Tag Archives: Oliver’s Ferry

Tales From Rocky Narrows

Tales From Rocky Narrows


Situated six miles from Portland from Oliver’s Ferry, on the Rideau Lakes, is a picturesque little spot known as the Rocky Narrows. It is little more than a memory now. It was a busy place back in the 1850s, when square timber rafting on the Rideau was at its height and the only reliable means of transportation between Ottawa and Kingston was by water.

The only passenger boats In that period were the John Stewart and the Bytown, but Innumerable tugs and barges plied up and down the river and the inhabitants of the Rocky Narrows, as well as those of other points along the river, made a living by supplying these boats with wood and provisions.

The land around the Rocky Narrows was first owned by the late Elias Chamberlain, whose forebears were U.E. Loyalist stock, but in the 1850s it was purchased by the late Patrick McCann, a highly respected gentleman who came from the county of Cavan, Ireland, and settled near Portland.

Later he moved to the Rocky Narrows where he made his living by selling cordwood to the steamboats and tugs: coal was an almost unheard of in quantity in those days. The place known as McCann’s Wharf  became the summer home of the descendant of the late Judge Cross, of Montreal, and the lower landing place was the summer home of the family of the late Dr. McCallum, of Smiths Falls.

In the fifties an Indian known as Little John lived in the neighbourhood by Rocky Narrows wharf. He appeared to be self-supporting but the inhabitants knew very little about his activities. One day he disappeared and was never heard of again. There were other natives from the St. Regis Reserve, who visited the place every spring. Here they trapped and fished and made baskets which they old to the neighbouring farmers.

A thickly settles farming district one mile above the Rocky Narrows was inhabited 150  years ago by a Scots family, and this locality naturally enough received the name of Scots Point. In later years it was inhabited by six families, noted for their intelligence and charitableness. They were the McEwens, Readys, McMeans, Willis,Wills and Polks, all natives of Ireland. A few of their descendants occupied the old homesteads and it’s said that these people maintain the friendly tradition of their ancestors and are held in high esteem throughout the district.


Map of Rocky Narrows, Tay Valley, ON

The Setting
Originally known as the Upper Narrows (to distinguish it from the Lower Narrows, the area now known as Rocky Narrows), this was a shallow, narrow section of Rideau Lake. At this time, Rideau Lake was one lake, stretching from the Westport area to First Rapids (Poonamalie). Samuel Clowes’ 1824 survey indicated that the width of open water separating the north and south shores was 363 feet (111 m), however surveys in 1827 reported widths of only 100 to 150 feet (30 – 45 m). The depth of water in summer was about one foot (0.3 m), and it was commonly used as a ford. The length (along the line of the lake) of the shallows at Upper Narrows was estimated to be 250 feet (76 m) by MacTaggart, and 1,000 feet (305 m) during a later survey by Lt. Frome. The discrepancy in those numbers is likely simply due to the naturally fluctuating water levels of Rideau Lake. Read more here.. CLICK

 - Played Trick on a Balky Horse Animal Went Up...

 - Portland - On Rideau as Was Known Back in Year...


Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and theSherbrooke Record and and Screamin’ Mamas (USACome and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place. Tales of Almonte and Arnprior Then and Now.


Tales from Oliver’s Ferry

Rideau Ferry Road– Black Snakes Bridges and SS#6

The Tragic Tale of the Rideau Ferry Swing Bridge

The Coutts House- Rideau Ferry Inn

Rideau Ferry Road– Black Snakes Bridges and SS#6




Perth Flea Market Rideau Ferry Rd.

Perth Courier, June 6, 1966

History of the Rideau Ferry Road


For the past six weeks, a story has been appearing in the Smith’s Falls Record entitled “Past and Present Scenes on the Rideau Ferry-Perth Road”.  This history was compiled by Mrs. E.W. Joynt, of Lombardy, assisted by Mrs. W.J. McLean of Perth, RR5.  These two ladies have compiled a detailed account of the history of Rideau Ferry and the Perth Road which must have taken much research.  Mrs. Joynt has written the Courier asking if we would be interested in publishing the story.

The County of Leeds is one of the historic counties of southern Ontario.  Stretching from Brockville the county seat, on the banks of the St. Lawrence as far as Smith’s Falls, it extends along the shores of Rideau Lake and all the Rideau Canal system all the way to Seeley’s Bay.  Leeds is one of the areas set aside for settlement by the United Empire Loyalists…..When first cleared, for settlement, the land of Leeds County was fertile and easily cultivated so that pioneer homes were soon established.  When the early settlers from Ireland and Scotland arrived in this new land, they came to the settlement at Brockville.  Here were stationed the supply depots and military headquarters from which the pioneer settlers received their supplies and equipment to help them carve out a home for themselves in this vast wilderness.  There were trails through the forest from Brockville to Perth and over these rough hewn trails settlers conveyed their scant belongings on foot or by ox cart a long, arduous journey fraught with dangers of wild beasts lurking in the dense shrubbery.  From Brockville they walked on about ten miles  then west to Portland where they were transported by scow on the Rideau to Oliver’s Ferry coming thence on foot to Perth.  The route was outlined by Captain Ottay who gave his name to Ottay Lake.




