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.
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.
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.”
Carleton Place Paddlers Create Enviable Records, by Howard M. Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 09 August, 1962
Some recollections of regattas and racing accomplishments of former generations of paddlers of the Carleton Place Canoe Club are concluded in this number. A previous installment told of the starting of the town’s long flourishing club and of the first Canadian Canoe Association contests at Brockville and Carleton Place. The publishing of these stories coincides with an appeal for support and cash donations needed to assist this institution in continuing its record of athletic and recreational service for large numbers of the younger residents of the town.
The Carleton Place Canoe Club in 1905 held what was said to be its first regatta for local competitors only. Paddling honors were shared were shared with those of motor boating and other water sports. The paddling events in addition to the green and the open singles, tandems and fours, were boys tandem, ladies tandem and mixed tandem races and two war canoe races, one a straightaway half mile, the other a half mile with turn. Added with the great novelty of a motorboat race were a tub race, a crab race, a hurry-scurry, a swimming race and a gunwale race.
In the war canoe events the crew in the old canoe under captain Ab Keyworth won the straightaway half mile, and the new crew under Captain Jack Welsh the quarter mile and return. First and second in the open single blade race were Archie McPhee and Archie Knox. The judges were Walter McIlquham, George H. Findlay, Mr. Daniel A. Muirhead and W. M. Dunham. Other officials included timekeepers Andrew Neilson and William J. Muirhead, clerk of course John Bennett, starter Walter H. Dummert and referee Robert Patterson.
Motorboat Race of 1905
The gasoline-powered motorboat was coming into its own. Durably built, as by the Carleton Place boat works, on rounded seaworthy lines, later superseded in popularity by an elongated torpedo style , the inboard motorboat started its reign in a generation before the outboard marine engine had helped to lay the foundations of the present North American boating boom.
The Herald’s description of the scene at the Town Park and the motorboat race included:
“The club house and the old mill were decorated with flags and bunting. A temporary platform was arranged on one of the old piers for the judges, whilst the Town Band furnished music from one of the galleries of the sawmill. The river was covered with boats of all descriptions from steamers and launches to canoes.
In the race for gasoline launches seven were entered. There are some ten or twelve of these handsome boats on the river, nearly all built at the Gillies launch works of this town. Competitors in the race were the Alice, 5 h.p. – J. H. Gardiner ; the Ariel, 4 h.p. – R. Patterson ; the Marjorie, 4 h.p. – F. McDiarmid ; the Iolanthe, 4 h.p. – A. H. Edwards ; the Rose, 5 h.p. – W. J. Hammond ; the Zephyr, 3 h.p. – Cram and Burgess ; the Wawanessa, 3.5 h.p. – McAllister Brothers.
Within seconds from the gun fire all were under way. The Ariel, Marjoire and Alice very soon forged ahead. Mr. Cram in the Zephyr undertook to cut off a corner in the river channel and became entangled in the weeds and was out of it before reaching the lake. The turning buoy was placed beyond Rocky Point, some three miles up the lake, and the Ariel was the first to show her nose around the flag. In rounding the sunken rock at Lookout Point a foul was claimed against the Alice but was later withdrawn as her pilot was a little inexperienced with the channel and the foul was unintentional.
The silk trophy flag, donated by James Gillies, Esq., goes to Mr. Gardiner. The time taken for the round trip was forty minutes. Robert Patterson’s Ariel came in second. Third place went to Fred McDiarmid in the Marjorie. Much enthusiasm was shown by the spectators. Each boat as she crossed the line was greeted with hearty cheers and waving handkerchiefs, and much whistle blowing from the excursion steamers and horn blasts from the smaller boats.
Commodore Harry Hicken and the officers of the club are to be congratulated on the success of their efforts.”
Great War Canoe Crews
A cheering crowd, a civic reception and a torchlight procession welcomed the Carleton Place paddlers two years later on their return from Montreal. Competing successfully against larger clubs in the annual Canadian Canoe Association meet, they had won first positions in three events including the coveted half mile war canoe championship. Photographs of the memorable half mile finish of 1907 made by Carleton Place photographer W. J. Hammond remain in existence.
The members of the winning crew were Carl Lamb, stroke, William Knox, Howard Morphy, Archie McCaw, John Hockenhull, M. Ryan, Wilfred Hunter, Fred Milliken, Andrew Dunlop, Gilbert Gordon, Mark Lamb, T. Winthrop, Neil McGregor, Andrew Robertson, and Ab. Keyworth, captain.
Canadian war canoe championships were won again by Carleton Place in 1920 and 1938. The town club officials were hosts for the 1920 national regatta, held on the Lake Park course. In the Northern Division eliminations a strong Carleton Place club had won the senior events including both war canoe races and the senior fours, on the Ottawa New Edinburgh Canoe Club’s home waters, when seven crews had contended for the half mile war canoe win and six for the mile.
Without the annual weed cutting which has been carried on for many years through the Mississippi Lakes Association of Carleton Place, weedy areas on the course hampered paddlers despite the best efforts of Mr. Willis, who had sought to clear it by dragging with the steamboat the Commodore. The attendance at Lake Park was said to be the largest ever assembled for a regatta here. On hand to furnish musical entertainment between races was the Regimental Band from Perth.
Race starts were standing starts from a row of logging booms extended at Lookout Point, lower extremity of the Lake Park peninsula and downstream end of the half mile course. The senior fours winners were the Carleton Place crew of Ernie Halpenny, Allan Call, Gib Gordon and Herb Bennett. Ottawa New Edinburgh and Toronto Balmy Beach were tied to lead in aggregate regatta points.
The Carleton Place half mile war canoe win was at a time of 3:17 Lake weeds robbed the outstanding Carleton Place paddlers of an additional war canoe trophy when in the mile race after a late start at the Nagle shore they ran into a mass of weeds on the favoured inside course, still ending a close second to Toronto Parkdale’s time of 6:41. The paddlers of the great Carleton Place crew of 1920 were E. Halpenny, P. Dunlop, R. Munshaw, D. Findlay, A. Ashfield, E. Bennett, W. Phillips, L. Hockenhull, A. Call, H. Bennett, R. Waugh, W. Bush, C. Carr, H. Sinclair, and G. Gordon, Captain.
Now for over sixty years succeeding generations of Carleton Place paddlers have pursued the historic sport which in this country originated with North America’s first native citizens and is one of Canada’s few thriving exclusively amateur sports of today. The town’s canoe club – like the Lakes Association’s recently suspended maintenance of the Mississippi waterways which the club uses – is a distinctive community asset which appears to merit, in the interests of the town and its residents, a wide measure of public backing, recognition and support.
90 Black Bass In Less Than 2 Hours Once Caught, by Howard M. Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 14 June, 1962
In the early days of Carleton Place’s Vacationland of the Mississippi, most of the tenting lakeside vacation dwellers seem to have taken only a casual interest of the frying pan in the excellent fishing that was available. Their numbers included few duck hunters, though the duck hunting season then started in mid-August.
