Carleton Place Stirring Village Back in 1840’s, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, July 7, 1960

Carleton Place in the times of the Eighteen Forties is recalled in the present installment of a year by year listing of local scenes and events which had their part in shaping the present character of this section of Lanark County.

The first signs pointing to this community’s growth to the proportions of a town began to show themselves in the Eighteen Forties.  Still in the handicraft era, the district after its first twenty-five years was gradually leaving behind it the kinds of hardships its people had known in their first years of settlement in the woods.  In the sixty year old province of less than five hundred thousand people, substantial government reforms in parliamentary, municipal and educational institutions began to be launched.  This district and this young community shared in promoting their reforms and in their benefits.

FARM IMPROVEMENTS

1840 – A district agricultural society, the parent of the present North Lanark Agricultural Society, was founded at a January, 1840, meeting at Carleton Place, with James Wylie of Ramsayville as president, Francis Jessop of Carleton Place as secretary and Robert Bell as treasurer.  Its activities for the improvement of farming methods and products have included from the beginning an annual exhibition, held until the late Eighteen Fifties at Carleton Place and thereafter at Almonte.  Carleton Place exhibitions were continued for some further years by a Beckwith Township agricultural society.

Ewen McEwen (1806-1885) in 1840 became clerk of Beckwith Township and postmaster at Franktown.  He held both positions for forty-five years and was township treasurer for twenty years.  His son Finlay McEwen for many years was Carleton Place municipal treasurer and postmaster.

STIRRING LITTLE VILLAGE

1841 – Dr. William Wilson, graduate of Glasgow University and son of a district settler, began in 1841 a medical practice of about fifteen years in Carleton Place, building later his stone home which remains on Bell Street.  Edward M. Barry, M.D., trained in London and Dublin, opened a briefer medical practice here a few months before Dr. Wilson, as another of the town’s early surgeons.

A visitor in 1841 recorded this description of the section between Carleton Place and Almonte :

Carleton Place, about seven miles from Ramsay (Almonte) and eighteen from Perth, is a stirring little village.  By Franktown it is twenty-four miles from Perth, by Bellamys (Clayton) it is eighteen.  It has advanced greatly of late years, and the active enterprise of the Bells, merchants here, have contributed in no small degree to this.  They have several buildings themselves, one being a large two-storey stone dwelling.

There are three churches in Carleton Place – one Episcopal, a new Presbyterian and a Methodist church.  The Rev. Mr. Boswell officiates in the first, none yet appointed to the second but suppose Mr. Fairbairn will occasionally preach in it, and Mr. (Alvah) Adams is the stationed Methodist preacher.  The interests of religion are much attended to in the whole township, as well as in Carleton Place.  The Mississippi river runs through the village, and if it prevents the place from being as compact as desirable it at least contributes to its beauty and loveliness.  There are mills here by one Boulton, and more taverns I think than necessary for comfort or accommodation, numbering about five or six.  Mr. John McEwen has opened his home again for respectable travelers.  He is a man much esteemed, his fare excellent and his charges reasonable.

The township of Ramsay is well settled, very prosperous, and can boast a goodly number of experienced practical farmers – men of extensive reading and sound knowledge.  Its appearance plainly proves this, by the number of schools and churches within its range which are erected and in process of erection.  About the centre of the Township is a substantial Presbyterian Church of stone in which a Mr. Fairbairn officiates, also a Methodist meeting house where a Mr. (Alvah) Adams preaches – with a Catholic Church where Rev. Mr. McDonough of Perth officiates occasionally.  The great number of substantial stone houses erected and being put up speaks more favorably than words of its growing prosperity.

James Wylie Esq., a magistrate and storekeeper, has erected a fine house, his son another.  About half a mile from this, Mr. Shipman’s spacious stone dwelling, his mills and surrounding buildings, present a bustling scene.  There is one licenced tavern here, and a school.

DISTRICT COUNCIL ELECTED

1842 – Residents of Carleton Place in 1842 included about twenty tradesmen engaged in metal, wood,  textile and leather trades, in addition to farmers, merchants, innkeepers, labourers, two surgeons, two teachers and one clergyman.  Of the present Lanark County’s 1842 population of a little over 19,000 persons, Beckwith township including Carleton Place had some 1,900 inhabitants and 330 houses.  Ramsay township with 390 inhabited houses, had a population of 2,460.  Each of the two townships had eight elementary schools.  Half of the number of children of ages 5 to 16 in the two townships had attended school within the past year.

