Once A Ribald River Town, Ferguson’s Falls May Be Dying

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Photo from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum.. Do you know any of these  Ferguson Falls ladies?

 

Perth Courier, September 13, 1962

 

Ferguson’s Falls is a dying community.

It has lost its businesses, industries and much of its history.  The first to admit the hard truth are the thirty happy residents of Ferguson’s Falls.  The town is kept alive by the lazy Mississippi River, a river which gave birth to the village, converted it into a boom town, destroyed it, but with sympathy bred of long years of association keeps the town living today as a quiet and friendly tourist retreat.

Ferguson’s Falls was once the centre of a great timber war which involved the highest courts of the Empire.  It also has a ghost but nobody has seen her recently.

Ferguson’s own “California” John Pool initiated Lanark’s first and only trek to California in 1849 to stake a claim in the gold rush.

Ferguson’s Falls was once a thriving village of 500 persons with three mills, three hotels, a post office, a tannery, a meat processing firm, wagon maker and a law authority.  The town slowly decayed following the collapse of the timber trade.

The area was first settled by two families each of (word obliterated) and Douglas and one each family of Scanlon, Powers, and Carberry, Irishmen all, who homesteaded on RR1 and RR5, Lanark township.  The families had worked in Perth after walking from Brockville in 1816.

A village was eventually erected around several primitive mills at the ford and called “Millford”.  The name was changed when a Captain George Ferguson was deeded 70 acres at the ford and water rights.  He sold out to Ebeneezer Woodward in 1838 who first divided the area into two lots.

The; names of Blair, Lee, Code, McVicar and Harvey figure prominently in property rights up to 1872 when friction between loggers and farmers culminated in flooded lands and burned mills.

The “Ford” was one of the toughest places on the river.  Men fought for love, money, business and just for the love of brawling.  They fought in taverns, yard, village, street and even on floating rafts, old accounts say.

It was during these hard times that Lanark County’s famous song “The Ballad of Jimmy Whalen” was first put together by a Ferguson’s Falls bard.

But the biggest and bloodiest fight of all was the Caldwell and McLaren feud.  The entire countryside became embroiled.  Signs of trouble began in 1850 and broke into open hostility in 1878 when the powerful lumber baron McLaren of Perth declared “No man but me has any right on this river.”

Caldwell, of Lanark, another lumber baron, protested.  On March 6, 1884, the Privy Council in London sustained Caldwell’s counter claim  which established throughout the Empire the right of river usage via improvements of another party.  The judgment had far reaching consequences in gaining certain common rights of navigable streams for public and industrial use.

St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church was built in 1856, the first church in town.  The parish priest today is Father Healey of Lanark.  Protestant churches never built in the town but located on rural routes several miles away to serve a scattered population.  Anglican, Free Methodist, United and Baptist exist today serving a rural population of about 300.

The first Anglican service in town was held some time previous to 1850.  The second floor of a two storey log cabin (about 300 yards from the ford) sheltered the worshippers.  Then owned by the Gummersal family, the same cabin is today owned and occupied by A.L. Badour, his wife and family.  Behind the Badour house is the first public school, now a garage.  It was built in 1872.  James Ferguson was the first teacher.  His classes averaged about 25 students.

Mrs. Badour, an Ottawa school teacher, keeps notes on the town.  From a copy of the “Canadian Business Directory”, she uncovered the following long lost business leaders of 1857-58, many of whose descendents still reside in the vicinity today:  Hicks (post master), Gummersal (tanner), Hollinger (meat inspector), Blair (mill), Doroway (cooper), Doyle (innkeeper), “Ireton’ and ‘Stafford’ (cobblers-Thanks to Arlene Stafford Wilson). John Stafford, son of pioneer Tobias Stafford, was a shoemaker in Ferguson Falls and later expanded his business into Perth. Ireton was a fairly common name in Drummond Township.(cobblers), McCaffrey (wagons),John and M. McCaffrey (blacksmiths), Nouseau (cabinet maker) and Tennant (justice).

Ferguson’s Falls is a pioneer village with a proud history.  It has its own ghost.  Many will remember the vain-glorious poems and songs of Wilfred Lawrence Command

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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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