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.

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1860’s Saw Considerable Building in Carleton Place, by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 04 August, 1960

Life in the Eighteen Sixties in Carleton Place is recalled in the present fifth installment of a series of annals reviewing events in the first hundred years of this community and its surrounding district.

The location of Carleton Place at a waterfall on one of the larger tributaries of the Ottawa River and on one of Eastern Ontario’s first railways proved in the Eighteen Sixties to place this community in a position of some advantage in the lumber economy of the Ottawa Valley.  A number of new industrial firms were established here.  Among them were two sawmills and a foundry each of which grew to become a substantial employer of capital and labour and a leading industry of the town.

Prince of Wales

1860 – Archibald McArthur (1816-1884), reeve and prominent wholesale and retail merchant, enlarged his business premises here by building a store of stone construction in 1860 near the corner of Bridge and Mill Streets.

The young Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, viewed Carleton Place while travelling by coach and railway through Lanark and Leeds Counties in the course of a tour of Canada.

Patrick Struthers (1830-1907), merchant and later magistrate, became postmaster of Carleton Place.  He continued in charge of the local post office for over forty-five years.

New Saw Mill

1861 – A steam-powered sawmill was built in the area of the present Riverside Park on the south bank of the river.  The old Muirhead sawmill, which was located near the present electric power plant, was leased and reopened by Robert Gray.

Brice McNeely Jr. (1831-1920) began a forty year period of operating the long established tannery.  The town bridge across the Mississippi was rebuilt.

Findlays Foundry

1862 – In the infancy of the town’s present leading industry, a new foundry was opened on the Perth Road, now High Street, by David Findlay (1835-1890) for the manufacture of stoves, ploughs and other castings.

Canadian military preparations were begun in view of risks of the United States Civil War leading to war between Britain and the United States.  At Carleton Place a volunteer rifle company, with newspaper editor James Poole as its captain, was equipped to take the place of the townships former militia regiment.  A new infantry company was formed at Almonte. 

In a match at the Almonte exhibition grounds between the Carleton Place and Almonte cricket clubs, the Almonte club’s resplendent uniforms featured white caps, pink shirts and white pantaloons.

Militia Training

1863 – The Ramsay lead mine at Carleton Place resumed operation.  A woollen mill at Appleton built by Robert Teskey (1803-1892) was opened under the management of his son John Adam Teskey (1837-1908) and son-in-law William Bredin.

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.

Railway Extension

1864 – The Brockville & Ottawa Railway Company’s line was extended and opened from Almonte to Arnprior, providing rail transportation between the St. Lawrence River and Grand Trunk Railway at Brockville and the Ottawa River at Sand Point.  George Lowe became the station master at Carleton Place.

Temperance Movement

1865 – A temperance society known as Temple No. 122 of the Independent Order of Good Templars, was formed at Carleton Place to oppose the sale of alcoholic beverages.  A proposal to apply a local option Temperance Act to Beckwith township including Carleton Place was rejected by a majority of thirty votes.

The Beckwith municipal council elected for 1865 was Patrick Struthers, reeve, and Archibald McArthur, Donald Carmichael, George Kidd and Alexander Ferguson.

Gillies & McLaren

1866 – This town’s first large scale business had its start in 1866 with the opening of the Gillies & McLaren lumber mill with thirty employees.  James Gillies (1840-1909) came as its manager.  Five years later John Gillies (1811-1888), who had founded the firm in Lanark township, removed to Carleton Place.  Both remained here for life and were leaders in the town’s industrial growth.  James Gillies for over thirty five years was head of the later widespread lumbering operations of Gillies Brothers, a position occupied from 1914 to 1926 by his brother David Gillies (1849-1926) of Carleton Place.

A shingle mill also began business here in 1866, managed by John Craigie.  He was the builder of the town’s first two steamboats, the Mississippi and the Enterprise.  The local grist and oatmeal mills were bought by Henry Bredin from Hugh Boulton Jr.  They continued to be operated by James Greig (1806-1884), who ran these mills from 1862 to 1868 after the death of Hugh Boulton Sr., founder of this first industry of the community.

The union of Lanark and Renfrew Counties was ended in 1866 by the establishment of a separate Renfrew County council and administration.

Fenian Raids

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.

 

Confederation

1867 – Canadian confederation was hailed in Carleton Place by a day of celebration which extended from a sunrise cannon salute to an evening of torchlight processions and fireworks.  There were speeches by the clergy,  a military parade with rifles firing, a costume carnival and sports events featuring novelty races.

A new sawmill was built by the Gillies & McLaren firm to employ up to a hundred men.  At Arklan Island a smaller sawmill was built by William Bredin.  Erection of a large frame building on Mill Street for use as a woollen cloth factory was begun by Allan McDonald.  The Allan McDonald foundry was reopened by John Grant and operated for four years, producing stoves, ploughs, ploughpoints and other castings.  A local house construction boom was under way.  Daniel Galbraith (1813-1879) of Ramsay township was elected to the Ontario Legislature of North Lanark.  He represented this constituency in the House of Commons from the following election until his death in 1879.

Another Railway

1868 – Building of the Canada Central Railway between Ottawa and Carleton Place was begun and was completed two years later.  In ceremonies marking the start of construction, held at the Carleton Place end of the line and attended by Richard W. Scott, Q.C., M.P.P., of Ottawa, the sod turning ritual was performed by the Rev. J. H. Preston of St. James Church, Carleton Place.

Caldwell Sawmill

1869 – This towns second large sawmill business was started by Boyd Caldwell (1818-1888) and managed by his son William Caldwell.  It operated for twenty-two years on the site of the present Riverside Park.

An enlarged stone grist mill building was erected by William Bredin on Mill Street, together with buildings occupied in the following year by Joseph Cram as a planing mill and by John F. Cram as a tannery.  A stone church building for the Zion Presbyterian congregation was built at the church’s present Albert and Beckwith Street location.

The Mississippi Navigation Company was incorporated to build locks at Innisville and Ferguson’s Falls and open navigation from Lanark and Playfairville to Carleton Place.  Its directors were James H. Dixon of Peterborough, Abraham Code, M.P.P. (then owning mills at Ferguson’s Falls) and Robert Bell, John Craigie and Robert Crampton of Carleton Place.  The company’s brief existence ended with the building of a steamboat, The Enterprise.  Bought by the Gillies & McLaren firm , The Enterprise plied the Mississippi Lakes for about twenty-five years in the service of the lumber industry and provided transportation for many of the town’s public events of bygone summer days.

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