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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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.”