SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK THIRTY-EIGHT: Canada’s Centennial (5) Part Two

Carleton Place Canadian

12 May, 1966

By Howard Morton Brown

 

The companies of the 42nd Battalion from Perth, Smiths Falls, Almonte, Fitzroy and Landsdowne all were at Brockville within twenty-four hours.  No. 4 Company of Fitzroy, under Captain Allan Fraser, with the greatest distance to travel, mustered at Kinburn, moving from there by wagon to Pakenham and by rail to Brockville.  Captain John A. Macdonald’s history of the Fenian Raids states:

“The Forty Second did very great service in protecting the railway docks and other points of landing at Brockville, besides patrolling the river banks as far east as Maitland, thus keeping up a chain of communication with the garrison at Prescott.  Several ‘scares’ occurred during the time they were on service, which caused sleepless nights, but by their vigilance the Fenians were deterred from making an attack.”

At Prescott, opposite which a large body of Fenians had gathered at Ogdensburg, seven hundred and fifty officers and men were placed under Lieut. Colonel Jackson, Brigade Major of the 8th Brigade Division.  The greatest probability of attack from Fenians assembled at Malone was deemed to be on Cornwall.  The Cornwall command was placed with Lieut. Colonel Atcherly, Deputy Adjutant General of Military District No. 4.  Here the 59th Battalion was mustered, joined by the 41st Battalion by steamboat from Brockville with its Pakenham, Carleton Place, Perth, Merrickville, Brockville and Gananoque companies and accompanied by its Carleton Place battalion band.  A valuable corps of about sixty mounted scouts was gathered, and an armed steamer patrolled the river.  Here as at other Ontario points the Fenians failed to venture across the water in the face of the defences mounted for their reception.  Fenians at Buffalo who had gathered from several states, intending to cross the river after a successful outcome of the Quebec frontier operations, soon returned to their homes and the Fenian Raids of 1870 were at an end.

 

On Guard Against The Fenians

The 41st Battalion’s Carleton Place No. 5 Company and Band serving at Cornwall totalled fifty-three officers and men, under Captain John Brown and Ensign David McPherson.  Its lieutenant, J. Jones Bell, had left earlier in the month to become an officer of the Ontario Battalion in the expedition to quell the Red River Rebellion.  No. 5 Company non-commissioned officers were Sergeants Robert W. Bell, Ephriam Kilpatrick and Robert Metcalf; Corporals James Moore, A. Hume, William Patterson and William Rattray, and Bandmaster J. C. Bonner.  Of the forty-three privates in the Carleton Place Company and Band on active service at Cornwall no more than three had been with the company in its Brockville service in 1866.  They were George McPherson, George Willis and Richard Willis, all of the regimental band.

Among other No. 5 Company privates from the Carleton Place area serving at Cornwall during the 1870 raids were Samuel Crampton, Frank Boyle, Alex and John Drynan, David Henry, James Irvine, Henry Metcalf, William Moffatt, David Moffatt, blacksmith, and David Moffatt, carpenter, William Munro, George Morphy, William Murray, Daniel McDougall, Brice McNeely, Jerome McNeely and Thomas McNeely, Charles Patterson, William Pittard, William Poole, John Rattray, Duncan Stewart, W. S. Watson, and Alex Wilson.

David Moffatt (1848-1926), carpenter, a private of age 22 during the 1870 raids, became a building contractor and planning mill operator with his brother Samuel, later of Renfrew, and was the father of William, Howard and Lloyd Moffatt.  His father James (1819-1901) lived then in the stone house remaining on the riverside beyond the end of High Street, where David Moffatt senior in 1820 had become one of the early farm settlers of the vicinity of Carleton Place.  Daniel McDougall and later his son Norman were farmers on Glen Isle.  Charles Patterson was then age 19 and a cabinetmaker with William Patterson.  William W. Pittard (1850-1938), who was a printer with the Carleton Place Herald, founded in 1882 the Almonte Times, which he published until his retirement.  Unmarried, he died at age 88 in a fire in his Almonte home.  During the First World War he was mayor of Almonte.  William Poole, age 21, was the eldest son of the Herald publisher.  John Rattray, 21, and Corporal William Rattray, 25, were sons of William Rattray (1812-1898), Beckwith 11th Line farmer who came there with his parents in 1822.

Bandmaster J. C. Bonner recently had opened a shop selling musical instruments and stationery on Bridge Street near Bell Street, and advertised his services as “Band Master, Teacher of Piano, Melodeon, Organ, Voice, Thorough Bass and Harmony, Violin, etcetera.”  Sergeant Robert Metcalf, hotel-keeper, and Corporal William Patterson, cabinetmaker, were the other non-commissioned officers of the battalion’s Carleton Place band at Cornwall.  Other band members included Privates Joseph H. Bond, 30, tinsmith; William Glover, 33, blacksmith; James Morphy, 27, butcher; and James Munro, 39, carpenter; also Alex. McLean, 19, carpenter; John McLean, 25, store clerk; George McPherson, 30, later hotelkeeper; and Franklin Teskey, 29, later a town councillor, son of Appleton miller Joseph Teskey.  Privates George E. Willis, 26, photographer, Richard Willis, 29, and William Willis, 22, sons of Lake Avenue West farmer George Willis; and Joseph Wilson, 27, later hotelkeeper and Alex. Wilson, 20, sons of Dr. William Wilson, completed the 1870 roll of band musicians of the 41st Battalion in its short period of active service at Cornwall.

At the collapse of the Fenian campaign the Canadian militia forces were released from duty, in most cases within ten days of their last service postings, receiving an official statement of the “gratitude and admiration of their Queen and country”.  Reporting on the repulses of the “cut throats in green”, Major Poole wrote:  “The military officers who had an opportunity of observing the conduct of the volunteers speak in enthusiastic terms of their endurance, courage and discipline”.  In Carleton Place a victory ball and supper “in a style not to be surpassed” was held for the volunteers in the stone building on the corner of Bridge and High Streets which was then William Kelly’s British Hotel.

Veterans who had seen active service in Ontario in 1866 or 1870 became entitled eventually to provincial grants of 160 acres of Crown lands.  Service medals, some of which survive as family heirlooms, bear the receiver’s name and rank, a portrait of the queen and a design representing Canada, with a clasp carrying the words Fenian Raid 1866, or 1870.  Eighteen veterans of the Fenian Raids marched at Carleton Place thirty years later, together with Andrew Dunlop, Crimean War medallist, in an impressive parade and reception held in November, 1900, on the return of Alex. C. Cram from the South African War.  Some twenty-five veterans of the Raids who had served with the Carleton Place company and still were residents of the town included Maurice Burke, John Burke, William Beck, John Cavers, William Glover, David Moffatt, James Munro, David McPherson, Patrick Tucker, William Pattie and William Patterson.

