So Which William Built the Carleton Place Railway Bridge?


This morning I found this in the Perth Courier Archives doing some research and became fascinated.

Perth Courier, March 10, 1899

The Almonte Gazette says William Scrimgeour, formerly of Almonte, died at Lakefield, Ontario at the age of 83 years.  His parents came from Perthshire, Scotland but the deceased was born while they were crossing the Atlantic.  He learned the trade of  a millwright and also became a building contractor.


St. Johns Presbyterian Church – Almonte, Ontario – 1865.


Youngs Hotel at Sand Point, Ontario (near Arnprior) owned by James Young (1817-1872)built in 1850. In 1870 the Hotel was transferred to James Youngs son also named James Young.


This sketch of St. Paul’s Anglican Church and parsonage appeared in the “Canadian Illustrated News” from Montreal Jan 4, 1879, immediately after the parsonage was built in 1878. 


The obituary in the Perth Courier went on to read that William Scrimgeour built the railway bridge at Carleton Place, St. John’s Church at Almonte, Mr. James Robertson’s store, St. Paul’s rectory, Rosebank Woolen Mills at Ramsay, Young’s Hotel at Sand Point, and many others.  He was a violinist of great reputation and a crony of the late Robinson Lyle the famous novelist (Lyle Robinson was the author of Edgar Cayce’s Story Of The Origin And Destiny Of Man).  His wife was killed by a railway accident at Port Hope 13 years ago and was buried beside her in that town.  Their children were eight, four boys and four girls.

He built the railway bridge? For years I have understood that William Willoughby built the Carleton Place railway bridge.


So I looked up William Scrimgeour, who was described as “the architect and builder” of the Canada Presbyterian Church in ALMONTE, ONT., 1865 (North Lanark Advance [Almonte], 1 July 1865, Almonte Presbyterian Church Centennial 1865-1965) The cornerstone for the church was laid on 24 June 1865, and this cut stone building was designed “in the Corinthian style”, with seating to accommodate 800 parishioners. It was enlarged in 1892, but later sold and used as a storage building from 1912 to 1925. The church was then re-purchased by the Presbyterian Church, and remains in use today.  In fact, the family name appears also to have possessed the office of master-builder to the king back in Scotland. In February 1531After searching for hours I found no other references to the work of William Scrimgeour .

On a UK genealogy site I found the following:

The obituary [dated 1899] notes that William Scrimgeour was married in Michigan some sixty years ago. There were eight children – four boys and four girls. His wife was killed in a runaway accident thirteen years earlier on the streets of Port Hope, Ontario.

Subsequently William came to Carleton Place first and then two years later  went to Almonte.  As a contractor for over twenty years he built many of the buildings in Almonte, including St. John’s church, Mr James Robertson’s store, St. Paul’s rectory, the Rosebank woollen mill and others.

It is interesting to note that the spelling of the family name often changes. In the Perthshire records the name is “Scrymgour” (believed to probably have been a misspelling of Scrymgeour) and in subsequent records of New York and North Dumphries/Galt, Canada, the spelling remains fairly constant as “Scrimger”. So, that is why the family is hard to pinpoint.

After pouring through at least 50 Almonte Gazette’s I noted he was a very popular man in Almonte , not only as a builder, but as the head of the Almonte  Citizens’ Brass Band and a local concert violinist.

So who really built that railway bridge?   I would say that because William Scrimgeour came to Carleton Place first, he did have something to do with building that railway bridge as recorded in the Perth Courier. In all probability– he was probably working alongside with William Willoughby .

If I had to put money on it my guess is that he moved to Almonte a few years later as Carleton Place just wasn’t big enough for *two temperamental diva– like Scottish builders. 🙂



A railway bridge at Carleton Place a century ago was built to span the Mississippi at the location of the town’s present C.P.R. Bridge. Trains from Brockville, drawn by small wood-burning steam locomotives, began in the summer of 1859 to run as far as Carleton Place and Almonte. This was the same oldest railway line of the district that was surmounted last year by the new overpass on the south side of the town opposite the end of Napoleon Street.

William Willowby

If you’ve ever seen the McArthur Woolen Mill, Central School, Prince of Wales High School, St James Church, St Mary’s Church, and of course the Carleton Place and Beckwith Museum, then you are familiar with some of William Willowby’s work.  He was a local stone mason, who along with his brothers, Isaac, Abraham and Jacob, and his sons, built numerous buildings in Carleton Place and the surrounding area, including Almonte and Smiths Falls.

William also built the railroad bridge that spans the Mississippi. In the Brigil Homes subdivision behind Giant Tiger the  newly built playground is named after the Willoughby’s. So when you drive down King Street you can see “Willoughby Park” and know who it’s named after. I had no idea until today.

*Carleton Place Town Hall Sued For Cupolas!


Scrimgeour, William, male, b. U.S.A, d. Feb. 15, 1899, Lakefield, bur. Feb. 17, 1899, age: 82 years, Location: R07L16#?, next of kin: G. Scrimgeour, fath

Related reading:

Pardon me Boys — Is That the Carleton Place Choo Choo?

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News

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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