Riverside Park Site of Carleton Place Graveyard

20-Foot Square Unmarked Grave in Riverside Park

The Carleton Place Canadian, 27 December, 1956

By Howard M. Brown

 

In Riverside Park there lies a little-known site which is of some interest in the town’s history.  It is found at the extreme end of the town’s park, near Lake Avenue and close to the Mississippi River.  This was a burial ground, where members of one of the first families of settlers of the town were laid in a now unmarked graveyard.

Discovery of this site some ten years ago was reported at a Parks Commission meeting, at which the suggestion was made that the area should be marked as a historical site by erection of a cairn.  Pending the receipt of further particulars no action was taken.  The Canadian subsequently found from the late Alex John Duff, Beckwith farmer, that he recalled this burial ground in his youth in the 1880s as being at that time a little cemetery about 15 or 20 feet square, a gravestone in which bore the name Catin Willis. 

With the Morphys and the Moores, the Willises long were among the widely known earliest owners of farm land coming within the present boundaries of the town.  It is well recorded that the whole central section of the present town was first located to the Morphy and the Moore families in 1819 as Crown grants of farm land; the part extending north of Lake Avenue to four of the Morphys, and three hundred acres at the south side of Lake Avenue to three of the Moores.  William Moore is said to have aided in the founding of the town by opening its first blacksmith shop in 1820, the first year of settlement as a community.  About the same time the first marriages here were those of Sarah, daughter of George Willis, to William Morphy, and Mary, daughter of Thomas Willis, to John Morphy.  Well known descendants of these families continue to live in the town and district.

On a farm which reached the western end of Riverside Park George Willis, born about 1778, settled and raised his family.  Other Willises coming from Ireland and settling near Morphy’s  Falls between 1819 and 1821 were Henry, William, Thomas and Catin Willis.  When the present Carleton Place Town Hall was built, the central building on its site, said to be the second dwelling built in the town, was the home of Mrs. William Morphy,  daughter of George Willis, where she had lived to 1888 and the age of 85, a widow for over fifty years.  The Bathurst Courier at Perth, reporting her husband’s death in August, 1837, said in part:

“Fatal Accident.  On Friday afternoon last, William Morphy of Carleton Place, whilst on his way home from this place on horseback, in company with several others, met with an accident from the effect of which he died on Sunday morning last, under the following circumstances.  Between this and Joseph Sharp’s tavern the deceased and another of the party were trying the speed of their horses when, on approaching Sharp’s house at a very rough part of the road, his horse fell and threw him off, by which he was placed under the animal.  Severe wounds causing a contusion of the brain led to his death…….The deceased was a native of Ireland, and has left a wife and family to deplore his sudden death.”

Grandchildren of William Morphy and his wife Sarah Willis included William, Duncan and Robert McDiarmid, prominent Carleton Place merchants, sons of James McDiarmid, Carleton Place merchant, and his wife Jane Morphy.

George Willis Jr. (1820-1892) succeeded his father on the farm at the end of Lake Avenue (Conc. 11, lot 12) and there brought up a family long known in Carleton Place, including Richard, drowned while duck hunting in November 1893, and George E. Willis, photographer, musician and bandmaster, who died in Vancouver in 1940 at age 96 while living with his son Stephen T. Willis of Ottawa business college fame; William and John H. of Carleton Place, and daughters including Jane, wife of James Morphy Jr. the son of “King James” of the pioneer Morphy family.

The George Willis place on the river side during one period was the annual scene of colourful sights and stirring sounds on the 12th of July.  It was a marshalling ground and headquarters for the great Orange parade, with the Willis boys of the third generation prominent among the performers in the bands.  The names of George Willis, Senior and Junior, appear with sixty others on the roll of the Carleton Place Loyal Village Guards which mustered in 1837 and 1838 at the time of the Upper Canada Rebellion and “Patriot War,” and again with that of Catin Willis in the St. James Church monster petition of November 1846 for maintaining tenure of the Church’s clergy reserve land in Ramsay against claims of Hugh Bolton and others.

Catin Willis, born in Ireland in 1795, settled as a young man in Ramsay on the present northern outskirts of Carleton Place (con. 8, lot 2w) when that township was opened for settlement in 1821.  He died there in 1869.  His name appears as contributor to the Carleton Place fund for providing and operating a curfew bell in 1836.  The Church Wardens of St. James Church here in 1845 were Catin Willis and James Rosamond, founder of the Rosamond textile manufacturing firm.

