Whatcha’ Talkin Bout Willis? — This Old House in Carleton Place


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Well, I’m talking about the little log house at the end of  Lake Ave West in Carleton Place that everyone has driven by a million times. Did you know it was the oldest house in Carleton Place within the town limits, and it became a historical site in 1980? The owners spent several years trying to return the little house to its original state, and one of the first moves was to remove the siding and expose the original logs. It was built in 1820 by George Willis, an early Beckwith pioneer who was granted 100 acres to establish a farm. The first marriages in Carleton Place were those of Sarah, daughter of George Willis, to William Morphy, and Mary, daughter of Thomas Willis, to John Morphy. There was no choice really. The newspapers reported that they were arranged marriages, as the only other choice was the Moore family.


Photo below after a storm in the 70’s in the Carleton Place Canadian- courtesy Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum


The house was to remain in the Willis family until 1871. Across the road from the house was the family cemetery. The little cemetery, about 15 or 20 feet square, is found at the extreme end of the town’s park, near Lake Avenue and close to the Mississippi River. This was a burial ground, where members of one of the first families of settlers of the town were laid in an unmarked graveyard. Discovery of this site in 1946 was reported at a Carleton Place Parks Commission meeting, at which the suggestion was made that the area should be marked as a historical site by erection of a cairn. Later the remains were exhumed and moved to the United Church cemetery. Thanks to our curator Jennifer Fenwick Irwin at our Museum she has sent me this picture.

From Glenda Mahoney– Text reads the willis were one of the early irish settlers in carleton place. The old log house on lake avenue past the high school is the old willis house


Did you know the Carleton Place Orangemens Parade used to begin at the Willis house on the 12th of July? It was a marshaling ground and headquarters as the Willis boys were part of a third generation prominent among the performers in the bands. Word is the little house has only had less than five owners. When they renovated the home they found some coins, but Mary Cook wrote that the initials of John Willis were carved on one of the original logs years ago. Now that was an historical find!


And now you know the rest of the story 🙂

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.

13 responses »

  1. Loved this article, I was tagged in it by an old friend from CP, as my family lived here from 1971-1981. I was just a small kid when my parents bought it (there was an auction sale being held there and we ended up with more than just a few antiques that day!) It was a wonderful time to live in CP, and we were spoilt with having the Mississippi right across the road for endless summer swims, picnics and birthday parties. Thanks for posting this article!


    • Omg I remember you. I lived just up the hill on boundary road my mom was Wilmer and Pauline white and I have 3 brothers and a sister I am Debbie white and my sister was Janice and my brother are wes Steven Dwayne. I remember going to your house and I remember one particular memory my brother was and I were walking past your place from home and one of your pigs chased after down to almost the park and I lost my shoe since my brother wes had to piggy back me lol very fond memories of this place.


      • Hi Debbie, so nice to see a comment from you! Of course, we remember your family very well as we used to hang out together and your mother used to curl my hair for me sometimes! The “chasing pig” story is hilarious – I will share that with my parents! I have very fond memories of our time in CP – it really was just a small town where everyone knew everyone!


    • It was my grand parents house before you took possession. I remember the auction too. I was maybe 10 years old


  2. Your welcome and yes it is a small town my old place on boundary road has changed so much as well I always loved growing up in Carleton place and having such an amazing and awesome child hood in cp I miss it dearly with all the memories and people I knew in cp and it was great back from you Claire


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