Tag Archives: historian

Is it all Relative? Linda Knight Seccaspina

Is it all Relative? Linda Knight Seccaspina

Is it all Relative? Linda Knight Seccaspina

As they say, if you shake a family tree hard enough the nuts will begin to fall out. I spend a good part of my day writing history, and as of now I have about 5800 different stories on Lanark County in Ontario and the Eastern Townships. I never thought this would be what I would be doing in my later years, but after writing about what annoys me and celebrity gossip in for years I finally found my calling.

I don’t write text book history, I write about people that made our communities, the families. It wasn’t the politicians that helped our towns and cities grow, it’s the people that worked hard. As far as I am concerned everyone has a story and it’s all about chasing that information. But how far do you dig for these stories? What happens when you find the family stories that are like cornbread that isn’t done in the middle?

Last year each member of a local family all got Ancestry DNA kits for Christmas and their mother begged them to return them, assuring them that they were not accurate. Well, no one listened to her and most of them eventually found out that Dad wasn’t their real father. Apparently there had been a lot of unzipped genes in the family and family dinners were never the same after that.

What I have found odd with my own lot is that no one ever told me the stories about the good guys of the family. All I ever heard were stories of ancestors that never made it up to the standards of the Knight or Crittenden family. There was Cousin Odessa that was named after the Port of Odessa that was suddenly sent to Cowansville, Quebec from London. My grandparents soon found out that Odessa should have been named after Port Sherry instead of Odessa. As Alexander Fleming once said “If Penicillin can cure those that are ill, Sherry can bring the dead back to life!” I would like to believe Odessa is still out there somewhere like a good bottle of biologically aged sherry,

Last year I pieced my together my small family tree together while remembering the persistent repetitive stories of:

“She had to lock the door against the Fenians who were coming to her door- it was terrible!”

“He worked for Bell Telephone when he came from England in the early 1900s and froze to the poles in the dead of winter installing wires”

“She worked in the cafe in Devon where they sold the Devonshire Cream. Once she spilled soup on someone important and got fired”

“Every week your Grandfather gave her a 50 cent piece which she put in a small velvet bag that she wore around her neck. We never found it and wondered for years what she did with all the money.”

“He ran away to the USA without his family and if you look at this photo of his grave, that is why you should never leave your family- this is what happens– you die!!!”

Now this is only a tiny smattering of what I heard in my life, and every statement is true. I still have that postcard of my great grandfather’s grave and will probably pass the same message on to my sons.

I am wondering if I was told all these stories because there were far worse ones out there and they figured that would stop me from digging and finding something no family wanted to hear about. That however will never happen unless I win the lotto and then can afford another $25 dollars a month to join Ancestry in Europe.

As a writer I keep a buffer zone on family tragedy of 50 years, but I still have had some family tell me to take down a story that happened over 100 years ago. Personally I feel like Nancy Drew when I write as I feel like it’s solving a puzzle. But, when you find out a father’s name blank and crossed out on a delayed birth certificate be prepared for what you are going to discover. Ten to one some family is not going to want to hear that their great grandmother was caught with a man and morphine in a hotel room in Watertown N.Y in 1891 like I did this week.

So why do I write about past family stories? I am curious by nature, nosy, and I love the thrill of finding a story no one has heard about before. If I find a family mystery, I dig until I find the answer. I want people to know about the local individuals from the past whose lives helped make us what we are today. Our children and grandchildren need to hear about their ancestors- good and bad- it’s all history.

My youngest son’s favourite Tshirt reads:

“If you think I’m crazy you should meet the rest of my family!”

He’s right- crazy doesn’t run in our family– it gallops!

The Amazing Mr. Paul




Photo from the Carleton Place Canadian files from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

When I first moved to Carleton Place in 1981 I joined the Carleton Place Historical Society. Each month when I attended their meetings at the Carleton Place Library Mr. Paul would tell me stories that kept me coming back each month just to see him. There is no doubt that Mr. Paul became an inspiration years later to tell stories about Lanark County. He once told me that if I heard a story about the local area to keep passing it on so no one will ever forget.



Mount Blow Farm- donated by Norman Paul to the North Lanark Regional Museum


Norman,  was a fixture of Lanark County more than anyone I had ever met at the time. His father came from Scotland in 1821 and settled in what was called  the Mount Blow farm on the Rae side just a bit south-west of Almonte. Norman was born January 1, 1900 on the farm that is said to be situated on a *narrow round strip of white limestone.

