SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK TWENTY-SEVEN

 

 Story of the Telephone in Carleton Place District

Carleton Place Herald, 18 October, 1962

By Howard M. Brown

 

Within the lifetimes of our present elder citizens, telephones first came into public use in Carleton Place and nearby Ontario communities in 1885.

Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone in this province in 1874 at Brantford was followed by convincing proofs of its commercial usefulness within two years in Ontario and Massachusetts.  In Lanark County, only one year later, “one of Prof. Bell’s telephones” appeared in 1877.  It was obtained by Mr. F. A. Kennedy, Perth dentist.  With the sensational new devise he talked between his office and his house in Perth.

At Ottawa the possibilities of the telephone were demonstrated by electrical pioneer Thomas Ahearn (1855-1938) in a talk in 18778 over telegraph wires with the Montreal Telegraph Company’s agent at Pembroke.  The Bell Telephone Company of Canada, of which Mr. Ahearn was a director until his death, was formed in 1880.

Musical Overture

The company’s lines spread rapidly through southern Ontario and Quebec.  The Carleton Place Herald early in 1885 reported that Mr. S. S. Merrick of Carleton Place was “obtaining 3,300 first class poles for the 106 mile contract” awarded to him for the Ottawa Valley telephone line then being built, that would connect Ottawa and Brockville, Perth, Smiths Falls, Carleton Place and points northward.  The new telephone service in this district was proposed to be placed in operation with a musical programme by telephone, according to Mr. W. W. Cliff of the Carleton Place Central Canadian.  Listing the subscribers and intending subscribers of Perth, Smiths Falls and Carleton Place, he wrote in June:

“Mr.  Marshall has been pushing the business of the Bell Telephone Company in this County with much success.  When all connections have been made Mr. Marshall intends to carry out a musical programme in Almonte and have the Hall connected with the system, so that subscribers in any of the places mentioned may sit in their offices and houses and be a part of the audience as enjoyably as if present in body.”

An Instant Success

With or without the musical overture, the district lines went into use in November, 1885.  The revolutionary convenience and speed of communicating by telephone conversation was an instant popular success for business purposes.  William H. Allen in his Carleton Place Herald nine months later reported:

“When first introduced here last November there were only ten names on the local exchange.  Towards spring the ten line switch was replaced by a twenty.  Now, as all these lines have been taken and more are in demand, a fifty line switch is to be placed in the central as soon as it can be manufactured.”

The company’s first published telephone directory for Lanark County subscribers was that for “Ottawa and Connections, June 1886.” Local and long distance calls were made by name instead of by telephone number.  It listed seventeen Carleton Place telephones, all at business premises excepting the residence of the McLaren sawmill manager, and similar numbers of telephones at Almonte, Perth and Smiths Falls.  Pakenham had ten telephones.

Trunk Line Business

The first Carleton Place exchange was located in the McDiarmid block, Bridge Street, in the jewelry store of Mr. R. J. E. Scott.  This office was said in 1887 to be “owing to its central location, transacting next to the largest trunk line business in the Ottawa Valley.”  The Canadian company at the beginning of that year had a total of twelve thousand telephone subscribers.

Mr. W. J. Warwick, a year or so later succeeded Mr. Scott in the same location as a jeweler and as holder of the Bell Telephone Company’s local agency.  An early private exchange in the town was that installed in 1890 by the H. Brown & Sons firm between its flour, feed and cereal mills and the offices and residences of its two senior partners (with the modern colour feature provided by receivers which were solidly ringed in gay colours).

After six years of daytime public service a Carleton Place day and night telephone service appears to have been started early in 1892.  An effort was put forth then “to add a few more subscribers to the telephone exchange to make fitty, when the company have promised us a night operator, giving us continuous service night and day.”  Within a few weeks it was reported that Mr. Warwick had succeeded so admirably in impressing the usefulness of the telephone upon our citizens that nearly sixty will be in operation this week.  A feature of the increase is the number of private dwellings that have secured it.”

