Beckwith Township Celebrates Settlement Centennial in 1919

The Carleton Place Canadian, July 2, 1969

The Carleton Place Canadian, July 2, 1969

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SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK TWENTY-ONE

Let it snow!

I wonder how the first immigrants to this area said that in Gaelic?  Gaelic was the language of choice when they arrived in 1816 and well into the mid-50’s, but by the mid-1880’s only a handful of people would be speaking Gaelic in this area. English became the language of choice.  Below is an article dealing with the origins of the Ottawa Valley Twang (which we call the Lanark County Twang), and the ethnic diversity of the Ottawa area, by Gavin Taylor from centretownnewsonline.ca.  Centretown News is produced in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, which has been studying this in their linguistics department.

I wonder if anyone in the Carleton Place-Beckwith-Mississippi Mills area has any handwritten correspondence in Gaelic from the 1800’s?  Now that would be a memory to share!

History has sewn a colourful ethnic quilt

By Gavin Taylor from centretownnewsonline.ca

If you ever find yourself in a small Ottawa Valley town, don’t be surprised if you hear echoes of Ireland in the voices of old folks.

“Let’s give’er a go,” they might tell you in a brogue as thick as corn soup.

“Let’s go up the line by shank’s mare; I think this way is better n’r that one.”

The distinctive Ottawa Valley twang, with its twisted vowels and idiosyncratic expressions, is a reminder that the culture of the region was shaped by several waves of immigrants who settled in the valley during the 19th century.

More than half the people who lived in the Ottawa Valley in the mid-1800s were immigrants

By comparison, only 18 per cent of Canadians were born abroad in 2001 — the highest proportion of immigrants since the 1930s, but small potatoes compared with the massive immigration levels of 150 years ago.

Since the 1970s, researchers at Carleton University have been recording the varieties of English spoken in the valley.

The researchers have so far identified several old-world dialects rooted in Scottish, as well as traces of American English, German, Scots Gaelic, and a Polish dialect known as Kashubian.

But the most important source of valley speech is Ireland.

“In rural areas, there was a sea of Irish-influenced English, with little islands of other groups,” says Ian Pringle, a Carleton University linguistics professor who helped lead the project.

From the 1820s to the 1880s, English-speaking migrants to the valley were overwhelmingly Irish: in some townships, as much as 90 per cent of the residents traced their ancestry to Ireland.

The first census after Confederation showed that the Irish were the largest ethnic group in Ottawa, representing almost 39 per cent of the total population. By comparison, the proportion of Irish in cities such as Boston, New York and Montreal hovered around 25 per cent for most of the nineteenth century.

Bruce Elliott, a Carleton professor who heads the university’s Centre for the History of Migration, says that most English-speaking migrations to Ontario during this period came from the Celtic fringe of the British Isles.

“In some rural areas of the valley, English were as rare as hens’ teeth,” he says.Before 1815, most of the migrants to the valley were Scottish. By the 1820s, Irish families — typically “poor-to-middling farmers” who crossed the Atlantic in search of land — had become the largest immigrant group in the region.

There was also a steady migration of French-Canadians to the valley in the 19th century, chiefly from parishes west of Montreal. Elliott says French migrants typically worked in lumber camps in the winter and cultivated garden plots along the riverside during the summer.

Philemon Wright, the entrepreneur who oversaw the construction of the Rideau Canal in Hull, hired French-Canadian labourers instead of the Irish because he thought they were more “docile” workers, Elliot says.

French and Irish Catholics in Ottawa were clustered in Lowertown in the late 19th century — early Irish immigrants to the region were largely Protestant, but the number of Catholic migrants grew steadily over the course of the century.

A handful of smaller ethnic groups also settled in the city in the late nineteenth century, most of them finding a niche in Ottawa’s retail trades.

Several families from southern Italy found a home in the Preston Street area — then a suburb — and one Greek person in Ottawa was recorded in the 1871 census. A number of African-Canadians worked as street vendors at the turn of the century. Moses Bilsky, the first Jewish resident of Ottawa, arrived in 1857, and the first synagogue in the city was built in 1892.

Migration to the Ottawa region tended to be “ethnically and religiously biased” at this time, says John Taylor, a Carleton University history professor, who has written extensively about Ottawa history.

Immigrants tended to be clustered into ethnically and religiously homogeneous groups that were fleeing economic or political hardship in Europe. But in the early 20th century, Taylor says, the character of immigration began to change.

The lumber industry — the magnet that drew migrants to Ottawa in its early years — fell into a slow and steady decline after the First World War. At the same time, the public service expanded rapidly: the number of government workers in Ottawa grew from about 1,000 in 1900 to over 30,000 by the end of the Second World War.

The public service tended to attract educated professionals from other parts of Canada.

“They were professional people moving toward economic opportunity, not away from political hardship,” Taylor says.

One of the consequences of this migration was that the ethnic character of Ottawa became increasingly similar to the rest of the country — by the 1940s, Irish-Canadians represented less than one-sixth of the city’s population.

The “Valley twang” that inflected rural speech in nearby areas virtually disappeared in the city, as public service workers increasingly spoke a standard version of Canadian English.

While some government workers remained clustered in ethnically and religiously homogeneous neighbourhoods, high-ranking public servants tended to move to Sandy Hill regardless of their ethnic background, Taylor says.

The growth of the civil service has slowed since the 1970s, but the high-tech sector has continued to draw educated professionals to the city. Like civil servants, computer engineers are migrants who come to the city for economic reasons and who tend not to cluster in ethnic neighbourhoods.

But since the 1970s, Taylor says, a new wave of immigration has been patterned along ethnic lines.

As Canada’s immigration and refugee laws were liberalized, families fleeing ethnic or political strife came to Ottawa in increasing numbers. Thousands of Lebanese have migrated to Ottawa since 1975, when a bloody civil war began in their country. Since then, Vietnamese, Sri Lankans, Somalis, and other groups escaping persecution and war have made their homes in Ottawa.

The result, Taylor says, is that Ottawa is more ethnically diverse than ever before: English remains the most commonly spoken language in the city, but allophones outnumbered francophones in the 2001 census.

The history of these successive migrations—Irish migrants in search of lands, public servants in search of a career, and Asians and Africans in search of freedom—has made Ottawa a patchwork of distinctive neighbourhoods, some based on social class and others on ethnic identity.

“We really do have a community of communities here, more than in other places,” Taylor says.

