The Old Community Hall in Clayton



Community Hall At Clayton

Clayton community hall, a landmark in that village, was destroyed by fire Friday, Dec. 23rd. Firemen said the blaze, of unknown cause, broke out in the woodshed at the rear of the hall, which was more than 100 years old, and was used as a Presbyterian church in the 1880s. The alarm was turned in by a, neighbour, William Bellamy, and four men from the Almonte volunteer fire brigade, Ross Stanley, Pete Munro, Frank Lowe and Keith Blakeley, under 1st Lieut. John LeMaistre, assisted by Clayton, citizens, fought the fire for two and a half hours. Firemen managed to prevent the flames from spreading to a house three feet away.

This historic building was originally the Presbyterian Church and then the old Clayton Community Hall, before a fire. The photo was taken in 1955. Photo courtesy of Jim Lowry

The accompanying newspaper articles, which appeared in the Almonte Gazette, speak of the death of Dr. Guthrie and of the opening of the new Presbyterian Church in the village of Clayton. Read the Almonte Gazette here

Death of Dr. Guthrie

Our telegraphic columns last evening contained a brief announcement of the death of the Rev. Thomas Guthrie, D. D., the well known preacher, author and magazinist. Dr. Guthrie’s name was known and cherished over the whole English speaking world. He was Minster of St. John’s Free Church, Edinburgh whither his fame as a preacher always drew crowds. He was indefatigable in his efforts to lift up the poor and outcast of the Scottish Capital, and devised many practical schemes for bettering their condition. While best known in Scotland and England as a pulpit orator, on this side of the water he made intimate acquaintance with tens of thousands through the pages of “The Sunday Magazine” of which he was editor and to whose skillful management he great success of that periodical was due. Dr. Guthrie was born in Brechin, Forfarshire in 1893 and passed away just after having reached the Psalmist’s limit of human life. By his death the Free Church loses its most distinguished ornament and the world one of its most whole-souled and active philanthropists. But few months have elapsed since the Kirk had to submit to a similar deprecation by the death of Norman MacLeod. Both these men were the fore most pulpit orators of their respective Churches; both were well known authors, and both were donators of widely read religion magazines and both loved, the harness from their backs within a very short time of each other.

Church Opening – We understand that the opening of the new Presbyterian church in the village of Clayton, last Lord’s day, was a decided success. The Rev. Mr. Stewart of Pakenham, conducted morning and evening services. A soirées was held on Monday evening at which very interesting and instructive addresses were delivered by Rev. Messrs., Bennett, Raney and Stewart. Apologies were received from several other brethren, who were prevented from attending. Both on the Sabbath and on Monday the church was crowded to excess, so much so that seats had to be improvised. We learn that the financial feature was all that could be desired. The new church which is exceedingly neat and simple in its internal arrangements, is capable of accommodating (with an end gallery) about 300 person. – Com.


A fascinating piece of local history. I presume this is why the present “neat and simple” church is called “Guthrie United Church”. The use of Biblical allusions throughout the article reminds me how far we have moved from our ancestors. Today, many people would not know what the following phrase means; “passed away just after having reached the Psalmist’s limit of human life.” Northrup Frye would be mightily disappointed.
Thanks again, Linda for your interest and love of our local history.
John Edwards


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News

Reckless at Ottway Lake



Perth Courier, September 7, 1877

On Saturday last two men, Mr. James Richardson and Mr. James Taylor, both of North Elmsley were out in a rowboat on Ottway Lake about three miles from Perth.  Taylor was rowing and Richardson, who was rather the worse of liquor at the time, was standing up in the bow holding a bottle of liquor in his hand.

While in this position the latter lost his balance and fell overboard and his companion being unable to render him any assistance, poor Richardson was drowned.  The lake at this spot was searched for his remains but at the time of this writing, the body has not been found, though the destroyer of poor Jim—the bottle of whiskey—was picked up floating on the water nearby.

The deceased was a labouring man, hard working when sober, good natured and reckless when inebriated, in which state he was found very often, it turns out.  When will men take warning and society banish the demon of alcohol from its limits.


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News

Should I Stay or Should I Go?–A Tall Lanark County Tale about Wives, Cattle and Tomfoolery




You know, sometimes things just doesn’t work out in love. The spark goes, the flame flickers, the fire dies – and love has a regrettable habit of fizzling out. There is a tall tale that a wealthy farmer in Lanark County grew tired of his wife– or was it married life, and decided to do something about it.