Photo-Rodeau Antiques-www.rideauantiques.net

Perth was an English government enterprise and was well established as a small military settlement as early as 1815.  Hence there was continuous close contact with the government headquarters in Brockville and in the year several hundreds of loads of supplies passed over these blazed trails.  Finally, in the year 1816(?) 1818(?) Peter Harris, M.P., had a road built beginning at what is now the village of Toledo through to Lombardy and thence to Oliver’s Ferry, now known as Rideau Ferry.

At this point the enterprising young man Archibald Campbell eventually built a scow to transport horses, cattle, produce and people across the water way.  It was ably handled by a hired helper named John Oliver who gave his name to this crossing on the Rideau Lake.  In the year 1822 Campbell built a store shop for the accommodation of settlers so that stores that could not be transported could be stored and protected when they had to await a means of transport.  Next he enlarged his operation by putting teams for conveyances on the road to drive the produce to the new settlement in Perth and to other settlements which were eventually opening up in the district.  The Campbell home later became the Coutts’ house on the site of the present Rideau Ferry Inn.  A general store was built by Peter Coutts and a red brick dwelling was the home of Mrs. Ann Smith, an early post mistress.

In 1871 by joint actions of Perth and the government of Canada a substantial wooden bridge was built across the Rideau thus ending the operation of the scow.   This wooden bridge was replaced by a 501 foot iron bridge—one section which swings open allowing the larger boats to go through.



*PERTH AIRPORT–Perth Remembered–Airfield and hangers on the south side of the Scotch Line and west side of Rideau Ferry Road.


The first bridgeman was Duncan Campbell a brother of Archibald and their wives were sisters.  The bridgeman had no union time.  He had to swing the span night and day and often in the dark hours the whistle blew. On March 3, 1894 Mrs. Smith, the post mistress, walked across the finished span.  On April 27, Sam Hall started painting the bridge; on May 18, Mr. Phillips, government inspector, surveyed the approaches to the bridge.

A short distance from the Ferry on the road leading to Perth, was a swampy portion of road once infested by great black snakes and here one can still feel in imagination the old corduroy road built of logs laid side by side and one can visualize the oxcarts rumbling over it as they made their way along with their loads of supplies.  Farther on was a log house owned by a frog catcher but this has long since been replaced by a modern brick home.  Across from it stands a shop where once a blacksmith plied his trade shoeing and repairing farm machinery.

Passing along over a culvert on the road through which the water flows freely in the spring towards the Rideau Lake, one comes to the farm of one of the pioneer settlers John Coutts.   It remained in the Coutts family from generation to generation until recently when it was purchased by Scott Burchell, the present mayor of Perth.  Across the road are the remains of a gravel pit from which were taken countless loads of gravel to be used in the upkeep of the nearby roads.




Britt’s Chips-Rideau Ferry Road-Salt and Serenity

In those early days the system of maintenance was known as “statute labor”.  Each land owners had to provide a stated number of hours of labour and providing teams and wagons to draw the gravel used in the process of road making.

Nearby is Hemlock Hill, one of the beauty spots on the Ferry Road in spite of its sharp, hazardous turn.  Following along the winding road one comes tot eh Ferry Cemetery where lie the remains of many of the pioneers.  The land was purchased in the year 1885(?) and the following year the first burial was made in it.  Among those to find a resting  place in the well kept cemetery were Duncan Campbell and his wife Jessie Buchanan, who was a daughter of Rev. George Buchanan, a pioneer minister in the township of Beckwith.

Continuing along the road at the corner the road turns towards the right to Port Elmsley.  A short distance along this road is the site of the old graphite mine on a property known to old timers as the “Grierson” place.  John Grierson, a miner of early days, may have located the deposit of graphite but the mine was opened up and operated by Rinaldo McConnell and later by the Globe Graphite Company.  The ore was drawn by teams of wagons to a mill at Pike Falls where it was processed for shipment.  The mine has been inactive and non productive for many years.



Plan of the First Rideau Ferry Bridge (looking west)
In this circa early 1870s drawing we see the design of the original bridge, fixed wooden spans leading to a swing bridge at the north end. “Plan of Bridge proposed to be constructed at Oliver’s Ferry. Rideau Canal,” n.d., Library and Archives Canada, NMC 130280Photo-Perth Historical Society


Previous to this, a factory was built at the Ferry and teams drew the ore here to be processed.  In 1896 the 100 foot long factory was torn down.  Robert Miller bought sixty feet of this and used it in the building of a barn and Archie Coutts bought the remaining forty feet.  It is said for many years the fine lead dust could be seen in the barn.

