Carleton Place Stirring Village Back in 1840’s, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, July 7, 1960

Carleton Place in the times of the Eighteen Forties is recalled in the present installment of a year by year listing of local scenes and events which had their part in shaping the present character of this section of Lanark County.

The first signs pointing to this community’s growth to the proportions of a town began to show themselves in the Eighteen Forties.  Still in the handicraft era, the district after its first twenty-five years was gradually leaving behind it the kinds of hardships its people had known in their first years of settlement in the woods.  In the sixty year old province of less than five hundred thousand people, substantial government reforms in parliamentary, municipal and educational institutions began to be launched.  This district and this young community shared in promoting their reforms and in their benefits.


1840 – A district agricultural society, the parent of the present North Lanark Agricultural Society, was founded at a January, 1840, meeting at Carleton Place, with James Wylie of Ramsayville as president, Francis Jessop of Carleton Place as secretary and Robert Bell as treasurer.  Its activities for the improvement of farming methods and products have included from the beginning an annual exhibition, held until the late Eighteen Fifties at Carleton Place and thereafter at Almonte.  Carleton Place exhibitions were continued for some further years by a Beckwith Township agricultural society.

Ewen McEwen (1806-1885) in 1840 became clerk of Beckwith Township and postmaster at Franktown.  He held both positions for forty-five years and was township treasurer for twenty years.  His son Finlay McEwen for many years was Carleton Place municipal treasurer and postmaster.


1841 – Dr. William Wilson, graduate of Glasgow University and son of a district settler, began in 1841 a medical practice of about fifteen years in Carleton Place, building later his stone home which remains on Bell Street.  Edward M. Barry, M.D., trained in London and Dublin, opened a briefer medical practice here a few months before Dr. Wilson, as another of the town’s early surgeons.

A visitor in 1841 recorded this description of the section between Carleton Place and Almonte :

Carleton Place, about seven miles from Ramsay (Almonte) and eighteen from Perth, is a stirring little village.  By Franktown it is twenty-four miles from Perth, by Bellamys (Clayton) it is eighteen.  It has advanced greatly of late years, and the active enterprise of the Bells, merchants here, have contributed in no small degree to this.  They have several buildings themselves, one being a large two-storey stone dwelling.

There are three churches in Carleton Place – one Episcopal, a new Presbyterian and a Methodist church.  The Rev. Mr. Boswell officiates in the first, none yet appointed to the second but suppose Mr. Fairbairn will occasionally preach in it, and Mr. (Alvah) Adams is the stationed Methodist preacher.  The interests of religion are much attended to in the whole township, as well as in Carleton Place.  The Mississippi river runs through the village, and if it prevents the place from being as compact as desirable it at least contributes to its beauty and loveliness.  There are mills here by one Boulton, and more taverns I think than necessary for comfort or accommodation, numbering about five or six.  Mr. John McEwen has opened his home again for respectable travelers.  He is a man much esteemed, his fare excellent and his charges reasonable.

The township of Ramsay is well settled, very prosperous, and can boast a goodly number of experienced practical farmers – men of extensive reading and sound knowledge.  Its appearance plainly proves this, by the number of schools and churches within its range which are erected and in process of erection.  About the centre of the Township is a substantial Presbyterian Church of stone in which a Mr. Fairbairn officiates, also a Methodist meeting house where a Mr. (Alvah) Adams preaches – with a Catholic Church where Rev. Mr. McDonough of Perth officiates occasionally.  The great number of substantial stone houses erected and being put up speaks more favorably than words of its growing prosperity.

James Wylie Esq., a magistrate and storekeeper, has erected a fine house, his son another.  About half a mile from this, Mr. Shipman’s spacious stone dwelling, his mills and surrounding buildings, present a bustling scene.  There is one licenced tavern here, and a school.


