Santa Claus arrived in Almonte Thursday afternoon, Dec. 23rd, but he came by sleigh and not on the train as expected. It had been advertised that the old boy would be aboard the 3.45 east bound Pembroke local but this train was late owing to a mishap near Pembroke. After Santa waited for quite a while at Blakeney, where he had no doubt been distributing presents, it was decided to bring him into town in a cutter. There was nothing very unusual about this mode of conveyance for Santa Claus except that the vehicle was drawn by a horse instead of the reindeer he uses when on his Arctic travels.
When Santa alighted from the sleigh it was found he had been accompanied from the North Pole by his wife. Some of the youngsters seemed to detect a likeness between Santa and someone they had seen around town before and the same went for Mrs. Santa. But, be that as it may, the two got a great reception in front of the O’Brien from a vast throng of children who had been waiting impatiently for some time for their arrival.
A special welcome was extended to Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus by Mayor Alex. McDonald and by Mr. Karl Paupst, head of the Lions Club which sponsored the entertainment for the children and the visit of St. Nicholas and his jolly lady. A parade was formed according to schedule and was led by the distinguished visitors in their horse and cutter. It proceeded through the main streets of the town and was made up of floats decorated along Christmas lines; the Citizens’ Band providing music and a group of Mrs. R. G. Kenny’s pupils on a truck singing carols.
On returning to the O’Brien Theatre the young folk crowded in for a free show and generous gifts of candy and oranges. Mr. R. A. Jamieson, K.C., acted as master of ceremonies for the program. Nor were children in the Rosamond Memorial Hospital forgotten. Santa Claus visited them too and presented them with gifts similar to those given out at the theatre.
Dr. J. R. Fraser was chairman of the committee in charge of the Lions Club Christmas party. Assisting him were Messrs. John Lindsay, Jam es Brown, R. A. Jamieson and Nick Carrie. There was a great deal of work entailed in the arrangements not the least of which was the packing of some 650 bags of candy. Special films had been procured for the children’s entertainment which radiated the spirit of Yuletide and Santa Claus, not to mention Mrs. Santa Claus. It is said the latter henpecks poor old Santa to beat the band during their long sojourn in an igloo near the North Pole. In fact this is so much the case that Santa is always glad when Christmas rolls around and he is able to leave her for a few weeks. But this year she was too cute for him and came along to see that he behaved himself, especially with the young ladies of this southern climate because Mrs. Santa is a very jealous gal.
At Appleton a log slide guided the loose logs or booms over the log slide and into a log pond. Log booms were barriers formed by logs chained together with chains and log dogs that guided the rest of the logs down the river. The logs didn’t always stay in the booms and sometimes floated dangerously over the rapids instead of down the log slide.
The Mississippi River supported many lumbermen including Abner Nichols who operated a lumber camp at Wilson Bay on the Mississippi Lake and owned two mills in Carleton Place. From Wilson Bay logs were gathered in large booms and attached with log chains and then floated down the Mississippi River to his mills in Carleton Place.
Once again the tranquillity of the peaceful hamlet of Blakeney has been interrupted. Last Saturday night, I was touring the village and what did I behold in the beam of my headlights?
Was it a gigantic rat?
No, it was another member of the rodent family commonly known as a rabbit, and the same one that Donald Munro had asked me to keep an eye out for. You see, it was their pet rabbit which had escaped captivity and was now enjoying its rare glimpse of freedom.
Well, knowing the Munro’s need for its capture as they feared harm may come of it little did I know that I was now participating in an adventure which would involve several people and would take the better part of an hour. Getting out of my car I tried to corner it along a fence, but to no success. It immediately escaped me by hopping through a hole.
Beth Munro came up the road and I immediately informed her of the situation She replied that Donnie was already out there somewhere m the darkness pursuing the little culprit. At that moment Donnie and a good neighbour, Andy Sweetapple with flashlight in hand, joined in on the chase.
Back and forth across roads, ditches and over fences we did go but to no avail This version of Bugs Bunny had no intentions of being caught and was doing a marvellous lob of evading us. Braving the elements, we stripped off our jackets and used them in a fashion of a Matador .
We began to meet with some success using this method and were able to control the rabbits direction to some degree. Finally after all this running around, diving madly, throwing our jackets as nets, we had it cornered, or did it have us cornered? Anyways, Andy bravely dove right in and caught it .
