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Clearing Bush First Task of Early Settlers
Carleton Place Canadian, 08 June, 1961
By Howard M. Brown
One of the many family sagas of emigration to Ramsay township was that of the McDonald family which, after investigating other locations, chose land in the tenth concession of Ramsay north of the falls of Almonte. Long-lived members of this family included the father, John McDonald of the Isle of Mull, who came in 1821 with his wife, three sons and several daughters, and lived in Ramsay till he reached his hundredth year in 1857. His son Neil at the age of 100 had the distinction of living in three centuries before his death in 1901 at his Ramsay homestead.
Sailing from Oban in the Western Highlands in June 1821 on a ship bearing the later Canadian Pacific Steamships name The Duchess of Richmond, the McDonald family came up the St. Lawrence from Quebec to Montreal by steamship. From Lachine they travelled by boat up the Ottawa to Point Fortune where they failed to find suitable land. Going then by Durham boat to Prescott, their intention of reaching York was changed by a meeting with friends which led them to the five year old village of Perth and the new village of Lanark. After examining and refusing to accept land still available in Lanark and Dalhousie townships, the McDonalds rented a farm site from Duncan McNaughton in Drummond township near Mississippi Lake. In a winter’s work with primitive tools they cleared the trees from about twelve acres and, with hoes and sickles for the planting and harvest amongst the stumps, gained a first crop of corn and potatoes and a little wheat and oats.
Continuing down along the Mississippi in the next summer, two of the sons selected four hundred acres for the four male members of the family in the tenth and eleventh concessions of Ramsay several miles north of the Ramsay falls. They cleared their first acre there, put in a crop of potatoes and built a shanty. That winter Neil with his sister Flora remained at the cabin in Ramsay to cut down trees. They had to carry hay for two miles on their backs for their cow.
Rugged Pioneer Days
At the Mississippi Lake farm in Drummond in the first fall, all of the family except the parents and one son had become ill with a fever. About two years later two of the three sons, Donald and Lachlan, died of its effects. Their bodies are reported to have been carried twenty-two miles from the farm in Drummond on the shoulders of friends for burial at the family farm in Ramsay. The rest of the family moved there from Drummond in the following May, bringing three cows and two pigs. Within another year a daughter had died in Ramsay and two daughters were married, Flora marrying Duncan McNaughton and remaining on the farm in Drummond. John McDonald still had funds of almost £200 when he moved to Ramsay. He bought a barrel of flour in June of 1824 at Boulton’s mill at Morphy’s Falls, which he and his remaining son Neil carried over a twelve mile return journey from Carleton Place to the farm. Seeking to buy a yoke of oxen and some sheep, the son travelled with “Big Neil McKillop”, for fifteen days in December of 1822 going as far as Cornwall. A flock of sheep was obtained in 1825 when the supply of clothing brought from Scotland was almost worn out. Neil McDonald became a great hunter of the game which abounded in the district.
At the age of 34 Neil McDonald married Flora McLean of Ramsay. Their children included Lachlan, who remained on the homestead and later lived in Almonte, and Mrs. James Cowan and Mrs. Alexander Bayne, both of Carleton Place, who reached the respective ages of 91 and 94. Grandsons of the centenarian Neil McDonald included Neil McDonald, Carleton Place high school teacher from 1890 to 1913, the Rev. John A. McDonald and R. L. McDonald, Almonte public school principal.
A large section within the area of Ramsay township made rapid progress. Only twenty years after the first Ramsay settler had cut the first tree on his land, and still in the days before there was a railway in the province, a visitor was able to report that the township was “well-settled, very prosperous, and can boast a goodly number of practical farmers, men of extensive reading and sound knowledge. Its appearance plainly proves this by the number of schools and churches within its range which are erected and in progress of erection. The great number of substantial stone houses erected and being put up speaks more favorably than words of its growing prosperity.”
Aided by its villages of Ramsayville, Bennie’s Corners, Snedden’s, Appletree Falls and Bellamy’s Mills and by Carleton Pace on its borders, with their stores, inns, tradesmen’s shops, sawmills and gristmills, Ramsay township had made an early start in sharing the growth of Canada.