At one of the largest cattle auctions in the late 1800s, he decided to offer up his wife for auction to the highest bidder. Word was she was no longer happy with her husband either, and encouraged him to auction her off among the Jerseys and the Holsteins.


People scoffed and laughed at the idea, and soon the farmer decided to offer up one of his homes as well  to encourage the sale. The seller also wanted to throw in the family–but the buyers rejected that idea knowing full well that laziness and tom-foolery ran amuck from the head of the household to the youngest.
The auction ended with a recorded low bid winning the wife who happily went off with the winner. So who won the female counterpart of the unhappy family? No other than the farmer’s next door neighbour. Some people say marriage is like looking at a restaurant menu and then wishing you had ordered at your neighbours table. Wonder how this all worked out. 

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News


Winds of Change Can be Achieved in Small Town Canada





Cowansville, Quebec–Part of South Street Before

Two weeks ago something reinforced my idea that things could change in small towns with some conviction and years, yes, years of hard work.



Cowansville South Street After–Now there’s a fountain is where that gas station was across the bridge.

Cowansville is a town in south-central Quebec, Canada, located on Lac Davignon 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of the American border. The population last I looked was the same as most small towns, about 12,000, and that is where I was born and grew up.

Cowansville has had a similar history to most rural towns.  Jacob Ruiter was the first person to settle on the current site of Cowansville and in 1800 he built a flour mill, and then a saw mill. During the 1870s, they had the South Eastern Railway (then the CPR and the CNR) linking Montreal to Cowansville and to other locales.



Nesbitt Residence–Constructed in approximately 1881, this Second Empire Style home was declared an historic site in 1991. Originally called the Lismore House, the structure was built when three local men, a senator, a high constable and a mill owner, each competed to build the most grand and luxurious home in the town. Of the three, only the Nesbitt Residence still stands.


In the 60s– most of my generation moved away, the town gradually lost their industrial businesses, and it began to go downhill. For years Cowansville remained stagnant until one day they decided to do something about it.



My Grandparents home on South Street next to the Shell Station across from Varins Pharmacy. The F. J. Knight Co Electricial Co.- torn down in the late 70s



Taken at 9 am on a Sunday morning. Just part of South Street 2016- night and day of what it once was.




This building was across from my grandfather’s business  on South Street–and we used to buy Easter Chocolate there as a child. It has been around for a very long time- yet looks great!


In  the 70s my late father Arthur Knight, who was an alderman and deputy mayor, fought to have an artificial lake (Lac Davignon) put in the middle of town. Of course like anywhere they fought against change, but now it is an active waterfront that brings in tourists. Not only do they have bike paths, swimming etc.– but they offer volleyball, softball, tennis, miniature golf, skate park,  and playgrounds.

The town park (one of 22 parks they have built) where I used to go swimming across from the town hall is now lush with mature trees that were planted when I was a child. It was a gentle reminder to myself that many years have passed-too many years– and did I still recognize those trees? How did they get so big?




Cowansville is a town of 14 bridges and the historic sector of Sweetsburg contributes to Cowansville’s charm with its Loyalist influences, majestic buildings, and Victorian-style homes. There is: The Bruck House (1875), “Les Belles Disparues” fresco mural tour, numerous restaurants, and the La Mie Bretonne bakery’s village café (identified as a Café de Village) which provide Cowansville residents and visitors with pleasant settings in which to relax and take the time to enjoy life.

and let’s not forget about those restaurant terraces the town encouraged being added for summer enjoyment. Cowansville’s western sector actually has several big-box stores- but yet their downtown survives and thrives.


Cowansville, Mainstreet.jpg

As I stood on South Street across from where my Grandparents home and electrical business once stood my mouth dropped. From a run down street in the 80s- it was now full of attractive stores, and not a vacancy to be found. Where I bought my first pair of lime green mod shoes from Hashims was now a cluster of stores with nice wide sidewalks with fancy light posts. So how did they do it?

One of my forever friends from Cowansville Murray Dover told me:

Our town has struggled with factory closures etc, but we have a town council and local citizens who have worked steadily to improve the town. We do have a large debt but they have taken advantage of government programs, etc. Improvements on Main street (like South Street)  will soon reopen.

There will be a new dam on River St. work on the new end of town,  Prison, *BMP and Massey Vanier, (regional school) new long term facilities. We have become a service town, but the dedication and love of our town really shows with the parks, lake, flowers, swimming pool beach, arena.. a lot for a small town.