Cheers rang up and boy. we were glad it was over as we all huffed and puffed our way up the road Donniw invited everyone over for a well deserved drink and the chase was finally over.
In the late 1800s, beavers nearly went extinct in the United States and Canada due to decades of fur trapping and extermination. Canada’s first animal commodity, the North American beaver, was almost hunted to the point of extinction between the 1700s and early 1900s, with a population once estimated to be as high as 400 million was reduced to around 100,000 – most of which were in Canada.The European species faced a similar plight, dropping to just 1,200 individuals around the same time.
Once the 1900s hit and the fur trade went out of vogue, the Castor population rocketed; today, there are an estimated 15 million beavers in North American waterways. But rather than allow them to thrive in pockets, experts have schemed up ways to move them to areas that are badly in need of beaver engineering.
The first cheese factory was opened in the former Snedden stone home on the hill but in 1932, a building was moved from Pakenham to the north end of the bridge where a farmer’s cooperative operated the Rosebank Cheese & Butter Co. until 1954. Then the building was converted to Nontell’s Dance Hall. This dance hall was an exciting addition to the community until it burned to the ground a few years later. — Marilyn Snedden
If you didn’t meet your dream boat tonight, there was always next week at the Dance Halls. These were wonderful places – full of hopes and dreams, full of music and song, full of youth and vitality, noise and energy.
Anticipation and hope lit up the dull days in between. Girls and boys, from all over the country, came to dance the night away. In the 1950s they waltzed and fox-trotted to the big bands and in the 60s they jived, huckle-bucked and twisted to the fabulous music.
We set off to the dance hall every weekend, hungry for excitement. When we arrived there it felt as if our world had gone from black and white to color.
In the cloakroom, we watched girls who had cycled in from the country remove their headscarves and raincoats. We watched as they backcombed their hair and applied their ‘battle red’ lipstick. Some men, in the 1950s, were known to rub goose grease onto their hair in order to style it. Later in the night, this melted under the bright lights of the dance hall. It ran down their faces and smelt terrible, I am told – for this was before my time.
Other friends remember the local carnivals, which took place in villages. Dances were held in a marquee erected in a newly mown hay field. The priest would come, armed with a blackthorn stick and hit the cocks of hay, behind which couples were engaged in ‘close kissing and embracing, repeated and prolonged.’
How can sitting on a sofa with a smartphone be compared with all the excitement of those dance hall days!
Carleton Place Canadian 1958
Classified Announcements for Dance Halls that issue 1958
Dancing Saturday Nights– Town Hall– Carleton Place–Music by CFRA ‘Happy Wanderers’ Admission-75 cents
NE 1/2, Lot 25, Conc 9, Ramsay Township, on the Mississippi River
Blakeney is one of the prettiest places anytime of the year– and especially in the Spring with the raging waters. The tiny hamlet was originally called Norway Falls because of the incredible Norway Pine trees. But, like most of the small towns here the name was changed a few times. It also became Snedden’s Mills because of the amount of industrial growth in the area and its historical beginnings with the iconic Snedden family.
Alexander Snedden became a militia officer and in 1855 gained the rank of Lieutenant colonel in command of the Ramsay battalion of Lanark Militia. His adjutant was Captain J. B. Wylie, Almonte mill owner. Around the Snedden establishment a small community grew at Norway Falls, known as Snedden’s Mills until in the eighteen fifties it was named Rosebank.
It was renamed Blakeney when the post office of the area was moved here in 1874 from Bennie’s Corners with Peter McDougall as postmaster. In the 1850s the name was changed to Rosebank, but similar to Carleton Place and its postal issue, the name Rosebank was already being used and it changed one more time to Blakeney. The nearby railway station continued to be called Snedden, and the name Rosebank also persisted.
Other early industries at Blakeney included a woollen factory, a brewery at the Pine Isles, a second sawmill and a tannery. A three storey woollen mill of stone construction operated by Peter McDougall, was built in the eighteen seventies. The flour mill at Blakeney continued to be run for some years after the turn of the century by Robert Merilees.
Did you know Blakeney once rivaled Almonte in growth? However the railway chose Almonte as their destination because of the Rosamonds and their textile mills and Blakeney lost the industry to their neighbour.
The Snedden family who came from Rosebank, Scotland, named the place where they settled Rosebank and it is still known by that name in that vicinity. Here the Reform Association conventions of the old District of Bathurst and of the United Counties of Lanark and Renfrew of the eighteen forties and early fifties were held.
