Received from Don & Fran Cooper
from the Almonte Gazette, Feb. 1936
“Lest We Forget” by J. H. McFarlane – a teacher who taught in Clayton
This article is describing Clayton of the 1890’s.
“One of the little places that have run
Half up a hill beneath the blazing sun
And then sat down to rest as if to say
I climb no further upwards, come what may.”
These words seem to be applicable to the village once known as Bellamy’s Mills which now bears the appellation of Clayton. How old this village is I can not say as I have been unable to have access to the archives. Suffice is to say that it came into existence in the early days of the eighteen hundreds when the primitive inhabitants were linked together by the common bond of “each helping the other.”
Well, they knew the perils and the hardships for the wilderness.
Well, they knew the value of neighbours.
Well, they knew the art of cementing the bonds of friendship.
Well, they knew the power of the encouraging word, or the sympathetic hand-clasp.
They were honest, fearless, industrious and resigned to the care and
guidance of the Great Architect of the Universe.
They left us a noble inheritance which we may cherish with affection, respect and pride.
Clayton of forty years ago is not the Clayton of today.
The change is in the inhabitants more than in the material things
or in the natural surroundings. Let us look in upon it some forty years
ago and listen to the hum of the industries which added pep
to the happy community.
Three roads led into the village, namely from Darling, from Carleton Place, and from Bennie’s Corners. The village was picturesquely located in a little vale surrounded by low lying hills covered by stately maples interspersed by evergreens and through it ran a river bordered by grey stumps, a river peculiar unto itself. A river whose shores and waters thrilled with life and presented a kaleidoscope panorama when the black water snakes awoke from an August siesta and sailed forth to parade in the wavering sunshine.
Beautiful was Blair’s maple bush bordering the village on the east.
Scattered here and there the evergreens added a touch of beauty to the beautiful.
In the spring, summer or autumn this woods fascinated the beholder and bade him store his soul with the uncomparable beauty of nature. When the frosts of autumn tinted the leaves of the Maple, Beech and Birch and they put on their dresses of gold, crimson, purple, and yellow the scene was completed when the arrows of sunset lodged in the treetops enriching the splendour and causing the admirer to stand in awe. Can we wonder why the villagers were happy? The imprint of nature’s beauty is eternal.
Entering from the Darling road we see where Mr. Hogan, the blacksmith resided, and close by the home of Justus Bolger, carpenter and builder. Nearer to the village proper lived Catherine Gibbs, a lady of very refined tastes whose work was that of a milliner. She was a lover of flowers, and in her memory to this day grows some rose bushes – the work of her hands.
Now we hear rap-a-ta-ta-tic-a-tac -to and we enter a shop and gaze at John Shane making a shoe. He looks up, removes the wooden pegs from his mouth and greets us cordially. We sit down; he stops his work and soon we agree in animated conversation. In a moment or two he is in the pinery (in memory) with his “smooth sore” climbing Foley’s rock with his “fowling piece”, duck hunting. With lightning speed the minutes pass until an hour has elapsed. When we leave and he resumes his work the theme of our conversation is vividly pictured in our memory. Thirty or forty yards from the shoe shop was the cooperage of A. Barnett. The demand for barrels, tubs, and firkins was favourable and the cooper was kept busy. The shaving, forming and assembling the tubs, and barrels and firkins* was an art now almost forgotten. In the shop the pounding of hoops is heard no more.
*(firkins were used to put butter in)
On the opposite side of the street, close by the river, stood the tannery. Here Charlie NcNeil laboured transforming the raw hide of the animal into leather. Cords and cords of hemlock bark were used for this process thus giving employment to men peeling the bark from the tree in the proper month. Tanning leather required exacting care although the process was somewhat slow. Chemicals are now in use and the tan-bark operation is more or less a memory.
Two blacksmith shops – that of M. Hogan and Bob Giles catered to the wants of farmers of the surrounding country. Both places were the rendezvous for the farmers in the summer evenings when the gossip of the community was minutely discussed and highly magnified. Jokes of various types circled round and occasionally a game of “pitching horseshoes” was closely contested and applauded by the spectators. The losing pair paid the shot across the street.