An elected council assumed duties of county administration for the first time in 1842, under legislation of the new united Parliament of Upper and Lower Canada.  District council members elected for Beckwith township were Robert Bell and Robert Davis.  Those for Ramsay were John Robertson Sr. (1794-1867) and Arthur Lang. 

A convention of district teachers of common schools met in the fall of 1842 at John McEwen’s hotel, Carleton Place.  A long-lived local Union Sabbath School was commenced in this year.

LOCAL MAGISTRATES

1843- Justices of the peace in Beckwith township authorized to act as magistrates included James Rosamond and Robert Bell, Robert Davis, Peter McGregor and Colin McLaren.  Those in Ramsay township included James Wylie and his son William H. Wylie, William Houston and William Wallace.

The Rev. Lawrence Halcroft (1798-1887), a resident of Carleton Place for over forty years, came here by call in 1843 and for eleven years was minister of the local Baptist Church.  He combined farming with his religious duties, and was a man of broad and liberal views who afterwards preached to all denominations.

A GENERAL ELECTION

1844 – Malcolm Cameron (1808-1876), supported by the large Scottish reform party element of this district and by others, was re-elected member of Parliament in a general election after the capital of Canada was moved from Kingston to Montreal(?).

The Rev. John Augustus Mulock, uncle of Sir William Mulock, became rector of the Carleton Place Anglican Church after a two year vacancy.

CHURCH DISSENTION

1845 – Dissention and division in the organization of the Church of Scotland was followed here in 1845 by the construction of the present stone building of Knox Presbyterian Church at Black’s Corners, parent of Carleton Place’s Zion Presbyterian Church.  In Ramsay township the frame building of a Free Presbyterian Church was erected at the 8th line of Ramsay, which for about twenty years served the congregation of the later St. John’s Presbyterian Church of Almonte.

POWER LOOMS

1846 – James Rosamond in 1846 was manufacturing woollen cloth by machinery at Carleton Place.  His mill at the foot of James Street with two looms operated by water power, was the first of its kind in Eastern Ontario.

The Carleton Place Library was established in March, 1846 as a subscription library under the management of the Carleton Place Library Association and Mechanics Institute.  Napoleon Lavelle began his hotel business which he continued here for nearly forty years, commencing as the Carleton House in the Bell’s stone building on the south side of Bridge Street facing Bell Street.  The three, two-storey stone structures among the sixty occupied dwellings of Carleton Place were this building, plus Hugh Boulton’s house (later Horace Brown’s) on Mill Street, and James Rosamond’s home (later William Muirhead’s) on Bell St.

WARDEN ELECTED

1847 – District wardens, previously appointed by the government of the colony, were first chosen by election in 1847.  The warden elected by the council of the Lanark and Renfrew district was Robert Bell of Carleton Place.

STOVE FOUNDRY

1848 – Samuel Fuller in 1848 opened a stove foundry here which he ran for ten years.  Its first location was near the site of the power house now owned by the Ontario Hydro Electric Power Commission.  The bridge over the Mississippi River was rebuilt.

A stone schoolhouse building was erected at Franktown.  In the United Counties of Lanark and Renfrew there were 1,069 inhabited and assessable houses and 120 public schools.  Most were log buildings.

POLITICAL VIOLENCE

1849 – The Hon. James Wylie (1789-1854) of Almonte was appointed to the Legislative Council of Canada.

Local school trustees James Rosamond (1804-1894, John Graham (1812-1887) and Brice McNeely (1794-ca 1878) advertised for a classical teacher for the Carleton Place School.

Robert Bell, elected as member of Parliament for Lanark and Renfrew Counties in the previous year, when the reform party attained power and responsible government arrived, was present when the Parliament Buildings of Canada were burned by an influentially backed Montreal mob.  He is said to have made his escape by a ladder from the burning building.  Delegates from district points including Beckwith and Ramsay townships were received at Montreal by Lord Elgin, governor general.  They delivered resolutions prepared at local meetings which supported his reforms and condemned the outrages committed by his opponents.  One of the addresses presented was that of the Carleton Place Library Association.

