Early Beckwith Settlers Included York Chasseur Men, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 21 February, 1957

This is the third in a series on early life in Beckwith Township prepared by the historian, Howard M. Brown.

 Settlement Day

Predominence in pioneer Beckwith of Scots “having the Gaelic” was limited by families coming from Ireland. These outnumbered annual arrivals from Scotland for several years after 1818, and within three or four years had brought a roughly equal division of numbers of the township’s farms between Irish Episcopelians and Scottish Presbyterians. The number from England remained small, mainly the demobilized war veterans.

A glance at one of the varied problems met by the administrators of settlement operations is permitted by a letter from the Earl of Bathurst, Secretary for the Colonies, to the Duke of Richmond who in the same year died here near the village previously named for him. Dated Downing Street, February 13, 1819, it refers to the undesirable reputation of men of a regiment of whom over twenty-five were offered land in 1819 in a section of Beckwith township between the two lower Mississippi Lakes and present Highway 29:

“My Lord,____The Prince Regent having been pleased to direct that the York Chasseurs should be disbanded in Lower Canada, the Regiment has been ordered from Jamaica for that purpose. On their arrival Your Grace will ascertain what number of the men are disposed to accept of Grants of Land in the Province, and will adopt the necessary measures for locating them in those parts of the Province best calculated for such a Settlement.

Your Grace is no doubt aware that the men composing this corps are to a great degree deserters and men otherwise of doubful character. It will be expedient therefore, in disbanding them in the Province, to prevent as far as possible the interference of the more ill-conducted individuals with the settlements already established.

The reports of the officers of the Corps will afford the means of distinguishing those who are most worthy of encouragement as settlers. With respect to the other it would certainly be more desirable that every facility should be given to their removal out of the Province. It is with this view that the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury have made provision, in their minute of which an extract is enclosed, for a pecuniary payment in liew of their rations. Your Grace will see the necessity of not making such a payment except under a reasonable expectation that the persons receiving it will without delay take their departure.”

Some half dozen of these “most worthy” men out of the ranks of the York Chasseurs remained in Beckwith township, with locations along the present road from Highway 29 to and including Lake Park, at least long enough to qualify for patent grants. Two died before the end of their first three year term of occupation of their land.

A bright picture of local progress is painted by the Earl of Dalhousie, the succeeding Governor General and Commander in Chief of British North America, after his visit in 1820 to the new settlements. Writing in September from Sorel to Sir Peregrine Maitland, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, he says in part:

“Perth and Beckwith already shew what the whole of these townships severally will be, abounding in population and in produce. When I was there the harvest was getting in, and they all informed me that there was not a settler from Beckwith to Perth around them who might not have one half of his crop as surplus, after setting aside sufficient for his family and seed for next year. The people from Lanark, 1,200 going there, will afford a market for that surplus, and the money paid to them by order from Government will provide the funds. Thus these settlements will benefit each other.

The impediments in their way are the want of roads leading through them. I hope we may contrive to give some effectual assistance to this. But the serious evil appears to me to be the system of Crown and Clergy reserves. I cannot but think this an unwise plan. I do not however exactly know upon what views it has been adopted, and I should feel myself obliged to you to inform me ; as Cockburn has mentioned to me that he believes it to proceed from recommendation of yours in which the late Duke of Richmond concurred.

……In the wish to encourage these new settlements I gave 200 Pounds at Richmond to open the great line of road to Beckwith store, 200 Pounds at Perth to open also towards Beckwith, and 200 Pounds to clear it into the Lanark township from Perth, twelve miles if it being already fit for wagons in that direction. Next season I will repeat this, provided your Legislature shall vote us some efficient aid to that main line from Richmond landing place, at the falls of the Ottawa Chaudiere, to Kingston.”

A Case of Law Enforcement

The beginning of the local administration of justice in the district is shown in one of its settings by the following petition on the conviction of Patrick Nowlan, Beckwith innkeeper, at the future Franktown, addressed by the alleged offender to Sir Peregrine Maitland and dated Beckwith, October 16, 1820:

“Your petitioner, having been recommended by Colonel Burge to his late Excellency the Duke of Richmond, drew land agreeably thereto in the Township of Beckwith, and by his Excellency’s wishes took out a Tavern Licence for the accomodation of the public.

On his Excellency the Earl of Dalhousie’s way with Colonel Cockburn from Richmond to Perth his Excellency called at Petitioner’s place and stopped one day, and was well pleased with his accommodation.

Your petitioner’s neighbour Thomas Wickham, being a Tavern Keeper, through spite and malice watched his opportunity and seeing some people go to the King’s Store to draw some articles and they were getting some Liquor not agreeably to the Licence of Petitioner, he made Information that your Petitioner was selling Liquor as a Store Keeper and not as a Tavern Keeper. Consequently Petitioner has been fined twenty pounds, with costs.

A copy of George Brooks affidavit sworn at Perth on 23rd September 1820 states : George Brooks do swear he went on or about the 10th of September last for a grinding stone to Patrick Nowlan, Tavern Keeper being in charge of the King’s Store. He called for some spirits, when he got a half pint and drank in said house, and the said Patrick Nowlan filled a small jug of spirits and gave i to me in a small vessel for the nourishment of the men that was to carry the stone with me home, also which spirits he never charged me for. (signed) George Brooks.

John Rice, being sworn at Perth 23rd September 1820 states that the said John Rice and Thomas Barracklough, the postboy, being on their way from Richmond to Perth with the Post, called in at Patrick Nowlan’s Tavern, called for a quart of spirits, set down and rested ourselves, drank what we wished, and put the remainder in a Bottle for their Nourishment on the road to Perth.

Petitioner humbly solicits your Excellency may be humanely pleased to take his case into your favorable consideration and have the fine mitigated. Petitioner, having a numerous family to support, feels himself very much distressed to pay the fine as petitioner has layed out a great deal of money to accomodate the Public, as it is fifteen miles from any accommodation on any side of him. (signed) Patt Nowlan. P.S. Petitioner now has a Store Licence, also his Tavern Licence specifies to be consumed in his house.”

Accompanying official correspondence indicated that, following policy of the Inspector General, prosecutions had not been taken in the past under similar circumstances in neighbouring jurisdictions, and that, on being so advised, convicting magistrate Thom, Powell and MacMillen suspended an execution on the effects of the Beckwith innkeeper.