Beckwith Twp. Church Had Turbulent History, By Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 09 March, 1961

This is the second part of a story of the pioneer past of the Old Kirk of Beckwith township. The remains of the recently demolished Old Kirk Ruins may be seen near Carleton Place on the Seventh Line road of Beckwith township, two miles south and a mile east of Blacks Corners. The stone church was built in 1832, replacing a log church building. It served the first two Canadian generations of the first large settlement of Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlanders in the district of Upper Canada north of the Rideau River.

 

Within the historic church walls recently torn down after standing for over 125 years on the old Beckwith Cross Keys road, the Rev. John Smith from Edinburgh preached and ministered for eighteen years to the township’s Perthshire Highlanders as the second minister of the Beckwith Kirk. The church’s six trustees in 1834 were Alexander Stewart (1792-1892, Blacks Corners, from Blair Atholl), John Scott (The Derry, from Kinardchie, Parish of Dull), Finlay McEwen (The Derry, from Arveuh, Balquhidder Parish), Donald McLaren (1774-1847, conc. 4, from Achra, Balquhidder Parish), Colin McLaren (The Derry, from St. Fillans, Comrie Parish), and James McArthur (1767-1836, conc. 7 at Kirk, from Ross, Comrie Parish). The two elders were Peter Campbell and John Campbell.

 

The Great Disruption

In the spread of the Scottish Disruption of 1843 to Presbyterian congregations in Canada the Beckwith Kirk, like those of neighbouring townships and many others, divided into Church of Scotland and dissenting Free Church followers. The Beckwith Free Church body withdrew from the Seventh Line Church during the Rev. Mr. Smith’s pastorate. They formed a separate congregation with the Rev. Mr. Blair as first minister, building Knox Presbyterian Church at Blacks Corners in 1845, the building for which funds now are being collected for its conversion to serve as a United Cemeteries vault. This was the first Presbyterian Free Church of stone construction in the district. Its congregation included the Free Church Presbyterians of Carleton Place until 1868, when it became the mother church of Zion Church of Carleton Place.

 

When the Rev. John Smith died in 1851 in his fiftieth year, leaving a wife and six children, James Poole noted in his Carleton Place Herald : “Mr. Smith had been in the habit of officiating both in English and Gaelic, an accomplishment particularly grateful to our Highland friends.” His large monument in the United Cemeteries, Carleton Place, was erected by his congregation. In the six concession near the Church was his stone house and his farm which in part had been that of his predecessor the Rev. Dr. George Buchanan. It was offered for sale at Lavallee’s Hotel in Carleton Place on the fall fair day of 1864 by the Rev. Mr. Smiths’s heirs and was long the Drummond farm. Succeeding him as the ministers of the Beckwith Auld Kirk were the Rev. Duncan Morrison and the Rev. William McHutchinson, with pastorates of five years each. The manse then was in the seventh concession (NE ½ lot 12) nearer the intersection with the Mill Road now Highway 29.

 

Moved to Carleton Place and Franktown

After nearly fifty years of regular services at the Seventh Line site, since 1833 in the stone church and before that in more primitive buildings, the increase in the populations of Carleton Place and Franktown led to the congregation’s decision in 1869 (perhaps hastened by the formation of the Zion Free Church congregation in Carleton Place) to hold its services in the two villages and to close the Old Kirk building. In Franktown a frame church was built in 1871.

 

In Carleton Place there were two Presbyterian Church buildings, both on William Street. That of the Cameronian Reformed Presbyterians had been built in the 1840’s. Construction of the stone church building which remains at the corner of St. Paul Street, facing the park of the old Commons, had been started in the 1840’s after the Disruption. It had been completed but lack of agreement had prevented it from being occupied. It was being used by Robert Bell for the lowly purpose of storing hay. Now it was renovated and fitted as the first St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Carleton Place, for the part of the Seventh Line Church of Scotland congregation living at and near the village.

