JOAN OF THE NORTHWEST
Johanna ‘Joan’ Matheson (1842-1916)
When, for the first time in Canadian history, nurses officially supported Canadian troops in the field, Joan Matheson of Perth, Ontario, was among that history-making contingent of 12 women who cared for casualties of the 1885 Northwest Rebellion.
AN AUTHORITY ON BOUNDS & LIMITS
Joseph Miller Oliver Cromwell (1819-1897)
In an era when it was not uncommon for land dispute litigants to beggar themselves with legal costs, Provincial Land Surveyor J. M. O. Cromwell of Perth, was so highly regarded for the accuracy of his field work that disputants frequently agreed to abide by his survey instead of appealing to the courts; “… he was an authority on the bounds and limits, having worked on nearly every concession line in Lanark and Carleton, fixing up old lines that had been first surveyed only by compass, and which were therefore, as a general thing, inaccurate.
Rosetta Ernestine Watson-Carr (1845-1907)
In 1893, the Directors of the Winnipeg Industrial Exhibition were so impressed by the work of Drummond Township born photographer Rosetta Ernestine Watson-Carr that, despite the unfortunate fact of her sex, they granted her the exclusive right to make photographs on the exhibition grounds during that year’s fair. The production and sale of souvenir photos at such events was a lucrative business. Winnipeg’s other photographers, all 17 or more of them, were so incensed they boycotted the exhibition entirely, leaving Watson-Carr’s entry of several hundred works to sweep every prize in the professional photography class.
On October 2, 1903, under the headline “The Elmsley Oil Fields”, the Perth Courier’s front page carried a letter to the editor announcing that oil had been discovered on the Town’s very doorstep. According to gentleman farmer Robert Jamieson, oil was seeping to the surface not only on his own land at North Elmsley Township C-10/L-26, but across an “oil belt [running] north-east and south-west through the 9th and 10th concessions of the Township … for at least five miles, and of considerable width”.
ESCAPE FROM LIMBURG
Lance Corporal Robert Rollo Paul
In the cold darkness shortly before dawn on Thursday November 15, 1918, after an 11-day 200-kilometer cross-country odyssey, Lance-Corporal Robert Paul, crawling on all fours, within meters of a German border guard, slipped across the Dutch frontier and regained his freedom after 18 months as a Prisoner of War. During the First World War approximately 3,300 Canadian soldiers were taken prisoner on the Western Front. Many attempted to escape but Robert Paul was one of only about 200 men tough and wily enough to succeed.
FIRST WOMAN AT THE POLLS
Ellen McGrath-Simons-Martin (1774-1861)
When William Morris was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada on July 10, 1820 the voting represented two significant ‘firsts’. The election was the first ever held at the nascent village of Perth but, as important, Ellen Simons cast her vote, becoming the first woman documented to have done so in what is now the Province of Ontario.
KLAN GATHERING YONDER
Smiths Falls and the Ku Klux Klan of Kanada
From 1925 until about 1931, the Smiths Falls Klavern of the Ku Klux Klan of Kanada (KKKK) played host to the annual Eastern Ontario conclave of the ‘Invisible Empire’. Smiths Falls was chosen as an ideal site for the festivities because it was a rail junction, it lay within driving distance of both Quebec and northern New York State, and, with more than 700 members, the local Klan chapter had the manpower and resources necessary to stage an event that attracted up to 15,000 participants.
A GREAT MAN OF FLEET STREET
Ewart John Robertson (1892-1960)
One day in 1914 Sir William ‘Max’ Aitken, soon to become Lord Beaverbrook, fell into conversation with, and was much impressed by, hotel bell-boy Ewart John Robertson. Little suspecting, perhaps, that he would ever see Robertson again, Aitken offered the 22-year-old a job, should he ever find himself in London, England. When WW1 brought Robertson to England he collected on Aitken’s offer and, as Beaverbrook’s right-hand man, became one of the Great Men of Fleet Street.
James and Edwin Waddell
Canadian Snowbirds of today follow a path pioneered 140 years ago by two farm boys from North Elmsley, Township, Lanark County. In the early 1880s the Waddell brothers played a leading role in developing Miami and Key West, Florida, USA, where, today, so many seasonal sun-seekers escape ‘the true north strong and freezing’.
GEORGE EPHRAIM PATTERSON (1838-1927)
When Perth, Ontario, native George Ephraim Patterson died in 1927 the New York Times heralded him as “builder of the world's first electric street car”. That claim was somewhat exaggerated, but, as senior partner at Patterson & Corbin of St. Catharines, Ontario, and then at the J. G. Brill Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Patterson worked at the cutting edge of public mass transport in the final decades of the 19th century.
A STORY OF THE GREAT WAR
The Scott Family of McDonalds Corners
The Scott family of McDonalds Corners, Dalhousie (Tay Valley) Township, sent a father and four sons into the bloodbath of the 1914-1918; two were killed in action, two were wounded and one was taken prisoner.
