Great Falls At Almonte Started Woollen Industry

A group of sketches of origins of the communities of Ramsay township concluded here with notes of scenes and events in the early years of the town of Almonte.

First named Shepperd’s Falls and Shipman’s Mills, the town of Almonte, until its industrial growth which started in the eighteen fifties, was a small village which gained the name of Ramsayville.  Then, with the opening of its first woollen mills and railway transportation, it grew in a period of about thrity years to take a place among the leading centres of the pioneering days of Canadian manufacture of woollen textiles.

Shipman’s Mills on The Great Falls

Rights to lands now forming the greater part of Almonte were granted in 1821 and 1822 to John Gemmill, James Shaw, then of Lanark village, and David Shepherd.  John Gemmill’s land ran from Highway 29 to include the exhibition grounds in the southern part of the present town.  The grant to the absentee owner, James Shaw, was a corresponding downstream section of the ninth concession, extending on both sides of the river as far south as the foot of the bay in Almonte.  It was not until late in 1822 that under the special requirement of building a grist and saw mill at the falls, the central part of the future town was located to David Shepherd, together with another separate hundred acres at the town’s northern or downstream side.  James Wylie, who had emigrated from Paisley in 1820 to begin business as a merchant at Perth, removed to Ramsay where in 1825 he leased and settled on the next northerly two hundred acres (conc. 9, lot 17), a Clergy reserve, which he later bought.

John Gemmill, a Scottish society settler of 1821 from Ayrshire and forbear of Lieut. Colonel James D. Gemmill and of John Alexander Gemmill, Ottawa barrister, was one of Almonte’s first merchants.  James Wylie (1789-1854) was a merchant, Rideau Canal contractor, postmaster, farmer, county agricultural society president and builder of the Almonte residence Burnside.  He was appointed in 1849 to the Legislative Council of Canada in the period of the Baldwin-LaFontaine reform ministry, when riots by opponents of its Rebellion Loses Act led to the burning of the Parliament Buildings of Canada at Montreal.  Daniel Shipman, prominent in the founding days of Almonte and of American Loyalist origin, came in 1823 from the Brockville district and acquired the central properties of David Shepherd.  He completed the building of the future town’s first mills when Shepherd had failed in his undertaking and had fled to escape the imprisonment which awaited defaulting debtors. 

A traveler of 1841 made this brief report of his impressions of the settlement at the falls:

“James Wylie, Esquire, a majistrate and storekeeper, has erected a fine house, his son (William G. Wylie) another.  About half a mile from this, Mr. Shipman’s spacious stone dwelling, his mills and the surrounding buildings, present a bustling scene.  There is one licenced tavern here, and a school.”

Mr. Shipman’s last residence, built in 1837, became the Almonte House hotel.  It was from this house that Daniel Shipman, a sturdy and outspoken reformer in the days of the Upper Canada Family Compact, had escaped from a night search by ten armed men of the Carleton Militia led by over-zealous Captain George Lyon, Richmond mill owner and distiller.  During the alarms following the 1838 Prescott invasion they had ridden from Richmond, at the top speed permitted by bad and devious roads, on hearing false rumors that Shipman was sowing sedition and secreting two men supposed to have escaped in the Prescott battle from the stone windmill fortress of the defeated invaders and rebels.

Pioneer Almonte Industries

The first carding and fulling mill of the community was placed in operation by Mr. Shipman’s father in law, Mr. Boyce; the first planning mill and wagon making shop by John M. Haskin, and the first tanneries by Thomas Mansell and Smith Coleman.  A three storey flour mill built on the east side of the upper falls in the eighteen forties by Edward Mitcheson was bought some few years later by J. B. Wylie, and James H. Wylie.  The Hon. James Wylie’s eldest son, William G. Wylie, a magistrate and township treasurer, had died at Havana in 1851 on his way to the California gold fields.