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.
Ramsay Objected To Justice Meted in 1830’s, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 19 April, 1962
Resident magistrates and other municipal reforms were among the governmental needs seen by progressive residents of Ramsay township in the ninth year of the settlement of the township. These views of a Ramsay township gathering were sent to the Perth editor for publication.
Resolutions of a Public Meeting held in the Township of Ramsay on Monday the 4th January, 1830.
Resolved, 1st– That this meeting, viewing with alarm the manner in which they have been treated by his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for this District as far as concerns their Town Meetings, will petition His Excellency Sir John Colborne concerning the same.
2nd – That his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace are obliged by Law to grant a warrant for calling and holding our Town Meetings, and also a Constable to preside at the same.
3rd – That without said Warrant, a lawful intimation and a presiding Constable, our meetings are illegal, and of course our whole procedure at said meetings.
4th – That our present situation is not only unpleasant but disadvantageous, having neither overseers of roads, assessors, nor any office bearer whatever in the township.
5th – That some of our office bearers have been put to blush by those in authority, when applying to be installed in office, by being told they were not legally elected, as this town meeting was illegal.
6th – That the want of resident Magistrates in this township has and still does put us to great disadvantages in many respects, and the more particularly as concerns our office bearers, causing them to travel from home to Perth (no Magistrate being nearer) for the express purpose of being sworn into office, under the penalty inflicted by law, a distance of from twenty to thirty-five miles.
7th – That petitions formed on the basis of these Resolutions be drawn up and transmitted to the Hon. W. Morris Esq., M.P., to be by him presented to His Excellency Sir John Colborne on our behalf.
John Hutchinson, President ; William Wallace, Vice-president ; Committee : John Buchannan, James Bryson, Robert Carswell, Daniel Shipman, John Gemmill, Michael Corkery.
Needs of North Lanark
Public meetings of residents of North Lanark townships were held in January and March to consider the government’s claims for repayments of cash advances made in 1820 and 1821 to many of the settlers, and the civic disabilities of these settlers. Commenting on the first meeting of the year the Examiner editor wrote :
We understand that a meeting of the delegates from the four Townships, Ramsay, Lanark, Dalhousie and North Sherbrooke, will be held this day, the 22nd January, in the village of Lanark, for the purpose of taking into consideration the condition of the Society settlers, and the profriety of petitioning the House of Assembly to grant them all the civil privileges which our constitution bestows. Two persons deputed from each of these townships will attend.
We have received a communication from an esteemed friend pointing out some of the difficulties under which those labor who have not yet received their Deeds.
A further six years of struggle for responsible government were to pass before these numerous Scottish Emigrant Society settlers of 1820 and 1821 and the Irish assisted emigrants of 1823 were to receive their deeds and their voting rights.
Postscript of Military Administration
The last vestige of settlement assistance to North Lanark under military auspices and the approaching return to Scotland of the former settlement superintendent Colonel William Marshall were marked by a public dinner at Judson’s Hotel given in May, 1830, by “the Gentlemen of Perth and its environs, in order to express their high sense of Col. Marshall’s honorable character and many amiable qualities, and the regret they felt at his removal from this Colony.” In April the government’s sale of “The Government store house at Lanark with nearly two acres of ground attached, together with the outbuildings erected by Colonel Marshall” had been made by auction. It was followed by the purchaser’s advertisement in the Examiner:
To Let. The House and Premises in Lanark formerly occupied as a Government Store and lately fitted up as a retail store. From its central location and bordering on the river Clyde, it possesses advantages either as a private dwelling or for a person in business. Terms moderate, apply to W. Fraser, Esquire, Lanark, or at Perth at the subscriber. – April 27th, 1830. W. Fraser.
Perth Pictured in 1829
A parting editorial picture of Perth in the winter of 1829-30 is given in terms of praise and future promise in the Bathurst Independent Examiner.
