Tag Archives: boats

The Gillies Machine Shops Fire 1906

The Gillies Machine Shops Fire 1906

Karen Phillips Curran
There has to be community will behind it or it fails. If the community cannot see the benefits of heritage then it fails.

Carleton Place HeraldMarch 27, 1906


The Gillies Machine Shops Sadly Damaged—Loss Very Heavy

One of the most disastrous fires we have had in Carleton Place for some time occurred this morning this morning in the machine works of the John Gillies Estate Co., Ltd., when the two upper flats were destroyed, with a number of the new launches—some finished and some in course of construction—all the wood working machinery and all the patterns and stock carried on the third floor were destroyed.  The loss is inestimable at this writing but it will not be less than $10,000 and is probably greater and is complete as the Company carried their own risk.  At least twenty men will be out of employment for a time and those of them working on the second flat have lost their tools as well.

The fire started about 8:35 and was caused by an explosion of gasoline in a launch that was about complete.  Master George Dougherty was operating the engine with a view to testing it, when a spark somehow got to the gasoline tank, causing an explosion that blew the end out of the boat and scattered the fire instantly amongst the flammable material in the shop.  Dougherty was badly scorched about the hands and arms and his face and neck were singed.  How he escaped worse injury is marvelous.  He also has a foot badly bruised.  The spread of the fire was so rapid that the man had to flee at once and it was no time until the third flat, where was stored the valuable patterns, finished in oil and varnish, was all ablaze.

The alarm was sounded at once and in a remarkably short time the fire brigade responded.  Two lines of hose were attached to the hydrant in front of the Canada Woolen Mills and water was soon playing; a third line of hose was attached from Brown’s pump and a little later two additional streams were thrown from the fire engine on the river bank.  A third stream was run from the factory later, making six in all but the fire being in the upper part of the high building and with so much material to feed the flames, made it difficult to handle and before the last spark was extinguished the best part of the roof of the building and the floor between the second and third flats were destroyed.

There were five complete launches in the shop—one was valued at $1,200—besides other boats partly built.  Whilst these are not completely destroyed, the loss is very considerable and the damage by water to the valuable machinery on the lower floors will also be heavy.

Mr. James Gillies, who is president of the company, has been in poor health for a week or two and is not in a position to give an explanation as to the loss or what action the company may take to restore the establishment.  Messrs. William and David Gillies are also at home, and witnessed the heroic work of the firemen and others as they struggled with the devouring elements.

Meanwhile the employees will devote their energies to protecting the plant and doing what they can to save the perishable material.

The disaster could scarce have come at a worse season, when the Company were busy with orders and everything was humming in the expectation of a busy season in the launch and engine business.

Much regret is expressed throughout the town, as the loss will be felt in more ways than one and it is hoped the company will see their way to rebuilding without delay.

The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
27 Mar 1906, Tue  •  Page 1

Arnold Gillies Muirhead – Gary Box photo
Arnold Gillies Muirhead who lived in Carleton Place 1907 aged 4 who was used in the John Gillies Estate catalogue of gasoline engines and motorboats made in Carleton Place–Public Archives photo
Austin B. Gillies with camera, child Arnold Gillies Muirhead beside Mr. David Gillies’ home on Bridge Street and Bridge Street. ca. 1910. Item.Copied container number: PA-059334-

Gillies Mill and Blacksmith shop ( used to be Bill Baggs home)– read The Curious World of Bill Bagg — The Gillies Blacksmith Shop

John Gillies was born in 1811 on Scotland. In 1822 he came to Canada with his father, brother, and sister settling on a bush farm in Lanark. His mother and remaining family came a year later. It was a hard existence for them, with the lay of the land making them struggle for existence. However,the frugality of a Scotsman, and the perseverance, overcame all obstacles. In 1836 Gillies struck out for himself and created a bush farm. In 1838 Gillies engaged in a lumbering operation and also wool carding and cloth dressing machines.