Militia appointments of commissioned officers of No. 5 Company, Carleton Place, 41st Brockville Battalion of Rifles, made three years after the 1870 Fenian Raids, were Lieutenant Robert W. Bell as Captain, replacing David McPherson, resigned; Joseph Cram as Lieutenant, and George Gillies as Ensign replacing William Poole, deceased.  Joseph McKay, son of James McKay, Bell Street baker, rose in his long militia service here from lieutenant of No. 5 Company in the late 1870’s  to lieutenant colonel of his regiment at the turn of the century.  Rifle Ranges at Carleton Place were constructed during Lieut. Colonel McKay’s command.  Carleton Place No. 5 Company in the 1890’s had become No. 2 Company of the 42nd Lanark and Renfrew Regiment, which it remained in the years up to the opening of the First World War.  In August 1914, its first twelve volunteers for overseas active service left Carleton Place, commanded by Captain William H. Hooper.  They were sergeants Horace Brown, James McGill and George New; privates Robert Borland, Lochart Campbell, Leonard Halsey, Joseph Hamilton, Harry McLaren, Neil McPhee, Ernest Reynolds and Arthur Simons; and their captain, Will Hooper.

When Canada’s accomplishments of the past and promise of the future are being recognized in the Centennial of Confederation, and honours paid to its defenders and servants of peace and war, the military volunteers who were ready to offer their lives in the confederation decade will have a secure place among those worthy of remembrance.

 Officer in the 41st Brockville Rifle Battalion.  Likely Capt. James Condie Poole, first Company Commander of No. 5 Company (Carleton Place)

Officer in the 41st Brockville Rifle Battalion. Likely Capt. James Condie Poole, first Company Commander of No. 5 Company (Carleton Place)

No. 5 Company (Carleton Place) 41st Brockville Battalion of Rifles:  From left to right: James Storey, William Dack, Donald Stewart, William Duff, Patrick Tucker.

No. 5 Company (Carleton Place) 41st Brockville Battalion of Rifles:
From left to right: James Storey, William Dack, Donald Stewart, William Duff, Patrick Tucker.

These Photos are courtesy of the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum.  Thanks Jennifer!

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SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK THIRTY-SEVEN : CANADA’S CENTENNIAL (5), Part One

New Dominion Repelled Fenian Raiders

Carleton Place Canadian, 12 May, 1966

By Howard Morton Brown

 

The testing of Canada’s defences at the time we were preparing to base our future on Confederation, and some of the men who shared in meeting that test, have been the subjects of the earlier parts of this story of the threats to Confederation known as the Fenian Raids.  The attacks on Canada made across its now undefended southern border in the memorable Confederation years, together with earlier risks of a recurrence of war with the United States, were among the impelling reasons for forming the federal union which is to be honoured in local and national centennial celebrations next year as the birth of our present nation.

The traditions of military service of the men of the Ottawa Valley had their beginnings in the stocks which first settled in the Valley.  Among them were many who both in Europe and North America had worn the King’s uniform in war, as had their ancestors.  The quartermaster general’s department of the forces of British North America had carried out the task of placing on their lands the large number of families of Scottish and Irish emigrants and demobilized soldiers brought here in the area’s formative years of 1816 to 1822.  Known first as the Rideau Military Settlements, this area became the judicial district of Bathurst, containing the greater part of Lanark and Carleton counties and of the later settled present county of Renfrew, with Perth as the judicial and district administrative seat of the district, which included the site of the future capital of Canada.

As confidently expected when the settlement of this area was planned after the War of 1812, its men were ready to serve their sovereign and their new homeland’s needs in the next calls to arms.  These came in attacks on Canada’s borders after the Canadian Rebellion and again after the United States Civil War, and finally in the great challenges of the past fifty years.

The Fenian Raids of 1866 had caused a further strengthening of the Canadian militia and a continued vigilance.  Among Eastern Ontario military units which were constituted then were the 41st and 42nd Battalions.  Both were groupings of militia companies which had been formed to help face the American pressures of the previous five years.  The six rifle companies designated as those of the areas of Brockville, Carleton Place, Gananoque, Merrickville, Pakenham and Perth became the 41st Battalion, Brockville Rifles, under Lieut. Colonel James D. Crawford.  The 42nd Battalion of Infantry, formed in October, 1866, under Lieut. Colonel Jacob D. Buell, was composed of the six infantry companies based on Almonte, Brockville, Fitzroy, Landsdowne, Perth and Smiths Falls.  These two officers contended for parliamentary seats in the first federal elections.  At Confederation, Colonel Crawford was elected to Parliament for the Brockville riding, a riding which in the next two elections was won by Colonel Buell.

In local promotions of November and December, 1866, Captain Poole of Carleton Place and Captain Gemmill of Almonte became majors of their battalions.  Lieutenant John Brown, Carleton Place merchant, became captain of this town’s  No. 5 Company.  Peter McDougall, textile manufacturer, was commissioned Captain of the Almonte company, with James Rosamond, junior, as lieutenant.  Continued company training, with quarterly inspections and annual summer battalion exercises, were carried on for general defence purposes and in anticipation of any further Fenian move.

A lighter side of militia service in the 1860’s is seen in a report of an evening gathering before the local companies left for their eight days of battalion training in June, 1868; when “the men of Carleton Place Rifle Company entertained their officers to a first class supper in Metcalf’s Hotel, in this village.  The room was tastefully decorated.  The proceedings wound up with a ball, to the tune of “We won’t go home till morning.”

At his year’s camp the men were “allowed one dollar per diem, out of which they pay for their rations, but as these are chiefly upon the club system they are enabled to save seventy-five cents a day.”  Major Poole, the Carleton Place Herald publisher, observed that they were “well trained, stout hearted brave boys who wished no better sport than balancing accounts with General O’Neil’s invading army.  The Fenians should be treated as ordinary ruffians.”  The Snider rifles, he added, were “the most effective weapons in the world.”  He is said to have provided some evidence of the latter claim himself in Brockville during the 1866 raids.  A somewhat improbable version of an 1866 episode of the guarding of the Brockville front, with Captain Poole named as star performer, was related in an Old Boys Reunion souvenir number of the Brockville Recorder forty years after the event.  Clearly improved with age and described by its contributor to be “undoubtedly true”, it claimed:

“All vessels passing the sentries on the docks were challenged.  One night a small scow was noticed passing up close to shore.  She was challenged by the sentry but he received no response from the scow.  The sentry was ordered to fire by Captain Poole, the officer in command.  He being averse to doing so, the Captain took the rifle and fired at the scow’s lantern.  The shot smased the lantern and cut the halter of a horse that was on deck.  The horse backed up and fell into the hold, breaking its leg.  The scow then came to shore and proved to be a smuggler, which accounted for the desire of its captain to escape close scrutiny.  Captain Poole paid for the horse.”