Industrial growth at Almonte began in larger proportions in the eighteen fifties with the building of the Brockville & Ottawa Railway Company’s line.  Before the railway from Brockville reached the Ottawa River in 1864 at Sand Point, it ran for five years to a temporary northern terminus at Almonte.  The town’s woollen manufacturing had its start with the opening in 1851 of a mill with one set of machinery by the Ramsay Woollen Cloth Manufacturing Company, a company formed under the new Joint Stock Companies Act with capital raised in Ramsay and Beckwith among some forty shareholders.  The village of Ramsayville at this time had a population of little more than two hundred persons.  The next summer a fire destroyed the new woollen mill, gutted Daniel Shipman’s nearby unfinished and uninsured new gristmill and destroyed his old mill.  The loss in this Mill Street fire, one of a number of similar fire losses of following years, was about 2,000 pounds  to the company and 2,000 pounds to Mr. Shipman.  Daniel Shipman at once rebuilt his mill within its standing stone walls.  The building, later owned by John Baird, finally was torn down in 1902.

Start of Woollen Enterprises

James Rosamond of Carleton Place, a shareholder of the short lived Ramsay corporation, then moved his woollen mill operations, the first in Eastern Ontario, from Carleton Place to Almonte as the founding of Almonte’s leading manufacturing enterprise.  He bought the site of the Ramsay Company’s mill and built a four storey stone building, later known as No. 2 Mill, which he opened in 1857.  Before its erection Samuel Reid and John McIntosh opened a small woollen factory in 1854 on the former site of the Boyce fulling mill.  James Rosamond, who lived until 1894, gave the management of his growing business in 1862 to his sons Bennett and William, who doubled its plant capacity and in 1866 admitted George Stephen, Montreal woollen manufacturer, as a partner.  He became Baron Mount Stephen, president of the Bank of Montreal and first president of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.

The new Rosamond firm of 1866 began operations by buying the Island property of some sixteen acres and building its No. 1 Mill, then one of the finest in Canada.  Bennett Rosamond (1833-1910) was elected president of the Canadian Manufacturers  Association in 1890 and was Conservative Member of Parliament for North Lanark from 1892-1904.  He was president of the Almonte Knitting Company and in 1909 donated the Rosamond Memorial Hospital to the town.  He continued as head of the Rosamond Woollen Company until his death, when he was succeeded by Lieutenant Alex Rosamond (1873-1916).

A number of other woollen mills opened soon after the original Rosamond mill in Almonte.  Among the first were those of John McIntosh (1832-1904), a large frame building on the upper falls, and of John Baird (1820-1894) and Gilbert Cannon, all on Mill Street.  Sawmills, machine shops and iron foundries followed, including among the latter the foundry operated for a few years by John Flett (1836-1900).  A local real estate boom and flurry of inflated land speculation developed, only to collapse in a severe depression of the mid-seventies.  A fire loss of over $20,000 in 1877 destroyed the Cannon mill and the machinery of its lessee William H. Wylie, who moved to Carleton Place where he leased the McArthur (now Bates) woollen mill and later bought the Hawthorne woollen mill.  William Thoburn (1847-1928) began to manufacture flannels at Almonte in 1880 and became the head of the Almonte Knitting Company and Member of Parliament from 1908 to 1917.  Five textile mills in Almonte in 1904 were those of the Rosamond Woollen Company, William Thoburn, James H. Wylie Co. Limited, Almonte Knitting Company, and the Anchor Knitting Co. Limited.