Very large catches of fish and bags of ducks by other town and district fishermen and hunters were reported, and earlier the similar wholesale shooting of now extinct passenger pigeons. The harvests of fish and ducks by some went to the town’s food markets and restaurants, then a legal selling operation. Occasional notes in the local newspapers told of catches of fish in what were considered newsworthy quantities and sizes.
Of the larger game fish, black bass were prominent in reported catches, before an apparent increase or dominance in numbers of pike and the later introduction of pickerel. Introductions of whitefish and lake trout in the Mississippi Lakes in the eighteen eighties were unsuccessful. The whitefish experiment was made in 1884, year of the formation of the “Carleton Place Game, Fish and Insectivorous Birds Protective Society.” On May 1st this newspaper reported:
“Through the active agency of Mr. Joseph Jamieson, M.P., about 300,000 fry of the white fish species were deposited in the lakes here last Saturday. The fry came in three large tin cans from Ottawa and in charge of an expert. The Morning Star was chosen, and accompanying the expert were Deputy Reeve William Pattie, Thomas L. Nagle, Joseph Wilson, and William Bell. The first can was emptied into a quiet cove near Squaw Point, the second off the Landing at Prettie’s Island, and the third in the channel reaching into the Big Lake. In three years maturity will be reached and propagation set in ; and the fish grow and increase to between eight and twelve pounds.”
According to our fishing news note of early September of the same year, “Mr. Sid Anable and son Hiram went off in a skiff Friday morning last at 3 a.m., reached the mouth of the Innisville river at 6, and fished from 6 to 9 a.m., catching 37 black bass, five pike, and sixty rock bass. On one side of the boat they caught minnows for bait. On the other side the rods had not a moment’s rest.” Several weeks earlier in a record catch, as reported in the Carleton Place Herald, “The Messrs. Anable last Friday caught ninety five black bass in the Innisville branch in less than two hours. Among them were some very heavy black bass.”
Fish from large catches sampled by local newsmen were fairly sure of receiving public mention. A corrected report of an August 1890 outing, previously misprinted in this column, said in part: “One morning last week a party composed of Rev. Father O’Rourke, Maurice Burke and the old standby Sid Anable in five hours landed sixty of the finest black bass we have ever had the opportunity of tasting. The fish weighed on an average three pounds each.”
A similar news note of the following July stated: “Mr. S. J. McLaren caught thrity-two fine black bass up near the Big Lake lasts Thursday. The previous Friday he made a haul of forty-two.”
The Perth Courier a decade later reported in July, 1903:
“There has been some excellent fishing in the Mississippi waters at Carleton Place this season. Many good catches of black bass and pike have been reported. Among them, John Butts and James Umpherson frequently bring down from fifty to sixty fine fish in a morning’s catch.”
Duck Shooting in the Eighties
Down from the eighteen eighties came samples of similar news stories of the abundance of ducks on the Mississippi Lakes.
An October 1883 account said:
“A party of Ottawa gentlemen were out duck shooting on the Mississippi last week and succeeded in bagging no less than one hundred and forty of them. Mr. Hugh Moore of Carleton Place, who was one of the party, shot a fine deer at Squaw Point near Wylie & Company’s shanty, for which the Ottawa men gave him eight dollars.”
According to a late August report of the following year, “Messrs. Glover had a very successful duck hunt last week. One day they killed forty-six. The C.P.R. restaurant took four dozen of the luscious fowl.”
Present Lake Problems
This last series of brief glimpses of activities on the Mississippi of over fifty years ago in recent numbers of The Canadian has been designed to recall a few more of the many ways in which these waters continued to serve from the first years of settlement as one of the leading natural assets of the Carleton Place area. The decades of large scale lumbering and of industries based on local waterpower were followed by the rise of hydro-electric power and a decline in industrial uses of the lakes and river here. Now the Mississippi from Carleton Place to Innisville serves in the role of a recreational area which is attracting growing numbers of some thousands of seasonal residents and visitors yearly.
The future quality of this latest phase of development of the lakes, and the trend of its value to Carleton Place and to the adjoining townships, can be expected to depend in part on whether land and water use in this recreational region receives the community guidance and assistance needed. Such needs, as seen by some observers, include improvements in lot and building restrictions, and the promotion and application of policies to prevent unsanitary or offensive conditions, game law and traffic misconduct, and water pollution, among others.
Improvements and precautions of varying degrees of adequacy have been provided in some such respects in recent years under township, provincial and national government auspices, and at the instance of several lake community associations and by the Mississippi Lakes Association of Carleton Place.
Lakes A Town Asset
The Mississippi Lakes Association is a pioneering illustration of how our water recreational resources may be maintained and improved in the interests of the town.
In an earlier age, an incidental effect of the towing of great rafts of logs down the Mississippi Lakes to Carleton Place appears to have been the prevention of excessive waterweed growths over wide areas. After the ending of nearly a century of rafting on these waters, rank growths of underwater weeds gradually spread, choking navigation and speeding the growth of mud shoals by slowing the normal flow. In this way a large part of the lakes and river here was being progressively ruined for boating, swimming and the most popular types of fishing.
Now for nearly 20 years weed cutting machines have been operated by the Mississippi Lakes Association of Carleton Place. Initiated by public-spirited citizens including the founding president, Mr. E. H. Ritchie, and bought and maintained by voluntary public support, these machines, together with other activities of the association, have been instrumental in keeping a large lake and river area in good usable condition.
The erection of additional scores of summer cottages of lengthening seasonal use and the occupation of an increasing number of year-round residences on the lake shores has followed this checking of the lakes’ deterioration. Among the yearly products of this continued lake maintenance and development are additions to the volume of business of local merchandising and service trades, with the prospect of a continuing contribution of useful proportions to the population and general business and tax revenues of this area.
These gains can remain only if the lakes remain a desirable summer resort region. The principal attraction inducing most of the lakeside summer visitors and residents of today to come here and to buy and continue to occupy property here is a readily accessible lake with water which has been kept fit for swimming and fishing and boating, activities of newly soaring national popularity. A lake shrunken in usefulness and attraction by wide spreading weed beds, and with future boating by newcomers and others endangered by unmarked rocks, submerged piers and shoals, would not meet this modern test. In that case many summer residents, both owners and tenants, soon would go elsewhere. Such business benefits, instead of increasing, would decline accordingly.
It would be a greater loss to the town than appears to be generally recognized if insufficient assistance for this Lakes Association work were to lead to the eventual abandoning of our waterways near and in the town to their approaching weedy stagnation of fifteen or twenty years ago.