In 1875, John Gillies built a machine shop for his 20-year-old son, Alexander, on Rosamond Street in Carleton Place, right on the bank of the Mississippi River. Next door was the Blacksmith shop that was used for the machine shop.

In 1872 he disposed of his mill property and moved to Carleton Place. He still owned the lumbering enterprise with Peter McLaren. Gillies ended up retiring—sold his share to McLaren and established a foundry for the manufacture of mill machinery and steam engines. He erected this building in 1875 for that purpose. The building was originally 4 stories and they also used the blacksmith shop next door. He was also a senior member of Gillies Son & Co Manufacturers of woolen fabrics. At 77, he was like our local Mr. Tom Cavanagah and still running the show. Gillies made a specialty manufacture of Shipman and Acme automatic steam engines using coal for fuel. They had exclusive control of the patents on these engines in the Dominion of Canada.

The Mississippi River flows around McArthur Island and a man made channel for the Mississippi River was built and re-directed for the McArthur mill. The shocking part was realizing that another channel once lapped the back doors of the old Gillies Mill. Yup–right by the back door and through the late Bill Bagg’s adjacent property that was once the blacksmith shop for the Gillies Mill.

The company was known for their neatness, simplicity and cleanliness. They were also beloved for their many company “pleasure parties” so they would not have the annoyance a of labour disruption. They had many catalogues and circulars — none of which have been seen by the Carleton Place and Beckwith Museum. It was also added that their firms engines and boilers were exempt from government inspection.

In 1908 the town of Carleton Place loaned Messrs Bates and Innes ten thousand dollars extending over a ten year period of time and exemption from taxation except for school purposes to start the manufacture of knitted felt goods in what was known as gillies mills. After it closed it served purpose to many companies and no word if the town got their money back. Working hours for the winter season at the woollen mill of Gillies & Son & Company were from 7 a.m. to 6.15 p.m. with closing time one hour earlier on Saturdays.

When Bill Bagg bought that house (blacksmith shop) he found an open cistern/well inside his home and it had to be boarded up so no one would get hurt. That made me shiver and think of the film Silence of the Lambs.

The Pengor was also built in this building The Pengor Penguin presented to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip during their visit to Ottawa in 1964.–Kevin Percy said–They had less than a week to prep this for the presentation ! Photo- Kevin Percy–The Pengor company set up their assembly factory by the town yard in Carleton Place in the former Bates and Innes Mill on McArthur Island between the bridges. They initially planned to produce 100 Penguins a day and the maiden voyage of a red and white Penguin went into the mighty Mississippi River. Penguin being presented to Queen Elizabeth during visit to Canada and in front of the town hall.

Then it turned to Digital and Bluebell ( wrangler jeans)


They tried to turn it into condos and ran out of money.

Photo and text from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

The Curious World of Bill Bagg — The Gillies Blacksmith Shop

Before the Gillies House There was.. Fire 1873

The Gillies Fire Braeside July 4th 1949

Did You Know that Carleton Place had an Affiliation with Peg-Leg Brown?

Fear of the Life Aquatic by Linda Knight Seccaspina

Fear of the Life Aquatic by Linda Knight Seccaspina

Oakland Ferry- San Francisco 1880

Fear of the Life Aquatic by Linda Knight Seccaspina

One hot summer day when I was 6 my mother spoke some wise words while we stood on the edge of the dock at Selby Lake in Quebec. Bernice Ethylene Knight warned me over and over not to stare at the water as she prophesied that I would fall in. While everyone was enjoying their picnic lunch I immediately returned to the edge of that dock to test her theory.

Like a flying duck making a fell swoop into the water I fell in head first. That was the day I nearly drowned and water and “boating” became a fearful enemy. When I turned 60  ten years ago, I felt I should finally throw caution to the wind. 

