were in the company’s van.  The men could have all the supplies they wanted as their credit was o.k. until spring.  There was always music galore, flutes, fiddles, mouth organs and jews harps.  Old shanty songs prevailed.  The old timers took delight in hanging it onto the tenderfoot, but it did not take long for the first-timer to learn his way about.  Wrangling and fighting were taboo.

Washing was usually the Sunday pastime.  This day was my hardest task.  It was up to me to see that plenty of hot water was in the big cauldron kettles and that the soap, which the cook made, was not wasted.

Fresh meat was seldom served in those days but there was plenty of wild game to be had.  With no shooting allowed we used to snare rabbits, and trap deer.

Partridge were plentiful and many a brace would come to camp, killed by the boys on the trail.  Venison was packed in snow and on Sundays we usually would have a feast.

Spring Drive Starts

Now spring was coming and the square timber that had been hewn by the broadaxe men on the banks of the river was slid down on the skidways, greased with pork rind, into the water.  Each stick would be sixteen inches square and thirty to forty feet long.  They were floated alongside each other and held together with swifters and rope sometimes made of the inner bark of the ash or elm.  They were formed into cribs of twelve sticks each.  If the streams were narrow the cribs were made narrower so they would float and not break apart.  When the drive was ready the cribs were polled by hand down to the big waters or lakes.  Then they were fastened together to cross the lake.  In the centre the cookery was located, and tents for the river drivers.

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK TWENTY-FOUR

ECHOES OF THE PAST

Phantom Light on Lakes Once Talk of the Town

Carleton Place Canadian, 07 March, 1963

By James Sidney Annable

 

A mysterious red light was seen for a week one summer moving high over the lower Mississippi Lake at night near Carleton Place.  Evidently it was a windy week.  This phenomenon was recalled in a series of old time yarns, some possibly including stray “Believe-it-or-not” incidents, written twenty five years ago by J. Sid Annable, then of Ottawa.

Two incidents on the Mississippi here in that year, as remembered by him, were the introduction of sailing catamarans and also the excitement created by the phantom light.  He was a young Carleton Place boy at the time and had a leading part in promoting the flurry of excitement, recounted here as he described it.

“In the summer of 1883 when catamarans became numerous on the Mississippi River and Lower Lake, the elite of Carleton Place were all agog over the appearance of the first pontoon craft called the ‘Kattermeran’.  It was constructed on two cigar shaped floats with a platform and a fancy railing two feet high.  In the center was a mast sail and a jib.  A rudder was built at the rear with an arm attached for steering.

CAUSED ENVY

This new pleasure craft was designed to carry ten or twelve people.  It was equipped with comfortable rattan chairs.  The proud owners of the strange craft were William Pattie and Alex Sibbitt.  It became the envy of all the poor lads in the neighbourhood who had to be content with flat-bottomed monitors or log canoes made out of ash and basswood by the well known Indian brothers, Johnny and Joe Bay, on their reserve at Indian Landing.  They were the noted basket makers of that period.  Their colored hampers and clothes baskets were sold on Main Street by Eli Hutchings, Jimmy Weeks and Jim Sumner.  Usually the Indians traded their wares to the merchants for food.

Just a mile away was Allen’s Point, now Lake Park, with one lone shack erected by the writer as a bunk house when pike fishing through the ice was his favorite pastime.  This shack was a two room affair equipped with bunks for beds and an old fashioned ‘Forest Beauty’ stove for warmth and cooking, made by David Findlay of Carleton Place.

My chum ‘Peck” Wilkie and I used this shack as the base of operation in constructing a huge box kite.  We had little difficulty in building the frame of old cedar rail material from the line fence of Bill Duff’s farm.  Our kite was three feet wide and six feet long, covered with cheesecloth with glue sizing brushed on.  The tail was six feet long.  A wire was fastened to the nose to attach our twine and to make a perfect balance.  To fly the kite as high as possible we bought five pounds of binder twine.

