Last Service At Beckwith Old Kirk Held 35 Years Ago, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 23 March, 1961

This is the third and final part of a story which has recalled some of the events in the memorable background of the Old Kirk Ruins of Beckwith township.  The first Presbyterian Church of the eastern half of Lanark County was built near Carleton Place in 1832, replacing a primitive log structure in a vicinity where services had been held since about 1818 and continuously since 1822.  The church remained in use until about 1870.

On the township’s Seventh Line road, two miles south of Black’s Corners and a mile east, its foundations may be seen.  In a recent pictorial map issued by the National Capital Commission its location is shown as one of the district’s historic sites.  Church services here were carried on for two pioneer generations by the first colony of Scottish Highlanders to be established north of the Glengarry settlement in Ontario.

One of the last commemoration services to be held within the walls of the Beckwith Old Kirk was conducted thirty-five years ago by a native son who still “had the Gaelic,” the Rev. Dr. James Carmichael, returning at the age of eighty-eight for the occasion.

A service of commemoration had been observed at the Old Kirk in the previous year.  It had opened with a procession in which the beadle, William Young, followed by the precentor, D. R. Ferguson and the minister, the Rev. J. W. S. Lowry, in black gowns, accompanied by a large number of the ruling elders of the neighbouring congregations, had made their way out from one of the doorways of the hallowed ruins to a raised platform.  A concluding service of prayer within the Old Kirk walls was attended by those present who in their youth had had their church upbringing there.  Among them were Margaret Anderson, Alan Cameron and Mrs. Cameron, Mrs. Donald Carmichael, William Drummond and James C. Elliott, John H. Ferguson, Mrs. Robert Ferguson (The Derry), Mrs. T. Ferguson, Mr. and Mrs. John McArthur and Mary McArthur ; also Duncan McEwen, Mrs. Finlay McEwen (Jock), Mr. and Mrs. Hugh McEwen, John McFarlane (11th line) and Mrs. Peter McLaren.

 

Gaelic Commemoration of Highland Scots

Reports of the commemoration services of 1916, conducted in English and Gaelic at the honoured meeting place, said in part:

Sunday last was a red letter day in Beckwith township, when the Presbyterian Church people observed the anniversary of the first public services held there by their forefathers.  The renowned highway, the Seventh Line, was all a-going with automobiles, rigs and pedestrians for the Presbyterian rally at the Old Kirk.  They came from all over Beckwith, from Montague and Elmsley, from Almonte and Carleton Place and from Ottawa, to pay their reverential respect to the days of the fathers and to that scriptural and reformation faith in which they lived and died.

After a largely attended and impressive sacramental service in Knox church in the morning, at which Rev. Mr. Lowry presided and Rev. Dr. Carmichael of King preached, the people assembled in large numbers in the afternoon beside the ruins of the Old Kirk on the seventh line of Beckwith, where for a generation the worship was conducted according to the principles and usages of the Church of Scotland.  A pulpit and precentor’s desk were erected and comfortable seating accommodation provided.  Following the opening exercises of prayer and scripture reading, and the singing of the 100th, 90th, and 103rd Psalms led by Mr. D. R. Ferguson as precentor, Rev. James Carmichael, D. D., was introduced by the pastor, Rev. Mr. Lowry, as a son of Beckwith welcomed back to his native heath.  Dr. Carmichael preached the commemoration sermon, the theme of his discourse being “The Cloud of Witnesses,” and was a most pathetic exhortation to those present to walk in the ways of their fathers.

With the singing of “O God of Bethel,” the benediction and the singing of “God Save the King,” the people crowded inside the stately old walls of the church ruin and listened to devotional exercises and a short address in the Gaelic language by Dr. Carmichael.  At its conclusion the cheerful tones of “When the Roll is called up Yonder” rang through the old gray walls.

Many visitors from outside points spent the day “on the line” and some, following the old-time custom, “walked to meeting.”  They took part in a bilingual service on the Sabbath and all seemed to enjoy the variations, whether they understood the ancient Gaelic or not.  It is the mother tongue of many of them, and they still dearly love its soft toned accents.  Those who know the Gaelic sincerely sympathize with those who have only the Saxon tongue.  It is the language of paradise, “which the devil does not understand, and in which the angels praise God.”

