The Legend Of Big Joe Baye — How Much Do You Know?

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I have heard a lot about Joe Baye, and don’t know which stories are true or false. Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown once wrote:

As the Indians were crowded out from the land on the north side of the Mississippi in the 1820’s, they gradually retreated northward and westward.  Their Mississauga descendants are on reserved lands in the Kawartha Lakes area now.  A few chose to stay near the new settlements in Lanark County, in areas not suitable for farming.  In the 1890’s those still living at points near Carleton Place included groups at McIIquham’s Bridge and at the Floating Bridge.  Big Joe Mitchell and Joe Baye were among the better known of the last local Indians.- Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

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Photo from Archives Lanark

I heard that he was born in 1856 and died in 1929 and lived in Clayton next to the Floating Bridge with his wife and two children. After that, the facts get murky, and legends and rumours get in the way. But, one thing is for sure, he was known locally as a master craftsman and one of the last natives in  this area.

Now if you want facts you are going to have to head over to the Middleville and District Museum (check their site for opening times) and bring the kids. They have quite a bit of information about old Joe Baye, and might correct a few of the tall tales.

Some say Joe’s wife Eleanor, known as Ellen, was jilted at the altar and I guess was so depressed she said she would marry the next man that came along. Well, Big Joe Baye knocked on her door and she agreed to marry him. Knowing how people like to chatter in rural areas– that must have been some humdinger having a white woman marry a native man in those days.

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Photo: Lanark Archives

 

But Joe was famous for being a man’s man, and probably swept her off her feet with his he-man attributes. There is one tale that Joe was known as being the master of the cross-cut saw. At the Middleville and District Museum they have a saw with a sign that says Joe was faster than two men, so when he sawed, he attached a cap to the other end of the log while he did his work. I guess that was just to prove a point in a silent manly-man way.

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Photo: Lanark Archives— Please see historical notes

 

Joe was also a fiddler and he carved canoes, and Author Hal Kirkland called Joe Baye a “man of many parts”. He lived in a white man’s world, but made his living in the traditional native way: hunting fishing and trapping. Baye always had his house open for his duck hunting friends and was said to be a drinking man at times. Kirkland added that his descendants lived on with Los Angeles Opera singer and actress Mary Ellen Batten.  Who was Mary Ellen? She was none other than Joe’s granddaughter.

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Photo: Lanark Archives–Mary Ellen is the last one on the right.

Of course there will always be discrepancies and stories about the Baye family as indicated in this letter to the editor from the Almonte Gazette Newspaper.

The Baye’s Of Lanark Township.

Dear Sir:

With regards to an article in the book (Ramsay Reflections) recently published dating from 1836-1979 page 41, I beg a small space in your paper.

It concerns the late Joe Baye, his wife and family, Mrs. Baye who died October 5th, 1927, and Mr. Baye who died October 31, 1928. As the Baye’s nearest neighbour, for the first 20 years of my life, I was asked about three years ago for information as to the Baye’s way of life and home etc.

When I contacted Ramsay Residents I was very surprised to see that the Baye history refers to them as residents of Ramsay Township.

 

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Lila Leach-James
14 mins ·
Linda Seccaspina……this is a copy of the Clayton Bridge photo (I do have the original photo somewhere).. that my Dads niece gave him …on the left is Wilfred McNeil (Marjorie Saunders McNeil took picture) and in right is William Leach….in the background is Joe Bayes house…Floating Bridge about 1922…

I made it clear at that time, that this was a mistake, and to my knowledge it was changed then.

I have absolutely no fault to finish with the ladies who have written the book. I except they used the material as they received it.

However the truth is Joe Baye his wife and family never lived in Ramsay Township.

He may have camped along the river between Almonte and Appleton while trapping etc., but it never was a permanent place of abode.

His property comprised about one acre of land, more or less in the eleventh concession of Lanark Township.

He also had access to about half an acre in the twelfth concession, owned by a neighbour, on which he grew potatoes, corn and other vegetables.

It was known as the (Sand Hill) and he was never molested. This land was ploughed and worked by neighbours, and he was always ready to do a kind act in return.

His house, shop and other buildings were In the eleventh concession, and were always in A-1 condition.

Also the famous (Floating Bridge) which did form part of the twelfth concession just near his home is in Lanark Township.

Other books tell this bridge was first built to get people from Halls Mills and Galbraith to Ferguson Falls. This is quite true as it did separate Taylor’s Lake from Clayton Lake at the narrows, and is one mile west of Ramsay Township.

The bridge before it was destroyed was 300 yards long.

As I said before, I have no fault to find with the ladies, who no doubt have spent many hours preparing the book. I would say a job well done.

No doubt this article was printed as received, and was taken as a true story to a lot of people.

However like all my neighbours, who remember what fine people the Baye’s were that this part of the community, and especially the town of Almonte, join with me in remembering them as residents of Lanark Township.

Sincerely, Eldon Ireton, RR 2, Almonte.

 

Read the Almonte Gazette here

Historical Notes

Joe Baye Gravemarker

The North Lanark Historical Society completed one of this year’s projects on Sunday with the erection of a marker on the grave of Joe Baye and his wife Ellen. Joe Baye was the last full-blooded Indian to live in this area, and he died 50 years ago. A dedication of the wooden cross/marker was made at the decoration and memorial service held at the Auld Kirk Cemetery last Sunday.

It was fifty years ago that this area’s last full-blooded Indian, Joe Baye, died and was buried beside his wife, Ellen, in Auld Kirk Cemetery.

Last Sunday, the grave was marked with the erection of a cedar cross, completing another of this year’s projects of the North Lanark Historical Society.

Joe Baye, who was born in 1856, lived at the narrows between Clayton Lake and Taylor Lake at the south end of the Floating Bridge. He made his living in the traditional Indian way, by hunting, fishing and trapping. The Baye’s had many friends in the Almonte district and were well-liked and respected.

The cedar cross, made by NLHS member Major Bill Gamblin of Carleton Place, was erected in Auld Kirk Cemetery by Mel Foster. It’s simple inscription reads: “Joe Baye, d. 1928, Ellen Baye, d. 1927.”

After the memorial service at the cemetery last Sunday, those present stayed for a dedication of the marker, presided over by Rev. Robert McCrae. On hand for the ceremony was Bill McIlquham of Belleville, who is Joe Baye’s grandson.

 

Street map of Joe Baye Trail in Town of Mississippi Mills, Ontario:

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613 259-5462

 

 

Read this one and the photo above together….

Read this one and the photo above together….

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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