Carleton Place provided its battalion’s brass band, and in June, 1869, it was reported that “through the exertions of Lt. Colonel Crawford, M.P., 41st Battalion clothing and accoutrements have been obtained from the Government for the Band of the Battalion, whose headquarters are in Carleton Place.”  A remaining photograph of the band in uniform performing in front of a row of army tents, appears to have been made either during the yearly training period at Brockville in September 1869, or when on active service in 1870 at Cornwall.

RAIDS RENEWED

 

The renewal of a military campaign against Canada was approved in secrecy at what was called the ninth annual convention of the Fenian Brotherhood, held in December, 1869, in the city of New York.  Every American state at that time was said to have been represented by delegates.  Arms and ammunition estimated as sufficient to equip fifteen thousand men were smuggled in the following spring to storage depots between Ogdensburg and St. Albans.  Malone and St. Albans were selected as main Fenian northern mustering bases.  Canadian detection of these preparations led to the posting of five thousand men for a short time in April on Quebec’s borders facing New York and Vermont, where crossings into Canada could be made without water transportation.  Additional units were placed at Windsor and Sarnia.

In May over a thousand Fenians under their military leader and brotherhood president John O”Neill gathered as a vanguard at Franklin, Vermont.  When a border crossing from this point was repelled at Eccles Hill in the last week of May, with Fenian casualties, their leader O’Neill was placed under arrest, on re-entering his home country in his hasty retreat.  A smaller Fenian contingent from Malone occupied an entrenched Trout River position inside the Huntingdon border from which it was expelled with even greater ease and a few casualties among the invaders.

The Fenian plans proved to be unsuccessful at every turn.  They were confined by much nearer to adequate United States government political and military intervention, and were blocked by thorough Canadian defence measures.  After the failure of their efforts a number of Fenian leaders were arrested by United States authorities.  “General” John O’Neill was sentenced to six months imprisonment.  His third and final filibuster was an 1871 attempt to lead an expedition into Manitoba in support of the program of Louis Riel.

Canadian militia forces were rushed to main Ontario river border points when the Fenians began their moves in May of 1870 into Quebec’s Eastern Townships.  Principal Ontario places of attack were expected to be on the St. Lawrence River front at Cornwall and Prescott.  Orders for Ontario Militia units to occupy defence posts from Cornwall to Sarnia were sent by telegraph on May 24th.  In Eastern Ontario, men throughout the Ottawa and St. Lawrence valleys, already alerted, left Victoria Day celebrations under active service orders.

To Be Continued….

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK THIRTY-FIVE: CANADA’S CENTENNIAL (4)-Part Two of Three

Confederation’s Armed Defenders Recalled : Second Part

Carleton Place Canadian, 28 April, 1966

By Howard M. Brown

 

Carleton Place Volunteers

The company’s roll books list the men of the Carleton Place Rifle Company on active service at Brockville in 1866.  Service medals were worn long afterwards by many Fenian Raid veterans of this district, and their ultimate obituary notices recalled their response at this early time of homeland danger and attack.  There were fifty-seven of all ranks on the June active service roll of the Carleton Place Rifle company, including Captain James Poole, Lieutenant John Brown, Ensign Josiah Jones Bell, four sergeants, six corporals and a youthful bugler.  Since many descendants of this ‘noble fifty’, as they were termed on occasion in later years, now live in the Carleton Place area and other parts of Eastern Ontario, their names will be recalled here, with their occupations and approximate ages where these now have been found.

Captain Poole, then age 39, publisher of the Carleton Place Herald, may have become a familiar figure to regular readers of these occasional local history notes.  Lieutenant John Brown, age 32, succeeded his brother-in-law, Archibald McArthur in 1868 as head of the principal wholesale and retail merchandising business in Carleton Place and died ten years later.  Ensign Josiah Jones Bell, born in Carleton Place in 1845, a son of Robert Bell, who for some years was North Lanark’s member of the Canadian Legislative Assembly, had graduated from Queen’s University in 1864 and was that university’s oldest living graduate when he died at his Rockcliffe home in 1931, at age 86.  He was a journalist and, among other newspapers, a publisher of the Brockville Recorder.  Later he became an editor of publications of the Mines Department of Ottawa, and he maintained an active interest in early Canada including military history and Indian lore.  In the Red River Rebellion expedition to Fort Garry in 1870 under Garnet Wolseley,

Lieutenant Bell left Carleton Place to serve in Manitoba as an officer of the First Ontario Battalion of Rifles shortly before Fenian raiders assembled again in arms on the Quebec and Ontario border. 

William Morphy (1833-1873), sergeant, a son of local pioneer settlers William Morphy and Sarah Willis, had been treasurer of Beckwith township, including Carleton Place, and was a business real estate owner.  His stone residence, which he named Spring Side Hall, remains on Lake Avenue at Campbell Street.  Sergeant William H. Moore, then 39, ran a Carleton Place shoemaking business.  Sergeant Daniel McArthur, clerk, age 27, was a relative of Archibald McArthur, merchant and first owner of the town’s textile mill operated for over fifty years by the Bates & Innes firm.  Sergeant William Neelin (1828-1900), shoemaker, whose wife was pioneer John Morphy’s daughter Barbara, became a general merchant and real estate dealer.

The six corporals of the Carleton Place company serving during the 1866 raids included Robert Metcalf, age 32, a well known local hotel proprietor, and David McPherson and David McNab.  Corporal John M. Sinclair (1842-1926), then a medical student, born in Beckwith at Scotch Corners, was a doctor in Carleton Place for over thirty years.  Corporal James Kilpatrick, age 31, was a cooper, and Corporal William Patterson (1840-1908), was then a furniture maker and dealer and later also an undertaker, founder of the town’s present firm of that name.

The company’s fifteen year old buglar, Robert William Bell (1851-1923), a grandson of the Rev. William Bell of Perth, was the younger son of Robert Bell, the long-prominent Carleton Place figure in business and public affairs who was then the Inspector of Canal Revenues of the Canadian government.  Robert junior graduated as a medical doctor at McGill University in 1873 and practiced at Peterborough, where he was Lieut. Colonel of the 57th Battalion of militia.  His later professional career was in the administration of Ontario mental hospitals.  It was due to his aid, and to the sustained public honouring of these volunteers, that particulars of Carleton Place militia company roll books of Fenian Raid service were published in 1898 by Carleton Place Herald editor William H. Allen.  Its veterans of this area were parading then in Dominion Day celebrations.