Advertisements

Central School Once Single Room Under Eye of Teacher, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 12 December, 1957

School Building, 1850

The first Carleton Place Common School was replaced at the same Bridge Street site, by the original form of the present Central School in 1870. The old school was enlarged in 1850 as described by James Poole in volume I of the Carleton Place Herald :

Our school house has been improved during the past year by erection of an addition some fifty feet in length. The school house is now in the form of a letter T, with a front of fifty feet to the street and measuring 48 feet from front to rear at the widest part, the wings being 24 feet wide. It is so arranged that the whole can be under the eye of one teacher, or if desirable a part of it can be shut off with folding doors and used either as a female school or as a juvenile department to the male school.

The building committee intends to have a porico put up. Outhouses have been erected and the whole ground, about a third of an acre, has been neatly enclosed with a good substantial fence. It only remains to have the building painted and a few trees set out in the grounds to make it everything that can be desired as a village school house.

Yearly rates payable for cheap education by an efficient teacher in the new school were advertised by the trustees of Beckwith school section No. 11, after the school had remained vacant for a few months in 1852 for want of a teacher.

Private classes offering tuition for young ladies also opened at this time in Carleton Place when in 1851 a Miss Roy opened a day school, quoting rates of 4 pounds per year for English only and 6 pounds for English, Music, French and Drawing. Miss Margaret Bell also announced a school for young ladies to be opened by her at her mother’s home. Several years later she was the teacher of the local community school.

Grammar School

The first high school facilities in Carleton Place were provided in about 1852. Their establishment accompanied appointment by the Governor General of town residents – Robert Bell, James Duncan and James Rosamond as associate members of the Board of Trustees for superintending grammar schools in the united counties of Lanark and Renfrew. Peter McLaren, when teacher of the Carleton Place Grammar School, obtained his Queen’s College B.A. Degree in 1853. The common school board and the high or grammar school trustees were united, about this time, as they continued to be for many years. The pupils of both schools shared the same building. Samuel G. Cram (1838-1915), son of David Cram of Beckwith, was later head of the old Grammar School.

Quarterly examinations exercises, reported to be so neglected by parents in 1848, were found commanding parental attendance at Carleton Place twelve years later, as told in James Poole’s press reports of midsummer and year-end school exercises here :

An examination of the pupils of the Union Grammar and Common School at Carleton Place, under the charge of F. S. Haight, M.A., took place on July 19, 1860, previous to the summer vacation. The forenoon was devoted to the examination of the several classes in reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography, with French, Latin, geometry, etc. In the evening essays and other compositions were read, and addresses delivered, by some of the more advanced scholars. The spectators now amounted to several hundreds. Pieces of music were performed by the scholars. We noted the essays on Scotland, Mahomet, Astronomy and Education as being particularly worthy. The exercises were closed with an address by Rev. W. C. Clarke of Lanark.”

Christmas Party

An account of the year-end school exercises of the same year tells of the first community Christmas party in Carleton Place to be placed on public record :

The Carleton Place Union Grammar and Common School closed its fourth term for 1860 on December 22nd, and was examined by Rev. John McKinnon. Grammar school prizes were awarded in arithmetic, spelling and composition, grammar and three classes of geography. On the evening of December 24th the teacher and senior pupils gave a soiree to the inhabitants of the Section.

The spacious school house, which has recently been thoroughly repaired, was beautifully decorated with evergreens and flowers and lighted up with a great variety of candles and coloured lamps. Vocal and instrumental music enlivened the scene. It gives us great pleasure to state that music is cultivated in this school to a greater extent than any other school with which we are acquainted.

Robert Bell Esq., M.P.P. Presided and Rev. Mr. McKinnon opened with prayer. Orations and addresses in different languages were delivered by some of the senior pupils which did them great credit. We give a list of the most prominent, viz., David Duff, Salutory ; Rufus Teskey, Greek oration ; Wm. Sinclair, English oration for abolition of capital punishment ; Josiah Jones Bell, 1845-1931, French oration ; John M. Sinclair, 1842-1926, English oration, on evils of intemperance ; D. McKinnon, Latin oration.

