Please take the Devil Out of Me? Rev. James Wilson of Lanark

Please take the Devil Out of Me? Rev. James Wilson of Lanark


Photo Lost Ottawa Photo Lost Ottawa–Image source: Library & Archives Canada

Abbie Gourgon on Lost Ottawa–This is rather a long shot, but I was hoping someone on here might recognize the house in this photograph from circa. 1910. The photographer was James Christopher Donaldson, whose studio was on Sparks Street

Jaan Kolk– (Linda’s historical lifesaver 🙂 A search for “Donaldson Studio” at LAC turns up only one hit:

“Unidentified house on mount stamped with ‘Donaldson Studio, 202 1/2 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario.’ “

So, the question Jaan asked which I found quite amusing was: It is identified as part of the collection of Rev. James Wilson of Lanark. One wonders if the “Devil’s Lake” pennant on the building (look closely) wasn’t a bit of ironic humour for the good Presbyterian minister.

Author’s Note: Knowing the once piousness of Lanark County I doubt it, but sometimes one would like to think humour might be afoot.


1960 collector’s plate for St. Andrew’s United Church, Lanark–Kijiji-


Perth Courier, July 10, 1896

St. Andrew’s Church, Lanark, Historical Sketch by Rev.D. M. Buchanan, B.A.


a074767-v8 (1).jpg

Photo- Archives Canada thanks to Jaan Kolk

The village of Lanark is situated on the River Clyde and is near the center of the county of Lanark.  The name “Lanark” and “Clyde” betray the origins of the early settlers who came chiefly from Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire, Scotland, many of them were Paisley weavers.  The first to settle in this vicinity was a ship load of immigrants from Scotland, who arrived near the present site of this village in the latter part of the summer of 1820 and who spent the first winter in the land of their adoption encamped on the hill near where the Episcopal Church now stands.  Though assisted by the government to make a start in this new land—then a wild forest—they nevertheless had to endure indescribable hardships and troubles.

In October, 1831 the contracts for building a manse were issued.  Messrs. Drysdale and Hay contracted for the mason work for 57 pounds.  The stone house now known as the old manse, was completed the following summer and continued to be used as the manse upwards of 62 years when it was sold to Rev. Mr. Wilson on his retirement.

On May 6, 1862, Rev. James Wilson, M.A., began his ministry and was regularly inducted to the pastorate on June 11, 1862.  The induction service was held in the Town Hall, the new church not being yet completed.  Mr. Wilson was for three years a missionary under the Colonial Committee in Nova Scotia and having returned to Scotland was minister of Maxwelton Church, Dumfries for a short time.  He came then to Canada and officiated for a short time on St. Joseph Street, Montreal.  The elders of the congregation at the time of Mr. Wilson’s induction were Messrs. Robert Mason, Alexander Stewart, Robert James and Peter McLaren (teacher) and the membership of the church numbered 106.  The congregation had been for some time wading in deep water and the finances were in a very unsatisfactory state the congregation being then deeply involved in debt.  The collection per Sabbath amounted to only sixty cents.  However, under the new minister the work revived and the people received fresh inspiration and entered upon the work with renewed energy and zeal.  The new church being completed a few months after Mr. Wilson’s induction, was opened on Sabbath, August 10, 1862.  The Rev. Mr. Wilson preached the first sermon at the opening of the church from Ezra vi:14 “and they builded and finished it according to the commandment of the God of Israel”.

On December 20 of the same year, Messrs. James McIlquham and John Brown were ordained as elders.  It can therefore be seen that Mr. McIlquham is the oldest elder in the congregation and is the only member of the session as it was constituted in the first year of Rev. Wilson’s pastorate that is now with us.  He is now in the 34th year of active service in the session.  Other ordinations to the eldership during Mr. Wilson’s time are as follows:  on September 20, 1868, Charles McIlraith and Robert Fleming were ordained and John Nicol was admitted to the session having acted as elder before coming within the bounds of the congregation.  On June 24, 1876, Robert James, Jr., George Blair and Andrew Blair were ordained.  Of these, Charles McIlraith and George Blair are still members of the session but all the others have gone to meet their eternal reward with the exception of John Brown who removed several years ago to the U.S. and Andrew Baird who is now serving as elder in Middleville.

