Some few years ago, The Canadian was privileged to publish a story by Howard M. Brown on how the various bays and islands on the chain of Mississippi lakes obtained their names. The story was published in early spring, so we will repeat it for the benefit of many summer residents along the shores
It happens to be exactly 140 years ago since some of the province’s Indians of the nineteenth century were in sole possession of Lanark County, and all of Eastern Ontario, above a line a few miles north of the Rideau Lake and River. In the rest of Ontario the white settlements were still further south. That actually is no longer ago than the time of the grandparents of the last generation ahead of our senior generation of today. Another thirty-five year before that time the whole of Ottawa except around a few military forts or fur trading posts was in the hands of the Indians.
One of the reasons for the settlement of this new section in Lanark County was to help relieve a post war depression in the British Isles. The area was opened with a partial survey and first settlement of the three neighboring townships of Bathurst, Drummond and Beckwith in 1816. Within less than ten years practically the supposedly tillable land in Lanark County and the north half of Carleton County except government reserves, had been occupied by settlers, including more than a few who had been encouraged to clear land which proved worthless for cultivation. In the first year only about sixteen settlers got established as far north as the Mississippi or into any part of Beckwith Township. When we get to the east shore of the Big Lake, and near Tennyson, I will mention a few of them,
The Indians dispossessed here were Mississaugas who were a subtribe of the large nation of Ojibways. They had moved in from farther northwest after the Iroquois raids ended. They were a tribe which made an unusually wide use of wild plants for food, harvesting and storing large quantities of wild rice for the winter. They knew how to make maple sugar and to prepare dried berries and fruits for winter use. As hunters and fishermen they moved their camps about, by canoe in summer and by snowshoe and toboggan in winter. Their main efforts in this area were directed to moose in the winter, beaver small game and fish including suckers, pickerel and pike, in the spring and summer, while after the fall rice harvest they speared the larger fish spawning along the shores of some of the lakes, lake trout, whitefish and sturgeon. The Indian rights to this district were surrendered in a treaty made with the Mississaugas in 1819 at Kingston.
As the Indians were crowded out from the land on the north side of the Mississippi in the 1820’s, they gradually retreated northward and westward. Their Mississauga descendants are on reserved lands in the Kawartha Lakes area now. A few chose to stay near the new settlements in Lanark County, in areas not suitable for farming. In the 1890’s those still living at points near Carleton Place included groups at McIIquham’s Bridge and at the Floating Bridge. Big Joe Mitchell and Joe Baye were among the better known of the last local Indians.
John Cram left us the first settlers’ story of the Indians and the river here.
He was one of the nearest settlers to the river in this immediate vicinity. He came with the emigration in 1818 of about 300 persons from Perthshire to Beckwith Township, and his land included the site of the United Cemeteries. He left a story of finding the river by hearing the sound of a waterfall on a still day when he and a neighbor were clearing land together. They agreed on an exploring expedition. The next day, going along old Indian trails and new surveyors’ line they followed the sound until they reached the head of the falls, first viewing it from the present site of the Carleton Place Town Hall. On arriving according to his story as last told by him over 75 years ago, they saw a tall Indian woman leave the shore and plunge across in the shallow water to the north side, where there was an Indian camp. At that time and until the first dams were built, a long rapids extended above the falls here. At the place between the present Ritchie mill and the powerhouse there still was a rocky tree-covered island less than a hundred years ago, as well as a falls.
The next year the Indian campground became part of the farmland grants of Edmond Morphy and his family, newly arrived from Littleton in Tipperary. Four members of the family drew two township lots that became the centre of the town, from Lake Park Avenue to the township line. At the same time (which was September 1819), William Moore and his sons William and John obtained 300 acres extending from the present Lake Avenue to the 11th line road, including the greater part of the present town area south of Lake Avenue. The village had its start with the building of Hugh Boulton’s grist mill in 1820. Its future as a town was assured when the railway arrived some 40 years later in 1859. The bigger sawmills began in the 1860’s. Municipal incorporation as a village separate from Beckwith township, came in 1870 (village population 1,226) and new industries and a railway line to Ottawa. The railway shops and further growth followed in the 80’s and 90’s with incorporation as a town of over 4,000 in 1890. Then came the further expansion of the foundry and the textile mills, from the early 1900’s.