1842 – Residents of Carleton Place in 1842 included about twenty tradesmen engaged in metal, wood,  textile and leather trades, in addition to farmers, merchants, innkeepers, labourers, two surgeons, two teachers and one clergyman.  Of the present Lanark County’s 1842 population of a little over 19,000 persons, Beckwith township including Carleton Place had some 1,900 inhabitants and 330 houses.  Ramsay township with 390 inhabited houses, had a population of 2,460.  Each of the two townships had eight elementary schools.  Half of the number of children of ages 5 to 16 in the two townships had attended school within the past year.

An elected council assumed duties of county administration for the first time in 1842, under legislation of the new united Parliament of Upper and Lower Canada.  District council members elected for Beckwith township were Robert Bell and Robert Davis.  Those for Ramsay were John Robertson Sr. (1794-1867) and Arthur Lang. 

A convention of district teachers of common schools met in the fall of 1842 at John McEwen’s hotel, Carleton Place.  A long-lived local Union Sabbath School was commenced in this year.


1843- Justices of the peace in Beckwith township authorized to act as magistrates included James Rosamond and Robert Bell, Robert Davis, Peter McGregor and Colin McLaren.  Those in Ramsay township included James Wylie and his son William H. Wylie, William Houston and William Wallace.

The Rev. Lawrence Halcroft (1798-1887), a resident of Carleton Place for over forty years, came here by call in 1843 and for eleven years was minister of the local Baptist Church.  He combined farming with his religious duties, and was a man of broad and liberal views who afterwards preached to all denominations.


1844 – Malcolm Cameron (1808-1876), supported by the large Scottish reform party element of this district and by others, was re-elected member of Parliament in a general election after the capital of Canada was moved from Kingston to Montreal(?).

The Rev. John Augustus Mulock, uncle of Sir William Mulock, became rector of the Carleton Place Anglican Church after a two year vacancy.


1845 – Dissention and division in the organization of the Church of Scotland was followed here in 1845 by the construction of the present stone building of Knox Presbyterian Church at Black’s Corners, parent of Carleton Place’s Zion Presbyterian Church.  In Ramsay township the frame building of a Free Presbyterian Church was erected at the 8th line of Ramsay, which for about twenty years served the congregation of the later St. John’s Presbyterian Church of Almonte.


1846 – James Rosamond in 1846 was manufacturing woollen cloth by machinery at Carleton Place.  His mill at the foot of James Street with two looms operated by water power, was the first of its kind in Eastern Ontario.

The Carleton Place Library was established in March, 1846 as a subscription library under the management of the Carleton Place Library Association and Mechanics Institute.  Napoleon Lavelle began his hotel business which he continued here for nearly forty years, commencing as the Carleton House in the Bell’s stone building on the south side of Bridge Street facing Bell Street.  The three, two-storey stone structures among the sixty occupied dwellings of Carleton Place were this building, plus Hugh Boulton’s house (later Horace Brown’s) on Mill Street, and James Rosamond’s home (later William Muirhead’s) on Bell St.


1847 – District wardens, previously appointed by the government of the colony, were first chosen by election in 1847.  The warden elected by the council of the Lanark and Renfrew district was Robert Bell of Carleton Place.


1848 – Samuel Fuller in 1848 opened a stove foundry here which he ran for ten years.  Its first location was near the site of the power house now owned by the Ontario Hydro Electric Power Commission.  The bridge over the Mississippi River was rebuilt.

A stone schoolhouse building was erected at Franktown.  In the United Counties of Lanark and Renfrew there were 1,069 inhabited and assessable houses and 120 public schools.  Most were log buildings.


1849 – The Hon. James Wylie (1789-1854) of Almonte was appointed to the Legislative Council of Canada.

Local school trustees James Rosamond (1804-1894, John Graham (1812-1887) and Brice McNeely (1794-ca 1878) advertised for a classical teacher for the Carleton Place School.