Thanks to centretownnewsonline.ca

Centretown News is produced in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Royal Visit to Carleton Place 1860

Historian Recalls Visit of Royal Party 100 Years Ago

Carleton Place Canadian, 14 November 1957

By Howard M. Brown

 

The route of the state tour of Ottawa’s first royal visitor, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, included Lanark, Renfrew and Leeds counties.  Proceeding in 1860 by boat from the new capital, the royal party received an elaborate lumbermen’s reception at Arnprior.  Its progress continued by road from Arnprior to Almonte, the royal carriage passing through many triumphal arches erected at various points along the way.

Lanark County Royal Visit

After an Almonte reception the future Edward VII boarded his waiting train at that temporary terminus of the new railway, continuing by rail through Carleton Place and Smiths Falls to Brockville.  A report of the royal progress through these Eastern Ontario counties, given by James Poole in the Carleton Place Herald, tells of a minor amusing adventure of the future king in Almonte as seen by the Carleton Place editor.

He writes in September, 1860:

“The laying of the corner stone of the Government Buildings in Ottawa is, to the people of this section of Canada, one of the most interesting events of the visit of the Prince of Wales, particulars of which we publish today.  His trip on Monday last to the Chatt’s Lake, escorted by the canoes, reception at Arnprior and carriage drive to Almonte were, we are informed, very pleasant and highly gratifying to the young Prince and Royal Party.  We have heard scores of people say that it is mainly owing to the liberality and exertions of Mr. Daniel McLachlan of Arnprior that we were indebted for the visit of the Prince along this route.

For the size of the place, Almonte was second to no other village on the whole route in the taste and enthusiasm of the reception for their Royal visitor.  During the few minutes we had to spare we could not see one half of what had been done in the village, and nothing in the country, where we understand great triumphal arches were also erected.

We noticed any number of constables armed with staves of office and mounted with badges of their rank.  A rather amusing incident occurred which drew a hearty laugh from the Prince.  Just as the royal party ascended the platform the crowd, anxious to see the Prince, rushed together from all directions in spite of the best efforts of the constables, whose painted sticks might be seen flourishing at all points.  One of them undertook to push back the royal party, with cries of “Ye canna get up here!”  The Prince nimbly eluded his vigilance and having succeeded in getting on the platform of his own car, laughed heartily at the mistake.

The Prince remained outside for some time and received several hearty cheers which he duly acknowledged.  The day being far spent, his train hurried off to Brockville, stopped a few minutes at Smiths Falls Station and received an address from the village corporation.  With our other reports of the Royal Tour we publish the Address and Reply.

The town of Brockville was lit up to perfection and contained arches and decorations too numerous to mention.  The excursion train was left far behind and did not get to Brockville until far after the excitement of the evening was nearly over.  The excursionists had barely time for supper when the hour was announced to return.”

Canadian patriotic spirit was further increased in the early 1860’s by perils and alarms from the south, accompanying and following the United States Civil War.  Defence preparations included locally the authorized formation in 1862 of a relatively large and active rifle company at Carleton Place replacing, with popular acclaim, Beckwith township’s former 5th Battalion of Lanark Militia.  This new unit, with James Poole as its senior local officer, like units similarly formed in neighbouring towns, was active in frontier guard duty in the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870.  Uniforms of the new volunteer forces of the ‘60s were green for the rifle companies and scarlet for other infantry units, the headgear being a high shako bearing a brass plate ornamented with a beaver, the words ‘Canadian Militia’ and a wreath of maple leaves.

A brief press account of the Carleton Place May 24th celebration of 1865 shows the local rifle company on display and engaged in a target shooting competition:

“Wednesday last, the 46th birthday of our Queen, was a general holiday all over the Province.  The members of the Carleton Place Rifle Company met at the armoury at 10 o’clock and, after going through sundry evolutions, marched around the principal streets of the village to music of the Appleton Brass Band.  At 12 o’clock noon they halted on the bridge, took open order and fired a feu-de-joie.  The national anthem was played by the band, one part intervening each round of firing.

Through the liberality of the Beckwith Council $30 was divided into six prizes for the best target shooting, competed for in the afternoon by firing five rounds at 300 yards and five at 400 yards.  The following are the successful competitors – W. B. Gray, $8; Absolem McCaffrey, $7; Robert Metcalf, $6; John Ellis, $4; Albert Patterson, $3; James McFadden, $2.  Particular praise is due to the Appleton Brass Band and the Carleton Place pipers for their services.”

District militia activities of the 1860’s renewed the Lanark County military tradition which was begun here by the large element of disbanded members of the armed forces of the Napoleonic Wars period among the original settlers of 1816-1819.  This tradition and service continued through the times of the Rebellion of 1837-38, the Fenian Raids and the Red River and Northwest Rebellions of 1870 and 1885 to the Boer War and this district’s records in the victorious tragedies of the last two World Wars.

First Local Militia

Representing earliest local militiamen, pledged to serve the interests of the Province and King George IV, are the officers of the unit based at the newly settled Morphy’s Falls area in 1822.  The three senior officers are of Perth, the others following include names of Beckwith township families now well known and a few of Ramsay township origin:

     Colonel Josias Taylor, Lieut. Colonel Ulysses Fitzmaurice, Major Donald Fraser.

     Captains T. Glendenning, John Robertson, Wm. Pitt, John Ferguson, James      

     O’Hara, Julius Lelievre.

     Lieutenants, Wellesley Richey, Thomas Wickham, Wm. Moore, George Nesbitt

     M.D., Duncan Fisher, Robert Ferguson, Wm. Toshack, Israel Webster, James

     McFarlane, John Cram.

     Ensigns, John Fulton, Peter McDougall, Wm. Baird, Peter McGregor, James

     Smart, John Nesbitt, Alex Dewar, John Dewar, Manny Nowlan, David Ferguson.

One of the annual musters of these militia units of long ago is vividly pictured in an 1841 letter from “A Militia Man” of Carleton Place, published in the Bathurst Courier at Perth:

“Beckwith, Friday June 4, 1841. 

Sir —- I send you for publication a statement of the proceedings at Carleton Place today.

Col. The Hon. H. Graham, commanding the 3rd Regiment of Lanark Militia, in common with all other Colonels of Militia, received some time last winter a Militia General Order directing him to form two flank companies in his regiment, and that those companies should be formed of volunteers if possible, but that if such could not be obtained the number should be drafted.