I might also add that a local family have bought, built , renovated, and now run the old Princess Theatre.

(Pop Culture Fact: Did you know Doris Day once went to the Princess Theatre to watch the daily rushes of one of her films being shot in Knowlton?)

  • *BMP is the Brome Mississiquoi Hospital


Dam being refitted and no one is making money off of it.


Cowansville resident and friend Margaret Clay Jacob added:

We have had a bandstand in Davignon Park for many years and a new one was put up last year, very nice…they have Music in the Park there one day per week in the summer months. We do have a great little town here and most of that we can say is due to our fantastic Mayor, Arthur Fauteux but don’t know if he will run again next year. He has fought and won 2 bouts with cancer in the past few years and has worked through all of it, a great, hard working man of conviction.


I have no one left there now, only the family gravestones at the Union Cemetery, a Anglican church vestry named after my Grandmother, memories at Legion Branch 99 that my grandfather helped found, and a street named after my family.

It took years to improve Cowansville– but it can be done! What they have done should be an example to all small towns- as it is nothing short of amazing.

Bien fait Cowansville ! Bon travail ! Vous montrez aux autres que c’est possible!


Related reading:


Eastern Townships



Cowansville, Quebec newspaper with my Grandfather F.J. Knight in the middle. (2001)


Photo from Ville de Cowansville


Arthur Knight–Cowansville Town Hall Photo–Photo from Ville de Cowansville

Knight Family of Cowansville Quebec Genealogy.

Knight, Arthur John  
b. 13 DEC 1924 Cowansville, Missisquoi Co., Quebec
d. 12 FEB 1982

Father: Knight, Frederick John
Mother: Dellar, Mary Louise

Marriage: 06 SEP 1947 Cowansville, Missisquoi Co., Quebec
Spouse: Crittenden, Bernice Ethelyn  
b. 14 OCT 1927 Montreal, Hochelaga Co., Quebec
d. 27 SEP 1963 Cowansville, Missisquoi Co., Quebec

Father: Crittenden, George Arthur
Mother: Griffin, Gladys Ethelyn

Knight, Linda Susan –still HERE some how– Linda Knight Seccaspina
Knight, Robin Anne— Born 1956-Died in August of 1997


You can buy memories of Cowansville High School here.

The Lanark Era Newspaper




Perth Courier, August 9, 1862

Lanark Era Newspaper

Written by W.M. McFarlane

This year the Lanark Era entered its 66th year of publication in Lanark Village.  During this time the Era was published by five proprietors.

Lanark’s first newspaper was the Lanark Observer published in 1852(?) 1832(?) by J.R. Gemmill a son of the first Presbyterian minister in Lanark.  For two years the presses ran in Lanark and for two more years in Perth before they folded up.  Lanark’s second paper was the Era, established in 1895 by the late John Sutherland, a native of Lanark Township.  Mr. Sutherland published the paper in a building on the corner lot where Mel Lee’s hardware business stood prior to the fire.  For two years he struggled with the business and sold it to Robert Wilson of Carleton Place on May 13, 1898(?).  Mr. Wilson moved the old hand turned press and other equipment to a room in the former Dobbie block.  Later he purchased the Manshan building in 1901 and again moved the plant.  The Era is still in the same location.

Early apprentices with the Lanark Era soon became familiar with the old hand turned press of that day.  On press day a couple of men were employed to turn the press by hand.  They took turns at the job.  One would turn out a few copies while the other went out for a beer and this kept up until the run was off which was about 1,000 copies in those days.  Of course, the Era paid for the beer.

About 1906 a new cylinder press printing four pages at a time, was installed. This was a great addition to the plant.  It was operated by a gas engine, not as economical as a beer but a lot more reliable.

In those days, the paper was all set by hand every letter being picked out of a case separately and placed in its proper position for reading.  For 20 years Mr. Wilson was editor and finally through age, he persuaded youngBill McFarlane to buy the business.  It was in January, 1918 the year after the Caldwell Woolen Mill fire, I entered the newspaper field as owner of the Lanark Era.  I toiled away with a staff of three girls all good type setters.

In 1921 the year electricity came to Lanark, the Era installed a typesetting machine, the Linotype.  This truly was a labor saving device.  The first linotype operator to be trained by myself was Miss Bell Currie, now Mrs. Austin McFarlane.  She later became operator on the Ottawa Citizen.  The Era was the first hydro-power user in Lanark as I did away with the gas engine and bought an electric motor to drive the press.

