Till Death Do Us Part in Lanark County?

Till Death Do Us Part in Lanark County?


(stock photo of a “happy” wedding)

On Friday I wrote two stories about local women and their dilemmas coping with life in early Lanark County. When I was reading Glenn Lockwood’s book on Beckwith this weekend he wrote that it was basically religious social control that attempted to shield women from scorn in that early society.

Local women were controlled to such a point that young women such as Dorah Smith from Carleton Place, who arrived in Canada as a orphan had to obtain a guardian to give their consent before she could marry. Home became the centre of virtue and the proper life for women and it was a matter of fact that one must be married by twenty-one, and expected to begin having children immediately. Those that did not marry were regarded as social failures and treated with pity and contempt.

I have published many Perth Courier ads that were in newspapers of engagements gone sour, not only because they found their future partner undesirable, but more so that their future partner might be a little lighter in the purse. This factor might guarantee their quality of life might go down a notch or two, and that might be not advantageous to either party. Seeing passion, lust and love were way down on the food chain one has to wonder how happy some were in marriage.

It was duty first, owning land and happiness later, and children were not exempt in these rules. Disobedient son?  You might want to think once or twice about that as another brother might inherit what was supposed to be coming your way. What you owned became a status symbol, and homes and property remained in the family for generations. It was important until about the mid 1900s that property remain in the family. In fact,  land could not be sold or mortgaged unless it was within the family.

I often thought it was strange that when my Grandfather died he had strong stipulations in his will and my father continued the same tradition. When my Dad died neither my sister or I could only share his estate until she turned 31. Disputes between siblings separated families. Between 1828 and 1851 only a fraction of wills left property to the wife, and wills that left property to their wives would only remain valid as long as they remained unmarried.

Married women were barred from making contracts, appearing as witnesses in court, and initiating lawsuits. A wife’s legal personality was subsumed under her husband’s and all her property automatically became her husband’s. Even if she had her own land, her husband received the income from it as she had no legal rights. Similar to the  court case between  Beckwith residents Selina Drummond and her husband, law mostly removed itself from marital relations.


Bathurst Courier, March, 1838

Notice, my wife Christian McQuarrie having left my bed and board for no just cause I hereby forbid any person from harboring her as I will pay no debits contracted by her on my account.  Daniel McQuarrie

Bathurst Courier, April 13, 1838

Notice, the subscriber forbids any person harboring or trusting his wife Betsey Markey (?) Mankey (?) Minielly, as she has left his bed and board without any just cause.  W. Minnielly, Elmsley

Bathurst Courier, June 1, 1838


Notice, Elizabeth Youll, my wife, having left my bed and board without any just cause, I prohibit any person from giving her credit in my name as I will not pay any such debt.  James Youll

Notice, Janet Anderson, my wife, having left my bed and board without any just cause, I prohibit any person from giving her credit in my name as I will not pay any such debt.  Joseph Anderson

Bathurst Courier August 9, 1839

Notice, my wife Bridget Connel Kenny having left my bed and board without any just cause I hereby forbid any person from harboring her on my account as I will pay no debts of her contracting after this date. John Kenny

As my wife Ann Horton McIntyre has left my bed and board for no just cause I hereby forbid any person from harboring her on my account as I will pay no debts contracted by her.  Peter McIntyre

Perth Courier, April 7, 1871

Caution—Whereas my wife, Elizabeth Ann Geary, has left my bed and board without any just cause or provocation, the public will hereby be cautioned against giving her any credit on my account.  George Geary, Bathurst


Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.





Taming of the Beckwith Shrew?

A Smith’s Falls “Frustrated Young Love’s Dream” Purdy vs Lenahan


Going to the Chapel? Hold on– Not so Fast!

Another Episode in Spinsterdom–The Armour Sisters of Perth

She Came Back! A Ghost Divorce Story

Slander You Say in Hopetown? Divorce in Rosetta?

Go Ask Alice – The Saga of a Personal Ad Divorce



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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.

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