SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK THIRTY-THREE : Canada’s Centennial (3)

 

 War Clouds Menaced Confederation—Canada

By Howard M. Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 14 April, 1966

 

In the last year of the founding of the Dominion of Canada, storm clouds surrounded the disturbed Canadian springtime of 1866.  To our forefathers of the towns and farms of the present provinces of Ontario and Quebec, rallying to the defence of their southern border, these storm signals gave new practical weight to the merits of forming a federal union with the provinces of their Atlantic neighbours.

Preserved among the remaining vivid Eastern Ontario pictures of Canada’s spirit of 1866 are the news and editorial columns of the Carleton Place weekly newspaper of that day.  They reflect the indignation and confidence of a province bracing itself to meet the threat of guerrilla attacks which might be made with the tolerance or tacit consent of United States authorities.  The generally similar view shown in newspapers and public attitudes in the future first Dominion of Canada in that troubled time is illustrated by such statements as these, made in this district’s widely circulated Carleton Place Herald:

“It appears almost incredible that the Fenian operations should have been allowed to be carried on in the States to so great a length as they have been.  But at latest reports the Washington authorities seem very little inclined to check their operations, and seem rather amused at the trouble, danger and expense to which the British provinces are subjected.  Mr. Seward (United States Secretary of State), may have to laugh on the other side of his mouth before the American government is done with Fenianism, its consequences and its responsibilities.”

“Prejudiced, although unfairly so, as the Americans are against us, we have but little to hope for or expect from their goodwill to us.  Indeed, without their countenance and support the present state of things could not have existed.  But in their own circumstances we have a reasonable guarantee that they will, if they have not already gone too far, stop the movement.  They know well too that the very first effect of a war with John Bull would be the total and irreparable loss of the fruits of their four years’ struggle with the South, with national bankruptcy and a long train of other evils.  We must not shut our eyes to the fact that if unhappily a war should take place with the United States, Britain and her colonies would suffer severely in the struggle.”

“At Ottawa during the past week guards have been placed at night on the armoury, the banks and the Railway Depot.  The city has a martial appearance.  Bugles are sounding, and the tramp of armed men is becoming familiar to our ears.  The number of volunteers in the city must now be over five hundred men.  There may be no actual necessity for this but it is better to be sure than sorry.

Large reinforcements from England are expected here shortly.  At present we have about ten thousand regulars in Canada, besides eleven thousand volunteers on duty.  Then there are at least fifteen thousand fully armed and ready at a moment’s notice, another eight thousand militia could soon be made available.  The Government has had an immense number of offers of veterans and others who are well drilled.”

A visitor’s impressions of the Carleton Place Rifle Company during its March, 1866 first call to arms were given in the Brockville Recorder, whose writer said:

“We learn from a gentleman who was travelling on the Brockville & Ottawa Railway that on Friday last a company of volunteers, fine looking men under Captain Poole, made their appearance at the Carleton Place railway station in full uniform, guns and bayonets in first best style.  Indeed a gentleman present said he never saw a better looking company of men, or arms better kept.  The company was led by the good old Scotch bag pipes and drum, well played.  The Captain and officers may be proud of their men.  If the interests of the country require it, this company will give a good account of themselves.  When the train started three cheers were given for the Queen, and three more for the Carleton Place volunteers.”

A brigade and divisional muster and review was held at this time (March 23 and 24) at Montreal.  Its proceedings, as reported by Captain Poole in the Carleton Place Herald, included imposition of a severe sentence of a court martial, later greatly reduced, for an unfortunate corporal of the Carleton Place Rifle Company:

“On Friday last, the Militia Brigade mustered at the City Hall in Montreal.  The sentence of the Court Martial on two of the volunteers belonging to the Shefford Light Infantry Company was read by the Assistant Adjutant General, George Smith.  The charge against the men was simply one of gross insubordination, and they were sentenced to sixty days imprisonment without hard labor.”

“On Saturday there was a ‘Grand Divisional Field Day’ of the whole garrison, regulars and volunteers.  The First Brigade, on the left, consisted of H. R. Prince Consort’s Own Rifle Brigade, the 25th.  King’s Own Borderers and the 30th Regiment.  The Second Brigade was composed of the Volunteer Militia, under command of Colonel Dyde, Brigadier.  The inspecting officer was Lieut. General Sir John Michel (then commanding Her Majesty’s forces in North America).”