With a desire to move on to a larger newspaper field, I sold out in 1929 to L.C. Affleck, who continued to build up the business for 19 years.  In 1947 the Era was on the market and Erroll Mason decided to try his luck in journalism.  Mr. Mason passed away in October of 1961 and the Era continued under the proprietorship of Muriel Mason, and her staff, the Somerville brothers, Ivan and Leonard.

The Era obtained a circulation of 1,400 a few years ago and to this day enjoys that subscription lists go to all parts of the world where former Lanarkites reside.

The Lanark Era reached its 66th year of publication this year and in that time produced more apprentice printers who made good in other fields.  The Pepper boys, Allan and Jack were the first to graduate.  Allan became associated with West Chester Company, a chain of papers at White Plains, New York.  Jack became the first linotype mechanic in Ontario and later established a large job printing plant in Toronto.  Others to go in the early days were Russell McGuire, Frank Class, Bill McFarlane, Lawrence McDougall, John Graham and L.C. Affleck.

The Lanark Era though not a large newspaper is in keeping with the village and one thing that stands out clearly is that the Era is the only paper published that gives a “hoot” about Lanark.


Lanark Era Facebook Page


The Lanark Era did an exceptional job of publishing information about early local families and also reported on many who migrated beyond Lanark County.

BOOKS – The Lanark Era – Births, Marriages and Deaths 1895 to 1939

Transcribed by Peter E. Andersen
Published by Global Heritage Press, Milton, 1998-2015


Remembering E.P. Clement from Almonte—By Susan Elliott Topping



Great Grandparents– Grandma Clement,Gr. Grandpa Clement Photo from Susan Elliott Topping

Susan Elliott Topping sent me a story the other day and I just wanted to share this. If any of you have some information you would like to share with the world — please send them to me on Facebook or email


Hello Linda,

I love reading your posts about Almonte and it’s rich history. I grew up there and it will always be home. My Great Grandfather E.P. Clement was a great part of Almonte. I can still see him in his three piece suit and cane (which we think was just for effect) strolling downtown to pick up the paper. I know he also backed some businesses to help them get started.


School Class picture 1942 – St. Mary’s, Almonte, Ontario.

Vincent Morrow’s and Margaret Morrow’s surname should be “Moreau”.


The manger scene  at St. Mary’s church  every Christmas was built by him many, many years ago. Mr. Finner, who lived nearby and a couple other helped him take it to the church when it was finished. It was built in the Finner’s garage. The bells you hear ringing from the same church were donated by my Great Grandfather. My Mom says every time she hears them, she thinks of Great Grandpa.


L-R Front Row-Marie, Gr. Grandma Clement,Gr. Grandpa Clement,Beatrice,Edna–Back Row-Pat, Frank (Cheese-my Grandpa),Della,Trixie,Vi and Orville.–Photo from Susan Elliott Topping

He also did a lot of work on the old St. Mary’s School.   His home was actually the first jail in Almonte, where he and my Great Grandmother raised raised their large family! There are two of their children left now. Theresa (Trixie) Robillard, and Vi Larose, who is turning 102 years young in November!! Whenever I had to do a project on Almonte in school I would head to Grandpa’s and my Great Uncle, Fred LaRose’s houses, because I think between them, they knew just about all there was to know about Almonte!


Thank you Susan– I really appreciated you sending this. Keep them coming!!

Remember November the 5th–


Going through my files here are just a few related Almonte Stories–


Remembering John Kerry from Almonte—By Karen Hirst

The Almonte Fire– Bridge and Water Street 1903

The Almonte Fire of 1909

Let the Merchants take over Carleton Place and Almonte?

So Where was the Location of the Almonte Illustration?

Cancer and Family 1903- Almonte Gazette

The Population of Almonte 1851

The Lonely Grave of Barney Shiels of Cedar Hill

Shocking Murder in Almonte–Michigan Charlie

55 years ago–One of the Most Tragic Accidents in the History of Almonte

The Telephone and its History in Almonte

Is Almonte Now Powered by Gnomes?

Crime and Punishment? –Tales from the Almonte Post Office

The Funniest Anti-Dog Letter to the Editor–Almonte Gazette

Constipation Guaranteed to be Cured in Almonte

Over the Falls- June 1984

Seeds of Love–Almonte Cinema – Then and Now

Dr. Andrew Elliott of Almonte — Tarred and Feathered

The Name Game– Changing Almonte Street Names

Before there was Baker Bob’s There was The Almonte Bakery

No Banker Left Behind – Bank of Montreal Almonte Photos

Down by the Mississippi River- Almonte Falls Photos 50s

If You are Unemployed in Almonte- Hitchike to Carleton Place

40 years later-by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.