William, another of the first Willises here, took up land in the 4th concession of Beckwith (lot 18W) in 1820, securing his location in the usual way through the district settlement office and performing the settlement duties required for obtaining a patent to his land, which lay east of Franktown.  Franktown, then usually referred to as The King’s Store at Beckwith, and later named possibly for its sponsor, Colonel Francis Cockburn, had already been approved for surveying into town lots, and had the taverns of Patrick Nowlan and Thomas Wickham for the accommodation of travellers, in addition to the government supply depot for the Beckwith settlers.

George Ramsay, Ninth Earl of Dalhousie and Governor General of British North America, made the Nowlan Inn his stopping place, accompanied by Colonel Cockburn, during a one day visit in 1820 in the course of a tour of inspection of the Perth, Beckwith and Richmond settlements.

Henry Willis landed from Ireland in the early summer of 1819 with his young family on the sailing ship Eolus, whose passengers included the families of Beckwith settlers Thomas Pierce, James Wall and William Jones.  He first settled on the 2nd concession of Beckwith (lot 13W) near Franktown, and later moved to Carleton Place where he is found as a contributor to the 1836 curfew bell fund and on the roll of the Loyal Village Guards of 1838.

Henry was an unsuccessful 1838 petitioner with Captain Duncan Fisher for preferential purchase from the Crown of a farm lot extending near Indians Landing (con. 11, lot 11), adjoining the farms of George Willis and Captain Fisher.  Those providing certificates of facts in support of this petition were Catin Willis, John Moore, William Willis, Greenwall Dixon, and Edward J. Boswell, Anglican “Missionary at Carleton Place.”

Thomas Willis is shown by Beldon’s Lanark County Atlas of 1880 to have been an inhabitant of the new village of Morphy’s Falls in its first year, and to have given his daughter in marriage then to John Morphy.  John (b.1794, d.1860), another of the family of six sons and two daughters of Edmond Morphy, built his home for his bride at the east end of Mill Street on the present Bates & Innes lands.  It stood there for over fifty years after his death, and last served as the watchman’s house of the Bates & Innes mill.  The large family of John Morphy and his wife Mary Willis, raised in that pioneer home, included Abraham Morphy of Ramsay, near Carleton Place; and Elizabeth, Mrs. Richard Dulmage of Ramsay, who was born in 1821 as the first child born to the first settlers in Morphy’s Falls.

It is possible that further consideration will be given to providing the added note of interest and distinction to the town, and to its popular Riverside Park, which would be furnished by a cairn and tablet at the Park denoting some of the ancient origins of the town.

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Dollar and Cent Currency Adopted 100 Years Ago, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 17 October, 1957

Early days in Carleton Place 100 years ago, prepared by Howard M. Brown

DECIMAL CURRENCY

We publish in our advertising columns a notice from the banks of Canadaviz.

Bank of Montreal, Bank of North America, Bank of Upper Canada, City Bank, Quebec Bank, Gore Bank, La Banque du Peuple, Molson’s Bank, Bank of Toronto, Niagara District Bank. They announce their intention of adopting, after January 1st next, a decimal system of currency or dollars and cents in their accounts. The course is rendered necessary by the Act of the last session which makes it incumbent on the Government to use that currency in their books. The banks require their customers to draw their notes for discount, which are to fall due on and after January 1st, 1858, in dollars and cents and to have their cheque books, etc., for use after that date prepared conformably to the new regulations.

We publish the following letter on the need for this development. Sir: Canada with her 2 ½ or 3 million people presents the curious anomaly of a nation without a currency, the only approach to which are the coppers issued by the banks. One gets a handful of silver and on looking it over presents the appearance of the plunder of numismatic collection. I once found the following assortment in a handful so received – a Prussian Thaler, a Roman Paulo, a French Franc and half Franc, some Spanish, Mexican, Portugese and Sardinian pieces, one Swedish coin, a few English shillings, and various United States fractions of a dollar. The Province stands committed to the decimal system and sooner or later all commercial accounts will be so kept. I would suggest the postage stamps should carry their value marked in cents instead of pence. The banks might also be authorized to issue silver tokens representing 5, 10 and 25 cents. The disintegration of the British empire would not be hastened by granting the Canadians a decimal coinage.

