By J.G. Harvey, K.C., 1936.
Transcribed by Charles Dobie from an
original typescript which was recently donated to the Perth Museum. This
seems to be an address to a meeting of the Lanark Oldtimers
Association, which was active in Winnipeg.
Coming to the old County of Lanark. Let me first remark that the
Province of Manitoba owes much to the old county. Many of the early
settlers of Manitoba came from there. The county was represented amongst
the soldiers that came in Lord Wolseley's little army to quell
the First Riel Rebellion in 1869/70. The late Dr. C.N. Bell, who
died a short time ago, was one of these. Then the first Lieutenant-
Governor of Manitoba, Hon. Alex. Morris, came from Perth. He was
Governor from 1872 to 1876. The first Lieutenant-
Governor between the Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains. That is, the
first that got here and actually functioned. The Honorable Mr. McDougall
turned back at Pembina. Then in the 1870's and early 80's a great many
settlers from Lanark County came to Manitoba. So much so, that it was a
common saying that "every third man you met on the streets of
Winnipeg, came from Lanark". The others probably coming from Bruce
As at present constituted the County
consists of four towns: Perth, with a population of 4,000; Smiths Falls
with a population of 8,000; Carleton Place with a population of 4,000;
and Almonte with a population of 2,500; and the Townships of Bathurst,
Beckwick [sic], North Burgess, Dalhousie, Darling, Drummond, North
Elmsley, Lanark, Lavant, Montague, North Sherbrooke, Pakenham, Ramsay
and South Sherbrooke. The County contains 1200 square miles, or 766,000
acres within its boundaries. It is bounded on the East by the County of
Carleton; on the North by the County of Renfrew; on the West by the
County of Frontenac; and on the South by the County of Leeds. All pretty
much as they were originally surveyed and subdivided.
By way of introduction, I may say, that
the settlement of Lanark County really begain in 1815. In that year
"the Settlement forming on the Rideau River" as it was
officially referred to (and which soon became known as "Perth
Military Settlement") began to function under Military direction.
Several townships were surveyed to facilitate the location of farms for
military and other settlers; and the site of the future Town of Perth,
which had been chosen as the headquarters of the Military Establishment
was surveyed in 1816. The military regime lasted until 1824, when
settlers were granted municipal rights, i.e., 'the right of self
For many years Perth was the military,
judicial, political and social capital, not only of the County of
Lanark, but of the whole of the Ottawa Valley, north and west, until
owing to the construction of the Rideau Canal, and the development of
the lumber industry further north and west along the Ottawa, it finally
was eclipsed by the town called "Bytown" -- the present City
of Ottawa, the Capital of the Dominion. But for many years the people of
the town of Bytown, while it was still 'Bytown' had to come to Perth for
their law and justice, for the law courts of the whole great district
were located there.
The first official reference in regard to
the settlement of Lanark County (that is found) is a letter from the
Adjutant General's Office dated, Quebec, Aug. 15, 1815, and referred to
the appointment of Staff Surgeon Thom, "to take the Medical
Charge of the Establishment forming on the Rideau".
This was just after the defeat of
Napoleon at Waterloo -- and just after our own Canadian people had
defeated the second attempt of the United States to forceably annex
Canada -- the period of Queenston Heights, Lundy's Lane and Chrysler's
That year 1815, and subsequent years, saw
great activities in the survey of the boundaries of Lanark County, and
the surveying of the county into townships, and the townships into what
they called "concessions" and the concessions into lots.
For the county was not surveyed into
ranges, townships, sections and quarter-
sections as was later done here in the West. The boundaries of a county
having been fixed, the county was divided into townships -- the
townships were not always the same size -- having surveyed main roads
roads through them. The main roads were placed so far apart as to leave
room between them for lots or farms. The main roads through the
townships were those upon which the farms were to face; and ran north
and south, or east and west, or as the circumstances dictated. The land
between the roads was called "concessions".
The concession was then bisected
lengthwise, and the land on each side of this middle line was surveyed
into lots or farms -- so that each lot or farm had a frontage on a main
highway or road -- the lots facing on two different highways being back
to back, one row of lots facing on Road No. 1, and the other row of lots
facing on Road No. 2, with the back of the lots joining one another
along the middle line of each concession. The lots usually contained 100
acres, and were what a settler could get for a homestead or farm. At
least that is the way it has been described to me.
