One of the many family sagas of emigration to Ramsay township was that of the McDonald family which, after investigating other locations, chose land in the tenth concession of Ramsay north of the falls of Almonte. Long-lived members of this family included the father, John McDonald of the Isle of Mull, who came in 1821 with his wife, three sons and several daughters, and lived in Ramsay till he reached his hundredth year in 1857. His son Neil at the age of 100 had the distinction of living in three centuries before his death in 1901 at his Ramsay homestead.
The Almonte Gazette 1896
We have pleasure this week in giving space to the following sketch on the life of one of Lanark County’s hardy pioneers, who had his share of the trials and incidents to life hereabout in the 1820s and thirties, in the person of Mr. Neil McDonald, father of Mr. Lauchlin McDonald, 10th line of Ramsay (with whom the venerable gentleman resides) and grandfather of Bev. John A. McDonald of Whitnesy, Mr. Neil McDonald of Carleton Place High School, Mr. R. L. McDonald, principal of Almonte public school, and Mr. W. McDonald, student at Queen’s.
Neil McDonald was born at Loch Buy, Isle of Mull, on the west coast of Scotland, in the year 1800. He well remembers Waterloo, where many of his clansmen fought and bled. His father, John McDonald, although in comfortable circumstances, was led to emigrate to Canada to find homes for his sons. Accordingly, in June 1821, he with his family of three sons and five daughters, set sail from Oban in the ship, “ Duchess of Richmond,” and after an uneventful Crossing of five weeks landed at Quebec on the 2nd of August.
From Quebec they went by steam to Montreal, thence to Lachine by stage. Taking small boats they sailed up the Ottawa to Point Fortune, but failing to secure land to suit them, returned up the St. Lawrence and took a Durham boat to Prescott, intending to go to Little York, now Toronto. Meeting friends they were induced to go to Perth. They were conveyed to Perth by wagon, making that distance in three days.
Perth was then a small village having three taverns, two distilleries and three stores, with blacksmith, shoemaker and tailor shops. Applying to the late Col. Matheson for land, they were sent to Prospect in Lanark, Dalhousie and Sherbrooke Townships, but failing to find a suitable location, rented a farm in Drummond, twelve miles from Perth, from Duncan McNaughton, doing statute labour and paying taxes as rent. It was now fall, and after laying in a supply of provisions, they set to work to clear land.
After a hard winter’s work they got about 12 acres roughly cleared and set to work to plant it, using hoes. They were rewarded with a fine crop of corn, potatoes, and a little wheat and oats. This was all cut with sickles. In the summer of 1822, Neil and Lauchlin went to Ramsay and took up 400 acres of land for father and sons, being lots 22, 24 and 25, now owned by Lauchlin McDonald, John Arthur, Sr., and James Barker, Jr., on the 10th concession, and lot 19 on the 11th concession now owned by Michael Ryan.
The brothers cleared an acre of land on lot 22 and built a shanty near the 10th line. They planted potatoes on it, but the crop proved a failure, and they had but a few bushels. The following winter Neil, with his sister, Flora (afterwards Mrs. D. McNaughton, Drummond) worked on the new farm, and chopped ten acres. They carried hay on their backs a distance of two miles for their cow. In the fall of 1821, all but the parents and Laughlin were taken ill of fever, and Neil’s life was despaired of, but all recovered except Donald, who died about two years later from its effects.
The hard work and severe climate was fatal also to Lauchlin who died within a fortnight of Donald. The bodies of the two brothers were carried from Drummond, a distance of 22 miles, on the shoulders of friends and interred in the place which is now the family burial ground. The other members of the family moved down in May, bringing three cows and two pigs. The father and Neil put in about one acre -of potatoes and one of wheat, and had a good yield of both. They then logged the remainder of the clearing, burning a great many fine pines and oaks.
The next winter his sister, Belle, followed her brothers to -the grave. His sister Sarah, had been married in the preceding April to Mr. A. Cameron of Beekwith, father of Mr. R. Cameron of this town. Flora was married in the fall of 1824 to Mr. D, McNaughton of Drummond, leaving Neil alone with his father and mother. In June of that year they carried a barrel of flour from Morphy’s Falls (now Carleton Place), a distance of twelve miles. This was one of the heaviest tasks of his life.
In December of 1825, he, in company with “Big Neil McKillop” set out to purchase a yoke of oxen and some sheep. They spent fifteen days travelling, going as far as Cornwall and spending the nights sleeping by the firesides of hospitable settlers. In the same year about four hundred Irishmen from Ballygiblin arrived and camped in the neighbourhood. Many of them took up land, but the rest remained and -became the terror of the country. Finally the militia had to be called out to keep the peace, and one of the rebels was shot in an attempt to restore order.
