Early Settlers Found Good Land in Ramsay Township, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 11 May, 1961

One of the few letters which remain from those written by Ramsay settlers in the township’s first year gives the optimistic impressions of a Glasgow society emigrant, John Toshack.  He already had built his log cabin on land where later the village of Bennie’s Corners waxed and waned, and was back at Lanark preparing to bring his family from the district centre to the new home.  His letter tells of his hopes for his chosen lot and mentions two of the boats which served in the settlers’ use of the “water conveyance.”  Writing to a friend in Glasgow, Alexander Sinclair, on September 11, 1821, he said in part:

“I gladly embrace this opportunity of writing you by Mrs. Graham who has lost her husband and is returning to Scotland.  Our family is all well now, by the mercies of God, they are all recovered.  We had four of them in the fever since we came here, Margaret, Andrew, Helen and Eneas.  Many have died since arriving in Canada, some of the fever, others of the flux and others from the effects of fatigue.

We have got land in the township of Ramsay near the Mississippi River, which runs into the Ottawa about fifteen miles from our land.  We are only half a mile from it.  There are always plenty of good fish to be got in it, but especially in the spring, when I am informed they are caught in very great abundance.

William, John and James Bennie and I have each got 100 acres together, in a square.  It is most beautiful land, and resembles the Dalmarnock haughs (low rich land beside a river).  According to what I have seen of other land, it will produce abundantly of all which is necessary for the support of a family.  The land is by no means generally good, there is much rock and swamp on many lots.  Indeed I would not exchange the land that we have got for any other I see.  But it is a great distance from this (ie., from Lanark), about twenty miles by land and near forty by water.  Had it not been for the water conveyance we would not have attempted to go so far.  We have built two flat boats, of fir boards at one inch thick, which we got from the saw mill at 3s.6d. per 100 feet.

I have got up a house, 22 feet by 16, which will do to begin with.  Our land abounds with beautiful wood, of elm, maple, birch, beech, pine, and bass ; the latter is somewhat like your saugh (sallow or broad-leafed willow).  I often think if you had a few score of the trees that we cut down to burn you would turn them to better account.

Settlers Tools

“I hope to have all my luggage and family on the land in about ten days,….Government has been very honorable.  Besides conveyance from Quebec to Lanark and rations – the rations consist of one pound of bread and one of pork for a man, one half each for a wife, one third for a child above seven and one quarter for those under. – I have got a blanket for myself, one for my wife, one for every two children and one for the odd one ; also an axe, a hand saw, a bill hook, an iron wedge, two pair hinges, a thumb-neck (door latch), two files, a stock-lock, two gimlets, a pick axe, a hammer, a scythe and stone and among us four we have got a pit and cross-cut saw and we will get a grindstone when we want it.  There are also nails and other things still to be got.  (Note: Among other supplies issued were spades, hoes, harrow teeth, sickles, pitchforks, adzes, augers, kettles and frying pans.)

The gentlemen here and all the way from Quebec, who had the charge of forwarding us, seemed to vie with each other in discretion and kindness.  This is the most merciful act that I ever knew the British Government perform.  It affords many poor industrious families the means of obtaining the necessaries of life who had no such prospect before.  You will observe that I am writing only from information and observation, it will require another twelve months to come to enable me to write from experience.  I think the emigration is likely to be carried on at least another year.  There are three townships to be surveyed beyond Dalhousie, Lanark and Ramsay, near the grand river.  I will if spared write you more particularly afterwards and hope to give you more information.”

John Toshack, who came to Ramsay with his wife, seven sons and two daughters, was a man of strong religious tendencies.  He had been a deacon in the Congregational Church under the Rev. Mr. Ewing in Glasgow, and preached in the first shanties of settlers in Ramsay before there was an ordained clergyman in the township.  His younger daughter, eleven years old at the time of the 1821 migration, became the wife of the first Peter Cram of Carleton Place.  Surviving her husband on the Cram farm homestead on High Street which later was acquired in the eighteen eighties by her nephew Peter Cram (1831-1920) of Carleton Place, she died in 1890 at the home of her daughter, Mrs. James Thom in Ramsay.

A final installment of this series of Ramsay settlement stories will tell of the emigration adventures of one family of Ramsay pioneers.

Advertisements

1800 PEOPLE AMONG FIRST SETTLERS IN RAMSAY, BY HOWARD MORTON BROWN, CARLETON PLACE CANADIAN, 27 APRIL, 1961

An account of the beginnings of settlement in Ramsay township is continued.  Extracts from a diary of a voyage from Greenock to Quebec on The Earl of Buckinghamshire, one of four sailing ships which carried eighteen hundred Glasgow district emigrant society passengers bound for North Lanark, have told part of the story of the Atlantic crossing of a number of the pioneer residents of Ramsay.  This diary of one hundred and forty years ago was written by Arthur Lang, who settled with his family near Almonte in the year of the first opening of agricultural land in the township.  He became a farmer and a school teacher there.

