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……

 

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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.”

Eagles And Vultures Once Flew Around Mississippi Lake by Howard Brown, from the Carleton Place Canadian, December 22, 1955

“The Canadian is fortunate in receiving a number of articles from Howard Brown of Ottawa concerning early hunting and fishing stories around Carleton Place.  The series includes one on the first game club, deer hunting, bird protection, Mississippi fishing, the beaver, wildcat and lynx, introduction of pickerel to the Mississippi.  The first article follows:

 Hunting and Fishing Stories of our Grandfathers

Lanark and Renfrew counties, well supplied with woods, lakes and marshes, have a record as a favourite fishing and hunting district which antedates their first English speaking settlement.  Referring to the immediate neighbourhood of Carleton Place, William Bell, pioneer Lanark County pastor and an observant man if not an experienced fisher or hunter, wrote soon after his 1817 arrival at Perth:

“The Mississippi Lake, its length about 12 miles and its breadth varying from four miles to half a mile, affords an abundance of fish for the settlers in the neighbourhood, who kill them with spears in great numbers in the spring when ascending the river to spawn.  Some of the islands in the lake are still inhabited by Indians, whose hunting ground is on the north side and who are far from being pleased with the encroachments our settlers are making on their territories.

The animals most troublesome to the farmers are squirrels, brown and grey, equally destructive to crops both in fields and gardens.  They do most mischief in the spring by taking the seed up out of the ground.  I have seen a field of Indian corn entirely ruined by them so that it was necessary to plant it a second and even a third time.  The number killed by some farmers in a year almost exceeds belief.  There is another species called the black squirrel but it seems scarce, being seldom taken.

Of birds there are many kinds.  The principal are eagles, vultures, owls, night hawks, fish hawks, cranes, geese, wild ducks, partridges, snow birds, teal, wild pigeons, blackbirds, thrushes, larks and various other kinds.  The wood pigeons pass to the northward in the spring and return in the fall in immense numbers.  Great numbers of them are taken in nets, but they are more frequently shot, and are generally found to be fat and good eating.  When they happen to alight upon a field they scarcely leave a grain, if not disturbed.”

The story of these famous clouds of passenger pigeons, which usually frequented wooded regions rather than farmers’ fields and which, at 40 cents a pair, were still sold on the Ottawa market in the 1870’s, is well known.  After wanton whole sale killing they were exterminated from the continent to the last bird.  Some larger fur bearing animals, such as the marten and fisher, the lynx and the otter, soon retreated in these counties, like the Indians themselves, before the axe and the plough.

 First Game Protective Club:

 Forty years after the white man had settled in the local scene to dispossess the North American Indian, the second generation in this area, had begun to lessen the seeming abundance of some useful wild animals and birds to a point at which a local Game Protective Club was undertaking enforcement of existing legislation (19-20 Vic. C, 94) for their preservation.  An 1859 Carleton Place announcement gave notice that a sportsmen’s club, composed of persons resident in this and adjoining townships and prepared to prosecute and punish breaches of the game laws “exists in this village as some unseasonable slaughters of game may yet learn to their cost.  The Club has thought proper to offer a reward of $5 to be paid by the Treasurer of the club to any person giving such information as shall ensure the conviction of offenders.  The company have also employed a Lawyer to conduct their business and attend to the prosecution of all parties complained of without respect of persons.”

 The seasons of prohibited hunting still left a six months open deer and moose season from August to January, six months of grouse or partridge hunting from September to February, and gave no protection for waterfowl beyond an eleven week closed season from mid-April to the end of July for “Wild Swan, Goose, Duck of kinds known as Mallard, Grey Duck, Black Duck and all kinds of Teal.”

 An 1862 visitor observed: “There are few villages in the interior, off the main streams the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa, that can rival Carleton Place in scenery and we know of few places where a day or two’s fun can be better appreciated than up on the Mississippi Lake.  In fact fishing and hunting has become almost an institution among the inhabitants and the fame of the Mississippi Pike and Ducks and we may add Deers or Dears, has reached distant sections of the Front.”

 The Game Protective Club, interested chiefly in increasing the deer population, became the Lanark and Renfrew Game Protection Society, as formally constituted at a March 1861 meeting of district deer hunters at Pakenham, home town of the then retired Andrew Dickson, prominent as a deer hunter as well as in Eastern Upper Canada public affairs. 

Cases of convictions for winter killing of deer in the closed season were cited at the Society’s meetings.  “A Law Abiding Hunter” wrote to the deer-hunting editor of the Carleton Place Herald at the end of the 1861-62 season:

 “It is estimated that upwards of 700 deers were butchered on the crust last winter and spring in the Counties of Lanark and Renfrew, and that about 150 deer have been killed in these counties in the past year during the time allowed by law.  In settlements where liquor can be procured the most of the venison that the Indians kill is sold to procure whisky.  It is stated that one Indian, who stopped near Arnprior, killed no less than 90 deers on the crust last winter and spring – a crime.”

Early court records of deer hunting in the two counties were not limited to cases for deterring hunting out of season.  Others concerned appropriation of hounds or of the hunter’s quarry.  In an 1865 trial at Almonte dealing with an October deer hunt at White Lake, magistrates James Rosamond and John Menzies, after hearing many witnesses, dismissed a charge based on the information and complaint of a Pakenham resident to the effect that James Poole, W. Morphy and James Cram of Carleton Place “did with force of arms take and carry away one deer the property of John McManagle.”  The implication of the decision seemed to be that hunters stationed at a lakeshore in shooting and attempting to keep possession of deer which had been run out by another hunting party did so at their peril.

Remarkably large packs of dogs were maintained by some deer hunters.  Andrew Dickson, ex-sheriff of the United Counties and onetime warden of the Provincial penitentiary at Kingston, was once reported to be the owner of over thirty.  In the same period large numbers were kept by James Poole of Carleton Place.  A granddaughter’s account of Andrew Dickson’s last farewell to hunting and to his dogs is given in Senator Andrew Haydon’s Pioneer Sketches in the District of Bathurst.

     The scene is in 1868 at the Dickson home in Pakenham :

“The last time I saw my grandfather was just a week before he died.  The dogs had broken out of their kennels and rushed into the house, Sport, the favourite, on the bed, the place of honor, earned by years of devotion, and the other dogs with noses resting on the quilt, and on the gray old plaid they had so often followed.  The tears ran down his face, but he beckoned to me.  I took the whistle, which I could hardly use for crying, I led the way to the kennel, but Sport would not come.”

     In the early 1880’s the district game supply and the hunting restrictions both continued to be generous to the hunter.  A pair of hunters are reported returning to Carleton Place from a five week deer hunt in which they shot forty deer, followed by an advertisement “Good Venison for Sale,”  James Presley opposite the Methodist Church, Carleton Place.  Moose in the Upper Ottawa were meeting a similar onslaught which they could less readily withstand.  A Carleton Place “Protect the Moose” editorial May 1887 said:

     “Steps are being taken to have the Governments enforce more stringently the laws for the protection of this noble game.  As an instance of the terrible slaughter of moose deer that has gone on in the Upper Ottawa this season, it is mentioned that Montreal man who hunted on the Mississippi River killed 27.  A Pembroke man killed 40.  It is computed that all the carcasses would weight 53,600 pounds.  The Montreal man killed his moose during the legal season, but his companion killed during month of March and is reported to be killing yet.”

     Restrictions following 1887 included in the case of deer a season limit of 3 to 5 per person depending on the size of the hunting party with a season opening November 15th.