Woollen Mill Party

In view of the claim that a people and its times often are best reflected in its songs, a Christmas Eve supper party given by the Rosamonds to their employees of 1863 may be worth recalling.  Its chairman was Thomas Watchorn, formerly of Carleton Place and later of Lanark and Merrickville.  A song by a member of the party was given between each toast after the supper, ending with the glee club’s Christmas carols at midnight.  The offerings of Mr. Hepworth, the principal performer, included The Cottage by the Sea, Dearest Mary, Little Tailor, The Factory Bell, A Merry Ploughboy, A Kish of Black Turf, Young Ramble Away, Stunnin’ Pair o’Legs, and The Sailor’s Grave.  Mr. Lowe offered Hard Times Come Again No More ; Mr. Douglas gave I’ll Marry Both Girls Bye and Bye, and J. Dornegan The Wedding of Ballyporeen.  The Irish wit George Bond contributed I’ll Never Get Drunk Again.  (George Bond, born in Carleton Place in 1837, was still singing in a celebration of his hundredth birthday by relatives and friends at his home in the Clyde Hotel in Lanark in 1937, when he “concluded the happy event by singing, in a fine clear tenor voice, When Billie Brown and I Slid Down Old Cram’s Cellar Door.”)  For the Christmas party of the men of the Almonte woollen mill, in the time of local recruiting and Canadian defense preparations which accompanied the progress of the United States Civil War, a fitting conclusion with the national anthem was guest Dr. William Mostyn’s The Banner of Old England.

Naming The Town

Almonte ended its changes of community names in 1856.  On the east side of the falls a section promoted by grist mill owner Edward Mitcheson had been given the name Victoria.  A bylaw of Lanark and Renfrew’s old district council “to define the limits of the Village of Ramsayville and Victoria, in the Township of Ramsay, and to extend the Act 12 Victoria Chapter 81 for the Regulation and Police of Unincorporated Villages and Hamlets to the Above Named Villages” was enacted in 1853 and renamed these combined limits as the village of Waterford.  The name most probably was taken from the town and county of Waterford in southern Ireland’s province of Munster.  There already was a village of Waterford in the Canadian province, and at the request of postal authorities  the name of the Ramsay centre was changed again.  The village population then was about five hundred.

The choice of a name of Spanish origin had a precedent in those which had been given to some of the townships of southwestern Ontario by Upper Canada’s Lieutenant Governor of the eighteen twenties, Sir Peregrine Maitland.  The Mexican general Juan N. Almonte had become his country’s ambassador at Washington and had gained his first fame in Mexico’s struggles to defend its territories from the encroachments of the United States.  An early source of his name, adopted by our town of almonte, may be found in Almonte, a village in the province of Andalusia in the southwestern corner of Spain.  It is near the Gulf of Cadiz and half way between the city of Seville and the town of Ayamonte.  Seven hundred years ago this part of Spain was raided often by the Moors, from whom it had been taken.  Near Almonte two centuries later a shepherd is said to have found a statue of the Virgin, hidden at the time of a Moorish raid.  The site of the find continues to be the place of a Pentecostal festival of the region.  Miracles ascribed to this statue of the Virgin, known as Our Lady of the Dew, include the escape of the inhabitants of Almonte in 1650 from a plague.

Almonte of Former Days

Lanark County’s Almonte was incorporated as a village of 2,000 persons in 1870 and as a town of 2,700 population in 1881.  It had somewhat more than 3,000 residents at each of the two next decennial censuses.  For record of its earliest township officers before its incorporation, references have been found as near the beginning of settlement as 1830.  Its first commercial bank, a branch of the Merchants Bank of Canada, later joined with the Bank of Montreal, was opened in 1869.  It gained a newspaper, the long-flourishing Almonte Gazette, in 1867, founded by William Templeman (1844-1914) who learned his printing trade with the Carleton Place Herald, went to British Columbia to found the Victoria Times, and became a member of the Senate, Sir Wilfred Laurier’s minister of inland revenue and the first Canadian minister of mines.

Almonte’s first Protestant churches, together with the municipal hall of the township, were located in the vicinity of the present Auld Kirk cemetery, more than a mile distant from the village community.  They were the St. Andrew’s Church of Scotland, completed about 1835 and still maintained in its original structural condition, the Canadian or Free Presbyterian church, built ten years later, and the Methodist church.  An Anglican church in almonte followed, and the parish of Almonte was separated in about 1860 from that of Carleton Place.  A Roman Catholic church built at Almonte in about 1840 was burned down more than twenty-five years later and was replaced by the present stone church building completed in 1876.  The Baptists built a small Almonte church and the township’s Reformed or Cameronian Presbyterians moved their place of services in about 1867 to the former Canadian Presbyterian church on the Eighth Line, later building their present church facing the Mississippi’s Almonte bay.

