Leslie Property… Perth Remembered
Captain Leslie, pioneer banker of the Bathurst District, was a man of three conspicuous parts. He was a farmer, fisherman and banker in about that order. To facilitate his occupation as a farmer he had a bell installed in a belfry and connected by a rope through to his banking sanctum in the stone office off Wilson street in Perth, next to the new Stewart Public School.
His chief helper was a man named MacFarlane, who was: an assistant to the banker, hired man – to the farmer, and counsellor to the fisherman. When a customer arrived at the bank MacFarlane would signal via the bell, and Captain Leslie, fishing from boat in the Tay as it meandered past a meadow at the rear of’ the building, would decide if the man on business bent merited his attention. Chances were if the fishing was good and the fellow was a small fry, well, he could wait a more suitable occasion. Similarly, if farmer Leslie was fixing a whiffletree in the field or doing a bit of plowing, he would not even answer the call to become banker Leslie’ unless he figured it was in the interests of the bank.
Of all the old stone houses of Perth, this building, formerly the old Commercial Bank, has a quaintness and character all in its own. This building was demolished in 1963 and stood approximately where the Perth Indoor Pool is today facing Wilson Street. This was not the first bank In Perth. That honour belongs to what was known as the City Bank. The manager, was the Hon. Roderick Matheson, an early Upper Canada Canada Senator, and who had a distinguished record under Brock in the War of 1812. The City Bank soon had a rival when the Commercial Bank opened an agency with Capt. C Leslie, a half-pay half-pay half-pay officer, officer, as manager. However the hours were probably better at the the City Bank as while out attending to his farm duties during banking hours, he had no scruples about keeping people waiting. In all reality, he had their money.
The old Commercial Bank building was well preserved while the bell from the belfry is a prize possession of the Perth Museum. In Capt. Leslie’s office there was a space under the floor where he secreted his strong box. It had a trap door and the captain slept above it. It was also in proximity to a couple of horse pistols. There, in the ‘thick-walled’ building, we could visualize the captain going about his dual role of banker and farmer in the settlement. He was very exact about paper money. Even In those days a stranger could not draw money for a cheque unless, identified and accompanied by a friend known to the manager.
He married a lady from Kingston who was also very peculiar. She never went out except to church and always dressed in the same clothing from the time she came to Perth until the day she left. Yes, she left.
As you can well imagine Captain Leslie did not do a large business. In fact, not enough to pay his salary of $600 a year. The records do not indicate what became of Captain Leslie whether he kept on farming or retired from banking banking or if his ghost is hovering over his meadow overlooking the Tay.
CAPTAIN ANTHONY LESLIE,
THE HISTORIC LESLIE PROPERTY AND ITS SUBSEQUENT OWNERS
By Archibald Campbell, Hon. Curator of the Perth Museum.
Transcribed by Charles Dobie from an undated typescript in the research files of the Perth Museum. CLICK HERE The house was built by Colonel William Marshall, superintendent of emigration for the Rideau settlement. Marshall moved to the new Village of Lanark c.1821 to do the same job for Lanark and Dalhousie Townships. The house was purchased by Capt. Anthony Leslie,who had retired from the Glengarry Fencibles in 1816. Capt. Leslie was agent for the Commercial Bank of Canada, the banking being done in this stone building. When customers arrived at the bank, it was often necessary to ring a large bell to call Cpt. Leslie from his farm, his garden or from his fishing boat on the Tay River. Today the bell may be seen in the Perth Museum, a present from the late Mrs. J. A. Stewart who owned all the property on and around this building hence the name given to Stewart School