There were forty-three privates in the ranks of the Carleton Place Rifle Company in its June, 1866, service on the St. Lawrence River front.  They included Maurice Burke (1839-1911), a cooper; Andrew Coleman, age 33, shoemaker; and James D. Coleman, 22, who already had been a soldier in the Union Army in the United States Civil War.  James Doherty Coleman, (1844-1919), of the Gillies lumber company at Carleton Place and Braeside and later a Manitoba senior employee of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, was the father of a family including C.P.R. president D. C. Coleman (1879-1956), E. H. Coleman, Canadian government deputy minister and ambassador; George T. Coleman, former Carleton Place mayor and senior railway official, and Mrs. A. R. Garson of Carleton Place. 

And then private William Cram, age 22, was a son of Duncan, Beckwith farmer.  William Dack was later a Carleton Place merchant.  John Doherty (1840-1891), son of William of Glen Isle, became a Beckwith farmer and operated a marble cutting and stone quarrying business.  William (‘Big Bill’) Duff, then age 25, ran his retail dairy and his lakeshore farm, which once included Lake Park, until his death in 1914.  William Enright, A. Adams, Peter Ferguson, Robert Fleming and Archibald Hamilton also were in the 1866 ranks.  William P. Gray, 26, was a painter, and John Henry (1838-1892), a Ramsay farmer near Carleton Place.  Ephriam Kilpatrick, age 18, was a cooper, as was Francis Lavallee.

Jacob Leslie (1835-1909), serving at age 31, was a furniture maker and undertaker.  His Carleton Place business was continued by his son George, who in turn was succeeded until 1951 by W. H. Matthews, a former mayor.  James Moore, 25, was a shoemaker and Archibald McCallum, 21, a sawmill worker, as was also Lachlan McCallum (1834-1915), who long was the captain of the big sawmill steamboat “The Enterprise.”  James McFadden, age 30, was a shoemaker; Drummond McNeely, 27, a carpenter; Nathaniel McNeely, 38, a blacksmith; and George McPherson, 26, a butcher and later a hotel-keeper.

Private James Moffatt, Absolem McCaffery, William McEwen, Alex. Romey, William Rorrison, Donald Stewart (‘Donald the Piper”), James Storie and David Williams were others of the Carleton Place ranks of ’66.  Private William Pattie, carpenter, building contractor and second mayor of Carleton Place, was then age 23; and William Rattray (1845-1894), Beckwith 11th Line farmer, was 21.  John Sumner, 17, was a son of John Sumner, merchant, who had been lieutenant colonel of the 3rd Carleton Battalion of the sedentary militia.  Patrick Tucker, 30, was long a Carleton Place shoemaker; and John Wilson, 19, was a son of Dr. William Wilson.

The Willis families were represented by four sons in the 1866 Fenian Raid defence service of the Carleton Place Rifle Company.  The youngest, Catin Willis, age 17, was a son of Catin Willis (1795-1869), pioneer Ramsay farmer near Carleton Place.  Richard Willis, 25, George E. Willis, 22, and James Willis, 21, were born on the farm of their father George Willis (1820-1892) at the west end of Lake Avenue.  George E. Willis, who lived until 1940 and the age of 96, was for some years a Carleton Place photographer.  Photographs made by him remain in many old family albums of this area.  (His son Stephen founded the Willis Business College in Ottawa.)  Richard, who was drowned in 1893 while duck hunting in the lower Mississippi Lake, was the father of the veteran Mississippi rivermen Henry and George Willis.  John Cavers, William Beck and William Cram, all of the Carleton Place area, returned from the United States in 1866 with Chicago’s  No.1Company of Volunteers for Canada to serve in their country’s defence.

To be continued…..

 

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

 

Confederation’s Armed Defenders Recalled : First Part

Carleton Place Canadian, 28 April, 1966

By Howard M. Brown

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued……

 

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK THIRTY-THREE : Canada’s Centennial (3)

 

 War Clouds Menaced Confederation—Canada

By Howard M. Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 14 April, 1966

 

In the last year of the founding of the Dominion of Canada, storm clouds surrounded the disturbed Canadian springtime of 1866.  To our forefathers of the towns and farms of the present provinces of Ontario and Quebec, rallying to the defence of their southern border, these storm signals gave new practical weight to the merits of forming a federal union with the provinces of their Atlantic neighbours.

Preserved among the remaining vivid Eastern Ontario pictures of Canada’s spirit of 1866 are the news and editorial columns of the Carleton Place weekly newspaper of that day.  They reflect the indignation and confidence of a province bracing itself to meet the threat of guerrilla attacks which might be made with the tolerance or tacit consent of United States authorities.  The generally similar view shown in newspapers and public attitudes in the future first Dominion of Canada in that troubled time is illustrated by such statements as these, made in this district’s widely circulated Carleton Place Herald:

“It appears almost incredible that the Fenian operations should have been allowed to be carried on in the States to so great a length as they have been.  But at latest reports the Washington authorities seem very little inclined to check their operations, and seem rather amused at the trouble, danger and expense to which the British provinces are subjected.  Mr. Seward (United States Secretary of State), may have to laugh on the other side of his mouth before the American government is done with Fenianism, its consequences and its responsibilities.”

“Prejudiced, although unfairly so, as the Americans are against us, we have but little to hope for or expect from their goodwill to us.  Indeed, without their countenance and support the present state of things could not have existed.  But in their own circumstances we have a reasonable guarantee that they will, if they have not already gone too far, stop the movement.  They know well too that the very first effect of a war with John Bull would be the total and irreparable loss of the fruits of their four years’ struggle with the South, with national bankruptcy and a long train of other evils.  We must not shut our eyes to the fact that if unhappily a war should take place with the United States, Britain and her colonies would suffer severely in the struggle.”

“At Ottawa during the past week guards have been placed at night on the armoury, the banks and the Railway Depot.  The city has a martial appearance.  Bugles are sounding, and the tramp of armed men is becoming familiar to our ears.  The number of volunteers in the city must now be over five hundred men.  There may be no actual necessity for this but it is better to be sure than sorry.

Large reinforcements from England are expected here shortly.  At present we have about ten thousand regulars in Canada, besides eleven thousand volunteers on duty.  Then there are at least fifteen thousand fully armed and ready at a moment’s notice, another eight thousand militia could soon be made available.  The Government has had an immense number of offers of veterans and others who are well drilled.”

A visitor’s impressions of the Carleton Place Rifle Company during its March, 1866 first call to arms were given in the Brockville Recorder, whose writer said:

“We learn from a gentleman who was travelling on the Brockville & Ottawa Railway that on Friday last a company of volunteers, fine looking men under Captain Poole, made their appearance at the Carleton Place railway station in full uniform, guns and bayonets in first best style.  Indeed a gentleman present said he never saw a better looking company of men, or arms better kept.  The company was led by the good old Scotch bag pipes and drum, well played.  The Captain and officers may be proud of their men.  If the interests of the country require it, this company will give a good account of themselves.  When the train started three cheers were given for the Queen, and three more for the Carleton Place volunteers.”

