Tag Archives: North Lanark Agricultural Society

Almonte Fair 1890 —-Alex Currie — The Country Fair

Almonte Fair 1890 —-Alex Currie — The Country Fair


By Alex Currie

As the time for the fall fairs draws near my mind goes back to the fair as it was in the late 1890’s, now crowded 60 years ago. Almonte was a lively town in those days, with six mills running full blast and employing mostly young people. With no automobiles, the town was the marketing and shopping centre for the large surrounding farm community, adding to the local business.

Though mill wages were always below par, and measured by the yard stick of present day prosperity, the standard of life in those days was pretty low, still, no one knew anything different, pleasures were simple and people were probably more contented than they are now. The fair ran for four days then and was rated the best in Eastern Ontario.

Special trains came from both directions, bringing the bands and the crowds who jammed the station platform and the red station, now used as a freight shed across the tracks. The sidewalks on Mill and Bridge Streets could not accommodate the crowds, who jostled each other good-naturedly on to the road. The fair was an exciting time for us small fry.

The balloon ascensions, the fireworks, the steam calliope on the merry-go-round playing “The Sidewalks Of New York,” the cacophony of the midway, with the barkers calling their wares in raucous voices, “the cane you ring is the cane you carry away’ throw them high and drop them low and over the canes they are sure to go,,’ the two-headed calf, the horse with the crab feet, the man with his head through the canvass had difficulty dodging pitcher “Chibby” McGrath’s fast in-shoot. The direct hits would ricochet off his head.

At the fair we first heard Edison’s new phonograph, (listening to the tinny music from the cylindrical record through ear plugs, similar to a doctor’s stethoscope0. In a few years we were to see our first silent movies as a grandstand attraction, with the effect of rain pouring down the screen. In the wild west show, with its trick riding and its barroom shooting scene, the horse thief was dragged across the show ring on a long rope attached to the saddle horn of the bronco cow-pony and hanged in a realistic manner, with feet kicking, on the far side of the ring.


We kids lassoed everything in sight for months and gave our bloodcurdling cowboy yahoo. The farm folk attended the fair enmasse, interested in everything but particularly the livestock display and happy to visit with friends not seen for a year. The young farm boy eating his first banana remarked: “There is not much left after you take the core out.”

My most vivid recollection is of the sideshow with the wild man from Borneo, who ate snakes alive. The banner in front of the show bore the legend, “He eats ’em alive,” and depicted a ferocious looking savage surrounded by snakes, all with their fangs out. Inside the tent, this individual was exhibited in a deep, square, wooden pit, the top of which extended about four feet higher than the raised platform which surrounded it, and on which the customers stood, looking down at the wild man standing at the bottom of the pit, in straw above his knees and loaded down with chains.

This set-up was a tactical error on the part of the promoter, as will be seen later in this narrative. Though, of course, the wild man did not understand English, when urged to get busy eating these live snakes, he would reach down in the straw and bring up a very dead snake, skin it back and chew off a piece of its innards. Likely, he surreptitiously spat it out, later. A man with a peg leg was noticed sauntering around the town’s main streets, nonchalantly smoking a very civilized tailor-made cigarette and in the Davis House bar having a drink. (Incidentally, these drinks could be called civilized or otherwise depending if you were wet or dry). The liquor question, then, as now, was a live issue. The town was divided between those who patronized the bars and those who did not and who criticized those who did and the hotel-keeper who sold the fire water.

The drys had us kids of 8 or 10 sign the pledge and paraded us around town in a body, wearing our Band of Good Hope ribbons, chanting slogans. We hadn’t the foggiest notion as to what it was all about. But I digressed. The man with the peg leg was recognized as an Ottawa black man, and he looked suspiciously like our friend, the wild man.

At that afternoon and evening’s shows, he had a rough time of it and likely wished he were back in his Borneo jungle. The boys tormented him in various ways and tried to trick him into speaking English. He stood up very well under this for a time, just talking gibberish, snarling and rattling his chains, but when the boys started spitting mouthfuls of tobacco juice (tobacco chewing was a universal practice) on his defenseless head, his control broke and he swore at his tormentors in English and a couple of other languages, using good, round, Ottawa bowery cuss words.

The next day this sideshow was missing from the grounds. “They had folded their tents like the Egyptians and silently stolen away.” This sophisticated modern age, with its many attractions and amusements, cannot capture the thrill we got at the Almonte Fair in the horse and buggy days.


We Don’t Need the Almonte Fair 1897 – “Admission to the grounds is 25 cents, which is twice too much!”

Clippings and Photos of the 1958 Almonte Turkey Fair

HISTORY OF LANARK TOWNSHIP AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY ORGANIZATION –Laurie Yuill Part 4-“the proprietor of a merry-go-round was paid a bonus to bring his machine to the Fair “

Are You Ever too Old to Go to The Rural Fair? — Almonte

The James Black Homestead


BlackHome (1).jpg

James Black Homestead- illustration by- Peter Mansfield

Old News

Newsletter of the Almonte/Ramsay Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC)

The James Black Homestead

by Graham Swan – September 1997.

