Tales from Oliver’s Ferry



OLIVER’S FERRY 1834. Oliver’s Ferry  (Rideau Ferry)[looking North], Rideau Lake by Thomas Burrowes, Archives of Ontario. –Queens Printer-Perth Remembered

Story 1

The Smith’s Falls News in 1837 reported a case of smallpox at *Oliver’s Ferry in 1837.  In that year an Irish woman with two daughters aged 12 and 13 were put off at the ferry from a steam boat.   Many settlers came as far as Brockvile, then walked north about twelve miles and then west to Portland where they were transported on the Rideau to Oliver’s Ferry, coming thence to Perth.

Margaret, one of the daughters, had small pox and the mother, on landing , went to the hotel there kept by Mrs. Campbell, a widow, and told her of her troubles and that here daughter was in the barn.  The hotel lady gave the Irish woman a tick and told her to go to the barn and fill it with straw and that she could have the warehouse to herself. 

There was no doctor in the neighbourhood but the good landlady supplied the family with food and for five weeks the store house was their only shelter.  By that time the sick girl was taken to the hotel and soon recovered and no one seemed to be afraid of her.  No other cases developed and soon after the Irish woman and her two daughters moved to Farmersville, now Athens.


Story 2

Rideau Ferry was originally known as Oliver’s Ferry after John Oliver, a Scottish settler in South Elmsley township (now part of Rideau Lakes), who settled here in 1816 and started a ferry service across this narrow section of Rideau Lake. According to local legend, Mr. Oliver was said to have an unusual habit of refusing to transport passengers after dark, instead putting them up in his house for the night.

His neighbours, though, never saw the travellers in the morning. Several of the travellers did not arrive at their intended destination and were thought to be victims of highway robbery. Years later, when Oliver’s house was torn down to allow a bridge to be built, human skeletons were found in the walls and under the floorboards of additions Oliver had made to the original house. Although later found to be untrue, this story persists as a local legend.


Please note–

A reader said the second story was later debunked and said I should stop spreading what is now called ‘fake news” LOL. The story is on many sites and is also on the  Rideau Canal Heritage Site– I don’t call it fake news- I call it folklore.


Perth Courier, June 2, 1876

*Oliver’s Ferry- I put it under the photo but some did not see it. Please note that Oliver’s Ferry later became Rideau Ferry

14/11/1884 Brockville Recorder- Farmersville town hall was completely filled Monday afternoon by influential gentleman interested in the building of the Brockville, Westport and Sault Ste. Marie Railway. Dr. Preston, MPP, presided. Westport Farmersville

Wilson-Robinson—Married, at Farmersville on the 4th May, by Rev. J. Saunders, Mr. M.J. Wilson, harness maker, Smith’s Falls to Miss Sarah Robinson of Farmersville.

006501-1886 (Leeds Co) Lester WEEKS, 22, Farmer, Ontario, Lansdowne, s/o George WEEKS & Mary BEERS, married Elizabeth BEVENS, 22, Ontario, Lansdowne, d/o Ira BEVENS & Lucy TOWSLEY, witn: J. P. LAMB, Selina LAMB, both of Farmersville, 7 Oct 1886 Farmersville

12. Elizabeth Evaline Adams The twelfth child of Joshua and Elizabeth Adams is Elizabeth Evaline, born at Adamsville, May 3rd, 1827. She married Henry Moorhouse, Esq., Feb. 3rd, 1847. Mr. Moorhouse is of Irish parentage, born on board a boat on the River St. Lawrence, July 14th, 1819; brought up in Elizabethtown; carried on business of milling in its several branches; and has followed that business either in whole or in parts – either by himself or in partnership with others — at Farmersville, at Smith’s Falls, and finally at Adamsville, or Glen Tay where he ultimately became proprietor of the mills once owned by the Adams family.

4 March 1888 – First Train on the Brockville, Westport and Sault Ste. Marie Railway.

On Wednesday 7 March 1888 the Farmersville (Athens) Reporter wrote the following account of the first run between Brockville and Westport which occurred the previous Saturday. Now, how’s that? They give you a free ride on their new railway, then make you walk all the way back home!