 

It served that congregation for nearly twenty years, until the present St. Andrew’s Church building on Bridge Street, with its corner stone laid by the Rev. George M. Grant, Principal of Queen’s University, was dedicated and occupied in 1888. The connection between St. Paul’s Church of Franktown and St. Andrew’s of Carleton Place as one congregation under one minister and one session severed in the following year. The Rev. A. H. Macfarlane, father of J. Calvin Macfarlane, moved from Ashton to Franktown and continued to minister to the congregations at Franktown and Blacks Corners from 1889 until his retirement in 1913.

 

Last Days Of Beckwith Auld Kirk

The last of the five ministers of the Seventh Line Kirk congregation was the Rev. Walter Ross, M.A. He was inducted there in 1862. For nineteen years he contined to serve his congregation, both at the Old Kirk building and after the move to Carleton Place and Franktown. In 1875 he changed his place of residence to Carleton Place, where he died in 1881. He was the father of A. H. D. Ross, M.A., M.F., whose history of “Ottawa Past and Present” was published in 1927. His successor for nine years was the Rev. Duncan McDonald, M.A., a graduate of Queen’s University, inducted at Carleton Place in 1882, who was followed by the Rev. Robert McNair and in 1897 by the Rev. G. A. Woodside, M.A., later of Winnipeg.

 

Upon the opening of the new St. Andrew’s Church in January of 1888, the fixtures which still furnished the Seventh Line Old Kirk were advertised for sale and it was announced the building would be sold. The contents went to buyers in five lots for $78. The stone building of the first St. Andrew’s Church on William Street was sold for $500 for conversion into a double dwelling.

 

Kirk Pulpit At Gallery Height

The interior structure and arrangement of the old Seventh Line house of worship were recalled from vivid boyhood memories of Peter Drummond in the history of a part of Beckwith township published in 1943 by the late Dr. George E. Kidd, M.C., “The Story of the Derry” :

The most unique feature of the building was the pulpit. It was placed high in the centre of the north side. This recalls how in the reign of Charles I, Archbishop Laud had, among other things in an attempt to force the return of Episcopacy on the Covenanters, insisted on the return of the pulpits to the east ends of the churches, whereas they then stood in the middle. The Beckwith church pulpit was so high as to be on a level with the gallery opposite ; and its canopy, made of finely carved native wood, reached to the top of the wall behind it. The precentor’s stand was placed directly in front of and below the pulpit. It was reached by ascending three steps.”

There was a doorway in each end wall of the church. These doors were connected by a wide aisle which divided the floor in halves. The pews in the south half all faced north, while those in the other half were placed at right angles to the aisle, and faced the pulpit from the east and west respectively. The gallery was reached by two flights of steps, one at each end of the church. An impassable partition cut across its centre. A long table, at which communicants sat while they partook of the Sacrament, stood in front of the pulpit.”

 

The Old Kirk’s last years before its stand of more than half a century as an historic ruins are viewed in an early story of the Auld Kirk on the Cross Keys by J. T. Kirkland, Almonte barrister, the years when “John D. Taylor with his schoolboy companions, hunting wild pigeons through the Beckwith woods, could peep in through the dismantled windows and see the sagging roof, the rotting floor and the faded plush and tassels of the old pulpit.”

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80 Buildings Once Erected Here Within A Year’s Time, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 25 August, 1960

About seventy-five years ago, Carleton Place reached the speediest single period of its growth. The present instalment of a summary of events in the town’s youthful years tells briefly of some of the developments that were in the foreground seventy to eighty years ago. It reaches the period of the first childhood recollections of this district’s present elder citizens.

The selection of Carleton Place at his time by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company as a divisional and repair shop point added a third main industry to growing textile and lumber businesses. Other principal manufacturing industries here, notably the making of stoves and machinery and grain milling, were all expanding. Revolutionary discoveries in telephone communication and electric lighting and in new types of industrial machines were being put into use in this area.

Building construction and the number of the community’s residents doubled within about five years. At the end of the decade, Carleton Place, with a population approaching only 4,500, was second in size to Ottawa alone in the Ottawa Valley. On the main line of the new railway to the west coast Carleton Place was the largest community between Montreal and Vancouver with the exception of Winnipeg. While the Carleton Place of later years may be found to have increased in wisdom and prosperity as measured by its way of life, its stature as rated by the conventional yardsticks of population and of total commercial activity has remained with relatively little change.

