Early Journalism Provided Doubtful Living, by H. M. Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 05 April, 1962

Journalism in Lanark and the Ottawa River counties had its birth in the now distant year of 1828.  The Bathurst Independent Examiner at that time began to be published weekly in the twelve year old community of Perth.  It appears to have been the first newspaper in the province to be located at an inland point north of the original Loyalist settlements which forty-five years earlier had been started along the St. Lawrence and Niagara Rivers and eastern Lake Ontario.

The Examiner after continuing for four years was re-established by William Tully as the British Constitution.  Mr. Tully had been a Perth mill owner and was a fighting Irishman of many controversies.  Under the banner of the British Constitution Perth’s newspaper survived for a year or less.  About a year intervened before it reappeared in 1834, with the same printing press, as the Bathurst Courier under the management of Malcolm Cameron.  Rising as a reformer in the sphere of provincial political affairs, he became the Hon. Malcolm Cameron in whose honour a commemorative plaque was erected several years ago in Perth by the Ontario Historical Sites Board.

Already there were about thirty newspapers in the province in the early eighteen thirties.  Those east of Kingston in 1833, in addition to the Perth weekly, were the Brockville Recorder and one other at Brockville, the Observer at Cornwall and the Grenville Gazette at Prescott.  Several years later Bytown gained its first weekly news publication in 1836.  In the Perth newspaper’s first year as the Courier it was called the Bathurst Courier and Ottawa Gazette.  For the next ten years it used the name Bathurst Courier and Ottawa General Advertiser.  Then it adopted its present title of the Perth Courier.

First Editors

The Rev. William Bell in his diary noted the arrival of Mr. Stewart’s printing press in Perth in March of 1828, “the first instrument of the kind that ever came to the place.”  John Stewart, founder and first editor of the pioneer Perth Independent Examiner, was the schoolmaster of the district’s fully state-supported public school, receiving for that service a salary of one hundred pounds form the provincial government.  Before the end of its first year the Examiner claimed to have 521 subscribers.

It had subscription agents at twenty-seven points from Hamilton east to Montreal.  Agents at nearby points were Manny Nowlan, innkeeper at Carleton Place ; John A. Murdoch, postmaster at Lanark ; John Toshack at Ramsay, William Stewart at Bytown and James Burke at Richmond ; Thomas Read at the March settlement, Mr. Ballantine at Merrickville, James Maitland, postmaster at Kilmarnock ; and J. B. Rutley at “Rideau Settlement,” probably Smiths Falls.

The Examiner’s later editor was Francis Henry Cumming.  He had been a British army officer of the 104th Regiment in the War of 1812-14 and an officer of the first militia regiment at Perth, and one of the early Commissioners of the Peace of this district.  He became the original editor of the Brockville Gazette in 1828, and returned to Perth within three years to acquire and undertake the editorial duties of the Bathurst Independent Examiner.

The remaining original record of this trail-blazing newspaper of the district, the parent or first incarnation of the venerable Perth Courier, appears to consist now of only about one third of the weekly numbers issued in its second year.  With much of the staple fare of today’s weekly press, the Examiner was spiced from time to time by serving as a forum for a few of the acrimonious public or personal local feuds which were a popular pastime of that period.

The top news sensation of the Examiner’s second year came in the luridly presented details of a murder trial and a public hanging which took place in front of the Perth jail, its final event a Roman holiday for the people of the town and adjacent areas, at which “the concourse of spectators was immensely large.”

Struggle For Existence

A struggle for journalistic existence was claimed before long in the Examiner editor’s pleas for subscription payments.  Some of John Stewart’s five hundred subscribers seemed to have failed to pay their annual fifteen shillings, either in cash or in kind.  At the first of January in 1830, traditional time for the settling of debts, the editor made this forthright demand:

To Our Patrons.  We want our payment for the Examiner, and we must have it ; for we can do no longer without it.  When our Agents distribute the papers, they will please ask every mother’s son of a subscriber for his cash, and all kinds of grain will be received at this office, at the market price, from our friends in the adjoining townships.  Since the commencement of our establishment we have sunk above 600 pounds in it, and (will it be believed?) we have not yet received enough to pay our Foreman’s wages.

Two weeks later he added:

Wanted.  Wheat, Corn, Rye, Barley, Oats, Pork or Cash, in payment for the Examiner.  Last year we did not press any one for payment, as we knew the failure of crops was the sole reason of the farmer not paying us.  This reason no longer exists.  All the appeals which we made for payment, since the new crops came in, have been hitherto disregarded.  The sleighing time has now come on, and payment we must have in one way or another.  Our patrons, we trust, will have no excuse.

Finally two months later came a further appeal:

Acknowledgments.  Since the winter set in we have received from our Patrons 15 bushels of oats, 7 of wheat and about as much cash as would pay for one week’s boarding for our workmen.  Our total receipts since the first of Dec. are not sufficient to cover the cost of one week’s publication.  Now if our friends mean to bring us anything they had better set about it in reality, and avail themselves of the very first dash of sleighing, as the season is far advanced, time is precious, and we cannot wait for payments till next winter.

