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.

FARM IMPROVEMENTS

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.

STIRRING LITTLE VILLAGE

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.

DISTRICT COUNCIL ELECTED

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.

LOCAL MAGISTRATES

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.

A GENERAL ELECTION

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.

CHURCH DISSENTION

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.

POWER LOOMS

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.

WARDEN ELECTED

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.

STOVE FOUNDRY

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.

POLITICAL VIOLENCE

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.

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Mississippi River Main Factor in Industrial Growth, by Howard M. Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 21 March, 1957

The water power of the Mississippi at this point is excellent, and ever since the first utilization of a small portion of it by Boulton’s grist mill, various manufactories have been added along the banks of the stream. After the inception of the Brockville railway in 1853, and its completion as far as Carleton Place and Almonte six years later, the advantages of these water privileges became still more manifest.

It was not long before the interests already established here was widened. Those engaged in agriculture in this neighbourhood were also stimulated to greater things and began to reap better results. Almonte for a few years possessed an appreciable advantage in being the terminus of the railway system of the Ottawa Valley. From the north and to each side a larger tract of county contributed to its trade. James Rosamond who came to Carleton Place as a chair-maker and began a wool carding and cloth dressing business here with a partner about 1830, built a four-storey woollen mill in Almonte, moving his machinery and business there from Carleton Place in 1857 ahead of the railway’s arrival.

When the Brockville and Ottawa Railway (later the Canada Central Ry.) with the line opened in 1870 between Carleton Place and Ottawa passed into the hands of the Canadian Pacific syndicate, the importance of Carleton Place as a railway point became apparent. The extensive repair shops of the railway, established here in 1882 and employing at different times from 100 to over 200 men, with accessions to the town’s trade by reason of the railway traffic and the many railway employees outside the shops, were a large element in the town’s progress. In the five years to 1887, not yet incorporated as a town, the population has doubled to an estimated 3,780.

Municipal Affairs, 1887

The incorporation of Carleton Place as a village took place in October, 1870, with a population of 1,226. We now have about a thousand more people than most towns in the Dominion had when they designated themselves as towns by acts of incorporation. Our civic affairs are entrusted to a reeve, deputy reeve and three councillors. These at present are Reeve William Pattie (building contractor) Deputy Reeve, William Kelly, (retired hotel keeper), and Councillors James Warren (blacksmith), Alex Steele, (tinsmith and stove merchant) and Abner Nichols (planing mill owner). The clerk of the Council is A. R. G. Peden.

The following gentlemen comprise the School Board : Robert Bell, chairman, Rev. Duncan McDonald (of St. Andrew’s Church), Abner Nichols, William Taylor, (hardware dealer), Peter Cram (retired tanner), S. S. Merrick, (grain dealer), A. R. G. Peden (grocer), J. Dougherty, Colin Sinclair, (merchant tailor), David Findlay (stove foundry owner), and D. Breckenridge (superintendent, Gillies woollen mill).

One constable is employed – bur rarely required. We have an efficient fire department, a first class Ronald fire engine, a good fire station and good equipment. An ample supply of water for fire purposes is kept in reservoirs in those parts of the town not contiguous to the river. There are twenty-five regular members of the fire brigade.

Mills and Foundries

As a manufacturing centre, every years’ seen big improvements. Amongst our manufacturers we might mention first the lumbermen. In 1842 John Gillies entered into lumbering on the Clyde River and later on the Mississippi and formed a partnership in 1853 with Peter McLaren. An extensive business was conducted on the Mississippi River, with mills at Carleton Place from 1866.

The business was sold in 1874 to Peter McLaren, later senator. After another twelve years of expanding operations Peter McLaren sold it to James McLaren of Buckingham, lumberman and president of the Bank of Ottawa, and W. C. Edwards, M.P. Principals of the then formed Canada Lumber Company for a reported $900,000. Mr. A. H. Edwards became the resident director and manager at Carleton Place.