We then made a windlass with a crank on each side, placing a leather brake on to control it.  Then we made a rack on the seat of our rowboat, fastened the twine, rowed out on the lake and hoisted our kite in a successful test.

TALK OF THE TOWN

That night we attached a railroad lantern to the tail of the kite and sent her up.  The red light showing brightly in the sky caused quite a sensation.  After people were all in their beds we brought our kite down and tucked it away for another night’s fun.  Next day everyone in Carleton Place was talking about the mysterious light in the sky over the lake.  The Carleton papers had a front page story, and the next night people came from Almonte and nearby villages in horse and buggy to investigate the strange phenomenon.

After a week of this, old Charlie Glover, crack rifle shot of the village, rowed up to Nagle’s Bay to take a pot shot at our mysterious light.  We kept the kite moving and he wasted many shots before he made a lucky hit.  Down came our kite in the lake, but the boatmen who set out in search of it failed to locate it.  The next morning we retrieved it ourselves in the rice bed, some distance in from the edge.  Our fun was at an end, someone spoke out of turn and let the cat out of the bag.

The frame of this kite was in the attic of William Wilkie’s home for a long time.  W. W. Cliff, editor of the Central Canadian, published the story in 1884, picturing ‘Peck’ Wilkie as the Peck’s bad boy of the village.  Some years later Peck Wilkie was drowned in the pond on the Boston Common.

Other owners of Catamarans on the Mississippi were Ad. Peden, James Gillies and Adam Dunlop.  The fad was short lived, however, owing to the hard work of rowing home after the wind went down.”

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK TWENTY-THREE

Making Charcoal in Pits Once Town Attraction

Carleton Place Canadian, 28 February, 1963

By Howard Morton Brown

 

Some tales of Mississippi lumbering and timber driving and of life in Carleton Place at the height of its sawmill days will be recalled in this and following installments of the Canadians old time views.

Written by James Sidney Annable and published in the Ottawa Citizen about twenty-five years ago, they tell of shanty and river life and of boyhood pranks and adventures of the eighteen eighties.  Sid Annable, born in 1871, was a younger son of John Sidney Annable of Carleton Place.  He left Carleton Place in his youth, returning only as a visitor, but kept up his interest in the activities of this town until his death in 1959 in Toronto.

His story retold this week is of scenes around the charcoal pits operated in Carleton Place by Alex. Hunter.

Alexander Hunter, father of the late Fred Hunter, was a blacksmith and axe maker of great skill.  He came here from Lanark village at the age of 36 to do the smith work in connection with the Boyd Caldwell and Sons sawmill when it was being built in 1869.  For many years he carried on his trade on Mill street.  He died here by drowning in December 1910.

This is Sid Annable’s story:

“In 1881 and 1882 charcoal was made by Sandy Hunter, a blacksmith in Carleton Place, first for his own use in his blacksmith shop to shrink the wagon tires on the wood felloes of the large six foot wheels of the dump carts used by the Boyd Caldwell and Peter McLaren lumber firms.  His sons Alex and Lorenzo Hunter followed in their father’s footsteps and continued this enterprise from a commercial standpoint for some time.

Charcoal formerly was made in large quantities by cutting down trees and piling the logs in pyramids or moulds, covering them with earth and sod and restricting the draught of air so as to keep the logs from burning completely to ashes.  This required much labor and it was necessary to watch the pits night and day.  Just as soon as the earth and sod would dry out and the smoke and gas show forth through the moulds, the men would place boards with cleats on the pits so they could cover up the air holes with wet earth and green sod.

LENGTHY PROCESS

Alex Hunter contracted with the Caldwell firm to take all the sawmill refuse, slabs and ‘buttons’, and he disposed of them to the people in the village.  The heavy or thick slabs he piled up on the banks of the Mississippi until he had enough for their charcoal pits.  These pits were formed by cutting long elm saplings, eight inches at the butt, three inches at the top and eighteen feet long.  With these they built a frame in tent formation, leaving a door opening at earth end so the watchers could see if there was any daylight showing through them.