The Association’s prime mover and president since its founding, Mr. E. H. Ritchie, indicated a year ago his intention of asking to be replaced, after his many years of vigorous and successful direction of this Association’s activities. The Mississippi Lakes Association at present is in urgent need of more Carleton Place members who are willing to give some of their time and ability in the spring and summer seasons to its particular community services, by helping in the management of the association’s work and annual membership fund collection campaigns on the lakeshore roads and in the town.
An enthusiastic response to this need and opportunity will ensure against a decline and ultimate loss of a large part of the water vacationland for which Carleton Place now serves as the headquarters.
Story of First Steam Boats On The Mississippi, by Howard M. Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 31 May 1962
One of the newer features of the Carleton Place area is the growth of its Vacationland of the Mississippi during the past few years.
It is a growth recorded in increases in numbers of summer homes bordering the Mississippi Lakes, and in the larger numbers of summer visitors seen each year on the township roads to lakeside sections and on the streets and in the stores of Carleton Place.
The multiplying numbers of boats on the lakes and the river tell the same story. There now are probably larger numbers of motor-propelled craft afloat here in an average summer day than could be seen in the course of a year a generation ago. Between this recent change in the face of the lakes and the countless years of the birch bark canoes of the Indians, there lies a time of little more than a hundred and twenty five years during which these local waterways have been used for transportation, for supplying food and water and water power, and for recreation.
The record of this intervening time since the beginning of agricultural settlement and commerce shows that the use of steam powered engines on these waters began with the development of the region’s lumbering industries. It may be surprising to recall that the days of the steamboat lasted as long on our Mississippi as has the period of boats with gasoline engines. Throughout the same times sailboats, canoes and rowing skiffs have been used in varying numbers and types. Other water craft of such contrasting kinds as commercial barges and rowing shells for racing are now locally things of the past, as are the odd sailing catamarans at one time in limited vogue.
Steamboats of Romantic Names
Steamboats of romantic names and impressive size, most of them locally built, operated between Carleton Place and Innisville from the eighteen sixties to the nineteen twenties. While serving mainly for industrial towing and incidentally for pleasure excursions, several of the larger ones were designed for paying their way by the carrying of passengers and goods. That aim was attained only briefly, if at all, even in a time when summer roads remained bad and automobiles and trucks did not exist.
The first steamboat on the Canadian Mississippi was launched in the year of national confederation. It was built here by John Craigie, who had opened a riverside shingle mill producing for the United States market with machinery of his own invention. His boat, like the last steamer to be built and used here, was given the name of the river. An announcement of August, 1867, said, “The little steamer Mississippi is now making regular trips between Carleton Place and Innisville, carrying freight and passengers. Excursion parties desirous of seeing the lakes, or fishing, shooting ducks, gathering berries, etcetera, can have the use of the boat at reasonable charges.”
A larger steamboat was wanted for the ambitious plans of the Mississippi Navigation Company, incorporated two years later with an authorized capitalization of $100,000 to build locks at Innisville and Fergusons Falls and transport commodities expected to include sawn lumber and iron ore for rail shipment at Carleton Place. Headed by James H. Dixon of Peterborough, the company’s local directors included Abraham Code, M.P.P., then of Innisville, John Craigie, Robert Bell and Robert Crampton. The new steamer, the Enterprise, built here by John Craigie for the short lived navigation company, was launched in October, 1869. James Poole, secretary treasurer of the company, said in May, 1870, in his Carleton Place Herald:
“The steamer Enterprise has now made several successful trips between Carleton Place and Ennisville. We have not had time or opportunity, owing to the demolition of our old building and the erection of new premises, to avail ourselves of the pleasure. We notice also several packages of freight leaving the steamer. We believe that our spirited member, Mr. Code, is sending his manufactured cloth to Montreal by steamer via Carleton Place. Soon also picnics and other social gatherings will be the order of the day. When the locks at Ennisville and Fergusons Falls are built the property of our beautiful village will be a fixed fact.”
The navigation scheme collapsed and in the spring of 1872 the Enterprise, in a neglected state of repair, was sold by auction. The Enterprise operated on the lakes and river in the service of the lumber industry under the ownership of Peter McLaren and the Canada Lumber Company for about twenty-five years. It was made available throughout those growing years of the town as an excursion steamer for many summer and social activities.
Other towing and excursion steamers were added on the lakes in the eighteen seventies and eighties. Among them were the Witch Of The Wave, The Morning Star, the 43 foot Ripple, and the 30 foot Mayflower. In the eighteen nineties there were added the Commodore, which was to see many years of service, the big 80 foot shallow draft paddle wheeler the Carleton, and the Lake Park hotel’s 40 foot Lillian B. Smaller private steamboats included the Nellie, the Four Macs, the Lizzie, the Reta and the Carmelita. After 1900, with several of the oldest steamboats no longer in use, the Nichols’ 26 foot tug, the Belle, was launched in 1903 and Mr. S. Cooke’s larger Mississippi in 1905. The hulls and engines of both were built in Carleton Place by the John Gillies Estate Company, as were those of the lake’s largest steamboat, the Carleton.
Carleton Place Boat Builders
The leading Carleton Place builders of skiffs and other small boats of superior quality, starting in the eighteen seventies and continuing his individual craftsmanship for fifty years, was Adam Dunlop. The John Gillies Boat Works, which began operating here in the eighteen eighties as a branch of the Gillies machine and engine manufacturing plant, produced boat engines and marine craft for national distribution for about twenty-five years. The company’s master boat builder, J. S. Ferguson, before coming here already had taken exhibition prizes awarded at Quebec City and London, England, for boats of such variety as a thirty foot racing shell weighing only thirty four pounds and a Gaspe fishing boat.
For the Gillies firm Mr. J. S. Ferguson directed the making of vessels ranging from paddle wheeled steamboats to standard types of gasoline launches, and large and luxurious cabin boats finished in fine woods for shipment to such places as the St. Lawrence’s Thousand Islands, Montreal and western Canada. At the time of the company’s plant fire of 1906 it had some twenty or more employees. When this Gillies business was closed after the death of James Gillies, Frank Walton, former Gillies boat builder for many years, continued to build hulls for gasoline launches and other boats at Carleton Place.
Ducks Nearly Unlimited, Indian Relics Plentiful, by Howard Horton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 17 August, 1961
This is the second of three articles recalling hunting and fishing activities of many years ago in the Carleton Place area.
A century ago in the Eastern Ontario paradise for hunters and fishermen which extended throughout the then united counties of Lanark and Renfrew, locally organized action already was under way to protect wild animals from wasteful destruction. Its first supporters, as mentioned in the preceding instalment of these stories, were a few foresighted hunters and other leading citizens of Carleton Place, Pakenham and Almonte.
Later, with a spreading realization of the economic and esthetic benefits to be gained by men from his protection of wild birds and animals, there came a gradual revulsion against wanton slaughter in the forests, fields and lakes. Among the victims, the long-extinct passenger pigeon still was shot here in numbers in the early 1880’s, as shown by reports of partridge and pigeon hunting in the townships bordering the Mississippi Lake.