Robert Bell, elected as member of Parliament for Lanark and Renfrew Counties in the previous year, when the reform party attained power and responsible government arrived, was present when the Parliament Buildings of Canada were burned by an influentially backed Montreal mob.  He is said to have made his escape by a ladder from the burning building.  Delegates from district points including Beckwith and Ramsay townships were received at Montreal by Lord Elgin, governor general.  They delivered resolutions prepared at local meetings which supported his reforms and condemned the outrages committed by his opponents.  One of the addresses presented was that of the Carleton Place Library Association.

Candidates Once Watched How Voters Polled Votes, by Howard M. Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 10 October, 1957

World news features of the day, as read one hundred years by the subscribers of the Carleton Place weekly Herald of 1857, were the onset of a severe business depression, the massacres and rescues of India’s Mutiny and the laying of the first Atlantic telegraph cable. The Province of Canada was preparing to introduce its first decimal currency. Editor James Poole predicted Ottawa soon would be chosen as its seat of government in preference to Kingston, Toronto, Quebec or Montreal while confessing he would have no objection to Carleton Place being selected for the purpose.

In Lanark County the district’s first efficient transportation system was arriving. Construction work on the railway from Brockville toward the upper Ottawa River was continuing at points including Carleton Place, with scanty funds and the aid of county grants and guarantees. At the end of the year the annual Printer’s Boys New Year’s Address to the Patrons of the Herald pictured the local results of the financial crash :

 “Hard Times” has trod with crushing heel,

On many a fertile vale;

His blighting breath we all must feel,

As borne on every gale.

For this community the first town hall of the municipal corporation of Beckwith was built at its present site at Black’s Corners as the centre of administration of the township’s public affairs, including those of Carleton Place. A few of the district events and local scenes of 1857, recorded by James Poole in the Herald have been selected on their one hundredth anniversary year for comparison with the news of 1957.

Municipal Elections

The Municipal elections, so far as we have yet learned, have passed off very quietly. We object to the practice of candidates hovering around the polling table, watching intently how every vote is recorded and in some instances threatening, either by looks or words, those who may not vote in their favor. Were the ballot system adopted we think it would work well in these townships.

In Beckwith the old Councillors have been returned, viz. Messrs. Archibald McArthur, Brice McNeely, John Roberts, John Hughton and James Burrows.

The following is the result in Ramsay – Councillors : Daniel Galbraith, 251 ; Wm. Houston 195 ; John Scott, 174 ; Andrew Wilson 172 ; and Thomas Coutler, 162.

Regimental Orders

The 5th Battalion Lanark Militia will parade for muster on Monday, May 25th, at McArthur’s, the usual place. Captain Rosamond’s company, consisting of the men of Carleton Place and the 12th Concession of Beckwith will parade at this village under their respective officers. Alex Fraser, Lieut. Col., commanding.

In consequence of Her Majesty’s birthday falling on Sunday, the servicemen of the 6 Batt. Lanark Militia, consisting of all the male inhabitants of the Township of Ramsay between the ages of 18 and 40, will assemble for muster at the Village of Almonte on Monday, May 25th at 11 o’clock forenoon. The Commanding Officer requests that officers and non-commissioned officers will give that assistance which the law requires, for the enrolment of their respective companies. Officers or men absenting themselves shall be strictly dealt with as the law directs. Alex Snedden, Lieut. Col. Commanding. J. B. Wylie, Capt. & Adjt.

Mowing and Reaping Machines

The subscriber being appointed agent for H. A. Massey, manufacturer of Mowing and Reaping machines, all of which took prizes at the last Provincial Exhibition, can with confidence recommend them to the public, having used one of them. For references apply to Wm. Smith, 10th line Ramsay or Duncan Cram, Beckwith. (signed) Andrew Wilson, Ramsay, March 2, 1857.

Rifles Stolen

Loaned or Taken! From the subscriber’s Shop on the night of May 7th, two rifles. One of them a bell muzzle, barrel 2 ½ feet, nipple and block out of repair. The other a common French rifle. A reward of $5 to any person who will return the same or inform the subscriber where they may be found. (signed) Michael Sullivan, 11 Con. Ramsay, (Appleton blacksmith).