Trial By Fire

When fire in 1897 destroyed a Carleton Place business section from the old frame McDiarmid block at the corner of Bridge and Franklin Streets south to and including the Keyes building, the Bell Telepone Company with a loss reported at $2,000 was one of the lesser victims of the destruction.  Editor W. W. Cliff’s rhetorical news report in December 1897 said in part:

“Mr. Moss of the Central Telephone was brought into instantaneous action, and his first thought was to wing a message to Mr. McFadden at the Fire Hall, who was up and at the engine in a few minutes and, all alone, pushed the monster out upon the platform and applied the torch.  The Chief and several others were aroused by Mr. Ross and the electrical alarm, which worked well.  In a little while two streams were playing.

As the Chief saw the fire was in a nest of wooden buildings, he had Mr. Brown’s splendid equipment brought out into the action, with five hundred feet of hose from the Gillies factory, hitherto unsoiled.  While all this was proceeding, the occupants of the doomed buildings were getting out what they and the crowds could lay violent hands on.

The firemen fought the flames with undying vigour.  The hook and ladder was on the spot in five minutes, thanks to the speed of Mr. McGonigle, whose alarm went off early and who had a team hitched up and away in the twinkling of an eye.  This apparatus was of inestimable value and one of the most agile and fearless in the contest was Mr. Mort. Brown, ‘the best fireman in Canada’, says Mr. Graham, who risked his life in climbing ladders and hurling the hooks.

The firemen were soon coated with ice, and in this awkward condition worked with tireless energy, the branchmen especially doing brave and effective service.  Towards daylight all danger of further inroads was over, but streams were poured steadily into the debris until noon.  The engineer and Mr. Virtue stood steadily at their freezing posts on the river from three o’clock until noon, the noble engine old Sir John, not once stopped his powerful motion all that time.

There were several narrow escapes.  The most thrilling was that of Mr. Galloway, a Presbyterian clergyman who had preached the night before in the Methodist church and who was sleeping at Mr. McGregor’s.  He is a cripple, and helpless in such a crisis.  Mr. Howe, jeweler, and Mr. Hartley, book-keeper at the Shops, heard of his condition and rushed up after him.  They grabbed him and carried him out, the roof falling in just as they left his room.

The Bell Telephone showed their quick resource.  Burned out at three, everything swept but the books and a box with two new switchboards, at ten in the evening they were going almost as usual.  General Manager McFarlane, of Montreal, and Mr. Winters, Superintendant of Construction, arrived within a few hours.  The present abode is temporary.  The old Mechanics’ Institute flat has been rented, and the plant will be installed there in two weeks.”

Continuous Service On Sundays

Telephones had been in use in Carleton Place for some thirteen years before continuous service including Sundays became available.  This newspaper in March of 1899 reported:

“The Bell Telephone Company announces in this issue a continuous service on Sundays the same as on week days.  This is due to the very rapid growth of their business and its persistent success.  Carleton Place is the central point between Pembroke, Ottawa and Brockville, and stoppage here means the holding up of this entire system.”

The Bell Telephone Company’s present Carleton Place office, when twenty-nine years of ‘continuous service on Sundays’ had passed, was opened in its new building at the corner of Beckwith and Albert streets in January, 1929.  The lot on which the building stands had been vacant since the great fire of May 1910, which swept this section of the town, destroying in its path the McNab home which is said to have stood at the precise site of the present building.  There were some eight hundred town and rural telephones in direct connection with the exchange in 1928 when it was moved to its present location, and six operators.

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80 Buildings Once Erected Here Within A Year’s Time, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 25 August, 1960

About seventy-five years ago, Carleton Place reached the speediest single period of its growth. The present instalment of a summary of events in the town’s youthful years tells briefly of some of the developments that were in the foreground seventy to eighty years ago. It reaches the period of the first childhood recollections of this district’s present elder citizens.

The selection of Carleton Place at his time by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company as a divisional and repair shop point added a third main industry to growing textile and lumber businesses. Other principal manufacturing industries here, notably the making of stoves and machinery and grain milling, were all expanding. Revolutionary discoveries in telephone communication and electric lighting and in new types of industrial machines were being put into use in this area.