First Finds of Indian Relics
Of the native Indians who a hundred and fifty years ago had been almost the sole inhabitants of the Lanark and Renfrew area, only a few stragglers still remained seventy-five years ago in Lanark County. One of district’s first residents to record his interest in the excavated relics of the reign of the Indian hunter was Andrew Bell, a son of the Rev. William Bell of Perth. In the early settlement days here he wrote in a letter:
“All the country hereabouts has evidently been once inhabited by the Indians, and for a vast number of years too. The remains of fires, with the bones and horns of deers round them, have often been found several inches under the black mound. .. A large pot made of burnt clay and highly ornamented was lately found near the banks of the Mississippi, under a large maple tree, probably two or three hundred years old. Stone axes have been found in different parts of the settlement. Skeletons of Indians have been several times found, where they had died suddenly or had been killed by accident in the woods. One was found in a reclining posture with its back against a hillock, and a rough-made stone tobacco pipe lying beside it.”
Another Pioneer Conservation Society
The wild life conservation movement in this district had expanded by the 1880’s to the arousing of organized local support for a wiser harvesting of most of the usual products of rod, gun, spear, trap and net, and for protection of other obviously harmless or beneficial wild creatures. Carleton Place Herald editor James Poole in an editorial of nearly a hundred years ago already had claimed any man who would shoot a robin or other songbird would be capable of robbing his grandmother or of committing any other crime or rascality.
An organization in Carleton Place with these newer ideas for the conservation of practically all main forms of wild life was formed in 1884. Under the title of the Carleton Place Game, Fish and Insectivorous Birds Protective Society it continued to operate for some years. Original officers of the group were William Pattie, president ; Jim Bothwell, vice president ; Walter Kibbee, secretary-treasurer, and committee members John Cavers, Tom Glover, John Moore, Jim Morphy and Jim Presley ; elected at a May meeting in the old fire hall on Bridge Street, when a constitution drawn up by Robert Bell was adopted. Other members pledged to support the rules of this pioneering wild life protective society were William Beck, Peter Cram, Jim Dunlop, John Flett, David Gillies, Charlie Glover, Tom Hilliard, Archie Knox and Tom Leaver ; Hugh McCormick, William McDiarmid, Hiram McFadden, Jim McFadden, Jim McGregor, George McPherson, William Neelin, Robert Patterson and William Patterson ; Dr. Robert F. Preston, Alex Sibbitt, William Taylor, William Whalen, Will R. Williamson, Alex Wilson and Joe Wilson. Out of town sportsmen among the first members were Duncan Campbell, John Gemmill, D. G. MacDonnell and Tom Mitcheson, all of Almonte ; Jim Rogers of Montreal and R. W. Stevens of Ottawa.
At this time fishing on Sundays was illegal here as well as hunting on Sundays. Only about five of these men were said to be still living in 1928 when a story recalling the formation of the Carleton Place wild life protective society of 1884 was published.
A social event sponsored by the Society in its first year was a steamboat excursion to the present Lake Park, then noted as “the old Regatta Grounds.” The “Morning Star” and her two barges, with a number of skiffs in tow, carried three hundred people to the picnic ; which featured a rifle shooting competition, a baseball game, tug of war and track events, croquet, boating, and dancing to the exhilarating airs of the Willis bagpipes.
Game Law Enforcement
Two unfortunate Indians were among those who felt the first punitive effects of the new society’s protective activity. This local story was published in October of 1884:
“Last Wednesday two Indians from St. Regis were about to pack up and leave their camp between Appleton and Almonte, on the Mississippi River, when a representative of the Carleton Place Game, Fish and Insectivorous Birds Protective Society appeared on the spot and confiscated a number of muskrat skins.
The fellows had been warned by the Society to desist trapping the animals until November. The two offenders were brought to Carleton Place. They had in their possession 126 muskrat skins, one mink skin and one raccoon skin. The taking of the latter is not an offence. The poor fellows were in most destitute circumstances.
The magistrate inflicted a fine of $10 and costs and the skins were confiscated. They doubtless intended to do the river above Carleton Place at once, as has been their annual custom. The Protective Society is extending its influence very rapidly in all directions from Carleton Place, having a good representative membership in many points at a distance.”
Duck Shooting Toll
Ducks in the 1890’s remained abundant and were shot by the hundreds by the most experienced hunters. An 1890 published report of two Carleton Place duck hunters’ successes gave totals early in the season of 200 birds for one and 272 for the other, with one shooting 154 ducks in three days in a northerly expedition. Heavy tolls by the relatively small numbers of hunters seemed to make little impression on the duck population.
A group of sketches of origins of the communities of Ramsay township concluded here with notes of scenes and events in the early years of the town of Almonte.
First named Shepperd’s Falls and Shipman’s Mills, the town of Almonte, until its industrial growth which started in the eighteen fifties, was a small village which gained the name of Ramsayville. Then, with the opening of its first woollen mills and railway transportation, it grew in a period of about thrity years to take a place among the leading centres of the pioneering days of Canadian manufacture of woollen textiles.
Shipman’s Mills on The Great Falls
Rights to lands now forming the greater part of Almonte were granted in 1821 and 1822 to John Gemmill, James Shaw, then of Lanark village, and David Shepherd. John Gemmill’s land ran from Highway 29 to include the exhibition grounds in the southern part of the present town. The grant to the absentee owner, James Shaw, was a corresponding downstream section of the ninth concession, extending on both sides of the river as far south as the foot of the bay in Almonte. It was not until late in 1822 that under the special requirement of building a grist and saw mill at the falls, the central part of the future town was located to David Shepherd, together with another separate hundred acres at the town’s northern or downstream side. James Wylie, who had emigrated from Paisley in 1820 to begin business as a merchant at Perth, removed to Ramsay where in 1825 he leased and settled on the next northerly two hundred acres (conc. 9, lot 17), a Clergy reserve, which he later bought.
John Gemmill, a Scottish society settler of 1821 from Ayrshire and forbear of Lieut. Colonel James D. Gemmill and of John Alexander Gemmill, Ottawa barrister, was one of Almonte’s first merchants. James Wylie (1789-1854) was a merchant, Rideau Canal contractor, postmaster, farmer, county agricultural society president and builder of the Almonte residence Burnside. He was appointed in 1849 to the Legislative Council of Canada in the period of the Baldwin-LaFontaine reform ministry, when riots by opponents of its Rebellion Loses Act led to the burning of the Parliament Buildings of Canada at Montreal. Daniel Shipman, prominent in the founding days of Almonte and of American Loyalist origin, came in 1823 from the Brockville district and acquired the central properties of David Shepherd. He completed the building of the future town’s first mills when Shepherd had failed in his undertaking and had fled to escape the imprisonment which awaited defaulting debtors.