A number of the men whose names have lent luster to that of the town of Almonte, notably including pupils of Dr. Peter C. McGregor (1842-1916), Almonte high school teacher of distinction, are found to have had their youthful years coinciding with those of the present Almonte newspaper.  Among them were Dr. James A. Naismith (1861-1939) best remembered as inventor of the game of basketball ; Senator Andrew Haydon (1867-1932), politician, lawyer and author of the Lanark County history “Pioneer Sketches in the District of Bathurst” ; Dr. Robert Tait McKenzie (1867-1938), surgeon and sculptor, commemorated by an Ontario historical plaque at the Mill of Kintail near Almonte as well as by his sculptures (one is “The Volunteer,” located beside the Mississippi on the grounds of the Almonte town hall) ; Sir Edward Robert Peacock, born 1871, living 1961, financier, director of companies including the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, former head of the Banking firm of Baring Brothers and director of the Bank of England ; Dr. William Bennett Munro (1875-1957), American educator, historian and political scientist ; and Dr. James Mackintosh Bell (1877-1934), geologist, explorer, soldier and author, one of the noted descendants of the county’s pioneering Rev. William Bell.

Perhaps on a June night an imaginative viewer of the flood-lit beauty of the Almonte falls still might detect glimpses of the shades of Daniel Shipman, miller and loyal reformer, and the stern and affluent magistrate James Wylie – or of Scottish emigrants walking to John Gemmill’s barn for communion service – or of a band of Ballygiblins freed from the agonies of Ireland and gathered to the falls for mass.  The reflections of centuries of campfires and silent Indian portages past the falls probably would be lost.  The shadows below the falls might seem to hold a few of the host of bygone workers and employers of mills and shops ; or a crew of Scottish, Irish and French rivermen bound for Quebec City, pausing after the risks of breaking a great log jam.  And in the roar or rumble of the floodlit falls he might even hear the roll of wheels of farm wagons, mill carts and horse drawn carriages of a former generation crossing its stone arched bridge – or the rattle of a railway train with a high-stacked wood-burning engine as it drew to the northern end of its run from Brockville – or the shouts of crowds at lacrosse games and cricket matches, at the outdoor open polling of electors or in holiday parades and almost certainly a steady echo of the blows of The Builders, shaping the future of a new land.

Advertisements
Published in: on November 2, 2009 at 3:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Morning Bell Once Rung Every Summer Day at 5 a.m., by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 30 June, 1960

A number of stories of the community activities of former citizens of the Carleton Place area have been gathered for the first time as a continuous annual record of local events.  Brief reviews of these typical events, extending from the town’s beginnings down to the times of the youth of many of Carleton Place’s present residents, will be published in a series of installments of which this is the second.

Second Decade

A brief view of the eighteen thirties, the second decade of community life at Carleton Place, shows that this area, like other sections of the province, was taking its first steps toward local government by townships.  This small and late political reform soon was followed by the seemingly unsuccessful armed rebellion against abuses of power of the province’s little ruling class or group, the Family Compact.  Queen Victoria began her reign of over sixty years while the consequent threat of border raids was arousing our local citizens to take steps for the defense of their new homeland.

Post Office Opened

1830 – Carleton Place in 1830 was added to the small number of communities in the province provided with a local post office.

Caleb S. Bellows, merchant, became the first postmaster here.  By one of the postal practices of long standing, the mounted mail courier carried a tin horn which he blew to announce his approach with the incoming mail.  An error by postal authorities is supposed to have been the cause of the local post office being designated Carleton Place instead of the then current name of Carlton Place. 

Among the 1830 newcomers here were Napoleon Lavallee (1802-1890), a legendary raconteur and sixty year resident who was a cooper and later a hotelkeeper, and the Rosamond family, James Rosamond (1804-1894) with a partner soon opened a wool carding and cloth dressing establishment and later a factory here with the first power looms in Eastern Ontario.