As you head up the Clayton Road on your way to the cottage, it’s easy to miss the James Black Homestead, half hidden behind mature shrubbery at the intersection with the 7th line of Ramsay.

This small but handsome stone home was built in 1852 by James Black and his wife Janet, on the land allocated to his father, Walter, some thirty years earlier. Walter Black, a wheel-wright by trade, left his home in Dumfrieshire, Scotland in 1821 to come to Canada as a Lanark Society Settler. In 1821 he was allocated the 100 acre parcel on which the James Black Homestead now stands.

James inherited the farm upon his father’s death in around 1851. The following year, he built the house that presently stands on the property. It is typical of many early Lanark County homes, one and a half stories high and of rubble-stone construction. The side and rear elevations are built in un-coursed fashion with segmented stone lintels and sills. The front elevation, by contrast, was built with better, larger stone, laid in a coursed (i.e. regular) fashion.

Gracing the front of the house is a fine central door with an elliptical glass fanlight transom and sidelights, and a cut stone surround extending down to the sill. This style of door was common in the Rideau corridor, but is found less often in Lanark County. The two front windows have solid cut stone lintels and sills. The front corners of the house are finished with beveled cut stone quoins. Also at the front is a full height exterior basement entranceway originally leading to the cellar kitchen.

Unlike many houses of its era, a center gable was never added to the James Black Homestead. A small dormer window at the rear provides much needed light to the upstairs hall. The original cedar shakes are visible under a metal roof. Original wood soffits and fascias are also present.

Inside, the house retains many original features, including a fireplace at each gable end of the main floor, and a bake oven in the former kitchen cellar. Much of the wood trim, doors and flooring is also original.

For many years, James Black was an active director of the North Lanark Agricultural Society, and was well known for his innovative farming techniques. He was a member of the Ramsay Township Council from 1864-75, serving as Deputy Reeve for ten of those years.

James and Janet Black lived on their farm until their deaths around the turn of the century. It subsequently passed through a number of hands, and a series of severance’s in the 1960s reduced the original 100 acre parcel to its current 3 1/2 acres. Several years ago a tombstone was uncovered in a field behind the house during ploughing. It marked the grave of James and Janet Black and their son Charles. It was carefully removed and is now situated at the fence line.


Investigation into Missing Tombstone

This burial site is for Walter Black and his wife and son, Charles, not James Black and his wife Janet Johnstone.  James and his wife are buried in the Auld Kirk Cemetery, near Almonte.

Tombstone Pictures:              


                        BORN 1769, 1773, 1813

                        DIED 1851, 1842, 1830

Keith Thompson, 4 July 2001.

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



The Mysterious Riddell— H B Montgomery House

The Wall Mysteries of Lake Ave East -Residential Artists

The Manse on the 7th Line of Beckwith

Rescuing the Money Pits —The Other Dunlop Home with the Coffin Door

The Carleton Place House with the Coffin Door

Before and After in Carleton Place –The Doctor is in!

Heh Miss Wilsonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! Carleton Place Heroe

Was This the Architect of the Findlay Homes on High Street?

The Carleton Place House That Disappeared

The McCarten House of Carleton Place

Old McRostie Had a Farm in Carleton Place

Time Capsule in the ‘Hi Diddle Day’ House?

The Louis on Sarah Street for $43,500 — Before and After– Architecture in Carleton Place

Architecture Stories: The Hotel that Stompin’ Tom Connors Saved

Dim All The Lights — The Troubled Times of the Abner Nichols Home on Bridge Street

The Brick Houses of Carleton Place

So What Happened to The Findlay House Stone?

The Stanzel Homes of Carleton Place

The Appleton Chinchilla House

Where was Almonte’s Military Headquarters?




Almonte’s military quarters were combined with the North Lanark Agricultural Society’s main exhibition building then being erected.–Google Image



1840 – A district agricultural society, the parent of the present North Lanark Agricultural Society, was founded at a January, 1840, meeting at Carleton Place, with James Wylie of Ramsayville as president, Francis Jessop of Carleton Place as secretary and Robert Bell as treasurer.  Its activities for the improvement of farming methods and products have included from the beginning an annual exhibition, held until the late Eighteen Fifties at Carleton Place and thereafter at Almonte.  Carleton Place exhibitions were continued for some further years by a Beckwith Township agricultural society.

1945–On October 22, 1945 a group of interested farmers formed the North Lanark District Co-Operative in Almonte. At the time it was incorporated there were 185 members and the first board that was elected consisted of: E.J. Rose-Kenneth Robertson- Alva Rintoul-Bert Young-George Robertson-Robert Cochran-Vic Kellough-Frank Ryan-Jas Commery. The Co-Operative opened with machinery going in July 1946. The turn over for the fiscal year was $75,000.

In 1949 membership had risen to 316 and the turn-over was $137,000.–Lanark County Federation of Agriculture booklet–1949-1950


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