Riverside Park Site of Carleton Place Graveyard

20-Foot Square Unmarked Grave in Riverside Park

The Carleton Place Canadian, 27 December, 1956

By Howard M. Brown

 

In Riverside Park there lies a little-known site which is of some interest in the town’s history.  It is found at the extreme end of the town’s park, near Lake Avenue and close to the Mississippi River.  This was a burial ground, where members of one of the first families of settlers of the town were laid in a now unmarked graveyard.

Discovery of this site some ten years ago was reported at a Parks Commission meeting, at which the suggestion was made that the area should be marked as a historical site by erection of a cairn.  Pending the receipt of further particulars no action was taken.  The Canadian subsequently found from the late Alex John Duff, Beckwith farmer, that he recalled this burial ground in his youth in the 1880s as being at that time a little cemetery about 15 or 20 feet square, a gravestone in which bore the name Catin Willis. 

With the Morphys and the Moores, the Willises long were among the widely known earliest owners of farm land coming within the present boundaries of the town.  It is well recorded that the whole central section of the present town was first located to the Morphy and the Moore families in 1819 as Crown grants of farm land; the part extending north of Lake Avenue to four of the Morphys, and three hundred acres at the south side of Lake Avenue to three of the Moores.  William Moore is said to have aided in the founding of the town by opening its first blacksmith shop in 1820, the first year of settlement as a community.  About the same time the first marriages here were those of Sarah, daughter of George Willis, to William Morphy, and Mary, daughter of Thomas Willis, to John Morphy.  Well known descendants of these families continue to live in the town and district.

On a farm which reached the western end of Riverside Park George Willis, born about 1778, settled and raised his family.  Other Willises coming from Ireland and settling near Morphy’s  Falls between 1819 and 1821 were Henry, William, Thomas and Catin Willis.  When the present Carleton Place Town Hall was built, the central building on its site, said to be the second dwelling built in the town, was the home of Mrs. William Morphy,  daughter of George Willis, where she had lived to 1888 and the age of 85, a widow for over fifty years.  The Bathurst Courier at Perth, reporting her husband’s death in August, 1837, said in part:

“Fatal Accident.  On Friday afternoon last, William Morphy of Carleton Place, whilst on his way home from this place on horseback, in company with several others, met with an accident from the effect of which he died on Sunday morning last, under the following circumstances.  Between this and Joseph Sharp’s tavern the deceased and another of the party were trying the speed of their horses when, on approaching Sharp’s house at a very rough part of the road, his horse fell and threw him off, by which he was placed under the animal.  Severe wounds causing a contusion of the brain led to his death…….The deceased was a native of Ireland, and has left a wife and family to deplore his sudden death.”

Grandchildren of William Morphy and his wife Sarah Willis included William, Duncan and Robert McDiarmid, prominent Carleton Place merchants, sons of James McDiarmid, Carleton Place merchant, and his wife Jane Morphy.

George Willis Jr. (1820-1892) succeeded his father on the farm at the end of Lake Avenue (Conc. 11, lot 12) and there brought up a family long known in Carleton Place, including Richard, drowned while duck hunting in November 1893, and George E. Willis, photographer, musician and bandmaster, who died in Vancouver in 1940 at age 96 while living with his son Stephen T. Willis of Ottawa business college fame; William and John H. of Carleton Place, and daughters including Jane, wife of James Morphy Jr. the son of “King James” of the pioneer Morphy family.

The George Willis place on the river side during one period was the annual scene of colourful sights and stirring sounds on the 12th of July.  It was a marshalling ground and headquarters for the great Orange parade, with the Willis boys of the third generation prominent among the performers in the bands.  The names of George Willis, Senior and Junior, appear with sixty others on the roll of the Carleton Place Loyal Village Guards which mustered in 1837 and 1838 at the time of the Upper Canada Rebellion and “Patriot War,” and again with that of Catin Willis in the St. James Church monster petition of November 1846 for maintaining tenure of the Church’s clergy reserve land in Ramsay against claims of Hugh Bolton and others.

Catin Willis, born in Ireland in 1795, settled as a young man in Ramsay on the present northern outskirts of Carleton Place (con. 8, lot 2w) when that township was opened for settlement in 1821.  He died there in 1869.  His name appears as contributor to the Carleton Place fund for providing and operating a curfew bell in 1836.  The Church Wardens of St. James Church here in 1845 were Catin Willis and James Rosamond, founder of the Rosamond textile manufacturing firm.

