Carleton Place Connection To The Battle of Ridgeway

Some Further Investigation of Carleton Place’s Connection to the Battle of Ridgeway

 

Howard Brown’s article in the Carleton Place Canadian, 17 March, 1966, titled “Border Raids Promoted Confederation in Canada,” makes reference to a man with a connection to Carleton Place being among those of the ranks of the Queen’s Own Rifles killed in the Fenian Raid at Ridgeway, June 2, 1866.  His name was John H. Mewburn.  “He was a university student, age 21, only son of Harrison C. Mewburn who at this time was headmaster of the Carleton Place grammar school.”  I thought it would be interesting to discover a little bit more about John H. Mewburn, and his role in the ‘forgotten’ Battle of Ridgeway.

A search on Ancestry.com for J. H. Mewburn, born circa 1845 shows him in the 1851 census living in Stamford, Welland Co. with his parents, Harrison C. Mewburn (farmer )and Ann Mewburn, and with his grandparents John Mewburn (Surgeon) and grandmother Henrietta Mewburn.  He was born in England.

A search of the 1861 census only locates his mother, Ann, living with her in-laws, and she is listed as single.  There’s no sign of John or his father in this census.

At some point, his father, Harrison C. Mewburn moved to Carleton Place.  His son was at the University of Toronto in 1866, writing his final exams on the morning of June 2nd, when he was called to battle.

It was not difficult to find more information online, and in books, about J. H. Mewburn and this historically significant battle. Most scholars feel the Battle of Ridgeway led directly to Confederation in 1867.  Most Canadians know very little about the importance of this politically charged battle.

Feeling curious about all of this?  Google searches of ‘Fenian Raids’ elicits the following worthwhile sites to visit:

A picture of soldiers at the Battle of Ridgeway on Our Ontario site:

 http://images.ourontario.ca/whitby/44414/data

A list of casualties at Ridgeway as well as everything else about Ridgeway, can be found on Peter Vronsky’s site.  The list of casualties includes J. H. Mewburn’s name:  http://www.ridgewaybattle.ca/

At the library we have a copy of Peter Vronsky’s book, “Ridgeway: the American Fenian invasion and the 1866 battle that made Canada.”  This is a must-read for anyone looking for a comprehensive account of this battle, and why he believes it has received so little attention. According to Peter Vronsky:

“On June 1, 1866 Canada was invaded by Irish-American Fenian insurgents from their bases in the United States. The Fenian Brotherhood planned to take Canada hostage in an attempt to free Ireland from the British Crown and establish an independent republic. The invasion culminated on June 2, with the Battle of Ridgeway near Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada’s first modern battle and the first fought exclusively by Canadian soldiers and led entirely by Canadian officers.

Nine militia volunteers from Toronto’s Queen’s Own Rifles Regiment were killed in the battle, including three student soldiers from a University of Toronto rifle company called out while writing their final exams and who took the brunt of a Fenian charge at Limestone Ridge.  While Canadians had not fought a major war in Canada since the War of 1812, the Fenians were all battle-hardened veterans of the American Civil War, many having served in crack Irish brigades.

The “Ridgeway Nine” were Canada’s first soldiers killed in action and Ridgeway was the last battle fought in Ontario against a foreign invader, but after the disastrous conclusion the Macdonald government covered-up what happened so thoroughly that most Canadians today have never heard of this battle.”

 

Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada site:  – Has a picture and a biography of John H. Mewburn. Here we discover that his middle name is Harriman, and we learn the graphic details of how he died:

http://qormuseum.org/2012/04/19/rifleman-john-harriman-mewburn/

The band, Fenian Raid, has a site with battle songs (‘Tramp, tramp, tramp’), more history and pictures of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, & talks about ‘The Maple Leaf Forever’ :  http://fenianraid.ca/fr_fenianraids.cfm

Howard Brown’s article in the Carleton Place Canadian of 04 August, 1960, describes the uniforms, and gives us an abbreviated list of the men of the local Rifle Company who defended their country at Brockville, Ontario in 1866.  J. H. Mewburn’s name is not among them, so it seems that his only connection to Carleton Place was that his father lived here:

“In a target shooting competition at Carleton Place between the local Rifle Company and the Almonte Infantry Company, the rifle company appeared in its new uniforms with green tunics, grey pants with red facings, and dark belts.  The infantry uniforms had scarlet tunics, grey pants and white belts.  The impressive headpiece of both companies’ uniforms was an ornamented cap known as a shako.”

