SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK FIVE

As October is Canadian Women’s History month, I thought it would be interesting to write about a woman born & schooled in the Carleton Place area, who went ahead to make a significant contribution to the world.

Margaret Verne McNeely was such person.  Born in Beckwith Township, Lanark County on 13 August 1885, she was the daughter of James McNeely (1860-1948) and Margaret Jane Duff (1863-1930).  After completing her education at local schools in Beckwith and Carleton Place, she attended and graduated from University College at the University of Toronto in 1908.  In 1909 she became a missionary of The Presbyterian Church in Canada to China.

According to Ontario’s Archival Information Network, “from 1909 to 1914, supported by the Women’s Missionary Society, Verne assisted Rev. Donald MacGillivray of the North Honan Mission with compiling and editing the China Mission Year Book published by the Christian Literature Society.  From 1914 to 1917, Verne worked with the China Continuation Committee which developed into the National Christian Council of China.  In 1917 Verne accepted an invitation to work in a bookstore in Shanghai that specialized in the sale of English and Chinese books.  This bookstore eventually became the Kwang Hsueh Publishing House which had, by 1943, about one-third of its business in Chinese textbooks sponsored by the Nurses’ Association of China.  In 1923 Verne became the manager of the bookstore until the onset of the Second World War during which she spent two and a half years in a Japanese interment centre.  After the war she made her way to Nanking to assist the Secretary of the Nurses’ Association of China but returned to Canada in 1950, and made her home in Toronto, Ontario.”

Margaret Verne McNeely passed away on 28 Dec 1975 in Newmarket, Ontario, at the age of 90.

Howard McNeely, Carleton Place Auctioneer

“Will somebody make it twenty?”

Howard McNeely has been seeking bids for 40 years

By Mary Cook

Carleton Place Canadian, 1987

 

Forty years ago a large broad axe fetched a quarter.  Today, if it’s really old it could command a lofty $60.  The crowds were smaller back then, and Howard McNeely, the newest auctioneer in the valley knew just about everyone by his first name.  But times have changed since that day almost 40 years ago when Howard thought he could do what he had been watching other auctioneers do for years.  He thought…..”there’s nothing to this.  All I have to do is stand up on the platform or the back of a truck and ask for bids.”  Well, it turned out not to be quite that simple.

A young Howard McNeely had been following the local auctions for years.  He never paid too much attention to the “stuff” being sold, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the auctioneer.  He was fascinated with the fast talking, the rapport with the crowd, and the obvious delight when a bid was over.

Actually, Howard had had plenty of experience on the stage by the time he first tried his hand at auctioneering, so he wasn’t walking into the job cold.  For years he had an orchestra that toured the Ottawa Valley, and he was well acquainted with standing up before people.  He is probably one of the few people who had an orchestra but never mastered a musical instrument.  But that didn’t stop him from enjoying the toe tapping valley music everyone loved.  He really had two orchestras.  One was a rag tag group who got together for the sheer love of valley music.  It included Ab Duncan, Stewart Comba, Les Neild.  When he wanted to fancy things up a bit he added Jack Peckett and Les’ daughter Elsie on the piano.  Howie kept up a steady patter between songs and dances and found it pretty easy to entertain the crowd, so that the first time he took to the platform at an auction sale, he wasn’t even nervous.  “I had been so used to being in front of people, that I never gave it a thought.  And besides, in those days you knew everyone…everyone!” he said.

Not so today.  Even if the faces of the collectors and dealers are familiar, Howard often doesn’t get to meet them personally.  For that reason, and because the crowds are so much bigger now, Howard finally had to go to a number system like the big auctioneers in the city.  The crowd didn’t like it when he first introduced numbers about 15 years ago, but as he said, times had changed.

Howard’s first sale was on Park Avenue, “just across the fence from where I was born and raised”, and Burnett Montgomery was the auctioneer who set out to show Howard the ropes.  Burnett had been auctioneering for a long time, and the partnership was to last for 30 years.  “All that time we never had a disagreement.  It was a great relationship.  We got along well, and I learned a lot from Burnett” he admits.