When Neil first came to Ramsay, Almonte was called Shepherd’s Falls after a young Scotsman named Shepherd, who had erected the frame of a sawmill, but who at that time was in gaol (jail) for debt. This and a small shanty uninhabited, were the only buildings erected. Shepherd’s property was purchased by Mr. Boyce, a Yankee from Brockville, who divided the land between his son and his son in law, Daniel Shipman. His son started a carding mill, and D. Shipman completed the, sawmill and married a McLean, near Carleton Place, and after a happy married life of nineteen years she died, leaving a family of -two sons and five daughters Isabel (Mrs. Alex. Bayne of Carleton Place); Lauchlin, living on the homestead; Margaret (Mrs. James Cowan of Pakenham); Catherine (Mrs. Stephen Dickson of Calabogie); and John, Flora and Mary, deceased.
The old gentleman is stil quite hearty, although during the past ftew years he has become almost blind. His mental faculties are quite clear. He takes great pleasure in recounting the varied experiences of his long life. His grip is still hearty, and he has all the appearances of completing his century as his, father did, who lived to be one hundred years of age. We trust he may.
I read another story today about that fateful day when the Ballygiblin riot came to Morphy’s Falls/Carleton Place on April 23 1824. Apparently there are several versions of this riot and according to the Montreal Herald May 4, 1824 the Highlanders of the 4th Carleton Militia were celebrating at the groggery of Alec Morris which lies just about where the stone fountain is beside the town hall.
The Irish emigrants who had arrived at the settlements the year before continued to carry such enraged attitudes that the local authorities were baffled how to keep them in check. The Irish were sick of tending to barren land and hated spading shale of the rock ridges of Huntley.
They say the Scots did not need any reason to celebrate, and a training assembly was called first. The Irish were also asked to join as the law required them too for the first drill of military training. Those wild Irish had no training in arms and certainly no love for British officers especially *Captain Glendinning.
At the end of a long rainy day Glendinning stood the Scots to drink in Morris’s tavern and half a dozen of the Ballygiblins forced their way into the tavern and of course words were exchanged. William Louks a storekeeper, saw Bart Murphy, John Coughlin, John French and William Brown throw stones through the windows. They also banged on the doors with their clubs and attacked three Scotsmen who tried to leave. The Irish said they would fight any Scotsman in the county.
The Scots became angry and streamed out of Morris’s groggery accompanied with loud Gaelic yells. And by the shades of Brian Boru and William Wallace there resulted a terrific encounter and the rest is history.
It must have been a gory fray that was fought in the muddy streets of the tiny hamlet. The Montreal Herald scribe wrote that the floors and walls of one house were covered in blood. Those who managed to get caught were brought to the Perth jail until the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada could investigate the whole matter. It should be known anyone who was arrested was fined almost half a years wages and most of these fighting Irish ended up leaving the area.
Six years later in 1830 *Caleb Bellows the postmaster decided the town needed a new name once and for all and Morphy’s Falls became Carleton Place. So departed the name of Morphy’s Falls after it’s brief encounter with “annihilation’s waste” as the newspapersaid. It’s ugly past was only now remembered by a few pioneers who preserved it for posterity.
Education began to gain notice and in 1825 the first school was built on allowance for road between the two townships of Beckwith and Ramsay at the corner of what is now the main street near the corner of Bridge Street and the Town Line Road. It was an unsightly log shanty and superintended by *James Kent, one of the pioneers of the village.
In their conquest of the wilderness social events marked many days of the calendar with barn dances, agricultural societies, mechanics institutes, fairs and soirees. There came out of this many local celebrities one known as Wally Scott. Scott was a tailor who travelled through the settlement making clothes out of study homespun. The local women employed their spinning wheels and the yarn was sent out to a local weaver named Ephraim Kirkpatrick to be made into cloth.
Another local character was “Humpy Billy” Moore the local shoemaker. He was a brother to Jack Moore who owned a scow and brought wood and sand down from the big lake close to Innisville. “Humpy” had a wit about him and knew Beckwith like the back of his hand and he is especially remembered by some for the comments he made. He declared that the Highlanders of Beckwith had to put a block of wood in their mouth to get the perfect shape to speak “the Gaelic”.
Paul (Napoleon) Lavallee–photo Linda Seccaspina
But of all the great wits none was more impressive than that of Paul (Napoleon) Lavallee who owned a tavern on Bridge Street. Old Paul Lavallee, the proprietor of the Mississippi Hotel, often amused himself with other old cronies – Pat Gavin, Tom Nagle, Jim Nolan, Tom Buckeye Lynch, Pat Tucker, Bill Patterson, and Alex Wilson. He was a born raconteur and the chief attraction at his bar was Paul himself especially when he related some of his experiences.