A traveler of 1841 made this brief report of his impressions of the settlement at the falls:
“James Wylie, Esquire, a majistrate and storekeeper, has erected a fine house, his son (William G. Wylie) another. About half a mile from this, Mr. Shipman’s spacious stone dwelling, his mills and the surrounding buildings, present a bustling scene. There is one licenced tavern here, and a school.”
Mr. Shipman’s last residence, built in 1837, became the Almonte House hotel. It was from this house that Daniel Shipman, a sturdy and outspoken reformer in the days of the Upper Canada Family Compact, had escaped from a night search by ten armed men of the Carleton Militia led by over-zealous Captain George Lyon, Richmond mill owner and distiller. During the alarms following the 1838 Prescott invasion they had ridden from Richmond, at the top speed permitted by bad and devious roads, on hearing false rumors that Shipman was sowing sedition and secreting two men supposed to have escaped in the Prescott battle from the stone windmill fortress of the defeated invaders and rebels.
Pioneer Almonte Industries
The first carding and fulling mill of the community was placed in operation by Mr. Shipman’s father in law, Mr. Boyce; the first planning mill and wagon making shop by John M. Haskin, and the first tanneries by Thomas Mansell and Smith Coleman. A three storey flour mill built on the east side of the upper falls in the eighteen forties by Edward Mitcheson was bought some few years later by J. B. Wylie, and James H. Wylie. The Hon. James Wylie’s eldest son, William G. Wylie, a magistrate and township treasurer, had died at Havana in 1851 on his way to the California gold fields.
Industrial growth at Almonte began in larger proportions in the eighteen fifties with the building of the Brockville & Ottawa Railway Company’s line. Before the railway from Brockville reached the Ottawa River in 1864 at Sand Point, it ran for five years to a temporary northern terminus at Almonte. The town’s woollen manufacturing had its start with the opening in 1851 of a mill with one set of machinery by the Ramsay Woollen Cloth Manufacturing Company, a company formed under the new Joint Stock Companies Act with capital raised in Ramsay and Beckwith among some forty shareholders. The village of Ramsayville at this time had a population of little more than two hundred persons. The next summer a fire destroyed the new woollen mill, gutted Daniel Shipman’s nearby unfinished and uninsured new gristmill and destroyed his old mill. The loss in this Mill Street fire, one of a number of similar fire losses of following years, was about 2,000 pounds to the company and 2,000 pounds to Mr. Shipman. Daniel Shipman at once rebuilt his mill within its standing stone walls. The building, later owned by John Baird, finally was torn down in 1902.
Start of Woollen Enterprises
James Rosamond of Carleton Place, a shareholder of the short lived Ramsay corporation, then moved his woollen mill operations, the first in Eastern Ontario, from Carleton Place to Almonte as the founding of Almonte’s leading manufacturing enterprise. He bought the site of the Ramsay Company’s mill and built a four storey stone building, later known as No. 2 Mill, which he opened in 1857. Before its erection Samuel Reid and John McIntosh opened a small woollen factory in 1854 on the former site of the Boyce fulling mill. James Rosamond, who lived until 1894, gave the management of his growing business in 1862 to his sons Bennett and William, who doubled its plant capacity and in 1866 admitted George Stephen, Montreal woollen manufacturer, as a partner. He became Baron Mount Stephen, president of the Bank of Montreal and first president of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.
The new Rosamond firm of 1866 began operations by buying the Island property of some sixteen acres and building its No. 1 Mill, then one of the finest in Canada. Bennett Rosamond (1833-1910) was elected president of the Canadian Manufacturers Association in 1890 and was Conservative Member of Parliament for North Lanark from 1892-1904. He was president of the Almonte Knitting Company and in 1909 donated the Rosamond Memorial Hospital to the town. He continued as head of the Rosamond Woollen Company until his death, when he was succeeded by Lieutenant Alex Rosamond (1873-1916).
A number of other woollen mills opened soon after the original Rosamond mill in Almonte. Among the first were those of John McIntosh (1832-1904), a large frame building on the upper falls, and of John Baird (1820-1894) and Gilbert Cannon, all on Mill Street. Sawmills, machine shops and iron foundries followed, including among the latter the foundry operated for a few years by John Flett (1836-1900). A local real estate boom and flurry of inflated land speculation developed, only to collapse in a severe depression of the mid-seventies. A fire loss of over $20,000 in 1877 destroyed the Cannon mill and the machinery of its lessee William H. Wylie, who moved to Carleton Place where he leased the McArthur (now Bates) woollen mill and later bought the Hawthorne woollen mill. William Thoburn (1847-1928) began to manufacture flannels at Almonte in 1880 and became the head of the Almonte Knitting Company and Member of Parliament from 1908 to 1917. Five textile mills in Almonte in 1904 were those of the Rosamond Woollen Company, William Thoburn, James H. Wylie Co. Limited, Almonte Knitting Company, and the Anchor Knitting Co. Limited.
Woollen Mill Party
In view of the claim that a people and its times often are best reflected in its songs, a Christmas Eve supper party given by the Rosamonds to their employees of 1863 may be worth recalling. Its chairman was Thomas Watchorn, formerly of Carleton Place and later of Lanark and Merrickville. A song by a member of the party was given between each toast after the supper, ending with the glee club’s Christmas carols at midnight. The offerings of Mr. Hepworth, the principal performer, included The Cottage by the Sea, Dearest Mary, Little Tailor, The Factory Bell, A Merry Ploughboy, A Kish of Black Turf, Young Ramble Away, Stunnin’ Pair o’Legs, and The Sailor’s Grave. Mr. Lowe offered Hard Times Come Again No More ; Mr. Douglas gave I’ll Marry Both Girls Bye and Bye, and J. Dornegan The Wedding of Ballyporeen. The Irish wit George Bond contributed I’ll Never Get Drunk Again. (George Bond, born in Carleton Place in 1837, was still singing in a celebration of his hundredth birthday by relatives and friends at his home in the Clyde Hotel in Lanark in 1937, when he “concluded the happy event by singing, in a fine clear tenor voice, When Billie Brown and I Slid Down Old Cram’s Cellar Door.”) For the Christmas party of the men of the Almonte woollen mill, in the time of local recruiting and Canadian defense preparations which accompanied the progress of the United States Civil War, a fitting conclusion with the national anthem was guest Dr. William Mostyn’s The Banner of Old England.
Naming The Town
Almonte ended its changes of community names in 1856. On the east side of the falls a section promoted by grist mill owner Edward Mitcheson had been given the name Victoria. A bylaw of Lanark and Renfrew’s old district council “to define the limits of the Village of Ramsayville and Victoria, in the Township of Ramsay, and to extend the Act 12 Victoria Chapter 81 for the Regulation and Police of Unincorporated Villages and Hamlets to the Above Named Villages” was enacted in 1853 and renamed these combined limits as the village of Waterford. The name most probably was taken from the town and county of Waterford in southern Ireland’s province of Munster. There already was a village of Waterford in the Canadian province, and at the request of postal authorities the name of the Ramsay centre was changed again. The village population then was about five hundred.