His story is resumed as the ship’s six hundred emigrants to northern townships of New Lanark are nearing the shores of the new world.

“1821, May 27, the Sabbath – At 12 o’clock we were in 43 deg. 45 min west longitude.  Another lecture was given by Mr. Thomson, but the levity of some and the seriousness of others formed a striking contrast.

Storm at Sea

May 28 – A very heavy sea was rolling and continued the whole night.  The first scene…was fourteen or fifteen of the passengers tumbling head-long on top of one another.

May 29 – Everyone is telling what a bad rest they got, for really such a tumbling of baskets, cans, bundles, basins and pots I never heard before.  About sixteen of us had a good glass of rum at night in the forecastle.

June 1 – Still but cold air continues.  We imagined ourselves off the banks of Newfoundland but Friday, June 1st convinced us we were upon them, for there were a great many fishermen around.  Two French brigs passed quite close.

June 2 – One of our side sail booms broke and vanished.  They got another soon.

Sight of Land

June 5 – This morning we saw land for the first time since we left Ireland.  We saw St. Pauls on the right and Cape Breton on the left.

June 6 – The island of St. Pauls within a quarter mile of us.  We sailed little the whole day, but were amused at a few land birds which flew about the rigging and an owl which sat upon the mast and sometimes flew around us.  It was the first I had ever seen on the wing.  Newfoundland was in view in the afternoon.

June 11 – We were in the mouth of the river at 5 o’clock this morning.  The hilltops are covered with snow, but the rising ground near the water is completely covered with trees.  A pilot came on board today.  He seems to be an able, craft-looking man.

June 13 – Not a house to be seen on the north side at all.  The hills on this side are just about as high as Paisley’s braes, and some of them higher.

June 14 – We have not gained a mile, but we came in view of a fine valley with a number of houses in it.  The hills beyond that valley were as high to appearance as those I have often seen out of the mill windows over the tops of Dumbarton.

June 15 – There is a new scene before us this evening – trees to the hill-tops, cultivated plains – with ranges of white houses, for they are all in rows.  The women appear to be enamoured with the prospects, and no wonder.  Two boats came along side of us with herring, bread and tobacco.

June 16 – We saw Quebec and it looked beautiful.  I got my feet on terra firma and really I was well pleased.

June 17 – This was the best working Sabbath I ever had. Nothing but bustle and confusion and everyone for himself. 

June 19 – A child died this morning, but it was ill before it came on board.  We arrived at Montreal this afternoon.

 

The Upper St. Lawrence

June 20 – A very wet day, yet we disembarked and were hurried away in small carts and the kind of trains used for loading heavy articles with ease.  We arrived at Lachine in the evening and were huddled in a cold, damp reeky barracks.

June 21 – Early this morning the hustle began again.  Nothing but hurry, packing up our beds and dividing our provisions, for we got three days provisions of loaf bread and six days of biscuit with pork and beef, and away we started for the upper Lachine, as they call it, but we passed and rowed till dark night.  It was the longest pull I ever had.  We landed at the place in the dark ; here nothing but hurry again for a bed.  We slept in the open air and our heads were wet with dew in the morning.

June 23 – Another hurry began about sunrise.  We got a hurried breakfast while they were passing through the locks.  All the women and children that could walked, with a greater part of the heavy baggage which was taken to a place about three miles above by land carriage.  The reason of this was that the rapids were so strong.  We came to Cedars and loaded again and went about a mile farther up, and rested another night in the open air.

June 24 – Sabbath was a great day among the Romans and we did not leave the place till the church came out.  It was about midday and we started pulling away and went to a place six or seven miles, where there are locks.  There was a kind of fortress here.  We got into the barracks, but a great many slept in the fields.

June 25 – Early in the morning we left this place and sailed to the outlet of Lake St. Francis in the river St. Lawrence, and lay the whole day for the want of wind, or perhaps some other cause we know nothing about.

June 26 – We had a long voyage today and labored hard the whole day from 5 o’clock in the morning till dark.  The scenery is grand…..

June 27 – Hard labor prevents me making many remarks.  There are many pleasant sights in the river.  At night we came through the canal in the middle of a wood and at the head of it there is what they call the “Long Soo”, a terrible rapid about nine miles long, and some of the merchants boats will run it in twenty minutes.  We rested there for the night.

June 29 – Up early and out at the oars again as hard as ever.  I took very ill this day and was not able to work.  Excessively hot every day.  We rested about five miles from Prescott.

Prescott Landing

June 30 – After a short sleep under a heavy dew we arose as soon as we could see, and after sailing a short space we came to Prescott.  There is a lonely looking town on the opposite shore.  The societies that came in the ship Commerce came to Prescott in the evening.