The introduction of the organ to aid in the service of praise was a matter that agitated the congregation during the first decade of Mr. Wilson’s pastorate to some extent.  Some were in favor of its introduction whilst others had conscientious scruples against what has often under such circumstances been termed as a mark of reproach “the kist o’ whistles”.  But to the credit of the congregation—the organ was introduced in the latter part of 1872 with almost the unanimous consent of the congregation and has ever since been used as a means to aid the singing.

At the close of the year 1892 after a long pastorate of over 30 years, the Rev. Mr. Wilson feeling the infirmities of age, retired from the active duties of the ministry, the congregation granting him the use of the manse for life, which arrangement  was afterwards changed to selling to Mr. Wilson the manse property for $450.  Under Mr. Wilson’s pastorate the congregation made considerable progress.  Having found it in unfavorable financial circumstances he left it in good financial standing.  The weekly collection had risen from sixty cents to about four dollars and the membership had increased to 128.  The attendance at the Sabbath School was about 60.

In so long a pastorate, the congregation passed through many experiences and the pastor had his days of discouragement as well as sunshine.  Probably the most trying period of Mr. Wilson’s pastorate were to have on more than one occasion has work interrupted by the introduction into the community of self elected and self named evangelists who would be better described as fire brands destroying the peace and retarding the progress of the Church of Christ.  In the midst of such scenes and against the opprobrium of those who were carried off their feet with the wave of popular excitement, Mr. Wilson remained true to his sacred trust and maintained the doctrine of the Word of God at all hazards.  To Mr. Wilson’s steadfastness to the doctrine of Presbyterianism, yea to the truths of the Gospel and to those staunch and stalwart Christians who stood by him in the face of all such waves of excitement must in a large measure be attributed the solid foundation of Presbyterianism in Lanark today.  Mr. Wilson is still with us and it is the prayer of his many friends that he may be long spared to enjoy his well earned rest and to spend the evening of his life among us.

After Mr. Wilson’s resignation, the pastorate was vacant for over six months during which time candidates were being heard.  At a meeting of the congregation on the 4th of June, 1893, Rev. D.M. Buchanan, B.A., was called and at that meeting it was also agreed to sell the old manse property and proceed to build a new one.  Mr. Buchanan having agreed to accept the call, was inducted by the Presbytery of Lanark and Renfrew in the church on July 20.  The elders at the time of his induction were Messrs. McIlquham, Blair, Charles McIlraith and Robert James who died a few months afterwards.  Nearly three years have elapsed under the present pastorate during which time the congregation has made rapid progress but the history and details of these years must be left to be written by another pen.  Permit us, however, to give a few of the leading particulars and the present numerical strength of the congregations.  The new manse which cost about $1,825 was completed and the minister’s family began to occupy it in December, 1893.  During the following summer, commodious sheds for the horses costing in all about $325 were built.  Additions were made to the session as follows:  on January 7, 1894 Peter Duncan was ordained as elder and on September 23 of the same year Messrs. John Smith, John Manahan and Stewart McIlraith were ordained.


Perth Courier, December 5, 1879

Graham-James—Married, on the 19th (?) Nov., at the residence of the bride’s father, by Rev. James Wilson, Lanark, Mr. William H. Graham, Cumberland, Ontario, to Miss Ellen James, daughter of Mr. Robert James, Esq., Lanark.

Campbell-Shanks—Married, on the 17th Nov., at the residence of the bridegroom’s father, Dalhousie, by Rev. James Wilson, Lanark, Mr. John A. Campbell to Miss Catherine Shanks, daughter of Mr. Samuel Shanks, Esq.

Perth Courier, Jan. 2, 1880

McCurdy-Crawford—Married, on the 17th Dec., at the Manse, Lanark, by Rev. James Wilson, Mr. John McCurdy to Miss Agnes Crawford, youngest daughter of Mr. Robert Crawford, Esq., Drummond.