Passing over the story of the beginnings of the town and heading up the river, Manny’s Pier, the only restored pier of the lumbering days, is one of the first landmarks for our purpose. It’s name has a settlers’ story to it. The land along the north shore, from the Morphy’s to the mouth of the river, and running back to the town line road, was taken up in 1820 by six settlers. One was David Moffatt, ancestor of the Moffatt’s of Carleton Place. The next land east of the Moffatt’s was Manny Nowlan’s whose name we have in Manny’s Pier.
Manny Nowlan later owned the Morris Tavern where the long misrepresented Battle of the Ballygiblins of 1824 started. This first inn of the new village was on Mill Street, next the river and immediately east of the present Public Utilities Commission Office. At that time the north side of the river was still new farmland and forest. There was no bridge and the river crossing was by boat. The first few commercial buildings were on and around Mill Street. The first local road, which ran from the Road at Franktown and including the present Bridge Street, Carleton Place was authorized by the District Magistrate in 1823 and cleared in large part in 1824. Through the last century this road then a township road retained its original name of the Mill Road.
On the east side of Manny Nowlan’s farm the land was occupied by two settlers who did not stay there long. One was Thomas Burns. They were succeeded within about ten years as farmers on these two properties, by the second Peter Cram and John McRostie. John McRostie’s original stone home, standing at the river bank at Flora Street on the east side what was his farm was built in about the 1830’s.
At the other end of the row of six farms was Nicholas Dixon whose name we have in Dixon’s Point at the mouth of the river. Before passing Dixon’s Point we can look across to Indians Landing on the south shore. Fred Hunter recalls that when he was a small boy, Indians still came there in the spring on their way down the Mississippi with their season’s furs loaded in their long canoes.
On the return trip they camped against Indians Landing, sometimes staying there for most of the summer. Joe and Johnny Baye made their local headquarters there in the 1880’s and 90’s. They sold boats including dugouts made of ash and basswood, and many of their axe handles and colored hampers and clothes baskets were sold in the stores of the town. Joe Baye and his white wife also lived at the Floating Bridge on the Indian River in Ramsay. He died in the Almonte hospital in 1928.
Below Indians Landing the land at the end of Lake Avenue was the 100 acre farm of George Willis, who came here in 1820 and was the great grandfather of Henry Willis. His son, also named George, farmed there after him and raised a musically inclined family, including the third George who in his youth seems to have been the best known local musician of his time. With his bagpipes and his fiddle he gave the Scots and Irish their favorite airs, according to the occasion from the Flowers of Edinburgh to the Reel of Tulloch, and from Rory O’More to the Boys of Kilkenny and Donnybrook Fair. Around the time of the Fenian Raids he was a bandmaster of an early town band.
Above Indians Landing the farm running from the mouth of the river, to the eleventh line was the Fisher farm ; settled by Duncan Fisher in 1821, and the little point there was Fisher’s Point. The farm was owned by Brice McNeely in later years and still remains with that family.
Crossing back to Dixon’s Point, Mr. Dixon was an Englishman who came in 1820 with a wife and seven children. His farm where he lived for over forty years, and his stone house appear to have included part of what is now the Caldwell Lock End Ranch. He had a potash works on the part facing the river, called Dixon’s Landing, opposite Indians Landing. The trotting races held on the ice at Dixon’s Landing began as early as 1858.