The choice of a name of Spanish origin had a precedent in those which had been given to some of the townships of southwestern Ontario by Upper Canada’s Lieutenant Governor of the eighteen twenties, Sir Peregrine Maitland. The Mexican general Juan N. Almonte had become his country’s ambassador at Washington and had gained his first fame in Mexico’s struggles to defend its territories from the encroachments of the United States. An early source of his name, adopted by our town of almonte, may be found in Almonte, a village in the province of Andalusia in the southwestern corner of Spain. It is near the Gulf of Cadiz and half way between the city of Seville and the town of Ayamonte. Seven hundred years ago this part of Spain was raided often by the Moors, from whom it had been taken. Near Almonte two centuries later a shepherd is said to have found a statue of the Virgin, hidden at the time of a Moorish raid. The site of the find continues to be the place of a Pentecostal festival of the region. Miracles ascribed to this statue of the Virgin, known as Our Lady of the Dew, include the escape of the inhabitants of Almonte in 1650 from a plague.
Almonte of Former Days
Lanark County’s Almonte was incorporated as a village of 2,000 persons in 1870 and as a town of 2,700 population in 1881. It had somewhat more than 3,000 residents at each of the two next decennial censuses. For record of its earliest township officers before its incorporation, references have been found as near the beginning of settlement as 1830. Its first commercial bank, a branch of the Merchants Bank of Canada, later joined with the Bank of Montreal, was opened in 1869. It gained a newspaper, the long-flourishing Almonte Gazette, in 1867, founded by William Templeman (1844-1914) who learned his printing trade with the Carleton Place Herald, went to British Columbia to found the Victoria Times, and became a member of the Senate, Sir Wilfred Laurier’s minister of inland revenue and the first Canadian minister of mines.
Almonte’s first Protestant churches, together with the municipal hall of the township, were located in the vicinity of the present Auld Kirk cemetery, more than a mile distant from the village community. They were the St. Andrew’s Church of Scotland, completed about 1835 and still maintained in its original structural condition, the Canadian or Free Presbyterian church, built ten years later, and the Methodist church. An Anglican church in almonte followed, and the parish of Almonte was separated in about 1860 from that of Carleton Place. A Roman Catholic church built at Almonte in about 1840 was burned down more than twenty-five years later and was replaced by the present stone church building completed in 1876. The Baptists built a small Almonte church and the township’s Reformed or Cameronian Presbyterians moved their place of services in about 1867 to the former Canadian Presbyterian church on the Eighth Line, later building their present church facing the Mississippi’s Almonte bay.
A number of the men whose names have lent luster to that of the town of Almonte, notably including pupils of Dr. Peter C. McGregor (1842-1916), Almonte high school teacher of distinction, are found to have had their youthful years coinciding with those of the present Almonte newspaper. Among them were Dr. James A. Naismith (1861-1939) best remembered as inventor of the game of basketball ; Senator Andrew Haydon (1867-1932), politician, lawyer and author of the Lanark County history “Pioneer Sketches in the District of Bathurst” ; Dr. Robert Tait McKenzie (1867-1938), surgeon and sculptor, commemorated by an Ontario historical plaque at the Mill of Kintail near Almonte as well as by his sculptures (one is “The Volunteer,” located beside the Mississippi on the grounds of the Almonte town hall) ; Sir Edward Robert Peacock, born 1871, living 1961, financier, director of companies including the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, former head of the Banking firm of Baring Brothers and director of the Bank of England ; Dr. William Bennett Munro (1875-1957), American educator, historian and political scientist ; and Dr. James Mackintosh Bell (1877-1934), geologist, explorer, soldier and author, one of the noted descendants of the county’s pioneering Rev. William Bell.
Perhaps on a June night an imaginative viewer of the flood-lit beauty of the Almonte falls still might detect glimpses of the shades of Daniel Shipman, miller and loyal reformer, and the stern and affluent magistrate James Wylie – or of Scottish emigrants walking to John Gemmill’s barn for communion service – or of a band of Ballygiblins freed from the agonies of Ireland and gathered to the falls for mass. The reflections of centuries of campfires and silent Indian portages past the falls probably would be lost. The shadows below the falls might seem to hold a few of the host of bygone workers and employers of mills and shops ; or a crew of Scottish, Irish and French rivermen bound for Quebec City, pausing after the risks of breaking a great log jam. And in the roar or rumble of the floodlit falls he might even hear the roll of wheels of farm wagons, mill carts and horse drawn carriages of a former generation crossing its stone arched bridge – or the rattle of a railway train with a high-stacked wood-burning engine as it drew to the northern end of its run from Brockville – or the shouts of crowds at lacrosse games and cricket matches, at the outdoor open polling of electors or in holiday parades and almost certainly a steady echo of the blows of The Builders, shaping the future of a new land.
Early Stories of Hamlets in Township of Ramsay, By Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 29 June, 1961
When the northward push of the first settlements of Lanark County reached the township of Ramsay, the town of Almonte and the village of Clayton soon were founded as little frontier communities based on water power sites of the Mississippi and Indian Rivers. The grist mill and sawmill of Daniel Shipman of Leeds County, built at Ramsay’s Great Falls of the Mississippi in 1823, was the nucleus of a village which grew to become the town of Almonte. A story of some of Almonte’s nineteenth century citizens and industries will appear in a following number of the Canadian.
Clayton had its origin little more than a year later than Almonte when Edward Bellamy, who recently had come to Grenville County from Vermont, obtained the water privilege of the falls on the Indian River there and opened a sawmill and grist mill to serve a section of the new townships. Among the other communities of Ramsay township, Blakeney, once the location of several manufacturing concerns, came next in time of origin as Snedden’s Mills. Not far from Snedden’s the small hamlet of Bennie’s Corners appeared on the scene of the eighteen thirties, adjoined on the Indian River by Toshack’s carding mill and Baird’s grist mill. The Baird mill, now known as the Mill of Kintail, has been preserved by a private owner for public historical uses and as a residence.
At the township’s Apple Tree Falls, where young Joseph Teskey drew land in 1824, the Teskey brothers later built their saw and grist mills, followed by a succession of woollen mill businesses which began about a century ago at Appleton.
On the Indian River in the north of Ramsay township, in a section where some of the last Indians of the township lived, sawmills have continued to run on a small scale since the eighteen twenties at the community of Clayton. Edward Bellamy, who in 1824 bought the mill site of its falls, had come from Vergennes in Vermont with his three brothers in 1819 to the Brockville district. They established the mills and village of North Augusta on the south branch of the Rideau River in Grenville County and mills at other points in Leeds County.