As the Regiment was deficient in officers and the promotions recommended had not been Gazetted, the above order had not been complied with up to this date.  However this being the day appointed by law for a general muster of the Milita, Co. Graham, to give as little trouble as possible to the farmers at this busy season, determined to call for volunteers for the flank companies on the present occasion.

Never having attended a militia training before, I felt some curiosity to meet my Brother Soldiers.  At an early hour this morning I was awakened by the sound of a Pibroch.  In an instant I was out of bed and from the window perceived a body of most respectable looking young men marching into the village to the tune of ‘Patrick’s Day’, played by one of Scotia’s sons in Scotia’s garb on Scotia’s national instrument.  Until about 11 o’clock the men were arriving in parties equestrian and pedestrian.

At this hour the Companies were ordered to ‘Fall In’, and soon after we were all on the parade ground in open column.  Then the Major, Alexander Frazer, formerly of the 49th, the Green Tigers, General Brock’s regiment – made his appearance in uniform, mounted on a white charger.  Having inspected the companies and formed us into close column, he addressed the Regiment in a short but pithy speech, stating the object for which the flank companies were to be formed and his hope that there would be sufficient volunteers and that it would be unnecessary to have to resource to drafting.

This was received with enthusiasm, and ‘I’ll volunteer’ was responded from all directions.  We were again formed into open columns, wheeled into line, the ranks opened, and three deafening cheers for Her Majesty made the forests re-echo to the joyful chorus.  Immediately after, the Captains of the respective companies enrolled the names of the volunteers.  To the honor of the Regiment be it spoken, the flank companies were soon filled up, the full number having volunteered with the exception of some fifteen or twenty.  Had the officers recommended by the Colonel last fall been Gazetted I firmly believe there would have been more volunteers than required.

The 3rd Battalion of Lanark Militia is formed of the yeomen of the townships of Beckwith and Ramsay, the sons of English, Scotch and Irish emigrants.  Four-fifths of the regiment are under forty years of age, and a finer or more orderly set of young men I never saw in a body.”

Victoria Proclaimed Queen

The Queen cheered at Carleton Place in 1841, like her successor here in the Royal Visit of 1957, was a young monarch and in the early years of her reign.  Four years earlier on the death of William IV proclamations of her accession to the throne had been made throughout British lands.  The proclamation for the judicial district of Lanark, Renfrew and Carleton counties, made at Perth, was concisely described in a Bathurst Courier report:

“On Saturday last Queen Alexandrina Victoria was proclaimed here by the Deputy Sheriff, in the absence of the Sheriff.  The ceremony was but meagerly attended in consequence, we suppose, of the short space of time which intervened between the notice and the day selected for proclaiming.

The order in which the procession moved was as follows – The Deputy Sheriff on horseback, the Clergy, Members of the Medical Profession, Members of the Bar, Officers of Militia, Clerk of the Peace, and the Magistrates, with the Perth Volunteer Artillery in the rear, in uniform.

When Her Majesty had been proclaimed in four different parts of the Town, the Artillery fired a Royal salute of twenty-three guns from the island to conclude young Queen by those assembled, and then they dispersed.”

 

A History of Schools and Teachers in Carleton Place

Teaching School Once Hazardous Occupation

The Carleton Place Canadian, January 9, 1958

By Howard M. Brown

 

School Staff

Among public school inspectors in Lanark County a record of long service was made by F. S. Michell who continued in that capacity from 1880 to 1921.  Near the beginning of his forty years of duty he reported his views and findings on teachers’ prevailing salaries:

“The headmasters of the Public Schools in Carleton Place and Pakenham received the highest salaries paid teachers in this County – $550.  Male teachers salaries of 1884 ranged from $300 to $550, averaging $337.50.  Female teachers received from $150 to $350, the average for 1884 being $193.  Even the princely sum of $550 is but poor inducement for a man to undertake the ordeal of preparation in High, Model and Normal Schools and the harass and responsibility of a large graded school.  While the false economy of cheap teachers is the rule, the work must remain largely in the hands of students and school girls who intend to teach until something better presents itself.”

Twenty-five years later Carleton Place appointed a new public school principal to teach the senior class and supervise the operation of two schools and the work of thirteen other teachers.  The opening salary was $800.  Teachers were: Misses McCallum, Shaw, Burke, Anderson, O’Donnell, Caswell, Sturgeon, Sinclair, McLaren, Fife, Flegg, Morris, Cornell, and Mr. R. J. Robertson, principal.

Public school teachers of 1917 as listed by R. J. Robertson, principal, were Misses V. Leach, H. Cram, Laura Anderson, A. L. Anderson, I. H. Caswell, M. E. Sturgeon, Lizzie McLaren, Kate McNab, S. P. May, M. I. Mullett, C. Mallinson, M. M. McCallum and Mary Cornell. 

An item of juvenile training of this period was the Carleton Place curfew bylaw passed to protect youth or public order from the post-war perils of 1919.  It provided for ringing of a curfew bell at 9 p.m. standard time.  After this hour children under 16 years unless accompanied by a parent or guardian were required by law to remain indoors.

An earlier list of Carleton Place public school teachers available is that of 1890 :  Misses Munro, Nellie Garland, Shaw, Cram, Flegg, Garland, Smitherman, Lowe, Suter, Ferguson, McCallum, Mr. Neil McDonald (who transferred to the high school in 1890), and T. B. Caswell, principal.  Public school principal preceding Mr. Caswell was John A. Goth.  The local school board in 1890 comprised of Robert Bell, chairman; board members, McDonald, Struthers, Taylor, Donald, Begley, Kelly, Wylie, Breckenridge and, until his death in 1890, David Findlay, Sr.  In the same period J. R. Johnston, M.A. (Queens) was high school principal, with D. E. Sheppard, barrister, as assistant.

University Students

A selection of the local university students of the 1890’s are named in a note by Editor W. H. Allen reporting their return from college in the spring of 1896:

“Among those who have arrived are :  R. W. Suter from McGill, W. H. Cram, J. S. McEwen, Herb Sinclair, D. L. Gordon, and W. McCarthy from Queen’s.  Among those who have passed we note with pleasure the name of C. H. Brown who tied for first place in the honor class in anatomy at McGill, W. J. Cram who also passed with honors in the same class and Holden Love who passed his first exam.  In Queen’s W. H. Cram captured his B.A., W. B. Munro of Almonte took his M.A. with honors and J. B. McDougall a B.A.  J.R. Conn of Prospect took his M.A. with honors and the medal in political science.  In Trinity, J. D. McCallum, B.A. passed his second year divinity with honors.”

