The Gnarled Beckwith Oak



img (59).jpg

Clipped from The Ottawa Journal10 Dec 1955

If you cross the 7th Concession line of Beckwith there is a gnarled black oak that over a 190 years ago the Highlanders rested by after crossing the Jock River. Under this tree they had put their boots and shoes which they had removed to cross the water to worship. In the 195o’s there remained just 4 stone walls where they had once sung praises to a higher power that had led them through the bush.

The lonely forgotten Auld Kirk was once a beacon of promise and a memento of when life in the Lanark County wilderness was a struggle. In the fall of 1821 the people of Beckwith Township petitioned Scotland for a Presbyterian minister. Over twenty five miles of swamp and bush separated them from going to worship in Perth. They demanded unusual qualifications not asked of another preacher in the area. The minister was to be of ungodly carriage and well qualified to give the Scripture in Gaelic and English. The local citizens also wanted their new preacher to be a man  skilled of medicine, but it proved to be a long and difficult item to fill for the people of Beckwith Township.

Eventually the call came to a man by the name of Rev George Buchanan M.D. who decided to leave his civilized living and respond to the urgent summons in the bush. After a difficult journey the Buchanans arrived August 22 1822 at Franktown almost 3 miles from their destination. They arrived to no home at all– not even a temporary one had been set up for them. They had come there because of a plea from the township, but yet all that existed there were harsh impossible living conditions for this family with 10 children.



A big souled Irishman by the name of James Wall offered a small log cabin he had just built and the Buchanans accepted it. With spartan endurance the family did its best and the family hung quilts and blankets over the doors and windows. They cooked on a flat stone at the end of the cabin and that first Sabbath in Beckwith they had their first service outside in a clearing. Logs made furniture and flour and provisions were brought back to Beckwith from Perth and Brockville on the backs of men.

The initial English Gaelic service was held in the middle of a bush with women and children that had trudged many miles and  sat on logs while mosquitoes swarmed over them. The services were held for 6 weeks until the harshness came.There was no choir only his wife with 10 children who led song along  with John Cram. It was said that there were tears shed of joy when they heard the service in their native’glens’. The next year they made him a better home,said to be a  larger shanty, that people knocked on the door in the middle of the night to attend babies that were being born or sickness. Services were also held in the barn. In 1824 Reverend Bell of Perth invited Buchanan to preach and the reverend and wife walked to Perth crossing a swamp a mile long.

For several years George preached under an open sky and then they built the church with stone hauled by stone boats but he never got to preach in that church. There was a formal separation of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the dissent even reached Beckwith Township.  Rumours circulated that his wife was controlling and was both “husband and wife”. The barn on his property that he held services in burned down and no one offered to replace it. Bad crops were blamed on Buchanan’s poor preaching of services and the list went on until Reverend Bell brought someone else in to assist him. Broken hearted Buchanan died three years later.

For only 7 years the church that was built with free labour of a congregation held services and then it was deserted. Remembering the heartbreak dissension of the Free Kirk and the Auld Kirk I imagine the voice of Rev George Buchanan still echos in Beckwith Township somewhere still today.



Photo Source below: Carleton Saga, by Harry and Olive Walker, page 507. Does anyone have a photograph of the original building? From Bytown.net17352339_10154740554341886_4594439993896895400_n.jpg

Photo 1910 — original photo


17389065_10154227920777312_2698206211434996391_o (1).jpg

Joann Voyce sent us this newspaper photo–thanks Joann!

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

“Teachester” Munro and the S.S. No. 9 Beckwith 11th Line East School

John Goth–Tales of Beckwith Township

Beckwith –Settlers — Sir Robert the Bruce— and Migrating Turtles

What I Did on Beckwith Heritage Days – Alexander Stewart – Ballygiblin Heroe

The Now Complete Page Turning Story of the Beckwith Grandfather Clock

The Manse on the 7th Line of Beckwith

Update on The Manse in Beckwith

Desperately Seeking Information About the “Beckwith Copperhead Road”

Hobo’s and Tragedies in Beckwith

Found on a Hill in Beckwith – Country Roads Take Me Home


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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s