“In Colonel Dyde’s staff we noticed Lieut. Colonel George Smith, A.A.G.  After the inspection the route of march was then taken up.  Each regiment was preceded by its band.  On completing a lengthy march by way of the following streets…., the regulars proceeded to the barracks and the volunteers turned into Craig Street at the French Square.”

“The volunteers then marched up to the Victoria Square, where the Brigade was drawn up in square of close column and the proceedings and sentence of a Court Martial on Corporal Patrick Tucker of the Carleton Place (C.W.) Rifles were read by Assistant Adjutant General George Smith.  The offence proved in this case was gross insubordination.  The sentence of the Court was ninety days imprisonment, the first and last seven days with hard labour.  At the conclusion of this unpleasant part of the day’s proceedings, the several corps marched off to their armories and dispersed.”

The thanks of Carleton Place to its volunteers at the end of their March service was offered at an oyster supper for the Rifle Company, held within the stone walls of William Kelly’s British Hotel at the corner of Bridge and High Streets, in an evening of songs and speeches.  One erring member of the Company, found after this event to have ‘persisted in wearing his uniform clothes for days together and even sleeping in them’, was fined five dollars with an alternative of ten days in jail.

Expectations of further dangers, which soon were to come, called for continued preparation and frontier watchfulness in the interval between March and June.  In their local prediction in the Carleton Place Herald three months before the June abortive invasion our chronicle Captain Poole wrote, in part:

“By recent orders from Headquarters the several companies relieved from active duty are required to assemble for drill twice a week, for which the non-commissioned officers and men are to receive each the sum of fifty cents for each drill:  the commissioned officers, nothing.  Until further orders the Carleton Place Rifle Company will assemble on Wednesdays and Saturdays at four o’clock.”

“The country is threatened with invasion by a reckless horde of robbers and scoundrels.  The danger may possibly be postponed but there is little doubt  that before many weeks it will come to the hard pinch, and we trust every volunteer will show himself to be A Man And A Soldier, and ‘rally round the flag’ in defence of his country and his home.”

The strains created by an aggressive United States and the threats from irregular forces within its borders were giving their unintended impetus to the union of the Province of Canada with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, then in its final stages of negotiation.  This was the Herald forecast:

“The idea of Confederation is making rapid strides in the Lower Provinces.  The prospect of ultimate success now amounts to almost a certainty.  The ‘blue noses’ are beginning to regard Canadians as friends and neighbours and are almost inclined to cultivate a closer relationship.  Canadian capital and enterprise would, it is believed, give a powerful stimulus to the progress of New Brunswick and the other colonies.  Again, the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty showed, too clearly to be misunderstood, the necessity of commercial union between the Provinces.  The feeling was made stronger by the avowed annexationist doctrines of some American politicians, and their supposed sympathy with the Fenian movement.  The demonstrations of the latter Order on the frontier, with their statements that they were determined to frustrate the Confederation scheme, sever the Colonies from Britain and erect them into a Republic, also have had their effect.”

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SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK THIRTY-ONE : Canada History Week, July 1-7, 2013 : Canada’s Centennial (1)

Border Raids Promoted Confederation in Canada

By Howard Morton Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 17 March, 1966

 

Community preparations for Confederation Centennial Celebrations are on the way throughout Canada.  They have begun already to reflect a new degree of the energy and self-respect gained by every nation which honours its great men and their deeds, and by every district and community which shows a sense of pride in its past accomplishments and a confidence in its future.

The uniting of Canada from the Atlantic to the West, and then to the Pacific and the Arctic Oceans, was not heralded only by the wise plans of our elected representatives, bewhiskered and top-hatted, meeting a century ago in sessions of hard bargaining and minor ceremony.  It came first from urgent needs of the town and country people of Ontario and Quebec, and those of the Atlantic provinces.  Their most pressing needs had become those of sheer self-preservation in a time of increasing difficulty.  The way out was seen at last to be a joining of British North American colonies into a confederation having the strength and will to survive and grow.  The amazing transformation which was to appear across much of the northern half of North America in the short space of one hundred years remained undreamed in the land which was to become second in geographical size to only the present union of Russia and second in material standards of living to only its United States southern neighbour.