It was said that sometimes these stories sometimes had a Baron Munchausen flavour. One great yarn he used to tell was how he once caught 99 pigeons with one shot. He claimed to have fired at a tree full of those birds. Believe it or not, when he shot at the tree he split the limb in which the pigeons were resting and that the feet of these birds were caught in a crack. When asked why he wouldn’t have called it 100 pigeons he answered,
“Confound-would you make me a liar for one pigeon?”
One of the most prominent citizens was James Poole who was the first editor of The Carleton Place Herald which he had originally established as the Lanark Herald in 1850. He lived fearlessly as an able editor in a time of personal journalism. He ended up printing those first pages for years out of the house which was once called *Ross Dhu, later know as the Gillies home on the corner of Townline and Bridge.
It was the epic time of a birth of a young town and thanks to the 1930s files of Harry J. Walker we are able to record this forever more.
*Caleb Strong Bellows (1806-1863) came to Carleton Place in 1825, opening a general retail store in the former public premises of William Loucks. Its location was on Bridge Street opposite the present Town Hall. His shop also was licenced in 1825 to sell spirituous liquors, as was the nearby Mill Street inn of Alexander Morris.
*In the tenth year of settlement at Carleton Place the teachers of the 120 children attending the Beckwith township’s four schools, including the village schools at Franktown and Carleton Place, were John Griffith, James Kent, Daniel McFarlane and Alexander Miller. In Ramsay township, with four schools and 105 pupils, the teachers of 1829 were David Campbell, Arthur Lang, Finlay Sinclair and John Young.
6017-83 James BROWN, 36, widower, miner, Ireland, Levant, s/o James & Elizabeth, married Janet Cameron FERGUSON, 42, widow, Dalhousie Ont., Levant, d/o Robert & Harriet CAMERON, witn: Mary & Sarah LAVALLEE of Carleton Place, 29 March 1883 at Carleton Place
Last August I began to blog about getting our Ballygiblin sign back on the bridge. Deputy Mayor Jerry Flynn even caught me in back of the town hall one afternoon looking in the water to see if the sign was there LOL.
In all honesty you really have to watch me carefully when it comes to Carleton Place:)
When I talked to Jennifer Fenwick Irwin from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum about it, she had already been on the case with Joanne Henderson from the town about that sign and another heritage signs around town. (McArthur Mill “missing” meaning not on location etc.)
In April, Scott Reids office under the direction of Sandra Hurdis Finigan from Scott Reid’s (M.P.) office took things to heart when I posted about the missing Ballygiblin’s sign from the Central Bridge. She had already spoken to Duncan Rogers from the Carleton Place Town Hall who said he had approached the Ontario Heritage Trust *a few years ago but had not heard anything since.
Her Co-op student “the iconic” Ryan from Notre Dame High School was asked to look into the Ballygiblin Riot plaque that used to reside beside the town hall at the bridge. You can read all about his findings here.
In this weeks Carleton Place and Almonte Canadian Gazette Tara Gesner wrote an article about the Carleton Place Town Council considering funding replacement of the missing historical plaque:
“I am sure we have been putting money, replacement money away since the plaque was stolen,” Deputy Mayor Jerry Flynn commented.
“I think it is a part of our history,” he added, “and I agree with Ross that funding be included in our upcoming budget talks.”
“The next one (plaque) we get should be mounted right to the bridge rail,” Coun. Doug Black said.
You know guys, there is a long waiting list for provincial signs, and since ours was probably stolen for scrap metal it would cost $5000 to replace it. It does not have to be copper, and every day wasted is another tourism buzzword lost.
*Clerk Duncan Rogers filed a police report regarding the missing plaque on July 16, 2002 with then Sgt. Jim Birtch of the former Carleton Place Police Services.
As an assignment for their Co-op student “the iconic” Ryan from Notre Dame High School was asked to look into the Ballygiblin Riot plaque that used to reside beside the town hall at the bridge. These were his findings:
“I contacted the Ontario Heritage Trust to see where Carleton Place is in the line for getting a replacement. After a number of phone calls the question was not directly answered but I was told that the funds are not available to replace it.
I inquired what the cost would be to replace the plaque as it would be a great addition to the town’s bicentennial celebration in 2019. Wayne Kelly of the Ontario Heritage Trust quoted me a price of approximately $4000 for the plaque and another $1000 for the pole that it sat on. I have since been working with the Parks and Rec department to see if the pole could be located”.
Author’s note.. So, we still do not have the sign, but at least we know where we are in line with Ontario Heritage Trust. Absolutely NOWHERE! This week suggestions have been made to me that we post a NO QUESTIONS ASKED PLEA.