Rural Schools

A little log school house traditionally has been the first school of many prominent persons in the professions, agriculture and business.  Like others of the province and nation, Lanark county’s humble early schools, despite their disadvantages, and aided by the family backgrounds of their students and teachers, filled this role well.  For a typical early list of eastern Ontario rural and village teachers, Beckwith township’s teachers of 1855 may be taken.  In order of school sections they were:

1U (Gillies) Alex McKay; 2 (Franktown) John Sinclair; 3 (Coocoo’s Nest) Wm. Kidd; 4 (Prospect) Donald McDiarmid; 5U (Tennyson) Donald Cameron; 5 (7th Line E.) Alex Armstrong; 6 (The Derry) Duncan McDiarmid; 7 (9th Line W.) Elizabeth James; 8 (9th Line E.) Elizabeth Murdock; 9 (11th Line E.) Fleming May; 10 (Scotch Corners) Helen Johnston; 11 (Carleton Place) Margaret Bell; 12U (with S.S.11 Goulbourn) Wm. McEwen.

A glimpse of rural schools of about fifty years ago may be gained in extracts from Lanark school inspector F. L. Michell’s reports of 1905 on Beckwith township schools:

“No 2 (Franktown) – The school suffers greatly from that evil so prevalent in our schools, irregularity of attendance.  School work is well done in the junior grades but unsatisfactory in senior grades.  The grounds are rough and not fenced along the road.

No. 3 (Cuckoo’s Nest) – The school house is small and worn out.  Doing excellent work under disadvantages.

No. 4 (Prospect) – An excellent school property.  Attendance is very large.  The old useless well should be filled in.

No. 5 (7th Line East) – Always kept in first class condition.  The school work is excellent.  The attendance is small, but few schools in the county have to their credit a larger number of graduates who have taken prominent positions in our land.

No. 5U (7th Line West) – This is also one of our banner schools.

No. 6 (The Derry) – This is also an excellent section, and like No. 5 it has sent out numerous young people to lives of usefulness.  Attendance is very small.  The school work is excellent.

No. 7 (9th Line West) – A good site and in fine condition.  The school work was not up to average.

No. 8 (9th Line East) – An excellent new school house, and work well done.

No. 9 (11th Line East) – One of the richest sections of the county.  There is no library.  The school ranks excellent.

No. 14 (11th Line West) – Some small repairs are needed.  The school work is generally good.”

School sections in Beckwith township which had their first teachers in the 1820’s about the same time as Carleton Place were those of the Derry and Franktown.

School Cadets

Early stages of local high school cadet training are found in a July 1913 Carleton Place press report:

“High school principal E. J. Wethey with a squad of nine high and public school pupils spent a week at Barriefield Camp, being attached to the Prescott company of cadets.  Between 1,200 and 1,300 boys were in the camp.  All went through the regulation drill and exercises and athletic contests.  In the athletic events all our boys qualified for at least one bar and the Y.M.C.A. medal, Thorold Kellough and Horace Brown doing exceptionally well.  It is the intention to organize a cadet company here next season in connection with the high school.”

High School Opening

Closing at the years following the World War of 1914-18 these local school notes of the period which opened after the world war of a century earlier, the latest local school landmark was the building of the present High School.  It was completed in 1923.  In its corner stone, laid by Dr. Milo H. Steele, Board of Education chairman, was placed a local and school history record read at the ceremony by J. Morton Brown, chairman of the building committee.  John A. Houston, inspector of Ontario High Schools, was present at the opening ceremony.  He added to local school records by recalling his own youth in Carleton Place.  Between 1865 and 1871 he had attended school here in four locations, first in the old school on the present Central School grounds, next at Hurd’s Hall, the frame building at the southwest corner of Bell and James streets, then in the former Baptist Church building on Bridge Street, and finally at the newly erected Central School.  School teachers in 1923 in Lanark County numbered 224, including those of public schools and 33 high school teachers.  These and their successors have been part of the army of classroom heirs to the first  government-supported school in the old Lanark, Carleton, and Renfrew Counties district, opened in Perth in 1817 by the Rev. William Bell.

Riverside Park Site of Carleton Place Graveyard

20-Foot Square Unmarked Grave in Riverside Park

The Carleton Place Canadian, 27 December, 1956

By Howard M. Brown

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Morphys, Moores, and Willises of Carleton Place

20-Foot Square Unmarked Grave in Riverside Park

The Carleton Place Canadian, 27 December, 1956

By Howard M. Brown

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explain How Lanark County Townships Named (2), by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 16 Nov 1961

A series of brief sketches of the origins of the names of the townships of Lanark County is concluded in this second installment.  The names of the fourteen townships of this county perpetuate memories of days of hardship and heroism a century and a half ago.  They also honour notable persons who served then in peace and war in British North American Public Affairs.

Beginnings of North Lanark

Settlement in the north half of Lanark County was begun in 1820 by a large group emigration from southern Scotland and was continued by a similar and larger movement in 1821.  For the reception of these families and others the townships of Dalhousie, Lanark and Ramsay were surveyed and named in 1820 and North Sherbrooke  township also was made available.

Lanark on the Clyde

Lanark township, in which the village of Lanark was founded in 1820 as the chief centre and administrative base of the North Lanark settlements, thus gained its name before the County of Lanark was formed.  Most of the first North Lanark farm settlers came from the towns and countryside of Lanark County in the south of Scotland, including Glasgow, largest city of Scotland, and Lanark the county town of Lanarkshire.  The smaller communities which later were formed in the new township include Middleville, Hopetown and Brightside.

Sir George Ramsay The Earl of Dalhousie

The township of Ramsay, containing the town of Almonte and the villages of Appleton, Clayton and Blakeney, and the township of Dalhousie, location of communities including Watson’s Corners, McDonald’s Corners and Poland, both received names of the Governor in Chief of Canada of their time of settlement.  Sir George Ramsay (1770-1838), who became Baron Dalhousie and ninth Earl of the ancient Scottish earldom of Dalhousie, had been one of Wellington’s generals in the Napoleonic Wars.

He was Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia from 1816 to 1819, Governor in Chief of Canada from 1820 to 1828 and Commander in Chief of India from 1829 to 1832.  He died at Dalhousie Castle near Edinburgh.