The most dramatic of the pressures which rallied public unity and led to the forming of the infant federal union was one which came particularly close to home in this part of Canada.  It was a threat of long standing which reached its final stage in the last attacks to be made on our borders by armed forces of an enemy.  Canadian preparations and United States vaccilation reduced these last American-based assaults upon Canada to the proportions of guerrilla raids, made in the year before Confederation and renewed four years later.  They were met and repelled by our own volunteer soldiers, backed and aided by British troops.  These exploratory tests, launched with the ill-concealed encouragement of United States advocates of northern expansion, hastened and strengthened the Confederation which molded Canada into a nation united from its outset by fires of adversity.

The attempted Canadian invasions of 1866 and 1870 remain well remembered in local traditions in Ontario and Quebec as the now remote Fenian Raids.  Their backgrounds lay in the destructive horrors of the United States Civil War, which in 1861 introduced a decade of crisis in Canada.  Northern United States attitudes and conduct on the high seas, coupled with the needs of trade, brought immediate critical relations between Great Britain and the United States and the first large scale organization of a trained Canadian volunteer militia.

Apprehension remained at the end of the American Civil War in 1865 that restless Northern elements might turn to the harassment of their Canadian and other British colonial neighbours.  The move from the United States soon came.  It centered in an organization calling itself the Fenian Brotherhood, formed to promote by force the separation of Ireland from Great Britain.  Members of this Irish separatist group in the United States were joined at the end of the Civil War by thousands of demobilized Irish Americans and other unsettled adventurers ready for further military action.

Their leaders late in 1865 put in motion ambitious plans for raising a private army of sufficient strength to conquer and subvert at least a part of the adjoining British colonies.  They arrogantly claimed that, after conversion of these supposedly downtrodden colonies into a free Irish republic, their Irish Canada with the aid of other nations would drive the British eventually by force of arms from the motherland of Ireland.

The president of the United States was the deplorable and later impeached Andrew Johnson of Tennessee.  United States government authorities appeared to ignore and failed to stop the arming and drilling of thousands of American Fenian recruits at points extending from New Brunswick’s borders to the Niagara and western river frontiers of Canada.  Our Canadian government late in 1865 assigned volunteer militia units to several months of winter guard duty at Prescott, Niagara, Windsor and Sarnia.  The Brockville Rifle Company also served on night guard at Brockville from December until the first general call to the frontier in the following March.  A year earlier it had been one of the units of the forces guarding western points from Amherstburg to Sarnia, to prevent any repetition of a secretly planned Confederate raid from the Canadian side such as had been made on St. Albans, Vermont.

The Fenian forces gathered and were armed in the spring of 1866 at border mustering centres including Calais and Eastport in Maine, St. Albans and other places in northern Vermont, and in upper New York State at Malone, Potsdam and Ogdensburg and Cape Vincent, Oswego and Rochester.  Western and southern Fenian contingents arrived at Detroit, Cleveland, Toledo, Erie and Buffalo.  When a New Brunswick Fenian foray was blocked by both British and United States naval and military intervention, a three-pronged campaign against Canada was prepared.  One force was to enter at Fort Erie and cut canal and railway communications.  One was to cross at Prescott with Ottawa as its objective.  The third hoped to advance through the Eastern Townships on Montreal.

The Canadian government of the united present provinces of Ontario and Quebec had introduced an urgent militia bill when the early border stresses of the Civil War appeared.  It was designed to provide for a trained force of 50,000 men, raised by selective service if necessary, as compared to a number of not more than five thousand volunteers covered by the initial Canadian military training law of 1855.  The government was defeated on this conscription issue of 1862 but militia expansion began.  A similar act was passed at a later stage of the American war.  Voluntary enlistments and Fenian defeats made it unnecessary to invoke its provisions of compulsion for the balloted enrolments, which were initiated but not enforced.