Village Church

1831- The first church in Carleton Place was built by the Methodists in 1831.  It was in the north side of the town at the Bridge Street site of the present Baptist Church, which also was built by the Methodist congregation.  The original church was a frame building forty by sixty feet in size, costing 200 pounds and seating about 250 persons.  Its use was granted both for public meetings and lectures and in various periods for also the services of other religious denominations.

Gaelic Kirk

1832 – The Carleton Place district’s second stone church building was that of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, built in 1832 and 1833 in the 7th concession of Beckwith.  Part of its walls still stand.  During the eighteen year term of its first minister, the Rev. John Smith, its services were conducted in both Gaelic and English.  Its first trustees were Peter Campbell, James McArthur (1767-1836), Findlay McEwen, Colin McLaren, Donald McLaren, Alexander Stewart (1792-1892) and John Scott.  Use of this church building was discontinued about 1870, services by its minister, the Rev. Walter Ross, being transferred to both the St. Andrew’s stone church building erected in the 1850’s at the corner of William and St. Paul Streets, Carleton Place, and a frame building of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church built at Franktown.

The building of the Rideau Canal was completed in this year, as an engineering work fully comparable for its time to that of the present St. Lawrence Seaway.

Road Commissioners

1833- Among commissioners chosen to supervise the spending of some 200 pounds of provincial grants for road repairs in the neighbourhood of Carleton Place, mainly in Beckwith township, were John Cameron, James Cram, Duncan Cram, William Davis, Thomas James, Phineas Low, John McDonell and Archibald McGregor, Robert Johnston, Donald Robertson, David Moffatt, Thomas Saunders, Stephen Tomlinson, James Bennie and William Drynan.

Resident Clergyman

1834 – The population of the present province of Ontario by 1834 had doubled in ten years to reach a total of 321,000.

The first resident clergyman at Carleton Place, the Rev. Edward Jukes Boswell, was appointed a church of England missionary here in December, 1833, and remained for ten years.  St. James Anglican church, a frame structure at the site of the present St. James Church on the corner of Bell and Edmund Streets, was built in 1834.  It remained in use for nearly fifty years and was replaced in 1881 by the present stone building of similar seating capacity.  An unkind comment on the earlier church after it was demolished described it as “one of those marvelous unshapely masses of windows and galleries of the early Canadian order of architecture, whose only excellence was that it was commodious.”

Second Woollen Business

1835- Allan McDonald  (1809-1886) came to Carleton Place in 1835, after two years in the woolen mill business in Innisville.  He built a custom carding and cloth dressing mill on the river bank here at the corner of Mill and Judson Streets, where woollen mill operations were continued for over 75 years.

The building of the first stone church in Ramsay township, still standing at the Auld Kirk cemetery, was completed in 1835.  Its Church of Scotland members included a number of residents of Carleton Place.  Its trustees in 1836 were James Wylie, James Wilson, John Lockhart, John Bennie and John Gemmill.  This congregation’s first resident minister, the Rev. John Fairbairn, came to Ramsay in 1833.  The first child baptized by him was John Fairbairn Cram, a later prominent resident of Carleton Place.  The church was succeeded by St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, later Bethany United, of Almonte.

Taxes in 1835 paid by township tax collectors to the district treasurer at Perth 108 pounds for Beckwith township and 10 pounds 7 shillings 13 pence for Ramsay township.  The district treasurer paid a bounty of 1 pound each for nineteen wolf scalps.