A KNIGHT OF THE REALM
SIR HENRY GEORGE ELLIOTT (1826-1912)
Born in Bathurst Township into a family of soldiers, Henry George Elliot rose to the rank of Major in the Royal Marines and then launched a second career as a colonial administrator in South Africa that would bring him a knighthood.
EVAN JOHN MCILRAITH (1886-1978)
Lanark Village native Evan John McIlraith, as a City of Chicago engineer in the 1930s, played a leading role in creating the stop-light control systems that broke open the traffic jams of modern cities.
BREAD & LIQUOR
Unceded Algonquin Territory
Early in 1819, Daniel Daverne, Acting Superintendent at the Perth Military Settlement, found himself surprised by the unexpected and unwelcome appearance of an emissary from Algonquin Chiefs Andrew Pickacasigatch and Bellala Wamboueck, and then by Chiefs Nias Muawisgunstih and Constant Pinelse in person. Although Daverne advised the Department of Indian Affairs that the Algonquin were “… very pressing with respect to their claims for remuneration for the lands we at present occupy at this place”, nearly two centuries would pass before that claim was recognized.
NOT NUMEROUS IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD
First Contact at Perth
In the course of European colonization of Canada, the generosity of spirit and practical assistance of First Nations to the newcomers was considerable and in some cases crucial to White survival. Nevertheless, while examples of such aid to settlers at the Perth Military Settlement occurred, immigrant and indigene along the Tay and Mississippi Rivers were more often wary of each other and preferred to keep their mutual distance. Many settlers regarded ‘Indians’ with considerable fear and trepidation, while the Algonquin were “far from being pleased with the encroachments on their territories”.
DEATH AT BATOCHE
Alexander Walker Kippen (1857-1885)
The first Perth native to die in military action, Lieutenant Alexander Walker Kippen of the Dominion Land Surveyors’ Intelligence Corps, was killed May 12, 1885 attacking the Métis rifle pits at the Battle of Batoche, Northwest Territories.
THE BEST KNOWN MEN IN TOWN
The Black Presence At Perth 1816-1926
When Perth’s only Black citizen died in 1926, the local newspaper observed that “… there was nothing black about [him] except his skin, otherwise he was white through and through”. Appalling as that sentiment may seem in the 21st century, the Perth Courier editor was, in fact, attempting to convey the community’s high regard for John S. Jackson. Although Jackson and his wife had been the sole representatives of their race at Perth for half a century, they were not the first Blacks to make the village their home. The settlement’s founding population included at least two Black soldier-settlers, Drummer Peter Zamphere and Private John Hall. E. H. They were gone within a few months, but E. H. Brown arrived in 1858, followed a few months later by George Gilbert and family. John S. Jackson and his wife arrived in 1874.
Donegan & Manion Killed at Paardeberg Drift
Before Canada honored its war dead on Remembrance Day, and before there was an Armistice Day, for nearly two decades Canadians honored those who fell in the country’s first foreign war at ceremonies marking Paardeberg Day every February 27th. Two of the men who died at Paardeberg, South Africa, were natives of Perth, Ontario.
Charles Adam Mair (1831-1927)
Charles Adam Mair was a man of remarkable contradictions. He was a poet, essayist, proto-environmentalist, and sympathetic admirer of Canada’s First Nations (in the ‘Noble Savage’ tradition of his time). He was also a racist and religious bigot who worked as a propogandist and civil servant dedicated to putting the prairie to the plow and supplanting its native and Métis inhabitants with white, Protestant, settlers.
The Wildfires of 1870
In August of 1870, a conflagration that would become known as ‘The Great Fire’, swept the Ottawa Valley, from Lanark County’s northern Ramsay Township, southeast along the Ottawa River, through Carleton County, and then back across Lanark County through the Townships of Montague, North Elmsley and North Burgess. In the valley, no fire like it had been seen before nor experienced since, no natural disaster ever took so many lives before or since, and none caused as much property damage until the ‘The Great Ice Storm’ of 1998.
DOMINION DAY AT PERTH, JULY 1, 1867
A view from the Editor of the Perth Courier
The patriotic enthusiasm with which July 1st is today celebrated was not universally shared by those who, 150 years ago, experienced first-hand the birth of our nation. Like all significant political events, opinion on the merits and likely result of Confederation was deeply divided, and nowhere more so than at Perth.
FEW PLACES MORE DISADVANTAGED
The Crown & Clergy Reserve Dispute
In the 21st century roads and bridges provide access to the most remote corners of Lanark County and are taken for granted. Municipal counsellors may hear complaints of potholes or slow snow-removal, but the state of local roads is unlikely to provoke armed rebellion as it did 180 years ago.