Bellamy’s Mills On The Indian River
At his Ramsay saw and grist mill Edward Bellamy added a distillery and a carding mill. Around his mills a village grew to have a population of 250 persons. It continued to be called Bellamy’s Mills until in the eighteen fifties its name was changed to Clifton and again changed in 1858 for postal reasons to Clayton. It was on what was then the main road from Perth to Pembroke, and soon supported a tannery, a cooperage works, a medical doctor, James Coulter’s hotel, and shops of blacksmiths, wagon makers, shoemakers and general merchants. When the political riding of North Lanark was separately established in 1854, its nomination meetings which led regularly to the reform party’s reelection of Robert Bell of Carleton Place were held at Clayton.
The village’s semi-annual market or fair days were held in mid-April and mid-November. In an era when not uncommonly feuds and disputes were arbitrated by physical encounter, J. R. Gemmill, founder of the Sarnia Observer and a son of Lanark’s first minister, gave this report in his Lanark Observer on an exercise of political passions on Clayton’s 1851 spring fair day:
“Riot At Bellamy’s Mills. We regret to learn that another of those disgraceful party rows, which are a blot on the character of any community wherever they occur, took place at Bellamy’s Mills on the evening of the Fair or Tryst at that place, namely Wednesday, the 16th instant. It appears that it originated with some of the younger class, in which ultimately the other spectators interfered, and ended finally in a regular party riot, in which stones and other missiles were so freely used that several individuals have got themselves severely injured.
About twenty businesses were in operation at and near the bustling village of Clayton in 1871, including a grist mill, a cooperage plant, Coulter’s and Gemmill’s hotels, McNeil’s tannery, the sawmills of Timothy Foley, Daniel Drummond, and William Smith ; James McClary’s planning mill, Timothy Blair’s carding mill and J. & A. Hunter’s woollen cloth factory. The Hunter woollen mill, destroyed with a fire loss of $10,000 in 1873, was located on the river near Clayton at the site then known as Hunterville.
The village of Appleton was settled and developed by members of the Teskey family who came to Ramsay township in the emigration of 1823 from southern Ireland. Among less than a dozen families not of Roman Catholic religious persuasion in this government-sponsored emigration to Ramsay, Huntley and Pakenham townships were John Teskey, his wife and nine children from Rathkeale in Limerick.
Joseph, the eldest son, had obtained his hundred acre lot at the location then known as Apple Tree Falls on the Mississippi. After the family had lived together for a few years on the father’s farm (conc. 11, lot 7) in Ramsay and the children had begun to marry, the second son Robert joined with Joseph in building a small saw and grist mill at the falls. The land including the southern half of the present village was a 200 acre Crown reserve and south of it were the farms of Robert Baird and William Baird, Lanark society settlers of 1821.
Teskeyville At Apple Tree Falls
On the strength of attractive natural assets and the initial enterprise of three Teskey brothers, a small community developed in the next thirty years, known for a time as Teskeyville and as Appleton Falls. With a population of about seventy five persons by the mid-fifties, it contained Joseph Teskey’s grist mill, Robert Teskey’s sawmill equipped with two upright saws and a public timber slide, Albert Teskey’s general store and post office, Peter and John F. Cram’s tannery, and two blacksmith shops, William Young’s tailor shop and a wagon shop. A foundry and machine shop was added before 1860, when the village grew to have a population of three hundred. Albert Teskey, a younger brother who lived to 1887, also engaged in lumbering and became reeve of Ramsay township. A flour mill in a stone building erected in 1853 by Joseph Teskey below the east side of the Appleton Falls was operated after his death in 1865 by his son Milton. It was sold in 1900 to H. Brown & Sons, Carleton Place flour millers and suppliers of electric power, and resold several years later to Thomas Boyd Caldwell (1856-1932) of Lanark, then Liberal member of Parliament for North Lanark, a son of the first Boyd Caldwell who had owned a large sawmill at Carleton Place.
Appleton Woollen Mills
Robert Teskey, a magistrate for over forty years, built in 1863 a four storey woollen mill of stone construction. He retired a year later and lived until 1892. The woollen mill, later doubled in size, was operated by his son John Adam Teskey (1837-1908), with the assistance for a time of his brother in law, William Bredin, later of Carleton Place, and his brother Rufus Teskey. Before the depression of the eighteen seventies, when the Appleton mills had been leased for a period of years, the village had two firms manufacturing tweeds, flannels and blankets ; Charles T. Drinkwater & Son and Lancelot Routh & Company. The Teskey woollen mills were owned from 1900 for over thirty years by Boyd Caldwell & Company and Donald Caldwell, who rebuilt the dams in 1903, and for over twenty years since by the Collie family and the present Collie Woollen Mills Limited. The latest owners built the present mill before the old stone woollen mill buildings, chief landmark of a picturesque setting, were destroyed in the nineteen forties by fire.
At the head of Norway Pine Falls on the lower Mississippi in Ramsay township, James Snedden, one of the Lanark society settlers, received an 1821 location of one hundred acres of land which ran from the present Highway 29 to the village of Blakeney. Alexander Snedden, who had emigrated two years earlier and had located with David Snedden in the eleventh concession of Beckwith, soon removed to the Pine Falls where he built grist and saw mills and a timber slide. The family entered the square Timber trade, taking their timber down the Ottawa and the St. Lawrence to the Quebec City market. James Snedden jr. (1821-1882), known as “Banker Snedden,” also engaged in lumbering and other enterprises.
Rosebank Inn and Norway Pine Falls
On the road to Pakenham and the Ottawa, Alexander Snedden’s Rosebank Inn provided travelers with accommodation of a high standard. Here the Reform Association conventions of the old District of Bathurst and of the United Counties of Lanark and Renfrew of the eighteen forties and early fifties were held. A discriminating traveler of 1846 wrote of “Snedden’s Hotel, which is kept in as good style as any country Inn in the Province.” Another travelling newspaper contributor of fifteen years later added in confirmation: “Who in this portion of Victoria’s domain has not heard of Snedden’s as a stopping place? Ask any teamster on the upper Ottawa and he will satisfy you as to its capabilities of rendering the traveler oblivious to the comforts of his home.” Alexander Snedden became a militia officer and in 1855 gained the rank of Lieutenant colonel in command of the Ramsay battalion of Lanark Militia. His adjutant was Captain J. B. Wylie, Almonte mill owner.
Around the Snedden establishment a small community grew at Norway Fine Falls, known as Snedden’s Mills until in the eighteen fifties it was named Rosebank. It was renamed Blakeney when the post office of the area was moved here in 1874 from Bennie’s Corners with Peter McDougall as postmaster. The nearby railway station continued to be called Snedden, and the name Rosebank also persisted. Other early industries at Blakeney included a woollen factory, a brewery at the Pine Isles, a second sawmill and a tannery. A three storey woollen mill of stone construction operated by Peter McDougall, was built in the eighteen seventies. The flour mill at Blakeney continued to be run for some years after the turn of the century by Robert Merilees.
