A Town Called Barbodies–Port Elmsley 101




Port Elmsley:
Was originally called Barbadoes and then Pike’s Falls. The railway station in the Historical Atlas of Lanark County is named Pike’s Falls station

Perth Courier, May 15, 1947

The History of Port Elmsley

By Mrs. D. Clements, historical conservator of the Port Elmsley Women’s Institute

“Barbodies” is believed to have been the first name of this village.  But in 1843 it was referred to as Pike Falls and was no doubt a military settlement, Perth being the county seat, business was transacted there.  Council meetings were held in the school and sometimes in Smith’s Falls which was a small village at that time.  Later, a new township hall was built and on December 22, 1854 the council held their first meeting in the new hall.  At the time the reeve was J. Best and the counselors were H. Cullen and A. Couch.  A crude road ran from here to Perth  part of it plank.  It was kept up by statute labor and was very bad.  There were board walks in the village and between Pike Falls and Perth there were two toll gates one at Lester Polk’s side road and one at Richardson’s side road near Perth.  Charges for a team and wagon were five cents; for a man and horse three cents; for a man walking nothing.



Perth Remembered-*Graphite Mine


A good part of the land was covered by bush so of course there were lumber mills, one west of the river Tay near the Porritt Haouse (where Mrs. Long now resides) and one near the village.

From these mills a wooden roan was built to the point at the present cheese factory.  Here the lumber was loaded in barges which came up the river Tay and by canal drawn by oxen.  Lumber was also loaded at the point at Mr. Elliotts’ known today as J. Wood’s farm.

B.S. Snyder owned a grist mill at the point where the cement house now stands.  There were also locks here. B.S. Snyder’s was near or on the exact spot where later Mr. McConnol, who operated the graphite mill, built the cement block house.

Mr. Snyder’s home was quite a show place with lovely orchard and grape vines.  Incidentally, this house is still in use having been moved farther up the village.


Lonestar-Cheesefactory-Port-Elmsley-644x407 (1).jpg

Perth Remembere Lonestar-Cheesefactory-Port-Elmsley

There were two warehouses at the Elliott farm (later Judge Elliott) and supplies were drawn from here to Perth by team.  In the early days supplies were “backed” in.  Houses in the village were mostly made of logs and in 1851 there was one tavern in Pike Falls.  Later, there were two hotels and a post office and a blacksmith shop.  There were also two stores.

Mr. Porrit owned a shoddy mill on the upper side of the dam and opposite, in what is known today as the “old mill” was a very fine woolen mill, a graphite mill.

Skating was a great past time in the old days and Pike Falls has always been famed for its fish.  Older inhabitants tell of the days when hundreds came to fish at what is known today as “Lavender’s Point” and the “block dam”, many bringing their teams and wagons.  Fish were taken there by the wagon load.

Most of the settlers came from Ireland and many of their descendents still live here.  There are a few Scottish descendants of the early days.  Some of the old names are Best. Lavender, Findlay, Moore, Clements and others.



The first school was a log building just west of the village.  Later it was considered necessary to erect a new and larger school in a more central location.  Land was purchased on the east side of the village from a Mr. Shaw, who owned the farm and land where Mr. and Mrs. E.  Lavender now live.  A frame building was erected.  In the year 1872 this building was blown down by a terrible wind storm at that time the trustees were Henry Hunter and B.S. Snyder.  These men decided to build a stone school two stories high to accommodate two classes.  The contract was given to Robert Elliott of Perth and work was begun the following spring and in the meantime classes were conducted in the township hall by the teacher who were teaching when the school was blown down, Miss Barbara McPherson.

In the fall of 1873 the new school was opened with Miss Margaret O’Hara (later Dr. Margaret O’Hara of India) and Miss Marjory Robinson in charge.  This was the only year that both rooms were used.  In the early days as many as 120 pupils attended.  In the frame school Isobel and Rachel Elliott taught (sisters of Judge Elliott) and Nathaniel McLenaghan who later became a member of the provincial legislature.

At the first meeting in the new township hall it was agreed to allow church services to be held in the hall.  Later, Mr. Shaw gave a piece of land where the old Anglican graveyard is.  Here a church was built which was intended as a community church.  It was called the Anglican church and was built in 1860.  Rev. H. Campbell, who came from one of the islands off the coast of Scotland was instrumental in building St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in 1886.


The lovely little church which stands in the village today, St. James Anglican Church, was built in 1900.  Rev. Mr. Low organized the building of the church and there is a story of how when Rev. Mr. Low asked for donations to build the church, a small boy, when leaving the church after the service, gave Rev. Mr. Low ten cents.

As far back as 1858, the name Port Elmsley was being used, but the writer was not able to find out when the name was changed or the meaning of it.


In a statement defending his later plans to build a dam across the Tay, Port Elmsley mill-owner (and ostensible founder) Alexander Weatherhead described the pre-canal state of the Tay as a means of transport. The river in its natural state runs about the distance of a mile and a half a very strong rapid with twelve or fourteen inches depth of water, which is only in the month of April. The rapid is such that it is impossible to propel the lightest craft, even a bark canoe, in any way against it.

From Barbadoes To Port Elmsley— great photos


*The Graphite Mine- Perth Remembered

The mine was situated on the Rideau Ferry Road about three miles from the village. A mill was built at the mines, run by steam, but ore could not be successfully processed. In 1901-02 the Globe Refining Co. (an American company) took over the mine. They bought the woolen mill and installed close to $100,000 worth of machinery. Rinaldo McConnell was the manager of the mill. A dam was built above the mill, and remnants still remain. Much of the earth was stripped from village lots to build the dam. Thirty-five to fifty men and some ties more were employed. Teams of horses hauled the ore to the mill. Large stables were built and the company’s horses pastured on what is known as the Company Lot. The “Back Dam” is the remains of a dam built by the Graphite Co. The company bought much of the land in the village around 1908 and housing accommodations were provided for the employees. By 1924 the supply of graphite was petering out and it still could not be processed satisfactorily and was abandoned. Eventually beginning in 1930 and ending in 1936, all the graphite property and machinery were sold for taxes by the township.


A small post village situated in the Township of North Emsley, 
and County of Lanark. It contains an Episcopalian Chuich, is 
distant from Perth, the County Town, 6 miles, and its population 
is about 100. 

Allan, A., woollen factory 
Borrowman, David, waggon maker 
Frost & Wood, saw mill proprietors 
Sherwood^ Hamilton, saw mill proprietor

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

Dragstrip Girl was Playing on The Port Elmsley Screen — Passion in the Back Seat

What Was Playing at the Port Elmsley Drive in 1970?


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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