Some pieces of composition by the female pupils were then read by Miss H. Halcroft which showed that the young women attending the school were determined not to be distanced by their male competitors. A presentation of an elegant writing desk was made by the senior class of boys to the teacher, F. S. Haight, M.A. The evening’s entertainment closed with an excellent address to the pupils by Rev. John McMorine, ‘God Save the Queen’, and benediction by Rev. Mr. Halcroft.

On Tuesday evening the scholars, parents and trustees were again invited to the school house, which was well lighted up. In the centre stood a Christmas tree, twinkling with wax tapers and loaded with useful and ornamental articles in endless variety. Every pupil plucked some of this fruit, and seemed to be delighted with the proceedings.”

Local Teachers Once Paid Less Than $200 per Year, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 28 November, 1957

The state of schools and school teaching in Ontario’s early days has long been a favourite topic in oldtimers’ tales of life in the past century.

Before the Canadian union of 1841 and for sometime after, ability to read and write and to do more than elementary calculation by numbers was beyond the reach of many citizens, both natives and immigrants, unless obtained by home training. A grammar school or high school education was for the few, mainly a rare few with the opportunity and wish to prepare for a life in one of the learned professions. The widespread existence of tax-supported public schools in the province has a record extending back little more than a hundred years.

Among the reforms of the 1840’s and 1850’s was a slowly growing common school system, fathered mainly by the native-born Rev. Dr. Egerton Ryerson, Methodist minister, first head of Victoria College, Cobourg, and from 1844 to 1876 Superintendent of Education for Ontario. Admission to a large share of the province’s public schools remained subject to payment of school rates or fees which not all parents were prepared to pay.

For the so-called Free Schools the part of operating costs not met from county and provincial taxes were raised by ordinary local property taxes instead of by rate-bill admission fees. Free schools increased in number only after overcoming strong opposition in many districts. Compulsory school attendance remained a remote idea. Men with ideas ahead of their time, as James Poole showed in his Carleton Place newspaper of the early 1850’s could be friends of education and enemies of the free schools.

Teachers Salaries Under $200

In Lanark County tax-supported schools had increased in number to 91 by 185?, and teachers to 102, thirteen of which were women teachers. Only five of the county’s schools were free schools. Teachers average yearly salaries including board were about 40 pounds for men and 30 pounds for women, and about 10 pounds less excluding board. Fourteen of the county’s schools were good or first class schools, as graded in inspections of 1850. The rest were equally divided between second class and inferior or third class schools.

The schools of Lanark and Renfrew counties of this time are pictured by the Rev. James Padfield, rector of the Church of England at Franktown, in an 1848 report to the Bathurst District Council in his capacity of superintendent of common schools of the united counties. He found 120 schools in operation under the Common School Act in the two counties, all but a few of which had been inspected by him in the preceding fall and winter.

Teachers of schools selected by Mr. Padfield for commendation were Mr. Warren, then of McNab township, Mr. Hammond of Lanark township, Mr. McDougall of North Sherbrooke, Mr. Morrison of Perth, Mr. Heely of Carleton Place, James Poole and Mr. York of Ramsay, Mr. McDougall and Mr. Lindsay of Beckwith, and Thomas Poole of Pakenham.

Log Schools

Mr. Padfield provides an eye witness summary of the nature of this district’s pioneer schools :

The Schools in general are better attended from the middle of November to the end of April. Among the pupils may often be found many young persons, both male and female, from 15 to 20 years of age and upwards. During the other six and a half months the older pupils are kept at home to assist their parents in agricultural employments. The Schools then are practically deserted, having frequently and in almost every township not more than ten or twelve scholars in regular attendance in a school, often fewer.

This interferes in a most disastrous way with the education of the young.

The School Houses throughout the District are for the most part built of logs, not more that twenty feet square and seldom eight feet high. Many are much smaller and of less height. In each of these are crowded during the winter months from twenty-five to forty children. The interior arrangements are often very defective. Many are quite unfit for schools.