Brockville river front and railway communications were protected by the provisional battalion which already had been called up in March, formed of the Brockville, Perth, Carleton Place, Almonte and Gananoque companies. 

Raids from the United States upon border points were made in 1866 by groups known as Fenians, whose professed objective was political independence for Ireland.  The Carleton Place and Almonte volunteer companies were dispatched to Brockville in June.  Captain of the Almonte company was James D. Gemmill.  Total of all ranks serving from Carleton Place numbered fifty-seven.  Under local officers Captain James C. Poole, Lieut. John Brown and Ensign J. Jones Bell, they included such Carleton Place and township family names as Burke, Coleman, Cram, Dack, Docherty, Duff, Enright, Ferguson, Fleming, Hamilton, Kilpatrick, Leslie, Lavallee, Moffatt, Moore, Morphy, and McArthur, McCaffrey, McCallum, McEwen, McFadden, McNab, McNeely and McPherson, Neelin, Patterson, Pattie, Rattray, Sinclair, Stewart, Sumner, Williams, Willis and Wilson.

Volunteers from these and other Lanark County areas served also in the Fenian Raids of 1870.  Drill halls built in 1866 at county centres including Perth, Carleton Place and Almonte were used for many years.  The Carleton Place drill shed was at the market square between Beckwith and Judson Streets, at the present site of the skating rink.  Almonte’s military quarters were combined with the North Lanark Agricultural Society’s main exhibition building then being erected.”

It is doubtful that any of the Carleton Place men saw active duty during the Fenian Raid of 1866, as after June 2nd the Fenians’ supplies of men and munitions had been curtailed. 

If, as all of the above evidence suggests, the Battle of Ridgeway precipitated Confederation a year later, why has it been forgotten, or has it been deliberately covered up?

Maybe it’s time to breathe some new life into the Battle of Ridgeway, and give it the recognition it deserves in 2017, when Canada celebrates its 150th birthday.

Stay tuned for more Confederation Series articles by Howard M. Brown!

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SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK THIRTY-ONE : Canada History Week, July 1-7, 2013 : Canada’s Centennial (1)

Border Raids Promoted Confederation in Canada

By Howard Morton Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 17 March, 1966

 

Community preparations for Confederation Centennial Celebrations are on the way throughout Canada.  They have begun already to reflect a new degree of the energy and self-respect gained by every nation which honours its great men and their deeds, and by every district and community which shows a sense of pride in its past accomplishments and a confidence in its future.

The uniting of Canada from the Atlantic to the West, and then to the Pacific and the Arctic Oceans, was not heralded only by the wise plans of our elected representatives, bewhiskered and top-hatted, meeting a century ago in sessions of hard bargaining and minor ceremony.  It came first from urgent needs of the town and country people of Ontario and Quebec, and those of the Atlantic provinces.  Their most pressing needs had become those of sheer self-preservation in a time of increasing difficulty.  The way out was seen at last to be a joining of British North American colonies into a confederation having the strength and will to survive and grow.  The amazing transformation which was to appear across much of the northern half of North America in the short space of one hundred years remained undreamed in the land which was to become second in geographical size to only the present union of Russia and second in material standards of living to only its United States southern neighbour.

The most dramatic of the pressures which rallied public unity and led to the forming of the infant federal union was one which came particularly close to home in this part of Canada.  It was a threat of long standing which reached its final stage in the last attacks to be made on our borders by armed forces of an enemy.  Canadian preparations and United States vaccilation reduced these last American-based assaults upon Canada to the proportions of guerrilla raids, made in the year before Confederation and renewed four years later.  They were met and repelled by our own volunteer soldiers, backed and aided by British troops.  These exploratory tests, launched with the ill-concealed encouragement of United States advocates of northern expansion, hastened and strengthened the Confederation which molded Canada into a nation united from its outset by fires of adversity.