William, another of the first Willises here, took up land in the 4th concession of Beckwith (lot 18W) in 1820, securing his location in the usual way through the district settlement office and performing the settlement duties required for obtaining a patent to his land, which lay east of Franktown.  Franktown, then usually referred to as The King’s Store at Beckwith, and later named possibly for its sponsor, Colonel Francis Cockburn, had already been approved for surveying into town lots, and had the taverns of Patrick Nowlan and Thomas Wickham for the accommodation of travellers, in addition to the government supply depot for the Beckwith settlers.

George Ramsay, Ninth Earl of Dalhousie and Governor General of British North America, made the Nowlan Inn his stopping place, accompanied by Colonel Cockburn, during a one day visit in 1820 in the course of a tour of inspection of the Perth, Beckwith and Richmond settlements.

Henry Willis landed from Ireland in the early summer of 1819 with his young family on the sailing ship Eolus, whose passengers included the families of Beckwith settlers Thomas Pierce, James Wall and William Jones.  He first settled on the 2nd concession of Beckwith (lot 13W) near Franktown, and later moved to Carleton Place where he is found as a contributor to the 1836 curfew bell fund and on the roll of the Loyal Village Guards of 1838.

Henry was an unsuccessful 1838 petitioner with Captain Duncan Fisher for preferential purchase from the Crown of a farm lot extending near Indians Landing (con. 11, lot 11), adjoining the farms of George Willis and Captain Fisher.  Those providing certificates of facts in support of this petition were Catin Willis, John Moore, William Willis, Greenwall Dixon, and Edward J. Boswell, Anglican “Missionary at Carleton Place.”

Thomas Willis is shown by Beldon’s Lanark County Atlas of 1880 to have been an inhabitant of the new village of Morphy’s Falls in its first year, and to have given his daughter in marriage then to John Morphy.  John (b.1794, d.1860), another of the family of six sons and two daughters of Edmond Morphy, built his home for his bride at the east end of Mill Street on the present Bates & Innes lands.  It stood there for over fifty years after his death, and last served as the watchman’s house of the Bates & Innes mill.  The large family of John Morphy and his wife Mary Willis, raised in that pioneer home, included Abraham Morphy of Ramsay, near Carleton Place; and Elizabeth, Mrs. Richard Dulmage of Ramsay, who was born in 1821 as the first child born to the first settlers in Morphy’s Falls.

It is possible that further consideration will be given to providing the added note of interest and distinction to the town, and to its popular Riverside Park, which would be furnished by a cairn and tablet at the Park denoting some of the ancient origins of the town.

Explain How Lanark County Townships Named (2), by Howard Morton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 16 Nov 1961

A series of brief sketches of the origins of the names of the townships of Lanark County is concluded in this second installment.  The names of the fourteen townships of this county perpetuate memories of days of hardship and heroism a century and a half ago.  They also honour notable persons who served then in peace and war in British North American Public Affairs.

Beginnings of North Lanark

Settlement in the north half of Lanark County was begun in 1820 by a large group emigration from southern Scotland and was continued by a similar and larger movement in 1821.  For the reception of these families and others the townships of Dalhousie, Lanark and Ramsay were surveyed and named in 1820 and North Sherbrooke  township also was made available.

Lanark on the Clyde

Lanark township, in which the village of Lanark was founded in 1820 as the chief centre and administrative base of the North Lanark settlements, thus gained its name before the County of Lanark was formed.  Most of the first North Lanark farm settlers came from the towns and countryside of Lanark County in the south of Scotland, including Glasgow, largest city of Scotland, and Lanark the county town of Lanarkshire.  The smaller communities which later were formed in the new township include Middleville, Hopetown and Brightside.

Sir George Ramsay The Earl of Dalhousie

The township of Ramsay, containing the town of Almonte and the villages of Appleton, Clayton and Blakeney, and the township of Dalhousie, location of communities including Watson’s Corners, McDonald’s Corners and Poland, both received names of the Governor in Chief of Canada of their time of settlement.  Sir George Ramsay (1770-1838), who became Baron Dalhousie and ninth Earl of the ancient Scottish earldom of Dalhousie, had been one of Wellington’s generals in the Napoleonic Wars.

He was Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia from 1816 to 1819, Governor in Chief of Canada from 1820 to 1828 and Commander in Chief of India from 1829 to 1832.  He died at Dalhousie Castle near Edinburgh.

He visited the chief new settlements of Lanark County in 1820, and later became a patron for the opening of the Dalhousie Library in which some of his books still are preserved at Watson’s Corners.  During his term of office at Halifax he founded Dalhousie College.  At Quebec he established the Quebec Literary and Historical Society.  His son the Marquis and Tenth Earl of Dalhousie (1812-1860), a more distinguished administrator, was the last of several great governors general of India under the East India Company. 