I am the last one standing from the Knight and Crittenden family dynasty and come from a lineage that not even Heinz 57 would understand. My bloodlines are thick with British and Irish roots and a few other tree branches slipped in between. My mother’s side from the Call’s Mills and Island Brook area were all from Ireland, and as a child, tales were told on a weekly basis about our Irish ancestors.
My mother’s side in the Eastern Townships of Quebec were all from Ireland, and as a child tales were told on a weekly basis about what our Irish scallywags did when they came to Canada. Most came during the Great Irish Famine (1845-1849) and some ended up dying on Grosse-Île, where the Canadian immigration centre was situated. It is safe to say that 40% of all “Quebecers” and “Ontarians” have Irish ancestry on at least one side of their family tree– whether they choose to accept it or not
My favourite story was one about my great great aunt fighting off the Fenians during the fight at Eccles Hill on May 25, 1870. According to the Crittenden legend, she fought them off single-handedly using a spoon as a door lock. Knowing my mother’s side of the family, I assumed she probably invited them in to play cards and have a few pints.
Farmers in the vicinity of Eccles Hill near Frelighsburg, Quebec were constantly in dread of being robbed by the Fenians and complained that the Irish were invading the area like a hobby. Many of the locals took their valuable silverware to the woods and buried them in order to be safe. But, like the rest of my past dynasty, it seems that my family didn’t worry about their cutlery and used their silverware instead to lock their doors.
We all need to remember locking doors wasn’t a huge priority in those days. Even if they left home for a week or two, homes were unlocked as break ins didn’t happen that often. Knowing my family I am sure there were some big, scary looking dogs involved that would either deter robbers from trying, or ensure intruders would be caught and immediately maimed in the process. But these were the hopeless Fenians that were invading Eccles Hill, while presumably the Benny Hill Theme song was playing in the background.
So how did this great great aunt of mine with nerves of steel do it? This family folklore has stuck with me since I was a child, and instead of wondering for the brief years I have left; I decided to finally find out the truth for once and for all. Upon doing research I found out how to open a door with a spoon, but nothing was coming up until I found a story of a woman who went to the last Olympics and her room had no locks on it so she used a spoon.
I looked at the photo once, I looked at it twice and shook my head– it was that simple. All those years wondering. That was it? Yes, that was all she wrote as they say. So many chapters in my life lost in this little family tale. Some families have Kodak moments, some families have wonderful memories, but I swear my family has straight jacket moments.
I will tell you a story told to me by my father about 1870 the folks in East Clifton,high forest, low forest and surrounding areas heard the Fenians were coming from the U.S to Canada to attack and take over the country. They were under the mistaken impression that Canadians weary of the British yoke, would rise up and join them.the fenians later became the I.R.A.
Well,my great grandfather and many friends grabbed their guns, mounted their horses and rode to the border to disabuse them of the notion that Canada was theirs for the taking. It turned out alright. The U.S.did not want trouble with the British Empire and American cavalry stopped the Fenians at Colebrook. My great grandfather and friends returned home without a shot fired. Just a little history for those who care.
So today it is all about The Fighting Irish.
The Fighting Irish–The Ballygiblins- Lanark County Ontario
The ‘Ballygiblin Riots’ Carleton Place and Almonte, 1824
A series of disturbances between the early Scots arrival and established Protestant settlers jealous of government assistance to new Irish Catholic immigrants, mainly in Beckwith Township and the recent Irish settlers in Ramsay flared up in 1824. The Irish had gotten free farm equipment, medicine, cows and clothing. None of the earlier wave had received an extra thing. The Irish originated from an estate of Cork, Ireland called Ballygiblin. After the first troubles erupted, a decisive struggle took place just outside of town on the clergy reserve in Ramsay, to the right hand side of the road, towards the lead mine.
Fighting broke out on Mill Street in Carleton Place, and the tumult continued for two weeks of reprisals by each side. The Ballygiblin’s leader was named Bartholomew Murphy, and he was what we would call a “scrapper”. First the knuckles came out, then the shillelaghs, and assorted Lanark County stones were launched at each other. The Ballygiblins got the worst of the last fight and they quickly retreated to Shipman’s Mills (Almonte) where they some how found a gun.
Col.James Fitzgibbon and his militia got sick and tired of dealing with at least 100 fights and headed straight for the Shipman’s Mills Blacksmith shop to stop it for once and for all. Inside, someone fired a shot and the militia returned fire killing one man and wounding two others.
One of the wounded was indeed Batholomew, and he was arrested along with other Irishmen and two from the militia: James Rochey and Johnny McGuiness. In the end one immigrant was killed, several were injured, and a number of buildings were destroyed or damaged. No one was ever charged for murder, just malicious shooting. Bartholomew Murphy was charged with throwing stones and ended up accidentally drowning a year later in Kingston.