Hard Times

Similar straits of tradesmen and businessmen and their local creditors, practically all working with little capital, are shown in such reports as those of sheriff’s seizures of property to enforce payments.  These were coupled with the ever-present further sanction of the power of confining defaulting debtors to a primitive jail.  These are some examples for the year of the calls upon debtors in the neighbourhood of Perth and Carleton Place.

Notice is hereby given to all indebted to Mr. Thomas Wickham to make payment of all debts by notes of hand or book account on or before the 10th of January, 1830, or their accounts, notes of hand, etc. will be given to a man of business for collection.  To save expence, they will do well to settle, as Mr. Thomas Wickham is not to suffer imprisonment the ensuing year, as he has done this year, in order to save others. – Perth, December 28th, 1830.

Notice.  All those indebted to the subscriber by note or book account are hereby notified that unless they make immediate payment the papers shall be put in the hands of one or the other of the three Perth doctors who are celebrated for blistering.  Charles Stuart, Booven-Hall, Beckwith.

Notice.  The Subscriber, having lately been tickled by a Limb of the Law, will be under the necessity of amusing those indebted to him in a similar manner, unless they will within ten days settle their accounts.  – Perth, 17th February, 1830.  John Lee, Tanner.

Sheriff’s Sale.  By virtue of two writs…..against the lands and tenements of Hugh Boulton, one at the suit of George L. Bellows, another at the suit of Richard Coleman; – Also by virtue of a writ…..at the suit of Daniel McMartin Esq., I have taken into execution as belonging to the said Hugh Boulton a plot of land in the east half of Lot No. 14 in the 12th Concession of Beckwith, containing about four acres, on which are erected a grist mill, saw mill, distillery etc., which I shall expose for sale at the Court house in Perth on Saturday the 19th of June next, at 10 o’clock in the forenoon, to the highest bidder for Cash…..J. H. Powell, Sheriff, by J. A. H. Powell, D’y Sheriff.  Perth March 18th, 1830.

Subject to such temporary vicissitudes, the founder of the first mills of Carleton Place retained his industrial properties and water power rights here until he sold those on the north side of the Mississippi in 1850 to Alexander McLaren.  Those on the south side of the river, including his grist mill, oatmeal mill and stone residence, were sold some eight years after his death to Henry Bredin in 1866, by his son Hugh Boulton, Junior.  The Bredins in turn sold them a few years later to Horace Brown.

Carleton Place Business Changes

The opening of the first substantial retail merchandizing business in Carleton Place was advertised by this brief announcement which appeared in the Examiner for a number of weeks.

New Store.  The Subscriber begs leave to inform the inhabitants of Beckwith, Ramsay and the adjoining Townships that he has commenced business at Murphys Falls, on the Mississippi River, with a general assortment of goods suitable for that part of the country, which he will dispose of, on the most reasonable terms, for ready payment.  – August 8th, 1829.  Robert Bell.

Soon after a “commodious Distillery” in Carleton Place was being offered for sale by its first owner, with this notice in the Bathurst Independent Examiner.

Notice.  That commodious Distillery situated at Carleton Place, lately erected by the subscriber will be sold at public auction on Tuesday the 3rd day of November next, at the hour of 2 o’clock p.m., if not previously disposed of at private sale.  Terms of payment will be made easy to the purchaser. – Carleton Place, 13th Sept. 1829.  C. J. Bellows.

Other brief glimpses of the times of 1829 and 1830 from the pages of this district’s first newspaper will follow in a final installment.

No art can conquer the people alone – the people are conquered by an ideal of life upheld by authority. – William Butler Yeats.

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Slave Owner Became Wife of Carleton Place Distiller by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 14 March, 1957

Business and industrial activity in Carleton Place, when viewed over the years of the community’s life, may be seen to have traced a normal pattern. Periods of expansion have been followed by times of little change ; years of reduced business activity have been succeeded by years of renewed growth.

The greatest early period of growth took place in the 1870’s and 1880’s beginning in the year of Confederation. A more than threefold increase in population, to 4,200 accompanied it. With the town’s population remaining relatively constant through the early 1950’s at some 4,500, a glance seventy years back to a year of the expansive 1880’s may permit some degree of comparison with life in the same area today.

A description of the town’s business and public institutions of 70 years ago has been found in a special number of the Carleton Place Herald of 1887. A few details of the scantily recorded first years of the community are included as its introduction, probably provided tot he young editor, William H. Allen, by the erudite and elderly Robert Bell.

Mr. Bell, former Member of the Legislative for Lanark and Renfrew and later for North Lanark before Confederation, and Dominion Inspector of Canal Revenues, was a leader in the town’s affairs for most of the period from 1830 until his death here at age 86 in 1894.