The biggest sale Howard ever held was when he sold the Mississippi Hotel by public auction.  All the furnishings went too, and then the big stone heritage building was put on the block.  Howard lives by the adage that discretion is the better part of valor, and insists he cannot honestly remember what the landmark building sold for.

One of the longest running auctions was on a farm on the old Ashton road that took three days to complete.  “It was loaded with antiques, and the dealers were there from all over.  The prices held up for the full three days too” he remembers.

There are items today that couldn’t be given away 40 years ago.  Old milk cans command a good price now, and Gingerbread clocks which sold for $10 in the 50’s would be considered a good buy today if you paid a mere $100.

Although he won’t say from which sale it sold, Howard recently got the bidding up to $6,800 on an old corner cupboard.  “Forty years ago, you’d consider it a pretty good sale if you got that for a whole house full of furniture.”

Over the years Howard has always tried to keep a good sense of humor.  Early in the game he learned if one person in the crowd was entering into the spirit of the sale by bantering back and forth with the auctioneer, you capitalized on that.  Just last week one woman seemed to be in perfect sync with Howard.  They both ended up cracking jokes throughout the entire sale much to the delight of the crowd.

In the early years Howard has sometimes inadvertently sold the same item twice.  It can happen.  Two different helpers will hand Howard the same item after it has been sold….but as a rule the crowd is astute, and there is always someone there to holler, “Hey, McNeely, you’ve already sold that once today.”

Howard remembers an incident from years ago that still makes him chuckle today.  “It was a large sale, with two or three people in on it.  Someone handed me up a baby carriage.  It was in pretty good condition too.  It was one of those old fashioned jobs.  You don’t see them around anymore.  Anyway, I asked for a bid and got one right away.  The bidding went pretty high too.  And it sold to someone.  Then this woman came to me in an awful sweat.  It seems she brought her baby to the sale in the carriage, and was just off looking at something else when I sold it.  Everyone thought it was very funny, because I had to get the carriage back.  The people who bought it were just loading it into their car.  I was a bit embarrassed, but those things happen.”

Right from the day Howard started auctioneering 40 years ago, he has always been on the lookout for stealers.  He remembers one sale where two women were busy loading their shopping bags with small things at a sale.  “But unknown to them Herb Cornell, the Chief of Police was watching them.  It was his day off, and of course they didn’t know he was a policeman.  When he showed his badge they put everything back in a hurry.”

At another sale many years ago, he was aware of a big jackknife that was in the auction.  “It was a beauty..very old, and huge, with a handmade wooden handle.  During the sale I remembered it and asked my helper to hand me the jackknife.  Well, it was gone.  It vanished in a couple of seconds.  That’s all i

1860’s Saw Considerable Building in Carleton Place, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 04 August, 1960

Life in the Eighteen Sixties in Carleton Place is recalled in the present fifth installment of a series of annals reviewing events in the first hundred years of this community and its surrounding district.

The location of Carleton Place at a waterfall on one of the larger tributaries of the Ottawa River and on one of Eastern Ontario’s first railways proved in the Eighteen Sixties to place this community in a position of some advantage in the lumber economy of the Ottawa Valley.  A number of new industrial firms were established here.  Among them were two sawmills and a foundry each of which grew to become a substantial employer of capital and labour and a leading industry of the town.

Prince of Wales

1860 – Archibald McArthur (1816-1884), reeve and prominent wholesale and retail merchant, enlarged his business premises here by building a store of stone construction in 1860 near the corner of Bridge and Mill Streets.

The young Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, viewed Carleton Place while travelling by coach and railway through Lanark and Leeds Counties in the course of a tour of Canada.

Patrick Struthers (1830-1907), merchant and later magistrate, became postmaster of Carleton Place.  He continued in charge of the local post office for over forty-five years.

