SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK TWENTY

Clearing Bush First Task of Early Settlers

Carleton Place Canadian, 08 June, 1961

By Howard M. Brown

 

One of the many family sagas of emigration to Ramsay township was that of the McDonald family which, after investigating other locations, chose land in the tenth concession of Ramsay north of the falls of Almonte.  Long-lived members of this family included the father, John McDonald of the Isle of Mull, who came in 1821 with his wife, three sons and several daughters, and lived in Ramsay till he reached his hundredth year in 1857.  His son Neil at the age of 100 had the distinction of living in three centuries before his death in 1901 at his Ramsay homestead.

Emigration Adventures

 

Sailing from Oban in the Western Highlands in June 1821 on a ship bearing the later Canadian Pacific Steamships name The Duchess of Richmond, the McDonald family came up the St. Lawrence from Quebec to Montreal by steamship.  From Lachine they travelled by boat up the Ottawa to Point Fortune where they failed to find suitable land.  Going then by Durham boat to Prescott, their intention of reaching York was changed by a meeting with friends which led them to the five year old village of Perth and the new village of Lanark.  After examining and refusing to accept land still available in Lanark and Dalhousie townships, the McDonalds rented a farm site from Duncan McNaughton in Drummond township near Mississippi Lake.  In a winter’s work with primitive tools they cleared the trees from about twelve acres and, with hoes and sickles for the planting and harvest amongst the stumps, gained a first crop of corn and potatoes and a little wheat and oats.

Continuing down along the Mississippi in the next summer, two of the sons selected four hundred acres for the four male members of the family in the tenth and eleventh concessions of Ramsay several miles north of the Ramsay falls.  They cleared their first acre there, put in a crop of potatoes and built a shanty.  That winter Neil with his sister Flora remained at the cabin in Ramsay to cut down trees.  They had to carry hay for two miles on their backs for their cow.

Rugged Pioneer Days

 

At the Mississippi Lake farm in Drummond in the first fall, all of the family except the parents and one son had become ill with a fever.  About two years later two of the three sons, Donald and Lachlan, died of its effects.  Their bodies are reported to have been carried twenty-two miles from the farm in Drummond on the shoulders of friends for burial at the family farm in Ramsay.  The rest of the family moved there from Drummond in the following May, bringing three cows and two pigs.  Within another year a daughter had died in Ramsay and two daughters were married, Flora marrying Duncan McNaughton and remaining on the farm in Drummond.  John McDonald still had funds of almost £200 when he moved to Ramsay.  He bought a barrel of flour in June of 1824 at Boulton’s mill at Morphy’s Falls, which he and his remaining son Neil carried over a twelve mile return journey from Carleton Place to the farm.  Seeking to buy a yoke of oxen and some sheep, the son travelled with “Big Neil McKillop”, for fifteen days in December of 1822 going as far as Cornwall.  A flock of sheep was obtained in 1825 when the supply of clothing brought from Scotland was almost worn out.  Neil McDonald became a great hunter of the game which abounded in the district.

At the age of 34 Neil McDonald married Flora McLean of Ramsay.  Their children included Lachlan, who remained on the homestead and later lived in Almonte, and Mrs. James Cowan and Mrs. Alexander Bayne, both of Carleton Place, who reached the respective ages of 91 and 94.  Grandsons of the centenarian Neil McDonald included Neil McDonald, Carleton Place high school teacher from 1890 to 1913, the Rev. John A. McDonald and R. L. McDonald, Almonte public school principal.

A large section within the area of Ramsay township made rapid progress.  Only twenty years after the first Ramsay settler had cut the first tree on his land, and still in the days before there was a railway in the province, a visitor was able to report that the township was “well-settled, very prosperous, and can boast a goodly number of 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 progress of erection.  The great number of substantial stone houses erected and being put up speaks more favorably than words of its growing prosperity.”

Aided by its villages of Ramsayville, Bennie’s Corners, Snedden’s, Appletree Falls and Bellamy’s Mills and by Carleton Pace on its borders, with their stores, inns, tradesmen’s shops, sawmills and gristmills, Ramsay township had made an early start in sharing the growth of Canada.