Inside this green framework they piled the slabs on their end and placed the ends called buttons against the standing slabs.  They continually placed the green wet pine and hemlock until the thickness of the pits would be form eight to twelve feet.  Those moulds, as I remember them, were one hundred feet long.

When the wood was all in formation, earth was piled over, about twelve inches thick, then grass sod was cut in squares and laid on top of the clay.  The ends of the pits would be in conformity with the sides.  This resembled the igloo the Eskimos live in around the Arctic Circle.  When the pits were completed the fire was started from many places, all from the undersides of the pits.  Great care was exercised in watching the fires so they would burn simultaneously.

BONFIRE ENTERTAINMENT

The village folk were on hand every night to watch.  Many potato roasts and roasted ears of corn were enjoyed by the young set, night after night, until the pits were ready to be drawn and the charcoal cooled off.  Old time dances with Dick Willis performing on the fiddle gave the young folk much merriment.

Old Paul Lavallee, the proprietor of the Mississippi Hotel, often amused himself with other old cronies – Pat Gavin, Tom Nagle, Jim Nolan, Tom Buckeye Lynch, Pat Tucker, Bill Patterson, Alex Wilson, and my dad – who listened to the Little Napoleon tell his stories while they watched the men climb up and down, plugging the air holes as the fire burst through the sod.

 

CHARCOAL SALES

Thousands of bushels of the shining black blocks and logs were ready to be sold.  Blacksmiths from the surrounding towns – Smiths Falls, Perth, Almonte and Ottawa – were on hand to purchase the salt bags holding two bushels each, which were sold for fifty cents each on the cash and carry basis.

Sandy Hunter, with a mustache like the handlebars of the bicycle of today, was in his usual good humor, taking in the cash as long as there were customers in sight.  The balance of the pit products was stored in the old barn where his son Alex Hunter had his livery stable, at the rear of the old Metcafe property (between Bridge and Water Streets).

His son Alex Hunter had a large livery stable in the village with many horses known by such names as Swayback Charlie, Black Rat-tail, and Old Buckskin.  He made the horses work night and day, drawing wood in the daytime and human freight at night.  He was the same tall, sandy-haired horseman who owned and drove Little Vic at the ice meets in Ottawa with Nellie Sharper.  Later he operated the former Metcalfe House, which he bought from Joe Wilson.  He owned a hotel in Ottawa afterwards, on George Street down on the market square, the Grand Central Hotel.

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK TWENTY-TWO

Obituary: Canadian penny, 1858-2013

From CBC News, 04 Feb 2013

“Penny, Canadian — Passed away peacefully on Feb. 4, 2013, when the Royal Canadian Mint stopped distributing the copper-coloured coin.

The penny’s demise had been anticipated since March 29, 2012, when federal Finance Minister James Flaherty announced in the budget that his government had decided to phase out the smallest denomination of Canada’s currency.

The Canadian penny traces its origins to 1858, when the then-province of Canada adopted the decimal system for its currency. Initially, it was struck at the Royal Mint in Great Britain. That penny had Queen Victoria on the obverse (or “heads”) side and a vine of maple leaves on the reverse (or “tails”) side.

Dominion of Canada coins were first issued in 1870, but the penny, then made from bronze, didn’t join the family until 1876.

Penny production moved to Canada in 1908, when the Ottawa branch of the Royal Mint opened. Countess Grey, the wife of Canada’s governor general at the time, struck the first penny at the mint’s official opening on Jan. 2. Until 1997, the penny’s composition was at least 95.5 per cent copper.

From 1920 to 1936, the reverse side design featured two maple leaves, but that changed in 1937, when the current maple twig design was adopted. The design was the work of English artist George Edward Kruger Gray, whose initials, KG, appear to the lower right of the maple twig.

For Canada’s centennial year, 1967, the penny’s reverse design featured a rock dove. Since 1858, there have been five different designs used on the reverse side, including a period between 1911 and 1920 when the original vine design was augmented with the word “Canada.” The obverse side has always featured a likeness of the reigning monarch.

From 1982 until 1996, the shape of the penny was 12-sided rather than round.