Our merchants and operatives are all busily employed and seem to be flourishing. A complexity of rival interests has brought the price of all store goods to their proper level, so that the settlers do not, as many did formerly, travel a great distance to a neighbouring district to sell the surplus produce of their farms and to purchase articles for the use of their families. The stores are abundantly supplied with goods of the best quality, which several of our merchants import directly from the home market. The few stores in this town must, at the present time, contain nearly 20,000 pounds worth of goods.
A number of excellent houses have been built in the course of last summer ; some are making rapid progress to completion. The public buildings are neat and commodious. The houses of public worship for the different denominations (with the exception of the Methodist chapel, which is partly raised) are decent and comfortable, not to say elegant, considering the age of the place.
Although a large number of Half-Pay-Officers and Pensioners are settled in the town and its environs, whose habits are supposed to be of the most convivial kind, it has not been found necessary to establish….a temperance society. The industrious and respectable population live in the fullest enjoyment of harmony and sociality, notwithstanding that a few Lawyers have crept in among us.
Explain How Lanark County Townships Named (2), by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 16 Nov 1961
A series of brief sketches of the origins of the names of the townships of Lanark County is concluded in this second installment. The names of the fourteen townships of this county perpetuate memories of days of hardship and heroism a century and a half ago. They also honour notable persons who served then in peace and war in British North American Public Affairs.
Beginnings of North Lanark
Settlement in the north half of Lanark County was begun in 1820 by a large group emigration from southern Scotland and was continued by a similar and larger movement in 1821. For the reception of these families and others the townships of Dalhousie, Lanark and Ramsay were surveyed and named in 1820 and North Sherbrooke township also was made available.
Lanark on the Clyde
Lanark township, in which the village of Lanark was founded in 1820 as the chief centre and administrative base of the North Lanark settlements, thus gained its name before the County of Lanark was formed. Most of the first North Lanark farm settlers came from the towns and countryside of Lanark County in the south of Scotland, including Glasgow, largest city of Scotland, and Lanark the county town of Lanarkshire. The smaller communities which later were formed in the new township include Middleville, Hopetown and Brightside.
Sir George Ramsay The Earl of Dalhousie
The township of Ramsay, containing the town of Almonte and the villages of Appleton, Clayton and Blakeney, and the township of Dalhousie, location of communities including Watson’s Corners, McDonald’s Corners and Poland, both received names of the Governor in Chief of Canada of their time of settlement. Sir George Ramsay (1770-1838), who became Baron Dalhousie and ninth Earl of the ancient Scottish earldom of Dalhousie, had been one of Wellington’s generals in the Napoleonic Wars.
He was Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia from 1816 to 1819, Governor in Chief of Canada from 1820 to 1828 and Commander in Chief of India from 1829 to 1832. He died at Dalhousie Castle near Edinburgh.
He visited the chief new settlements of Lanark County in 1820, and later became a patron for the opening of the Dalhousie Library in which some of his books still are preserved at Watson’s Corners. During his term of office at Halifax he founded Dalhousie College. At Quebec he established the Quebec Literary and Historical Society. His son the Marquis and Tenth Earl of Dalhousie (1812-1860), a more distinguished administrator, was the last of several great governors general of India under the East India Company.
Governor Sir John Coape Sherbrooke
South and North Sherbrooke townships, surveyed in about the year 1819, were named for General Sir John Coape Sherbrooke (1764-1830), whose name was given also to the city and county of Sherbrooke, Quebec. After service for thirty-five years in the period of wars with France he was Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia from 1811 to 1816. In the War of 1812-14 he conducted the defence of that province with marked success. He served as an able Governor in Chief of Canada for two years from 1816 to 1818, when he retired with failing health. In North Sherbrooke the community of Elphin and the Mississipipi’s High Falls power generating site are located. South Sherbrooke township, crossed by Canadian Pacific Railway lines and Provincial Highway No. 7, contains the village of Maberly and such summer resort localities as Silver Lake Park and Lake Davern.