New Saw Mill

1861 – A steam-powered sawmill was built in the area of the present Riverside Park on the south bank of the river.  The old Muirhead sawmill, which was located near the present electric power plant, was leased and reopened by Robert Gray.

Brice McNeely Jr. (1831-1920) began a forty year period of operating the long established tannery.  The town bridge across the Mississippi was rebuilt.

Findlays Foundry

1862 – In the infancy of the town’s present leading industry, a new foundry was opened on the Perth Road, now High Street, by David Findlay (1835-1890) for the manufacture of stoves, ploughs and other castings.

Canadian military preparations were begun in view of risks of the United States Civil War leading to war between Britain and the United States.  At Carleton Place a volunteer rifle company, with newspaper editor James Poole as its captain, was equipped to take the place of the townships former militia regiment.  A new infantry company was formed at Almonte. 

In a match at the Almonte exhibition grounds between the Carleton Place and Almonte cricket clubs, the Almonte club’s resplendent uniforms featured white caps, pink shirts and white pantaloons.

Militia Training

1863 – The Ramsay lead mine at Carleton Place resumed operation.  A woollen mill at Appleton built by Robert Teskey (1803-1892) was opened under the management of his son John Adam Teskey (1837-1908) and son-in-law William Bredin.

In a target shooting competition at Carleton Place between the local Rifle Company and the Almonte Infantry Company, the rifle company appeared in its new uniforms with green tunics, grey pants with red facings, and dark belts.  The infantry uniforms had scarlet tunics, grey pants and white belts.  The impressive headpiece of both companies’ uniforms was an ornamented cap known as a shako.

Railway Extension

1864 – The Brockville & Ottawa Railway Company’s line was extended and opened from Almonte to Arnprior, providing rail transportation between the St. Lawrence River and Grand Trunk Railway at Brockville and the Ottawa River at Sand Point.  George Lowe became the station master at Carleton Place.

Temperance Movement

1865 – A temperance society known as Temple No. 122 of the Independent Order of Good Templars, was formed at Carleton Place to oppose the sale of alcoholic beverages.  A proposal to apply a local option Temperance Act to Beckwith township including Carleton Place was rejected by a majority of thirty votes.

The Beckwith municipal council elected for 1865 was Patrick Struthers, reeve, and Archibald McArthur, Donald Carmichael, George Kidd and Alexander Ferguson.

Gillies & McLaren

1866 – This town’s first large scale business had its start in 1866 with the opening of the Gillies & McLaren lumber mill with thirty employees.  James Gillies (1840-1909) came as its manager.  Five years later John Gillies (1811-1888), who had founded the firm in Lanark township, removed to Carleton Place.  Both remained here for life and were leaders in the town’s industrial growth.  James Gillies for over thirty five years was head of the later widespread lumbering operations of Gillies Brothers, a position occupied from 1914 to 1926 by his brother David Gillies (1849-1926) of Carleton Place.

A shingle mill also began business here in 1866, managed by John Craigie.  He was the builder of the town’s first two steamboats, the Mississippi and the Enterprise.  The local grist and oatmeal mills were bought by Henry Bredin from Hugh Boulton Jr.  They continued to be operated by James Greig (1806-1884), who ran these mills from 1862 to 1868 after the death of Hugh Boulton Sr., founder of this first industry of the community.

The union of Lanark and Renfrew Counties was ended in 1866 by the establishment of a separate Renfrew County council and administration.

Fenian Raids

Raids from the United States upon border points were made in 1866 by groups known as Fenians, whose professed objective was political independence for Ireland.  The Carleton Place and Almonte volunteer companies were dispatched to Brockville in June.  Captain of the Almonte company was James D. Gemmill.  Total of all ranks serving from Carleton Place numbered fifty-seven.  Under local officers Captain James C. Poole, Lieut. John Brown and Ensign J. Jones Bell, they included such Carleton Place and township family names as Burke, Coleman, Cram, Dack, Docherty, Duff, Enright, Ferguson, Fleming, Hamilton, Kilpatrick, Leslie, Lavallee, Moffatt, Moore, Morphy, and McArthur, McCaffrey, McCallum, McEwen, McFadden, McNab, McNeely and McPherson, Neelin, Patterson, Pattie, Rattray, Sinclair, Stewart, Sumner, Williams, Willis and Wilson.