The attempted Canadian invasions of 1866 and 1870 remain well remembered in local traditions in Ontario and Quebec as the now remote Fenian Raids.  Their backgrounds lay in the destructive horrors of the United States Civil War, which in 1861 introduced a decade of crisis in Canada.  Northern United States attitudes and conduct on the high seas, coupled with the needs of trade, brought immediate critical relations between Great Britain and the United States and the first large scale organization of a trained Canadian volunteer militia.

Apprehension remained at the end of the American Civil War in 1865 that restless Northern elements might turn to the harassment of their Canadian and other British colonial neighbours.  The move from the United States soon came.  It centered in an organization calling itself the Fenian Brotherhood, formed to promote by force the separation of Ireland from Great Britain.  Members of this Irish separatist group in the United States were joined at the end of the Civil War by thousands of demobilized Irish Americans and other unsettled adventurers ready for further military action.

Their leaders late in 1865 put in motion ambitious plans for raising a private army of sufficient strength to conquer and subvert at least a part of the adjoining British colonies.  They arrogantly claimed that, after conversion of these supposedly downtrodden colonies into a free Irish republic, their Irish Canada with the aid of other nations would drive the British eventually by force of arms from the motherland of Ireland.

The president of the United States was the deplorable and later impeached Andrew Johnson of Tennessee.  United States government authorities appeared to ignore and failed to stop the arming and drilling of thousands of American Fenian recruits at points extending from New Brunswick’s borders to the Niagara and western river frontiers of Canada.  Our Canadian government late in 1865 assigned volunteer militia units to several months of winter guard duty at Prescott, Niagara, Windsor and Sarnia.  The Brockville Rifle Company also served on night guard at Brockville from December until the first general call to the frontier in the following March.  A year earlier it had been one of the units of the forces guarding western points from Amherstburg to Sarnia, to prevent any repetition of a secretly planned Confederate raid from the Canadian side such as had been made on St. Albans, Vermont.

The Fenian forces gathered and were armed in the spring of 1866 at border mustering centres including Calais and Eastport in Maine, St. Albans and other places in northern Vermont, and in upper New York State at Malone, Potsdam and Ogdensburg and Cape Vincent, Oswego and Rochester.  Western and southern Fenian contingents arrived at Detroit, Cleveland, Toledo, Erie and Buffalo.  When a New Brunswick Fenian foray was blocked by both British and United States naval and military intervention, a three-pronged campaign against Canada was prepared.  One force was to enter at Fort Erie and cut canal and railway communications.  One was to cross at Prescott with Ottawa as its objective.  The third hoped to advance through the Eastern Townships on Montreal.

The Canadian government of the united present provinces of Ontario and Quebec had introduced an urgent militia bill when the early border stresses of the Civil War appeared.  It was designed to provide for a trained force of 50,000 men, raised by selective service if necessary, as compared to a number of not more than five thousand volunteers covered by the initial Canadian military training law of 1855.  The government was defeated on this conscription issue of 1862 but militia expansion began.  A similar act was passed at a later stage of the American war.  Voluntary enlistments and Fenian defeats made it unnecessary to invoke its provisions of compulsion for the balloted enrolments, which were initiated but not enforced.

Defence action in 1866 began against threatened March attacks which failed to materialize.  Ten thousand volunteers were called up at militia centres throughout the area of Ontario and Quebec, then in its last year as the Province of Canada.  The greater part of this number was dispatched to guard the united province’s long and vulnerable southern approaches.  Fourteen thousand men had responded to the call.  Among those alerted for action were seven Lanark and Leeds companies forming a provisional battalion under Major James Crawford of Brockville.  It was composed of the rifle and infantry companies of both Perth and Brockville, the Carleton Place Rifle Company under Captain James C. Poole, the Almonte Infantry Company under Captain James D. Gemmill, and the Gananoque Rifle Company.  Severe cold and several weeks of frosty Canadian guard and drilling duties postponed the Fenian invasion.