 AGRICULTURAL PICNIC

In consequence of the inclemency of the weather the Pic Nic or Outdoor Soiree in connection with the United Counties of Lanark and Renfrew Agricultural Society is postponed to Tuesday, July 7th, when it will take place in Mrs. Thomas Morphy’s woods, Carleton Place, on the banks of the Mississippi River. Tickets 1s.3d each. Robert Bell, Secretary and Treasurer.

THE ORANGE WALK

So long back as we can remember it has been usual to make a fuss, kick up a dust and drink a little whiskey to wash it down, on the 12th of July, in commemoration of the battle of the Boyne. That memorable day happening on Sunday this year, the 13th was duly ushered in by the discharge of musketry and the roll of the Protestant drum. It was a scorching hot day but the Orange men, Orange women, Orange boys and Orange girls from all parts of the country met in our village and had a general parade. Upwards of 2,000 persons were present. All seemed to enjoy themselves most admirably until evening, when the assembly quietly broke up and several lodges returned to their respective homes.

LATE REV. WM. BELL

Died at Perth, on Sabbath morning, August 16th, 1857, the Rev. William Bell, A.M., the Minister of the first Presbyterian Church, in the 78th year of his age and the 41st of his ministry. He arrived at Perth as the minister of the first Presbyterian settlers in June 1817. He had the honor of being the first to preach the gospel in Lanark, Ramsay, Beckwith, Smiths Falls, and other places, besides Perth, at all of which there are now flourishing congregations.

BUILDING A TOWN HALL

A special meeting of the Municipal Council of the Township of Beckwith was held at Mr. Lavallee’s Hotel, Carleton Place, on Tuesday July 28th at 11 o’clock a.m., for the purpose of receiving tenders for the building of a Town Hall for the said township. Mr. Brice McNeely moved, seconded by John Roberts, that the Council do purchase a site or certain piece of ground for the purpose of erecting a Town Hall for the benefit of the Township of Beckwith said parcel of land being part of the east half of lot 14 in the 8th concession of Beckwith on the Franktown and Carleton Place road. The five tenders were opened as received from Neil Stewart, Robert Metcalfe, Robert McLaren, Peter Campbell and Wm. Rorrison. A contract was then entered into by the Council with the lowest tenderer, Neil Stewart and securities, for the building of a Town Hall for the sum of 119 pounds, 10 shillings, the job to be finished by January 1st, 1858.

INNISVILLE CHURCH

Proposals will be received until October 10th for plastering and shingling the Church of St. John, in the 12th concession of Lanark, and for building a small vestry room thereto. A. Code, James Cooke, George Crampton, church-wardens, committee. Carleton Place September 30th, 1857.

GRAND SQUIRREL HUNT

A grand squirrel hunt will take place at Carleton Place on Monday, October 19th, 1857. Parties wishing to attend the same can do so by leaving their names at the Post Office and paying the fee. Wm. Morphy, Secretary.

SCHOOL ON SATURDAYS

From the (Ottawa) Citizen. That hardly a half of the usual number of pupils attend on Saturdays is a powerful reason why the schools should be closed on that day. All Grammer Schools are closed on Saturdays. The children attending the Common Schools are certainly as much and even more in need of recreation than those attending the former, since they are generally younger. There are some who argue that since the parents toil six days so the child ought.

FINANCIAL CRASH

The financial panic in the States which has increased week after week since the first of September has culminated. It commenced by the breaking down of the Ohio Life Insurance Company in August. Then came the crash in the South and the West, the suspension of all the Pennsylvania, the Baltimore and the Washington Banks. Rhode Island followed next, and all over New England the doors were closed. New York City and State stood out to the last, but the failure of some of the heaviest mercantile houses has been followed by a total suspension of specie payments by the entire fifty-one banks of the City, and a solid column of leading merchants, manufacturers and publishers has been driven to the wall.

BECKWITH TOWN HALL

In going to Franktown yesterday we noticed that the Town Hall which was lately erected for this township is about completed. It is a good sized frame building situated in a fine airy place on the hill opposite the Free Church. We understand Mr. John Roberts was so liberal as to make the township a present of the site for the building.