He Fired the Barn! The Orphans of Carleton Place



Lanark Steam Threshing Machine, about 1900. Photo by Robert J Stead 

“He Fired the Barn” was the Ottawa Jourmal Headline in 1895.

In October of 1895 the Children’s Aid Society was making inquiries in town about a lad with the last name of Allan. It seems the boy in a mindless minute of youth set fire to the outbuildings belonging to William Powell of Nepean. Last heard the boy had gone home to his father in Carleton Place.

A few weeks later young Frederick C. Allen, age 12, was arrested by County Constable McLaughlin for setting fire to a barn containing 86 tons of hay. Mr William Powell’s barn and contents were destroyed to a tune of over $600. Frederick pleaded guilty with his father from Carleton Place standing by his side. His Mother had passed, but he still had a brother and sister living.

The young boy had been working with a farmer in North Gower until recently and only been working for Mr. Powell for a few days. He would not give any reason for doing the deed. The boy was a bright intelligent fellow, but could not say anything about his religion. Magistrate Dawson remanded him in order to procure evidence after which he will be committed to stand trial.


Ontario society in those days depended upon religious or charitable organizations and volunteer community groups to care for neglected or abandoned children. Some children who had been neglected or abandoned entered apprenticeships, some were given a temporary or permanent home in return for their labour/domestic service, while others were placed in orphanages or shelters staffed by volunteers. Children who turned to crimes for survival were until the end of the 19th century placed with adults in the same prison.

Nineteenth century Canada was seen as a land of opportunity to many in Britain and Europe. New immigrant families who were unable to flourish in Canada faced harsh realities riddled with draught, disease and periods of economic depression. Children were abandoned to the streets, placed as apprentices or expected to work long hours in unsanitary factory conditions. Orphanages, infant homes and shelters provided some residential placements for homeless children who remained there until 12 or 13 with guardianship transferred by indenture or through apprenticeships.


About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

2 responses »

  1. It was also a way for Britain to rid itself of the problem of children, orphans or destitute ones, by sending them to Canada and to Australia as indentured workers until they were 18 or 19. These children were often treated as slaves and non-human, left to sleep in winters in unheated barns, beaten, some raped, some murdered. The small amount of payment they received was not paid to them until they had completed their service. Some committed suicide. One is believed to have murdered her “employer” because of how badly she was treated. These are the British Home Children. My father was one. He said very little about his experience, but it was a very hard life.
    Carol A. Stephen

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