What Was Smiths Falls Perth and Port Elmsley like to Joseph and Jane Weekes?



Photo Jane Weekes from the Weekes site

Found this doing some research on the Joseph Weeks and Anna Elizabeth Green Genealogy site.

When Joseph and Jane Weekes arrived in Upper Canada in 1839, it was a province going through dramatic change. Only 30 years earlier there were virtually no Europeans living anywhere away from the shores of the Great Lakes. By 1839 there was a significant infrastructure in place, but Upper Canada was just beginning to develop a population of Europeans and significant industry. Only 28 years later Upper Canada would enter into Confederation in 1867 under Prime Minister Sir John A MacDonald. What did the Upper Canada of 1839 look like to Jane, Joseph and their children, Edward, James, Alexander, John, Charlotte and their other sister?

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S.S. No. 10 South Elmsley
Old Kingston Road

Lombardy and South Elmsley Township circa 1839–Photo One room School houses

The land that became much of eastern Ontario was purchased by the British government from the Mississauga Indians in 1783 to allow for the anticipated influx of Loyalist settlers. Elmsley Township was first surveyed in 1794, with farm lots defined as 200 acres. Up until 1805 a number of land grants were issued to Loyalists and their children. However very few of the grant holders actually came to Elmsley Township to live. Until 1816, Elmsley Township was essentially uninhabited and isolated from the rest of Upper Canada. By 1821, South Elmsley had only thirteen occupied farms.

Early land grants to Loyalists and ex-officers produced some interesting neighbors in the Township. The Arnold family (heroes to the British, but vilified by the Americans) were granted extensive properties along the southern edge of the township. The future Bishop John Strachan was granted lands including Concession I, Lots 15 and 18, bracketing the lands that would later be owned by John A and Fred Weekes.

The roads connecting Perth, Brockville and Kingston intersected at the site that was to become Lombardy. By the 1830s, Smiths Falls was also connected to this intersection. Lombardy was in part established because of the need for taverns and hotels along these routes. The earliest tavern was established in 1817 near the crossroads. Francis Lombard established the first hotel and tavern right at the crossroads, and these were still in business into the early 1840s. Edward Fullerton Weekes opened a store near this intersection in 1844, and a hotel / tavern in 1848, both along the south side of the road. At this time, the community was known as Lombard’s Corners, a name that remained in use until 1873.

A sawmill was operating in 1843, just before the arrival of Edward Weekes in the village by 1844. By 1846 John Gasco had established himself as a cooper, and purchased the tavern that had been owned by Lombard (later sold to John Looby in 1852). In the 1840s, there was also established a blacksmith (James Ireland) and a shoemaker in the village.

The population of the village did not grow rapidly, as most members of the community lived in rural areas of the township. By the 1851 census, there were still only six households in the village, including that of the Edward Weekes family.


Smiths Falls circa 1839

The site of Smiths Falls was first granted to Terence Smyth and his brother Thomas Smyth, who had fought for the British during the American Revolution, and whose father had been a spy for the British. Thomas and his son Terence were both military officers, and Terence’s unit saw action in the war of 1812 at Brockville, Ogdensburg and Crysler’s Farm.

When the Rideau Canal plans were developed, the Merrick family built a sawmill at the falls in the future Smiths Falls in 1823. In the early years, this growing community site was known as Wardsville, named after the first permanent resident, Abel Russell Ward. Ward built his home in 1826 or 1827 on Beckwith street, close to the site of the current canal locks. At this time the area was truly raw wilderness. Ward operated the sawmill from 1827, and married a member of the Merrick family. In 1828, Rufus Collins, a blacksmith and axe manufacturer settled nearby.


Poonamalie locks 1914

Work on the Rideau Canal began in 1827, and the original sawmill was taken over as the site for the canal control dam. Ward and one of the canal engineers, James Simpson, established grist and sawmills, and by 1829, the town site had been laid out with streets and building lots. The Rideau Canal began operation in 1832.

By 1837, the town of Smiths Falls was well established, with many active businesses, three established churches, a variety of mills, warehouses, taverns and shops. In 1838 a school, “Smiths Falls Academy for Young Gentlemen and Ladies”, was established and included a William McGillivray among its students.

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Saint John’s Parish cemetery near Perth


Perth circa 1839

Up until 1816, the only humans in the area of Perth Ontario, were the natives and a few transient trappers. The first few settlers left Scotland in 1815 and arrived in Perth in 1816. Many of the first 1816 settlers settled along the Scotch Line. The first occupants of lots in the future town of Perth also arrived in 1816.

Perth was established much earlier than Smiths Falls, and by 1822 extensive town plans had been established, showing much of what is now central Perth. By 1839, the McMartin House had already stood for nine years, and the Boulton house (The Summit) had been built in 1823, as well as many other fine houses that still stand today. However, the current Town Hall was not to be built until 1863.

The Perth Courier was first published in 1828 as the Bathurst Independent Examiner. Although the paper had an uneven start, by 1834 it was in a steady operation that still continues today.


Port Elmsley circa 1839

Port Elmsley’s history originally paralleled that of Perth. The original settlers arrived around 1816 as part of the influx of Scottish immigrants, but the pattern shifted quickly as immigration became more heavily Irish over the next few decades. The village was originally known as Pike Falls, and later Barbados and Tweedsmuir. The combined benefits of the Tay Canal and the nearby railway (as of 1858) gave the village a significant economic opportunity. At its height, Port Elmsley was home to a telegraph office, township hall (1854), two hotels, a school, two general stores, a grist mill, two saw mills (including one owned by Frost and Woods), two warehouses and Campbell and Gray’s wool factory. The village school included among its many teachers, Elizabeth Weekes and Ivy Hutton.

Joseph and Jane Weekes arrived in Canada in 1839. In 1851 the north quarter (50 acres) of lot 9, con.6, Port Elmsley, N. Elmsley, was sold by Wm Morris to Joseph Weekes. This is on the highway between Smiths Falls and Port Elmsley, across from the modern day subdivision known as The Pines. In 1854 Joseph passed away and willed the land title to Jane. In 1861, the North Elmsley census shows Jane as 72 and a housekeeper, with James and his family sharing the same address. In 1863 Jane sold the land to son James for 100 pounds, based on the land transfer document. James subsequently sold the land to William Stone in 1882 for $900, when he moved to Port Elmsley Village.

From the Buchanan scrapbook

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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