FIRST MOTORIZED FIRE TRUCK

Carleton Place Canadian, 02 July, 1969

Carleton Place Canadian, 02 July, 1969

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Fire Reports for 1914

Fires-Report Dec. 15, 1914

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK THIRTY

Late W. J. Welsh Recalls Story of Fire Department

By Howard Morton Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 04 July, 1963

 

Some fire department recollections from the early days of Carleton Place are concluded in this installment.  It recounts the late W. J. Welsh’s memories of some locally famed firemen, of firemen’s annual picnics and balls of more than half a century ago, and of the origins of the town’s present fire company and its predecessor during his childhood.

The Ocean Wave Fire Company was established under its present name by the Carleton Place municipal council in 1875.  Jack Welsh, widely known as “Baldy”, the grand old man of Canadian competitive paddling, died in Carleton Place in 1957 at the age of 96.  His story which follows was written by him in 1917 and was first published in this newspaper:

“What a flood of pleasant memories the name of this fine fire fighting force revives.  To those who know it in its splendor today a short sketch of its origin and early days might be of interest.  While I will not try to confine myself strictly to data, the nearness of it will suffice.

About the years 1868 or ’69, the need of some better means of fire protection than the bucket brigade was apparent and with that end in view a meeting of the village was called to discuss the matter.  The meeting was called to order by the late James Poole, editor of the Herald and captain of the volunteer company at that time.

It was held on the street near Glover’s carriage shop, and the chairman’s rostrum was the corner of the log fence where now stands the English church rectory.  A fire company was formed with Mr. Poole as captain, but they had no engine.  At that time, Robert Bell, who was a great lover of flowers, had a small hand engine or more properly a pump which he used for watering his garden.

He offered them this.  While it was a first class article for its purpose and there is no record of it being a failure at a fire, we will judge that it was a success.

Old Members

Among the members of the company at the time were:  W. Patterson, Alex. Wilson, William Glover, J. S. Nolan, William Rogers, William Pattie, J. R. Galvin, Nathaniel McNeely and others.

A larger engine was purchased as the brigade became more efficient and the need grew greater.  This was the ‘Defiance,” the first engine purchased by the village.  It was a hand engine, commonly called a man-killer.  Next was purchased the original Ocean Wave, also a hand engine but the most powerful of its kind at that time.

It required 40 men to work it, but when it was going it was a fire fighter.  It would throw a stream of water over Zion church spire, a feat our streamers are not capable of today.  In order to give the engine a fair trial and initiate the firemen into the proper working of it the Renfrew fire brigade were invited down.

They were a large fine-looking body of men.  The trial took place on the bridge and as the husky firemen forced the breaks to the cry of “Heave Her Down,” the stream rose towards the sky and the dam at the same time which caused the late James L. Murphy to exclaim with rapture, “The Ocean Wave.”  From that day so well remembered the Ocean Wave was christened.

The late William Patterson was the next captain, followed by the late T. L. Nagle, D. Moffatt, Thomas Lever, James Warren, Alex. McLaren and Wm. McIlquham.  The hand engine gave way to the steamer and the “Sir John” was purchased and still another steamer was added.  Now with a first class waterworks system, Mort. Brown’s and the Hawthorn factory auxiliary power, we stand as second to none as a well equipped town.

A chief engineer was attached to the brigade in the person of the late James Shilson whose mechanical ability was a wonder.  The company made a wise selection.  He was followed by the late James Doherty.  The next chief, Mr. McIlquham, brought the company up to a high state of efficiency and what Billy can’t accomplish in the way of fire-fighting with the Ocean Waves would be a shame to tell.  As a mechanic of man-power he had no superior.

Steamboat Picnics

While firemen have built up a company they did not forget the social side of life.  Years ago the firemen’s picnic was the event of the season.  It was held on Pretty’s Island, and the date was fixed to correspond with the ripening of John McCann’s corn – his contribution to the feast, as that was a big item on the bill of fare.

