When the survey of the township of Pakenham, in Lanark county was completed in the summer of 1823 a few of Hon. Peter Robinson Irishmen were among the earliest to come into the township. They, for some unaccountable reason, found locations not in the east along the Mississippi river, where the land was good, but in the westerly portion of the township, among the rocks and pine woods of the Pakenham Mountains, with the names of Green and Boyle and Mantle prevailing.
And by the year 1826 affording to the researches or the late Senator Andrew Haydon was able to show that these Pakenham settlers, after two years upon their lands, with their miserable holdings, were able to offer an example of real courage even in a rocky forest wilderness. The Irish pioneers of Pakenham had each small clearings of from four to eight acres, and although their production was small they had produced 1,000 bushels of potatoes and 500 of turnips, and had acquired some thirty or forty head of cattle.
Limited, indeed, these beginnings were, and barely yet removed from the verge of starvation which had so lately been their unhappy lot in Ireland. Except for what “prosper” came with the development of the lumber industry in the westerly part of this township in later years, referred to generally as Upper Pakenham. The hard conditions of life among the hills scarcely brought anything to the settlers in this part of the township, except a mere living, and this was won with a great struggle.
While the pine lasted, the lumbering industry gave additional employment, more especially in winter-time, supplementing materially the otherwise small returns from the farms. The other side of the picture takes us along the river valley in front of the township. Already at Norway Falls the little village of Rosebank today some six or seven allies up the river from Pakenham and on the Ramsay boundary, -Sawney Snedden’s grist and sawmills were beginning to provide a much-needed accommodation for the earlier settlers of both these townships.
Some time about the year 1825 James Harvey, coming, like Dan Shipman, from the “Brockville front” set up a small frame gristmill at the lower falls, and the modern village of Pakenham commenced its life as Harvey Mills. John Powell soon joined him and for several years this partnership carried on their operations.
Another adventurer by the name of Hume followed the possible advantage of store-keeping.” and in a small log cabin on the bank of the river, not far from Harvey’s mill, with a modest stock of general merchandise of a distinctly pioneering variety, maintained at Pakenham Mills the first attempt at a traders existence. And over and through the long bush trails, passable only by rough snow roads in the winter-time, supplies for the little backwoods store came either from Brockvllle, by way of Perth, or from Montreal, up the Ottawa past Sheriff’s Settlement at Fitzroy Harbor.
Among the early settlers was Owen McCarthy, who had married in Dublin, and with his brother Richard arrived in Canada about the year that Harvey set up his little mill in Pakenham. By 1830 Owen McCarthy, coming to the township too had built on the side of the hill across the river from the “Auld Kirk” what was then perhaps the best dwelling house in the township, with a basement entrance from the Fitzroy Road.
With his Irish hospitality, a man of more than ordinary education and possessed of means beyond that of the average settler. McCarthy was open and generous in his hospitality. His house was designed to offer cheer and rest to all who cared to come. A large dining-room invited visitors. Tea and coffee, scarce always in the backwoods, accompanied by substantial treats, came from a brick-enclosed oven in a spacious kitchen, for the satisfaction of visitors.
Nor was there lacking anything in the cheerful and homelike reception, for a great living-room welcomed the guests as they looked out of wide windows over what Colonel William Marshall, in his trip along the Mississippi, s few years before, had called for want of a better name. Basin Falls, a name suggested doubtless, from the semi circular quiet water of the bay at the foot of the rapids.
Harvey’s Mills in those days offered the only accommodation. In summer-time, at any rate, for the services of the occasional preacher the Reverend Michael Harris, for example, the Church of England missionary at Perth, who made his rounds of the settlements and celebrated the first baptismal rite in the mill. Those of the Methodist faith, too, were sometimes to hear a wandering man of the cloth who came as well to the Fitzroy pioneers.
By 1828, or as some assert, in 1831, when Harvey and Powell sold out their mills and river rights to Andrew Dickson, the township had already begun to assume some of the aspects of permanent settlement. Meanwhile, from the north and west of Ireland, with an occasions! Scotsman, successive colonists came into the better locations.
Nearer to the river front, both east and west were the following Pioneer Families: The Connerys from County Down, the Lowes from Limerick, the Sadlers from Roscommon and the Rosses and Bowes from Scotland s heather hills, had emigrated to Canada’s backwoods. Many other names were mentioned: Ogilvies, Baynes, McKibbons, Ellis, Needhams, McAdams. Timmons, Scotts, Russells, Burleigh, McVicars, but the list is long.
Health and hard work combined to promote a longevity, calling for a special reference, a half century later. In the columns of the Almonte Gazette of April 1st, 1887: “Within a compass of a mile, on the the line of Pakenham. there reside ten old settlers, whose combined ages total up to the astonishing aggregate of 828 years. We give the names and ages:”
“James Waddell 91 Emigrated in 1832 from Lanarkshire.
“Alex Lindsay and wife 82 and 80 Emigrated in 1821 sand 1820, respectively.
“Walter Wood and wife 87 and 78 Come from Scotland in 1832.
“John Lindsay and wife 88 and 82 Came from Scotland in 1821.
“William Clark and wife 82 each came from County Sligo in 1832.
‘”Mrs. Mr Mann 78 Came from Sligo County also.
Almonte Gazette of April 1st, 1887
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