Ducks Nearly Unlimited, Indian Relics Plentiful, by Howard Horton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 17 August, 1961

This is the second of three articles recalling hunting and fishing activities of many years ago in the Carleton Place area.

A century ago in the Eastern Ontario paradise for hunters and fishermen which extended throughout the then united counties of Lanark and Renfrew, locally organized action already was under way to protect wild animals from wasteful destruction.  Its first supporters, as mentioned in the preceding instalment of these stories, were a few foresighted hunters and other leading citizens of Carleton Place, Pakenham and Almonte. 

Later, with a spreading realization of the economic and esthetic benefits to be gained by men from his protection of wild birds and animals, there came a gradual revulsion against wanton slaughter in the forests, fields and lakes.  Among the victims, the long-extinct passenger pigeon still was shot here in numbers in the early 1880’s, as shown by reports of partridge and pigeon hunting in the townships bordering the Mississippi Lake.

First Finds of Indian Relics

Of the native Indians who a hundred and fifty years ago had been almost the sole inhabitants of the Lanark and Renfrew area, only a few stragglers still remained seventy-five years ago in Lanark County.  One of district’s first residents to record his interest in the excavated relics of the reign of the Indian hunter was Andrew Bell, a son of the Rev. William Bell of Perth.  In the early settlement days here he wrote in a letter:

“All the country hereabouts has evidently been once inhabited by the Indians, and for a vast number of years too.  The remains of fires, with the bones and horns of deers round them, have often been found several inches under the black mound. .. A large pot made of burnt clay and highly ornamented was lately found near the banks of the Mississippi, under a large maple tree, probably two or three hundred years old.  Stone axes have been found in different parts of the settlement.  Skeletons of Indians have been several times found, where they had died suddenly or had been killed by accident in the woods.  One was found in a reclining posture with its back against a hillock, and a rough-made stone tobacco pipe lying beside it.”

Another Pioneer Conservation Society

The wild life conservation movement in this district had expanded by the 1880’s to the arousing of organized local support for a wiser harvesting of most of the usual products of rod, gun, spear, trap and net, and for protection of other obviously harmless or beneficial wild creatures.  Carleton Place Herald editor James Poole in an editorial of nearly a hundred years ago already had claimed any man who would shoot a robin or other songbird would be capable of robbing his grandmother or of committing any other crime or rascality.

An organization in Carleton Place with these newer ideas for the conservation of practically all main forms of wild life was formed in 1884.  Under the title of the Carleton Place Game, Fish and Insectivorous Birds Protective Society it continued to operate for some years.  Original officers of the group were William Pattie, president ; Jim Bothwell, vice president ; Walter Kibbee, secretary-treasurer, and committee members John Cavers, Tom Glover, John Moore, Jim Morphy and Jim Presley ; elected at a May meeting in the old fire hall on Bridge Street, when a constitution drawn up by Robert Bell was adopted.  Other members pledged to support the rules of this pioneering wild life protective society were William Beck, Peter Cram, Jim Dunlop, John Flett, David Gillies, Charlie Glover, Tom Hilliard, Archie Knox and Tom Leaver ; Hugh McCormick, William McDiarmid, Hiram McFadden, Jim McFadden, Jim McGregor, George McPherson, William Neelin, Robert Patterson and William Patterson ; Dr. Robert F. Preston, Alex Sibbitt, William Taylor, William Whalen, Will R. Williamson, Alex Wilson and Joe Wilson.  Out of town sportsmen among the first members were Duncan Campbell, John Gemmill, D. G. MacDonnell and Tom Mitcheson, all of Almonte ; Jim Rogers of Montreal and R. W. Stevens of Ottawa.

At this time fishing on Sundays was illegal here as well as hunting on Sundays.  Only about five of these men were said to be still living in 1928 when a story recalling the formation of the Carleton Place wild life protective society of 1884 was published.

A social event sponsored by the Society in its first year was a steamboat excursion to the present Lake Park, then noted as “the old Regatta Grounds.”  The “Morning Star” and her two barges, with a number of skiffs in tow, carried three hundred people to the picnic ; which featured a rifle shooting competition, a baseball game, tug of war and track events, croquet, boating, and dancing to the exhilarating airs of the Willis bagpipes.