The Northern Townships
The county’s northern townships of Pakenham, Darling and Lavant, the last in Lanark County to be surveyed for settlers, were named in or shortly before 1822 when their surveys, continued in the following year, were authorized. The initial granting of farm land locations in these three townships was superintended by Bathurst District Land Board, of which Colonel James H. Powell of Perth was chairman, and was begun in 1823.
Lavant in Sussex and The Duke
Lavant township, situated in a terrain of hills and lakes in the northwest corner of the county and containing localities including Lavant , Clyde Forks and Flower Station, is one of a number of places in Canada named in honour of the Duke of Richmond. He was Governor in Chief of Canada in 1818 and 1819. The township received its name from the Lavant River and the village of Lavant, both near Goodwood House, the country seat in Sussex of the dukes of Richmond.
Charles Lennox, Fourth Duke of Richmond (1764-1819), had been a major general and a member of parliament. After succeeding to the dukedom he served for six years as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. A ball given by him and his wife in Brussles almost on the eve of Waterloo gained lasting fame from being recalled in a poem by Lord Byron. His dueling, noted in Senator Andrew Haydon’s “Pioneer Sketches in the District of Bathurst”, was marked by an affair of honour with a member of the royal family, the Duke of York.
The death of the Duke of Richmond, of hydrophobia some eight weeks after he had been bitten by a pet fox, occurred near Richmond on the Jock River, then known as the Goodwood River. The duke and governor was on his return from an official visit to the Perth area, during which he had walked several miles in the course of an inspection of rural settlement on the Scotch Lint in Bathurst and Burgess and in Drummond and Elmsley townships.
Major General Darling
Darling township, in the hills to the east of Pakenham and north of Lanark township and containing localities including Tatlock, White and Marble Bluff, was named in 1822 for a military officer, Major General H. C. Darling. He then was a colonel serving in a senior post at Quebec City as the military secretary to Canada’s governor general and commander in chief of the forces, the Earl of Dalhousie.
Sir Edward Pakenham and British valour
The township of Pakenham, centered on the village of Pakenham and including an area between White Lake and the Mississippi and Madawaska Rivers, was named for Major General Sir Edward Michael Pakenham (1778-1815), the British army commander of the Battle of New Orleans. This heroic tragedy proved to be one of the greatest and most useless human slaughters ever to occur on United States soil.
Before news could arrive from Ghent of the signing two weeks earlier of the treaty ending the War of 1812-14, a British force including several thousands of veteran soldiers recently arrived from Europe under Sir Edward Pakenham attacked the prepared defence works of New Orleans held under Andrew Jackson, the later United States president.
Instead of the six hundred men who were sent to their deaths at the storied charge of Balaclava, six thousand men, reaching the swamps of the mouth of the Mississippi without mobile artillery and without even scaling ladders, were sent forward to the town. When the brief and hopeless attempt was abandoned one out of every three soldiers of this large British force had fallen in the deadly fire which poured from behind the defenders’ barricades. In this postscript to the war which assured Canada’s survival the brave commander had lost his life, as perhaps he would have wished, while riding on the front line to spur on the attack.
In the strange ways of false nationalistic propaganda the classic bravery of this British force was replaced by a picture of a craven retreat promoted in a “Hit Parade” song which was spread through this country from the United States a year or two ago and called “The Battle of New Orleans”. This is the page of military valour in our country’s history, though hardly of tactical brilliance, which is commemorated in the name of the township and village of Pakenham.
Some of the stories wrapped in the names and histories of the quiet rural and village areas which form the townships of Lanark County may become better recognized in the county in the course of time. Perhaps this will come when sufficient consideration is given merely to their more obvious uses for tourist trade promotion. Their colourful legacy of names will remain in any event to offer to some members of present and future generations the inspiration of glimpses of great men, great deeds and great years in the times of the founding of our now vast and still struggling nation.
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.