In 1997, the penny’s composition changed to 98.4 per cent zinc, with the rest copper plating. Since 2000, its composition has been 94 per cent steel.

The year 2006 was a significant one for the Canadian penny, as it reached peak production. More than 1.26 billion pennies were minted that year. The last penny was minted in Winnipeg on May 4, 2012.

The cause of death for the penny was likely the drop in its purchasing power, as inflation took its toll. An 1870 penny would be worth about 31 cents today, adjusted for inflation. In its last year, one penny was costing the government 1.6 cents to produce. With the penny’s passing, the government expects to save $11 million a year.

The Canadian penny is pre-deceased by the Australian (1911-1964), New Zealand (1940-1989) and Irish (1928-2000) pennies. It is survived by the American penny (1793- ) and the British penny, its royal and ancient ancestor, which dates back to the seventh century.

The penny will be missed by the other members of the Canadian coinage system, which are now expected to be more in demand. It will also be mourned by the 28 per cent of Canadian adults who told the Angus Reid polling firm in January 2013 that they disagree with the government’s decision to take the penny out of circulation.

Canadians with pennies to spare are asked to call at banks and other financial institutions so that their pennies may be taken out of circulation and the metals recycled. But those who are not quite ready to bid farewell to the dearly departed coin can continue using them — although not all businesses may accept them.

That is up to individual businesses to decide, but the government recommends rounding the total bill to the nearest .05 or .10. The penny will retain its value indefinitely.

In lieu of flowers, donations of pennies may be made to Canadian charities.”

In Carleton Place, the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum has made it known that it would be happy to accept donations of pennies.

I’d love to hear what your stories are about the penny.  Just use the comment section below. 

 

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK TWENTY-ONE

Let it snow!

I wonder how the first immigrants to this area said that in Gaelic?  Gaelic was the language of choice when they arrived in 1816 and well into the mid-50’s, but by the mid-1880’s only a handful of people would be speaking Gaelic in this area. English became the language of choice.  Below is an article dealing with the origins of the Ottawa Valley Twang (which we call the Lanark County Twang), and the ethnic diversity of the Ottawa area, by Gavin Taylor from centretownnewsonline.ca.  Centretown News is produced in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, which has been studying this in their linguistics department.

I wonder if anyone in the Carleton Place-Beckwith-Mississippi Mills area has any handwritten correspondence in Gaelic from the 1800’s?  Now that would be a memory to share!

History has sewn a colourful ethnic quilt

By Gavin Taylor from centretownnewsonline.ca

If you ever find yourself in a small Ottawa Valley town, don’t be surprised if you hear echoes of Ireland in the voices of old folks.

“Let’s give’er a go,” they might tell you in a brogue as thick as corn soup.

“Let’s go up the line by shank’s mare; I think this way is better n’r that one.”

The distinctive Ottawa Valley twang, with its twisted vowels and idiosyncratic expressions, is a reminder that the culture of the region was shaped by several waves of immigrants who settled in the valley during the 19th century.

More than half the people who lived in the Ottawa Valley in the mid-1800s were immigrants

By comparison, only 18 per cent of Canadians were born abroad in 2001 — the highest proportion of immigrants since the 1930s, but small potatoes compared with the massive immigration levels of 150 years ago.

Since the 1970s, researchers at Carleton University have been recording the varieties of English spoken in the valley.

The researchers have so far identified several old-world dialects rooted in Scottish, as well as traces of American English, German, Scots Gaelic, and a Polish dialect known as Kashubian.

But the most important source of valley speech is Ireland.

“In rural areas, there was a sea of Irish-influenced English, with little islands of other groups,” says Ian Pringle, a Carleton University linguistics professor who helped lead the project.

From the 1820s to the 1880s, English-speaking migrants to the valley were overwhelmingly Irish: in some townships, as much as 90 per cent of the residents traced their ancestry to Ireland.

The first census after Confederation showed that the Irish were the largest ethnic group in Ottawa, representing almost 39 per cent of the total population. By comparison, the proportion of Irish in cities such as Boston, New York and Montreal hovered around 25 per cent for most of the nineteenth century.