Down at Old McIlquham’s Bridge



McIlquham’s bridge number 1 as they called it was on Highway 511 between Perth and Lanark. In the beginning the settlers didn’t have any other way to cross the old Mississippi River except to take Cameron’s Ferry— which was basically a canoe to get to Perth. As you know most of the roads were quite impassable in those days and a quick drive down the 511 will give you an idea.

Well that old bridge hung on as long as it could, but in 1987 something had to be done about it. Wooden piers filled with stone had to be replaced with cement and steel railings were needed– basically it was the works.

When Sandy Caldwell was king in the lumbering days- the logs used to pile up at this bridge  blocking the river for days. Lumbermen worked for hours and days with their pike poles trying to free those logs- and some even lost their lives.


It was during these hard times that Lanark County’s famous song “The Ballad of Jimmy Whalen”  supposedly written by John Smith of Lanark and was allegedly first put together by a Ferguson’s Falls bard.

The facts behind the song are elusive, but Jimmy Whelan or Whalen – actually was James Phalen (so spelled; pronounced Whalen) – was killed on Ontario’s Mississippi River. The date given was 1878, but James Phalen’s grandniece, Mary C. Phelan of Ottawa, thinks it was 1876, and she names Timothy Doyle as the ballad’s composer.

Whatever who wrote the song- it still lives and reminds us of when life was rough and tough on the Mississippi River.







Perth Courier, July 23, 1897

On Sunday afternoon, July 25, Rev. James Cross conducted a baptismal service at McIlquham’s bridge on the Carleton road when Mrs. Jas Dodds and Miss L. Borrowman were baptized.  The news that an immersion was to take place drew quite a large crowd, a number walking down from here to witness the ceremony.  From the Lanark Era

Lost Jimmy Whalen_Mrs John Coughlin NA1.30 T30


Slowly as I strayed by the banks of the river,
A-viewing those roses as evening drew nigh;
As onward I rambled I espied a fair damsel,
She was weeping and wailing with many a sigh.

She was weeping for one that was now lying lonely,
Weeping for one that no mortal can save;
For the dark rolling waters lies slowly around him,
As onward they speed over young Jimmy’s grave.

[At this point, Mrs. Coughlin asked if that was good enough to give Sandy the tune. She claimed she couldn’t sing.]

Slowly there rose from the depths of the desert
A vision of beauty more brighter than the sun,
With roses of crimson around him a-waving,
To speak to this fair one he just had begun.

“Why do you call me from red-lums [realms] of glory,
Back to this wide world I no longer can stay?
To embrace you once more in my strong loving arms,
To see you once more I have come from my grave.”

“Darling,” she said, “won’t you bury me with you?
Do not desert me to weep and to mourn,
But take me, oh, take me along with you Jimmy,
To sleep with you down in your cold silent tomb.”

“Darling,” he said, “you are asking a favor
That no mortal person can grant unto thee,
For deep is the desert that parts us asunder –
Wide is the gulf lies between you and me.

“But as you do wander by the banks of this river,
I will ever be near thee to keep and to guide;
My spirit will guide you and keep from all danger.
I’ll guide you along from my cold silent grave.”

She threw herself down and she wept bitterly;
In the deepest of anguish those words she did say:
“Oh, you are my darling, my lost Jimmy Whalen;
I will sigh ’til I die by the side of your grave.”


Related Bridge Stories

The Tragic Tale of the Rideau Ferry Swing Bridge

The Bascule Bridge of Smiths Falls — A Ghost Story

The Floating Bridges of Lanark County

Debbie Dixon and The CPR Bridge Incident in Carleton Place–Linda’s Mailbag

How to Really Catch Fish With Dynamite at the Glen Isle Bridge

One Day a Long Time Ago on the Glen Isle Bridge

Spring at the Gillies Bridge

Over the Falls- June 1984

Shark Week in Carleton Place on the Mississippi Bridge

Who Caught the Big Shark in Carleton Place?

Down by the Old Pike Hole–The Island Bridges of Carleton Place- Before and After

Lawsuits in Carleton Place — The Collapse of the Appleton Bridge

Feeling Groovy by the Lake Ave East Bridge

Was the McNeely Bridge Funded on “Drinkin’ Fines”?