Early Settlers Found Good Land in Ramsay Township, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 11 May, 1961
One of the few letters which remain from those written by Ramsay settlers in the township’s first year gives the optimistic impressions of a Glasgow society emigrant, John Toshack. He already had built his log cabin on land where later the village of Bennie’s Corners waxed and waned, and was back at Lanark preparing to bring his family from the district centre to the new home. His letter tells of his hopes for his chosen lot and mentions two of the boats which served in the settlers’ use of the “water conveyance.” Writing to a friend in Glasgow, Alexander Sinclair, on September 11, 1821, he said in part:
“I gladly embrace this opportunity of writing you by Mrs. Graham who has lost her husband and is returning to Scotland. Our family is all well now, by the mercies of God, they are all recovered. We had four of them in the fever since we came here, Margaret, Andrew, Helen and Eneas. Many have died since arriving in Canada, some of the fever, others of the flux and others from the effects of fatigue.
We have got land in the township of Ramsay near the Mississippi River, which runs into the Ottawa about fifteen miles from our land. We are only half a mile from it. There are always plenty of good fish to be got in it, but especially in the spring, when I am informed they are caught in very great abundance.
William, John and James Bennie and I have each got 100 acres together, in a square. It is most beautiful land, and resembles the Dalmarnock haughs (low rich land beside a river). According to what I have seen of other land, it will produce abundantly of all which is necessary for the support of a family. The land is by no means generally good, there is much rock and swamp on many lots. Indeed I would not exchange the land that we have got for any other I see. But it is a great distance from this (ie., from Lanark), about twenty miles by land and near forty by water. Had it not been for the water conveyance we would not have attempted to go so far. We have built two flat boats, of fir boards at one inch thick, which we got from the saw mill at 3s.6d. per 100 feet.
I have got up a house, 22 feet by 16, which will do to begin with. Our land abounds with beautiful wood, of elm, maple, birch, beech, pine, and bass ; the latter is somewhat like your saugh (sallow or broad-leafed willow). I often think if you had a few score of the trees that we cut down to burn you would turn them to better account.
“I hope to have all my luggage and family on the land in about ten days,….Government has been very honorable. Besides conveyance from Quebec to Lanark and rations – the rations consist of one pound of bread and one of pork for a man, one half each for a wife, one third for a child above seven and one quarter for those under. – I have got a blanket for myself, one for my wife, one for every two children and one for the odd one ; also an axe, a hand saw, a bill hook, an iron wedge, two pair hinges, a thumb-neck (door latch), two files, a stock-lock, two gimlets, a pick axe, a hammer, a scythe and stone and among us four we have got a pit and cross-cut saw and we will get a grindstone when we want it. There are also nails and other things still to be got. (Note: Among other supplies issued were spades, hoes, harrow teeth, sickles, pitchforks, adzes, augers, kettles and frying pans.)
The gentlemen here and all the way from Quebec, who had the charge of forwarding us, seemed to vie with each other in discretion and kindness. This is the most merciful act that I ever knew the British Government perform. It affords many poor industrious families the means of obtaining the necessaries of life who had no such prospect before. You will observe that I am writing only from information and observation, it will require another twelve months to come to enable me to write from experience. I think the emigration is likely to be carried on at least another year. There are three townships to be surveyed beyond Dalhousie, Lanark and Ramsay, near the grand river. I will if spared write you more particularly afterwards and hope to give you more information.”
John Toshack, who came to Ramsay with his wife, seven sons and two daughters, was a man of strong religious tendencies. He had been a deacon in the Congregational Church under the Rev. Mr. Ewing in Glasgow, and preached in the first shanties of settlers in Ramsay before there was an ordained clergyman in the township. His younger daughter, eleven years old at the time of the 1821 migration, became the wife of the first Peter Cram of Carleton Place. Surviving her husband on the Cram farm homestead on High Street which later was acquired in the eighteen eighties by her nephew Peter Cram (1831-1920) of Carleton Place, she died in 1890 at the home of her daughter, Mrs. James Thom in Ramsay.
A final installment of this series of Ramsay settlement stories will tell of the emigration adventures of one family of Ramsay pioneers.
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.”