The steamer Enterprise was donated free by Senator McLaren.  He also gave a substantial cash donation to purchase groceries and the said groceries to be purchased at Sibbitt’s.

One fireman was hiding a basket containing a bottle of ‘milk,’ under a clump of bushes at the water’s edge when smash came a rock over the bush and when he got the water out of his eyes the bottle was gone.

While the women spread the table cloths on the ground and were emptying the well-filled baskets, the corn and tea were bubbling in the boilers sending forth an appetizing odor that could be felt over at Shail’s Settlement.

A glance at the names of the committee in charge of the picnic is enough to convince the most skeptical that a better day’s outing could not be held – such names as the late Sid Anable, Bill Whalen, Bill Patterson, Joe Wilson, Alex. Wilson, Oliver Virtue.  Wylie’s barge was towed along for a dancing platform for the home trip and with the late George and Dick Willis playing the fiddles – it was not called an orchestra in those days – such foot-inspiring music was produced by these two musicians as has never been equaled.

Annual Ball

The annual ball was another event that was looked forward to as the ball of the season.  Started years ago in Newman’s hall, it outgrew that.  The first record I can find is 1882.  Then the old town hall and Pattie’s hall were each used until the present town hall was built.  Supper was served in the different hotels until they secured their present quarters and with their own outfit have served as many as 600 visitors from all over the country.

McGillicuddy’s orchestra, of Ottawa, – some class in those days – furnished the music.  A comparison of the program in those days is worthy of notice.  It consisted of a Grand March, Cotillion Quadrille and Varsuvienne.  And to see them hit the floor, yea, couldn’t they dance.

I have lately seen three generations of the same family dancing at one time, the grandmother having attended the first annual ball.  Of late years Valentine’s orchestra, of Ottawa, and the Hulme Family, of Prescott, have furnished music.  While the profits have varied from a small sum to hundreds of dollars, with their usual generosity, they were able last year to give $50 to the Red Cross.  The athletic and gladitorial side of the brigade was not neglected during these years as the numerous victories of fleet footed hose reel and giant tug-of-war teams testify competing in every town from Pembroke to Brockville.

They proved their mettle.  When you think of a team of such men as Chief McIlquham, Adam Pretty, John Morris, Chief Wilson, James Loftus, William Hurdis, Tom Johnston, Jim Rogers, Alex. Wilson, John D. Taylor, John Willis, John Dolan and the late James Warren, it was easy to understand why they were victors.

Time has laid its hand heavily in the ranks of the company and very few remain in 1917.  The old spirit created years ago and which has made a single success of this valuable asset to our town, still remains and when the last trumpet calls and each man has received his reward we will find them not sitting “around the fire” but basking in that celestial light – the reward of all who have been good and faithful firemen.”

Baldy

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK TWENTY-NINE

Carleton Place’s Great Fire Occurred in 1910

By Howard M. Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 27 June, 1963

 

Stories of former days in the long and distinguished record of the Ocean Wave Fire Company of Carleton Place, founded in 1875, are continued in this instalment.

It recalls the years of the eighteen eighties, and this town’s perilous fire of 1910, in the times when steam fire engines and equipment were raced to the scene of action by galloping fire horses.

Officers of the Ocean Wave Fire Company in the early eighteen eighties were William Patterson, captain; George Warren, first lieutenant; George Crawford, second lieutenant; John R. Galvin, secretary; William Rogers, treasurer; and John Flett, company engineer.  The grants of the Carleton Place Council to the fire company at that time were $200 a year.  The company usually had about 25 or 30 members; 35 was the membership attending its annual meeting in 1882.  Leaders of the ld days subsequently included Tom Nagle, Dave Moffatt, Tom Lever, Jim Warren, Alex McLaren and the great Billy McIlquham.