Beckwith Twp. Church Had Turbulent History, By Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 09 March, 1961

This is the second part of a story of the pioneer past of the Old Kirk of Beckwith township. The remains of the recently demolished Old Kirk Ruins may be seen near Carleton Place on the Seventh Line road of Beckwith township, two miles south and a mile east of Blacks Corners. The stone church was built in 1832, replacing a log church building. It served the first two Canadian generations of the first large settlement of Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlanders in the district of Upper Canada north of the Rideau River.

 

Within the historic church walls recently torn down after standing for over 125 years on the old Beckwith Cross Keys road, the Rev. John Smith from Edinburgh preached and ministered for eighteen years to the township’s Perthshire Highlanders as the second minister of the Beckwith Kirk. The church’s six trustees in 1834 were Alexander Stewart (1792-1892, Blacks Corners, from Blair Atholl), John Scott (The Derry, from Kinardchie, Parish of Dull), Finlay McEwen (The Derry, from Arveuh, Balquhidder Parish), Donald McLaren (1774-1847, conc. 4, from Achra, Balquhidder Parish), Colin McLaren (The Derry, from St. Fillans, Comrie Parish), and James McArthur (1767-1836, conc. 7 at Kirk, from Ross, Comrie Parish). The two elders were Peter Campbell and John Campbell.

 

The Great Disruption

In the spread of the Scottish Disruption of 1843 to Presbyterian congregations in Canada the Beckwith Kirk, like those of neighbouring townships and many others, divided into Church of Scotland and dissenting Free Church followers. The Beckwith Free Church body withdrew from the Seventh Line Church during the Rev. Mr. Smith’s pastorate. They formed a separate congregation with the Rev. Mr. Blair as first minister, building Knox Presbyterian Church at Blacks Corners in 1845, the building for which funds now are being collected for its conversion to serve as a United Cemeteries vault. This was the first Presbyterian Free Church of stone construction in the district. Its congregation included the Free Church Presbyterians of Carleton Place until 1868, when it became the mother church of Zion Church of Carleton Place.

 

When the Rev. John Smith died in 1851 in his fiftieth year, leaving a wife and six children, James Poole noted in his Carleton Place Herald : “Mr. Smith had been in the habit of officiating both in English and Gaelic, an accomplishment particularly grateful to our Highland friends.” His large monument in the United Cemeteries, Carleton Place, was erected by his congregation. In the six concession near the Church was his stone house and his farm which in part had been that of his predecessor the Rev. Dr. George Buchanan. It was offered for sale at Lavallee’s Hotel in Carleton Place on the fall fair day of 1864 by the Rev. Mr. Smiths’s heirs and was long the Drummond farm. Succeeding him as the ministers of the Beckwith Auld Kirk were the Rev. Duncan Morrison and the Rev. William McHutchinson, with pastorates of five years each. The manse then was in the seventh concession (NE ½ lot 12) nearer the intersection with the Mill Road now Highway 29.

 

Moved to Carleton Place and Franktown

After nearly fifty years of regular services at the Seventh Line site, since 1833 in the stone church and before that in more primitive buildings, the increase in the populations of Carleton Place and Franktown led to the congregation’s decision in 1869 (perhaps hastened by the formation of the Zion Free Church congregation in Carleton Place) to hold its services in the two villages and to close the Old Kirk building. In Franktown a frame church was built in 1871.

 

In Carleton Place there were two Presbyterian Church buildings, both on William Street. That of the Cameronian Reformed Presbyterians had been built in the 1840’s. Construction of the stone church building which remains at the corner of St. Paul Street, facing the park of the old Commons, had been started in the 1840’s after the Disruption. It had been completed but lack of agreement had prevented it from being occupied. It was being used by Robert Bell for the lowly purpose of storing hay. Now it was renovated and fitted as the first St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Carleton Place, for the part of the Seventh Line Church of Scotland congregation living at and near the village.

