Tag Archives: john gemmill

Why the Appleton Bridge Collapsed…



The old and the new bridge at Appleton-North Lanark Regional Museum (2012.87.2)


In the year 1858 Albert Teskey built a bridge in Appleton at a cost of $175. At that time a good deal of timber was floated down the river, and the bridge had to be built of long spans to allow the free passage of the timber. Consequently there were five spans, making a total length of 245 feet.

The bridge was constructed of wooden piers, filled with stone, and each span was strengthened in the centre by needlebeams and braces. The stringers of this bridge were of pine, and were covered vith pine plank three inches thick, end joined in the centre and pinned down with wooden pins, consequently the structure did not last very long.

Then in the years 1866-1867 the late Dennis Sullivan rebuilt the bridge, replacing the pine stringers with cedars and covered them with 4 inch cedar planks, which in the course of time got worn, when the covering of 3-inch planks was placed on top, it had a tendency to rot the cedar.

The heels of the braces were decaying, and again to strengthen the structure a bent was placed under the needlebeam of each span. These bents were constructed by bolting a sill on the rock bottom, and posts were mortised into these sills and also into the needlebeam above and braced from the bottom of one post to the top of the next one to it from the lower side, and the icebreaker acted as a brace against them down stream.

In the bay below *Munro’s Rapids, about one-half mile above the bridge, there was always an accumulation of sawdust about three feet deep, and in the winter the water froze this sawdust to such an extent it became a hazard. In the spring of 1899 when the ice was moving away it lifted this frozen sawdust from the bottom of the river and carried it down in one solid mass. The cake of this ice and sawdust,  that was 20 feet long, came down the river and filled the space between the pier and the bent, with the result that the ice-breaker and two upper posts were carried away.

Teskey immediately notified the pathmaster, who repaired the damage by placing a long timber across the span on top of the bridge and chained the stringer to this limber. On the following Sunday they examined the bridge several times and found everything in good order. On Monday, about nine o’clock, Messrs, Teskey and Montgomery saw a piece of timber floating down the river which they thought was a post of the bridge, so they immediately ran to the bridge knowing trouble was coming.

Mr. Teskey was in the act of getting over the ruling of the bridge on to the pier to examine it when Mr. Montgomery told him that there was a team approaching.  A  carriage load from Carleton Place consisting of Mr. John Lyons, wife and child, Mr. John Morphy, and wife, and Mr. Ab. Morphy, Jr. had driven down to Appleton with the object of attending the funeral of Mr. Morphy’s aunt, Mrs. Dulmage. Teskey met the team at the end of the bridge and told them it was too dangerous. When three or four persons got out of the rig and two remained in, well,that’s when the structure gave away and the rest is history. Carleton Place resident Abraham Morphy Jr. was carried to a watery grave and his body found 150 feet from the falls.

It was in Teskey’s opinion that the bridge was perfectly safe for ordinary travel had the bent not been taken away with the ice. Did he think the bridge would stand for another year?  Mr. J. A. Teskey answered he thought it would, with a few repairs, and these repairs were made.

However, Mr. Thomas Hart wasn’t convinced–he got a petition for a new bridge, and had it largely signed, and a deputation presented it to the council at its meeting on 8th April, 1899. It was favourably received by the council, and a new iron bridge was constructed.



*Munro’s Rapids on the Mississippi near Appleton – John Munro married Janet
Patterson in 1823 in Canada – John arrived in 1821 on the “George Canning”
ship as a single male.

Screenshot 2017-01-28 at 21.jpg

From–Note on the probable origin of the Scottish surname of Gemmill or Gemmell

The Day the Appleton Bridge Collapsed

Lawsuits in Carleton Place — The Collapse of the Appleton Bridge

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

Annie Patterson — Descendant of John Gemmill




This is the old stone house of John Gemmill and Ann Weir who settled in May of 1821 on lot 12, concession 8 of Lanark Township.

I keep seeing this home when I do research and had to dig deeper to find out what the story was about this home. I found this article online by Barbara Shenstone in the Almonte Gazette and thought I would share.


A Family Sage in Poetry

By Barbara Shenstone

Almonte Gazette Editor- read the Almonte Gazette here


Mrs. Annie Paterson came into the office of the Gazette last week, bringing with her a copy of a poem written by one of her ancestors, Andrew Gemmill. The poem and the story of how it came to be written provides an interesting commentary on the life and times of the settlers who came here 150 years ago.