The townships as well as the counties
were named, but lots and concessions were numbered. The lots being
numbered '1, 2, 3', etc; and the concessions were also numbered in
another way as, 'first, second, third', etc. The names given to the
counties and townships were usually those of places in the Old Country,
or persons of prominence there or here. For example, the County of
Lanark was named for the County of Lanarkshire, in Scotland. The Town of
Perth after the Town of Perth in Scotland, The Township of Bathurst was
named after the the Earl of Bathurst, for a long time His Majesty's
Secretary of State for the Colonies; and under whose especial patronage,
the first Scotch Colony of settlers was organized; and through whose
influence at Court the interest of the Prince Regent was secured and
orders issued whereby these immigrants obtained from the British
Government -- not only free passages and land grants, but also free
rations for the first year, and free tools and implements with which to
start life in the bush.
The Township of Burgess was named after
the Earl of Burgess. The Township of Drummond was named after Sir Gordon
Drummond, an officer who had attained great military distinction.
And the name of the Township of Elmsley is said to be a corruption of
the name "Helmsley" -- a village in Essex, England. They
apparently dropped their "aitches" in those days also.
In 1815 and 1816, and for some time
after, the rush of settlers was so great that the surveyors could not
keep up with the work of providing surveyed lots quickly enough for the
settlers; and many of them had to go into the bush and pick out
locations and, as we say, "squat" on them, with the hope that
they would afterwards find that they were on lots. There is a letter on
record, dated Pike River, Apl 27, 1816, from one Alex. McDonald
to Sir Sidney Beckwick [sic], a high official in the Foriegn
Office, London, England, regarding the survey, (it is easy to see where
the Township of Beckwick [sic] got its name). [Correct name is
"Beckwith" -- Ed.] Pike River was the original name of the
river upon which the Town of Perth is situated, but the Scottish
settlers did not allow that name to remain long. And three weeks later,
another letter was sent from the same Alex. McDonald to the
Master General at Quebec, and is dated from Perth on the Tay; the town
and river having received their new names from the Scottish settlers.
The first Scottish settlers came in 1816.
Amongst those who settled in the first concession of the Township of
Bathurst, were: James Miller; John Simpson; Wm. Spalding
(one of whose descendants is the present Post Master at Perth); John Hay,
John Ferguson; William Holderness; James Bryce;
Francis Allan; Thos. Cuddie; James Fraser; John McNee;
John McLaren; John McLeod; Thos. Scott; Thos. Barry;
and John Ritchie. No wonder it was called the "Scotch
Line"! Others settled in the Townships of Burgess and Elmsley.
Closely following these Scotch
settlers, came the Irish Protestant settlers, who settled in the
Townships of Drummond, North Elmsley and South Sherbrooke, and spread
over into the Counties of Carleton and Lennox. These Irish settlers were
of a hardy vigorous people and counted much in clearing the land and
breaking up the soil for cultivation, and conquering the natural
stubborness of a land where rocks, swamps and a wonderful growth of
trees -- hemlock, maple, oak, birch, pine, etc. -- met them at the
start. They generally brought their Orange affiliations with them; and
as a body belonged to the Anglican Church. But owing to the scarcity of
Anglican clergymen, much of the advantages of, and opportunities for,
religious worship was supplied to these settlers by preachers of the
Methodist denomination, and a great many of them became permanent
members of the Methodist Church.
I must not forget to mention that in the
year 1816 also came the "Perth Military Colony" -- a name
given to a body of soldiers, who having been honorably discharged from
military service, were sent in to take up land in Lanark County. They
settled chiefly in the Township of Drummond. Amongst them were: Ensign Gould,
of the Veterans; J. Balderson of the 76th. Foot Regiment (after
whom Balderson's Corners was named); Thos. Bright; Henry McDonald;
T. McCaffery; John G. Malloch (afterwards Judge Malloch);
James McGarry; Peter Campbell; Donald Campbell; and
Many of these early settlers lived in
tents, or bark huts during their first summer, until the trees could be
felled and hewed into logs and built into cabins against the cold of
For some time the only yoke of oxen in
the district belonged to James Bryce on Lot 12, of the first
concession of Bathurst. Most of the supplies, except those sent in by
the Government for rations etc., had to be carried in by the settlers on
their backs from the nearest settlements -- which were 20 miles away to
the south, (towards) the St. Lawrence. Some idea of the state of the
settlers can be gathered from the fact that the first assessment made in
1817 showed but one cow in the Township of Bathurst. Almost
In a word, up to the early years of the
last century the County of Lanark, as the whole of the Province of
Ontario to the west and north of it -- was uninhabited -- except for
bands of Indians, few in number. There was neither city, town of village
in it. No church or school house, or dwelling house or farm. No cattle
or horses, or cultivated fields; nor a made road. The land was in many
places rough, rocky, and swampy, and in many places covered with the
primeval forest. Just in the state that nature had made it and left it.