 

It served that congregation for nearly twenty years, until the present St. Andrew’s Church building on Bridge Street, with its corner stone laid by the Rev. George M. Grant, Principal of Queen’s University, was dedicated and occupied in 1888. The connection between St. Paul’s Church of Franktown and St. Andrew’s of Carleton Place as one congregation under one minister and one session severed in the following year. The Rev. A. H. Macfarlane, father of J. Calvin Macfarlane, moved from Ashton to Franktown and continued to minister to the congregations at Franktown and Blacks Corners from 1889 until his retirement in 1913.

 

Last Days Of Beckwith Auld Kirk

The last of the five ministers of the Seventh Line Kirk congregation was the Rev. Walter Ross, M.A. He was inducted there in 1862. For nineteen years he contined to serve his congregation, both at the Old Kirk building and after the move to Carleton Place and Franktown. In 1875 he changed his place of residence to Carleton Place, where he died in 1881. He was the father of A. H. D. Ross, M.A., M.F., whose history of “Ottawa Past and Present” was published in 1927. His successor for nine years was the Rev. Duncan McDonald, M.A., a graduate of Queen’s University, inducted at Carleton Place in 1882, who was followed by the Rev. Robert McNair and in 1897 by the Rev. G. A. Woodside, M.A., later of Winnipeg.

 

Upon the opening of the new St. Andrew’s Church in January of 1888, the fixtures which still furnished the Seventh Line Old Kirk were advertised for sale and it was announced the building would be sold. The contents went to buyers in five lots for $78. The stone building of the first St. Andrew’s Church on William Street was sold for $500 for conversion into a double dwelling.

 

Kirk Pulpit At Gallery Height

The interior structure and arrangement of the old Seventh Line house of worship were recalled from vivid boyhood memories of Peter Drummond in the history of a part of Beckwith township published in 1943 by the late Dr. George E. Kidd, M.C., “The Story of the Derry” :

The most unique feature of the building was the pulpit. It was placed high in the centre of the north side. This recalls how in the reign of Charles I, Archbishop Laud had, among other things in an attempt to force the return of Episcopacy on the Covenanters, insisted on the return of the pulpits to the east ends of the churches, whereas they then stood in the middle. The Beckwith church pulpit was so high as to be on a level with the gallery opposite ; and its canopy, made of finely carved native wood, reached to the top of the wall behind it. The precentor’s stand was placed directly in front of and below the pulpit. It was reached by ascending three steps.”

There was a doorway in each end wall of the church. These doors were connected by a wide aisle which divided the floor in halves. The pews in the south half all faced north, while those in the other half were placed at right angles to the aisle, and faced the pulpit from the east and west respectively. The gallery was reached by two flights of steps, one at each end of the church. An impassable partition cut across its centre. A long table, at which communicants sat while they partook of the Sacrament, stood in front of the pulpit.”

 

The Old Kirk’s last years before its stand of more than half a century as an historic ruins are viewed in an early story of the Auld Kirk on the Cross Keys by J. T. Kirkland, Almonte barrister, the years when “John D. Taylor with his schoolboy companions, hunting wild pigeons through the Beckwith woods, could peep in through the dismantled windows and see the sagging roof, the rotting floor and the faded plush and tassels of the old pulpit.”

Morning Bell Once Rung Every Summer Day at 5 a.m., by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 30 June, 1960

A number of stories of the community activities of former citizens of the Carleton Place area have been gathered for the first time as a continuous annual record of local events.  Brief reviews of these typical events, extending from the town’s beginnings down to the times of the youth of many of Carleton Place’s present residents, will be published in a series of installments of which this is the second.

Second Decade

A brief view of the eighteen thirties, the second decade of community life at Carleton Place, shows that this area, like other sections of the province, was taking its first steps toward local government by townships.  This small and late political reform soon was followed by the seemingly unsuccessful armed rebellion against abuses of power of the province’s little ruling class or group, the Family Compact.  Queen Victoria began her reign of over sixty years while the consequent threat of border raids was arousing our local citizens to take steps for the defense of their new homeland.

Post Office Opened

1830 – Carleton Place in 1830 was added to the small number of communities in the province provided with a local post office.

Caleb S. Bellows, merchant, became the first postmaster here.  By one of the postal practices of long standing, the mounted mail courier carried a tin horn which he blew to announce his approach with the incoming mail.  An error by postal authorities is supposed to have been the cause of the local post office being designated Carleton Place instead of the then current name of Carlton Place. 