Mrs. Dickson and O. Banning kept general stores. Business in these places was good owing to the large country trade. The goods for these stores were hauled from Almonte by wagon, the motor-car had not yet appeared. Banning kept the post office, the mail going to and coming from Almonte. From here the mail for Tatlock was distributed and given in charge of Peter Guthrie, the mail driver. A treat in the store when it was possible to draw Guthrie and Banning into conversation on some political, or religious question, or debate the poetic ability of Rabby Burns. Peter Guthrie was a widely read man and a most interesting conversationalist. O. Banning was more a business type, a shrewd buyer and a careful seller. Sometimes he was inclined to be a bit cranky but if his thoughts were diverted for a moment to poetry instantly he was transformed. Both these men were citizens of the highest integrity.
The hotel conducted by Bob Leishman was in the centre of the village. It was a busy place being a half-way house between Almonte and places north, also for the farmers from Darling en route to Carleton Place and Almonte. The open bar was the system at that time and the selling of liquor at five cents a glass was popular among the male sex only. Liquor drinking generally speaking was abhorred by the gentler sex. How conditions change. The room in which beer and whiskey was sold was known as the bar room, but thanks to the progress of civilization it is now styled by the dignified and aristocratic name of the “beverage room”.
The next place of interest was John Nolan’s shoe-shop. Sides of leather, lasts, pegs, pincers. rasps, polishers, boots in various stages of construction as well as the completed product were on exhibition while the shoemaker worked and talked. Here was a winter rendezvous for the man whose work ceased at sunset. Spinning was an accomplished art- spinning yearns. Imagination was freed from the leash and the greater the imagination the greater the exaggeration.
Using ears and nostrils as a guide we were brought to Tim Blair’s carding mill. The hum of the machines and the greasy smell from wool as it is cleaned and carded is not an appetizing stimulant to prolong a visit of curiosity. Small as this industry was under the management of Tim it added to the wheels of employment in the village.
Dr. J. H. Brown for many years attended to the medical wants of the village and surrounding country. His was a life of hardship. Night or day, in all seasons, in every kind of weather, over roads in every kind of state of repair or disrepair, he responded to the call of the sick and kindly administered to the alleviation of pain, and the restoration of health. Motor cars were not in use and travelling was done by means of horse drawn vehicles. The doctor though of rugged frame sacrificed his life to relieve the sufferings of his fellowman and passed to a higher service when a comparatively young man.
The mail-driver from Clayton to Almonte, was Ed Blair, better known as “Uncle Ed”. Levi Blair lived opposite the hotel and was engaged in the building trade.
Jim Hogan, a real practical joker, conducted a tailor shop close by Bob Giles’ blacksmith shop, but never seemed to be able to acquire the wide vocabulary of the blacksmith.
Jas. Tennant a soft-spoken plausible kindly gentleman had a fresh meat emporium and catered to the villages and farmers of the surrounding country in the summer months. The cheese factory was under the supervision of M. Reid. A market for cheese having been established in the Mother country the farmers found cheese more profitable that butter so the cheese industry flourished.
The spiritual life of the village was nurtured tenderly by the clergy of three denominations Rev. J. Osborne (Anglican); Rev. J. Morris McLean (Presbyterian); Rev. N. B. Topping (Methodist). The Anglican church on the road leading to Carleton Place was a proud possessor of a bell and (though founded on a rock) shivered violently at every dong of the bell. The Methodist was near the Anglican on the opposite side of the road. The Methodists were thoroughly tutored in Revelations. The Presbyterian church was in what is now the community hall.
Another industry giving employment was that the flour mill and saw mill owned and operated under the supervision of D. Drummond. The stone process of grinding wheat into flour was the method at that period. The mill was a busy place. The continual hum of the mill-stones as the wheat was converted into flour or the coarser grains into hash continued from early dawn to darkness shrouded all. The saw-mill operated in its season. During the winter the farmers hauled logs. When spring opened the mill was made ready, the men hired and the machinery put in shape for the cut. All is ready, the log rolled onto the carriage, the water turned on and soon the saw was in motion. Bizz-zz, Buzz-zz and the slab falls. The carriage reverses and is again made to approach the saw when bizz-zz buzz-zz and a board is dropped for the edger. It is edged and carried to the pile. Thus the work is continued till the cut is completed. The flour mill was built in 1864, and the saw-mill about the same year. Looking at the large squared timbers used in the construction of these mills gives us some idea of the virgin pines.
Mr. Drummond took an active interest in community activities serving in the municipal council for many years as a councillor and reeve and was Ramsay’s representative in the county council. He was magistrate for twenty years and secretary-treasurer of the Presbyterian church for about a quarter of a century being presented with a gold watch in recognition of his gratuitous services.