Then immigration began. The County of
Lanark was settled by people from the British Isles. They came to the
land that I have just described -- without wealth -- with very little
except their courageous hearts and determined spirits and their desire
and ambition to become the owners of land -- freehold land -- upon which
they could build homes for themselves and their families, and out of
which they could get a free and independent living for themselves and
The Picture -- the description of these
early settlers; of their voyage across the ocean, which sometimes took
months; of their arrival in Quebec; of their journey to the County of
Lanark; of their reception there; of their search for land not yet taken
up; of their selecting and obtaining their locations; of their
subsequent vicissitudes; of their labor; their inconveniences; their
hardships; their successes and their failures; their joys and their
sorrows -- has been painted many times, much better than I can attempt
to do, or would have time to do tonight. Suffice it to say, that tree by
tree they hewed down the forest, they cleared the land, they built
themselves homes, they planted grain, they raised cattle and horses,
they built villages and towns and churches and school houses and roads.
They organized themselves into municipal organizations, into County
organizations, and into a Province; and they introduced British law and
In a word, they made the uninhabited
wilderness a place of habitation, and where only wild animals had
roamed, the laughter of children was heard. These settlers came, men and
women, from a civilized well-
settled country, with all its conveniences, and took possession of the
wilderness and conquered it.
It was a wonderful thing that these old
settlers did, as wonderful a thing as has been done in the world. I do
not say that it was more wonderful, for in other parts of Ontario, other
settlers from the British Isles were going through the same experiences.
But it was as wonderful as anything that has been done. And we are
descendants of these people.
It may be of some use for us to ask
ourselves: Are we worthy descendants of these people? Or have we
deteriorated? Do we lack their courage? Do we lack their determination?
Do we lack their intelligence? Do we lack their desire and ambition to
make free and independant homes for ourselves? Are we facing the
vicissitudes and difficulties of our lives in our times and
circumstances as we ought?
We are living in times and circumstances
which are vastly changed from theirs.
If I were asked: "What is the
greatest difficulty that we have to face today (that is with reference
to material things as distinguished from spiritual or moral things)?
What is the greatest issue with regard to these material things? What is
it about them that is the greatest cause of unrest and discontent
amongst our people?"
I would answer those questions by saying:
"The unjustly, unnecessarily, unequal distribution of the wealth of
our country amongst our people."
NOTE: I say, "unjustly unequal
distribution" -- for there is and always has been, and always will
be a "justly unequal distribution". That cannot be prevented
so long as human beings are what they are and Providence rules the
But there is an unjustly, unnecessarily,
unequal division. Can we descendants of such a people as I have
described, face our difficulties as they faced their difficulties, and
overcome them as they overcame theirs? Have we the courage, the
determination and chiefly the intelligence to do so?
Our fight is not one of physical force
against the forces of nature. The trouble is that we have harnessed the
forces of nature -- water power, steam power, gasoline power from oil
drawn from the depths of the earth; and electric power drawn from the
air, or from who knows where -- and we have invented so many labor-
saving devices, and we have set all this power and these devices to do
our work for us, and have put ourselves out of work.
Our scientific progress has far exceeded
our sociological progress and we are floundering around in a state of
affairs that we do not yet understand. Have we sufficient intelligence
to overcome the situation?
As far as the unjustly unnecessarily
unequal division of the wealth is concerned, the British people have
found a partial way out. It is by the people, the common people
themselves, going into business on a huge scale on their own behalf,
managed and directed by themselves; not by their financial magnates, or
party politicians, but by the common people themselves.
Over eighty years ago there began in
Great Britain a movement called "The Consumers' Co-
operative Society" movement. It has grown until today one half of
the people of Great Britain are members of the Society. It grew not as a
political thing. It grew without the aid of party politicians. In fact,
it grew in the face of their opposition, as well as the opposition of
commercial and financial magnates.
Because the people, the common people of
Great Britain went into business on their own behalf -- not as a
political party -- not as Liberal, Conservative, Labour or Communist --
but as a business -- a purely business affair -- to be conducted on
business principles and free of and apart from party political
agitations, prejudices and strifes.
The growth and existence of the
Consumers' Co-operative movement in Great Britain is the most dramatic
social, economic, financial and commercial incident of the 19th. and
And do we hear any of our party
politicians, political leaders or party newspapers in this country
explaining it to our people or advocating its adoption in our country?
No. Why? Because it would destroy the prestige of those leaders and
newspapers, if the common people were to get away from their control,
even to that extent.
If the Members of this Association
have an hour and a half, or two hours to spare some evening, I would be
glad to speak to you about the Consumers' Co-operative movement in Great
Britain, and suggest to you how it could be introduced to Canada.
J.G. Harvey, K.C.
Winnipeg, Man. Oct. 23rd. 1936
For further information on this area do visit the Lanark County
Genealogical Society Web Site