FIELD OF BLOOD
Locating the Site of the Last Fatal Duel
Over the span of nearly two centuries the precise location of the ‘Last Fatal Duel in Upper Canada’ has become obscured, confused and misrepresented. A re-examination of all available evidence, however, leaves little doubt that the deadly combat between law students John Wilson and Robert Lyon was fought on Thursday June 13, 1833 at about 5:30 p.m., on the west bank of the Tay River, approximately 100 yards south of South Street, at a point midway across the width of Elmsley Township C-10/L-25(NE), then the farm of John Ambrose Hume Powell. (44.895601 N 76.231639 W).
Lanark County’s 49ers
The first report of a gold strike in California reached Lanark County, Ontario, when a four-inch news item appeared in the September 29, 1848 edition of the Bathurst Courier, under the headline ‘Gold Fever in California’. For the farm boys, shop clerks, apprentices and laborers who joined the ‘rush’, what an experience it was; and among those adventurers was a contingent from Lanark County.
HOPE AT LAST
Perth Bicentennial Song
In 2016, the Town of Perth and the Townships of Drummond/North Elmsley, Tay Valley and Burgess celebrated the bicentennial of the founding of the Perth Military Settlement. To mark the occasion the annual Stewart Park Music Festival held a song writing contest. Hope At Last, while not a winner, was performed at several bicentennial events.
The Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919
On October 11, 1918, the Perth Courier informed its readers that “Several cases of Spanish Influenza have developed [but] the possibility of it becoming an epidemic here is remote”. Considering the swath of death that the influenza epidemic was already cutting across much of the world, and the number of lives it would eventually claim, the lack of concern expressed by Perth’s Medical Officer of Health may seem astonishing.
LIBERAL IN OPINION AND BROAD IN HIS VIEWS
James Shaw (1798-1878)
The name ‘Shaw’, in bold block letters above the storefront at No.1 Gore Street, has been a prominent landmark in the Town of Perth for 150 years, and first marked a dry goods store across the street at No. 2 Gore 170 years ago. Often assumed, from his name, to be among the clan of Scots businessmen so prominent in the development of Perth, James Shaw was in fact Irish.
LIVINGSTONES OF LANARK
Dr. David Livingstone’s Society Settler Relatives
In her book The Story of Lanark 1862-1962, Elizabeth L. Jamieson poses a surprising and intriguing question, “Did you know that the great missionary and explorer, David Livingstone, once spent a short time in Lanark?” Jamieson got it almost right. David Livingston did not live in Lanark, but his brother did.
MISSISSIPPI LUMBER BARON
Peter McLaren (1831-1919)
In the autumn of 1844 Peter McLaren left his father’s Lanark Township farm to join a Gillies Lumber Company shanty crew on the Clyde River. In taking a winter’s employment with the felling axe, he was, in many ways, like other young men of his time and place; but Mclaren had just turned 14 years of age and, within just a decade, would become one of the richest and most powerful lumber barons in Canada.
MASTERS & SERVANTS
Runaway Apprentices & Housemaids
Even when subjected to harsh treatment, if they absconded, servants and apprentices were eluding “justice” because their indentured status bound them by law to their employers; and anyone, including their parents, who failed to return them to their masters was also subject to prosecution “with the utmost severity” of the same law.
MECKLENBURG TO LANARK
An Administrative Evolution
Following the Conquest (1759) the Quebec Act (1774) incorporated what are now eastern Canada and the southern portions of present day Quebec and Ontario into the British American Colonies. Excepting the Maritime Provinces, the rest of what is now Canada belonged to the Hudson Bay Company. Although the Counties we know today did not then exist, from 1788 the area that would become Lanark County lay in the District of Mecklenburg.
MYTH OF PERTH SCOTS’ SETTLEMENT
Winners Writing History
As might be expected, in the retelling over 200 years, some aspects of the founding of the Perth Military Settlement in 1816 have become mythologized. In particular, the immigrant ships Atlas, Baltic Merchant, Dorothy and Eliza, that reached Quebec City in 1815, seem to have emerged as Perth’s Mayflower and their passengers the equivalent of local ‘Pilgrim Fathers’.
NO ONE KNEW WHERE HE HAD GONE
Sailor-Settler Robert Pottie
Not all of the earliest settlers to draw land at the Perth Military Settlement were successful in establishing homes and farms. In fact, between 1816 and 1820, about half of the soldier-settlers and a third of the civilian settlers abandoned the attempt.
PUBLISHER, WARRIOR, MERCHANT, POLITICIAN
Thomas Scott (1841–1915)
Thomas Scott was the youngest of four children born to Irish immigrants. At age 14, he was apprenticed to learn the printer’s trade and six years later, in 1861, established the Perth Expositor newspaper. In the same year, war clouds were gathering over Canada and 20-year-old Thomas Scott became a soldier.