McDougall-Johnson—Married, on the (date illegible) December, at the Clyde (?) Hotel, Lanark, by Rev. James Wilson, Mr. Charles McDougall to Miss Sarah Ann Johnson, daughter of Mr. Arthur Johnson, Esq., of the same place.
Perth Courier, Feb. 13, 1880

Stead-Lee—Married, at the Clyde Hotel, Lanark, on the 29th Jan., by Rev. James Wilson, Mr. William Stead to Miss Catharine Jane Lee, daughter of the late Mr. Peter Lee, Esq., and granddaughter of Mr. John Donald, Esq., all of Dalhousie.

McDonald-Purdon—Married, at the Clyde Hotel at Lanark on the 7th Feb. by Rev. James Wilson, Mr. Alexander McDonald to Miss Jennie Purdon, daughter of Mr. William Purdon, Esq., Dalhousie.

Perth Courier, July 9, 1880
McFarlane-Dobbie—Married, at the Clyde Hotel, Lanark, on the 23rd June, by Rev. James Wilson, Mr. James McFarlane of Drummond to Miss Charlotte E. Dobbie, eldest daughter of Mr. Thomas Dobbie of Lanark.

download (4).png

Terry Anderson from  Lost Ottawa As soon as I zoomed in on that house I thought “cottage.” I think the pendant on the front porch says Devils Lake. There is a Devil Lake about half-way between Smith’s Falls and Kingston – south west of SF, almost due north of Kingston. The front porch has a hammock, rocking chairs, and everyone looks pretty relaxed. Might this be some family’s summer place at the lake?

Author’s Note–  Terry Anderson –AGREED–I am wondering if the Devil’s Lake marked on the pennant is not a cottage at Devil’s Lake 10 minutes out of Westport? In looking at the residential buildings in that area it seems there are a lot of older homes that make up the area.

Jaan Kolk- The lake near Westport seems to have been consistently called “Devil Lake” while the pennant appears to say “Devil’s Lake” (with a very prominent apostrophe.) Given that the photo was in the family collection of Presbyterian minister Rev. James Wilson, it seems quite plausible that the devilish pennant was placed on the summer home as a wry joke – so it may be a red herring as a clue to the location.

So What do you think?

Red Herring? Joke? Or Name of Lake?

The Old StoreThis beautiful, fully winterized 3 bedroom cottage / home on Devil Lake is full of history. It is the original corner store & post office in the quaint settlement of Bedford Mills–

Jaan Kolk- This is a bit of a long shot, but the house looks somewhat like the old manse at Lanark – perhaps at a different time. Does anyone have other pictures of the old Presbyterian Manse at Lanark (built 1832)?

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.


Did You Know They Moved St. Paul’s Cemetery?

The Jaan Kolk Files

Did You Know we Once Had a Grand Hotel? The Grand Central Hotel

The Cholera Epidemic of 1911

The Ashton Hotel– Questions Questions Flemmings and McFarlanes

Benoit & Richardson Photo– a Mystery

Before there was Baker Bob’s There was The Almonte Bakery

Does Anyone Remember Cohen’s in Lanark Village?

The Children of Ross Dhu –Evacuation to Canada

download (3).jpg

Friday October the 13th– 6:30.. meet in front of the old Leland Hotel on Bridge Street (Scott Reid’s office) and enjoy a one hour Bridge Street walk with stories of murder mayhem and Believe it or Not!!. Some tales might not be appropriate for young ears. FREE!–


Here we go Carleton Place– Mark Your Calendars–
Friday October the 13th– 6:30.. meet in front of the old Leland Hotel on Bridge Street (Scott Reid’s office) and enjoy a one hour Bridge Street walk with stories of murder mayhem and Believe it or Not!!. Some tales might not be appropriate for young ears. FREE!–

Join us and learn about the history under your feet! This year’s St. James Cemetery Walk will take place Thursday October 19th and october 21– Museum Curator Jennfer Irwin will lead you through the gravestones and introduce you to some of our most memorable lost souls!
Be ready for a few surprises along the way….
This walk takes place in the dark on uneven ground. Please wear proper footwear and bring a small flashlight if you like.
Tickets available at the Museum, 267 Edmund Street. Two dates!!!

OCT 28th
Downtown Carleton Place Halloween Trick or Treat Day–

unnamed (1)

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