A brigade and divisional muster and review was held at this time (March 23 and 24) at Montreal.  Its proceedings, as reported by Captain Poole in the Carleton Place Herald, included imposition of a severe sentence of a court martial, later greatly reduced, for an unfortunate corporal of the Carleton Place Rifle Company:

“On Friday last, the Militia Brigade mustered at the City Hall in Montreal.  The sentence of the Court Martial on two of the volunteers belonging to the Shefford Light Infantry Company was read by the Assistant Adjutant General, George Smith.  The charge against the men was simply one of gross insubordination, and they were sentenced to sixty days imprisonment without hard labor.”

“On Saturday there was a ‘Grand Divisional Field Day’ of the whole garrison, regulars and volunteers.  The First Brigade, on the left, consisted of H. R. Prince Consort’s Own Rifle Brigade, the 25th.  King’s Own Borderers and the 30th Regiment.  The Second Brigade was composed of the Volunteer Militia, under command of Colonel Dyde, Brigadier.  The inspecting officer was Lieut. General Sir John Michel (then commanding Her Majesty’s forces in North America).”

“In Colonel Dyde’s staff we noticed Lieut. Colonel George Smith, A.A.G.  After the inspection the route of march was then taken up.  Each regiment was preceded by its band.  On completing a lengthy march by way of the following streets…., the regulars proceeded to the barracks and the volunteers turned into Craig Street at the French Square.”

“The volunteers then marched up to the Victoria Square, where the Brigade was drawn up in square of close column and the proceedings and sentence of a Court Martial on Corporal Patrick Tucker of the Carleton Place (C.W.) Rifles were read by Assistant Adjutant General George Smith.  The offence proved in this case was gross insubordination.  The sentence of the Court was ninety days imprisonment, the first and last seven days with hard labour.  At the conclusion of this unpleasant part of the day’s proceedings, the several corps marched off to their armories and dispersed.”

The thanks of Carleton Place to its volunteers at the end of their March service was offered at an oyster supper for the Rifle Company, held within the stone walls of William Kelly’s British Hotel at the corner of Bridge and High Streets, in an evening of songs and speeches.  One erring member of the Company, found after this event to have ‘persisted in wearing his uniform clothes for days together and even sleeping in them’, was fined five dollars with an alternative of ten days in jail.

Expectations of further dangers, which soon were to come, called for continued preparation and frontier watchfulness in the interval between March and June.  In their local prediction in the Carleton Place Herald three months before the June abortive invasion our chronicle Captain Poole wrote, in part:

“By recent orders from Headquarters the several companies relieved from active duty are required to assemble for drill twice a week, for which the non-commissioned officers and men are to receive each the sum of fifty cents for each drill:  the commissioned officers, nothing.  Until further orders the Carleton Place Rifle Company will assemble on Wednesdays and Saturdays at four o’clock.”

“The country is threatened with invasion by a reckless horde of robbers and scoundrels.  The danger may possibly be postponed but there is little doubt  that before many weeks it will come to the hard pinch, and we trust every volunteer will show himself to be A Man And A Soldier, and ‘rally round the flag’ in defence of his country and his home.”

The strains created by an aggressive United States and the threats from irregular forces within its borders were giving their unintended impetus to the union of the Province of Canada with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, then in its final stages of negotiation.  This was the Herald forecast:

“The idea of Confederation is making rapid strides in the Lower Provinces.  The prospect of ultimate success now amounts to almost a certainty.  The ‘blue noses’ are beginning to regard Canadians as friends and neighbours and are almost inclined to cultivate a closer relationship.  Canadian capital and enterprise would, it is believed, give a powerful stimulus to the progress of New Brunswick and the other colonies.  Again, the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty showed, too clearly to be misunderstood, the necessity of commercial union between the Provinces.  The feeling was made stronger by the avowed annexationist doctrines of some American politicians, and their supposed sympathy with the Fenian movement.  The demonstrations of the latter Order on the frontier, with their statements that they were determined to frustrate the Confederation scheme, sever the Colonies from Britain and erect them into a Republic, also have had their effect.”

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

 

Invasion Threatened When Local Units Trained

By Howard M. Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 31 March, 1966

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By mid-July it was announced:

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

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

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

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

(Totalling Almonte 107, Carleton Place 106).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK THIRTY-ONE : Canada History Week, July 1-7, 2013 : Canada’s Centennial (1)

Border Raids Promoted Confederation in Canada

By Howard Morton Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 17 March, 1966

 

Community preparations for Confederation Centennial Celebrations are on the way throughout Canada.  They have begun already to reflect a new degree of the energy and self-respect gained by every nation which honours its great men and their deeds, and by every district and community which shows a sense of pride in its past accomplishments and a confidence in its future.

The uniting of Canada from the Atlantic to the West, and then to the Pacific and the Arctic Oceans, was not heralded only by the wise plans of our elected representatives, bewhiskered and top-hatted, meeting a century ago in sessions of hard bargaining and minor ceremony.  It came first from urgent needs of the town and country people of Ontario and Quebec, and those of the Atlantic provinces.  Their most pressing needs had become those of sheer self-preservation in a time of increasing difficulty.  The way out was seen at last to be a joining of British North American colonies into a confederation having the strength and will to survive and grow.  The amazing transformation which was to appear across much of the northern half of North America in the short space of one hundred years remained undreamed in the land which was to become second in geographical size to only the present union of Russia and second in material standards of living to only its United States southern neighbour.

The most dramatic of the pressures which rallied public unity and led to the forming of the infant federal union was one which came particularly close to home in this part of Canada.  It was a threat of long standing which reached its final stage in the last attacks to be made on our borders by armed forces of an enemy.  Canadian preparations and United States vaccilation reduced these last American-based assaults upon Canada to the proportions of guerrilla raids, made in the year before Confederation and renewed four years later.  They were met and repelled by our own volunteer soldiers, backed and aided by British troops.  These exploratory tests, launched with the ill-concealed encouragement of United States advocates of northern expansion, hastened and strengthened the Confederation which molded Canada into a nation united from its outset by fires of adversity.

The attempted Canadian invasions of 1866 and 1870 remain well remembered in local traditions in Ontario and Quebec as the now remote Fenian Raids.  Their backgrounds lay in the destructive horrors of the United States Civil War, which in 1861 introduced a decade of crisis in Canada.  Northern United States attitudes and conduct on the high seas, coupled with the needs of trade, brought immediate critical relations between Great Britain and the United States and the first large scale organization of a trained Canadian volunteer militia.