The Main Attack

The main attack came three months later when an advance contingent of more than one thousand Fenians, led by their general John O’Neill, crossed the Niagara River by boat from Buffalo and entered Canada at the first of June near Fort Erie.  They were met the next day by a slightly larger force of Canadian militiamen.  In the Battle of Ridgeway and in a Fort Erie engagement, Canadian casualties were about ten killed and forty wounded.  Among those of the ranks of the Queen’s Own Rifles killed in the action at Ridgeway was John H. Mewburn, university student, age 21, only son of Harrison C. Mewburn who at this time was headmaster of the Carleton Place grammar school.  With losses close to twice the Canadian number and with laggard American military prevention of their reinforcement, the Fenians withdrew across the river.

From Vermont about one thousand of the Fenians who had gathered at St. Albans entered the Eastern Townships on June 4.  Until effective Canadian forces reached the area, they plundered the neighbourhood of Frelighsburg, Pigeon Hill, and St. Armand for several days.  With slight losses they withdrew due to lack of reinforcements.  After the launching of these unsuccessful Canadian raids, American authorities tardily disarmed and dispersed the main border forces of these invaders, and charged and released on bail a number of their leaders. 

The thrust of the third prong of Fenian attack, intended along the St. Lawrence front between Kingston and Cornwall, failed to develop when all troops available in the area of Eastern Ontario were placed on active service to oppose it.  Militia companies and units of British regiments joined in the defence of Kingston, Prescott and Cornwall, in all about three thousand at Kingston, two thousand at Prescott and two thousand at Cornwall.  Brockville river front and railway communications were protected by the provisional battalion which already had been called up in March, formed of the Brockville, Perth, Carleton Place, Almonte and Gananoque companies.  Most of the Canadian militia at the end of the 1866 Fenian Raids was released after about three weeks’ active service.  The remainder continued on guard duty for periods up to six months.

United States authorities provided railway transportation for some thousands of the Fenian forces to their home towns from points including Buffalo, Malone and St. Albans.  A July resolution passed by the House of Representatives reflected United States attitudes by recommending suspension of proceedings in the United States courts on all charges against Fenians wherever possible and sought release of Canada’s Fenian prisoners who had been captured in their unprovoked armed assaults upon this province. 

The prisoners captured at Fort Erie were removed to Toronto where on preliminary inquiry about forty were discharged and deported.  Trials of forty remanded prisoners opened in Toronto in October before Mr. Justice John Wilson and a jury, and continued until January.  The judge, a native of Lanark County, had himself in his youth been tried as a principal in the fatal Wilson-Lyons duel at Perth.  Half of these accused were acquitted.  The remainder, convicted of high treason in the case of British subjects and the rest under a law passed for such cases during the Canadian Rebellion period, were sentenced to be hanged.  After several of the convictions were appealed unsuccessfully, the sentences all were commuted to varying terms of imprisonment in Portsmouth Penitentiary at Kingston, and within a few years the last had been released.  Three of six convicted Missiquoi County Fenian prisoners also had been sentenced to be hanged, when  fourteen had been tried at Sweetsburg.

One of the Canadian estimates of this time of stress was that of Captain James Poole in his Carleton Place Herald.  While advocating moderation in punishment of the captured “dastard Fenian foes”, he declared in retrospect:

“Brother Jonathan has had his eye on Canada for a long time past, and though we read much about ‘friendly relations’ they exist only on paper.  Both the American government and Press have done all they could, with safety to themselves, to encourage the Fenians in an attack on Canada.  Had they not been afraid of a growl from the British Lion they would have done more.”

SHARING MEMORIES, WEEK THIRTEEN

Some First Events:  Lanark’s First 100 Years

By Howard Morton Brown

Carleton Place Canadian, 14 May, 1959

 

For the countless stories of personal, business and community adventure which were written long ago by the deeds of Lanark County’s pioneers, a framework may be found in a list of some of the County’s first events.  The following brief listing of landmarks and outstanding events of the County’s first one hundred years of settlement is one of many similar selections which might be made from different viewpoints or differing bases of local emphasis.