He visited the chief new settlements of Lanark County in 1820, and later became a patron for the opening of the Dalhousie Library in which some of his books still are preserved at Watson’s Corners.  During his term of office at Halifax he founded Dalhousie College.  At Quebec he established the Quebec Literary and Historical Society.  His son the Marquis and Tenth Earl of Dalhousie (1812-1860), a more distinguished administrator, was the last of several great governors general of India under the East India Company. 

Governor Sir John Coape Sherbrooke

South and North Sherbrooke townships, surveyed in about the year 1819, were named for General Sir John Coape Sherbrooke (1764-1830), whose name was given also to the city and county of Sherbrooke, Quebec.  After service for thirty-five years in the period of wars with France he was Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia from 1811 to 1816.  In the War of 1812-14 he conducted the defence of that province with marked success.  He served as an able Governor in Chief of Canada for two years from 1816 to 1818, when he retired with failing health.  In North Sherbrooke the community of Elphin and the Mississipipi’s High Falls power generating site are located.  South Sherbrooke township, crossed by Canadian Pacific Railway lines and Provincial Highway No. 7, contains the village of Maberly and such summer resort localities as Silver Lake Park and Lake Davern.

The Northern Townships

The county’s northern townships of Pakenham, Darling and Lavant, the last in Lanark County to be surveyed for settlers, were named in or shortly before 1822 when their surveys, continued in the following year, were authorized.  The initial granting of farm land locations in these three townships was superintended by Bathurst District Land Board, of which Colonel James H. Powell of Perth was chairman, and was begun in 1823.

Lavant in Sussex and The Duke

Lavant township, situated in a terrain of hills and lakes in the northwest corner of the county and containing localities including Lavant , Clyde Forks and Flower Station, is one of a number of places in Canada named in honour of the Duke of Richmond.  He was Governor in Chief of Canada in 1818 and 1819.  The township received its name from the Lavant River and the village of Lavant, both near Goodwood House, the country seat in Sussex of the dukes of Richmond.

Charles Lennox, Fourth Duke of Richmond (1764-1819), had been a major general and a member of parliament.  After succeeding to the dukedom he served for six years as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.  A ball given by him and his wife in Brussles almost on the eve of Waterloo gained lasting fame from being recalled in a poem by Lord Byron.  His dueling, noted in Senator Andrew Haydon’s  “Pioneer Sketches in the District of Bathurst”, was marked by an affair of honour with a member of the royal family, the Duke of York.

The death of the Duke of Richmond, of hydrophobia some eight weeks after he had been bitten by a pet fox, occurred near Richmond on the Jock River, then known as the Goodwood River.  The duke and governor was on his return from an official visit to the Perth area, during which he had walked several miles in the course of an inspection of rural settlement on the Scotch Lint in Bathurst and Burgess and in Drummond and Elmsley townships.

Major General Darling

Darling township, in the hills to the east of Pakenham and north of Lanark township and containing localities including Tatlock, White and Marble Bluff, was named in 1822 for a military officer, Major General H. C. Darling.  He then was a colonel serving in a senior post at Quebec City as the military secretary to Canada’s governor general and commander in chief of the forces, the Earl of Dalhousie.

Sir Edward Pakenham and British valour

The township of Pakenham, centered on the village of Pakenham and including an area between White Lake and the Mississippi and Madawaska Rivers, was named for Major General Sir Edward Michael Pakenham (1778-1815), the British army commander of the Battle of New Orleans.  This heroic tragedy proved to be one of the greatest and most useless human slaughters ever to occur on United States soil.

Before news could arrive from Ghent of the signing two weeks earlier of the treaty ending the War of 1812-14, a British force including several thousands of veteran soldiers recently arrived from Europe under Sir Edward Pakenham attacked the prepared defence works of New Orleans held under Andrew Jackson, the later United States president.

Instead of the six hundred men who were sent to their deaths at the storied charge of Balaclava, six thousand men, reaching the swamps of the mouth of the Mississippi without mobile artillery and without even scaling ladders, were sent forward to the town.  When the brief and hopeless attempt was abandoned one out of every three soldiers of this large British force had fallen in the deadly fire which poured from behind the defenders’ barricades.  In this postscript to the war which assured Canada’s survival the brave commander had lost his life, as perhaps he would have wished, while riding on the front line to spur on the attack.

In the strange ways of false nationalistic propaganda the classic bravery of this British force was replaced by a picture of a craven retreat promoted in a “Hit Parade” song which was spread through this country from the United States a year or two ago and called “The Battle of New Orleans”.  This is the page of military valour in our country’s history, though hardly of tactical brilliance, which is commemorated in the name of the township and village of Pakenham.

Some of the stories wrapped in the names and histories of the quiet rural and village areas which form the townships of Lanark County may become better recognized in the county in the course of time.  Perhaps this will come when sufficient consideration is given merely to their more obvious uses for tourist trade promotion.  Their colourful legacy of names will remain in any event to offer to some members of present and future generations the inspiration of glimpses of great men, great deeds and great years in the times of the founding of our now vast and still struggling nation.

 

Explain How Lanark County Townships Named, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 09 November, 1961

How did the townships of the County of Lanark get the names they bear?  And how far back in time must one go to reach the days when the native Indians heard the tall forests of these townships ring to the first axe blows of surveyors and British settlers?

When the townships of this area were grouped together long ago to form the present County of Lanark their names already were the same as today.  They had been given when they first were surveyed and opened for settlement in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  The origins of some, such as the Scottish names of Dalhousie and Lanark, remain well known.  The sources of others long have been forgotten locally and possibly are unknown to all of their present residents.

Investigation shows that nearly all of the fourteen townships of Lanark County were named in honour of greater or lesser British public and military figures of the time when this county was receiving its first large influx of settlers.  Among them are the names of some of the leading men of that day who were associated with Canadian and British North American public affairs.  Some wider local knowledge of the origins of these historic names seems worth preserving.  They are among the oldest existing place names in the county, with such exceptions as those of the Indian-named Mississippi and the French-named Rideau.  Together they form a permanent part of the record of the early inhabitation of this district by our forefathers.

Southern Townships First Settled

The townships of Montague, North Elmsley and North Burgess, on the northern borders of the waterways of the Rideau, are both the oldest and the newest townships of Lanark County.  They were the first named and surveyed and received the county’s first settlers, but until about 1845 they remained a part of the adjoining district to the south which became the united counties of Leeds and Grenville.