July 1, the Sabbath – This is really a day of rest, and after getting breakfast I took a tour through the woods to see how they looked.  I saw nothing they produced but strawberries.

July 4 – This day is the anniversary of the States of Independence and there seemed to be some rejoicing on the part of the people on the other side of the water. “

From Prescott the eighteen hundred men, women and children gradually were conducted in wagons and on foot to Brockville and on the rougher roadways from Brockville to Perth and to Lanark village.

Lanark and Ramsay

At Lanark the women and young children remained, many in huts thatched with pine and balsam branches, while the men sought their lots, made little clearings on them and put up shanties built of the logs of the clearings.  Writing on July 19th, Arthur Lang said:

“I set out for Ramsay Settlement to pick out 100 acres, but after six days hard labor travelling through swamps and untrodden paths through woods I had to return without land, and now I have to do the same thing over again….The greater part of the forest, the underwood or bramble, is not so thick as at home but a great deal of it is worse to go through than the worst of Crucatone Wood….conceive Paisley Moors, for instance, all grown over with large trees, some fresh and green, others half rotten and a great many rotten from top to bottom, and almost as many lying in all directions as are standing with not a living creature to be seen or heard except a bird or two, and the owl screaming in your ears at night.”

As less than half the British government’s expenses in connection with the society emigrations to North Lanark of 1820 and 1821, its cash loans to these settlers exceeded 22,000 pounds.  Over 7,000 pounds in loans was advanced to those of 1820, who numbered 167 men and, including their families, over eight hundred persons.  At the same rate of 8 pounds sterling for each man, woman and child, over 15,000 pounds was advanced in cash loans to the society settlers coming to North Lanark in 1821.  After fifteen years during which transferable titles to these settlers’ lands were withheld against the loans, and therefore also their provincial voting rights, it was decided that repayment would not be required.  Speaking of the day his society was paid the second installment of these government advances at Lanark village on November 1, 1821, Arthur Lang wrote:

“I received the second installment of money which was paid in sterling.  If you had seen the foolishness of some who were willing to spend and be merry and the sad countenance of others who had lost the most of their families, I am sure you would have looked with contempt on the one and your hear strings would have ached for the other.”

Four months after his family’s arrival at Lanark, November 12th briefly wad marked for the Langs as the day when, in Ramsay by the Mississippi, “my family came to my own house.”  The winter’s snow came five days later, and November 26 and 27 “were very frosty, the river in some places was frozen quite across.”  Finally after a winter of tree cutting the first spring in the new land came in mid-April, with a note of ‘wet days’.  The river has swollen very rapidly and the ducks are sporting plentifully on the water.  I noticed the pigeons came to the woods on the 4th for the first time.”

A well-known resident of the thriving township, Arthur Lang, farmer and local school teacher, became one of Ramsay’s first two representatives on the council of the Lanark and Renfrew district when, in 1842 and seven years before his death, the province’s first district councils were elected.

Other settlement stories will follow in a later installment of tales of the beginnings of Ramsay township.

HOWARD M. BROWN TELLS STORY OF RAMSAY TOWNSHIP, CARLETON PLACE CANADIAN, 20 APRIL, 1961

One of the first trails to be laid out as a road when the forests on the north side of Carleton Place were opened for settlement is still in use in Ramsay township.  Called later the old Perth Road, it was opened one hundred and forty years ago by Josias Richey, government deputy surveyor, to give access from Lanark township to “the Grand Falls in the Mississippi in Ramsay” for the original settlers there.  Across the middle of the township it follows the southern edge of the broad Precambrian ridge of Wolves Grove, on a course which possibly for many centuries was an ancient route in the travels of Indian hunters.

On completion of the survey of 60,000 acres which prepared Ramsay township in January of 1821 for settlement, and before the summer arrival in the township of over a hundred families of Glasgow emigrant society settlers and others, the first thirty farm locations in Ramsay were obtained by newcomers from Scotland, England and Ireland.

Choosing their hundred acre lots at places most readily reached by the main trail running easterly across the township, these first thirty men of Ramsay included, in the eighth and ninth concessions, William Foster, William Hawkins, Thomas Lowrie, Edward McManus, Robert and Thomas Mansell, James Metcalfe, Andrew Rae,  Archibald Wilkie and Catin Willis.  Those choosing farmsites at the same time nearer to Lanark township in the first, second and third concessions of Ramsay included William Chapman, Thomas Foster, John Gemmill, Patrick McDermott and James Smith.

In midsummer about four hundred men, numbering with their families over eighteen hundred persons, arrived at the one year old village of Lanark and began to select locations for farms in Ramsay, Lanark, Dalhousie and North Sherbrooke townships, under the supervision of Colonel William Marshall, North Lanark settlement superintendent.  They were emigrant society settlers from the Glasgow district who had reached the port of Quebec in June on four ships.

