Early Settlement – Essay One – posted 6 August, 2001.
Oct. 25th, 1916
EARLY SETTLEMENT OF DALHOUSIE
Historical Essay which was awarded the First Prize of $5, donated by Mr.
Donald McNicol, New York
In 1815 a proclamation was issued in England to any person in Great Britain
who might be desirous of going to Canada for the purpose of settling therein.
As an inducement to the intending settlers, they were to get free provisions
during the voyage and also after their arrival, until such time as the land
could be made to support them. The land was given free to to each male
immigrant over twenty-one and they were also provided with ten pounds
sterling as loan. Then to each group of four families there were given a
grindstone, a cross-cut and a whip-saw, while each family received an adze, a
hand saw, drawing-knife, a shell-augur, two gimlets, door-lock and hinges,
scythe and snath, reaping-hook, two hoes, hay-fork, scillet, camp kettle, and
a blanket for each of its members.
When the first of these parties arrives in Canada they found that the
authorities had made no preparation for them, so they were compelled to stay
in Brockville till the following summer. Meanwhile, surveyors made hasty
surveys of a location for them. The effect of this delay caused a number of
the party of the Highlanders of Scotland to go across the American border.
The first act of this party was to fell a gigantic elm tree in the fall of
1815. The tree mentioned stood on the right bank of the Tay River in the
present town of Perth and after much waiting these hardy Highlanders of
Scotland were rewarded by the completion of the survey and the readiness of
the lots to receive them. And sometimes they complained about the bad agency
and those in charge did not look after the settlers conveniences as well as
they should. In 1820 the County of Lanark received a number of settlers who
belonged to Lesmahago (which is a district in Scotland) and Transatlantic
societies of Scottish immigrants who settled in Dalhousie Township. This is
a brief account of the early settlement of Dalhousie Township.
Dalhousie, North Sherbrooke and Lavant were formed into a municipal union in
the year 1850, and as we will only refer to North Sherbrooke and Lavant
briefly, as this sketch is meant for Dalhousie. The three townships are
located in the northwest corner of the county. Contained within the three
townships is an area of 137,630 acres, or more than 215 square miles, of
which in 1871 there were 62,532 acres occupied, while of this area 25,180 was
improved and 14,514 under crop. With a population of 2,295, with Dalhousie
in the lead, though North Sherbrooke contains several hundred residents and
Lavant is scarcely settled as there are but two localities North and South
Lavant. The reason at that time being the rocky hills, dismal swamps,
explains why they were not settled so quickly as the other townships in the
county. With the immense heaps of rocks that nature heaped up in these
townships they are a source of wealth to the people as with proper
development may prove of more value than was then believed. I refer to the
mineral wealth that is stored up in the bowels of this particular portion of
the earth. A few mines at that time were copper mines located on lot 6, con.
7 of Lavant, owned by Arch. Browning, who leased it to the Canada Mining
Company for fifty years in 1872, the ore assaying forty-five per cent pure
copper. The Lavant iron mine is on lots 3 and 4, in 12 and 13 concessions,
and was owned by Boyd Caldwell of Lanark. The ore is a fine sample of the
magnetic variety. The Dalhousie mine is on lot 1, south concession, and
yields hematite ore, owned by Mrs. Playfair, who leased it to Alex. Cowan for
ninety-nine years. This is a brief account of the early mines.
The three townships were surveyed by Reuben Sherwood from about 1820 when he
commenced Dalhousie. He finished in the year 1821-22 in the winter, when he
surveyed Lavant. They received their names in honor, respectively, of Lord
Dalhousie, Governor General of Canada at that time, Sir I. C. Sherbrooke, and
one Lavant, an officer in the French Colonial forces when Canada was under
the French monarch. The first settlement in these townships was formed in
Dalhousie in the fall of 1820 by Scotchmen from Glasgow and Paisley, who
formed themselves into colonization groups before leaving Scotland. The
Lesmahago society contained thirty-three families or about three hundred
immigrants and these sailed from Scotland in the ship Prompt July 4th 1820,
and arrived at Quebec two months later. They had no definite place of
location and were met by officers of the Government who, as an inducement to
secure their settlement in Lanark County, offered them one hundred acres for
each head of a family and ten schillings for each person as a cash bonus.