Among the 1830 newcomers here were Napoleon Lavallee (1802-1890), a legendary raconteur and sixty year resident who was a cooper and later a hotelkeeper, and the Rosamond family, James Rosamond (1804-1894) with a partner soon opened a wool carding and cloth dressing establishment and later a factory here with the first power looms in Eastern Ontario.

Village Church

1831- The first church in Carleton Place was built by the Methodists in 1831.  It was in the north side of the town at the Bridge Street site of the present Baptist Church, which also was built by the Methodist congregation.  The original church was a frame building forty by sixty feet in size, costing 200 pounds and seating about 250 persons.  Its use was granted both for public meetings and lectures and in various periods for also the services of other religious denominations.

Gaelic Kirk

1832 – The Carleton Place district’s second stone church building was that of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, built in 1832 and 1833 in the 7th concession of Beckwith.  Part of its walls still stand.  During the eighteen year term of its first minister, the Rev. John Smith, its services were conducted in both Gaelic and English.  Its first trustees were Peter Campbell, James McArthur (1767-1836), Findlay McEwen, Colin McLaren, Donald McLaren, Alexander Stewart (1792-1892) and John Scott.  Use of this church building was discontinued about 1870, services by its minister, the Rev. Walter Ross, being transferred to both the St. Andrew’s stone church building erected in the 1850’s at the corner of William and St. Paul Streets, Carleton Place, and a frame building of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church built at Franktown.

The building of the Rideau Canal was completed in this year, as an engineering work fully comparable for its time to that of the present St. Lawrence Seaway.

Road Commissioners

1833- Among commissioners chosen to supervise the spending of some 200 pounds of provincial grants for road repairs in the neighbourhood of Carleton Place, mainly in Beckwith township, were John Cameron, James Cram, Duncan Cram, William Davis, Thomas James, Phineas Low, John McDonell and Archibald McGregor, Robert Johnston, Donald Robertson, David Moffatt, Thomas Saunders, Stephen Tomlinson, James Bennie and William Drynan.

Resident Clergyman

1834 – The population of the present province of Ontario by 1834 had doubled in ten years to reach a total of 321,000.

The first resident clergyman at Carleton Place, the Rev. Edward Jukes Boswell, was appointed a church of England missionary here in December, 1833, and remained for ten years.  St. James Anglican church, a frame structure at the site of the present St. James Church on the corner of Bell and Edmund Streets, was built in 1834.  It remained in use for nearly fifty years and was replaced in 1881 by the present stone building of similar seating capacity.  An unkind comment on the earlier church after it was demolished described it as “one of those marvelous unshapely masses of windows and galleries of the early Canadian order of architecture, whose only excellence was that it was commodious.”

Second Woollen Business

1835- Allan McDonald  (1809-1886) came to Carleton Place in 1835, after two years in the woolen mill business in Innisville.  He built a custom carding and cloth dressing mill on the river bank here at the corner of Mill and Judson Streets, where woollen mill operations were continued for over 75 years.

The building of the first stone church in Ramsay township, still standing at the Auld Kirk cemetery, was completed in 1835.  Its Church of Scotland members included a number of residents of Carleton Place.  Its trustees in 1836 were James Wylie, James Wilson, John Lockhart, John Bennie and John Gemmill.  This congregation’s first resident minister, the Rev. John Fairbairn, came to Ramsay in 1833.  The first child baptized by him was John Fairbairn Cram, a later prominent resident of Carleton Place.  The church was succeeded by St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, later Bethany United, of Almonte.

Taxes in 1835 paid by township tax collectors to the district treasurer at Perth 108 pounds for Beckwith township and 10 pounds 7 shillings 13 pence for Ramsay township.  The district treasurer paid a bounty of 1 pound each for nineteen wolf scalps.