In Canada, a Fenian was said to be a group of Irish radicals, a.k.a. the American branch of the Fenian Brotherhood in the 1860s. They made several attempts (1866, 1870, etc.) to invade some parts of Canada (Southern Ontario and Missisquoi County in Quebe) which were a British dominion at the time. The ultimate goal of the Fenian raids was to hold Canada hostage and therefore be in a position to blackmail the United Kingdom to give Ireland its independence. Because of the invasion attempts, support and/or collaboration for the Fenians in Canada became very rare even among the Irish.
Fenians at different points along the United States border caused great alarm to Canadians in 1866. Among the places attacked were Prescott and Cornwall in Ontario, and Huntington, Pigeon Hill and Eccles Hill in Quebec.
Farmers in the vicinity of Eccles Hill near Frelighsburg, Quebec were constantly in dread of being robbed by the Fenians. Many of them took valuable silverware to the woods and buried them in order to be safe. That is everyone except a great great aunt of mine. According to the Crittenden legend, she fought off the Fenians single-handedly when the American Irish came across the US border at Eccles Hill trying to take over Canada.
The story told was: she fought off the Fenians with a fork and a spoon in her door lock and not one notation about her can I find in the history pages about the Fenian Raids. Knowing my mother’s side of the family, she probably invited them in to play cards and have a few pints. According to Einstein: Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
In June of 1866 some 1800 Fenians crossed the border of Lower Canada and did considerable plundering at Pigeon Hill, Quebec. They ruthlessly killed animals belonging to the farmers in the vicinity and destroyed some of their crops. The Canadian volunteer militia were soon on the scene of action.
The danger posed by the Fenian raids was an important element in motivating the British North America colonies to consider a more centralized defense for mutual protection which was ultimately realized through Canadian Confederation. Home guards were formed and farmers along the border met for drills. Soldiers were often called out on short notice, and one day not only did the required 10,ooo turn out to one fight, but an additional 3000 showed up also. However, supplies were not sent with them, and some soldiers needed boots and other things ten days after mobilization.
Even with little food and water, a change of underclothing and revolvers whose shooting powers were the subject of grave doubt they were able to repulse the Fenians plunderers at Pigeon Hill in Quebec.
One tragic incident occurred during 1866 when Margaret Vincent of Eccles Hill went to get a pail of water. Miss Vincent being deaf did not hear the British sentry on guard, and after not hearing the command to halt, the sentry fired and killed her.
In 1870 the Fenians attempted once again, assembling at St. Albans Vermont. The filibusters who made it to Eccles Hill came under fire by 30 local farmers and quickly retreated. The monument that still sits on Eccles Hill in the Eastern Townships can forever rest in peaceful confidence that there will be no further cause for trouble along the frontier.
Thanks to my good friend historian Nic Maennling from Lanark he sent me this yesterday..We have a stereopticon slide marked
“W. Sawyer, Photo.,
113 St. Peter street, corner of Craig Montreal.
“Warm reception of the Fenians from Eccles’ Hill”
Important Eastern Townships Fenian Raids
Mississiquoi County Raid
This Fenian raid occurred during 1870, and the Canadians, acting on information supplied by Thomas Billis Beach, were able to wait for and turn back the attack. The Battle of Eccles Hill was part of a raid into Canadian territory from the United States led by John O’Neill and Samuel Spiers of the Fenian Brotherhood. The army of the Fenian Brotherhood was defeated by local militia units based in Huntingdon on May 25, 1870.
Pigeon Hill Raid
After the invasion of Canada West failed the Fenians decided to concentrate their efforts on Canada East. However, the American government had begun to impede Fenian activities, and arrested many Fenian leaders. The Fenians saw their plans begin to fade. General Samuel Spear of the Fenians managed to escape arrest. On June 7 Spear and his 1000 men marched into Canadian territory, achieving occupancy of Pigeon Hill, Frelighsburg, St. Armand and Stanbridge. At this point the Canadian government had done little to defend the border, but on June 8 Canadian forces arrived and the Fenians, who were low on arms, ammunition and supplies, promptly surrendered, ending the raid on Canada East.
Shelley Boomhower Slater– Battle of Eccles Hill if you google the directions. You take the Chemin de St. Armand Road from Frelighsburg until you see Chemin Eccles Hill on your left. It is on your right just before the road ends.. This was the old road to Vermont border so it is now a dead end. Hope this helps. If you go to the town of Pigeon Hill (St. Armand) you have gone too far. There should be a sign Approx. 10 minutes 7.8km from Frelighsburg. Great Cycle route.