Early Morning Bell

1836 – A fund to pay for the ringing of a morning bell at Carleton Place, as a sort of community alarm clock corresponding to later factory whistles and bells, was raised by donations from some forty persons.  Among the contributors were Adam Beck, James and Robert Bell, Hugh Boulton, Joseph Bond, Rev. Edward J. Boswell, James Coleman, William Dougherty, Thomas Glendinning, Thomas and William Griffith, Paul and Peter Lavallee, John and William Morphy, John McEwen, Robert McLaren, John McLaughlin, John McRostie, Manny Nowlan, David Pattie, William Poole, James and Henry Rosamond, Henry Snedden, John Sumner, William Wallace, Catin and Henry Willis and John Wilson.  At a meeting called by Hugh Boulton, with James Rosamond as chairman, it was decided the bell should be rung daily at 5 a.m. in the months of May to August, and at 6 a.m. during the other eight months of each year.  A deduction was to be made from the bell ringer’s stipend for any time the bell was rung more than ten minutes late as timed by Robert Bell’s clock.

Township municipal officers were first chosen by election in 1836.  In Beckwith and Ramsay, as in other townships of similar populations, land owners chose three commissioners, an assessor, a collector of taxes, a clerk and overseers of highways and pound keepers.  Those elected for 1836 at a Ramsay township meeting were John Gemmill, John Dunlop and James Wilson, commissioners ; David Campbell, clerk ; Matthew McFarlane, assessor ; and Daniel Shipman, tax collector.

A district temperance society convention was held in February at the Carleton Place Methodist Chapel with the Rev. William Bell of Perth as chairman.  Delegates in attendance reported memberships of five of the local societies at numbers totaling more than a thousand persons. 

The Home Guards

1837 – On the outbreak of the Upper Canada Rebellion in December, 1837, home guard forces were organized in a number of communities, including Carleton Place.  At a meeting here, with Robert Bell as chairman, volunteer guards were enrolled for training and asked to arm and equip themselves at their own expense.  Among those enrolled, in addition to most of the names of 1836 mentioned above, were Peter Comrie, Daniel and Peter Cram, John Graham, Edmond Morphy Sr. and Jr., James, John, David and Thomas Morphy, Ewen McEwen, Allan McDonald, Jacob McFadden and several members of each of the Coleman, Dougherty, McLean and Willis families.  A number of weekly musters were held to drill on Bell Street during the early part of the winter.

The Lanark Emigrant Society settlers of 1821, after over fifteen years without a transferable title to their lands, were authorized to be granted their land patents in 1837, upon the British government deciding to relieve them of repayment of government settlement loans of 8 pounds per person – men, women and children – which had been made to each of these families.

On the death of King William IV, the proclamation of King William IV, the proclamation of Victoria as Queen was marked by ceremonies at the district’s centre at Perth.

Invasion

1838- Invasion near Prescott in November 1838, by United States, Canadian and other sympathizers with the cause of the Upper Canada Rebellion led to the summoning of militia of this district for service.  Seventy-five men of the Beckwith and Ramsay unit, the Third Regiment of Lanark Militia, were called up and mustered at Carleton Place under Captain Thomas Glendinning.  Before they could proceed further, word of the defeat of the invaders was received with orders dismissing the militia draft.

Six woollen mill operators met at Carleton Place in March, 1838, and agreed to restrict their credit terms for the custom carding of wool and dressing of homespun cloth.  They were James Rosamond of Carleton Place, Edward Bellamy of Bellamy’s Mills (now Clayton), Gavin Toshack of Bennie’s Corners (Indian River, Conc. 8, Ramsay), Elijah Boyce of Smiths Falls, Silas Warner of Merrickville and Isaiah Boyce of Ennisville.

Village Fairs

1839- Licensed inns at Carleton Place were operated by Manny Nowlan, Robert McLaren and Michael Murphy (1805-1884), father of James L. Murphy.  Those at and near Franktown were the inns of Patrick Nowlan, Peter McGregor, Widow Ann Burrows and Archibald Gillis.

Semi-annual village fairs, providing market days for “all kinds of Horn Cattle, Horses, Hogs, Sheep and Hawkers” were instituted at Carleton Place and Franktown under authority of government charters.  Petitions for their authorization were signed by about 125 residents of this area.  Names heading the Carleton Place petition were those of Rev. Edward J. Boswell, Robert Bell, merchant and postmaster, and James Rosamond, manufacturer.