Among the few good and tolerably commodious school houses in the District may be mentioned one on the south side of Perth and another under construction in Perth, both frame buildings. Another in Smiths Falls, built of stone, if finished bould be the best in the District. But it is suffered to remain in an unfinished state and a high rent is paid for a miserable building in which the school is kept. There are also a few good log school houses in some of the townships, including two in Bathurst, three or four in Beckwith, a very good one at Westmeath and another at Pembroke. Of the rest many are two small and some few are ill built and worse finished, exhibiting loose and shattered floors, broken windows, ill-constructed desks, unsafe stoves and stove pipes and unplasterd walls.

A greater uniformity in textbooks is beginning to prevail. I recollect visiting one School last winter at which fifteen children were present, no two of whom had books of the same kind. The quarterly examinations have been almost a dead letter. In many instances not a single person has been present to show the least interest in the advancement made by the scholars, except perhaps a solitary Trustee. On the whole in spite of these various hinderences our Common Schools are undoubtedly improving. (Signed) J. Padfield, S.C.S. Bathurst District, 2 October, 1848.”

 Of ten new school houses completed in the district in the following six months, as noted in Mr. Padfield’s next inspection report, one in Perth was “a commodious frame building divided into two apartments, one for boys and the other for girls”, three were log schools in Montague, one a 22 foot square log school in No. 18 Drummond, and one in Beckwith at Franktown, described as a substantial stone building. It appears the latter building is still standing at Franktown, though not in school use. At Franktown and No. 14 Montague the previous schools had been destroyed by fire.

Teachers Convention, 1842

School teachers meetings at Perth and Carleton Place in 1842 were the first general conventions of this District held following enactment of the Canadian school statute.

At Perth the superintendent of Education for Canada West, Mr. Murray, had recommended to an August gathering of teachers of the two counties that they select a committee to suggest improvements to the new Common School Bill. The committee, consisting of one teacher, from each of the townships of Bathurst, Beckwith, Burgess, Drummond, Horton, McNab, Pakenham and Ramsay, met at John McEwen’s inn at Carleton Place a month later.

Its recommendations, compiled by a subcommittee of three teachers (Thomas Ferguson of the Derry School, Beckwith, J. Fowler of Bathurst and Mr. Kerr of Ramsay), favoured “a union of Townships for the proper forming of School Districts, and that the Commissioner in whose Township the school is located manage the same.” Other recommendations were that no teachers lacking specified qualifications be employed, and that teachers salaries be not less than 50 pounds per year, payable half yearly.

First Local Schools

Carleton Place, like other points in the district, opened its first school with its first growth of settlement. A log hut near the corner of Bridge Street and the Town Line road is said to have become the first local school in 1825, with James Kent as teacher. William Poole, father of the town’s future newspaper editor, taught here from his arrival in 1831 to his death in 1844.

A second school in a frame building in the south side of the village was aquired and enlarged by the Common School Board when the Schools Act and municipal system of 1841 became effective. The bylaw passed for this purpose at the first session of the newly established District Council was introduced by Robert Bell. It provided for a 50 pound assessment upon the inhabitants of Beckwith School Section No. 11 to erect a school house at Carleton Place.

Best known early teacher of the Carleton Place common school probably was Johnston Neilson (1798-1857). Trained in colleges of Belfast and Glasgow, he taught here until 1851, retired on pension while teaching at Pakenham and died at Perth. His somewhat biassed strictures on the manners of the youth of his time in Carleton Place, recorded in newspaper correspondence, have since been given more publicity than might be deserved. A longer lived pioneer local teacher was Peter Comrie, (1819-1901), who came from Comrie, Perthshire, in 1836 and was a teacher living in Carleton Place in 1842. He is said to have maintained a school house for some years on High street near Bridge Street and to have taught in the Carleton Place grammar school.

A Carleton Place newspaper editorial of the late 1850’s offered a brief and effective tribute to the province’s schoolteachers of that day :

The telegraph and steam engine are powerful civilizers. The printing press is almost invincible in eradicating ignorance and chasing away superstition. But there is a power among us doing for us a greater service. It will be found in small, low roofed, ill ventilated scantily furnished and generally neglected houses, at the crossroads and in public places, here and there, throughout the whole country. He who directs it has many difficulties.

Scanty remuneration is doled out to him, probably months after it is honestly due. Nevertheless the improved facilities for learning today should be contrasted with those of pupils whose lot was cast in days when the dreaded ferule and the awful birch reigned triumphant as the alternate sceptres in the grasp of a tyrant.”