The next stop in the Lower Lake is Nagle’s Shore now owned by the McDiarmid Estate. Richard Nagle had lived his latter years at the present Caldwell Summer home until 1891. His brother Patrick occupied the adjoining farm along the shore. Nagle’s Shore was bought by William McDiarmid in 1900, including W. P. Nagle’s lakeshore residence. This north shore, a regatta centre now and 75 years ago, came next to Lake Park for some years as the most popular place for this purpose. One of a series of several annual regattas of the early 1880’s was held off Nagle’s Shore at a time when rowing races had caught the public fancy almost to the extent of football or World Series baseball now. Ned Hanlen, famous world champion and world-travelled oarsman, brought the crowds to Carleton Place for two of these regattas, which drew competitors from such district rowing centres as Brockville, Prescott, and Ottawa. Sponsered by the local Boating Club, these annual events wound up in the evening in the lower river with open air concerts, fireworks, and torchlight parades of decorated boats. At one of them the added attraction, a balloon ascension, ended with a wind blowing the balloon into the river.
Along the northwest side from the Birch Point cottage shore to the upper corner of Kinch’s Bay the lake is in Ramsay Township. The Hogsback Shore running from near the former Thackaberry farm towards McCreary’s Creek is of course named for the raised hogs back ridge along the water’s edge. McCreary’s Creek, navigable for its first half mile takes its name from the well known McCreary family nearby where William McCreary settled in 1823. His grandson, Hiram, was the local member of the Legislature in Premier Drury’s Farmer Government after the first World War. The big bay itself with its wild rice and unusual deeper channels, is named for John Kinch, whose farm was between Mcreary’s and the upper side of the bay. After his death in 1865 his son farmed there and the farm later became Bowland’s.
How Black Point got its name does not seem to be known. It could well be that it was named Black Point from the early deaths by drowning here. The first recorded drowning in the lake was that of a pioneer settler, John Code who was drowned near here in 1849. The double drownings took place off this shore, Alex Gillies and Peter Peden in 1878, and Dick Willis and Noble Bennett in 1893. All the drownings were from boats capsized in the rice.
Poole’s Point was called McCann’s Point for many years until the early 1900’s both names coming from the owners of the adjoining farmland.
Code’s Bay, the northwest side of the Second Lake, well filled with rice and sometimes with duck hunters, is another of the locations named for the first settlers as is Code’s Creek and Landing, John Code Sr., John Jr. and George Code, each drew farms with the Scotch Corners Settlement of about 12 farms in 1822. George Code lived to 1890 and the age of 93. Another long lived Scotch Corners resident was Wm. Henry Poole who died there at the age of 96 in 1928. He was an enthusiastic hunter and trapper in his day as well as a farmer.
Coming into the third or Middle Lake King’s Bay, extending from above the Two Oaks cottage shore to the cottages of Squaw Point was named for Colin King of the 1822 Scotch Corners settlement. The official names of the point at the Two Oaks Shore, and the island beside it commonly called Dinky Dooley, are King Point and King Island, according to the government map.
Aberdeen Island was bought and named in 1893 by Colin Sinclair, son of John Sinclair who came to Scotch Corners in 1822. It was Colin Sinclair who started his Carleton Place tailoring business in the early 1850’s. He also bought King Island. The nickname Dinky Dooley was for Bell Saunders and Charlie Morphy who had a camp there.
The high and rocky Laurentian formation of much of the upper lake shores starts here. (According to the geolist, this was a seashore in some distant age, as shown by the numerous fossils in the limestone on the other side of the lake.)
Squaw Point, one of the best known landmarks on the course, looks like a logical Indian campsite, with a lookout and a sheltered landing and we have it on the authority of Fred Hunter that that is what it was. The depth of this part of the lake increases greatly and out of it near the middle rise the tops of the Two Crabs, the smallest islands in the lake.
Willis’ Landing is the next old northwest shore, headquarters. The nearby island, separated from the mainland by a narrow, rock-sided channel was named Sinclair’s Island for the Sinclairs of Scotch Corners whose original farm was near here. In the middle of the lake here is Green Island, which had that name before it was bought as a cottage site in 1915 by Mr. W. J. Hughes.