Oakland, California- July 2012

I walked slowly down the planked path to the dock as the seagulls flew over me with mocking cries. They could smell my fear and taunted me as I approached the dock. I could feel my stomach inching up into my throat and it felt like the church picnic at Haven Isles in the 60’s all over again. Walking across the small plank that was hooked to the dock reminded me of the swinging bridge across the river at that annual picnic at the popular Townships location. If this thing swayed like that Haven Isles bridge Linda was going to be glued to the dock in fear forever.

Seldom late for anything I arrive 37 minutes ahead of schedule to make sure I am on time to possibly die. I call my friend and leave a message that if the ferry starts going down— please pick up my call and not let it go to message.  I decide to stick my identification that I have placed in a plastic bag inside my sports bra so if the boat goes down they can identify my body quickly.

I watch the elderly tourists getting onto the Potomac; fondly known as The Floating White House. The boat was originally called the USCG Cutter Electra in 1934. I watch as they pull anchor and gaze at the waving occupants that I feel might not make it across the bay.

We all proceed on to the ferry like a funeral march, and I glance at the sign that states that if the above alarm goes off to man your stations.  Where actually is my station I ask the steward as he silently motions me to go upstairs to the second deck. Watching from above I see a child below grasping a floater. He too is unsure of his fate and I silently berate myself for not bringing a floater.

We approach Treasure Island and the water begins to get rougher. An elderly man from the old 187th Airbourne assures me everything will be fine and begins to tell me stories from WWII. The fear has now been replaced by similar droning words that I have been told dozens of times by my late grandfather. 

I am amazed at how little that holds up the Bay Bridge and realize that the bridge will fall on us if an earthquake should immediately occur.  I wonder if the captain is slowing down just to scare us as there is most certainly no backed up traffic in these waters.

Attempting to get the perfect shot of the bridge I fall on the slippery deck as the captain increases his speed. Thankfully my nightmare does not occur and Linda does not do a fatal

swan dive over the edge. The passengers are impressed as I lay there and take a picture of the under belly of the Bay Bridge. There is no way I could have gotten this angle standing up.

The captain now assumes his ferry is a speed boat and we bounce off the crests of the waves that make the nearby sailboats heave up and down. I  suddenly question whether I should immediately go in and hit the bar.

I see Pier 39 in the distance and wonder how people swim from that pier to Alcatraz Island everyday. Neighbouring passengers tell me there are dolphins in this part of the bay and I immediately think of Flipper and how he helped drowning people.

Getting off the ferry I am immediately greeted by The Silver Man whose real name is Evan. I notice the large bucket he has for the exiting passengers like myself.  My stomach silently asks what form of payment he wants. I am proud that I faced my fear head on and know that if I ever win a cruise — it is going to the first person that wants it.

Architecture Stories: The Voodoo Madam – Mary Ellen Pleasant

The Lady Who Sang the Blues-Time Travel

We Are No Longer in Gnome Man’s Land — Do You Gnome What I am Saying?

Painting the Memories with Written Word –Linda Knight Seccaspina

Can-Am Boating Almonte Laurie LaDouceur

Can-Am Boating  Almonte Laurie LaDouceur

Thanks to Laurie Ladouceur for sending this. I can find few memories of the boating gang in Almonte. Could you please leave some memories?

This is a pic of some guys that use to race boats at almonte beach— one is my grandfather and another one is Leonard Smithson- Laurie Ladouceur

The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
04 Jul 1977, Mon  •  Page 21
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
04 Jul 1977, Mon  •  Page 17
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
22 Apr 1972, Sat  •  Page 30
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
04 Jul 1977, Mon  •  Page 21

Update on The Gamblins — Evan Gamblin

Read–The Man that Brought “Canada” Back to Carleton Place – Bill Bagg

Shipman & Acme Engines Clippings and Notations

Bill Gamblin and the Skiff

It was the Boathouse that Went On and On….

Bob Sadler’s Boat Rides –Mary Cook News Archives 1982
Building the Bradley Boat House

The Carleton Place Riverside Park Booth Etc. Etc.