Game Law Enforcement

Two unfortunate Indians were among those who felt the first punitive effects of the new society’s protective activity.  This local story was published in October of 1884:

“Last Wednesday two Indians from St. Regis were about to pack up and leave their camp between Appleton and Almonte, on the Mississippi River, when a representative of the Carleton Place Game, Fish and Insectivorous Birds Protective Society appeared on the spot and confiscated a number of muskrat skins.

The fellows had been warned by the Society to desist trapping the animals until November.  The two offenders were brought to Carleton Place.  They had in their possession 126 muskrat skins, one mink skin and one raccoon skin.  The taking of the latter is not an offence.  The poor fellows were in most destitute circumstances.

The magistrate inflicted a fine of $10 and costs and the skins were confiscated.  They doubtless intended to do the river above Carleton Place at once, as has been their annual custom.  The Protective Society is extending its influence very rapidly in all directions from Carleton Place, having a good representative membership in many points at a distance.”

Duck Shooting Toll

Ducks in the 1890’s remained abundant and were shot by the hundreds by the most experienced hunters.  An 1890 published report of two Carleton Place duck hunters’ successes gave totals early in the season of 200 birds for one and 272 for the other, with one shooting 154 ducks in three days in a northerly expedition.  Heavy tolls by the relatively small numbers of hunters seemed to make little impression on the duck population.

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Early Stories of Hamlets in Township of Ramsay, By Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 29 June, 1961

When the northward push of the first settlements of Lanark County reached the township of Ramsay, the town of Almonte and the village of Clayton soon were founded as little frontier communities based on water power sites of the Mississippi and Indian Rivers.  The grist mill and sawmill of Daniel Shipman of Leeds County, built at Ramsay’s Great Falls of the Mississippi in 1823, was the nucleus of a village which grew to become the town of Almonte.  A story of some of Almonte’s nineteenth century citizens and industries will appear in a following number of the Canadian.

Clayton had its origin little more than a year later than Almonte when Edward Bellamy, who recently had come to Grenville County from Vermont, obtained the water privilege of the falls on the Indian River there and opened a sawmill and grist mill to serve a section of the new townships.  Among the other communities of Ramsay township, Blakeney, once the location of several  manufacturing concerns, came next in time of origin as Snedden’s Mills.  Not far from Snedden’s the small hamlet of Bennie’s Corners appeared on the scene of the eighteen thirties, adjoined on the Indian River by Toshack’s carding mill and Baird’s grist mill.  The Baird mill, now known as the Mill of Kintail, has been preserved by a private owner for public historical uses and as a residence.

At the township’s Apple Tree Falls, where young  Joseph Teskey drew land in 1824, the Teskey brothers later built their saw and grist mills, followed by a succession of woollen mill businesses which began about a century ago at Appleton.

On the Indian River in the north of Ramsay township, in a section where some of the last Indians of the township lived, sawmills have continued to run on a small scale since the eighteen twenties at the community of Clayton.  Edward Bellamy, who in 1824 bought the mill site of its falls, had come from Vergennes in Vermont with his three brothers in 1819 to the Brockville district.  They established the mills and village of North Augusta on the south branch of the Rideau River in Grenville County and mills at other points in Leeds County.

Bellamy’s Mills On The Indian River

At his Ramsay saw and grist mill Edward Bellamy added a distillery and a carding mill.  Around his mills a village grew to have a population of 250 persons.  It continued to be called Bellamy’s Mills until in the eighteen fifties its name was changed to Clifton and again changed in 1858 for postal reasons to Clayton.  It was on what was then the main road from Perth to Pembroke, and soon supported a tannery, a cooperage works, a medical doctor, James Coulter’s hotel, and shops of blacksmiths, wagon makers, shoemakers and general merchants.  When the political riding of North Lanark was separately established in 1854, its nomination meetings which led regularly to the reform party’s reelection of Robert Bell of Carleton Place were held at Clayton.