Working Hours

1880 – The idle Hawthorne woollen factory was bought by James Gillies of Carleton Place from its original owner Abraham Code at a reported price of $16,400.

A one hour strike fro a shorter working day by about fifty men at Peter McLaren’s sawmill was unsuccessful. Working hours continued at thirteen hours a day, from 6 a.m to 7 p.m., and twelve hours on Saturdays.

Lawsuits were under way between the rival sawmill owners here, Boyd Caldwell and Peter McLaren, based on McLaren’s efforts to exclusively control the passage of logs down the Mississippi at High Falls and other points.

The first annual regatta and sports day of the Carleton Place Boating Club was held at Carleton Park (Lake Park), featuring sailing, rowing and canoe races, the Perth band and baseball team, and oarsmen from Brockville and Ottawa. Its evening events on the river in Carleton Place were a promenade concert, an illuminated boat dispaly contest, fireworks and a balloon ascension. The Carleton Place brass band wearing new uniforms rode in a large carriage drawn by four horses to a concert and ball in Newman’s Hall which lasted until morning.

Indian Camp

1881 – St. James Anglican Church was rebuilt, the present stone structure replacing a former frame building. The building contractors were William Moffatt and William Pattie. Chairman and secretary of the building committee were Colonel John Sumner and Dr. R. F. Preston. The Rev. G. J. Low succeeded the Rev. G. W. G. Grout before the building was completed.

John Gillies of Carleton Place bought the McArthur woollen mill at the present Bates & Innes site from its first owner Archibald McArthur. The reported price was 40,000. W. H. Wylie, lessee of the McArthur mill, bought the Hawthorne woollen mill from its new owner James Gillies at a price reported as $19,000.

Several parties of Indians were encamped late in the year at the east side of the town and frequented the streets daily. An Indian war dance was held at a local residence.

Railway Shops

1882- A new railway station was built at the junction of the two lines here.  Exemption from municipal taxation was granted for the C.P.R. workshops being moved to Carleton Place from Brockville and Prescott.  Major James C. Poole (1826-1882), Herald editor, predicted the town was “about to enter upon an era of advancement and unparalleled prosperity.”

Boyd Caldwell & Sons river-men, when their log drive was blocked by Peter McLaren’s dam at the foot of Long Lake, cut a passage through the dam under claimed authority of the Ontario Legislature’s Rivers and Streams Act, which had been reenacted after its disallowance by the Dominion Government.  The ten thousand logs reached the Carleton Place mill in good condition after having been delayed three years en route.  Peter McLaren’s assertions of exclusive river rights which had been rejected by the Ontario Supreme Court were sustained by the Supreme Court of Canada.  The Caldwell firm appealed to the Privy Council.

Sawdust had become a local furnace fuel, according to Mr. W. W. Cliff, Central Canadian publisher, who reported :  Messrs. Wylie & Co. use about fifteen cartloads per day, the machine shop about four, and Mr. Findlay about one.  The sawmills of course regard it as their staff of steam life.

River Rights

1883 – The Bank of Ottawa opened a branch at Carleton Place, located on Bridge St. near Lake Avenue, opposite the Mississippi Hotel, with John A. Bangs as managaer.

The town’s leading hotel, the Mississippi, was sold to Walter McIlquham, formerly of Lanark, by Napoleon Lavallee at a price reported at $9,400.

In the Mississippi River strife between the two lumbermen whose principal mills were at Carleton Place, the Ontario Rivers and Streams Act was once more disallowed by the Dominion Government under Sir John A. MacDonald and was again introduced by the Ontario Government under Sir Oliver Mowat.  The last disallowance held fifty thousand Caldwell logs in the upper Mississippi near Buckshot Lake and forced the Caldwell mill here to remain idle.