New Almonte Factory

James Rosamond Esqr., who for many years past resided at Carleton Place and carried on an extensive business in the manufacture of woolen goods, has removed to the village of Almonte.

We had the pleasure on Friday last of visiting friend Rosamond’s establishmnet, which is now in complete working order. We were agreeably surprised to find his large four storey building so well filled with machinery, and so many shafts and spindles in rapid motion. While we regret the loss our village has sustained and feel disposed to envy the Almonters, we have no doubt the enterprising proprietor of the Victoria Wollen Mills will receive that support and encouragement his enterprise deserves.

Queen’s College

The fifteenth session of the above institution terminated yesterday. On Tuesday and Wednesday a public examination of the students in the Faculty of Arts was held. The whole number of students in Arts was 47, in Divinity 10, while we believe the number in the Medical Department exceeded 60. One degree of Master of Arts was awarded, that of Bachelor of Arts to nine gentlemen including John May of Beckwith. The degree of Doctor of Medicine was conferred upon ten candidates.



Elections Were Rough in Good Old Days, by Howard M. Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 06 June, 1957

In an election year one hundred years earlier than the approaching national election of June 10, Lanark County found itself engaged in the selection of two members in 1857 for the sixth Parliament of the united Upper and Lower Canada. Carleton Place newspaper editor James Poole, supporting his fellow townsman Robert Bell for re-election as Reform Party candidate in North Lanark, summed the issues from his view point in a convenient editorial package. “The coming struggle,” he wrote, “is to decide whether our noble country is in future to be governed on the principles of morality, justice and equity or whether fraud and villainy shall usurp the high places of our land.”

The result of the contest in this county was the return of the seasoned campaigner Robert Bell by acclamation and in South Lanark, the defeat of two opposing candidates, Shaw and Doran, by Colonel A. W. Playfair of Playfairville, prominent early settler and veteran of the War of 1812. Colonel Playfair, identified by Editor Poole early in the campaign as a “Conservative of the old school,” negotiated successfully for the support of local Reform Party officials before the December vote.

Nominations for the south riding were held at Perth, those for the north riding at Bellamy’s Mills, now Clayton. The following is from the Carleton Place Herald’s 1857 report of the North Lanark nomination. “The nomination for the North Riding of the county of Lanark took place at Bellamy’s Mills in Ramsay on Monday last. It resulted in the re-election of our Robert Bell Esq. our late member, by acclamation. The other candidates, feeling themselves completely beaten, retired from the contest. They were George Nielson Esq., Belleville, and John Scott Esq., of the village of Almonte. Mr. ……….. spoke in language much of which was to scurrilous to appear in print. He was profuse in heaping foul epithets upon that ‘vile rag’ the Herald and its editor, but said it was not his intention to push the matter to a poll.

The Returning Officer, Sheriff Thompson, then requested the electors to divide, those for Bell taking the right and those for Scott the left. There was a large number of persons present, probably about three hundred. There appeared to be an over whelming majority for Bell, we should think about seven to one. Mr. Bell was then declared duly elected, after which he was enthusiastically cheered by the people. Mr. Wm. McAdam of Pakenham and Mr. Alex. Stevenson of Lanark, mover and seconder of Mr. Bell’s nomination, also were cheered, and our good Queen was not forgotten. Three hearty cheers were given also for the Carleton Place Herald.

The successful candidate then was chaired to the Hotel and the assembly began to disperse. Mr. N. Lavallee of Carleton Place drove his splendid team of grays and had the honor of carrying the member-elect, followed by a number from Carleton Place, Almonte and Pakenham ; the whole party driving around by Bennie’s, Sneddon’s and Almonte. The Almonters seemed highly pleased and cheered with a hearty goodwill. Having arrived at Carleton Place an illumination was made and a torch light procession was formed. First up to the Printing office where three hearty cheers were given for ‘the Press’, then to the school-master’s corner where ‘Education without Sectarianism’ was echoed far and wide. The procession then passed over the bridge, and returned to Mr. Lavallee’s hotel where Mr. Bell addressed the crowd from the steps, after which he was chaired to his house and the people dispersed highly gratified with the result of the election.”

