Lanark County Moves West — Sarah Plain and Tall it was Not




For weeks I have been gathering information and compiling names to write a piece on the migration from Lanark County to Manitoba. Twice in the 1880s people made their way west due to drought or crop failure. There was also the fact that many worked on the C.P.R. Lines. Few returned, and that is why I still get a lot of local information from the Winnipeg newspaper archives as so many from our area were living there and still very interested in the Lanark County news. In fact the new settlers out west ordered 800 plows from Messrs Frost & Wood in Smiths Falls to be shipped out to Manitoba.

There was a large migration from the area to the USA beginning in the 1850’s as second-generation pioneers left to acquire farmland in the new frontier of the American mid-west namely North Dakota, USA.

Mr. E. Rice, Carleton Place, has gone west and if he is pleased with the country will make a home in Dakota near Fargo.  Mr. D. McLaren and family, formerly of Carleton Place, also intends settling in the same place on a 400 acre farm.- Perth Courier

Prior to the Irish famine years, 1846-1854, most of the Irish emigrants who came to Canada were persons with some monetary means who were able to acquire new farmland in the Lanark County wilderness. The second generation of these families, however, facing land shortages here, often moved to the United States. Many of the Irish-Canadians who settled in Canada were disappointed with their land in Ontario. The availability of land in western Canada and the local conflicts with their Scottish neighbours was a huge incentive for them to move.

At that time it was easier for west bound travelers in Canada going from Ontario to Manitoba to take a train to St. Paul, Minnesota and then to proceed on toward either Fargo, ND or Fishers Landing, MN. From there they went northward by boat to the Red River to Manitoba.

In addition, James J. Hill, (originally born in southern Ontario) builder of the Great Northern Railroad, recruited farmers to emigrate from Ontario and settle the Red River Valley. Most people at the time said they were going to Grand Forks, North Dakota.


“It was a sorry lot of human beings that arrived here yesterday from
Winnipeg. They constitute the advance guard of the main body of deluded
Dakotans who went to Manitoba in search of land flowing with milk and honey.

They find instead, a barren waste of desert sand, either destitute of all
vegetation or grown up with sage brush, and an inhospitable climate where vegetable growth is impossible. These misguided unfortunates were warmly welcomed here and provided with necessary relief for their wants and will be given employment. They tell sad tales of destitution and suffering.”

As with businesswoman Elizabeth Lindsay from Almonte, women appeared to be a lot tougher out west than east. Here’s an advertisement which appeared in the Ottawa Citizen of October 21, 1882.

Newspaper Advertisement for a Spouse in North Dakota in 1882



Migrants to North Dakota from Eastern Ontario

Files from The Perth Courier and


The Lanark Era
Lanark, Ontario, Canada
16 Aug 1911, Wed • Page 1

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.

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