The first settler in the county commonly has been said to have been William Merrick of Merrickville.  The arrival of an earlier and first settler, Roger Stevens, is recorded in this list of Lanark County events.  Official contemporary records of his coming as “the first who settled on the River Rideau”, places the start of the settlement of Lanark County within seven years of the first colonizing of the province by English-speaking people, made by Loyalists from the revolted British colonies.

THE PIONEERS:

 

First Family Settled – Roger Stevens from Vermont, an ensign in the King’s Rangers in the American Revolution; at S.E. corner of Montague township on the Rideau River, 1790, with wife and three children.  His occupied land extended into Marlborough township.  He joined with William and Stepehn Merrick in building a saw mill in Montague at Merrickville.  His death by drowning in 1793 followed an Upper Canada Order in Council authorizing a grant to him of the site of this mill and of the future village of Merrickville.

First Land Grants – In the 1790’s in the area of Montague and later N. Elmsley and N. Burgess townships.  These three townships until the 1840’s remained attached to the Leeds and Grenville (Johnstown ) District.

First Saw Mill and First Grist Mill – William Merrick’s at Merrickville in Montague township; saw mill 1793, grist mill 1803.  He came from New York State to Leeds County in 1791.

First Sponsored Migration  – from United Kingdom – About fifty Lowland Scottish families were granted farm sites in May, 1816, on the Scotch Line in Bathurst, Burgess and Elmsley townships near Perth, when a similar number of grants were made nearby to married and single demobilized British Soldiers of various nationalities.

First Large Scale Settlement  – The seven years 1816 to 1822, when seven thousand persons, mainly from Scotland and Ireland, aided by army settlement supervision and supplies, began the great task of clearing land and establishing farms and villages throughout most of the county’s present area.

First Group Migration From Scottish Highlands – About fifty families from Perthshire in 1818 settled in Beckwith township near Carleton Place; they came inland by the Ottawa River route.

First Settlement of North Lanark – Assisted emigrations of 1820 and 1821 from Lanarkshire added some 2,500 persons to the county’s population, mainly in Dalhousie, Lanark and Ramsay townships.

First Group Migration from Southern Ireland – About seventy-five families, mainly from County Cork, were brought to the site of Almonte in 1823 and settled in Ramsay and neighbouring townships.

First Resident Clergymen  – Officially recognized, Rev. William Bell, Presbyterian, 1817; Rev. Michael Harris, Anglican, 1819; both at Perth.

 

POLITICAL RIGHTS:

 

First Visit By Governor-in-Chief of Canada – by Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond in 1819.

First Member of Parliament – In 1820, William Morris (b.1786 d.1858), Scottish merchant at Perth, defeated Benjamin Delisle; became president of Executive Council of Canada, 1846.

First Steps towards Local Government –  Establishment of the judicial District of Bathurst in 1822, with centre at Perth, to serve some local executive and judicial needs of an area comprising most of the present Lanark, Carleton and Renfrew counties.

First Naming as County of Lanark – In 1824, when the ten northerly townships of the present Lanark County (excluding Pakenham) and the then unsurveyed present Renfrew County became an electoral district named County of Lanark.

KNOWLEDGE AND VIOLENCE:

 

First Newspaper – The Independent Examiner, Perth, 1828, edited by John Stewart, school teacher, succeeded in 1832 by the Constitution and in 1834 by the present Perth Courier.

First Public Libraries – Dalhousie Public Library, near Watson’s Corners, 1828 (still in existence); and the Ramsay and Lanark Circulating Library near Clayton, 1829.

First (and only) Extensive Riots – The ‘Ballygiblin Riots’ Carleton Place and Almonte, 1824.

First Execution for Murder – Thomas Easby, of Drummond township, 1829; found to have killed his wife and four children, publicly hanged at Perth after rejection of defence of insanity.

