Somehow I got the idea that Lanark was the county town of Lanark county. Since this would be just about the only county town in Ontario that I had never visited (always of course excepting Hali-burton, where even the train goes only three times a week!) I decided it would be just the thing to round out my day if I could make it to Lanark. Here indeed would be terra incognita. So turning my car toward terra incognita, I went out of Carleton Place and turned off at the church.
I struck a road that sometimes was paved, and sometimes was not, till I came to a spot called Ferguson’s Falls. By now the countryside had changed. Gone were the lush acres of Carleton Place. In their place was that undecided sort of country that exists between Brockvllle and Kingston, and west of Perth. It can’t quite make up its mind whether to be agricultural country or not. So you find pockets of good land, interspersed by stretches of picturesque rock lands. These same woods, good for maple syrup in the spring, pasture in the summer, and fuel in the winter, are not to be sneezed at, if you have some arable land as well, but you are out of luck as a farmer if all your land is this way.
However, I was not out to sob over the steering wheel about the plight of the farmer who owned a rock pile, but to get on to Lanark town, and ultimately it came into view. I took a couple of squirms, went around a hill or two, and landed plump in front of the Lanark Era. Just about the easiest place to get acquainted, the quickest place to get Information, and the best place to feel at home for any newspaperman is a country newspaper office. Deadlines aren’t the disagreeable things there they are in such fast-moving sheets as The Citizen, and so they generally have time to talk to you.
I sat there and sniffed that lovely smell of a composing room, and plumped myself down to see if I could find out something about Lanark. First and foremost, Lanark produced the great George Mair, whose epic, Tecumseh, is regarded as one of the truly great literary things done by a Canadian. With that I might couple the fact that Managing Editor Robertson of Beaverbrook’s London Daily Express, is an old Lanark boy. So is George Mcllraith, Liberal M.P. for Ottawa West.
In with these important tidings, I would breathlessly add that the chain stores have not yet invaded this delightful place. Lanark today has only a few over 700 people, but it once had more. Its chief support in days gone by was the woollen mill, but this burned down at the end of the last war, or thereabouts. There was no other large industry to replace it, and today the largest payroll in the town is that of the school. Incidentally, I see the Lanark Era of the issue when I was in town said the teachers had resigned, and it was decided to advertise for new ones.
I went south on the road which they said was the bumpiest in Lanark and they misinformed me, for there is a bumpier one in Georgia and in due course I came to the outskirts of Perth. I was told by George Mcllraith that I had missed a most important item outside Perth, and that was the first bank established in Upper Canada. I was back two weeks later, but entering by another road, missed it again.
I might say that I had been through *Perth a good many times by rail, but had no idea it was such a beautiful place. Perth has a pretty park in its midst, and is so laid out, not only to give it real beauty, but to create the impression that the town is really bigger than it is. I have been in the original Perth in Scotland, and both of course, are on the Tay. While doubtless the Caledonian counterpart is more entrancingly located, the Canadian Perth, and Lanark’s county town, does not suffer too much by comparison.
Whoever laid the pavement between Perth and Smiths Falls did a good job, and my own concern was the proximity of a speed cop. Smiths Falls is pretty enough, and seems to change but little. I associate with Smiths Falls all kinds of emotions. I remember, for instance, sitting at a table in the dining room of the main hotel there, and learning that Doc Cook had “discovered” the North Pole. It was also during another momentous meal there that a fellow at the table said that the Mauretanla had just broken the world’s speed record for a steamship.
At a later date, I stopped off at S.F. to see a girl, between trains, and later again, used to drop into the Canadian Pacific station to have a chat with “Tex” Ricard, who went to Queen’s in my day, and later became a railway despatcher. But above all. I remember going down to The Falls one time at the behest of The Citizen to write about vaccination and some of its evils. I went around to all the locations first, and climaxed the day by interviewing a couple of indignant medical officials.
I returned on the last train, charged a heavy dinner up to The Citizen, and then was pleased to hear from Vincent Pask, night city editor, that it was the best story I had written for him up to date. That I had turned in a lot of bad ones I am the first to admit. The trip from Smiths Falls home through a sort of lane of a highway was dull, and I was shocked to see what a small place Franktown is. I was prepared for something better. I bypassed Carleton Place on the way back, and arrived safely at the Island Boulevard traffic circle without incident. Austin F. Cross June 1940
*The first Bank in Perth– read –It Happened in Canada! The Peculiar Captain Leslie Of Perth
|The City Bank was the first bank to establish an agency in Perth, the Hon. Roderick Matheson being agent. He transacted business in his own office, where Matheson & Balderson now are, but finding that his own business required all his attention he gave up the agency, as no other agent was appointed, the office was closed. Then the Commercial Bank opened an agency, with Captain Leslie as Manager. His office was kept in the small stone building, which still stands on the property near the old dwelling house. John A. McLaren now lives in this building. He farmed a little, as well as managed the Bank, and had in his employ an old man by the name of McFarlane, but transacted all his business himself.|
|In order to do this, he had a bell put on the building, which was rung if he was wanted while out attending to his farm duties during bank hours, but he had no scruples about keeping people waiting. He was very exact and particular about paying out money, as even in these days, a stranger could not draw money for a cheque unless identified, or accompanied by a friend known to the Manager. He married a lady from Kingston, who was very peculiar. She never went out except to church, and very rarely there, and always dressed in the same ‘good’ clothes from the time she came to Perth until they left. Captain Leslie did not do a very large business, in fact, not enough to pay his salary which was six hundred dollars per year. He only had an ordinary iron box for a safe, which was built in the floor of his private office, the top opening upward from the floor like a trapdoor, so that his business could not have been very extensive.|
|In 1856, he handed over the books to Mr. James Bell, who later became the Registrar of South Lanark, and the Bank was removed to his dwelling on Drummomd Street, where Mr. McArthur‘s house now stands. As the Bank quarters were not ready for him, a small brick addition was built for an office, which was pulled down when Mr. McArthur built his present residence.|