Most had been hand loom cotton weavers.  Others were tradesmen such as carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers, and cotton spinners.  With them came the versatile Rev. John Gemmill, Presbyterian minister of the first church of Lanark village and of the north half of Lanark county, who practiced also his skills as a medical doctor and a printer.  Many of those who located in Ramsay township on some of North Lanark’s best agricultural land were forbears of present well known residents of Ramsay, Almonte and Carleton Place.

Ramsay Emigration Diary

The journal of Arthur Lang is one of the few remaining accounts of this large migration to have been recorded by a Ramsay settler in the first year of the inhabitation of the township.  His concise personal chronicle tells with candor of his experiences as one of the six hundred Glasgow district passengers sailing from Greenock on the Earl of Buckinghamshire.  With his wife, two sons and four daughters, he settled on the east side of the Mississippi River (Conc. 10, lot 14) near Almonte, where he lived until his death in 1849.  He was one of the township’s earliest school teachers at Almonte.  His long-lived eldest son William Lang (1811-1902), a famer in Huntley and in Beckwith and born in Paisley, spent his last days at the home of his daughter Mrs. John Cavers in Carleton Place.

The Arthur Lang record of his seven weeks sailing from Greenock to Quebec and of the inland journey fails to join in the gloom of his fellow diarist John McDonald, who was not the John McDonald of Ramsay township.  McDonald’s Narrative of a Voyage, published in Glasgow in 1822, describes his passage on another of the four emigrant ships, the David of London, and gives a disconsolate view of a pilgrims’ progress to Lanark and of the new settlements there.  The extracts which follow are a selection from the entries in Arthur Lang’s authentic contribution to the story of the last four large organized group emigrations from Scotland to Lanark County in Upper Canada.

An Emigrant Ship of 1821

“April 28 – Having got everything ready we left the Old World and started for the New…..There was a little disturbance at one time about the payment for some butter but that passed over and the day ended peacefully.

The 29th began with the roaring of children and I believe ended in the same way.  I cannot but admire the moderation of the captain in his conduct toward the passengers.  They seemed to be in good spirits…..

May 1 – We lost sight of land today.  It was a beautiful day… (marred) by confusion and noise.  Bed-time came with its usual attendants, darkness and the roaring of children.

May 2 – There was plenty of rum going today, and great laughing at the odd ways of some of the men and women.  Some got drunk and were very troublesome to many of us.  One of them was put in irons for his stupidity.  At 12 o’clock last night we ran aground (off the Wicklow coast).  We kept too close to a large rock, the bowsprit almost touching it.  There was little fear or excitement because we did not know the danger.

Escapement From Shipwreck

May 3 – We got from that perilous situation with hard labor at 11 o’clock….A pilot came along side us – I believe that unless he had got a large sum of money he would have rested on his oars in his boat with little concern and watch the ship go to pieces.  (Natives were gathered in readiness to plunder the possible wreckage).

May 4 – We are just lagging as usual without wind, distributing and disputing about our provisions.

May 5 – Not until today have I been able to look up on deck, but was forced to endure intolerable stenches, and the bocking of poor souls wishing to be back again, though it were to live on water gruel at home.  Aye, and I’ll be off before I come back again if I were once there.

May 9 – I have been tolerably well and most of the passengers also, still the trifling disputes continue.  Such a gang to fight about a bucket of slat water, a matter in which five minutes would have set both parties right.

May 10 – Nothing but the usual bustle occurred today, except one incident where a man got a mark with his own pot, contending for the place where it hung.

May 12 – A fine looking ship from China, last at St. Helena, passed us, all well.

May 15 – A schooner from Baltimore, bound for Liverpool has hailed us, and our captain told them we were in 15 deg. 30 min. west longitude.

A Fair Wind

May 16 – There is……..the fairest wind we have had since we left Craig Isle.  From that Craig till this day we have been sailing against the wind.  We have been sailing so far south that sailing north west is very near our course to Quebec.

May 17 – A very good day and nothing occurred but the usual bustle for food from morning to night.  We had no time but to make ready our victuals.  Our room is so small both above and below that we appear to be in continual confusion.

May 18 – It is curious to me at least to see how our spirits freshened with the breeze.

Sabbath, 20th – We had a sermon about 12 o’clock today.  There was a decent little group of young and old with their faces clean and their expressions serious.

May 24 – The ship went at ten knots for a good part of the day and the sea rose higher than I have ever seen it.

May 25 – A fine day but not much wind.  It was considered on this day that the passengers were not as well used as they ought to be by some of the crew.  The mate had struck a man before this with a handspike, but the little man he kicked resented the blow.  It produced new regulations.”