Building construction and the number of the community’s residents doubled within about five years. At the end of the decade, Carleton Place, with a population approaching only 4,500, was second in size to Ottawa alone in the Ottawa Valley. On the main line of the new railway to the west coast Carleton Place was the largest community between Montreal and Vancouver with the exception of Winnipeg. While the Carleton Place of later years may be found to have increased in wisdom and prosperity as measured by its way of life, its stature as rated by the conventional yardsticks of population and of total commercial activity has remained with relatively little change.

Working Hours

1880 – The idle Hawthorne woollen factory was bought by James Gillies of Carleton Place from its original owner Abraham Code at a reported price of $16,400.

A one hour strike fro a shorter working day by about fifty men at Peter McLaren’s sawmill was unsuccessful. Working hours continued at thirteen hours a day, from 6 a.m to 7 p.m., and twelve hours on Saturdays.

Lawsuits were under way between the rival sawmill owners here, Boyd Caldwell and Peter McLaren, based on McLaren’s efforts to exclusively control the passage of logs down the Mississippi at High Falls and other points.

The first annual regatta and sports day of the Carleton Place Boating Club was held at Carleton Park (Lake Park), featuring sailing, rowing and canoe races, the Perth band and baseball team, and oarsmen from Brockville and Ottawa. Its evening events on the river in Carleton Place were a promenade concert, an illuminated boat dispaly contest, fireworks and a balloon ascension. The Carleton Place brass band wearing new uniforms rode in a large carriage drawn by four horses to a concert and ball in Newman’s Hall which lasted until morning.

Indian Camp

1881 – St. James Anglican Church was rebuilt, the present stone structure replacing a former frame building. The building contractors were William Moffatt and William Pattie. Chairman and secretary of the building committee were Colonel John Sumner and Dr. R. F. Preston. The Rev. G. J. Low succeeded the Rev. G. W. G. Grout before the building was completed.

John Gillies of Carleton Place bought the McArthur woollen mill at the present Bates & Innes site from its first owner Archibald McArthur. The reported price was 40,000. W. H. Wylie, lessee of the McArthur mill, bought the Hawthorne woollen mill from its new owner James Gillies at a price reported as $19,000.

Several parties of Indians were encamped late in the year at the east side of the town and frequented the streets daily. An Indian war dance was held at a local residence.

Railway Shops

1882- A new railway station was built at the junction of the two lines here.  Exemption from municipal taxation was granted for the C.P.R. workshops being moved to Carleton Place from Brockville and Prescott.  Major James C. Poole (1826-1882), Herald editor, predicted the town was “about to enter upon an era of advancement and unparalleled prosperity.”

Boyd Caldwell & Sons river-men, when their log drive was blocked by Peter McLaren’s dam at the foot of Long Lake, cut a passage through the dam under claimed authority of the Ontario Legislature’s Rivers and Streams Act, which had been reenacted after its disallowance by the Dominion Government.  The ten thousand logs reached the Carleton Place mill in good condition after having been delayed three years en route.  Peter McLaren’s assertions of exclusive river rights which had been rejected by the Ontario Supreme Court were sustained by the Supreme Court of Canada.  The Caldwell firm appealed to the Privy Council.

Sawdust had become a local furnace fuel, according to Mr. W. W. Cliff, Central Canadian publisher, who reported :  Messrs. Wylie & Co. use about fifteen cartloads per day, the machine shop about four, and Mr. Findlay about one.  The sawmills of course regard it as their staff of steam life.

River Rights

1883 – The Bank of Ottawa opened a branch at Carleton Place, located on Bridge St. near Lake Avenue, opposite the Mississippi Hotel, with John A. Bangs as managaer.

The town’s leading hotel, the Mississippi, was sold to Walter McIlquham, formerly of Lanark, by Napoleon Lavallee at a price reported at $9,400.

In the Mississippi River strife between the two lumbermen whose principal mills were at Carleton Place, the Ontario Rivers and Streams Act was once more disallowed by the Dominion Government under Sir John A. MacDonald and was again introduced by the Ontario Government under Sir Oliver Mowat.  The last disallowance held fifty thousand Caldwell logs in the upper Mississippi near Buckshot Lake and forced the Caldwell mill here to remain idle.