Britannia Boat House Doomed— April 1907 Ice Jam –Jaan Kolk Files

Was a Boldt Castle Boathouse Once in our Midst? See the Home of the Daphne!

Facts You Might Not Know About Carleton Place for our 150th Birthday – Part 5



The facts below are from the flyer passed out on January 1: Carleton Place-A Valley Town at Confederation 1867 by the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum. I have personally added some extra tidbits under the facts. I have to apologize I really got carried away with this one.




Photo–Carleton Place & District Chamber of Commerce “The Ripple”



Carleton Place July 31, 1885 from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage MuseumW.H. Wylie’s steam yacht “The Ripple(43′ keel, 10′ beam) at Hawthorne Woolen Mill, then operated–by W.H. Wylie. Possibly W.H. Wylie sitting on fore rail. On Fore Rail – A.R.G. Peden (Town Clerk) Left on upper deck: Jim Burnie


Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage MuseumFact–The first steamboat was launched on the Mississippi River and made regular trips on the Mississippi between Carleton Place and Innisville.

In the  1880’s to 1900, steamers were produced, and built built right in Carleton Place. They included the” Witch of the Wave” , “ The  Morning Star” , “ the Ripple” and the” Mayflower”. Read more here at Heritage Carleton Place.



Photo–Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum—These Carleton Place citizens of the 1890’s are lined up on the Lake Park dock waiting to board the steamship “Carleton”. It ran regular trips between Lake Park Lodge on Mississippi Lake and the town docks located near the Hawthorne Mill at the end of Charles Street. 
Photo from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum–This photo was taken in 1905 by Howard Edwards and shows a young couple strolling west along the river’s edge, towards the present day boat launch. Note the steamer in the water, also heading West – perhaps to Lake Park or Innisville.
Photo–Heritage Carleton PlaceThe Steamboat ‘ Carleton’
pcr-275 (1).jpg
Mississippi River, Carleton Place, Ont.
Warwick Bros & Rutter, Limited
Picture, 1910–Virtual Reference Library
The Carleton which was a 80 foot long shallow paddle wheeler graced the Mississippi for many years. Sam McLaren who was known for his red beard was captain on the steamer, and it went up and down the Mississippi lakes and river. Read more here at Heritage Carleton Place.
McCullough’s Landing was another of the Carleton Place steamer excursion destinations. One of its biggest gatherings was a political rally in 1896, just before a hard-fought federal election. The lake’s biggest steamer, the Carleton, provided the transportation in loads of around 200 per trip, at a return fare of 25 cents.
The Enterprise, a paddle wheeler which could carry a hundred passengers, travelled the lake for twenty-five years in the service of the McLaren Mill and the Canada Lumber Co. Under the intentions of its builders, its regular run would have been between Lanark Village, Playfairville and Carleton Place. That was the route that gained some historic standing in the story of the Mississippi when a number of the first Ramsay township settlers reached their new homes in 1821 by travelling down the Clyde and Mississippi by water from Lanark Village to the site of Almonte.
In 1907 as an indication of the change at Lake Park, the steamer ‘Lillian B’ belonging to the Queen Royal Hotel, was replaced with a bus line as the regular passenger service and later was beached in the Hotel Bay. A view of this abandoned forty foot steam craft about the year 1910 with her ribs lying open to the elements may serve as a picture of the end of one era on the lake, still carrying its earliest Indian name of the Lake of the Big River, and the start of another era a little more like our own.-Howard Morton Brown
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Tue, Sep 15, 1896 – Page 6



Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum—Mississippi River Days featured a flotilla of decorated boats in 1991.