Apprehension remained at the end of the American Civil War in 1865 that restless Northern elements might turn to the harassment of their Canadian and other British colonial neighbours.  The move from the United States soon came.  It centered in an organization calling itself the Fenian Brotherhood, formed to promote by force the separation of Ireland from Great Britain.  Members of this Irish separatist group in the United States were joined at the end of the Civil War by thousands of demobilized Irish Americans and other unsettled adventurers ready for further military action.

Their leaders late in 1865 put in motion ambitious plans for raising a private army of sufficient strength to conquer and subvert at least a part of the adjoining British colonies.  They arrogantly claimed that, after conversion of these supposedly downtrodden colonies into a free Irish republic, their Irish Canada with the aid of other nations would drive the British eventually by force of arms from the motherland of Ireland.

The president of the United States was the deplorable and later impeached Andrew Johnson of Tennessee.  United States government authorities appeared to ignore and failed to stop the arming and drilling of thousands of American Fenian recruits at points extending from New Brunswick’s borders to the Niagara and western river frontiers of Canada.  Our Canadian government late in 1865 assigned volunteer militia units to several months of winter guard duty at Prescott, Niagara, Windsor and Sarnia.  The Brockville Rifle Company also served on night guard at Brockville from December until the first general call to the frontier in the following March.  A year earlier it had been one of the units of the forces guarding western points from Amherstburg to Sarnia, to prevent any repetition of a secretly planned Confederate raid from the Canadian side such as had been made on St. Albans, Vermont.

The Fenian forces gathered and were armed in the spring of 1866 at border mustering centres including Calais and Eastport in Maine, St. Albans and other places in northern Vermont, and in upper New York State at Malone, Potsdam and Ogdensburg and Cape Vincent, Oswego and Rochester.  Western and southern Fenian contingents arrived at Detroit, Cleveland, Toledo, Erie and Buffalo.  When a New Brunswick Fenian foray was blocked by both British and United States naval and military intervention, a three-pronged campaign against Canada was prepared.  One force was to enter at Fort Erie and cut canal and railway communications.  One was to cross at Prescott with Ottawa as its objective.  The third hoped to advance through the Eastern Townships on Montreal.

The Canadian government of the united present provinces of Ontario and Quebec had introduced an urgent militia bill when the early border stresses of the Civil War appeared.  It was designed to provide for a trained force of 50,000 men, raised by selective service if necessary, as compared to a number of not more than five thousand volunteers covered by the initial Canadian military training law of 1855.  The government was defeated on this conscription issue of 1862 but militia expansion began.  A similar act was passed at a later stage of the American war.  Voluntary enlistments and Fenian defeats made it unnecessary to invoke its provisions of compulsion for the balloted enrolments, which were initiated but not enforced.

Defence action in 1866 began against threatened March attacks which failed to materialize.  Ten thousand volunteers were called up at militia centres throughout the area of Ontario and Quebec, then in its last year as the Province of Canada.  The greater part of this number was dispatched to guard the united province’s long and vulnerable southern approaches.  Fourteen thousand men had responded to the call.  Among those alerted for action were seven Lanark and Leeds companies forming a provisional battalion under Major James Crawford of Brockville.  It was composed of the rifle and infantry companies of both Perth and Brockville, the Carleton Place Rifle Company under Captain James C. Poole, the Almonte Infantry Company under Captain James D. Gemmill, and the Gananoque Rifle Company.  Severe cold and several weeks of frosty Canadian guard and drilling duties postponed the Fenian invasion.

The Main Attack

The main attack came three months later when an advance contingent of more than one thousand Fenians, led by their general John O’Neill, crossed the Niagara River by boat from Buffalo and entered Canada at the first of June near Fort Erie.  They were met the next day by a slightly larger force of Canadian militiamen.  In the Battle of Ridgeway and in a Fort Erie engagement, Canadian casualties were about ten killed and forty wounded.  Among those of the ranks of the Queen’s Own Rifles killed in the action at Ridgeway was John H. Mewburn, university student, age 21, only son of Harrison C. Mewburn who at this time was headmaster of the Carleton Place grammar school.  With losses close to twice the Canadian number and with laggard American military prevention of their reinforcement, the Fenians withdrew across the river.

From Vermont about one thousand of the Fenians who had gathered at St. Albans entered the Eastern Townships on June 4.  Until effective Canadian forces reached the area, they plundered the neighbourhood of Frelighsburg, Pigeon Hill, and St. Armand for several days.  With slight losses they withdrew due to lack of reinforcements.  After the launching of these unsuccessful Canadian raids, American authorities tardily disarmed and dispersed the main border forces of these invaders, and charged and released on bail a number of their leaders. 

The thrust of the third prong of Fenian attack, intended along the St. Lawrence front between Kingston and Cornwall, failed to develop when all troops available in the area of Eastern Ontario were placed on active service to oppose it.  Militia companies and units of British regiments joined in the defence of Kingston, Prescott and Cornwall, in all about three thousand at Kingston, two thousand at Prescott and two thousand at Cornwall.  Brockville river front and railway communications were protected by the provisional battalion which already had been called up in March, formed of the Brockville, Perth, Carleton Place, Almonte and Gananoque companies.  Most of the Canadian militia at the end of the 1866 Fenian Raids was released after about three weeks’ active service.  The remainder continued on guard duty for periods up to six months.

United States authorities provided railway transportation for some thousands of the Fenian forces to their home towns from points including Buffalo, Malone and St. Albans.  A July resolution passed by the House of Representatives reflected United States attitudes by recommending suspension of proceedings in the United States courts on all charges against Fenians wherever possible and sought release of Canada’s Fenian prisoners who had been captured in their unprovoked armed assaults upon this province. 

The prisoners captured at Fort Erie were removed to Toronto where on preliminary inquiry about forty were discharged and deported.  Trials of forty remanded prisoners opened in Toronto in October before Mr. Justice John Wilson and a jury, and continued until January.  The judge, a native of Lanark County, had himself in his youth been tried as a principal in the fatal Wilson-Lyons duel at Perth.  Half of these accused were acquitted.  The remainder, convicted of high treason in the case of British subjects and the rest under a law passed for such cases during the Canadian Rebellion period, were sentenced to be hanged.  After several of the convictions were appealed unsuccessfully, the sentences all were commuted to varying terms of imprisonment in Portsmouth Penitentiary at Kingston, and within a few years the last had been released.  Three of six convicted Missiquoi County Fenian prisoners also had been sentenced to be hanged, when  fourteen had been tried at Sweetsburg.

One of the Canadian estimates of this time of stress was that of Captain James Poole in his Carleton Place Herald.  While advocating moderation in punishment of the captured “dastard Fenian foes”, he declared in retrospect:

“Brother Jonathan has had his eye on Canada for a long time past, and though we read much about ‘friendly relations’ they exist only on paper.  Both the American government and Press have done all they could, with safety to themselves, to encourage the Fenians in an attack on Canada.  Had they not been afraid of a growl from the British Lion they would have done more.”