Early Morning Bell

1836 – A fund to pay for the ringing of a morning bell at Carleton Place, as a sort of community alarm clock corresponding to later factory whistles and bells, was raised by donations from some forty persons.  Among the contributors were Adam Beck, James and Robert Bell, Hugh Boulton, Joseph Bond, Rev. Edward J. Boswell, James Coleman, William Dougherty, Thomas Glendinning, Thomas and William Griffith, Paul and Peter Lavallee, John and William Morphy, John McEwen, Robert McLaren, John McLaughlin, John McRostie, Manny Nowlan, David Pattie, William Poole, James and Henry Rosamond, Henry Snedden, John Sumner, William Wallace, Catin and Henry Willis and John Wilson.  At a meeting called by Hugh Boulton, with James Rosamond as chairman, it was decided the bell should be rung daily at 5 a.m. in the months of May to August, and at 6 a.m. during the other eight months of each year.  A deduction was to be made from the bell ringer’s stipend for any time the bell was rung more than ten minutes late as timed by Robert Bell’s clock.

Township municipal officers were first chosen by election in 1836.  In Beckwith and Ramsay, as in other townships of similar populations, land owners chose three commissioners, an assessor, a collector of taxes, a clerk and overseers of highways and pound keepers.  Those elected for 1836 at a Ramsay township meeting were John Gemmill, John Dunlop and James Wilson, commissioners ; David Campbell, clerk ; Matthew McFarlane, assessor ; and Daniel Shipman, tax collector.

A district temperance society convention was held in February at the Carleton Place Methodist Chapel with the Rev. William Bell of Perth as chairman.  Delegates in attendance reported memberships of five of the local societies at numbers totaling more than a thousand persons. 

The Home Guards

1837 – On the outbreak of the Upper Canada Rebellion in December, 1837, home guard forces were organized in a number of communities, including Carleton Place.  At a meeting here, with Robert Bell as chairman, volunteer guards were enrolled for training and asked to arm and equip themselves at their own expense.  Among those enrolled, in addition to most of the names of 1836 mentioned above, were Peter Comrie, Daniel and Peter Cram, John Graham, Edmond Morphy Sr. and Jr., James, John, David and Thomas Morphy, Ewen McEwen, Allan McDonald, Jacob McFadden and several members of each of the Coleman, Dougherty, McLean and Willis families.  A number of weekly musters were held to drill on Bell Street during the early part of the winter.

The Lanark Emigrant Society settlers of 1821, after over fifteen years without a transferable title to their lands, were authorized to be granted their land patents in 1837, upon the British government deciding to relieve them of repayment of government settlement loans of 8 pounds per person – men, women and children – which had been made to each of these families.

On the death of King William IV, the proclamation of King William IV, the proclamation of Victoria as Queen was marked by ceremonies at the district’s centre at Perth.

Invasion

1838- Invasion near Prescott in November 1838, by United States, Canadian and other sympathizers with the cause of the Upper Canada Rebellion led to the summoning of militia of this district for service.  Seventy-five men of the Beckwith and Ramsay unit, the Third Regiment of Lanark Militia, were called up and mustered at Carleton Place under Captain Thomas Glendinning.  Before they could proceed further, word of the defeat of the invaders was received with orders dismissing the militia draft.

Six woollen mill operators met at Carleton Place in March, 1838, and agreed to restrict their credit terms for the custom carding of wool and dressing of homespun cloth.  They were James Rosamond of Carleton Place, Edward Bellamy of Bellamy’s Mills (now Clayton), Gavin Toshack of Bennie’s Corners (Indian River, Conc. 8, Ramsay), Elijah Boyce of Smiths Falls, Silas Warner of Merrickville and Isaiah Boyce of Ennisville.

Village Fairs

1839- Licensed inns at Carleton Place were operated by Manny Nowlan, Robert McLaren and Michael Murphy (1805-1884), father of James L. Murphy.  Those at and near Franktown were the inns of Patrick Nowlan, Peter McGregor, Widow Ann Burrows and Archibald Gillis.

Semi-annual village fairs, providing market days for “all kinds of Horn Cattle, Horses, Hogs, Sheep and Hawkers” were instituted at Carleton Place and Franktown under authority of government charters.  Petitions for their authorization were signed by about 125 residents of this area.  Names heading the Carleton Place petition were those of Rev. Edward J. Boswell, Robert Bell, merchant and postmaster, and James Rosamond, manufacturer.