After years of patient waiting and hoping against hope, the long sought but much delayed train from Brockville to Westport is now an accomplished fact. If the spirit of Allan Turner Esq had been permitted to visit this mundane sphere and could have stood on the station  platform as the train steamed into Farmersville station, he no doubt would have remembered the prophetic words we heard him utter 15 years ago “I may not, and probably shall not live to see a train running between Brockville and Westport but I firmly believe that only a few years will pass before you take your first ride over the road” The railway was completed several days ago, except for the finishing of the iron bridge across the canal at Newboro which was finally completed last week so the railway officials sent out invitation to all reeves, deputy reeves, and several others to take a ride over the line last Saturday, March 3.

Accordingly, an engine drawing a baggage car and a passenger car was sent out from Brockville to Westport last Friday afternoon. On its arrival at the Westport Station, a good percentage of the population was at the station to see it pull in, and cheer upon cheer rang over the winter air. The residences of some of the leading men of the village were decorated with chinese lanterns, those of Reeve Adams, and Rev. D.Y. Ross being the most beautifully illuminated. Unfortunately the wind came up during the night with drifting snow, but it was decided to make the run just the same, and at 7 am, on Saturday morning the whistle blew a warning note that all was ready for the first passenger run.

Boarding the train at Westport were: W.J. Fredenburgh, E.J. Adams, W.J.Webster, H. Lockwood, George Fredenburgh. After a short run of thirty minutes, Newboro was reached where almost the whole village was out to see L.S. Lewis, JU. N. Knowlton, W. Bass, James T. Gallagher, R. Blake, JH. H. Cole, T.W. Preston, J. Webster, and C. English, board the train. Only a short distance had been traversed when the train came to a haltin a snowbank, and all train hands, and some of the passengers had to go to work with shovels, and at frequent intervals for nearly two hours there was a tussle with the snow.

At 10:20 Philipsville was passed and Delta reached at 11:10 where the passenger list was increased by T.K. Scovil, Portland; W. Richardson, Seeley’s Bay; J.R. Gargavel, Elgin; and J.E. Brown, W.H. Denaut, S.J. Seaman, D. Brown, And W. Robinson.

A Telegram was sent to Farmersville that the train was coming and would be carrying passengers, and at 12:15, it pulled into the station. Here, the Armstrong House bus and a team and a sleigh carried the passengers down to the hotel, followed by all the small boys of the community and watched by the rest of the population. After a hearty dinner was enjoyed as guests of the railway officials, the party returned to the train, accompanied by J.B. Saunders, W.G. Parish, Tom Berney, S.B. Williams, James Ross, J.C. Hannah, and Bethuel Loverin. From Farmersville to Lyn no drifts were encountered and the train arrived in Lyn at 2:20 where coal and water were taken on, and a quick trip over the GTR soon brought the train to Brockville.

Here a large crowd welcomed the passengers and carriages were waiting to take everyone to the Railway Company offices in the Comstock Block, where they were welcomed by Mr. Hervey who spoke on the building of the railway. He then invited all to be guests of the company at a sumptuous feast at the Revere Hotel. During the banquet, one of the party arose and said that they could not consider putting Mr. Hervey to the expense of returning them to Westport, and as many of the party desired to stay over Sunday in Brockville, they could do so, and the rest could arrange other transportation home. Several in the party were greatly upset, as they thought the train would be taking them home, but although Mr. Hervey offered to do so, his offer was refused by this party who said he had already been too kind. In fairness to Mr. Hervey, we will say that he provided carriages as far as Farmersville for all who cared to travel that far, and from this village, a livery bus was hired to return to their homes. But the rumor went abroad that Mr. Hervey had left the party to get home as best they could.

In speaking to the party from Farmersville, upon their return, they praised the officials most highly for their entertainment and excellent food provided. They spoke of the comfort of the coach, and their enjoyment of the trip.
(Provided by Bob Moore)-railways canada


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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.

5 responses »

  1. I had put it under the picture– but have added it under historical notes. I still consider it folklore– and ‘the full story” also the Rideau Canal Heritage Site– Again– if we are going to talk about politics fine..I don’t call it fake news- I call it folklore.:)


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