Did you know that Lake Park Hotel even sported a race track, and some of the horses were transported from Carleton Place via the grand old steamers of the day? Read more here: Lake Park Lodge – Queen’s Royal Hotel- Mississippi Lake Carleton Place Ontario


Did you know an 18 year-old named Bertha Sumner was last seen knocking on the Cram’s door around 4 pm and later seen on the bridge watching a new steamer being launched? What happened to her? Read more here..The Strange Disappearance of Bertha Sumner of Carleton Place


domegood (1).jpg

Photo- Linda Seccaspina


Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum Fact–In 1867 our Carleton Place Postmaster Patrick Struthers was in his third term as Beckwith reeve. In just three years Carleton Place would be incorporated as a separate municipal body. 

Patrick Struthers (1830-1907) was a merchant and later magistrate and was in charge of the local post office for over forty-five years.  On April 1, 1860 Postmaster Patrick Struthers took charge and the post office was in three different locations. It was first on Bridge and Bell and then in 1870’s he moved it across the bridge to the NE corner of Bridge and Franklin.  In 1891 the Post Office was moved for the third time under Struthers’ charge. It had moved out of a private business to a government building for the first time and the government building is  the red sandstone building at 81 Bridge Street.

Patrick (Peter) Struthers, and his assistant Finlay McEwen, were known for their rather thin light coloured beards. I searched the 1901 census for him and according to a genealogy forum on ancestry.ca the reason he was difficult to find on the census was because he was living with his new wife (Ann Chambers was his first), Margaret’s, mother.The Beckwith municipal council elected for 1865 was: Patrick Struthers, reeve, and Archibald McArthur, Donald Carmichael, George Kidd and Alexander Ferguson.



                             Ceceila Stuart Struthers McMullen with two of her children


Ceceila Stuart from England was adopted by Patrick Struthers of Carleton Place when she came to Canada with her family in 1870. Susan Stewart and her sister Cecilia (1868-1925) were daughters of John Joseph Stewart, born in London, England ~ 1844.

Mr. Stewart and his young family immigrated to Canada ~ 1871, but Mrs. Stewart died on the way over and was buried at sea. Upon arrival Mr. Stewart, newly widowed, with two young children, no home and no job, was obliged to find his children homes.

Cecilia was “adopted” by Patrick Struthers, the postmaster in Carleton Place, but is listed in the 1871, 1881 and 1891 Census as Cecilia Stewart. Her sister Susan is remembered to have been adopted “elsewhere” and “went west”. West, to the people of Lanark County at this time could have meant the Grey/Bruce area of Ontario, or the Prairie Provinces or the Dakotas.

Mr. Stewart settled in Toronto, re-married in 1874 and had a second family. He maintained contact with his daughter *Cecilia and was known to her children. He died in Long Branch (west end of Toronto) in 1920.

This is probably way more than you wanted to know–but I could have written a lot more:)

Who worked for the post office the longest in Lanark County? Clue– it was a local postmaster–read here: Who Worked for the Post Office the Longest in Lanark County?


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Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

Added November 20 2017-

 This photo of the McMullen family recently surfaced in our files. Can anyone tell us about them? They appear to be up at the lake – see the steamer in the background to the right?

Perth Courier, April 1, 1892

The Carleton Place Herald of 29th March says:  “On Thursday last Miss Margaret Struthers, daughter of the late Robert Struthers of Ramsay and sister of Patrick Struthers, Esq., postmaster, Mrs. Duncan Miller of town and William Struthers of Appleton, passed away after suffering from a severe illness for some time past.  The deceased has lived with her brother for a number of years and was well known in town.  She was 54 years of age.  Hers is the first death in the family of 12 children in 42 years.

Perth Courier, March 22, 1889

Among the new magistrates newly appointed by the Ontario government are Messrs. John F. Cram, Patrick Struthers and William H. Wylie all of Carleton Place.  The latter gentleman is a strong Conservative.

Perth Courier, Feb. 21, 1896

A nephew of Patrick Struthers of Carleton Place was killed at Oil City, Pennsylvania a short time ago while working at his trade as a carpenter and Mrs. Struthers left for Oil City on getting the news.