Bruce Elliott, a Carleton professor who heads the university’s Centre for the History of Migration, says that most English-speaking migrations to Ontario during this period came from the Celtic fringe of the British Isles.

“In some rural areas of the valley, English were as rare as hens’ teeth,” he says.Before 1815, most of the migrants to the valley were Scottish. By the 1820s, Irish families — typically “poor-to-middling farmers” who crossed the Atlantic in search of land — had become the largest immigrant group in the region.

There was also a steady migration of French-Canadians to the valley in the 19th century, chiefly from parishes west of Montreal. Elliott says French migrants typically worked in lumber camps in the winter and cultivated garden plots along the riverside during the summer.

Philemon Wright, the entrepreneur who oversaw the construction of the Rideau Canal in Hull, hired French-Canadian labourers instead of the Irish because he thought they were more “docile” workers, Elliot says.

French and Irish Catholics in Ottawa were clustered in Lowertown in the late 19th century — early Irish immigrants to the region were largely Protestant, but the number of Catholic migrants grew steadily over the course of the century.

A handful of smaller ethnic groups also settled in the city in the late nineteenth century, most of them finding a niche in Ottawa’s retail trades.

Several families from southern Italy found a home in the Preston Street area — then a suburb — and one Greek person in Ottawa was recorded in the 1871 census. A number of African-Canadians worked as street vendors at the turn of the century. Moses Bilsky, the first Jewish resident of Ottawa, arrived in 1857, and the first synagogue in the city was built in 1892.

Migration to the Ottawa region tended to be “ethnically and religiously biased” at this time, says John Taylor, a Carleton University history professor, who has written extensively about Ottawa history.

Immigrants tended to be clustered into ethnically and religiously homogeneous groups that were fleeing economic or political hardship in Europe. But in the early 20th century, Taylor says, the character of immigration began to change.

The lumber industry — the magnet that drew migrants to Ottawa in its early years — fell into a slow and steady decline after the First World War. At the same time, the public service expanded rapidly: the number of government workers in Ottawa grew from about 1,000 in 1900 to over 30,000 by the end of the Second World War.

The public service tended to attract educated professionals from other parts of Canada.

“They were professional people moving toward economic opportunity, not away from political hardship,” Taylor says.

One of the consequences of this migration was that the ethnic character of Ottawa became increasingly similar to the rest of the country — by the 1940s, Irish-Canadians represented less than one-sixth of the city’s population.

The “Valley twang” that inflected rural speech in nearby areas virtually disappeared in the city, as public service workers increasingly spoke a standard version of Canadian English.

While some government workers remained clustered in ethnically and religiously homogeneous neighbourhoods, high-ranking public servants tended to move to Sandy Hill regardless of their ethnic background, Taylor says.

The growth of the civil service has slowed since the 1970s, but the high-tech sector has continued to draw educated professionals to the city. Like civil servants, computer engineers are migrants who come to the city for economic reasons and who tend not to cluster in ethnic neighbourhoods.

But since the 1970s, Taylor says, a new wave of immigration has been patterned along ethnic lines.

As Canada’s immigration and refugee laws were liberalized, families fleeing ethnic or political strife came to Ottawa in increasing numbers. Thousands of Lebanese have migrated to Ottawa since 1975, when a bloody civil war began in their country. Since then, Vietnamese, Sri Lankans, Somalis, and other groups escaping persecution and war have made their homes in Ottawa.

The result, Taylor says, is that Ottawa is more ethnically diverse than ever before: English remains the most commonly spoken language in the city, but allophones outnumbered francophones in the 2001 census.

The history of these successive migrations—Irish migrants in search of lands, public servants in search of a career, and Asians and Africans in search of freedom—has made Ottawa a patchwork of distinctive neighbourhoods, some based on social class and others on ethnic identity.

“We really do have a community of communities here, more than in other places,” Taylor says.

Thanks to centretownnewsonline.ca

Centretown News is produced in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.