After the years of the hand pumpers, the purchase of a steam fire engine finally was authorized by an 1884 bylaw to raise $6,000 for this purpose.  A brick fire hall, still standing, had been built on Bridge Street at the end of William Street.  Several large tanks were situated at points distant from the river to serve as fire engine water reservoirs.

The new fire engine was unable to save the inflammable new tannery and wool pulling plant of John F. Cram and Donald Munro, burned in 1886 with a fire loss of $10,000.  Spectacular fire in the town of the nineties included the destruction of the  Moffatt & Cavers shingle mill and most of the firm’s planning mill, and two losses of groups of Bridge Street retail shops.  The plant and office of this newspaper, then named the Central Canadian and located at the corner of Bridge and Elgin Streets, were consumed by fire forty years ago.

Keen public interest and pride was taken not only in the speed and skill of the Ocean Wave firemen but also in the horses which drew the fire fighting equipment of a generation ago.  A glimpse of one of many similar races to smaller fires is given in a Carleton Place Herald report of a 1910 fire which threatened to destroy St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Appleton several weeks before the great Carleton Place fire disaster of that year:

“The town team, driven by James Walters, took the big fire engine to Appleton – four miles – on Saturday night in the dark in thirty-five minutes, and there were four men on the engine.  Mr. J. M. Brown, with one horse, took a load of firemen and a hose cart down in half an hour, and signaled for water thirty-seven minutes after leaving the hall here.”

As in the country’s other larger towns and cities of fifty years ago, the pounding gallop to a Carleton Place fire by great teams of horses, drawing heavy brass-stacked fire engines belching their smoke and fire, and clanging and rattling hook and ladder wagons manned with firemen, brought a never to be forgotten wave of excitement to young and old alike.  To youthful onlookers it was a latter-day Roman chariot race, in a vital and perhaps desperate cause.

Battle Against Disaster

This town’s greatest fire came in mid May of 1910, and rode to its crescendo on the peak of a heavy gale.  It came about the time predicted for the reappearance of Halley’s Comet.  Some when half-awakening to its glare, thought they were viewing the light of the comet.  Within four hours after midnight about thirty buildings were destroyed, most of them residences.  Property losses in 1910 values were estimated at over $150,000.  Through heroic work by the town fire department, the Canadian Pacific Railway fire force and Almonte firemen with their fire engine, aided by the courageous and frantic efforts of householders and others, a greater part of the south and east sides of the town was saved from equal devastation. 

The fire started on Bridge Street in a pair of retail stores at Albert Street, from a cause not known.  Fanned by a high southwest wind it swept an area equaling about two blocks, centred  in the Albert, Beckwith, Judson and Franklin Streets section.  The block bounded by these four streets was reduced completely to ashes and ruin.

Zion Presbyterian Church, valued at over $35,000 with its additions and renovations of the previous two years was wholly destroyed.  Other public and church buildings bunred down, in addition to retail stores, were the curling rink, the militia drill shed, the Masonic Temple and St. Andrew’s and Zion church manses.

A total loss at the residence of Mrs. James Gillies, on the site at Franklin and Judson Streets where fire had struck over thirty years earlier, was set at $18.000.  For some time the fire illuminated the windswept night sky to an extent at which in Almonte and more distant points a newspaper could be read in its light.

The Action

These were some of the tactical incidents and sidelights of this fire of over fifty years ago, as told by William H. Allen in the Carleton Place Herald:

“The first water supply came from the new engine, which played two good streams from the bridge.  The old fire engine also played two streams from the bridge but gave out early in the fight, the lift being too much for her.  Two streams were laid from Brown’s, one from the pump at the light station and one from the grist mill.  Another stream came from Mr. Nichols planning mill and still another from the Bates & Innes mill, to which the C.P.R. brigade attached their hose and held the fire from spreading across the tracks.