Like many of you I was shocked to hear of the recent Fenian attacks on Fort Erie. How can our government allow Irish immigrants to flow into this United Province of Canada while we continue to be terrorized by Fenian religious zealots? Every Sunday in Catholic churches across the land, radical preachers are whipping their flocks into a catachismic frenzy, urging them to cram their Nicene orthodoxy down our throats three different ways. On every ship coming into Montreal or Halifax, hidden among the malnourished, diseased Irish there are sure to be Fenian terrorists ready to slit your throat at the first opportunity. This needs to stop now.
We all know that the Irish are a bunch of uneducated, colonial savages with a primitive religion. How will our women and children be safe while hoards of drunken Irish flow into our cities and roam the streets? Meanwhile they breed like rabbits, all part of their plan of Papist domination. It is a scientific fact that if Irish immigration continues apace Canada will be a Catholic state by 1910. Enjoy having your wine with communion, because that’s all about to end. And if we let the Irish in, who’s next – Ukrainians? Chinese? Musalmen?
It is our sacred duty to preserve Canadian values now, before it’s too late. In 150 years your children’s children will look back and know that you did the right thing.
Be sure to share this leaflet with all your friends (or at least those of them who can read… and you can probably skip the women, not like they can vote anyways). Say yes to Canada staying Canadian. Say no to Irish immigrants!
Rev. John Strachan,York
60% of the immigration to Canada in the 1800s were Irish. The idea that John Strachen would be so anti-Irish and not Anti-American (which he actually was) in this letter is baffling.
2.–A suspected Fenian, Patrick J. Whelan, was hanged in Ottawa for the assassination of Irish Canadian politician, Thomas D’Arcy McGee in 1868, who had been a member of the Irish Confederation in the 1840s.
3.In Ontario’s Lanark County, the Carleton Place Rifle Company numbering more than 50 men was formed in 1862 to protect Canada during the Fenian raids. In Carleton Place a victory ball and supper “in a style not to be surpassed” was held for the volunteers in the stone building on the corner of Bridge and High Streets which was then William Kelly’s British Hotel.The monument that still sits on Eccles Hill can forever rest in peaceful confidence that there will be no further cause for trouble along the frontier.
4. Former Cowansville High School Rob Forster added: Well Linda, the Fenian Raid at Pigeon Hill was met by a force of local militia who had bought military rifles and organized, that militia being composed of local farmers who were determined to be prepared after the first local raid. The Fenians were supposedly ‘ragtag’ but that was just to soften the blow to the Irish cause (and I suspect to diminish the role of firearms in Canadian history); the Irish were all battle hardened veterans of the Union Army who had fought in the US Civil War. Our local boys, among whom I am proud to include a family member, defeated them in quick order however, and as the photo shows captured their artillery field piece, the one now seen at the almost forgotten Pigeon Hill monument.
Today one of my readers asked the following: Do you think that the crazy amount of food trucks we have here this summer has maybe affected the local restaurants? Maybe the town should look at how many food truck licenses they are handing out each summer? What do you think?
Food trucks are part of summer, and no matter how hard you argue they offer a different service. Of course a food truck can cost a fraction of what a brick and mortar place costs. But, they also have overhead costs. Try and comply with a Health Unit inspection in 100 square feet. Then there are the generators, permits, appliances, fridges etc and not many cheap and easy ways to handle and prep food. Of course, it’s a lot easier to make a living selling nothing but fries when you don’t have to cover the overhead of a building first.
Most of the food trucks have a steady traffic for lunch, which puts them at odds with the restaurants because they feel it drains away the lunch crowd. Some restaurant owners, on the other hand, are split. A few are defensive and annoyed by the incursion of food trucks into “their markets,” but just as many appeared to be really interested in the trucks as the advent of another food revolution. Some are even actively pursuing the concept themselves – thinking of a food truck as either an option to expand their existing brand and customer base or even a next step after the restaurant for him.
Maybe this is a moot point, but in Carleton Place this particular issue is real. Have you ever thought how much more handicap accessible food trucks are than restaurants? This is versus fighting doors on so called “accessible” restaurants, with tables that do not work for a chair, aisles that are often too small, and wait staff that do not understand that handicapped people don’t move as fast as they do. How many handicapped accessible places do you have on Bridge Street? Think about it. Because the buildings are older they don’t fall into the same laws as newer buildings. Is that a reason to ignore it?
No matter what business you open there is going to be competition. Unfortunately it’s a crucial aspect of capitalism, and it forces other businesses to either step up their game and compete, or be rendered into obsolescence by consumers.