Governor Sir John Coape Sherbrooke

South and North Sherbrooke townships, surveyed in about the year 1819, were named for General Sir John Coape Sherbrooke (1764-1830), whose name was given also to the city and county of Sherbrooke, Quebec.  After service for thirty-five years in the period of wars with France he was Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia from 1811 to 1816.  In the War of 1812-14 he conducted the defence of that province with marked success.  He served as an able Governor in Chief of Canada for two years from 1816 to 1818, when he retired with failing health.  In North Sherbrooke the community of Elphin and the Mississipipi’s High Falls power generating site are located.  South Sherbrooke township, crossed by Canadian Pacific Railway lines and Provincial Highway No. 7, contains the village of Maberly and such summer resort localities as Silver Lake Park and Lake Davern.

The Northern Townships

The county’s northern townships of Pakenham, Darling and Lavant, the last in Lanark County to be surveyed for settlers, were named in or shortly before 1822 when their surveys, continued in the following year, were authorized.  The initial granting of farm land locations in these three townships was superintended by Bathurst District Land Board, of which Colonel James H. Powell of Perth was chairman, and was begun in 1823.

Lavant in Sussex and The Duke

Lavant township, situated in a terrain of hills and lakes in the northwest corner of the county and containing localities including Lavant , Clyde Forks and Flower Station, is one of a number of places in Canada named in honour of the Duke of Richmond.  He was Governor in Chief of Canada in 1818 and 1819.  The township received its name from the Lavant River and the village of Lavant, both near Goodwood House, the country seat in Sussex of the dukes of Richmond.

Charles Lennox, Fourth Duke of Richmond (1764-1819), had been a major general and a member of parliament.  After succeeding to the dukedom he served for six years as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.  A ball given by him and his wife in Brussles almost on the eve of Waterloo gained lasting fame from being recalled in a poem by Lord Byron.  His dueling, noted in Senator Andrew Haydon’s  “Pioneer Sketches in the District of Bathurst”, was marked by an affair of honour with a member of the royal family, the Duke of York.

The death of the Duke of Richmond, of hydrophobia some eight weeks after he had been bitten by a pet fox, occurred near Richmond on the Jock River, then known as the Goodwood River.  The duke and governor was on his return from an official visit to the Perth area, during which he had walked several miles in the course of an inspection of rural settlement on the Scotch Lint in Bathurst and Burgess and in Drummond and Elmsley townships.

Major General Darling

Darling township, in the hills to the east of Pakenham and north of Lanark township and containing localities including Tatlock, White and Marble Bluff, was named in 1822 for a military officer, Major General H. C. Darling.  He then was a colonel serving in a senior post at Quebec City as the military secretary to Canada’s governor general and commander in chief of the forces, the Earl of Dalhousie.

Sir Edward Pakenham and British valour

The township of Pakenham, centered on the village of Pakenham and including an area between White Lake and the Mississippi and Madawaska Rivers, was named for Major General Sir Edward Michael Pakenham (1778-1815), the British army commander of the Battle of New Orleans.  This heroic tragedy proved to be one of the greatest and most useless human slaughters ever to occur on United States soil.

Before news could arrive from Ghent of the signing two weeks earlier of the treaty ending the War of 1812-14, a British force including several thousands of veteran soldiers recently arrived from Europe under Sir Edward Pakenham attacked the prepared defence works of New Orleans held under Andrew Jackson, the later United States president.

Instead of the six hundred men who were sent to their deaths at the storied charge of Balaclava, six thousand men, reaching the swamps of the mouth of the Mississippi without mobile artillery and without even scaling ladders, were sent forward to the town.  When the brief and hopeless attempt was abandoned one out of every three soldiers of this large British force had fallen in the deadly fire which poured from behind the defenders’ barricades.  In this postscript to the war which assured Canada’s survival the brave commander had lost his life, as perhaps he would have wished, while riding on the front line to spur on the attack.

In the strange ways of false nationalistic propaganda the classic bravery of this British force was replaced by a picture of a craven retreat promoted in a “Hit Parade” song which was spread through this country from the United States a year or two ago and called “The Battle of New Orleans”.  This is the page of military valour in our country’s history, though hardly of tactical brilliance, which is commemorated in the name of the township and village of Pakenham.

Some of the stories wrapped in the names and histories of the quiet rural and village areas which form the townships of Lanark County may become better recognized in the county in the course of time.  Perhaps this will come when sufficient consideration is given merely to their more obvious uses for tourist trade promotion.  Their colourful legacy of names will remain in any event to offer to some members of present and future generations the inspiration of glimpses of great men, great deeds and great years in the times of the founding of our now vast and still struggling nation.