Admiral Montagu and the American Revolution

Montague, the southeastern corner extending east along the Rideau River from Smiths Falls to beyond Merrickville and north to within two miles of Franktown, is the oldest township in Lanark County in point of date of settlement, naming and time of survey.  Before it was named and surveyed in about the year 1797, the first farm land to be occupied north of the Rideau River was cleared and settled in 1790 by Roger Stevens and his family.

He had been an officer in one of the voluntarily enlisted corps of those American colonists who strove to preserve a British North America from revolution and who as migrating loyalists had shaped momentously the future of Canada. This Lanark County pioneer location became lot number one in Concession A of  Montague township, near the mouth of Rideau Creek.  Three years later Stevens had met his death by drowning and his Montague associate William Merrick had begun building the first mill in Lanark County at Merrickville.

The member of the prominent Montague family for whom the township was named appears to have been Admiral Sir George Montagu (1750-1829).  He had been a British naval captain in the American Revolutionary War.  At the outset of the war he had charge of blockading the ports of Marblehead and Salem.  He captured the Washington, the first war vessel sent to sea from the revolting colonies, and he covered the embarkation of the main British force removed from Boston to New York.  During the American Revolution and in earlier periods dating from 1748 his father John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), was first Lord of the Admiralty.

Chief Justice Elmsley

North Elmsley township was named for John Elmsley (1762-1805), Chief Justice of Upper Canada from 1796 to 1802, Speaker of this province’s Legislative Council in 1799 and Chief Justice of Lower Canada from 1802 until his early death.  His land ownership in Upper Canada was measured in thousands of acres, and he maintained residences at Quebec, York and Newark.  The home of one of his present descendants is in Lanark County at Appleton.

When the Canadian parliament buildings were destroyed in the Montreal riots of 1849 and Parliament began meeting for alternate periods of years at Toronto and Quebec, Elmsley Villa became the Toronto place of residence of the governor general Lord Elgin.  North Elmsley township extends south from Perth to Rideau Ferry and Smiths Falls to Rideau Ferry and Smiths Falls.  It contains the Tay Canal and is crossed by the highway running from Perth to Smiths Falls through Port Elmsley.

Bishop Burgess

North Burgess township borders the Rideau from North Elmsley west to the Narrows lock and bridge at the junction of the Big Rideau and Upper Rideau Lakes.  It extends north to the locally historic Scotch Line.  While sometimes said to have been named for a mythical Earl of Burgess, the township is recorded as having been given its name in honour of the Rev. Thomas Burgess, Bishop of Salisbury.  At Oxford University he had been a fellow student with Henry Addington (1757-1844), the late Viscount Sidmouth, English Prime Minister.  Allan’s Mills and Stanleyville are localities in North Burgess township.

North Elmsley and North Burgess townships were separated from their southern counterparts of the same names on the south side of the Rideau and were attached in 1845 to the jurisdiction which became the present Lanark County.  Before this division they were named in or about the year 1798 and were surveyed as townships at periods between 1800 and 1810.  Along their northern Scotch Line the first group of the county’s emigrants from Britain, natives of the south of Scotland, came to establish themselves as farmers in 1816.

Pioneers of 1816

Beckwith, Drummond and Bathurst townships, each named and initially surveyed in 1816, were the first townships of the county to be prepared for the opening of Lanark County for settlement by British emigrants and demobilized soldiers and sailors after the War of 1812-14 and the end of the long wars with France.  With South Sherbrooke they continued for nearly thirty years to form the southern extremity of the new district.  The fourth of the district’s new townships to be surveyed was Goulbourn, now part of Carleton County.

The Third Earl of Bathurst

Bathurst township, extending along the north side of the Scotch Line from Perth to Christie Lake and north to beyond Fallbrook was named for Henry Bathurst, Third Earl of Bathurst (1762-1834).  He was Secretary for War and the Colonies from 1812 to 1827, years which in Canada ran from the beginning of the War of 1812 to the start of the building of the Rideau Canal between Kingston and the site of Ottawa.  He had senior executive responsibility for the emigration and soldier settlement provisions which led to the founding of Lanark County.

The entire new district also was given his name.  It became later the counties of Lanark and Renfrew and a large part of the County of Carleton.  The earl of Bathurst entered the peerage as Baron Apsley and for several years was Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.  Other places in Canada bearing his name are the town of Bathurst in New Brunswick and the Arctic’s Bathurst Islands and Bathurst Inlet.

Canada’s Defender Sir Gordon Drummond

In Drummond township in 1816 Perth was established as the new district’s regional administrative centre.  Extending eastward on the upper Mississippi Lake to the location known as Tennyson, Drummond township contains the present smaller communities of Balderson, Ferguson’s Falls and Innisville.  Drummond is the only township in the county to be named for a native of Canada.  General Sir Gordon Drummond (1771-1854) was born in the city of Quebec.  In his British army career he served in the Netherlands, Egypt, Ireland, Canada and the West Indies before returning to Canada in 1813 to become second in command of the forces engaged in this county’s defence in the War of 1812-14.  His vigour and ability as a leader played a large part in turning the balance in British Canada’s second successful war of independence against the power of its southern neighbours.  After becoming the administrator of Upper Canada in 1813 he was wounded at the conclusive winning battle of Lundy’s Lane.  He was commander in chief and administrator of Lower and Upper Canada in 1815 and 1816 when the first large scale settlements of Lanark County were begun.  In Quebec his name was given to the city of Drummondville in the County of Drummond.

Sir Sidney Beckwith Directed Settlement

Beckwith township gained its first few settlers in 1816, when the township was named and partly surveyed.  It received its largest single group of early residents from Perthshire in the Scottish Highlands in 1818, and became the location of the town of Carleton Place on the Mississippi and the smaller communities of Prospect, Franktown and Black’s Corners.  The township was named for Major General Sir Sidney Beckwith (1772-1831).  Entering the army at the age of nineteen, Sir Sidney Beckwith served in India, under Sir John Moore in the Spanish Peninsula, and in North America in and after the War of 1812-14.  He became commander in chief at Bom in 1829 and died two years later in India.

As quartermaster general of the British forces in Canada when the first main settlements in this county and district were made, Sir Sidney Beckwith headed the branch of the army in Canada which from 1815 to 1823 issued supplies to the several thousands of emigrants who, together with groups of demobilized soldiers, began the conversion of this section of Ontario into an inhabited region.  Under the immediate direction of his military department from 1816 to 1822 the farm sites then being granted in the present County of Lanark and other nearby areas were assigned individually through local offices opened at Perth, Richmond and Lanark.