Early in the night Mayor Albert Cram telephoned Almonte for aid.  Our neighbour at great risk sent over their fire engine and a squad of men, the run being made over at a mile a minute rate by a locomotive and a flat car with Howard Moffatt at the throttle.  The Almonte engine, was placed on Judson Street.  As all the own hose were in service one of Brown’s pumps had to be cut off to give sufficient hose to the Almonte engine, which was placed below Brown’s mill.  It did excellent service for some hours.

Away over the track the tower of Bates & Innes mill took fire and was saved after a hard fight.  Many houses on William Street were covered with embers, but the careful work of the owners prevented any outbreak.  Half a mile further the granary and driveshed of Mr. Herbert Morphy took fire and was swept, the barns nearby being saved with difficulty.

The firemen had a desperate fight with Zion Church manse.  Here there would have been no hope for the wooden houses adjoining, and the Methodist parsonage and church and the Brown mills with dwellings would all have been in line.

The uniforms and arms of the volunteers were removed from the drill shed, but some blank ammunition kept up a mournful fusillade when the fire reached it.  The only thing standing in the block bounded by Beckwith, Albert, Judson and Franklin streets is a lattice-work in the rear of Mrs. Gillies home.

Norman McNabb got caught in the bellrope when sounding the alarm from Zion Church.  He had a narrow escape from strangling and has a sore neck.  We regret to observe that there were thieves among the crowd, and many articles were afterwards lost that had been saved from the flames.”

Reminiscences of former generations of the men of the Ocean Wave Fire Company at work and in their lighter moments at play, as written about 50 years ago by the great, old sportsman W. J. ‘Baldy’ Welsh, will conclude the present group of stories of that memorable era of the town’s fire fighters.

Victoria School Was First Town Hall in 1872, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 11 Aug, 1960

The Carleton Place scene of the Eighteen Seventies is reviewed in the present section of a continued account. 

The larger industrial plants opened here in the Eighteen Seventies were the McArthur and Hawthorne Woollen Mills and the Gillies Machine Works.  Others included a lime kiln, which still remains in operation, and two planning mills.  As a village of 1,200 persons the municipality of Carleton Place was first incorporated in 1870.  A town hall was built and was converted within a few years to help meet the public school needs of an enlarged population.  A new high school remained unused during several years of municipal dispute.  A great fire destroyed a lumber yard stock valued at over $125,000.  A lengthy business depression placed severe limits on the country’s prosperity.  Western migration of the district’s sons continued, and began to reach the new province of Manitoba.

Building Boom

1870 – Carleton Place was first incorporated as a separate municipality by a county bylaw effective in November 1870.  Its future growth was assured when at the same time the Canada Central Railway line was opened for use between Ottawa and Carleton Place, connecting here with the Brockville and Ottawa Railway Company’s tracks which extended from Brockville to Arnprior and Sand Point.

Building of the first stone structure of the present Bates and Innes Woollen Mill was begun by Archibald McArthur and was completed a year later.  The central building was five stories in height.  Other building construction included the present Central Public School on Bridge Street, later enlarged ; the present Queen’s Hotel, also later enlarged, built for Duncan McIntosh of Perth, father of the late Dr. Duncan H. McIntosh of Carleton Place ; and about fifty residences.  The Carleton Place grist and oatmeal mills were taken over from William Bredin by Horace Brown (1829-1891), in partnership with W. C. Caldwell of Lanark, and were further equipped to manufacture wheat flour.

In the Fenian Raids of 1870 the Carleton Place Rifle Company, which had become No. 5 Company, 41st Regiment, served on duty at Cornwall under Captain John Brown of Carleton Place, and numbered fifty-three of all ranks.  It included the regimental band under Bandmaster J. C. Bonner, proprietor of a local music store.  Lieut J. Jones Bell (1845-1931) of the Carleton Place Company was serving at this time in the Red River Rebellion expedition.