Bennie’s Corners was a small village less than two miles from Blakeney. It was at the junction of the eighth line of Ramsay and the road from Clayton north of the Indian River, on land where James Bennie located in the original settlement of the township in 1821. The buildings of the hamlet were destroyed in the summer of 1851 by fire. As rebuilt it had little more than a post office and general store, a few residences, a school and such tradesmen as blacksmiths and shoemakers, and claimed a population of about fifty persons.
Bairds Flour Mill Restored
Nearby were William and John Baird’s flour mill, Greville Toshack’s carding mill and Stephen Young’s barley mill, all on the Indian River ; and on the Mississippi the similar industries of Blakeney. The Baird mill, restored as a century old structure in 1930 by Dr. R. Tait McKenzie, sculptor, surgeon and native son of the manse, is now well known as the Mill of Kintail, repository of examples of his works and local historical exhibits. It was described by its owners in 1860 as:
“Woodside Mills, consisting of a Flour Mill with two runs of burr stones, a superior Smut Machine and an Oatmeal Mill with two runs of Stones, one of which is a Burr. The Mill is three and a half stories high and most substantially built. There are also on the premises a kiln capable of drying from 120 to 200 bushels of oats at a time, a frame House for a Miller, a Blacksmith Shop with tools complete, two Stone Buildings and outbuildings, with Stabling for eleven horses.”
Bennie’s Corners Squirrel Hunt
A Bennie’s Corners story of 1875 may be recalled as telling of a recognized sport in some circles of the Ottawa Valley of those times, known as a squirrel hunt and featuring a reckless slaughter of the birds and animals of the summer woods. An Almonte newspaper report told of the hunt on this occasion:
On Friday the 25th instant a squirrel hunt took place at Bennie’s Corners. Eighteen competitors were chosen on each side, with Messrs. John Snedden and Robert McKenzie acting as captains. In squirrel hunts, squirrels are not the only animals killed, but every furred and feathered denizen of the forest, each having a certain value attached. The count runs as follows : squirrel 1, chip munk 2, wood pecker 2, ground hog 3, crow 3, blackbird 1, skunk 5, fox 50, etc. At the conclusion of the contest the game killed by both sides amounted to over 2,500. Mr. James Cochrane bagged 164 squirrels, being the highest individual score, and Mr. Andrew Cochran came next. The affair wound up with a dance at the residence of Mr. James Snedden.
MANY RAMSAY FAMILIES TOOK MISSISSIPPI ROUTE, By Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 04 May, 1961
A pioneer navigation of the Ottawa Valley’s Mississippi River was an expedition by a group of Scottish emigrants one hundred and forty years ago. In the traditions of some district families the Mississippi adventure of long ago seems to have been elevated to first place over the transatlantic sailing from Greenock as being the Mayflower voyage of the settlement of the township of Ramsay. That there were capable and daring river navigators among the settlers of Ramsay township in its first year is suggested by an October 1822 report of Colonel William Marshall, the North Lanark settlement superintendent, on a trip of exploration of the Mississippi River made then by him from the Clyde to the Ottawa. Listing the main falls and rapids encountered in Drummond, Beckwith and Ramsay townships and in the new surveys from there to the Ottawa River, he wrote, at a time when the building of the Rideau Canal was proposed and its route unsettled: “Notwithstanding these difficulties, a boat twenty-four feet long built by the settlers at Shepherds falls in Ramsay went from that place to Lachine in five days and returned in seven. The people in that quarter are in high spirits at the idea of the navigation passing that way to Montreal.”
Mississippi River Route
The first bold venture of Scottish settlers of Ramsay upon little-known local waterways was made in 1821 down the Clyde and Mississippi rivers from Lanark village to the falls at the site of Almonte. The boats, made of boards sawn at Lanark, proved fit to survive the rocks of the numerous rapids and the difficult portages of the excursion. The water borne explorers appear to have included Walter Black, James and Thomas Craig, John Downie, James Hart, Arthur Lang, John Lockhart, William Moir, John Neilson, William Paul, John Smith, John Steele, John Toshack and others. It seems that those undertaking boat building at Lanark probably also brought their families to Ramsay in the expedition by lake and river. As recalled by Arthur Lang’s eldest son, William Lang (1811-1902), their craft were “rough boats build by the men. A good many portages had to be made and it took some days to complete the trip. When coming down Mississippi Lake they stopped at an island, and while preparing a meal a big Indian hove into sight. Fear filled every heart. The late John Steele was equal to the occasion. He seized a huge loaf of bread and presented it to the Indian as an evidence of their friendly intentions. The peace offering was not accepted and the Indian passed by on his way to his camp on another part of the island, paying no attention to them. A night was spent on the north shore of the river above the falls at Carleton Place, beds being spread on the ground.” At the present location of the Almonte town hall shelters were made in wigwam style for use as a headquarters until all had completed the building of cabins on their lands.
Indians of the Mississippi
Five years earlier the native Indians had been in undisputed possession of the whole region of the unknown Mississippi. In the beginning of the surveys of the district, the first superintendent of locations in the Rideau Military Settlements had written in May, 1816, to the Lieutenant Governor’s secretary at York : “Having been informed by Indians and others that in the rear of the River Tay there was a much larger River which emptied into the Ottawa, I directed Mr. Groves about ten days since to follow the line between Townships No. 1 and 2 (Bathurst and Drummond) until he struck this river, which he did in front of the 11th concession. He reports it to be a fine river, and the land between this and it of an excellent quality.” The Indians of the Mississippi area are seen in a description of them by the Rev. William Bell, recorded within two months of his 1817 arrival at Perth : “In the afternoon two families of Indians in three canoes came down the river and pitched their tent upon the island in the middle of the village. They were the first I had seen since I came to the place. They had deer, muskrats and various kinds of fowls which they exposed for sale. The deer was small but they sold it at a dollar a quarter – the head with the horns at the same price. Their canoes were all of birch bark about eighteen feet long and three feet wide at the middle. They had in each canoe a capital fowling-piece and several spring traps for taking game and all the men were armed with the tomahawk. They had all black hair, brown complexions and active well-formed bodies. All of them even the children had silver ornaments in their ears.” (Five days later:) “While we were at breakfast the whole band of Indians with their baggage passed our house on their way to the Mississippi River ten miles distant. Each of the men carried a canoe on his head. The squaws were loaded with blankets, skins, kettles, tents etc., like as many asses.” Over the five year period before the pioneers of Ramsay had arrived settlers had located at points along the Mississippi from Morphys Falls and Mississippi Lake up to Dalhousie Lake. Sections still occupied by Indians included those at Mississippi Lake where as then noted by the Rev. William Bell, “some of the islands in the lake are still inhabited by Indians, whose hunting grounds are on the north side and who are far being pleased with the encroachments our settlers are making on their territories.”