Tag Archives: cistern

The Curious World of Bill Bagg — The Gillies Blacksmith Shop

The Curious World of Bill Bagg — The Gillies Blacksmith Shop



Photo from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

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.

A few years later in September of 1878  a very sad case of drowning which occurred in the Mississippi Lake. Two young men, Alexander Gillies, son of David Gillies and Martha Poole, machinist and Peter Peden, miller, left home about 8:00 in the evening and went up the lake in a small canoe to shoot ducks by moonlight.Their bodies were found embedded in the mud only a few inches under the surface of the water. Read more here-The Sad Tale of Alexander Gillies and Peter Peden


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Here is a look at the interior of the Gillies Blacksmith shop along the Mississippi River in Carleton Place. All photos from an MLS listing click here

Here is the old blacksmith shop that the late iconic Bill Bagg owned and is for sale and thanks to the internet we get to see the interior.


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All photos from an MLS listing click here


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All photos from an MLS listing click here

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All photos from an MLS listing click here

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All photos from an MLS listing click here

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.

When Bill Bagg bought that house 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. This is the first time I have seen the cistern– so I wanted to document it for history.

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All photos from an MLS listing click here

If you don’t know what a cistern was used for-well, check out the links below at the end.

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All photos from an MLS listing click here

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte

  1. relatedreading

The Curious World of Bill Bagg –The Deer Heads

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

Come on, Let’s Go Down in the River –Photo Memories

One of Us– Memories of Bill Bagg

Before and After with Bill Bagg and the Mississippi Gorge

The Faeries of McArthur Island- Dedicated to the Bagg Children



Cisterns I Have Known

Do You have an Archaeological Find in Your Carleton Place Basement?

Do You have a Hidden Room in Your Home?

“The Tim Horton’s River” Under my House.. Is That the Way To Fraggle Rock?

Do You have an Archaeological Find in Your Carleton Place Basement?


Two days ago I posted the story about the hidden room in my basement. Local resident Nancy Green posted on Facebook she had the same thing and had poked a flashlight to see if she could find anything odd. Well now, It makes total sense what it is. It is located directly under the front verandah, and very common in older homes. It definitely used to be a cistern.

Cisterns were used for the collection of rain water, and were quite common at homes throughout the 19th century.  They can also be found at a few 18th century homes and some were built as late as the early 1940s.  Using the roof as a rain collection surface, gutters and downspouts delivered water to the cistern.



Most of them were a  large rectangular box located under a porch, with the porch floor being the cover.  Before the floor of the porch was replaced we used to have th remains of what was once a trap door. There were many folklore “rules” governing when and how water was to be collected if you wanted it to stay “sweet”. Built to catch rainwater, which was then used for domestic chores. Of course it became doomed by indoor plumbing.
The success of indoor plumbing initiated the demise of cisterns, which became white elephants with the abundant flow of water from kitchen and bathroom faucets. Cisterns were eventually filled with unwanted items, buried and forgotten and walled over like ours. The fact that cisterns have remained virtually undisturbed, in some instances for hundreds of years,  can we consider them archaeological finds?


Apparently some of them (not ours) are steeped in treasures, such as ceramics, coins, tintype photographs and food particles, that can tell archaeologists about what people of the time liked to buy and eat. You have to remember when my home was built in 1867 the local water probably smelled bad and people got sick. The early settlers associated rainwater with freshness and thought cisterns might be the long-term answer. So should we really consider these rooms archaeological finds? That’s hard to answer as I am sure in a few hundred years people will dig up tanning beds and think we used to fry people for punishment.

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place