First Recorded Pistol Duels – James Boulton and Thomas Radenhurst, Perth barristers, June, 1830; Colonel Alexander McMillan and Dr. Alexander Thom, both of Perth, the latter wounded, January, 1883; John Wilson and Robert Lyon, law students at Perth, the latter killed, June, 1883.

 

 

 

 

 

Howard McNeely, Carleton Place Auctioneer

“Will somebody make it twenty?”

Howard McNeely has been seeking bids for 40 years

By Mary Cook

Carleton Place Canadian, 1987

 

Forty years ago a large broad axe fetched a quarter.  Today, if it’s really old it could command a lofty $60.  The crowds were smaller back then, and Howard McNeely, the newest auctioneer in the valley knew just about everyone by his first name.  But times have changed since that day almost 40 years ago when Howard thought he could do what he had been watching other auctioneers do for years.  He thought…..”there’s nothing to this.  All I have to do is stand up on the platform or the back of a truck and ask for bids.”  Well, it turned out not to be quite that simple.

A young Howard McNeely had been following the local auctions for years.  He never paid too much attention to the “stuff” being sold, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the auctioneer.  He was fascinated with the fast talking, the rapport with the crowd, and the obvious delight when a bid was over.

Actually, Howard had had plenty of experience on the stage by the time he first tried his hand at auctioneering, so he wasn’t walking into the job cold.  For years he had an orchestra that toured the Ottawa Valley, and he was well acquainted with standing up before people.  He is probably one of the few people who had an orchestra but never mastered a musical instrument.  But that didn’t stop him from enjoying the toe tapping valley music everyone loved.  He really had two orchestras.  One was a rag tag group who got together for the sheer love of valley music.  It included Ab Duncan, Stewart Comba, Les Neild.  When he wanted to fancy things up a bit he added Jack Peckett and Les’ daughter Elsie on the piano.  Howie kept up a steady patter between songs and dances and found it pretty easy to entertain the crowd, so that the first time he took to the platform at an auction sale, he wasn’t even nervous.  “I had been so used to being in front of people, that I never gave it a thought.  And besides, in those days you knew everyone…everyone!” he said.

Not so today.  Even if the faces of the collectors and dealers are familiar, Howard often doesn’t get to meet them personally.  For that reason, and because the crowds are so much bigger now, Howard finally had to go to a number system like the big auctioneers in the city.  The crowd didn’t like it when he first introduced numbers about 15 years ago, but as he said, times had changed.

Howard’s first sale was on Park Avenue, “just across the fence from where I was born and raised”, and Burnett Montgomery was the auctioneer who set out to show Howard the ropes.  Burnett had been auctioneering for a long time, and the partnership was to last for 30 years.  “All that time we never had a disagreement.  It was a great relationship.  We got along well, and I learned a lot from Burnett” he admits.

The biggest sale Howard ever held was when he sold the Mississippi Hotel by public auction.  All the furnishings went too, and then the big stone heritage building was put on the block.  Howard lives by the adage that discretion is the better part of valor, and insists he cannot honestly remember what the landmark building sold for.

One of the longest running auctions was on a farm on the old Ashton road that took three days to complete.  “It was loaded with antiques, and the dealers were there from all over.  The prices held up for the full three days too” he remembers.

There are items today that couldn’t be given away 40 years ago.  Old milk cans command a good price now, and Gingerbread clocks which sold for $10 in the 50’s would be considered a good buy today if you paid a mere $100.

Although he won’t say from which sale it sold, Howard recently got the bidding up to $6,800 on an old corner cupboard.  “Forty years ago, you’d consider it a pretty good sale if you got that for a whole house full of furniture.”

Over the years Howard has always tried to keep a good sense of humor.  Early in the game he learned if one person in the crowd was entering into the spirit of the sale by bantering back and forth with the auctioneer, you capitalized on that.  Just last week one woman seemed to be in perfect sync with Howard.  They both ended up cracking jokes throughout the entire sale much to the delight of the crowd.