Among the treasures this family brought from Scotland were brass candlesticks, brass curtain tics, pictures of Robert Burns, ‘the poet, and of Rev. Robert Burns, who was the Presbyterian minister in the kirk where the Snedden family worshipped, a chair worked in needlepoint, a small Brussels rug and a table cover.
A discriminating traveler of 1846 wrote of “Snedden’s Hotel, which is kept in as good style as any country Inn in the Province.” Another travelling newspaper contributor of fifteen years later added in confirmation: “Who in this portion of Victoria’s domain has not heard of Snedden’s as a stopping place? Ask any teamster on the upper Ottawa and he will satisfy you as to its capabilities of rendering the traveler oblivious to the comforts of his home.” Built in the 1840’s by Alexander Snedden, the white frame structure was well know throughout the Ottawa Valley.
“Who in this portion of Victoria’s domain has not heard of Snedden’s as a stopping place,” one diarist is quoted of commenting regarding the Inn. “Ask any teamster on the Upper Ottawa and he will satisfy you as to its capabilities of rendering traveller oblivious to the comforts of his home.”
Preceded by a log building which had been destroyed by fire, the frame building operated as a stopping place until the mid 1860’s. According to the book, one of the inn’s least welcome lodgers was the man infamously known as the villain of the valley, the notorious Laird Archibald MacNabb. The authors state that MacNabb would produce a 20 pound note to pay for his lodging and since there generally was not sufficient cash on hand to provide change, he would simply walk out and say that his account was settled.
Since its closure as an inn, the building has been utilized as a residence and is now home to Alexander Snedden’s great great grandson, Earle and his family.
The Snedden’s have retained many of the original features of the stopping place including the pine interior doors and the heavy front door that boasts a deep axe scar, courtesy of a drunken patron enraged at being ejected from the premises.
Earle’s wife Marilyn has been told that lumbermen used to “roll up” in blankets and sleep in the two large rooms in the downstairs portion of the house. One of the large rooms on the second floor, she says, served as a dining room while the stopping place was operating.
The original white pine boards on the lower level are now covered by hardwood. Until the change in the 1930’s, people were able to pinpoint the location of the bar through the cigarette butts on the flooring.
The Rosebank flour mill was built by four brother, Alex., David, Jimmy and Willie Snedden. A Mr. Henderson was the first miller. John Usher purchased the mill from the Snedden brothers, and after his death, John Merilee, who came from Fallbrook bought the mill from Mrs. Usher. This was in 1888.
There used to a number of thriving mills in Blakeney, but those structures have long since been demolished.The Rosebank Woolen Mill belonged to Mr. Peter McDougall. It was a large stone building, the ruins of which are still partially standing, and was powered by a large water wheel. It was erected in 1873 and in operation under McDougall until 1901. By 1905 it was being operated by Peter Campbell who purchased the mill in 1906. In 1906 it was sold to the Blakeney Woolen Company Ltd with George C Francis as president.
The Mississippi River turned below the bridge and divided into three parts before resuming its course downstream toward Pakenham. Three dams were built across the three channels to the two Islands formed by the division. One dam served the sawmill, one served the flour mill and one the woolen mill.
The sawmill was built by William Snedden on the north side of the river. The lumber companies, MacLaren and Caldwell, floated squared timber from the upper Mississippi and the Clyde Rivers down through Rosebank, so a “slide” was built below the Peter McDougall property, which ran the logs into what is known as the Bay, a quiet pool of water below the woolen mill.
The village brewery a frame building, was north-west of the woolen mill. The early brew master was Mr. Gomersall. Later the brewery was turned into a home for Mr. Peter McDougall, owner of the woolen mill, and his family who lived there until Mr. McDougall built a brick house at the foot of “Granny” Campbell’s hill. The McDougall house is still standing.
The tannery, also a frame building, was south of the woolen factory. William Reilly was the tanner. His two sons, William and Wellington Herman became doctors and practiced in Montreal as partners. (by Helen Theimer)’
It was not until the late 1860s that lovers of the “stanes” in the Almonte district formed a club and built rinks in the town, but at a much earlier date pioneer Scotch settlers gathered on the Mississippi river at Rosebank, four miles below Almonte, and had the time of their lives. They fished nicely rounded stones from the bed of the river, decorated them with fancy silver-mounted and ebony handles and then “curled” to their hearts’ content.