This year there are three chip trucks missing in town. One on Lake Ave East, one in front of Giant Tiger, and one on Townline. There presently are 4 in town, and correct me if I am wrong, and three on the highway. I think parking your food truck directly outside a restaurant is rather rude, but we don’t have that issue in Carleton Place. The last food truck that was told to move was Mike Modowan on Bridge Street a zillion years ago. Did he ruin Bridge Street businesses? People need to understand that business is about taking risks and being dynamic and seizing opportunities.
The facts are that businesses exist. A new business comes along who does things differently and appears to be making money. The existing older business thinks to itself that maybe they should try it too, maybe try to up their game. Instead, and I was a guilty party when I had my business, they just complain about it. This scenario repeats itself in every field you can think of.
Businesses don’t need to protected, they need to be innovative. There needs to be more of an effort by the powers to be to attract people downtown so everyone can share in what we have. Any business who feels threatened by something should probably look at themselves first and think about why they feel that way. If your store stocks great and reasonably priced goods, your customers will not abandon you. If you’re a restaurant and you are scared of a food truck, step up your game and give your clients a reason to walk to your food business instead of the food truck.
Our issue downtown is three fold. Lack of innovation, vision and participation. We as the local consumer are also guilty and never take a moment to look around and see what a wonderful town we live in. Stop, and smell the roses. Try parking further than the next available spot, walk and look and enjoy for once. Maybe you’ll notice a few more things along the way. That would be a start.
Yesterday when I drove down Bridge Street in Carleton Place I saw a woman sitting on a bench in front of Capital Optical staring at Ballygiblin’s across the street. It was 11 am and I knew she had been a regular as I had talked to her the night the restaurant closed.
Saturday night she told me she shared her newspaper with Derek each morning and at closing Sherry faithfully gave her a “night night”. I had asked her where she was going to go when they closed and she told me she would find somewhere else. But seeing her sit on that bench yesterday morning looking across the street told me she had not. I could have stopped to talk to her, but decided to allow her to mourn in peace.
The faithful customer can lose out when a business closes. Most times the customer does not realize small business owners are becoming discouraged and exasperated- because they never tell you. Caught in a perfect storm of a bad economy, and little traffic, local independent businesses are having a tough time keeping afloat. It doesn’t take a professional to realize that any small business adds character to any street, and banks and chains dull it. A failure to any small town would be 10 windows in a row that look the very same.
The shoppers of Carleton Place have to realize that by standing up and being counted they have the power to turn Bridge Street around. As a consumer you can always choose where you shop and, if you don’t want another box store in your area, then support mom and pop down the street. It’s the small, independent businesses that makes your town and its various neighborhoods different. I could go on for hours about the plight of small business in our town, but I am sure you have heard enough of it from me. You’re only going to hear the same kind of language over and over again. It’s kind of a fatalistic despair, but the math is quite simple.
A restaurant at best might make a 15 percent profit, or 18 percent if it’s wildly successful. There are a lot of expenses connected with running an eatery: labor, food, insurance, taxes, and much more. On the other side of the fence McDonald’s can afford its rent easily and has vast resources. Their restaurants don’t take up much space, has minute food costs, and does a ton of take-out business. Remember, it sells food all day long, and not just for a few hours in the afternoon and evening.
We have to bang this into our heads that the quality of any neighborhood drives up the value of property, and the fundamental driver of neighborhood quality is a great small business. That would be the same small-business owners like Derek Levesque who have put their sweat equity and life savings into keeping these businesses afloat. The late Okilman’s store in Carleton Place was once called the pioneer store in the Ottawa Journal in 1965 after a fire. I say these present day store owners and restaurants are also pioneers in this community, and something has to be done to support them. I never want to see someone looking at an empty storefront from a bench again.
“I find it hard to tell you I find it hard to take When people run in circles It’s a very, very mad world, mad world.”
Update- Saw Derek on Bridge Street today and he told me saw the woman too and invited her in while they were cleaning up. Good people.
Last night I saved a piece of dill from my last dinner at Ballygiblin’s. Why would I do such a thing? Because, since I began to write pieces about the local farmers from the Carleton Place Farmer’s Market I found out where that piece of dill came from in my salad. I knew that White Oak Farm’s Ray Elgersma & Dave McGahey had supplied the magic purple beans and other items—and that Merle Bowes from Limekiln Farms had too. That small piece of dill from Merle’s farm is pressed into one of my books in memory of Bally’s. We not only lost a friend last night when Ballygiblin’s shut their doors: employees lost jobs, and the local farmers will no longer knock on the back door to sell Bally’s their fresh produce.
Businesses are not easy to maintain. They begin with building love through a town or city–and nothing hurts me more today than losing a friend like Ballygiblin’s. Owning a business these days is a delicate thing, and once broken it might be fixed– but sometimes it just leaves cracks. Derek Levesque and his merry band of employees supported each and every person that came into Bally’s when they needed a gift certificate or help. Sometimes there comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump puddles for you—and Derek had to make a choice. I think a lot of people didn’t realize Ballygblin’s worth to our community until it faded for the very last time last night.