In the early years Howard has sometimes inadvertently sold the same item twice.  It can happen.  Two different helpers will hand Howard the same item after it has been sold….but as a rule the crowd is astute, and there is always someone there to holler, “Hey, McNeely, you’ve already sold that once today.”

Howard remembers an incident from years ago that still makes him chuckle today.  “It was a large sale, with two or three people in on it.  Someone handed me up a baby carriage.  It was in pretty good condition too.  It was one of those old fashioned jobs.  You don’t see them around anymore.  Anyway, I asked for a bid and got one right away.  The bidding went pretty high too.  And it sold to someone.  Then this woman came to me in an awful sweat.  It seems she brought her baby to the sale in the carriage, and was just off looking at something else when I sold it.  Everyone thought it was very funny, because I had to get the carriage back.  The people who bought it were just loading it into their car.  I was a bit embarrassed, but those things happen.”

Right from the day Howard started auctioneering 40 years ago, he has always been on the lookout for stealers.  He remembers one sale where two women were busy loading their shopping bags with small things at a sale.  “But unknown to them Herb Cornell, the Chief of Police was watching them.  It was his day off, and of course they didn’t know he was a policeman.  When he showed his badge they put everything back in a hurry.”

At another sale many years ago, he was aware of a big jackknife that was in the auction.  “It was a beauty..very old, and huge, with a handmade wooden handle.  During the sale I remembered it and asked my helper to hand me the jackknife.  Well, it was gone.  It vanished in a couple of seconds.  That’s all i

Billy Moore: Boy Scout Pioneer

From The Carleton Place Canadian, 1987

By Mary Cook

It was 89 years ago that a young British immigrant to Carleton Place by the name of Billy Moore began what is now believed to be the second Scout troop in Canada.  The first was formed in Merrickville two years before.  But for Billy Moore, scouting was the best thing that could happen to the young boys of his adopted town of Carleton Place, and he wasn’t long in gathering together a group of boys and marching them over to the Anglican Church to prevail upon Canon Elliott for sponsorship.

 

Billy Moore had fought alongside Baden-Powell in the Boer War in Africa in 1899, and he was so impressed with the British Colonel and his values that when Baden-Powell started the world Scout movement, Billy wanted to be in on the gournd floor.  Billy’s friendships at the time of the Boer War include that of another young Britain, Winston Churchill.

 

Some of the very first member’s included Billy’s own son, Percy,  who was to later lose his life in the first world war.  Other charter scouts included Dawson Emerson, Cecil Bryce, Jimmy Prendergast and Skinny McGuire.

 

The first headquarters were in space loaned to Billy by the Bates and Innes Mills.  It was an old warehouse on Bridge Street, but it served the purpose well.

 

It was here that the movement went on to produce the four youngest King’s Scouts in Canada.  They were all under 13 years of age at the time.  These four young boys were Howard Foote, Jimmy Misner, Walter McIlquaham, and Gibson Craig.  Tests were much harder in those days than they are today.  King’s Scouts had to win five badges which was no easy feat.

 

Max Gladish has fond memories of his early scouting days under the guidance of Billy Moore.  “I remember it cost us five cents a week to belong.  My grandparents lived just around the corner from the Moore’s who at that time lived on Lake Avenue East.  My grandfather, George Turner paid for my first uniform in fact.  They were great friends of the Moores.”

 

Those early scouts remember the camping outings to McCreary’s Shore on the Mississippi as being a wonderful time of fun and learning experiences.  Max was the camp bugler, so he was the first out of bed in the morning.  Everyone slept in tents and Alice Moore, Billy’s widow, remembers taking a few Carleton Place boys into her tent in the middle of the night because they were homesick.  “One young man who will remain nameless because he is a grown man still living here used to cry for home every night.  Nothing would console him.  Eventually, we’d have to bring him in our tent and bed him down beside Bill and me.  This went on for the entire duration of the scout camp,” she laughingly remembers.

