The Suckers of Carp — Johnston Family

The Suckers of Carp — Johnston Family

Mr. Johnston had been a resident of Ottawa for over 35 years, but was born on the 3rd line of Huntley, about three miles from Carp, and has not forgotten the scenes of his boy and young manhood.

In the early days there were many of Mr. Johnston’s forbears in Huntley. Grandfather Robert Johnston went to Huntley from Ireland some time in the twenties. There was one thing about Robert Johnston, the pioneer no one could accuse him of not trying to make a living, for, according to his descendant, Mr. Johnston not only farmed but ran a blacksmith shop, made harness and conducted a barrel factory. Robert Johnston was known far and wide in Huntley and lived till 1863. The pioneer had four sons and five daughters.

Mr. Robert Johnston’s first recollections of Carp and Huntley date to 1864, when he was 10 years of age. Carp at that time was quite a small place. He remembers that it had three general stores, a tin shop, two blacksmith shops, three churches (Presbyterian, Anglican and Methodist), and two hotels. The hotels were kept by Wm. Dorley and John Brown. One of the storekeepers whom he recalls was W. J. Feather-ston. The Presbyterian minister was Rev. Mr. Sinclair, the Anglican minister was Rev. Mr. Godfrey. The Methodist minister’s name he does not remember. Carp Today Carp today boasts a grist mill, a small saw mill, and the factory where “Mello Creme” was made.

Associated more closely perhaps than anything else in Mr. Johnston’s memory is the Carp river. Just as the people ot Richmond love the little Jock, and the people of Renfrew love the Bonnechere and the people of Arnprior love the Madawaska, so Mr. Johnston loved, and still loves, the Carp. Why the Carp river was called the Carp he cannot understand as, so far as he could ever ascertain, there was never a carp fish in the river. There were, however, thousands upon thousands of suckers, sunfish and mud-pouts.

For the people who in the 1860s who lived along the banks of the Carp (and even back from it), the suckers were literally “meat on the table.” However few returned in the spring when the water of the Carp overran its flat banks, as ascended up the hundreds of small creeks that fed it, the suckers followed. By the thousands they fell victims to the traps and nets of the farmers. The farmers who worked hard all day at their farm chores spent half the night with torches in hand beating the creeks and forcing the suckers into waiting nets or into cunningly devised traps.

When the creeks were full, these farmers would build dams with one outlet through a sluiceway or flume, at the end of which was a big and strong net. Each morning the net would be almost choked with suckers, which would be divided between the beaters. The Carp River, according to Mr. Johnston is one of the most, crooked streams to be found anywhere in Canada, and it has the peculiarity of running in a different direction to that ot all its little sister streams.

The Carp has its rise in drowned lands near Richmond and flows in a tortuous fashion till it finds itself near Ottawa, near Chats Falls. Prior to the 1890s the Carp River used to overflow its low banks badly. For example, 35 acres or more of Mr. Johnston’s own farm used to be yearly flooded prior to 1891, when the river was dredged by the provincial government on a sort of local provement scheme. The work was done by the Barrett Bros of Ottawa, who shipped their dredging machinery and boat into parts to the Carp and put them together. The little river was dredged to a width of about 65 feet from the 12th line of Goulbourne to two miles west of Carp– a distance of 12 miles. This work stopped the Spring menace in its tracks.

Friends of the Carp River
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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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