Turning left at the corner we come to Bethel United Church, built in 1895.  In the year 1888 a log church had been erected on a plot of ground purchased from William Richard McLean for $5 but this building was later moved to be replaced by the current structure.

(This article is continued in the June 23, 1966 issue.)  The farm at the cross roads belongs to William Richard McLean and has been in the family since 1820.  Opposite the church and high on a hill is the home of James Coutts.  This land originally belonged to Archie Morrison and was passed on to his son David Morrison and to his son James Morrison.

To the left of the Ferry road is the McLean farm now occupied by Ian McLean, son of the late T.N. McLean.  This land has been in the McLean family for five generations having been granted originally to Dr. John McLean of Dumfries, Scotland, a surgeon in the Royal Navy of England, a distinguished scholar and man of letters.  In 1813 he came out on a commission appointment by the British government and headed by Admiral Bayfield.  Their duties were to survey around Lake Superior and across the Canadian border into Michigan.

In reward for his services, Dr. McLean was granted the land on which he homesteaded and upon which he made his home until he died.  Admiral Bayfield’s sword and other personal possessions are in the Canadian Museum in Montreal and two cities in Michigan perpetuate his name.

Next on the road is the small one room school house formerly known as SE.  It replaced a small log school in which one of the early teachers was Miss Barbara Galightly who served for the modest salary of twenty pounds a year.

SS#6 was built in 1875 by William Kean whose tender of $500 was payable upon completion of the school house.  He was authorized to make 16 desks with seats attached at $4 per seat and desk.  Among the early trustees were William Gould, William John McLean, and William Richard McLean.  Early teachers were Margaret Halliday (Mrs. Peter Coutts), Miss Weekes (Mrs. John McCallum, mother of Mary McCallum) and Miss Boone (Mrs. N. McVeety).  The frame school house is now not used having been replaced by a modern township school built on the Port Elmsley to which the pupils are transported by bus.  Verily “the old order changeth giving place to the new.”




Rideau Ferry Regatta 2009–Vintage Race Boat Shop


The area immediately surrounding the school and the church was known for many years as “McCue’s Post Office” because the first post office was located in the fine old stone home of William McCue.  The mail was brought from Pike Falls station and later from Perth to be distributed in the office tended by members of the McCue household.  With the advent of rural mail this office disappeared.

A stone building situated on the hill and commanding a fair view of the lake was the former Methodist Church in the area and served its purpose until Church Union in 1825 gathered Methodist and Presbyterians into one body.

Across the road in the valley was an ash kiln where ashes were converted into potash.  The kiln was owned by Jack Buchanan who lived close by.  He would go to nearby towns and throughout the country in the winter buying ashes and bringing them home in his high boxed sleigh.

A left turn leads to Elmgrove, a picturesque wooden settlement not far from Rideau Lake.  Here were the farms of the McVeety’s, the Hughes, and the Bests and across the line, the Gallaghers, and the Tullys all names well known in the history of Elmsley and Burgess.  In this locality, too, are the summer homes and cabin resort areas catering to the summer tourist industry.

Following along the Ferry Road one comes to a long hill known to old timers as “Moody’s Hill” so called because the house and land was owned by a farmer of that name.  Later, when John Menzies had the land, it became more familiarly known as “Manzies Hill”.




Photo–Perth Remembered


Going down the hill and veering sharply to the left one enters the Gibbs Creek Swamp.  In the summer it is gay and bright with the purple of the loose strife growing along the swampy road and in the autumn the red, gold and green of the maples and evergreens which add beauty all along the trail road.  The creek flows from Ottay Lake into the Tay River and in the early history of the district was called Jebb’s Creek after a Lt. Joshua Jebb who took part in the early exploration of the route between Kingston and Ottawa.  Across the bridge and up the hill, the land was owned in days gone by, by Luke McMullen.

(this article was continued in the June 30, 1966 issue.)  People of other days will remember Cyrus Davis, who operated a market garden but the land has changed hands several times through the years.  At one time, the farm was operated by the late Albert  McVeety, son of Mrs. Thomas McVeety of Perth; later it was acquired by Matthew Burpee who developed a modern farm and kept a fine herd of cattle.  Once more it passed into new ownership and now belongs to William Munroe who also operates two school buses.  Opposite this farm is one which is an Elmsley landmark, since it was once the property of Mr. George Oliver, a well known and respected figure in this district.  His grandson, Donald Oliver now operates the farm and is an ardent agriculturalist.

The home at the brow of the hill was early owned by John McPherson and later by Louis Darou.  His son, Ray Darou, occupied it for a number of years prior to his death.  He served as clerk of the County of Lanark.

Perth Courier, August 9, 1862

Lanark Era Newspaper



Rideau Ferry–Perth Remembered


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


Tales from Oliver’s Ferry

The Tragic Tale of the Rideau Ferry Swing Bridge

The Coutts House- Rideau Ferry Inn

Paranormal Hauntings of the Rideau Canal and other Unsolved Ghost Stories