Norman Paul’s great grandfather was the first Assessor in Ramsay in 1836 and when I knew him Norman still had the Census Sheet for the southwest half of Ramsay Township for the Census taken in 1837.

What people remember most about Norman besides his stories was that he was a whittler. His wooden creations are still in the North Lanark Museum in Appleton today and these dioramas were made in the 1980s depicting local pioneer life.

Norman used to travel to schools, fairs and other events to display his dioramas and give presentations on pioneer life. When the North Lanark Regional Museum opened in Appleton in 1970, Norman donated the majority of his pieces to the museum where they continued to be on display for the public. Unfortunately the museum burned down in 1979 and the collection was destroyed. Fortunately Norman Paul decided to remake the dioramas and again donated them to the rebuilt museum in the 80s.

I consider myself blessed to have known Norman Paul, and it isn’t often I don’t remember the smile of the 1987 “Maple Man of the Year”. In fact I never want too– he was that important to me and the rest of Lanark County.



Perth Courier, March 27, 1868

Leckie-Paul—Married, at Mount Blow Ramsay, by the Rev. Wm. McKenzie, on the 20th inst., Mr. John Leckie to Miss Marion Paul, both of Ramsay.


June of 1905. This school photo features teachers, Miss Ida Paul and Miss Lizzie Spears, who are located second and seventh from the left in the back row–North Lanark Regional Museum


*Many of the stone structures built in Almonte depended upon the Paul kiln for limestone. Lime was shipped as far as Merrickville from the “Mount Blow” kiln, as it was called, and old account books list buyers from Innisville, North Gower, Franktown, Smiths Falls, Prospect, Ashton, Huntley, Richmond, and other outlying points. The kiln was built of black iron stone on the site of a steep hill. It was barrel-shaped with an arched entrance, lined with fire brick and the front covered with dressed stone. Gum woods such as hemlock, tamarack, pine, spruce and cedar were used for firing. The manufacturing season began generally in mid February and ran to mid December. There were 12 or 14 such kilns in operation on the Paul farm by 1866 and the greatest production year was 1885 when they sold 9000 bushels. John Paul & Sons were awarded a bronze medal at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in 1886 for their sample of lime.- Jean S. McGill book ‘A Pioneer History of Lanark County’ on the settlement of Ramsay Township

PAUL, FRANK YUILL – In hospital, Ottawa, Ontario on Tuesday, March 7th, 1989. Frank Yuill Paul – beloved husband of Eleanor Jean Clapp. Loving father of Geoffrey at home; Nancy, Sudbury; Allen, Whitehorse, Yukon and David of Toronto. Dear son of Norman Paul, RR 2, Almonte and the late Caroline Bowland. Dear brother of Ruth (Mrs. Arthur Armstrong), Burks Falls, Ontario: Jim, RR 2, Almonte and Norma Paul of Akron, Ohio. In his 49th year. Friends called at the Kerry Funeral Home, 154 Elgin Street, Almonte on Wednesday and Thursday. Funeral service was held at Almonte United Church on Friday, March l0th. Rev. Clifford Evans and Jack Lougheed officiated. Cremation, Ottawa.
James P. Paul

Photo and text- North Lanark Regional Museum

James P. Paul -Interviewed November 4, 2013 by Sarah Chisholm
Catalogue No.: 2013.43.1
Duration: 42 minutes
Photo: L-R: Sarah, Jim

James P. Paul (Jim Paul) comes from a long line of farmers. He grew up on Mount Blow Farm in Ramsay which was started by the Paul family in 1821.

Mount Blow Farm operated as a mixed farm until the early 1900s and was well known for its lime kiln business which ran from the 1860s to 1908. In 1925 the farm began the transition from mixed farming to dairy farming, building a purebred Holstein herd. In 1951 Jim Paul officially joined his father and his brother on the farm. Mount Blow Farm continued to expand and evolve. The farm improved with the addition of milking machines, a bulk tank and a pipeline all added by 1970.

Jim speaks about the history of the farm, the equipment changes and also speaks about his father, Norman Paul. Norman Paul is well known in Lanark County for his whittlings and dioramas.

This is a great interview for anyone interested in the history of Ramsay, agriculture, in particular the dairy industry.


The Paul Family–Learn more about the Paul family at the North Lanark Regional Museum-The Story of the Paul Family at Mount Blow Farm (Yellow Duotang) — — Four Page typed information on the Paul Family at Mount Blow Farm #73



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