Volunteers from these and other Lanark County areas served also in the Fenian Raids of 1870.  Drill halls built in 1866 at county centres including Perth, Carleton Place and Almonte were used for many years.  The Carleton Place drill shed was at the market square between Beckwith and Judson Streets, at the present site of the skating rink.  Almonte’s military quarters were combined with the North Lanark Agricultural Society’s main exhibition building then being erected.

 

Confederation

1867 – Canadian confederation was hailed in Carleton Place by a day of celebration which extended from a sunrise cannon salute to an evening of torchlight processions and fireworks.  There were speeches by the clergy,  a military parade with rifles firing, a costume carnival and sports events featuring novelty races.

A new sawmill was built by the Gillies & McLaren firm to employ up to a hundred men.  At Arklan Island a smaller sawmill was built by William Bredin.  Erection of a large frame building on Mill Street for use as a woollen cloth factory was begun by Allan McDonald.  The Allan McDonald foundry was reopened by John Grant and operated for four years, producing stoves, ploughs, ploughpoints and other castings.  A local house construction boom was under way.  Daniel Galbraith (1813-1879) of Ramsay township was elected to the Ontario Legislature of North Lanark.  He represented this constituency in the House of Commons from the following election until his death in 1879.

Another Railway

1868 – Building of the Canada Central Railway between Ottawa and Carleton Place was begun and was completed two years later.  In ceremonies marking the start of construction, held at the Carleton Place end of the line and attended by Richard W. Scott, Q.C., M.P.P., of Ottawa, the sod turning ritual was performed by the Rev. J. H. Preston of St. James Church, Carleton Place.

Caldwell Sawmill

1869 – This towns second large sawmill business was started by Boyd Caldwell (1818-1888) and managed by his son William Caldwell.  It operated for twenty-two years on the site of the present Riverside Park.

An enlarged stone grist mill building was erected by William Bredin on Mill Street, together with buildings occupied in the following year by Joseph Cram as a planing mill and by John F. Cram as a tannery.  A stone church building for the Zion Presbyterian congregation was built at the church’s present Albert and Beckwith Street location.

The Mississippi Navigation Company was incorporated to build locks at Innisville and Ferguson’s Falls and open navigation from Lanark and Playfairville to Carleton Place.  Its directors were James H. Dixon of Peterborough, Abraham Code, M.P.P. (then owning mills at Ferguson’s Falls) and Robert Bell, John Craigie and Robert Crampton of Carleton Place.  The company’s brief existence ended with the building of a steamboat, The Enterprise.  Bought by the Gillies & McLaren firm , The Enterprise plied the Mississippi Lakes for about twenty-five years in the service of the lumber industry and provided transportation for many of the town’s public events of bygone summer days.

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McNeely Home on 11th Line Once Built in a Day, by Howard M. Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 01 August, 1957

Incidents as seen and recorded in Carleton Place some sixty years ago by William W. Cliff are told in the following conclusion of a series of extracts from this newspaper’s earliest existing files. Parts of these files now are located in the Public Archives of Canada at Ottawa. The newspaper then was called the Central Canadian. The pioneer editor wrote of district events, great and small, in an intimate style picturing the period when he was in his heyday as a weekly newspaper publisher.

Wedding Anniversary (1893)

“Christmas Day was the sixtieth anniversary of the marriage of Mrs. John Bell of High Street, formerly Margaret Wilson of Appleton and mother of the well known A. W. Bell. The happy event occurred in Appleton at the hour of 9 o’clock in the evening, and the wedding trip was a promenade in the icy night air to Carleton Place. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. William Bell of Perth, father of the bridegroom. The parents of Mr. Robert Baird took advantage of Mr. Bell’s presence to have the boy christened. Mr. and Mrs. John Bell lived in the house (on Bridge Street at north-east end of the bridge) now occupied by Mr. Robert Bell. It was built in 1831. Mrs. Bell is in her 81st year. We wish her and her faithful daughter Mary the compliments of the season.