MANY RAMSAY FAMILIES TOOK MISSISSIPPI ROUTE, By Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 04 May, 1961

A pioneer navigation of the Ottawa Valley’s Mississippi River was an expedition by a group of Scottish emigrants one hundred and forty years ago. In the traditions of some district families the Mississippi adventure of long ago seems to have been elevated to first place over the transatlantic sailing from Greenock as being the Mayflower voyage of the settlement of the township of Ramsay. That there were capable and daring river navigators among the settlers of Ramsay township in its first year is suggested by an October 1822 report of Colonel William Marshall, the North Lanark settlement superintendent, on a trip of exploration of the Mississippi River made then by him from the Clyde to the Ottawa. Listing the main falls and rapids encountered in Drummond, Beckwith and Ramsay townships and in the new surveys from there to the Ottawa River, he wrote, at a time when the building of the Rideau Canal was proposed and its route unsettled: “Notwithstanding these difficulties, a boat twenty-four feet long built by the settlers at Shepherds falls in Ramsay went from that place to Lachine in five days and returned in seven. The people in that quarter are in high spirits at the idea of the navigation passing that way to Montreal.”

Mississippi River Route

The first bold venture of Scottish settlers of Ramsay upon little-known local waterways was made in 1821 down the Clyde and Mississippi rivers from Lanark village to the falls at the site of Almonte. The boats, made of boards sawn at Lanark, proved fit to survive the rocks of the numerous rapids and the difficult portages of the excursion. The water borne explorers appear to have included Walter Black, James and Thomas Craig, John Downie, James Hart, Arthur Lang, John Lockhart, William Moir, John Neilson, William Paul, John Smith, John Steele, John Toshack and others. It seems that those undertaking boat building at Lanark probably also brought their families to Ramsay in the expedition by lake and river. As recalled by Arthur Lang’s eldest son, William Lang (1811-1902), their craft were “rough boats build by the men. A good many portages had to be made and it took some days to complete the trip. When coming down Mississippi Lake they stopped at an island, and while preparing a meal a big Indian hove into sight. Fear filled every heart. The late John Steele was equal to the occasion. He seized a huge loaf of bread and presented it to the Indian as an evidence of their friendly intentions. The peace offering was not accepted and the Indian passed by on his way to his camp on another part of the island, paying no attention to them. A night was spent on the north shore of the river above the falls at Carleton Place, beds being spread on the ground.” At the present location of the Almonte town hall shelters were made in wigwam style for use as a headquarters until all had completed the building of cabins on their lands.

Indians of the Mississippi

Five years earlier the native Indians had been in undisputed possession of the whole region of the unknown Mississippi. In the beginning of the surveys of the district, the first superintendent of locations in the Rideau Military Settlements had written in May, 1816, to the Lieutenant Governor’s secretary at York : “Having been informed by Indians and others that in the rear of the River Tay there was a much larger River which emptied into the Ottawa, I directed Mr. Groves about ten days since to follow the line between Townships No. 1 and 2 (Bathurst and Drummond) until he struck this river, which he did in front of the 11th concession. He reports it to be a fine river, and the land between this and it of an excellent quality.” The Indians of the Mississippi area are seen in a description of them by the Rev. William Bell, recorded within two months of his 1817 arrival at Perth : “In the afternoon two families of Indians in three canoes came down the river and pitched their tent upon the island in the middle of the village. They were the first I had seen since I came to the place. They had deer, muskrats and various kinds of fowls which they exposed for sale. The deer was small but they sold it at a dollar a quarter – the head with the horns at the same price. Their canoes were all of birch bark about eighteen feet long and three feet wide at the middle. They had in each canoe a capital fowling-piece and several spring traps for taking game and all the men were armed with the tomahawk. They had all black hair, brown complexions and active well-formed bodies. All of them even the children had silver ornaments in their ears.” (Five days later:) “While we were at breakfast the whole band of Indians with their baggage passed our house on their way to the Mississippi River ten miles distant. Each of the men carried a canoe on his head. The squaws were loaded with blankets, skins, kettles, tents etc., like as many asses.” Over the five year period before the pioneers of Ramsay had arrived settlers had located at points along the Mississippi from Morphys Falls and Mississippi Lake up to Dalhousie Lake. Sections still occupied by Indians included those at Mississippi Lake where as then noted by the Rev. William Bell, “some of the islands in the lake are still inhabited by Indians, whose hunting grounds are on the north side and who are far being pleased with the encroachments our settlers are making on their territories.”

1800 PEOPLE AMONG FIRST SETTLERS IN RAMSAY, BY HOWARD MORTON BROWN, CARLETON PLACE CANADIAN, 27 APRIL, 1961

An account of the beginnings of settlement in Ramsay township is continued.  Extracts from a diary of a voyage from Greenock to Quebec on The Earl of Buckinghamshire, one of four sailing ships which carried eighteen hundred Glasgow district emigrant society passengers bound for North Lanark, have told part of the story of the Atlantic crossing of a number of the pioneer residents of Ramsay.  This diary of one hundred and forty years ago was written by Arthur Lang, who settled with his family near Almonte in the year of the first opening of agricultural land in the township.  He became a farmer and a school teacher there.

His story is resumed as the ship’s six hundred emigrants to northern townships of New Lanark are nearing the shores of the new world.

“1821, May 27, the Sabbath – At 12 o’clock we were in 43 deg. 45 min west longitude.  Another lecture was given by Mr. Thomson, but the levity of some and the seriousness of others formed a striking contrast.

Storm at Sea

May 28 – A very heavy sea was rolling and continued the whole night.  The first scene…was fourteen or fifteen of the passengers tumbling head-long on top of one another.

May 29 – Everyone is telling what a bad rest they got, for really such a tumbling of baskets, cans, bundles, basins and pots I never heard before.  About sixteen of us had a good glass of rum at night in the forecastle.

June 1 – Still but cold air continues.  We imagined ourselves off the banks of Newfoundland but Friday, June 1st convinced us we were upon them, for there were a great many fishermen around.  Two French brigs passed quite close.

June 2 – One of our side sail booms broke and vanished.  They got another soon.

Sight of Land

June 5 – This morning we saw land for the first time since we left Ireland.  We saw St. Pauls on the right and Cape Breton on the left.