Mrs. Paterson is a great great grand daughter of Mr. John Gemmill and Ann Weir, who with their family emigrated to Canada from Scotland in May 1821.

With eight children, John Gemmill settled on a homestead in a lot 12 and 13, 8th concession of Lanark Township. The difficulties the early settlers faced when they came to Canada are of ten mentioned in early accounts of the period: all the hardships of clearing the land, building a homestead in our isolated climate.

John Gemmill must have faced all these, but he had another more personal burden, told about in the poem, which brings alive the history of this family.

Anticipating the hardships he would be facing in the new land, John Gemmill left behind in Scotland one son, Andrew Gemmill, who had a clubfoot and therefore not fit for physical hardships of homesteading.

Andrew was eighteen years old at the time, and it must have being a sad parting, for in those days, the family must have realized they were saying goodbye forever.

“When a Boy ye left me weeping.

To the kind Creator’s keeping,

Lonely, week and almost friendless,

Seemed my sorrow almost endless

As I lingered on the shore.”

Wrote Andrew many years later. What a blessing from heaven it must have felt when, 20 years later the family was reunited.

In August 1842, Andrew Gemmill, by then established in Glasgow, Scotland and calling himself a “writer” by profession, visited America, and joined his family after a separation of 21 years. They were reunited at the family’s stone house on lot 12, concession 8, Lanark.

“Twenty changeful years had pass’d me.

On the Atlantic broad I cast me,

All my youthful thoughts to returning.

Set my yielding breast aburning.

As I near’d my Father’s door;

Those I knew, no longer knew me.

So they spoke as Strangers to me.”

The occasion was one of the great excitement for the family and it was to commemorate the event that Andrew wrote the poem which is printed in its entire form below.

Andrew also made for his father a family tree showing all those members who were present at the reunion “Assembled around the Parent Stock, on the Green Lawn in front of the Residence, New Lanark, Canada, on the 23rd of August 1842.”


Mrs. Paterson does not know what happened to his descendants, but she has the family tree and the poem as a reminder of the family chronicle. Her Canadian family grew and prospered in the new land.

Mrs. Paterson took me out to Lanark at last week to see the stone house where the family gathered on the lawn 140 years ago.

A house is no longer in the possession of the family but Mrs. Paterson checked first with a neighbor to see if it would be alright.

We drove past Rosetta and stopped to look at the graveyard there where John Gemmill, Ann Weir and several of their children and grandchildren are buried.

We continued past the house where Mrs. Paterson’s own mother, Martha Campbell Bolger, was born and grew up.

Then we’ll end up the 12th concession and finally stopped by a gate and pasture where a track along one side and a low stone wall where the only indications that this had been the driveway to a house.

We could not see the house from the road but Mrs. Paterson was familiar with the land and we enjoyed our walk up the hill through the Brown-eyed Susans and the wild Asters.

At the top of the hill, in grass up to the window sills, stands the fine old house. “It gives one quite a feeling, thinking about the family coming here and clearing these fields,” said Mrs. Paterson.

We pushed their way to the long grass and weeds to the still pretty wooden porch, with its carved decoration.

We could see what a fine house it had once been, although now it is falling sadly in disrepair.

Built entirely of field stone, with high ceilings and gabled roofs, the house must have easily accommodated John Gemmill’s large family.

We peered in the windows and were delighted to see remains of fine wood paneling, and midst the wreckage of empty beer bottles and trash left by some later occupant.

Mrs. Paterson was also delighted by the remains of a flower garden by the house.

“Why it’s a flox,” she said pulling the pretty flower out from under the skunk cabbage. We also found peonies and roses.

To one side of the house, a tangled wood fenced off amidst the pasture fields, contains strange trees like black ash and oak as well as apple and plum. Underneath enormous puff balls (the size of pumpkins) reminds us of the season.

Mrs. Paterson also found hops growing, recognizing it she thought, from seeing her mother using it, like yeast, to make bread.

This today is what remains John Gemmill’s house, built just before Andrew came to visit in 1842.

Mrs. Paterson and I walked down the hill again to the car, thinking about the poem and a family. Mrs. Paterson carried a flox and a sprig of hops.