Local Elections

1871 – Elected officials of this newly incorporated community were chosen in January 1871.  Those elected were Reeve Robert Crampton, general merchant, and Councillors Patrick Galvin, tailor ; John Graham, wagon maker ; Dr. William Wilson, surgeon ; and William Kelly, innkeeper.  School trustees elected were James Gillies, lumber manufacturer ; William Taylor, hardware merchant ; William Bredin, mill owner ; Patrick Struthers, general merchant and postmaster ; and Allan McDonald, woollen manufacturer.  Other officers were James Poole, clerk ; James Gillies, treasurer ; James McDiarmid, assessor ; William Patterson, tax collector ; Joseph McDiarmid, assessor ; William Patterson, tax collector ; Joseph Bond, constable and road commissioner ; William Morphy and Brice McNeely Jr., pound keepers ; and Finlay McEwen and John Brown, auditors.

Town Hall

1872 – The first Carleton Place Town Hall was built on Edmund Street and opened in 1872.  On the ground floor of the two storey stone building was the council chamber, a jail and caretaker’s living quarters.  The second storey served as a hall for public gatherings.

James Docherty built the Moffatt planing mill on the former Fuller foundry property at the south shore of the river.  In the McArthur cloth factory (now Bates & Innes) ten new looms were added.  Napoleon Lavallee removed his hotel business to his large new stone building at the corner of Lake Avenue and Bridge Streets.

John G. Haggart (1836-1913), Perth miller, was elected member of Parliament for South Lanark.  He continued to hold that seat for a record period of forty-one years and was a member of several conservative cabinets.

 

 

Lumbering

1873 – A lumber industry change in 1873 was the sale by John Gillies to Peter McLaren of control of the Carleton Place sawmill and Mississippi timber limits of the Gillies and McLaren firm.  The Gillies interests of Carleton Place bought sawmills at Braeside, together with some 250 square miles of timber limits at a price reported as $195,000.

Gambling

1874 – Members of the Carleton Place Council were John Graham, reeve, and William Taylor, John F. Cram, Dr. William Wilson and James Morphy.  Public billiard and pool tables were prohibited.  The next year’s Council permitted their operation under municipal licence.  A press report stated the Council of Carleton Place have passed a by-law prohibiting the keeping of billiard, bagatelle and pigeon-hole tables for public resort in that village, under a penalty of not less than $25.  The reasons for this stringent step as set forth in the preamble to the bylaw are contained in the following paragraph :  As gambling is a vice of a very aggravated nature, which encourages drunkenness, profane swearing and frequently causes the ruin of both body and soul of those addicted to it, and not infrequently murder, it should therefore be discountenanced and suppressed within the Corporation of Carleton Place.

The famous P. T. Barnum’s Circus was billed to appear here.  Claiming such attractions as the only giraffes and captive sea lions in America, Fiji cannibals, a talking machine and over a thousand men and horses, its announcement said :

P. T. Barnum’s Great Travelling World Fair, Museum, Menagerie, Caravan Circus and Colossal Exposition of all Nations will pitch its Mighty Metropolis of twenty Centre Pole Pavilions at Carleton Place on Wednesday, July 15 and at Perth on Thursday, July 16.

New Growth

1874 – A volunteer fire brigade, the Ocean Wave Fire Company, was organized at Carleton Place.  The municipality bought a hand operated pumper fire engine for $1,000 and a $200 hose reel cart.  Members of the committee appointed by Council to organize the brigade were William Patterson, William Kelly, A. H. Tait, James Shilson and Abner Nichols.  The new brigade’s initiation to fire fighting was the McLachlan lumber mills fire at Arnprior.

In the first stages of a five year business depression two new industries were started here.  They came with the building of the three storey stone structure of the Gillies Machine Works on the north side of the river at the lower falls, and the opening of the four storey stone woollen factory of Abraham Code, M.P.P., later known as the Hawthorne Woollen Mill.  Mr. Code was a member of the Ontario Legislature for South Lanark from 1869 to 1879.