He was a son of the pioneering Rev. William Bell of Perth, whose children included Rev. Andrew Bell, William and John Bell, prominent early merchants of Perth and Carleton Place, Robert Bell, M.P.P. ; Isabella, wife of Judge J. G. Malloch of Perth ; James Bell, once of Carleton Place and one time banker and County Registsrar at Perth ; and Rev. George Bell, first Canadian-born graduate of Queen’s University and Registrar and Librarian of that university. In much abridged form the 1887 story follows:

 

A Brief History of Carleton Place – Its Manufacturing Industries, Its Advantages and its Population. December 1887:

About seventy years ago Edmond Morphy, with his wife and two daughters and his six sons, John, William, James, David, Edmond and Thomas, became (in 1819) the first settlers in the forests that then grew upon the site we now occupy. They owned 400 acres of land, lots 14 and 15 in the 12th concession of Beckwith, skirting the banks of the Mississippi River. The river was at that time, in the part that now divides the town, a long stretch of rapids, since changed by the construction of dams to a tolerably placid stream of fair depth in about half our corporation limits, and terminating in a more abrupt and higher succession of falls and shorter stretch of rapids.

Morphy’s Falls and Bolton’s Mills:

A few other settlers shortly afterwards joined those mentioned. Until 1830 the river at this point and the settlement or hamlet shared in common the name of Morphy’s Falls. IN 1830 Caleb Bellows, the postmaster, proposed a change in name, and Carlton Place became the recognized designation, changed about twenty years later to Carleton Place. It is supposed that the village was named after Carlton Place, a location in Glasgow, Scotland.

In 1820 a mill site was purchased by a Mr. Coleman, who in turn disposed of it to Hugh Boulton, who built a grist mill. Its site was where Mr. Horace Brown’s oat mill now stands, (corner of Mill and

Beckwith Streets, since converted as McGregor’s Automobile Body Shop). The first millstone ever used here abouts was made by Hugh Boulton, and the identical millstone now lies down by Miller Brown’s storehouse.

By the terms of his purchase from the Morphy’s of the mill site, Mr. Boulton was to have the mill running by a certain date. He found that he had miscalculated, and that he could not import a stone and have it delivered in time to fulfil his contract. He went up the lake somewhere about ‘Buchanan’s place’ and obtained a large piece of granite and made the stone himself, thus triumphing over difficulties and starting his mill on time. At about the same time a saw mill, on a small scale, was built just on the opposite side by Mr. Boulton.

A few houses were also erected in 1820, the Morphy brothers being among the builders. William Moore opened his blacksmith shop, and Robert Barnst embarked embarked in his trade as a cooper. A general store, an inn and a potash factory were opened at the close of the same year by Alexander Morris. The general store and hotel shared the same roof.

The building stood flush to the river bank on the second lot on Mill Street below Bridge Street. Two years later another store was opened by John (or William) Loucks. The first merchant to open a store really worthy of the name, having a general assortment of merchandise unmixed with offshoot enterprise, was Caleb S. Bellows. His place of business was on the site occupied by James L. Murphy’s Riverside Store, at the southwest corner of the Bridge Street bridge.

Francis Jessop, Distiller:

In the time of Mr. Bellow’s activity there were two distilleries in operation for several years. One of these was owned by Mr. Bellows and was situated where the Canada Lumber Company’s large mill now stands, near the north end of the dam. The other was owned by Francis W. K. Jessop and was nearby, just below the present site of McNeely’s tannery at, Mr. MacKay’s bakery premises on Bell Street. This Mr. Jessop, who also had a brewery in connection with his distillery, was an eccentric individual with strange ideas in many matters of everyday life, and with personal habits radically discordant to the general mind.

He had his abode in a corner of the distillery building. His bed chamber surpassed any ordinary ‘bachelor’s hall,’ strange and fantastic evidence being borne of a dearth of a woman’s care. He was an easy-going genius, and had his good sides. He was the first man in these parts to wear a beard and moustache, and after a length of time others were led to adopt the same habit in those times a novelty.

About Mr. Jessop’s marriage, later on, there was a thread of romance. He had in England a brother who was a captain in the British army. This brother’s wife had a sister who was rather cultured and, moreover, rich. She was a slave-owner, and all her environments were those of ease, independence, affluence.

Somehow a pen and paper courtship sprang up between the distiller at Morphy’s Falls and this lady of wealth. The result was that, although no other means of acquaintance had ever existed between them, the distiller induced the fair writer to break off all her home ties and come to him at Morphy’s Falls. The change in circumstances was a sweeping one after she became Mrs. Jessop ; from ease and luxury in England to a home in these backwoods, in a little log house on the river just about where now stands the blacksmith shop of the Canada Lumber Company.

Battle of the Ballygiblins :

From the Weekly Register, a paper printed in York, the 1823 and 1824 volumes of which are among Mr. Robert Bell’s archives, we extract the following :

Two press reports on the Ballygiblin Riots of 1824 follow, coloured by the Perth correspondent to the disadvantage of the Irish minority faction ; and referring to the opening militia brawl at the Morris tavern on Mill Street here and the ensuing turbulent week of encounters in the neighbourhood of Carleton Place and Almonte ; featured by renewed fighting, marches, counter marches, gunfire, casualties and arrests. The verdict of the government inquiry reflected little credit on the one-sided and inflammatory conduct of military and civil authorities of the local district who were involved.After the first troubles mentioned, a decisive struggle took place just out of town on the clergy reserve in Ramsay, to the right hand side of the road, towards the lead mine. The set-to was spoken of as the Battle of the Ballygiblins.”