Defence action in 1866 began against threatened March attacks which failed to materialize.  Ten thousand volunteers were called up at militia centres throughout the area of Ontario and Quebec, then in its last year as the Province of Canada.  The greater part of this number was dispatched to guard the united province’s long and vulnerable southern approaches.  Fourteen thousand men had responded to the call.  Among those alerted for action were seven Lanark and Leeds companies forming a provisional battalion under Major James Crawford of Brockville.  It was composed of the rifle and infantry companies of both Perth and Brockville, the Carleton Place Rifle Company under Captain James C. Poole, the Almonte Infantry Company under Captain James D. Gemmill, and the Gananoque Rifle Company.  Severe cold and several weeks of frosty Canadian guard and drilling duties postponed the Fenian invasion.

The Main Attack

The main attack came three months later when an advance contingent of more than one thousand Fenians, led by their general John O’Neill, crossed the Niagara River by boat from Buffalo and entered Canada at the first of June near Fort Erie.  They were met the next day by a slightly larger force of Canadian militiamen.  In the Battle of Ridgeway and in a Fort Erie engagement, Canadian casualties were about ten killed and forty wounded.  Among those of the ranks of the Queen’s Own Rifles killed in the action at Ridgeway was John H. Mewburn, university student, age 21, only son of Harrison C. Mewburn who at this time was headmaster of the Carleton Place grammar school.  With losses close to twice the Canadian number and with laggard American military prevention of their reinforcement, the Fenians withdrew across the river.

From Vermont about one thousand of the Fenians who had gathered at St. Albans entered the Eastern Townships on June 4.  Until effective Canadian forces reached the area, they plundered the neighbourhood of Frelighsburg, Pigeon Hill, and St. Armand for several days.  With slight losses they withdrew due to lack of reinforcements.  After the launching of these unsuccessful Canadian raids, American authorities tardily disarmed and dispersed the main border forces of these invaders, and charged and released on bail a number of their leaders. 

The thrust of the third prong of Fenian attack, intended along the St. Lawrence front between Kingston and Cornwall, failed to develop when all troops available in the area of Eastern Ontario were placed on active service to oppose it.  Militia companies and units of British regiments joined in the defence of Kingston, Prescott and Cornwall, in all about three thousand at Kingston, two thousand at Prescott and two thousand at Cornwall.  Brockville river front and railway communications were protected by the provisional battalion which already had been called up in March, formed of the Brockville, Perth, Carleton Place, Almonte and Gananoque companies.  Most of the Canadian militia at the end of the 1866 Fenian Raids was released after about three weeks’ active service.  The remainder continued on guard duty for periods up to six months.

United States authorities provided railway transportation for some thousands of the Fenian forces to their home towns from points including Buffalo, Malone and St. Albans.  A July resolution passed by the House of Representatives reflected United States attitudes by recommending suspension of proceedings in the United States courts on all charges against Fenians wherever possible and sought release of Canada’s Fenian prisoners who had been captured in their unprovoked armed assaults upon this province. 

The prisoners captured at Fort Erie were removed to Toronto where on preliminary inquiry about forty were discharged and deported.  Trials of forty remanded prisoners opened in Toronto in October before Mr. Justice John Wilson and a jury, and continued until January.  The judge, a native of Lanark County, had himself in his youth been tried as a principal in the fatal Wilson-Lyons duel at Perth.  Half of these accused were acquitted.  The remainder, convicted of high treason in the case of British subjects and the rest under a law passed for such cases during the Canadian Rebellion period, were sentenced to be hanged.  After several of the convictions were appealed unsuccessfully, the sentences all were commuted to varying terms of imprisonment in Portsmouth Penitentiary at Kingston, and within a few years the last had been released.  Three of six convicted Missiquoi County Fenian prisoners also had been sentenced to be hanged, when  fourteen had been tried at Sweetsburg.

One of the Canadian estimates of this time of stress was that of Captain James Poole in his Carleton Place Herald.  While advocating moderation in punishment of the captured “dastard Fenian foes”, he declared in retrospect:

“Brother Jonathan has had his eye on Canada for a long time past, and though we read much about ‘friendly relations’ they exist only on paper.  Both the American government and Press have done all they could, with safety to themselves, to encourage the Fenians in an attack on Canada.  Had they not been afraid of a growl from the British Lion they would have done more.”

