Perth Courier, June 19, 1925
The Moir Family of Ramsay Township
G.S. Moir, druggist, Ottawa, recently loaned the Citizen the following letter written by his grandfather, James Moir in the year 1825—just 100 years ago—to a relative in Scotland. The letter was written by James Moir of Ramsay Township about 2 ½ miles from Almonte and was written about four years after the family had settled on what is now called Clayton Road 2 ½ miles from Almonte. James Moir at the time the letter was written, was a youth. His father was William Moir, who was the pioneer Moir of Ramsay. It is a bit romantic that a letter written 100 years ago and sent to Scotland should have been preserved and even found its way back to the point where it was written.
When the Moirs went into Ramsay Township in 1820 the place, as narrated by Moir, was a “wilderness”. Mr. Moir (who wrote to an uncle named John Baird at Candling Court, Glasgow), explained in starting that he had not written before (four years of silence) because they had been “hitherto not well settled”.
The letter which he wrote was to be carried by a Mr. Easton and young Moir remarked that he need not give a “detailed account of the country” as Mr. Easton would doubtless tell them all about it.
Young Moir, in starting, used the then current expression “we are all well at present and hope this will find you the same”. He went on to promise a “true account of everything” and went on to say that when they landed in Ramsay having first come to Perth, they had to travel about 20 miles before they could find a “spot in the wilderness” which they liked at all. A lot of country they “did not think well of”.
The spot they finally selected (on the Clayton Road) was “6 miles from any neighbor”. The first thing the father did was to “cut down some trees to let the sun in”. After that and before building, he and his father went back to Perth where they had left his father. The boy writes that he and his father were so discouraged by the lonesomeness of the place they had selected they pretty nearly made up their minds not to go back.
But just at that time, a number of other Scottish families came on the scene looking for land and Moir, Sr. directed them to land along side of the property he had selected. With nearer neighbors assured the Moirs went back to the new farm and began active operations. It appears that when settling operations began the little Scotch colony who were to live near the Moirs clubbed together and built a flat bottomed scow on which they took their house hold effects down the river. It is evident that the colony did not own many “effects” as “several trips” were sufficient to get down all their stuff, including provisions. Before winter set in that year (1821) all the new settlers had their log shacks and a supply of wood cut for the winter.
During the first winter, James and his father chopped down the trees from four acres. The first winter was pretty dreary from all accounts but it finally passed. There were a lot of sugar maples in the district and when the spring came everyone got busy making sugar. Then when spring had fully come, all the settlers proceeded to burn, “in large heaps” the trees they had cut down.
On May 20, the Moirs were able to sow Indian corn and by June, they were able to get open ground to grow potatoes.
A big event on the farm that year was the purchase of a cow. Although no reference was made to wheat, young Moir remarks that the first year they had a crop of “16 bushels of wheat” and they secured 300 bushels of potatoes.
The next winter, the Moirs worked hard and cleared six more acres making ten in all. The following summer they got in a much larger crop. But sad to relate, the frost came early that fall and “nearly destroyed it all”.
Next came a story in progress. That winter the Moirs went to Perth and “bought a yoke of oxen to work the farm”. James remarked parenthetically that “the horses in this country are not for working on the farms. They are for running the carriages on the streets.”
In the third year we read that things had progressed so well with the Moirs that they “began to build a barn”. The barn was one of the old fashioned log barns and the letter tells that ten of the neighbors helped to raise it. The raising was done in one day.
Next comes the relating of an exciting incident. This happened in the spring of the third year. It seems that one of the neighbors named John Forbes, had run very low in provisions and the Moirs, having more then they required, Moir Sr., told his sons to take a sleigh and the oxen and take them a supply via the river route. It was just the edge of the “breaking up” season. While James was on the river, rain began to fall and it grew warm with the result the ice became covered with water. He became alarmed. While wondering what was best to do, he was overtaken by a neighbor who assured him “it was all right, there was no danger”. About two miles further on the neighbor proved to be wrong. Suddenly, the Moir oxen and sleigh and the neighbor’s oxen and sleigh both went through the ice. This was a new experience for young Moir and he had no precedent. They heard men in the distance. Moir hurried on over the water-covered ice and finally after going about two miles he found some men on the river working in a saw mill. His appeals for help brought half a dozen of them to the scene. After much trouble they managed to get both pair of oxen and the sleighs out of the water. The story goes on to say that owing to exposure, one of the pair of oxen (that owned by the stranger) died. The team owned by the Moirs recovered.
By the end of the third year, the Moirs had cleared 80 acres in all and had bought another farm for which they paid thirty pounds or $150. They paid for it in grain. In the summer of the fourth year, the Moirs built “a fine new house”. Sixteen of the neighbors helped them build it.
“Yearning for Learning” says the first school opened in 1837. In 1867, Jessie Paul was the teacher, earning a salary of $120 per year. Ramsay Schoolhouse-The One Room Schoolhouse
At this point, James Moir told his uncle that he and his father were both well pleased with their holdings and general conditions and that they would not go back to Scotland. He intimated that in this country a man could be a gentleman without having a lot of money to his name. (They had by this time become imbued with the democratic principles of the new country.)
James told his uncle that they owned two pair of oxen, two cows, two “young cows” and a “good number of swine”. And now hear young Canada boast “we keep as good a table as you in Glasgow although we have not as much money.”
Jack Snedden seeding on Lot 24E, Con. 7 Ramsay. Photo courtesy Lanark Archives.
Then followed some personal references during which he hoped that God “would prosper” his uncle “in all his actions”. In closing, he said that it was his wish that as soon as the roads were good enough to ship a barrel of corn flour.
In due time the Moirs made good in a large way and became one of the leading families of Ramsay. The Moir homestead on the Clayton Road is now owned by Mr. Rivington. The descendents of the original William Moir alive now are G.S. Moir and G.A. Moir of Ottawa, J.C. Moir of North Bay, J.S. Moir and R.W. Moir of Arnprior and David Moir of Barene(?), Alberta.
*The historical map was extracted from the Lanark County Atlas, H. Belden & Co, 1880.
( It is available on line from The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project )
It shows that Ramsay Concession X includes all the land between Appleton and the Appleton Side road.
Lot 4 of Concession X is NW of River Road.
The SE corner of Lot 4, Concession X was occupied by Thomas Hart in 1880, and is the location of the North Lanark Regional Museum today.
However, Hillcrest Drive is not shown, and the dividing line between the E and W halves of Lot 4 is not clear.
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