1800 PEOPLE AMONG FIRST SETTLERS IN RAMSAY, BY HOWARD MORTON BROWN, CARLETON PLACE CANADIAN, 27 APRIL, 1961
An account of the beginnings of settlement in Ramsay township is continued. Extracts from a diary of a voyage from Greenock to Quebec on The Earl of Buckinghamshire, one of four sailing ships which carried eighteen hundred Glasgow district emigrant society passengers bound for North Lanark, have told part of the story of the Atlantic crossing of a number of the pioneer residents of Ramsay. This diary of one hundred and forty years ago was written by Arthur Lang, who settled with his family near Almonte in the year of the first opening of agricultural land in the township. He became a farmer and a school teacher there.
His story is resumed as the ship’s six hundred emigrants to northern townships of New Lanark are nearing the shores of the new world.
“1821, May 27, the Sabbath – At 12 o’clock we were in 43 deg. 45 min west longitude. Another lecture was given by Mr. Thomson, but the levity of some and the seriousness of others formed a striking contrast.
Storm at Sea
May 28 – A very heavy sea was rolling and continued the whole night. The first scene…was fourteen or fifteen of the passengers tumbling head-long on top of one another.
May 29 – Everyone is telling what a bad rest they got, for really such a tumbling of baskets, cans, bundles, basins and pots I never heard before. About sixteen of us had a good glass of rum at night in the forecastle.
June 1 – Still but cold air continues. We imagined ourselves off the banks of Newfoundland but Friday, June 1st convinced us we were upon them, for there were a great many fishermen around. Two French brigs passed quite close.
June 2 – One of our side sail booms broke and vanished. They got another soon.
Sight of Land
June 5 – This morning we saw land for the first time since we left Ireland. We saw St. Pauls on the right and Cape Breton on the left.
June 6 – The island of St. Pauls within a quarter mile of us. We sailed little the whole day, but were amused at a few land birds which flew about the rigging and an owl which sat upon the mast and sometimes flew around us. It was the first I had ever seen on the wing. Newfoundland was in view in the afternoon.
June 11 – We were in the mouth of the river at 5 o’clock this morning. The hilltops are covered with snow, but the rising ground near the water is completely covered with trees. A pilot came on board today. He seems to be an able, craft-looking man.
June 13 – Not a house to be seen on the north side at all. The hills on this side are just about as high as Paisley’s braes, and some of them higher.
June 14 – We have not gained a mile, but we came in view of a fine valley with a number of houses in it. The hills beyond that valley were as high to appearance as those I have often seen out of the mill windows over the tops of Dumbarton.
June 15 – There is a new scene before us this evening – trees to the hill-tops, cultivated plains – with ranges of white houses, for they are all in rows. The women appear to be enamoured with the prospects, and no wonder. Two boats came along side of us with herring, bread and tobacco.
June 16 – We saw Quebec and it looked beautiful. I got my feet on terra firma and really I was well pleased.
June 17 – This was the best working Sabbath I ever had. Nothing but bustle and confusion and everyone for himself.
June 19 – A child died this morning, but it was ill before it came on board. We arrived at Montreal this afternoon.
The Upper St. Lawrence
June 20 – A very wet day, yet we disembarked and were hurried away in small carts and the kind of trains used for loading heavy articles with ease. We arrived at Lachine in the evening and were huddled in a cold, damp reeky barracks.
June 21 – Early this morning the hustle began again. Nothing but hurry, packing up our beds and dividing our provisions, for we got three days provisions of loaf bread and six days of biscuit with pork and beef, and away we started for the upper Lachine, as they call it, but we passed and rowed till dark night. It was the longest pull I ever had. We landed at the place in the dark ; here nothing but hurry again for a bed. We slept in the open air and our heads were wet with dew in the morning.
June 23 – Another hurry began about sunrise. We got a hurried breakfast while they were passing through the locks. All the women and children that could walked, with a greater part of the heavy baggage which was taken to a place about three miles above by land carriage. The reason of this was that the rapids were so strong. We came to Cedars and loaded again and went about a mile farther up, and rested another night in the open air.
June 24 – Sabbath was a great day among the Romans and we did not leave the place till the church came out. It was about midday and we started pulling away and went to a place six or seven miles, where there are locks. There was a kind of fortress here. We got into the barracks, but a great many slept in the fields.