The James Poole estate sold the Carleton Place Herald, founded in 1850, to William H. Allen and Samual J. Allen ; and sold the family’s large stone residence at Bridge Street and the Town Line Road to David Gillies, son-in-law of James Poole.  William H. Allen continued publication of the Herald for sixty years.  David Gillies, original partner and later president of Gillies Brothers Limited of Braeside and member of the Quebec Legislature, maintained his home here until his death in 1926.  Its site was the place of residence of six generations of the Poole family.

Divisional Point

1884 – Carleton Place became a railway divisional point.  A result was an expansion of the town’s population and of its commercial activities.  A large railway station addition was undertaken.

The McLaren-Caldwell lumber litigation ended with a Privy Council judgement upholding the Caldwell claims for public rights for navigation of logs throughout the length of the Mississippi River.

To make way for the building of a new flour mill the John F. Cram tannery and wool plant was removed to Campbell Street after fourteen years of operation on Mill Street.  Other building operations in addition to house construction included erection of the town’s Roman Catholic Church and a bridge by the Gillies Company at the lower falls.  The Council Chamber of the Town Hall was vacated to provide additional classroom accommodation for the Town Hall School.  A bylaw authorized the raising of $6,000 to buy a new fire engine for the Ocean Wave Fire Company. 

Electric Lights and Telephones

1885 – A telephone system connecting eastern Ontario centres including Carleton Place was established by the Bell Telephone Company.  Twenty telephones were installed in this town in the first year, all for business purposes.

A direct current electric lighting system was installed here by the Ball Electric Light Company of Toronto, including five street lights on Bridge Street.  The generator was placed by the Gillies firm at the Central Machine Works.  It was moved in the following year to a new waterpower installation opposite the west side of the Gillies woollen mill.

On Mill Street a four storey stone mill was built by Horace Brown, joined by a grain elevator to his former flour mill, and was equipped for the new roller process of flour milling.

Working hours for the winter season at the woollen mill of Gillies & Son & Company were from 7 a.m. to 6.15 p.m. with closing time one hour earlier on Saturdays.

Junction Town

1886 – The railway junction and divisional town of Carleton Place was a stopping point for the first through train of the C.P.R. to reach the west coast from Montreal.

The new tannery of John F. Cram and Donald Munroe was destroyed in a fire loss of over $10,000.

Abner Nichols’ planing mill was built at the corner of Lake Avenue and Bridge Street.

Indians who had camped for the winter at Franktown, selling baskets through the district, struck their tents and returned to the St. Regis Reserve.

The May 24th holiday was celebrated by a sports day at Allan’s Point (Lake Park).  Its baseball score was Carleton Place Athletics 16, Renfrew 5 ; and a no score lacrosse game was played between Ottawa Metropolitans and Carleton Place.  The practice field for the lacrosse and cricket clubs at this time was the picnic grounds of Gillies Grove below the woollen mill.

Canada Lumber Company

1887 – Peter McLaren sold his lumber mill properties at Carleton Place and upper Mississippi timber limits at a price reported as $900,000.  The buyers, the McLarens of Buckingham and Edwards of Rockland, formed the Canada Lumber Company.  It doubled the mills capacity, with Alexander H. Edwards (1848-1933) as manager here.  Peter McLaren three years later was appointed to the Senate, and died at age 88 at Perth in 1919. 

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church was built on its present Bridge Street site donated by James Gillies, the congregation vacating its previous location in the old stone church building still standing at the corner of William and St. Paul Streets.

A bridge of ironwork on stone piers replaced the wooden bridge across the Mississippi at Bridge Street.  A brick and tile manufacturing yard, which operated for about fifteen years, was opened by William Taylor, hardware merchant.  A large brick manufacturing business of William Willoughby, building contractor, continued in operation.  The Herald office and plant moved to a new brick building at the south side of the site of the present Post Office.  A Masonic Temple was built, and a considerable number of residential and other buildings.

Reduced railway fares were granted for the fifth annual musical convention and choral festival of the Carleton Place Mechanics Institute, held in the drill hall at the market square, with guest performers from Boston, Toronto and other points.  The Institute’s officers included William Pattie, Dr. R. F. Robertson, Alex C. McLean and John A. Goth.

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