Similar celebrations were slated to follow the voting in South Lanark, with a triumphal tour including Perth, Smiths Falls and Franktown and the chairing of Colonel Playfair in both Perth and Carleton Place. A North American commercial crisis had developed before the 1857 election but, according to Mr. Poole, “even hard times were forgotten or overlooked in the anxiety which everyone felt to return his published pos-mortems on the election are side lights presenting a local contrast between hazards of the open poll and today’s secret ballot.” He observed : “The country swarms with political gamblers who will be anything, everything or nothing, to suit the humor of the times. In one county which we wot of, the candidate himself though a zealous temperance man and pledged upon the question, winked at the proceeding of his man Friday when that trustworthy ally provided barrels of Whisky and Beer for the greater convenience of their friends at the polling places!”

Again, under the heading Petty Intolerance:

We Protestants are fond of our freedom of thought and action. Some of us are apt to adopt the fallacy that because we to a considerable extent control the finances of our ministers we also have a right to the control of their minds and bodies, but especially of their votes. We became acquainted with a practical illustration of this sentiment a few days ago when a respected clergyman, whose vote had not been given in accordance with the views of a section of his flock, was struck on the shoulder with an egg thrown from the hand of a narrow-minded disciple who chose this cowardly, dastardly and ruffianly mode of assailing his minister while that gentleman was quietly making his way along the street. The good man wiped off the stain good-humoredly and passed on his way as unruffled as though he had encountered a feather in its flight. The spirit which dictated such an act is an intolerant one. It would kindle again the fires of Smithfield. It is the duty of the press to show up and expose to the light of day such petty atrocities.”

Of Lanark’s two elected members of 1857, the public life of Robert Bell (1808-1894) has been an essential part of much of the record of nineteenth century Carleton Place and district which has appeared earlier in this column. Colonel Andrew W. Playfair (1788-1868), an English officer of the 104th Regiment from 1810 to 1817, settled in the latter year at the site of Playfairville, Bathurst township where his mills were among the earliest in the county. In addition to his business and political position he was a lay preacher of note. The following version of a temporarily embarrassing conflict between his church activities and his new political duties appeared in 1858 in the Merrickville Star.


The Methodist Conference has decided that Col. Playfair is under some degree of censure for being present at a Sunday feast given by Mr. Cartier. We find the affair thus mildly disposed of in one of our exchanges :

 Col. Playfair, MPP for South Lanark, who was charged with attending a dancing party on Sunday evening at Mr. Attorney-General Cartier’s, has been arraigned for his offense before a court of the Wesleyan Church of which he was an official member. According to a correspondent of the Globe, no evidence was brought against him. He acknowledged that he was at a dinner given by his friend the Hon. George Ettienne Cartier on the Sabbath. Dancing commenced before he was aware of it. He retired into an adjoining room, not liking to leave abruptly for fear of giving offense. He believed himself to be justified in what he did. The court on his statement of those facts did not believe they would be justified in again granting him, at the present time, license as a as a local preacher.”

The new love for the parliamentary Colonel on the part of the Reformers, as a feature of the election of a hundred years ago, was a brief one. Rreflecting sadly on the perils of political horse trading, a Herald editorial a few months later said : “We see the two representatives from Lanark voting diametrically opposed to each other. Mr. Bell is consistently opposing, and Mr. Playfair supporting, the most corrupt government that has ever ruled Canada. We can only hope that when some of the more important questions come before the House the old Colonel will fire up and show his constituents of what kind of metal he is made.” The final reply of the South Lanark member on record, in a letter addressed to the Carleton Place editor, concludes with frank and unquestionable guidance to future voters. “If the free and independent Electors of the South Riding of Lanark have sent a fool to Parliament they have to blame themselves and not me.”