June 25 – Early in the morning we left this place and sailed to the outlet of Lake St. Francis in the river St. Lawrence, and lay the whole day for the want of wind, or perhaps some other cause we know nothing about.
June 26 – We had a long voyage today and labored hard the whole day from 5 o’clock in the morning till dark. The scenery is grand…..
June 27 – Hard labor prevents me making many remarks. There are many pleasant sights in the river. At night we came through the canal in the middle of a wood and at the head of it there is what they call the “Long Soo”, a terrible rapid about nine miles long, and some of the merchants boats will run it in twenty minutes. We rested there for the night.
June 29 – Up early and out at the oars again as hard as ever. I took very ill this day and was not able to work. Excessively hot every day. We rested about five miles from Prescott.
June 30 – After a short sleep under a heavy dew we arose as soon as we could see, and after sailing a short space we came to Prescott. There is a lonely looking town on the opposite shore. The societies that came in the ship Commerce came to Prescott in the evening.
July 1, the Sabbath – This is really a day of rest, and after getting breakfast I took a tour through the woods to see how they looked. I saw nothing they produced but strawberries.
July 4 – This day is the anniversary of the States of Independence and there seemed to be some rejoicing on the part of the people on the other side of the water. “
From Prescott the eighteen hundred men, women and children gradually were conducted in wagons and on foot to Brockville and on the rougher roadways from Brockville to Perth and to Lanark village.
Lanark and Ramsay
At Lanark the women and young children remained, many in huts thatched with pine and balsam branches, while the men sought their lots, made little clearings on them and put up shanties built of the logs of the clearings. Writing on July 19th, Arthur Lang said:
“I set out for Ramsay Settlement to pick out 100 acres, but after six days hard labor travelling through swamps and untrodden paths through woods I had to return without land, and now I have to do the same thing over again….The greater part of the forest, the underwood or bramble, is not so thick as at home but a great deal of it is worse to go through than the worst of Crucatone Wood….conceive Paisley Moors, for instance, all grown over with large trees, some fresh and green, others half rotten and a great many rotten from top to bottom, and almost as many lying in all directions as are standing with not a living creature to be seen or heard except a bird or two, and the owl screaming in your ears at night.”
As less than half the British government’s expenses in connection with the society emigrations to North Lanark of 1820 and 1821, its cash loans to these settlers exceeded 22,000 pounds. Over 7,000 pounds in loans was advanced to those of 1820, who numbered 167 men and, including their families, over eight hundred persons. At the same rate of 8 pounds sterling for each man, woman and child, over 15,000 pounds was advanced in cash loans to the society settlers coming to North Lanark in 1821. After fifteen years during which transferable titles to these settlers’ lands were withheld against the loans, and therefore also their provincial voting rights, it was decided that repayment would not be required. Speaking of the day his society was paid the second installment of these government advances at Lanark village on November 1, 1821, Arthur Lang wrote:
“I received the second installment of money which was paid in sterling. If you had seen the foolishness of some who were willing to spend and be merry and the sad countenance of others who had lost the most of their families, I am sure you would have looked with contempt on the one and your hear strings would have ached for the other.”
Four months after his family’s arrival at Lanark, November 12th briefly wad marked for the Langs as the day when, in Ramsay by the Mississippi, “my family came to my own house.” The winter’s snow came five days later, and November 26 and 27 “were very frosty, the river in some places was frozen quite across.” Finally after a winter of tree cutting the first spring in the new land came in mid-April, with a note of ‘wet days’. The river has swollen very rapidly and the ducks are sporting plentifully on the water. I noticed the pigeons came to the woods on the 4th for the first time.”
A well-known resident of the thriving township, Arthur Lang, farmer and local school teacher, became one of Ramsay’s first two representatives on the council of the Lanark and Renfrew district when, in 1842 and seven years before his death, the province’s first district councils were elected.
Other settlement stories will follow in a later installment of tales of the beginnings of Ramsay township.