Boyd Caldwell and Son’s large sawmill, manufacturing lumber, shingles, and lath, has been an important industry. The senior member of the firm is one of the pioneer lumbermen of this country. He has been engaged in lumbering operations since boyhood, after he came from Scotland with his parents about 1821 and settled in Lanark County. The firm has large and valuable limits, the timber from which on the Mississippi has been manufactured at Carleton Place for nearly twenty years. Boyd Caldwell & Son have saw mills elsewhere in Eastern Ontario but their largest are here. Both reside in Lanark village, but have done much to assist the progress of Carleton Place. The two saw mills here cut about thirty-five million feet each season.

Moffatt Company

Moffatt & Company embarked here some thirteen years ago in the manufacture of sash, doors, blinds, shingles, a general planing mill business, and as builders and contractors. The parners, David and Samuel Moffatt and James Cavers, are practical men and the firm has done a large business, enlarging its capacity several times. Abner Nichols, for many years uperintendent for Peter McLaren, has a model planing mill and turns out sash, blinds, doors and shingles. He has a large experience as a practical builder and contractor.

Brown & Son

Horace Brown & Son, the latter, Morton, lately admitted as a partner, have one of the finest roller process flouring mills in the province. Their stone process mill also is operated to its fullest capacity, and for many years it was regarded as one of the best grist mills in this district. With the junior partner, who is a practical miller in every branch and a young gentleman of first class business qualities, there will doubtless be still greater things done by the Carleton Place Mills.

After John Gillies had retired in 1874 from lumbering, he built and equipped one of the most complete machine shops and foundries in Eastern Ontario. It is operated by John Gillies & Company and employs a large staff in the manufacture and principally of mill machinery and engines of every description. The company has the sole right for Canada of the Acme Coal Oil Engine.

Findlay Company

Mr. D. Findlay & Sons manufactures all classes of stoves, hollow ware, etc. Their foundry is one of the industries that has grown up with the place and with the requirements of Eastern Ontario. Now with tripled energy they are pushing their excellent productions into distant territory, the demand having arisen from the good name their stoves have earned.

Mr. W. H. Wylie & Company’s Hawthorn woollen mill is a f sett enterprise, built about 1872 fro Abraham Code, and operated to its full capacity. A variety of tweeds, worsteds and a speciality of shawls are turned out. The demand distributes a large amount of earnings to the operatives.

John Gillies, Son & Company’s large 4 ½ storied woollen mill, four broad sett, sends out some of the finest tweeds, silken mixes and worsteds on the market. The mill was built in 1870 by the late Archibald McArthur and was bought in 1881 by the present owners, who have increased the output and improved the quality.

Brice McNeely’s tannery is one of the oldest in this part of the country. The proprietor manufactures leather of various kinds and is one of our substantial steady and increasingly prosperous men, with considerable real estate. John F. Cram, whose large wool-pulling establishment is well known in this section, manipulates a vast amount of sheep pelts in a year, his premises being one of the most extensive in Eastern Ontario. He also manufactures russet leather. Donald Munro, having severed connection with the other large wool-pulling establishment in which he was a partner and started in the same business on his own account, has by untiring perseverance and good equipment worked up a remunerative business.

William Willoughby, contractor who came to our town from Almonte a couple of years ago, at once proceeded to the manufacture of brick on a large scale here. Mr. Willoughby and his two sons George W. and Richard, associated with him, are practical men in masonry of every kind. Their contracts in stonework fulfilled during the past two years include the masonry for the new St. Andrews Church and for the iron bridge across the Mississippi here. William Taylor, whose business experience here extends over more than a quarter century, during the past season started a brickyard that is likely to be a most successful enterprise. Mr. Taylor, who does nothing by halves, will first make enough brick to build his own solid brick block on the valuable McArthur lots, Bridge St.

McDonald & Brown, woollen manufacturers, have a large trade in their special line of tweeds, etc. Their mill is run by water power, one of the best sites on the river. With a continuation of their prosperity for a short time they will likely increase their capacity. They do a large custom business.”