June 6 – The island of St. Pauls within a quarter mile of us.  We sailed little the whole day, but were amused at a few land birds which flew about the rigging and an owl which sat upon the mast and sometimes flew around us.  It was the first I had ever seen on the wing.  Newfoundland was in view in the afternoon.

June 11 – We were in the mouth of the river at 5 o’clock this morning.  The hilltops are covered with snow, but the rising ground near the water is completely covered with trees.  A pilot came on board today.  He seems to be an able, craft-looking man.

June 13 – Not a house to be seen on the north side at all.  The hills on this side are just about as high as Paisley’s braes, and some of them higher.

June 14 – We have not gained a mile, but we came in view of a fine valley with a number of houses in it.  The hills beyond that valley were as high to appearance as those I have often seen out of the mill windows over the tops of Dumbarton.

June 15 – There is a new scene before us this evening – trees to the hill-tops, cultivated plains – with ranges of white houses, for they are all in rows.  The women appear to be enamoured with the prospects, and no wonder.  Two boats came along side of us with herring, bread and tobacco.

June 16 – We saw Quebec and it looked beautiful.  I got my feet on terra firma and really I was well pleased.

June 17 – This was the best working Sabbath I ever had. Nothing but bustle and confusion and everyone for himself. 

June 19 – A child died this morning, but it was ill before it came on board.  We arrived at Montreal this afternoon.

 

The Upper St. Lawrence

June 20 – A very wet day, yet we disembarked and were hurried away in small carts and the kind of trains used for loading heavy articles with ease.  We arrived at Lachine in the evening and were huddled in a cold, damp reeky barracks.

June 21 – Early this morning the hustle began again.  Nothing but hurry, packing up our beds and dividing our provisions, for we got three days provisions of loaf bread and six days of biscuit with pork and beef, and away we started for the upper Lachine, as they call it, but we passed and rowed till dark night.  It was the longest pull I ever had.  We landed at the place in the dark ; here nothing but hurry again for a bed.  We slept in the open air and our heads were wet with dew in the morning.

June 23 – Another hurry began about sunrise.  We got a hurried breakfast while they were passing through the locks.  All the women and children that could walked, with a greater part of the heavy baggage which was taken to a place about three miles above by land carriage.  The reason of this was that the rapids were so strong.  We came to Cedars and loaded again and went about a mile farther up, and rested another night in the open air.

June 24 – Sabbath was a great day among the Romans and we did not leave the place till the church came out.  It was about midday and we started pulling away and went to a place six or seven miles, where there are locks.  There was a kind of fortress here.  We got into the barracks, but a great many slept in the fields.

June 25 – Early in the morning we left this place and sailed to the outlet of Lake St. Francis in the river St. Lawrence, and lay the whole day for the want of wind, or perhaps some other cause we know nothing about.

June 26 – We had a long voyage today and labored hard the whole day from 5 o’clock in the morning till dark.  The scenery is grand…..

June 27 – Hard labor prevents me making many remarks.  There are many pleasant sights in the river.  At night we came through the canal in the middle of a wood and at the head of it there is what they call the “Long Soo”, a terrible rapid about nine miles long, and some of the merchants boats will run it in twenty minutes.  We rested there for the night.

June 29 – Up early and out at the oars again as hard as ever.  I took very ill this day and was not able to work.  Excessively hot every day.  We rested about five miles from Prescott.

Prescott Landing

June 30 – After a short sleep under a heavy dew we arose as soon as we could see, and after sailing a short space we came to Prescott.  There is a lonely looking town on the opposite shore.  The societies that came in the ship Commerce came to Prescott in the evening.

July 1, the Sabbath – This is really a day of rest, and after getting breakfast I took a tour through the woods to see how they looked.  I saw nothing they produced but strawberries.

July 4 – This day is the anniversary of the States of Independence and there seemed to be some rejoicing on the part of the people on the other side of the water. “

From Prescott the eighteen hundred men, women and children gradually were conducted in wagons and on foot to Brockville and on the rougher roadways from Brockville to Perth and to Lanark village.

Lanark and Ramsay

At Lanark the women and young children remained, many in huts thatched with pine and balsam branches, while the men sought their lots, made little clearings on them and put up shanties built of the logs of the clearings.  Writing on July 19th, Arthur Lang said:

“I set out for Ramsay Settlement to pick out 100 acres, but after six days hard labor travelling through swamps and untrodden paths through woods I had to return without land, and now I have to do the same thing over again….The greater part of the forest, the underwood or bramble, is not so thick as at home but a great deal of it is worse to go through than the worst of Crucatone Wood….conceive Paisley Moors, for instance, all grown over with large trees, some fresh and green, others half rotten and a great many rotten from top to bottom, and almost as many lying in all directions as are standing with not a living creature to be seen or heard except a bird or two, and the owl screaming in your ears at night.”

As less than half the British government’s expenses in connection with the society emigrations to North Lanark of 1820 and 1821, its cash loans to these settlers exceeded 22,000 pounds.  Over 7,000 pounds in loans was advanced to those of 1820, who numbered 167 men and, including their families, over eight hundred persons.  At the same rate of 8 pounds sterling for each man, woman and child, over 15,000 pounds was advanced in cash loans to the society settlers coming to North Lanark in 1821.  After fifteen years during which transferable titles to these settlers’ lands were withheld against the loans, and therefore also their provincial voting rights, it was decided that repayment would not be required.  Speaking of the day his society was paid the second installment of these government advances at Lanark village on November 1, 1821, Arthur Lang wrote:

“I received the second installment of money which was paid in sterling.  If you had seen the foolishness of some who were willing to spend and be merry and the sad countenance of others who had lost the most of their families, I am sure you would have looked with contempt on the one and your hear strings would have ached for the other.”

Four months after his family’s arrival at Lanark, November 12th briefly wad marked for the Langs as the day when, in Ramsay by the Mississippi, “my family came to my own house.”  The winter’s snow came five days later, and November 26 and 27 “were very frosty, the river in some places was frozen quite across.”  Finally after a winter of tree cutting the first spring in the new land came in mid-April, with a note of ‘wet days’.  The river has swollen very rapidly and the ducks are sporting plentifully on the water.  I noticed the pigeons came to the woods on the 4th for the first time.”

A well-known resident of the thriving township, Arthur Lang, farmer and local school teacher, became one of Ramsay’s first two representatives on the council of the Lanark and Renfrew district when, in 1842 and seven years before his death, the province’s first district councils were elected.

Other settlement stories will follow in a later installment of tales of the beginnings of Ramsay township.