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK THIRTY

Late W. J. Welsh Recalls Story of Fire Department

By Howard Morton Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 04 July, 1963

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old Members

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steamboat Picnics

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

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

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

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

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

Annual Ball

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

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

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

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

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

Baldy

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK TWENTY-NINE

Carleton Place’s Great Fire Occurred in 1910

By Howard M. Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 27 June, 1963

 

Stories of former days in the long and distinguished record of the Ocean Wave Fire Company of Carleton Place, founded in 1875, are continued in this instalment.

It recalls the years of the eighteen eighties, and this town’s perilous fire of 1910, in the times when steam fire engines and equipment were raced to the scene of action by galloping fire horses.

Officers of the Ocean Wave Fire Company in the early eighteen eighties were William Patterson, captain; George Warren, first lieutenant; George Crawford, second lieutenant; John R. Galvin, secretary; William Rogers, treasurer; and John Flett, company engineer.  The grants of the Carleton Place Council to the fire company at that time were $200 a year.  The company usually had about 25 or 30 members; 35 was the membership attending its annual meeting in 1882.  Leaders of the ld days subsequently included Tom Nagle, Dave Moffatt, Tom Lever, Jim Warren, Alex McLaren and the great Billy McIlquham.

After the years of the hand pumpers, the purchase of a steam fire engine finally was authorized by an 1884 bylaw to raise $6,000 for this purpose.  A brick fire hall, still standing, had been built on Bridge Street at the end of William Street.  Several large tanks were situated at points distant from the river to serve as fire engine water reservoirs.

The new fire engine was unable to save the inflammable new tannery and wool pulling plant of John F. Cram and Donald Munro, burned in 1886 with a fire loss of $10,000.  Spectacular fire in the town of the nineties included the destruction of the  Moffatt & Cavers shingle mill and most of the firm’s planning mill, and two losses of groups of Bridge Street retail shops.  The plant and office of this newspaper, then named the Central Canadian and located at the corner of Bridge and Elgin Streets, were consumed by fire forty years ago.

Keen public interest and pride was taken not only in the speed and skill of the Ocean Wave firemen but also in the horses which drew the fire fighting equipment of a generation ago.  A glimpse of one of many similar races to smaller fires is given in a Carleton Place Herald report of a 1910 fire which threatened to destroy St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Appleton several weeks before the great Carleton Place fire disaster of that year:

“The town team, driven by James Walters, took the big fire engine to Appleton – four miles – on Saturday night in the dark in thirty-five minutes, and there were four men on the engine.  Mr. J. M. Brown, with one horse, took a load of firemen and a hose cart down in half an hour, and signaled for water thirty-seven minutes after leaving the hall here.”

As in the country’s other larger towns and cities of fifty years ago, the pounding gallop to a Carleton Place fire by great teams of horses, drawing heavy brass-stacked fire engines belching their smoke and fire, and clanging and rattling hook and ladder wagons manned with firemen, brought a never to be forgotten wave of excitement to young and old alike.  To youthful onlookers it was a latter-day Roman chariot race, in a vital and perhaps desperate cause.

Battle Against Disaster

This town’s greatest fire came in mid May of 1910, and rode to its crescendo on the peak of a heavy gale.  It came about the time predicted for the reappearance of Halley’s Comet.  Some when half-awakening to its glare, thought they were viewing the light of the comet.  Within four hours after midnight about thirty buildings were destroyed, most of them residences.  Property losses in 1910 values were estimated at over $150,000.  Through heroic work by the town fire department, the Canadian Pacific Railway fire force and Almonte firemen with their fire engine, aided by the courageous and frantic efforts of householders and others, a greater part of the south and east sides of the town was saved from equal devastation. 

The fire started on Bridge Street in a pair of retail stores at Albert Street, from a cause not known.  Fanned by a high southwest wind it swept an area equaling about two blocks, centred  in the Albert, Beckwith, Judson and Franklin Streets section.  The block bounded by these four streets was reduced completely to ashes and ruin.

Zion Presbyterian Church, valued at over $35,000 with its additions and renovations of the previous two years was wholly destroyed.  Other public and church buildings bunred down, in addition to retail stores, were the curling rink, the militia drill shed, the Masonic Temple and St. Andrew’s and Zion church manses.

A total loss at the residence of Mrs. James Gillies, on the site at Franklin and Judson Streets where fire had struck over thirty years earlier, was set at $18.000.  For some time the fire illuminated the windswept night sky to an extent at which in Almonte and more distant points a newspaper could be read in its light.

The Action

These were some of the tactical incidents and sidelights of this fire of over fifty years ago, as told by William H. Allen in the Carleton Place Herald:

“The first water supply came from the new engine, which played two good streams from the bridge.  The old fire engine also played two streams from the bridge but gave out early in the fight, the lift being too much for her.  Two streams were laid from Brown’s, one from the pump at the light station and one from the grist mill.  Another stream came from Mr. Nichols planning mill and still another from the Bates & Innes mill, to which the C.P.R. brigade attached their hose and held the fire from spreading across the tracks.

Early in the night Mayor Albert Cram telephoned Almonte for aid.  Our neighbour at great risk sent over their fire engine and a squad of men, the run being made over at a mile a minute rate by a locomotive and a flat car with Howard Moffatt at the throttle.  The Almonte engine, was placed on Judson Street.  As all the own hose were in service one of Brown’s pumps had to be cut off to give sufficient hose to the Almonte engine, which was placed below Brown’s mill.  It did excellent service for some hours.

Away over the track the tower of Bates & Innes mill took fire and was saved after a hard fight.  Many houses on William Street were covered with embers, but the careful work of the owners prevented any outbreak.  Half a mile further the granary and driveshed of Mr. Herbert Morphy took fire and was swept, the barns nearby being saved with difficulty.

The firemen had a desperate fight with Zion Church manse.  Here there would have been no hope for the wooden houses adjoining, and the Methodist parsonage and church and the Brown mills with dwellings would all have been in line.

The uniforms and arms of the volunteers were removed from the drill shed, but some blank ammunition kept up a mournful fusillade when the fire reached it.  The only thing standing in the block bounded by Beckwith, Albert, Judson and Franklin streets is a lattice-work in the rear of Mrs. Gillies home.

Norman McNabb got caught in the bellrope when sounding the alarm from Zion Church.  He had a narrow escape from strangling and has a sore neck.  We regret to observe that there were thieves among the crowd, and many articles were afterwards lost that had been saved from the flames.”

Reminiscences of former generations of the men of the Ocean Wave Fire Company at work and in their lighter moments at play, as written about 50 years ago by the great, old sportsman W. J. ‘Baldy’ Welsh, will conclude the present group of stories of that memorable era of the town’s fire fighters.