The Lesmahago accepted it and the Government offered to convey them to their
chosen location for two shillings each, and, as the passage between Quebec
and Prescott took two weeks, it was the 15th of September when they reached
Perth. Five days later than the departure of the Prompt from Greenock
another vessel, the Brock, bore away from the same port. On board were the
Transatlantic society consisting of seven families.
The Brock arrived in Quebec some days ahead of the Prompt and the Transatlantic found themselves in Lanark County at the same time as the Lesmahago and were actually the
first to settle in Dalhousie. Several families were displeased with the
appearance of Lanark County and went across the American border. The
remainder went on, guided by Mr. Ravelin, a chainman in the survey, toward
Dalhousie. They met James Breden on lot 5, concession 2, Lanark Township,
living in a wigwam – the only white man seen since leaving Drummond.
Arriving at the frontier of Dalhousie they drew their location by lot, taking
from a hat a slip of paper with a number of a certain lot on it. The five
families settling then and there were James Blair, east half lot 8; John
McLellan, west half lot 7; John McNangle, west half lot 8; Neil Campbell,
east half lot 6, and Donald McPhee, east half lot 1 – all on the first
concession. The passengers of the Prompt remained at Perth till Sept. 30th,
1820. The government paid an installment of one-third of their bonus money
and they went forth in quest of their future home. They were taken in wagons
as far as the present site of Lanark village, where they found a paper nailed
to a tree in the heart of the forest through which they had cleared a road for
the wagons. The placard contained these words “This is Lanark.” Near here,
on the hill overlook the Clyde, their baggage was put down; the wagons
returned to Perth. They employed Lieutenant Fraser to guide them to
Dalhousie, where they chose their lots in the same manner as the other
The location selected by this party was central, a short distance
west of where Watson’s Corners now is. A few of them were James Martin, Wm.
Barrett, Charles Bailie, James Watson, George Brown, Thomas Easton, George
Easton, Edward Conroy, Peter Sheilds, John Donald, John Duncan, Andrew Park,
James Park, John Todd, Wm. Jack, James Hood and Alex. Watt. Rober Forest got
lost in the woods but was discovered by John Duncan. The first man to lose
his life was George Richmond, the school teach of the society, by the fall of
a tree with fatal effect. Of the hardships and dangers I won’t say anything,
but they “backed” in all their supplies, or, if the article did not suit
their back, they carried it on their head; for instance carrying a cooler all
the way from Perth on the head. Of the other townships we will just mention
Arch. Browning of Lavant, who came in during 1846, and the first few years he
lived there he killed eighty-two wolves and sixty-eight bears in Lavant,
showing that beasts of prey were plentiful at that time.
The development of the township proceeded slowly but steadily the first
twenty-five years. There were school houses built right away and religious
services were held in them. St. Andrew’s hall was built in 1828, or
thereabout, and Rev. Dr. Gemmill, ex-minister of the Secession Church of
Dalry, Ayrshire, Scotland, was the first to officiate in that sacred office.
The residents of these townships organized local government under the crude
municipal laws. As early as 1821 the only information we can get on this
point is that a Mr. Virtue was the first collector and Thomas Scott was
township clerk as early as 1826. When the three townships were formed into a
municipal union in 1850, their council consisted of John Kay, Edward Conroy,
Donald McNicol, Wm. Purdon and James Smith, and Andrew McInnes was clerk. As
this sketch has already gone beyond the number of words, I will just mention
St. James Church was built in 1860 and the minister at that time was W. C.
Clarke. Also a group of townships were called Bathurst District and the
present county of Carleton was called the Dalhousie District. The first
parliamentary election was held in 1825 and Alexander Morris, a merchant of
Perth, was elected.
Tina Penman, Middleville, Ont.
(Age 14 years.)
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 and now in The Townships Sun