No one wins when a business shuts down. It’s not good for the residents, employees, or suppliers, and it’s certainly not good for the town. Let this be a lesson that we should never ignore a business who cares and supports you. Because one day, you might wake up from your sleep and realize that you “lost the moon while counting the stars”. Ballygiblin’s was that moon that once graced Bridge Street, and now it’s gone. Moving on is sometimes simple; but what they left behind makes it difficult. Do we as the town of Carleton Place only have to learn how to appreciate things by losing them? Never take any local business for granted again. God speed to Derek and the staff of Ballygiblin’s. Bridge Street will not be the same without you.
It is with a heavy heart that after almost 9 years of great food, delicious wine, wonderful people, fun times, hard work, and ups and downs, Ballygiblin’s has decided to close our doors, effective August 30th, 2015.
We can’t fully express our deep gratitude for your business and support. Working with local businesses and the community has been nothing but an absolute pleasure.
I would like to thank my family, dedicated staff, friends, guests, and Carleton Place for being a part of the Ballygiblin’s family for the last 9 years and I wish everyone all the best in their future endeavors.
All you have to do is walk downtown in Carleton Place for coffee. What I see depresses the hell out of me–closed storefronts, empty houses, empty streets. Sometimes it’s noon, sometimes it’s two in the afternoon, sometimes it’s 6:30 pm at night. Where the hell is everyone?
It used to be that anyone with a work ethic, a few saved bucks, could try their hand in retail. Small mom and pop shops all a little unique and quirky were Carleton Place. Now a good portion of Carleton Place shopping has been replaced with cookie cutter franchises and large box stores.
What can we do about a small town that once was a comforting community with its own interesting history? What can we do to help this community not just survive, but to update itself into the twenty-first century? I can’t help but feel saddened and frustrated by the stagnation that I see. I know that it’s a lot to ask, and a hope beyond hope, but I wish that someone, somewhere, would do something. It is fairly obvious what Carleton Place now has in place to promote business is not working.
Volunteers, activists and imagination is what make small towns hum. It takes vision, hard work, and the willingness to deal with many setbacks as well as the usual interpersonal and municipal politics and small-time detractors. The work is hard, in some cases thankless, but even incremental changes, if built on, add up and make a big difference in a way they almost never do in a huge city.
The emptiness of the Main Street is a function of economic as well as demographic change. When Wal-Mart is cheaper than the local hardware store, Wal-Mart is where everyone goes. Is it our fault? How did we become brain washed into thinking national fast food chains are worth supporting over local food establishments? Well Ballygiblins is closing tomorrow, and I guess the consumer has spoken. Frankly, it shows us to be idiots. Bad is never good until the worst happens– and it’s happening right under our nose.
“The truth will set you free…but first it’ll piss you off.” – Gloria Steinem
This was the sign that used to sit right on the edge of the main street bridge in honour of The Ballygiblin Riot. It has been missing for a number of years. According to Jennifer at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum the sign was thrown into the river- not sure who the culprits were– and probably lying at the bottom of the riverbed somewhere.
What about the sign below– now missing from the McArthur Woolen Mill after they put the crushed stone/rock in the front of the building?
Historic preservation is an integral part of any community. Cities small and large across the country have put in tremendous effort in the past few years to preserve certain aspects of their local community’s heritage. Have you ever seen the Findlay Foundry Memorial art work on the edge of the old Patterson’s Funeral Building/Proberts? Did you also know there is a cairn with a nice plaque on the site of the original building? (North side of High Street)
Or noticed the old horse watering areas?
Often, local governments are responsible for designating certain sites as historic landmarks. By doing so, they ensure a certain site will be left untouched for the next generation. Besides for it just being the right thing to do, it also helps build community, help to educate the public, and can actually boost an area’s tourism industry by providing visitors with more things to see and do. For this reason, old buildings and houses, interesting streets and parks, are now more than ever designated as historic landmarks, sometimes advertised with a great historic sign.
Every local tourism board should have a list onsite of area historic landmarks. And most importantly, every historic landmark should be clearly visible with the help of historic signs .Without a clearly recognizable sign, it can be difficult for locals and visitors alike to find a historic landmark. Especially when a site is tucked away in a neighborhood off a usual beaten path, anyone can miss them and that means all the effort behind preserving it for the public has basically been done for nothing.
Author’s Note-In June 11 1887 of The Toronto Daily Mail the Ballygiblin folk were called a name we had never heard before. “Ballygiblinets”.