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK TWENTY-EIGHT

Describe Business Places 100 Years Ago

By Howard Morton Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 16 May, 1963

 

Start of High Street

On the Perth road, now High Street, a dozen of the village’s buildings of 1863 extended from Bridge Street along the north side of the road for a distance of about two blocks.  There was only one building on its south side, the large stone house torn down several years ago, at the corner of Water Street.  It was built in 1861 by John Sumner, merchant, who earlier at Ashton had been also a magistrate and Lieutenant Colonel of the 3rd Battalion.  Carleton Militia.  Beyond this short section of High Street was farm land, including the farms of John McRostie, Peter Cram, the Manny Nowlan estate and David Moffatt.  The stone farm houses of John McRostie and David Moffatt are now the J. H. Dack and Chamney Cook residences.

The buildings on the north side of High Street were rented houses owned by John McEwen, William Neelin, William Moore and Henry Wilson; and the homes of Mrs. John Bell, Arthur Moore and James McDiarmid; together with Joseph Pittard’s wagon shop, and two doors west of it near the future Thomas Street corner, the new foundry enterprise of David Findlay.

Bell Street Businesses

Bell Street an even century ago had some twenty five buildings scattered along its present four blocks.  William Street already had a similar number.  The section from Bell Street north to the Town Line Road, as the first subdivision of the future town, had most of its streets laid out as at present, but north of William Street they held in all only five or six houses.

The block of Bell Street next to Bridge Street was the second early business section of the town.  The first business there had been started about thirty-five years before this time by Robert Bell, together with his elder brother John and assisted for some years by his younger brother James, sons of the Rev. William Bell of Perth.

The new Sumner Arcade on its Bridge Street corner was built on the site of the original 1829 store of Robert Bell, in which the post office once had been located for many years.  The Sumner store was adjoined by several frame shops, William Moore’s tavern, later run by Absolem McCaffery, John McEwen’s hand weaving establishment, Mrs. James Morphy’s home, and near James Street, the late “King James” Morphy’s shoemaking shop.

On the south side of this Bell Street block were several shops with living quarters, including buildings owned by Mrs. Morphy and William Muirhead.  Down by the river side was an old tannery, once owned and possibly built by Robert Bell.  It had been owned for some years by William Morphy junior and was bought in 1861 by Brice McNeely, who built the present stone building there where he continued a leather tanning business for forty years or more.  At the other end of the block rose the venerable Hurd’s Hall, a relatively large two storey frame building then newly built, with its upper floor serving as the first public concert and meeting hall of the village other than the churches.  It was built by the young Dr. William Hurd, son-in-law of James Rosamond.  He had his medical offices there and lived in the former James Rosamond stone residence still standing on the corner across the street.

Going east on Bell Street, the second block from Bridge Street was occupied by the homes of Dr. Hurd and William Muirhead and, on the river near the present electric power plant site, by the sawmill owned by William Muirhead and leased then by Robert Gray.  The third block, between Edmond and Baines Streets, had the large frame Church of England on its north side, and on the south side Robert Gray’s house and a building near the river owned by William Muirhead and apparently occupied in connection with the sawmill.  On Bell Street’s last block, the north side had the home of Absolem McCaffrey, grocer and liquor dealer, the Wilson stone house then occupied by its builder, Dr. William Wilson, and a rented house owned by Robert Bell.  On the river side of Bell Street here there were two rented houses and the home and wagon shop of George McPherson, bailiff and carriage maker.

William Street and The Railroad

North of Bell Street, William Street extended east for five blocks from Bridge Street.  It was a route to the railway station, and was occupied by about thirty buildings, almost all on the north side of the street.  Its tradesmen’s shops included two cabinet shops, a blacksmith shop, a wagon shop and two shoemaker’s shops.  Residents owning their homes on William Street included William Peden and Patrick Struthers, general merchants; Joseph Bond and Horatio Nelson Docherty, shoe makers; Richard Gilhuly, blacksmith; Walter Scott, tailor; Mrs. David Pattie and Henry Wilson.

The stone Presbyterian church, later to be occupied by the St. Andrews congregation, and the old Cameronian Presbyterian church stood at either end of the last block which extends to the railway line.  The railway station for the line opened four years earlier from Brockville to Almonte and at this time in course of construction to Arnprior, stood beyond the eastern side of the village at about the site of the present Legion Hall.  A long shed beside it held cordwood used for locomotive engine fuel, and the station master’s residence was nearby toward the Town Line Road.

George Strett, then called Boswell, was open in 1863 from Bridge Street east to the railway station and Morphy Street ran from Bridge to Baines St.  This section to the Town Line Road was not built on, except for three lone houses on George Street.  Homes on the Ramsay Township side of the Town Line Road and east of Bridge Street were those of Mrs. John Tweedie, Frank Lavallee, cooper, and James Dunlop, cabinet maker and millwright.

Residents Of A Century Ago

Among other residents sharing the Carleton Place village scene of a century ago were the families of Jacob Leslie, cabinet maker; George and Robert McLean and Henry Beck, carpenters;  Alexander Dalgety, carpenter, Hugh McLeod, miller; James Duncan and Duncan McGregor, blacksmiths; Joseph Gilhuly, carriage maker; James McFadden, and William Moore, shoemakers; also William Kelly, saloon keeper; William Paisley, carter; John Cameron, John Neil and Robert Knox, labourers; William Bradley, weaver, and William Nowlan, painter; Joseph Thompson, railway switchman; Thomas Hughes, station master and Frederick S. Haight, M.A., school master.

Resident clergymen were the Revs. John McKinnon, Presbyterian; E. H. Masey-Baker, Anglican; and Lawrence Halcroft, Baptist.  Younger tradesmen of Carleton Place who the census year of 1861 were unmarried employees and apprentices included William Taylor, tinsmith; Alex Ferguson, George Griffith and Thomas Garland, blacksmiths; James Munro and William Laidlaw, carpenters; Henry Cram and Thomas Code, carriage makers; also James Moore and William Ferguson, shoemakers; Richard Willis, labourer; Charles Sumner, chemist; and William Metcalf, painter.  David Moffatt, Moses Neilson and James Scott were apprentice printers and John Brown, Finlay McEwen and James Patterson were clerks.

There were about a dozen residences of stone construction within the central area of the Carleton Place of 1863.  They included the homes of Hugh Boulton, Jr. grist mill owner (later Horace Brown); Dr. William Hurd (formerly James  Rosamond’s and later William Muirhead’s), Napoleon Lavallee and Robert Metcalf, hotel keepers; Archibald McArthur, merchant; Allan McDonald, carding mill owner; Duncan McGregor, blacksmith; James Poole, publisher; John Sumner, merchant; Henry Wilson and Dr. William Wilson.