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.

McNeely Home on 11th Line Once Built in a Day, by Howard M. Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 01 August, 1957

Incidents as seen and recorded in Carleton Place some sixty years ago by William W. Cliff are told in the following conclusion of a series of extracts from this newspaper’s earliest existing files. Parts of these files now are located in the Public Archives of Canada at Ottawa. The newspaper then was called the Central Canadian. The pioneer editor wrote of district events, great and small, in an intimate style picturing the period when he was in his heyday as a weekly newspaper publisher.

Wedding Anniversary (1893)

“Christmas Day was the sixtieth anniversary of the marriage of Mrs. John Bell of High Street, formerly Margaret Wilson of Appleton and mother of the well known A. W. Bell. The happy event occurred in Appleton at the hour of 9 o’clock in the evening, and the wedding trip was a promenade in the icy night air to Carleton Place. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. William Bell of Perth, father of the bridegroom. The parents of Mr. Robert Baird took advantage of Mr. Bell’s presence to have the boy christened. Mr. and Mrs. John Bell lived in the house (on Bridge Street at north-east end of the bridge) now occupied by Mr. Robert Bell. It was built in 1831. Mrs. Bell is in her 81st year. We wish her and her faithful daughter Mary the compliments of the season.

Colonel John Sumner (1894)

“Obituary : The late John Sumner was born in England in 1814. His father was a Church of England clergyman, his grandfather an army officer. He finished his education at Christ’s Church Hospital School, commonly called the Blue Coat School as the boys wore long blue coats, with yellow stockings and no hats. He next studied medicine, gave it up and came to Canada in 1832, year of the plague. He clerked in stores in Montreal, Kingston and near Ottawa, coming to Carleton Place in 1836 where he was employed in the stores of Andrew Thompson and Robert Bell, our old M.P.

He commenced business for himself in Ashton in 1840, and opened a second store for a frew years on Wellington Street, Ottawa. Continuing his business at Ashton, he became an able magistrate and Colonel of the militia. It was at this period, probably that he was at the full flood of his career. Everywhere he was known as Lord John. He removed to Carleton Place in 1859, buying the business and shop of Mr. Robert Bell and replacing it with the present stone structure (at north-east corner of Bridge and Bell Streets). Afterwards came financial difficulties. He went to work as a commercial traveller for grocery houses in Montreal and gradually redeemed his house and shop. He then for a long period was in the service of the Dominion Government as an immigration agent, retiring a few years ago.

The Colonel was an Episcopalian and a Conservative, and in each department in his prime he was a great force. Though a man given to social splendors, and who spent money like water, he was largely under the infuluence of his wife, a lady of uncommon tact and patience and superior attainments. He was a man of great natural strength, and it is related that the people used to watch him handle barrels and carcasses of pork as a sort of amusement. He never drove less than a team, and never one that wasn’t the best.

Upon one occasion driving to Ottawa he met a Revenue officer. At that time there was a great deal of smuggling, especiall of tea. The Colonel thought, after he passed the officer, that it might be his store he was seeking, though he was never known to be a contrabandist. Wheeling his flyers around he soon overtook the officer, shot past him, and reached his store in time to get possession of his papers, which proved his complete innocence.

The funeral on Monday was a very imposing ceremonial. The pallbearers were Mayor Nichols, Capt. McKay and Messrs. George Godden, George Dummert, E. G. P. Pickup and H. McCormick.

Good Old Days

“A load of townspeople were passing Mr. McNeely’s house near the 11th Line School a few dyas ago. Among them was ex-Mayor Pattie who pointed to the house and recalled how, some decades ago, when Mr. Charles Munroe lived on the spot, the old house was burned down one night. The men of the town and neighbours next day resolved to rebuild it, and divided into sections, each with a distinct purpose. They went into the virgin forest, chopped down trees, hauled them out and hewed them, and framed, erected, shingled and clapboarded the structure and made it habitable all in a single day. At noon and night the women sent their contributions by the hands of their daughters, in the shape of refreshments. Those are the good old days one loves to hear about.”

A Green Christmas (1895)

“Christmas was a green one, and a muddy green. It is blowing great guns today and turning colder. A boom holding between 5,000 and 6,000 logs broke in the river in the morning and poured over the dam in sad desolation. The scene from the bridge was a most exciting one. The Citizens Band serenaded several leading people Christmas Day, receiving in return gifts from $2 to $10.

Laird of Glen Isle

“The Laird of Glen Isle, Mr. McDougall, and seven of his children are frequently seen at the rink on Mr. Doherty’s place in Ramsay.”

Gypsy Horses

“The gypsies who have been tenting around the old camp ground where Uncle Peter Lake used to live moved out on Friday last. More than twelve horses and eight rigs, single and double, formed the cavalcade. Some of the vehicles were dome-shaped and stoves inside. The procession halted for a while near this office and there was a brisk exchange of horses, much to the merriment of large crowds of citizens. A little black mare, the best animal that they had, was secured by Mr. Alex McRae.”