The hum of industry is rudely broken by a shrill voice crying Fire, Fire, Fire, which resounds through the village when Jim Rath’s house adjacent to the flour mill was being rapidly consumed by the fire fiend. The factory whistle shrieked and shrieked, the school bell kept a continuous clamour, excited men and women with pails, pans and teapots hurried to the scene.The country-men came on galloping horses and joined in the fight. Bucket brigades were formed and by strenuous efforts saved the mill and surrounding buildings.
Picnics were common but Clayton’s real lively day came in November and was known as “Fair” day. It mattered not whether the day was fair or foul, the crowd gathered and before the day was done something had been done, as there was something doing every minute. Long standing grievances were generally settled on that day and an armistice agreed to by the belligerents to continue in force for one year. Cattle were there for sale. Horses were there for sale, for trading purposes and some for burial. The arena was the street in the vicinity of the hotel. Here would be a farmer selling his cattle, there a horse trader, in another a vendor. proclaiming the suitability of his wares, still another vociferous gent shouting the superior quality of his razors, watches, or liniment while the continued efforts made a confused babble. Towards evening the crowd becomes exhilarated. The talk becomes louder. Angry voices pierce the air. Someone declares his powers, another denies him the monopoly in challenging tones and the fight is on, so we draw the curtain.
Taffy pulls, dancing, musical evenings and card playing whiles away many social hours. The village contained many young people beyond school age and here I have the temerity to give the names at the risk of revealing age so sacred to the female sex who remain thirty for forty years: “Would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us”.
The following were the gay lads and lassies of that time – Bill, Tom, Susie and Kate Bolger; Otto and Etta Shane; Bill, Arch.,Chas., and Mary O’Neill; Minnie Belton; Tom and Rebecca Barnett; Sid, Annie and Nellie Blair; Ad and Nellie Brown; Annie Banning; Jack, Bill, Dan Drummond; Ida, Nellie, and Minnie Nolan; Reg. Osborne; in the immediate vicinity of the village were Aggie, Mary & Bill Paul; Jennie and Mary Paul; Maggie, Bill and Jack Drynan; Ed Shane; Abe, Bob and Ida Evans; Where are they now? Let us drop a tear for those that here we see no more.
The householders were frugal, industrious, intelligent, unselfish, and cheerful. The stranger within the village received a warm welcome to their home where the kindest hospitality was extended.Life to them was something that must be met with a pleasant determination under the guidance of a Supreme being. They played their part on the stage of life, so did captains, kings and princes, but the texture of humanity’s fabric is strengthened more by the quiet, unselfish life than by that of those who stride across to the clamour of trumpets. In this, more or less remote village lived a happy, helpful people loyal to their homes, to their country, to their king and to their God. May we here append the names of the householders of the cheerful village of that time, Mr. and Mrs. M. Hogan; Mr. & Mrs. J. Hogan; Mr. & Mrs. J. Bolger; Miss K. Gibbs; Mr. & Mrs. J. Shane; Mr. & Mrs. C. McNeil; Mr. & Mrs. A Barnett; Mr. & Mrs. T. Munro; Mrs. Dickson; Mr. & Mrs. O. Banning; Mr. & Mrs. J. Nolan; Mr. & Mrs. D. Drummond; Mrs. Bellamy; Mr. & Mrs. __. Martin, (unable to read initial from original article) Mr. & Mrs. J. Khull; Mr. & Mrs. T. Blair; Mr. & Mrs. L. Blair; and uncle Ed; Jas. Tennant; Miss Eliza Belton; Mr. & Mrs.; Bob Giles; Dr. Brown and family; Mr. & Mrs. Osborne; Mr. & Mrs. C. Bolton: Mr. & Mrs. Leishman; Mr. & Mrs. Topping; and Mr. & Mrs. J. Thompson. A few of them still survive, the oldest villager being Mrs. McNeil. May the God of Grace grant her many more birthdays to keep unbroken the links binding the past happy days of Clayton with those of the future.
Time causes change. Slow it may be, yet gracefully builds into forms of symmetry that which is to uplift, to elevate and purify humanity. The detrimental things will perish but the mirth the cheerfulness, the happiness, the kindness and the natural beauty, such as possessed by Clayton will be projected into the future and flourish as the palm tree.
Received from Frances and Donald Cooper
Read more in Rose Mary’s Book on Clayton History ” Whispers from the Past” If you want to purchase a book please email me at email@example.com or call me at 613-621-9300, or go to the Clayton Store, or Mill Street Books in Almonte