The James Poole estate sold the Carleton Place Herald, founded in 1850, to William H. Allen and Samual J. Allen ; and sold the family’s large stone residence at Bridge Street and the Town Line Road to David Gillies, son-in-law of James Poole.  William H. Allen continued publication of the Herald for sixty years.  David Gillies, original partner and later president of Gillies Brothers Limited of Braeside and member of the Quebec Legislature, maintained his home here until his death in 1926.  Its site was the place of residence of six generations of the Poole family.

Divisional Point

1884 – Carleton Place became a railway divisional point.  A result was an expansion of the town’s population and of its commercial activities.  A large railway station addition was undertaken.

The McLaren-Caldwell lumber litigation ended with a Privy Council judgement upholding the Caldwell claims for public rights for navigation of logs throughout the length of the Mississippi River.

To make way for the building of a new flour mill the John F. Cram tannery and wool plant was removed to Campbell Street after fourteen years of operation on Mill Street.  Other building operations in addition to house construction included erection of the town’s Roman Catholic Church and a bridge by the Gillies Company at the lower falls.  The Council Chamber of the Town Hall was vacated to provide additional classroom accommodation for the Town Hall School.  A bylaw authorized the raising of $6,000 to buy a new fire engine for the Ocean Wave Fire Company. 

Electric Lights and Telephones

1885 – A telephone system connecting eastern Ontario centres including Carleton Place was established by the Bell Telephone Company.  Twenty telephones were installed in this town in the first year, all for business purposes.

A direct current electric lighting system was installed here by the Ball Electric Light Company of Toronto, including five street lights on Bridge Street.  The generator was placed by the Gillies firm at the Central Machine Works.  It was moved in the following year to a new waterpower installation opposite the west side of the Gillies woollen mill.

On Mill Street a four storey stone mill was built by Horace Brown, joined by a grain elevator to his former flour mill, and was equipped for the new roller process of flour milling.

Working hours for the winter season at the woollen mill of Gillies & Son & Company were from 7 a.m. to 6.15 p.m. with closing time one hour earlier on Saturdays.

Junction Town

1886 – The railway junction and divisional town of Carleton Place was a stopping point for the first through train of the C.P.R. to reach the west coast from Montreal.

The new tannery of John F. Cram and Donald Munroe was destroyed in a fire loss of over $10,000.

Abner Nichols’ planing mill was built at the corner of Lake Avenue and Bridge Street.

Indians who had camped for the winter at Franktown, selling baskets through the district, struck their tents and returned to the St. Regis Reserve.

The May 24th holiday was celebrated by a sports day at Allan’s Point (Lake Park).  Its baseball score was Carleton Place Athletics 16, Renfrew 5 ; and a no score lacrosse game was played between Ottawa Metropolitans and Carleton Place.  The practice field for the lacrosse and cricket clubs at this time was the picnic grounds of Gillies Grove below the woollen mill.

Canada Lumber Company

1887 – Peter McLaren sold his lumber mill properties at Carleton Place and upper Mississippi timber limits at a price reported as $900,000.  The buyers, the McLarens of Buckingham and Edwards of Rockland, formed the Canada Lumber Company.  It doubled the mills capacity, with Alexander H. Edwards (1848-1933) as manager here.  Peter McLaren three years later was appointed to the Senate, and died at age 88 at Perth in 1919. 

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church was built on its present Bridge Street site donated by James Gillies, the congregation vacating its previous location in the old stone church building still standing at the corner of William and St. Paul Streets.

A bridge of ironwork on stone piers replaced the wooden bridge across the Mississippi at Bridge Street.  A brick and tile manufacturing yard, which operated for about fifteen years, was opened by William Taylor, hardware merchant.  A large brick manufacturing business of William Willoughby, building contractor, continued in operation.  The Herald office and plant moved to a new brick building at the south side of the site of the present Post Office.  A Masonic Temple was built, and a considerable number of residential and other buildings.

Reduced railway fares were granted for the fifth annual musical convention and choral festival of the Carleton Place Mechanics Institute, held in the drill hall at the market square, with guest performers from Boston, Toronto and other points.  The Institute’s officers included William Pattie, Dr. R. F. Robertson, Alex C. McLean and John A. Goth.

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