 

Billy Moore had a wonderful sense of humor, with just the right ring of discipline in his voice.  He could laugh at little mishaps and setbacks, but he was adamant about protocol in the movement.  Everything had to be done to the letter.  There was no such thing as ‘almost right’.  It was either right or it was wrong!

 

Eventually the scouts moved their headquarters to the Sample Rooms of the Mississippi Hotel.  This is where the countless travelling salesmen set up shop to show their wares to the valley merchants.  But room was made for the scout meetings, and they continued to meet here for many years, compliments of the McIlquham family, owners of the hotel.

 

Sometime before that period however, Tom Graham who was in the scout movement for a few years in the troops earlier days remembers meeting in a building next door to where Knowlton’s Grocery Store used to be….across from the present Maple Leaf Dairy.  He guesses that would be around 1914.  “Billy Moore was awfully good at what he did.  Sometimes though, he had relax the rules.  Some of us couldn’t afford the full uniforms, so we were allowed to go to the meetings with just a tie, or that little scull cap, or we never could have belonged.”

 

It appears that the Scouts moved around a bit with their meeting place.  Probably because most of the locations were obtained rent-free.  At one time some of the original members recall the meetings being held in the Orange Hall as well.

 

Max Gladish remembers how solemn the initiation services were.  Billy Moore demanded and got a high level of decorum.  “It was a bit awesome, but we really felt it was something special to belong to the scouts, and it all came together at initiations.  I can remember all the candles.  I don’t remember too much about the ceremony itself, but I do remember kneeling and the candles, and how Billy would move about initiating us, and stressing the importance of discipline, and being true to the Scouting movement.  He had a great sense of pride and he expected us too to be proud of being scouts.”

 

By 1937, scouting was well established in Carleton Place.  It had been organized for 27 years, and dozens of young boys had joined and gone on to high standing in the movement.  Billy Moore continued to be the leading figure, and he worked at broadening the horizons of scouting on the local level.

 

That was the year a young Max Gladish was one of the scouts who would be trying for his Royal Life Saving Society medal.  Billy Moore was determined that his boys would have a good run at it. “We were taken to the Chateau Laurier for the tests.  I’ll never forget the thrill of swimming in that big indoor pool.  If we were going to be trying for that medal Billy Moore wanted to be sure we had the best possible facilities.”  They passed with flying colours.

 

In the late ‘30s, there used to be a vacant lot on the corner of Albert and Beckwith Streets, across from the present Rebekah Lodge building.  Later Ed Beaton was to build the brick bungalow that is there now.  Billy Moore thought it would be nice if the scouts learned a bit about building.  So he got permission to build a log structure on the site, and he put his troops to work on its construction.  Bill oversaw the building, and the Scouts were understandably proud of the finished headquarters.  It stood on the site for many years.

 

Cliff Bennett, for many years a leader in the local Scout movement, has fond memories of his mentor.  “We all respected Billy Moore.  I recall a Regional Camporee, which was a competition camp for local patrols held at Hopetown.  Billy was the guest of honor, even though by that time he was in his ‘90s and that was in the ‘60s.  He was keenly interested in everything to do with scouting, although his active involvement had passed.  But he always kept up on the troops and I can remember going down to his house at the end of Allen Street next door to the curling club, where he lived out his last years.  Those visits were just like campfire days.  He would talk for hours about early scouting days, and his dreams for scouting in the future.  And he’d talk about the Boer War and his friendship with the scouting founder, Baden-Powell.  It was like being in another time frame.  I cherish those memories of those visits very much,” Cliff says.

 

Baden-Powell once gave Billy a flag.  He was very proud of it, and kept it for many years.  And then as he was less and less able to take an active part in the local scouting movement, he wanted someone who appreciated the history of Carleton Place’s troops to have the flag.  “He gave me the flag.  I was so moved.  But I knew the flag really belonged to the whole Canadian Scouting movement, and so I presented it to the Scout Museum in Canada,” Cliff says.

 

Many years ago, a trophy was made out of a bit of twisted wood.  It was nothing spectacular…just a piece of wood form the Ottawa Valley.  It became the Billy Moore Trophy.