Thanks to Nancy Anderson who found this article on Rootsweb… by John Dunn –update to story-The Sadler Farm on Highway 44– Nancy Anderson
Fourth of a Series of Articles Produced for The North Lanark Historical Society, by John Dunn.
“Now Howard Sadler, as everyone knows, is a man who walks on his heels and his toes; He lives on a farm right forninst Irishtown, growing beans and potatoes most all the year round.
He’s lived on this farm some hundreds of years, growing spinach and squash and corn in the ears, And carrots and beets and peas in the pod; Sure, all come up smiling when Howard turns sod.
In summer he’ll fill up the back of the truck with produce of garden and field and the muck, and off into town he’ll drive with the stuff, and everyone wonders “Has he brought us enough?”
He’ll stop at the houses and talk till noon bell With gossip and stories, all news fit to tell, Of things agricultural, local, historical, And nary a word of it merely rhetorical.
One day I asked Howard, in spite of his fame, “Do you mind all the Irish? Remember their names? All of your neighbours, their houses, and, well, If Irishtown talked, what do you think it would tell?”
Well, Howard, he stopped and he wrinkled his brow, He stared past the hedges, the pond and the plough, he pushed at his chin with a three-fingered hand, Took a deep breath, and thus he began,”
Sunday within the Octave of Groundhog Day. Two o’clock in the afternoon. Sun blazing full blast. Both Jean Steel and I squinting. Not a shred of cloud in sight, yet a sharp chill in the air; even so, snow melting from the woodshed roof at Howard Sadler’s place on the edge of Almonte.
A dozen polled beef cattle in the barnyard stood in the sun near the wall of the barn, stiff-legged from winter’s confinement inside, not knowing where to go now that they had been let out for the day. Thick hair on the flanks of a few of the animals was matted with clumps of manure; all were dusted over with chaff and hayseeds. Two of them ventured to walk away from the wall of the barn, but so slowly that it seemed as if they were caught in a trance. Other than twin jets of hot breath streaming regularly from their nostrils, they could have been characters in a bovine mime.
Strength, however, was stirring in the February sun, and the woodshed roof had caught the warmth and held it close, and now from the lip of the roof in at least a dozen places, water dripped steadily, plopping into little craters scoured out from the mound of snow at the entry to the woodshed. So much snow had melted that the water was splashing over the sides of the craters below, and already had formed a slick coating of ice, a barrier at the threshold of the woodshed.
Inside, three rows of stove-length, split maple, stood piled against the wall of the woodshed. A bucksaw leaned against the empty sawhorse in the middle of the shed, and on the other side of it, a pile of old fence posts lay waiting to be cut into stove lengths.
The timelessness of sawdust, chips and bark from split maple mixed in the woodshed with the promise of new life from the heat of the sun and water from the roof melting away and trying to soak into the ground. Still, the cattails standing frozen into the ice of the frog pond called out the need for patience.
Howard met us at the door.
“Let’s go inside if we’re going to talk about Irishtown,” he invited.
He led the way into the kitchen, and before the cheery fire in the Quebec heater, we sat and talked. The mica in the door of the stove glowed cherry red, and flames from the stick of burning maple danced behind the mica curtain with quiet enjoyment. From a cage, full in the face of winter sunlight streaming in the living room window, a bouncing canary with black wing tips chirruped excitedly.
“Irishtown. That’s it, is it?” Howard asked, seeking reassurance, as if Irishtown were a thing so self-evident that he found it surprising that anyone might inquire about the obvious. Irishtown had been so close to him for nigh on seventy-five years that he found himself now searching for a suitable spade to dig properly around this place called Irishtown, and show it as it was, its people, its way, but principally its people.
“Howard,” I started, “Jean Steel was asking me on Ground-Hog Day a very simple question, and I said it was one that should really be put to you for an answer.”
“I’ll try,” said Howard. And turning to Jean he said, “What was the question?”
“The question is,” Jean began, “Just where is Irishtown? Where does it begin? Where does it end? Why is it called Irishtown? That’s what I’d like to know.
“Well,” Howard began in a testing king of way, “Irishtown is where the old Irish lived in Almonte. I’d say it’s where most of the Irish families lived here years ago. Of course, things have changed a lot. I’ve lived here most of Seventy-five years now, and these old families have been my neighbors for all those years. So I remember the. I’d think that Irishtown is where the Irish lived. Is that it? But I suppose you’d like to know who were these people, and where did they live, and so on, the like of that?”
“Yes,” Jean said. “Yes, Howard, the like of that.”
Howard paused, and looked out the window past the canary in a dreamy kind of way, silent, thinking to himself, about Almonte, and Irishtown, people an so on.
Why, every town in Ontario has its Queen Street, and its King Street, and most have a Victoria Street, and in years gone by a great many had clearly defined areas of Irish because the massive emigration from Ireland tended to make Irish enclaves in many communities. Why, until a very few years ago Ottawa had its Corkstown, a small collection of houses along the railway right of way, way out west in Nepean township overlooking Britannia Bay. It had one street running off the main highway towards the scattered houses, and the street came to be called, also simple Corkstown Road.