17 August 1870
It had been a dry spring and even drier summer. By mid August, little rain had fallen in four months, parching the fields and forests of eastern Ontario and western Quebec. On 17 August 1870, a work gang clearing a right-of-way along the Central Canada Railway between Pakenham and Almonte near the village of Rosebank set brush on fire along the tracks. It wasn’t the brightest of moves. With a strong wind blowing from the south, the fire quickly got out of control and spread into the neighbouring woods. Despite efforts by railway workers to douse the flames with water pumped from the nearby Mississippi River, it could not be contained. Racing northward through the tinder-dry forest, the fire sent massive columns of smoke into the air blanketing the region.
Almonte Gazette – Aug, 27, 1927. Read the Almonte Gazette here Robert Snedden Died Suddenly in his Office. Prominent Merchant of Pakenham Expired After Opening Up For The Day.
Belonged to Well Known Ramsay Family. Taught School before Entering Business In Almonte and Later in Pakenham. Mr. Robert Archibald Snedden, merchant of Pakenham, and one of the most prominent business men of North Lanark, died very suddenly this Thursday (25 Aug 1927) morning in his office shortly after 8:00 o’clock. While for some time he had not been in the most robust health, his condition was never regarded as serious, nor was it contemplated that his end was so near. Shortly after opening up for business for the day he suddenly collapsed and expired immediately. He was 58 years of age. Mr. Snedden belonged to one of the most prominent families in this district.
Alexander Snedden, his grandfather, was a noted lumberman in the early days. William Snedden, his father, was also in the lumber business for a time and owned the old sawmill at Blakeney. William Snedden was a power in the Liberal political circles in his day. The late Mr. Snedden was born on the family homestead on the ninth line of Ramsay. He was a graduate of the Almonte High School and was a schoolmaster for some years and many of the residents of that district will speak of his capable care of their education when he was in charge of the Rosebank School.
Photo from the 70s of a mill that once existed by rapids in Blakeney
Names on the map above: (also from the McGill Digital County Atlas Project)
Last Name First Name County Township Town Occupation Birthplace
Barker James Lanark Ramsay Farmer Ramsay Tp., Canada
Barker James Lanark Ramsay Farmer Ramsay Tp., Canada
Black James Lanark Ramsay Farmer; Deputy Reeve of Ramsay Tp. Glasgow, Scotland
Bond J.H. Lanark Ramsay Almonte Tinsmith Lanark Co., Canada
Bowland John Lanark Ramsay Farmer Wicklow Co., Ireland
Coffey John F. Lanark Ramsay Almonte Roman Catholic Priest Ottawa, Canada
Fumerton Archibald W. Lanark Ramsay Appleton General Merchant; Hotel Proprietor, Appleton Ramsay Tp., Canada
Galbraith Daniel Lanark Ramsay Almonte Member of Parliament Glasgow, Scotland
Gemmill James D. Lanark Ramsay Almonte Retired Merchant; Major of Militia Lanark Co., Canada
Gilmour John Lanark Ramsay Almonte Butcher Lanark Co., Canada
Gilmour William Lanark Ramsay Farmer Scotland
Kitson William Lanark Ramsay
Lang John Lanark Ramsay Farmer Ramsay Tp., Canada
Lynch D.P. Lanark Ramsay Almonte Physician and Surgeon Allumette, Quebec, Can
Marshall Robert Lanark Ramsay Farmer; School Trustee Lanark Co., Canada
McCreary Joseph Lanark Ramsay Farmer Ireland (McCreary’s Beach on Mississippi Lake?)
Brian Hand, eleven-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Hand, Union Street was saved from drowning in the Mississippi River not far from his home by the prompt action of Mrs. Wm. Tuffin and Constable A. R. Mitchell.
Brian had tried to rescue a boat but the current was too strong and the boat went over the falls. He clung to a rock and his shouts for help were heard by Mrs. Win. Tuffin who was crossing the back bridge. She called Constable Mitchell who went into the water with a rope to bring the boy to safety. He was at the point of exhaustion by the time he was brought to shore. The current is very strong at this point especially this year when the water is high. Further, it is no place for boating. June 2-1960 Almonte Gazette
The community was shocked’ at the sudden death by electrocution jon Thursday evening, May 26th, of Floyd S. Dennie, 27-year-old resident of Blakeney. An employee of the Producers Dairy, Almonte, he was assisting Joe Sensenstein, local electrician in erecting a TV aerial on a trailer owned by Jim McMillan on Mr. Thos. Fulton’s farm in Pakenham Township.