1860’s Saw Considerable Building in Carleton Place, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 04 August, 1960

Life in the Eighteen Sixties in Carleton Place is recalled in the present fifth installment of a series of annals reviewing events in the first hundred years of this community and its surrounding district.

The location of Carleton Place at a waterfall on one of the larger tributaries of the Ottawa River and on one of Eastern Ontario’s first railways proved in the Eighteen Sixties to place this community in a position of some advantage in the lumber economy of the Ottawa Valley.  A number of new industrial firms were established here.  Among them were two sawmills and a foundry each of which grew to become a substantial employer of capital and labour and a leading industry of the town.

Prince of Wales

1860 – Archibald McArthur (1816-1884), reeve and prominent wholesale and retail merchant, enlarged his business premises here by building a store of stone construction in 1860 near the corner of Bridge and Mill Streets.

The young Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, viewed Carleton Place while travelling by coach and railway through Lanark and Leeds Counties in the course of a tour of Canada.

Patrick Struthers (1830-1907), merchant and later magistrate, became postmaster of Carleton Place.  He continued in charge of the local post office for over forty-five years.

New Saw Mill

1861 – A steam-powered sawmill was built in the area of the present Riverside Park on the south bank of the river.  The old Muirhead sawmill, which was located near the present electric power plant, was leased and reopened by Robert Gray.

Brice McNeely Jr. (1831-1920) began a forty year period of operating the long established tannery.  The town bridge across the Mississippi was rebuilt.

Findlays Foundry

1862 – In the infancy of the town’s present leading industry, a new foundry was opened on the Perth Road, now High Street, by David Findlay (1835-1890) for the manufacture of stoves, ploughs and other castings.

Canadian military preparations were begun in view of risks of the United States Civil War leading to war between Britain and the United States.  At Carleton Place a volunteer rifle company, with newspaper editor James Poole as its captain, was equipped to take the place of the townships former militia regiment.  A new infantry company was formed at Almonte. 

In a match at the Almonte exhibition grounds between the Carleton Place and Almonte cricket clubs, the Almonte club’s resplendent uniforms featured white caps, pink shirts and white pantaloons.

Militia Training

1863 – The Ramsay lead mine at Carleton Place resumed operation.  A woollen mill at Appleton built by Robert Teskey (1803-1892) was opened under the management of his son John Adam Teskey (1837-1908) and son-in-law William Bredin.

In a target shooting competition at Carleton Place between the local Rifle Company and the Almonte Infantry Company, the rifle company appeared in its new uniforms with green tunics, grey pants with red facings, and dark belts.  The infantry uniforms had scarlet tunics, grey pants and white belts.  The impressive headpiece of both companies’ uniforms was an ornamented cap known as a shako.

Railway Extension

1864 – The Brockville & Ottawa Railway Company’s line was extended and opened from Almonte to Arnprior, providing rail transportation between the St. Lawrence River and Grand Trunk Railway at Brockville and the Ottawa River at Sand Point.  George Lowe became the station master at Carleton Place.

Temperance Movement

1865 – A temperance society known as Temple No. 122 of the Independent Order of Good Templars, was formed at Carleton Place to oppose the sale of alcoholic beverages.  A proposal to apply a local option Temperance Act to Beckwith township including Carleton Place was rejected by a majority of thirty votes.

The Beckwith municipal council elected for 1865 was Patrick Struthers, reeve, and Archibald McArthur, Donald Carmichael, George Kidd and Alexander Ferguson.

Gillies & McLaren

1866 – This town’s first large scale business had its start in 1866 with the opening of the Gillies & McLaren lumber mill with thirty employees.  James Gillies (1840-1909) came as its manager.  Five years later John Gillies (1811-1888), who had founded the firm in Lanark township, removed to Carleton Place.  Both remained here for life and were leaders in the town’s industrial growth.  James Gillies for over thirty five years was head of the later widespread lumbering operations of Gillies Brothers, a position occupied from 1914 to 1926 by his brother David Gillies (1849-1926) of Carleton Place.