SCHOOL TEACHER IN THE CAUSE OF EMPIRE
Sarah E. Drysdale (1864-1951)
In November 1901, after nearly three years of bitter conflict had brought the Boer Republics of southern Africa to imminent defeat, British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain launched an appeal for additional assistance from the Empire’s self-governing Dominions. Chamberlain was no longer looking for more Canadian, Australian and New Zealand troops to augment the 500,000-man British army; what was wanted were teachers.
SOLDIER & ANGLICAN PRIEST
Reverend Michael Harris (1795–1856)
Perth’s first Anglican clergyman, Reverend Michael Harris, was born in 1795 at Dublin, Ireland, the son of Barrister Michael Harris and his wife Lady Harriet Butler. His maternal grandfather was Humphrey Butler, 2nd Viscount Lanesborough and 1st Earl of Lanesborough. Harris studied at Trinity College, Dublin and, on October 4, 1815, was commissioned an Ensign in the British Army’s 100th (Prince Regent’s County of Dublin) Regiment of Foot.
THE DEVIL VISITS DRUMMOND TOWNSHIP
Canada’s First Mass Murder
At about 3:00 a.m. on the cold morning of Wednesday, December 10, 1828, John Tullis, who lived with his wife and their eight children on a farm in Drummond Township, about a mile north of the village of Balderson’s Corners, was awakened by distant shouts. The shanty of their neighbor Thomas Easby was on fire.
THE THIRD WAVE
The Lanark ‘Society Settlers’
Like the maple syrup and potash kettles of its pioneers, the Perth Military Settlement was a three-legged vessel. Between 1816 and 1821 three British government subsidized and Army managed schemes attracted about 270 civilians responding to the Edinburgh Proclamation, 1,500 discharged soldiers, and 2,850 ‘Society Settlers’. In the same time frame about 780 other Irish, Scots and English immigrants reached the settlement at their own expense.
ULTIMATE PENALTY OF THE LAW
The Death Penalty at Early Perth
During its first decades, while British law prevailed at the Perth Settlement, the ultimate penalty of death applied to a list of 230 crimes ranging from the theft of vegetables or a cow to murder and treason. Over the course of its history, however, only three men were ever executed at the Bathurst District and Lanark County Jail in Perth.
Death and Injury at Early Perth
Published obituaries and death notices provide valuable glimpses into social history. Over the half century between 1835 and 1890, the Bathurst Courier (1835-1857) and Perth Courier (1857-1890) published thousands of death notices and obituaries. Most recounted the passing of those who died at the end of long, productive and peaceful lives. Nearly as many report the sad loss of both old and young who succumbed to a long list of diseases. A significant number of these reports of life’s final chapter, however, relate to lives ended in even more tragic ways.
ARISTOCRATS IN THE WILDERNESS
Jean-Louis Viscomte de Chalus (1767-1836)
In the course of research, the historian not infrequently stumbles upon an anomalous curiosity in the documentary record that, no matter how obscure, demands further exploration. One such was the granting in 1806, to one Jean-Louis Viscomte de Chalus, of 400 acres in North Burgess Township, Lanark County. Who was this man, and just how did a French Viscount come to own property in Burgess Township?
VOYAGE OF THE IMMIGRANT SHIP ATLAS
Greenock to the Perth Military Settlement
In the late summer of 1815 four ships, the Atlas, Baltic Merchant, Dorothy and Eliza, having sailed from Greenock, Scotland, discharged 700 immigrants at Quebec City. Arriving too late in the season to proceed to their land allotments they spent the winter of 1815-1816 in small groups at Quebec, Montreal, Cornwall, Prescott and Brockville. In the spring of 1816 about 270 of them, who had spent the winter at Brockville, were among the first settlers to reach the Perth Military Settlement.
GOD BLESS OUR LAND, THIS GREAT DOMINION BLESS
Perth and Canada’s National Anthem
But for the vagaries of a 1908 American magazine, when Canadians today stand to sing our national anthem we might, rather than fumbling for the lyrics of Robert Weir, be mumbling the words of Perth, Ontario, poet Robert Jamieson (1848-1932).
A STATE OF PERPLEXITY: The Corporation Baby
On the cold winter morning of Saturday, March 11, 1865, two local householders opened their front doors to the cries of newly born infants squalling on their doorsteps. For the next year the Perth Town Fathers found themselves, as the local newspaper described it, “in a state of perplexity about the disposal of the town baby”.
CAPACIOUSNESS, CONVENIENCE, COMFORT & BEAUTY: Merchant House of A. Meighen & Bros.
In 1839 Irish widow Mary McLenaghan-Meighen arrived at Perth with her five sons under the age of 15 years; Arthur, Charles, Nathaniel, William and Robert. By the time Mary Meighen died in Drummond Township in 1886, the A. Meighen & Bros. store was the largest mercantile business in the Lanark County.