When raising the aerial, it came in contact with a 4500 volt Hydro electric wire and Floyd who was nearest the serial received the full jolt. Both he and Mr. Sensenstein were thrown to the ground. Both men quickly recovered and sat up. Floyd spoke a few words asking if his companion was alright and then collapsed and died. Dr. M. Spacek of Pakenham attended and found Mr. Dennie dead on his arrival. Dr. A. A. Metcalfe, coroner, was called and after consultation with Crown Attorney, Mr. J. A. B. Dulmage, Q.C. of Smiths Falls, announced that no inquest would be held.
O.P.P. officers investigated the fatality. Mr. Dennie was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Dennie of Almonte. Besides his parents, he leaves his wife, the former Rita Larkin and three small children. Also surviving are four brothers, and one sister, Carmen and George of Almonte; Earl of Carleton Place, Clarence of Smiths Falls and Verna, Mrs. Mike Cardinal of Newboro. June 2-1960 Almonte Gazette
Blakeney is one of the prettiest places anytime of the year– and especially in the Spring with the raging waters. The tiny hamlet was originally called Norway Falls because of the incredible Norway Pine trees. But, like most of the small towns here the name was changed a few times. It became Snedden’s Mills because of the amount of industrial growth in the area and its historical beginnings with the iconic Snedden family. There used to a number of thriving mills in Blakeney, but those structures have long since been demolished.
In the 1850s the name was changed to Rosebank, but similar to Carleton Place and its postal issue, the name Rosebank was already being used and it changed one more time to Blakeney. Did you know Blakeney once rivaled Almonte in growth? However the railway chose Almonte as their destination because of the Rosamonds and their textile mills and Blakeney lost the industry to their neighbour.
Last night in a frustrated moment, I walked into an elevated candle holder in the dark. When I was left with a tiny lump on my face, I knew right then and there it was time to walk away from the computer.
So today I jumped in my car and headed to Blakeney. I remember going through the small village once, a very long time ago, but, where was it exactly. Bill White was across the street when I backed my car out, but I decided I would follow Allan’s advice and head downstream after Almonte. Miles later it was right where I thought it was, and I was in love.
The area around Blakeney was settled primarily by Lowland Scots starting about 1820. The Scots chose this location to settle because of the availability of the rapids in the river to supply power to their textile mills. The Mississippi Valley in the 1800’s was one of the textile centres in Canada. Blakeney was once a thriving community with over a dozen mills and shops as well as many homes. My question is: why did those settlers who settled in Watson’s Corners near Fiddlers Hill not come here. This is Lanark County paradise!
I walked across the many tiny wooden bridges and shot this badly mumbled video. The water, however is one beautiful vista.
Within a very short distance the Mississippi River drops three times in spectacular fashion. The river flows under the road bridge and soon breaks into numerous narrow, shallow channels that are separated by a number of little forested bedrock islands. There are also other falls on the far side of the bridge, on the left side of the road. If you scramble down the hill you will find two little waterfalls, steeper than any of the main rapids on the other side of the bridge.
The rapids are breathtaking, and as I stumbled over some rocks I repeated what I have told myself many times. I could have never been a settler. The whining alone from me would have infuriated them all, and I would have been sent down the river without a paddle.
Then I found an abandoned house covered with giant ferns which seem to grow everywhere in the village along with Lilac bushes. What a dream home this would be fixed up.
There were many odd things at some of the homes similar to Bette Davis’s film The Dark Secret of Harvest Home, and I marveled at the creativity in the town.
Oh, to live in such a village. As I snapped photos, a lovely elderly gentleman asked me what I was doing. Smiling, I told him I was writing about Blakeney, and not there on questionable matters. I asked him about the stone structure and he said he thought it had been torn down 5 years ago. It had been situated by the curve before the bridge. When I thanked him he said,
“I am 87 and I live alone!”–
I giggled, and thought there might be a glimmer of hope if I so wished to live in the charming village of Blakeney. I jumped in my car and headed back listening to Madonna’s Ghosttown. Let’s hope Blakeney never become a ghost town like Heron’s Mills.