Rock the Boat! Lanark County or Bust! Part 1



During the Victorian years a series of immigrants arrived in significant numbers, above all the predominantly Catholic Irish. The 800,000 or so Irish moved from Ireland during the potato famine of the 1840s. Some came to Canada and found themselves living cheek by jowl with the equally poor Scottish and Canadian working classes.

Western Scotland in the early 1800’s suffered economic depression with stagnating trade, falling wages and a sharp rise in unemployment. Many were weavers who found themselves without jobs after the Napoleonic wartime demand disappeared.Soldiers returning home sought employment in a impoverished economy. Although many attempts were made, the economic distress soon escalated to public demonstrations. All this dissatisfaction led to the demand of emigration to Canada. In 1819 the first Scots petitioned the British Colonial Offices to emigrate to Upper Canada but were turned down. The reasoning was that paupers from the manufacturing areas were poor risks as settlers.


James and Margaret Watt- Carleton Place

Finally the British government allowed emigration to begin as they had no choice. It would reduce the number of unemployed in Scotland, and increase the proportion of British born-to American born which had been seriously reduced by the rapid rise of immigration to the USA following the American Revolution. And so began “Glasgow Committee for the Relief of the Industrious Poor” in 1820.


If you wanted to emigrate to Lanark County, the British government would pay only for your trip up river and over land from the port of Quebec City. You would also get a grand total of eight pounds, but that money would have to paid back over the course of ten years. The future residents of Lanark County would also get land grant, seed corn, cost. If you made it to Franktown, that is where the King’s Store was located to get your supplies. To pay for the sea voyage the monies were raised by public subscription or private charity.


In June of 1820– 852 people left bound for Lanark County, and in 1821 over 1800. After that it was decided by the Committee that no more applications should be received for charity, and from now on anyone wanting to emigrate would have to bear the full cost. That lovely trip included 84 days of  hanging out a lot below deck. But wait! In a 2 for 1 special you also got both land transportation from Quebec City and provisions thrown in for the one price.

On the the last free ship in 1823, the David of London carried 364 passengers and one of them was 22-year-old James Watt and his 18 year-old-wife Margaret whose son would one would day live in the house on Lake Ave East where Dr. Drake now lives. Their story on that ship was no different than anyone else in your family or mine that chose to come to Canada.

Stay tuned for the trip across the Atlantic that had no resemblance at all to a cruise ship. In fact some did not make the journey.  We have to admire how the immigrants had an obvious impact in our country in a variety of ways. In the first place, newcomers helped the industrialization process, whether in the form of working Irish and Scottish factory workers, or helping to build the infrastructure and produce the industrial goods. My Grandfather was one of them, only he chose to settle in the eastern Townships of Quebec. Each one of them worked twice as hard as anyone else and never gave up and made our country what it is.

Photos and files by the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum.

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.

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