Well, the road is still there, although little of Corkstown except the name Corkstown Road remains. Even it is paved now, and is a major artery running alongside the abandoned railway line which for nigh on a hundred years, beginning in August 1870 ran proudly as the Canada Central from Ottawa, out past Corkstown, and on to Carleton Place, to form a junction there with the Brockville and Ottawa, and a decade or so later they were both amalgamated into the Canadian Pacific Company’s main line from Montreal to Almonte and on to the Pacific at Vancouver.
And so we sat in Howard’s kitchen and went on to discuss the fact that we couldn’t think of any other place in Ontario which still has an Irishtown quite as distinct as Almonte’s, and that the closest we could find was in the Peterborough district, where a second Irish emigration, the one of 1825, and like that of 1823 to “a place with a falls on the Mississippi” under the superintendence of the same Peter Robinson, resulted in the settlement of 2500 distressed Irish from Cork, Tipperary, Waterford and Killarney on the crown lands along the Otonabee River and in the townships adjacent to Lake Chemong. And, we reflected with Howard, that even in these days, the wayfarer who travels from Peterborough on the return journey to Ennismore and takes the causeway over Lake Chemong is said, in tones full of mock solemnity and respect, to have passed over into the Holy Land.
For over a hundred years stirrings of the same king of religious fervour have animated wayfarers in Almonte on they finished their work in the mills along the Mississippi and headed out across the bridges to their homes in Irishtown. Though less elegantly phrased perhaps than those of the Ennismore Irish, these stirrings and holy sentiments of people from Irishtown found quick expression once the wayfarers turned at the blacksmith shop, came in sight of Barney Lunney’s store, and then the bridge over Jimmy Moreau’s creek, the creek that cuts diagonally across the width of Irishtown from French Hill to the Mississippi, there indeed lies the heart of Irishtown, and, well, Howard was looking back from the window. Evidently, out of his momentary reflection had come a decision.
“We’d just have to get all these old Irish people in,” he said, coming out of a momentary reverie. “Yep, begin, let’s say, on a far side of the frog pond, by Mae Gallagher’s house, and go down Ottawa street, and over to Gore.”
“As far as Jim Little’s pasture fence?” I asked.
“Yep, on that side, and take in Maude and Victoria on the other”. Howard went on.
“That takes us right to French Hill,” I suggested to Howard.
“Right. And go a little further down, even to take in Union and Main Streets.”
“Howard, that takes you past the blacksmith shop,” I offered, to see if he would put a stop to Irishtown there. But no, he did not.
“The idea is to get all these old Irish people in”, he stated, and then went on.
“We could start right here at the top of the hill where Simon Kelly lived. And just below that house were two Irish ladies named Dolan. Maggie and Fannie, worked in the woollen mills. Spinning. And across the road, that’s Ottawa Street, was Ben Bolton and next door was Theriault’s and Oakleys on the corner.”
“Theriault’s, Howard,” said Jean, “Was that an Irish family?”
“Right in the heart of Irishtown,” Howard explained. Case closed.
“Now you take Harold Street”, Howard went on, “that was all Irish. There was Paddy O’Meara, Jim Farrell, Jack Farrell, and Mick Welsh, and the Badour house on the corner.”
“Martin Dwyer’s house was across the road. Martin ran a little market garden on his lots there. And then you’d find Jim Nagle, and Frank LeClair, and the O’Reillys. The two O’Reilly girls lived a good number of years.
Howard went into another slight trance, and we wondered what would come next. It didn’t take long to find out. It was about men who worked in specialty jobs in the big Rosamond No.1 Woollen Mill.
“Next door to the O’Reilly’s was Mick McKevitt. Mick was one of the maintenance men down at No. 1 Mill. He used to run in the big engine with the steam turbine when the water went down in the river in summer time, and that engine kept the whole mill working.
Mick McGrath across the street from him was one of the loom fixers, and his brother Billy, who lived on Victoria Street, was another loom fixer. Then there was Jack Lyons. He was the head engineer and boiler man. The Lockhart’s and Elmer Boyce’s.”
“The old, what we used to call the “old” Cottage Hospital, the first hospital in Almonte, which was first started in 1908, was right there too. “On the corner across from that was Charlie Liberty’s, and then John Slattery’s. There was the Slattery house and the Slattery store. And then the Letang’s. That house is now owned by Mrs. Jim. Houston.”
“Letang,” I said. “Would that be French, Howard?”
“Couldn’t be,” Howard replied. “Next door to the Letang house was Malones, you see, and in the next house was another Malone, and they owned a store, No French there that I could see.”
“Course, all this is goin’ back some,” Howard pointed out.
“And there’s not too many in the town today would remember all these old Irish.”
“Well,” Jean said, “How could I describe the limits of Irishtown if someone asked me to put it down on paper?”
Howard was quiet for a moment, for he couldn’t get the people out of his mind. At length he turned the question round to me and asked how I would answer Jean’s query.
“I’d have to say that Irishtown is that portion on the north side of the town of Almonte which begins at any one of the cattails on the south shore of Howard Sadler’s frog pond, and fans out from there like a tom turkey’s tail feathers to reach the mount of Jimmy Moreau’s creek to the falls of the Mississippi.”
The three fingers of Howard’s right hand scraped across his chin and helped him to reflect on the accuracy of that description for an instant.
“That would seem to cover the ground” he said at length. “But that’s goin’ back some.”