The village’s semi-annual market or fair days were held in mid-April and mid-November.  In an era when not uncommonly feuds and disputes were arbitrated by physical encounter, J. R. Gemmill, founder of the Sarnia Observer and a son of Lanark’s first minister, gave this report in his Lanark Observer on an exercise of political passions on Clayton’s 1851 spring fair day:

“Riot At Bellamy’s Mills.  We regret to learn that another of those disgraceful party rows, which are a blot on the character of any community wherever they occur, took place at Bellamy’s Mills on the evening of the Fair or Tryst at that place, namely Wednesday, the 16th instant.  It appears that it originated with some of the younger class, in which ultimately the other spectators interfered, and ended finally in a regular party riot, in which stones and other missiles were so freely used that several individuals have got themselves severely injured.

About twenty businesses were in operation at and near the bustling village of Clayton in 1871, including a grist mill, a cooperage plant, Coulter’s and Gemmill’s hotels, McNeil’s tannery, the sawmills of Timothy Foley, Daniel Drummond, and William Smith ; James McClary’s planning mill, Timothy Blair’s carding mill and J. & A. Hunter’s woollen cloth factory.  The Hunter woollen mill, destroyed with a fire loss of $10,000 in 1873, was located on the river near Clayton at the site then known as Hunterville.

The village of Appleton was settled and developed by members of the Teskey family who came to Ramsay township in the emigration of 1823 from southern Ireland.  Among less than a dozen families not of Roman Catholic religious persuasion in this government-sponsored emigration to Ramsay, Huntley and Pakenham townships were John Teskey, his wife and nine children from Rathkeale in Limerick.

Joseph, the eldest son, had obtained his hundred acre lot at the location then known as Apple Tree Falls on the Mississippi.  After the family had lived together for a few years on the father’s farm (conc. 11, lot 7) in Ramsay and the children had begun to marry, the second son Robert joined with Joseph in building a small saw and grist mill at the falls.  The land including the southern half of the present village was a 200 acre Crown reserve and south of it were the farms of Robert Baird and William Baird, Lanark society settlers of 1821.

Teskeyville At Apple Tree Falls

On the strength of attractive natural assets and the initial enterprise of three Teskey brothers, a small community developed in the next thirty years, known for a time as Teskeyville and as Appleton Falls.  With a population of about seventy five persons by the mid-fifties, it contained Joseph Teskey’s grist mill, Robert Teskey’s sawmill equipped with two upright saws and a public timber slide, Albert Teskey’s general store and post office, Peter and John F. Cram’s tannery, and two blacksmith shops, William Young’s tailor shop and a wagon shop.  A foundry and machine shop was added before 1860, when the village grew to have a population of three hundred.  Albert Teskey, a younger brother who lived to 1887, also engaged in lumbering and became reeve of Ramsay township.  A flour mill in a stone building erected in 1853 by Joseph Teskey below the east side of the Appleton Falls was operated after his death in 1865 by his son Milton.  It was sold in 1900 to H. Brown & Sons, Carleton Place flour millers and suppliers of electric power, and resold several years later to Thomas Boyd Caldwell (1856-1932) of Lanark, then Liberal member of Parliament for North Lanark, a son of the first Boyd Caldwell who had owned a large sawmill at Carleton Place.

Appleton Woollen Mills

Robert Teskey, a magistrate for over forty years, built in 1863 a four storey woollen mill of stone construction.  He retired a year later and lived until 1892.  The woollen mill, later doubled in size, was operated by his son John Adam Teskey (1837-1908), with the assistance for a time of his brother in law, William Bredin, later of Carleton Place, and his brother Rufus Teskey.  Before the depression of the eighteen seventies, when the Appleton mills had been leased for a period of years, the village had two firms manufacturing tweeds, flannels and blankets ; Charles T. Drinkwater & Son and Lancelot Routh & Company.  The Teskey woollen mills were owned from 1900 for over thirty years by Boyd Caldwell & Company and Donald Caldwell, who rebuilt the dams in 1903, and for over twenty years since by the Collie family and the present Collie Woollen Mills Limited.  The latest owners built the present mill before the old stone woollen mill buildings, chief landmark of a picturesque setting, were destroyed in the nineteen forties by fire.

At the head of Norway Pine Falls on the lower Mississippi in Ramsay township, James Snedden, one of the Lanark society settlers, received an 1821 location of one hundred acres of land which ran from the present Highway 29 to the village of Blakeney.  Alexander Snedden, who had emigrated two years earlier and had located with David Snedden in the eleventh concession of Beckwith, soon removed to the Pine Falls where he built grist and saw mills and a timber slide.  The family entered the square Timber trade, taking their timber down the Ottawa and the St. Lawrence to the Quebec City market.  James Snedden jr. (1821-1882), known as “Banker Snedden,” also engaged in lumbering and other enterprises.