 

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SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK THIRTEEN

Some First Events:  Lanark’s First 100 Years

By Howard Morton Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 14 May, 1959

 

For the countless stories of personal, business and community adventure which were written long ago by the deeds of Lanark County’s pioneers, a framework may be found in a list of some of the County’s first events.  The following brief listing of landmarks and outstanding events of the County’s first one hundred years of settlement is one of many similar selections which might be made from different viewpoints or differing bases of local emphasis.

The first settler in the county commonly has been said to have been William Merrick of Merrickville.  The arrival of an earlier and first settler, Roger Stevens, is recorded in this list of Lanark County events.  Official contemporary records of his coming as “the first who settled on the River Rideau”, places the start of the settlement of Lanark County within seven years of the first colonizing of the province by English-speaking people, made by Loyalists from the revolted British colonies.

THE PIONEERS:

 

First Family Settled – Roger Stevens from Vermont, an ensign in the King’s Rangers in the American Revolution; at S.E. corner of Montague township on the Rideau River, 1790, with wife and three children.  His occupied land extended into Marlborough township.  He joined with William and Stepehn Merrick in building a saw mill in Montague at Merrickville.  His death by drowning in 1793 followed an Upper Canada Order in Council authorizing a grant to him of the site of this mill and of the future village of Merrickville.

First Land Grants – In the 1790’s in the area of Montague and later N. Elmsley and N. Burgess townships.  These three townships until the 1840’s remained attached to the Leeds and Grenville (Johnstown ) District.

First Saw Mill and First Grist Mill – William Merrick’s at Merrickville in Montague township; saw mill 1793, grist mill 1803.  He came from New York State to Leeds County in 1791.

First Sponsored Migration  – from United Kingdom – About fifty Lowland Scottish families were granted farm sites in May, 1816, on the Scotch Line in Bathurst, Burgess and Elmsley townships near Perth, when a similar number of grants were made nearby to married and single demobilized British Soldiers of various nationalities.

First Large Scale Settlement  – The seven years 1816 to 1822, when seven thousand persons, mainly from Scotland and Ireland, aided by army settlement supervision and supplies, began the great task of clearing land and establishing farms and villages throughout most of the county’s present area.

First Group Migration From Scottish Highlands – About fifty families from Perthshire in 1818 settled in Beckwith township near Carleton Place; they came inland by the Ottawa River route.

First Settlement of North Lanark – Assisted emigrations of 1820 and 1821 from Lanarkshire added some 2,500 persons to the county’s population, mainly in Dalhousie, Lanark and Ramsay townships.

First Group Migration from Southern Ireland – About seventy-five families, mainly from County Cork, were brought to the site of Almonte in 1823 and settled in Ramsay and neighbouring townships.

First Resident Clergymen  – Officially recognized, Rev. William Bell, Presbyterian, 1817; Rev. Michael Harris, Anglican, 1819; both at Perth.

 

POLITICAL RIGHTS:

 

First Visit By Governor-in-Chief of Canada – by Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond in 1819.

First Member of Parliament – In 1820, William Morris (b.1786 d.1858), Scottish merchant at Perth, defeated Benjamin Delisle; became president of Executive Council of Canada, 1846.

First Steps towards Local Government –  Establishment of the judicial District of Bathurst in 1822, with centre at Perth, to serve some local executive and judicial needs of an area comprising most of the present Lanark, Carleton and Renfrew counties.

First Naming as County of Lanark – In 1824, when the ten northerly townships of the present Lanark County (excluding Pakenham) and the then unsurveyed present Renfrew County became an electoral district named County of Lanark.

KNOWLEDGE AND VIOLENCE:

 

First Newspaper – The Independent Examiner, Perth, 1828, edited by John Stewart, school teacher, succeeded in 1832 by the Constitution and in 1834 by the present Perth Courier.

First Public Libraries – Dalhousie Public Library, near Watson’s Corners, 1828 (still in existence); and the Ramsay and Lanark Circulating Library near Clayton, 1829.

First (and only) Extensive Riots – The ‘Ballygiblin Riots’ Carleton Place and Almonte, 1824.

First Execution for Murder – Thomas Easby, of Drummond township, 1829; found to have killed his wife and four children, publicly hanged at Perth after rejection of defence of insanity.

First Recorded Pistol Duels – James Boulton and Thomas Radenhurst, Perth barristers, June, 1830; Colonel Alexander McMillan and Dr. Alexander Thom, both of Perth, the latter wounded, January, 1883; John Wilson and Robert Lyon, law students at Perth, the latter killed, June, 1883.