Famous Struggle

1875 – A ten year losing battle was begun by Peter McLaren (1831-1919), owner of the largest lumber mill at Carleton Place, for monopoly controls over the navigation of logs on the Mississippi River.  It was fought between the government of Ontario and the Dominion, by physical force between opposing gangs of men on the river, and in the courts of Canada and England.

In the opening rounds of 1875, men of the Stewart and Buck firm brought their drive down the river to the Ottawa after cutting a passage through a McLaren boom at the Ragged Chute in Palmerston, and a twenty foot gap through a closed McLaren dam at High Falls in North Sherbrooke.  Boyd Caldwell & Son, which later carried this famous struggle for public navigation rights to a successful conclusion, was then employing seventy-five men on a ten hour day at its Carleton Place mill managed by William Caldwell.

Our Volume One

1876 – This newspaper was founded in January 1876, under the sponsorship of William Bredin of Carleton Place, with William W. Cliff of Napanee as editor and publisher.  There were 1,800 persons living in Carleton Place.

When adverse winds delayed timber drives for several days in the lower Mississippi, some 24,000 sticks of square timber lay in the river between Appleton and Almonte at the end of June.  Owners were the Caldwell, McLaren, Mackie, Campbell and Buck & Stewart firms. 

A Saturday vacation starting date for the province’s public schools was advanced from July 15 to July 7.  The Minister of Education addressed a meeting of the county’s school teachers here.  Carleton Place had five public and two high school teachers.

 

Local Taxes

1877 – The McArthur woollen mill, equipped to operate by waterpower of the lower falls, was leased and reopened by William H. Wylie when the country’s business depression became less severe.

The six largest assessments for local taxes were those of the railway company, Peter McLaren, lumber manufactuer ; Archibald McArthur, woollen mill owner ; Boyd Caldwell, lumber manufacturer ; Abraham Code, M.P.P., woollen manufacturer ; and Horace Brown, grain miller.  A tax exemption for the machine works of Gillies, Beyer & Company continued in effect.  The tax rate was 14 ½ mills.

O’Brien’s Circus visited Carleton Place, Perth and Smiths Falls, with its transportation provided by horses and two hundred mules.  Barnum’s Circus showed at Brockville and Ottawa.

High School

1878 – A separate High School of stone construction was built on High Street.  During the course of bitter and widespread disputes and litigation, based on a division of business and real estate interests between the north and south halves of the town, the new school, though much needed remained unused for nearly five years. 

A local option temperance statute of 1864 was brought into force in this area and retained for one year, prohibiting all sales of liquor in quantities of less than five gallons.

Alexander M. Gillies and Peter Peden, aged 21 and 24, were drowned in September while duck hunting at night near Black Point in the lower Mississippi Lake.

Great Fire

1879 – In continuance of prolonged controversy over the sites of the High School and Town Hall, the Town Hall on Edmund Street was converted in part into a public school, a step which brought a brief stage of physical violence followed by allegations of riot, assault and libel and a number of related court actions.

A planing mill was opened by Abner Nichols (1835-1905) on the riverside at Rosamond Street adjoining the Gillies Machine Works.  A lime kiln which continues in operation was built by Napoleon Lavallee, hotelkeeper, on his farm at the present site of Napoleon Street.  William Cameron acquired the business ten years later and operated it for many years.  With two local woollen mills remaining in operation, the closed Hawthorne Woollen Mill was offered for sale by Abraham Code.

A great fire destroyed over thirteen million feet of sawn lumber in the northern part of the Peter McLaren piling yards, together with a section of ties and rails of the Canada Central Railway.  The yards extended about three quarters of a mile along the railway line.  The lumber firm’s loss was recovered from $50,000 in insurance and $100,000 in damages paid when court decisions holding the railway company responsible were upheld five years later in England.  Fire engines and men came to Carleton Place from Almonte, Arnprior, Brockville, Smiths Falls and Ottawa, and hundreds of local helpers aided in saving lumber and checking the spread of the conflagration.

 

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