Perth Courier –July 9 1897

On Friday last a man named John O’Connell was brought in from Carleton Place by Chief Wilson and committed for trial by P. Struthers, J.P. charged with stealing a $5 bill and a silver watch guard from one James Scott in the Mississippi Hotel on the 28th ult. He denies the charge and has asked for a trial without jury and before the county judge.

Peter Struthers, for the past quarter century postmaster at Carleton Place, is enjoying his first visit to Manitoba. The Pilot Mound Sentinel says: “Mr. Struthers is accompanied by his sister Mrs. Miller, who is visiting her daughter, Mrs. Edward Cavers of Gowanscroft.”

Perth Courier, Nov. 25, 1892

The Carleton Place Herald records the death of Mrs. Patrick Struthers wife of postmaster Peter Struthers of that town at the age of 77 years.  Her death took place at Toronto on the 18th inst.  Her maiden name was Ann Chambers and she was first married to William Moffat of Carleton Place who met an accidental death in California in 1852(?) during the gold fever there.  Mrs. Isaac Cram of Montague and Mrs. Joseph Cram of Beckwith are daughters of hers by that marriage.  In December of 1860 she married Mr. Struthers.  She had been in poor health for the past 20 years.



*Cecilia Stewart, adopted daughter of Patrick Struthers married John Mcmullen and had 6 children. She passed away on 21 Feb 1925 in Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada.  Her husband John was born in Pinhey S Point March Township Carleton, Ontario, Canada on 20 Oct 1856 to George Mcmullen and Margaret Tubman. He passed away on 3 Mar 1939 in New Jersey, USA.

I found one of their sons, *George Patrick Mcmullen, who was born in Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada on 13 Dec 1892. George Patrick married *Annie Fern Cooke, born in Beckwith  August 6, 1892, and they had a *son J. McMullen.


*February 3, 1971            J. McMullen Dies Merrickville

  1. J.McMullen passed away on Wednesday, February 3, 1971, at Smiths Falls, following a short illness. He was 46 years of age. Born in Merrickville, July 29,1924, he was a son of George Patrick McMullen and his wife, Anne Fern Cooke, who survive and were formerly of this area. He received his education at Merrickville Public School and Albert College, Belleville, Ont. He had served with the Royal Canadian Navy from 1939 – 1945 and had been employed as a lineman with the construction department of Canada. He attended the Merrickville United Church and was a member of Merrickville Lodge A. F.& A.M., No. 55, G.R.C. and Maitland Chapter R. A. M . , No. 68 at Kemptville, Ont. Besides his wife, the former Margaret Isabell Buchanan, and his parents, he is survived by a daughter, Patricia Gail and a son William George, both at home. The funeral was held in the Chapel of the Lannin Funeral Rome, Smiths Falls, on Saturday, February 6, at 2 p.m., with Rev. Harold Kempling officiating. Interment will be in South Gower Cemetery in the spring. The pallbearers were Messrs. John Bruce, Bill Smith, Gordon Knapp, Thomas McKibbon, Arthur Heroux and Gordon Whaley.


Anne Fern <i>Cooke</i> McMullen


Birth: Aug. 4, 1893
Ontario, Canada
Death: May 20, 1982
Ontario, Canada

Born in Scotch Corners, Beckwith Township, Lanark County, Ontario. Died in Smiths Falls, Ontario. Married George Patrick McMullen on June 23, 1920.Family links:
Seeley Cooke (1855 – 1933)
Rebecca Chamney (1859 – 1940)Spouse:
George Patrick McMullen (1892 – 1972)*Sibling:
Chamney Edward Cooke (1889 – 1972)*
Anne Fern Cooke McMullen (1893 – 1982)

Related Reading-

Facts You Might Not Know About Carleton Place for our 15oth-part 1

Facts You Might Not Know About Carleton Place for our 150th Birthday – Part 2

Facts You Might Not Know About Carleton Place for our 150th Birthday – Part 3

Facts You Might Not Know About Carleton Place for our 150th Birthday – Part 4

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun