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

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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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