Colonel John Sumner (1894)

“Obituary : The late John Sumner was born in England in 1814. His father was a Church of England clergyman, his grandfather an army officer. He finished his education at Christ’s Church Hospital School, commonly called the Blue Coat School as the boys wore long blue coats, with yellow stockings and no hats. He next studied medicine, gave it up and came to Canada in 1832, year of the plague. He clerked in stores in Montreal, Kingston and near Ottawa, coming to Carleton Place in 1836 where he was employed in the stores of Andrew Thompson and Robert Bell, our old M.P.

He commenced business for himself in Ashton in 1840, and opened a second store for a frew years on Wellington Street, Ottawa. Continuing his business at Ashton, he became an able magistrate and Colonel of the militia. It was at this period, probably that he was at the full flood of his career. Everywhere he was known as Lord John. He removed to Carleton Place in 1859, buying the business and shop of Mr. Robert Bell and replacing it with the present stone structure (at north-east corner of Bridge and Bell Streets). Afterwards came financial difficulties. He went to work as a commercial traveller for grocery houses in Montreal and gradually redeemed his house and shop. He then for a long period was in the service of the Dominion Government as an immigration agent, retiring a few years ago.

The Colonel was an Episcopalian and a Conservative, and in each department in his prime he was a great force. Though a man given to social splendors, and who spent money like water, he was largely under the infuluence of his wife, a lady of uncommon tact and patience and superior attainments. He was a man of great natural strength, and it is related that the people used to watch him handle barrels and carcasses of pork as a sort of amusement. He never drove less than a team, and never one that wasn’t the best.

Upon one occasion driving to Ottawa he met a Revenue officer. At that time there was a great deal of smuggling, especiall of tea. The Colonel thought, after he passed the officer, that it might be his store he was seeking, though he was never known to be a contrabandist. Wheeling his flyers around he soon overtook the officer, shot past him, and reached his store in time to get possession of his papers, which proved his complete innocence.

The funeral on Monday was a very imposing ceremonial. The pallbearers were Mayor Nichols, Capt. McKay and Messrs. George Godden, George Dummert, E. G. P. Pickup and H. McCormick.

Good Old Days

“A load of townspeople were passing Mr. McNeely’s house near the 11th Line School a few dyas ago. Among them was ex-Mayor Pattie who pointed to the house and recalled how, some decades ago, when Mr. Charles Munroe lived on the spot, the old house was burned down one night. The men of the town and neighbours next day resolved to rebuild it, and divided into sections, each with a distinct purpose. They went into the virgin forest, chopped down trees, hauled them out and hewed them, and framed, erected, shingled and clapboarded the structure and made it habitable all in a single day. At noon and night the women sent their contributions by the hands of their daughters, in the shape of refreshments. Those are the good old days one loves to hear about.”

A Green Christmas (1895)

“Christmas was a green one, and a muddy green. It is blowing great guns today and turning colder. A boom holding between 5,000 and 6,000 logs broke in the river in the morning and poured over the dam in sad desolation. The scene from the bridge was a most exciting one. The Citizens Band serenaded several leading people Christmas Day, receiving in return gifts from $2 to $10.

Laird of Glen Isle

“The Laird of Glen Isle, Mr. McDougall, and seven of his children are frequently seen at the rink on Mr. Doherty’s place in Ramsay.”

Gypsy Horses

“The gypsies who have been tenting around the old camp ground where Uncle Peter Lake used to live moved out on Friday last. More than twelve horses and eight rigs, single and double, formed the cavalcade. Some of the vehicles were dome-shaped and stoves inside. The procession halted for a while near this office and there was a brisk exchange of horses, much to the merriment of large crowds of citizens. A little black mare, the best animal that they had, was secured by Mr. Alex McRae.”