Rosebank Inn and Norway Pine Falls

On the road to Pakenham and the Ottawa, Alexander Snedden’s Rosebank Inn provided travelers with accommodation of a high standard.  Here the Reform Association conventions of the old District of Bathurst and of the United Counties of Lanark and Renfrew of the eighteen forties and early fifties were held.  A discriminating traveler of 1846 wrote of “Snedden’s Hotel, which is kept in as good style as any country Inn in the Province.”  Another travelling newspaper contributor of fifteen years later added in confirmation: “Who in this portion of Victoria’s domain has not heard of Snedden’s as a stopping place?  Ask any teamster on the upper Ottawa and he will satisfy you as to its capabilities of rendering the traveler oblivious to the comforts of his home.”  Alexander Snedden became a militia officer and in 1855 gained the rank of Lieutenant colonel in command of the Ramsay battalion of Lanark Militia.  His adjutant was Captain J. B. Wylie,  Almonte mill owner.

Around the Snedden establishment a small community grew at Norway Fine Falls, known as Snedden’s Mills until in the eighteen fifties it was named Rosebank.  It was renamed Blakeney when the post office of the area was moved here in 1874 from Bennie’s Corners with Peter McDougall as postmaster.  The nearby railway station continued to be called Snedden, and the name Rosebank also persisted.  Other early industries at Blakeney included a woollen factory, a brewery at the Pine Isles, a second sawmill and a tannery.  A three storey woollen mill of stone construction operated by Peter McDougall, was built in the eighteen seventies.  The flour mill at Blakeney continued to be run for some years after the turn of the century by Robert Merilees.

Bennie’s Corners was a small village less than two miles from Blakeney.  It was at the junction of the eighth line of Ramsay and the road from Clayton north of the Indian River, on land where James Bennie located in the original settlement of the township in 1821.  The buildings of the hamlet were destroyed in the summer of 1851 by fire.  As rebuilt it had little more than a post office and general store, a few residences, a school and such tradesmen as blacksmiths and shoemakers, and claimed a population of about fifty persons.

Bairds Flour Mill Restored

Nearby were William and John Baird’s flour mill, Greville Toshack’s carding mill and Stephen Young’s barley mill, all on the Indian River ; and on the Mississippi the similar industries of Blakeney.  The Baird mill, restored as a century old structure in 1930 by Dr. R. Tait McKenzie, sculptor, surgeon and native son of the manse, is now well known as the Mill of Kintail, repository of examples of his works and local historical exhibits.  It was described by its owners in 1860 as:

“Woodside Mills, consisting of a Flour Mill with two runs of burr stones, a superior Smut Machine and an Oatmeal Mill with two runs of Stones, one of which is a Burr.  The Mill is three and a half stories high and most substantially built.  There are also on the premises a kiln capable of drying from 120 to 200 bushels of oats at a time, a frame House for a Miller, a Blacksmith Shop with tools complete, two Stone Buildings and outbuildings, with Stabling for eleven horses.”

Bennie’s Corners Squirrel Hunt

A Bennie’s Corners story of 1875 may be recalled as telling of a recognized sport in some circles of the Ottawa Valley of those times, known as a squirrel hunt and featuring a reckless slaughter of the birds and animals of the summer woods.  An Almonte newspaper report told of the hunt on this occasion:

On Friday the 25th instant a squirrel hunt took place at Bennie’s Corners.  Eighteen competitors were chosen on each side, with Messrs. John Snedden and Robert McKenzie acting as captains.  In squirrel hunts, squirrels are not the only animals killed, but every furred and feathered denizen of the forest, each having a certain value attached.  The count runs as follows : squirrel 1, chip munk 2, wood pecker 2, ground hog 3, crow 3, blackbird 1, skunk 5, fox 50, etc.  At the conclusion of the contest the game killed by both sides amounted to over 2,500.  Mr. James Cochrane bagged 164 squirrels, being the highest individual score, and Mr. Andrew Cochran came next.  The affair wound up with a dance at the residence of Mr. James Snedden.