A shingle mill also began business here in 1866, managed by John Craigie.  He was the builder of the town’s first two steamboats, the Mississippi and the Enterprise.  The local grist and oatmeal mills were bought by Henry Bredin from Hugh Boulton Jr.  They continued to be operated by James Greig (1806-1884), who ran these mills from 1862 to 1868 after the death of Hugh Boulton Sr., founder of this first industry of the community.

The union of Lanark and Renfrew Counties was ended in 1866 by the establishment of a separate Renfrew County council and administration.

Fenian Raids

Raids from the United States upon border points were made in 1866 by groups known as Fenians, whose professed objective was political independence for Ireland.  The Carleton Place and Almonte volunteer companies were dispatched to Brockville in June.  Captain of the Almonte company was James D. Gemmill.  Total of all ranks serving from Carleton Place numbered fifty-seven.  Under local officers Captain James C. Poole, Lieut. John Brown and Ensign J. Jones Bell, they included such Carleton Place and township family names as Burke, Coleman, Cram, Dack, Docherty, Duff, Enright, Ferguson, Fleming, Hamilton, Kilpatrick, Leslie, Lavallee, Moffatt, Moore, Morphy, and McArthur, McCaffrey, McCallum, McEwen, McFadden, McNab, McNeely and McPherson, Neelin, Patterson, Pattie, Rattray, Sinclair, Stewart, Sumner, Williams, Willis and Wilson.

Volunteers from these and other Lanark County areas served also in the Fenian Raids of 1870.  Drill halls built in 1866 at county centres including Perth, Carleton Place and Almonte were used for many years.  The Carleton Place drill shed was at the market square between Beckwith and Judson Streets, at the present site of the skating rink.  Almonte’s military quarters were combined with the North Lanark Agricultural Society’s main exhibition building then being erected.

 

Confederation

1867 – Canadian confederation was hailed in Carleton Place by a day of celebration which extended from a sunrise cannon salute to an evening of torchlight processions and fireworks.  There were speeches by the clergy,  a military parade with rifles firing, a costume carnival and sports events featuring novelty races.

A new sawmill was built by the Gillies & McLaren firm to employ up to a hundred men.  At Arklan Island a smaller sawmill was built by William Bredin.  Erection of a large frame building on Mill Street for use as a woollen cloth factory was begun by Allan McDonald.  The Allan McDonald foundry was reopened by John Grant and operated for four years, producing stoves, ploughs, ploughpoints and other castings.  A local house construction boom was under way.  Daniel Galbraith (1813-1879) of Ramsay township was elected to the Ontario Legislature of North Lanark.  He represented this constituency in the House of Commons from the following election until his death in 1879.

Another Railway

1868 – Building of the Canada Central Railway between Ottawa and Carleton Place was begun and was completed two years later.  In ceremonies marking the start of construction, held at the Carleton Place end of the line and attended by Richard W. Scott, Q.C., M.P.P., of Ottawa, the sod turning ritual was performed by the Rev. J. H. Preston of St. James Church, Carleton Place.

Caldwell Sawmill

1869 – This towns second large sawmill business was started by Boyd Caldwell (1818-1888) and managed by his son William Caldwell.  It operated for twenty-two years on the site of the present Riverside Park.

An enlarged stone grist mill building was erected by William Bredin on Mill Street, together with buildings occupied in the following year by Joseph Cram as a planing mill and by John F. Cram as a tannery.  A stone church building for the Zion Presbyterian congregation was built at the church’s present Albert and Beckwith Street location.

The Mississippi Navigation Company was incorporated to build locks at Innisville and Ferguson’s Falls and open navigation from Lanark and Playfairville to Carleton Place.  Its directors were James H. Dixon of Peterborough, Abraham Code, M.P.P. (then owning mills at Ferguson’s Falls) and Robert Bell, John Craigie and Robert Crampton of Carleton Place.  The company’s brief existence ended with the building of a steamboat, The Enterprise.  Bought by the Gillies & McLaren firm , The Enterprise plied the Mississippi Lakes for about twenty-five years in the service of the lumber industry and provided transportation for many of the town’s public events of bygone summer days.

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