Early Settlers Found Good Land in Ramsay Township, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 11 May, 1961

One of the few letters which remain from those written by Ramsay settlers in the township’s first year gives the optimistic impressions of a Glasgow society emigrant, John Toshack.  He already had built his log cabin on land where later the village of Bennie’s Corners waxed and waned, and was back at Lanark preparing to bring his family from the district centre to the new home.  His letter tells of his hopes for his chosen lot and mentions two of the boats which served in the settlers’ use of the “water conveyance.”  Writing to a friend in Glasgow, Alexander Sinclair, on September 11, 1821, he said in part:

“I gladly embrace this opportunity of writing you by Mrs. Graham who has lost her husband and is returning to Scotland.  Our family is all well now, by the mercies of God, they are all recovered.  We had four of them in the fever since we came here, Margaret, Andrew, Helen and Eneas.  Many have died since arriving in Canada, some of the fever, others of the flux and others from the effects of fatigue.

We have got land in the township of Ramsay near the Mississippi River, which runs into the Ottawa about fifteen miles from our land.  We are only half a mile from it.  There are always plenty of good fish to be got in it, but especially in the spring, when I am informed they are caught in very great abundance.

William, John and James Bennie and I have each got 100 acres together, in a square.  It is most beautiful land, and resembles the Dalmarnock haughs (low rich land beside a river).  According to what I have seen of other land, it will produce abundantly of all which is necessary for the support of a family.  The land is by no means generally good, there is much rock and swamp on many lots.  Indeed I would not exchange the land that we have got for any other I see.  But it is a great distance from this (ie., from Lanark), about twenty miles by land and near forty by water.  Had it not been for the water conveyance we would not have attempted to go so far.  We have built two flat boats, of fir boards at one inch thick, which we got from the saw mill at 3s.6d. per 100 feet.

I have got up a house, 22 feet by 16, which will do to begin with.  Our land abounds with beautiful wood, of elm, maple, birch, beech, pine, and bass ; the latter is somewhat like your saugh (sallow or broad-leafed willow).  I often think if you had a few score of the trees that we cut down to burn you would turn them to better account.

Settlers Tools

“I hope to have all my luggage and family on the land in about ten days,….Government has been very honorable.  Besides conveyance from Quebec to Lanark and rations – the rations consist of one pound of bread and one of pork for a man, one half each for a wife, one third for a child above seven and one quarter for those under. – I have got a blanket for myself, one for my wife, one for every two children and one for the odd one ; also an axe, a hand saw, a bill hook, an iron wedge, two pair hinges, a thumb-neck (door latch), two files, a stock-lock, two gimlets, a pick axe, a hammer, a scythe and stone and among us four we have got a pit and cross-cut saw and we will get a grindstone when we want it.  There are also nails and other things still to be got.  (Note: Among other supplies issued were spades, hoes, harrow teeth, sickles, pitchforks, adzes, augers, kettles and frying pans.)

The gentlemen here and all the way from Quebec, who had the charge of forwarding us, seemed to vie with each other in discretion and kindness.  This is the most merciful act that I ever knew the British Government perform.  It affords many poor industrious families the means of obtaining the necessaries of life who had no such prospect before.  You will observe that I am writing only from information and observation, it will require another twelve months to come to enable me to write from experience.  I think the emigration is likely to be carried on at least another year.  There are three townships to be surveyed beyond Dalhousie, Lanark and Ramsay, near the grand river.  I will if spared write you more particularly afterwards and hope to give you more information.”

John Toshack, who came to Ramsay with his wife, seven sons and two daughters, was a man of strong religious tendencies.  He had been a deacon in the Congregational Church under the Rev. Mr. Ewing in Glasgow, and preached in the first shanties of settlers in Ramsay before there was an ordained clergyman in the township.  His younger daughter, eleven years old at the time of the 1821 migration, became the wife of the first Peter Cram of Carleton Place.  Surviving her husband on the Cram farm homestead on High Street which later was acquired in the eighteen eighties by her nephew Peter Cram (1831-1920) of Carleton Place, she died in 1890 at the home of her daughter, Mrs. James Thom in Ramsay.

A final installment of this series of Ramsay settlement stories will tell of the emigration adventures of one family of Ramsay pioneers.