Where hearth and plenty cheered the laboring swain
How often I have loitered o’er thy green
Where humble happiness endeared each scene!
Middleville, a name which would suggest a certain location inland as being in the middle of the township or possibly that of the county, may be the hub towards which the people of the township converge. Like its neighbors Lavant, Darling, Dalhousie, the early settlers were of Scotch origin and thoroughly educated in honesty, thrift and frugality.
As I remember the village it consisted of two general stores, a blacksmith shop, shoe shop, carriage shop, saw mill, two stopping places and three churches and a school.
Climbing a gentle incline on the Lanark road, the traveler approaches the home of William Borrowman, whose surroundings would indicate the owner to be a man of intelligence and interest in the finer arts. Entering his residence he is found to be not only a gentleman farmer but a jeweller whose tradesmanship is not surpassed by the city tradesman.
Some short distance from the Borrowman home is the Congregational Church and manse occupied by Rev. J. Lambert Alexander, a young clergyman beginning his career in the ministry. He is a true success. His real object was that of including the principles of Jesus in the minds and hearts of each hearer. He was a promising youth and afterwards became a leading light in church union. He was strong intellectually, easily approachable, of kindly disposition and tolerant in his views.
Sickness in the village was rare but what did occur was skillfully taken care of by Dr. Mather, a graduate of Queen’s. The clever young doctor was a most sociable man, humorous and intensely interested in the gems of literature. He had a hobby of taking snapshots and developing the same. One fair day he had a few in his window getting the sunlight to bring them to maturity. They remained in the window overnight. The next morning the old lady who cared for his office sympathetically remarked “You didna sell many of your pictures, doctor?”
A carriage and wagon shop was operated by David Dobbie. Carriages, wagons, cutters, and sleighs were then in demand as the motor car was then just an infant. Dave was meticulously exacting in his workmanship and a neck yolk has been known to stay in the vice for three or four weeks before released to the purchaser.
Bill Sommerville, stone mason and plasterer, spent most of this time out of the village in the summer performing work in his line for farmers and other builders. He was always happy and in rain or in shine his greeting was always: “Y-a-a-a, it is a fine day!”. Through time he left the village and took up residence in Lanark where he is now a valued and respected resident.
One of Middleville’s (illegible word) characters was the late Mrs. Guthrie. She was of a calm, refined temperament. Her acts of goodness were kindly performed. Her welcomes were genuine and her life was one of kindness, helpfulness and good will for all. She was a beautiful character the memory of whom will glow forever.
The Presbyterian Church had for its clergyman Rev. Mr. Smith, a man of strong personality. He was a Scotsman and had a good deal of a “burr” in his accent which made him very pleasing to hear. Meeting him in his home was a rare treat. His affable, pleasing manner had a fascinating power which drew the visitor close to him making him forget his vices and his woes while the pastor good naturedly and kindly pointed him to the skies. He did not gain greatness by political power neither by financial power but by service. His was true greatness. He served in the pulpit and out of the pulpit, in times of joyousness and in times of sadness he was with his people, rejoicing with those who rejoiced and weeping with those who wept. He was one of them. In memory I can see and hear him as he expounds on the text “Grieve not the holy Spirit whereby you are sealed unto the day of Redemption”. The sermon done, he placed a hand under each cover and suiting the action to the words said “The book is closed, the sermon is sealed and there was a good one.”
The merchants were Mr. Croft and A.R. McIntyre. General stores were necessary in county villages at that time. The great chain stores almost annihilated the small country stores to detriment of the community. These general stores were the meeting places in the evenings, particularly winter evenings, when weighty subjects were good naturedly discussed.
An outstanding man was Archibald Rankin who for many years was clerk for the municipality of Lanark township. He was thoroughly skilled in municipal law and was a councilor to the members of the Council. He was active in all social activities being a stager of ability. Another singer of note was Peter Morris who I can still hear singing “The Old Oaken Bucket”.
The Sons of Temperance was a thriving organization with a large membership. The township of Lanark was deprived of the right to sell spirituous liquors by what was known as the Dunkin Act and is still under that dispensation.
The blacksmith was a very busy man shoeing horses, making chains, ironing wagons, buggies, cutters and sleighs. Albert Cunningham, and R.(?) B.(?) Somerville stood the strain of this heavy work for many years before being compelled to retire. Christy Jackson, a free going, likeable man, conducted a stopping place near McIntyre’s store and catered to the traveling public with courtesy.
Across a little vale from Somerville’s shop, then up a slight incline to a small tableland stood the school house where Miss Spence taught many of the beginners at that time to recognize “hat, coat, rack”. Yes. 36 years ago.
The great annual event of the village was the “Fair” or more aristocratically speaking “The Exhibition”. This being the last fair of the year, it was always well patronized. Once visited, the conclusion is that fairs of major importance rank as minors in art skill and workmanship. In the building, the paintings, pencil work, crayon work, etc. hold the visitor. The needle work draws the admiration of every on looker; the fancy work of every description demands the unstinted praise of young and old, of the professional and the amateur. Outside the building lovers of animals leisurely move around viewing the horses, sheep, swine, cattle, calves, lambs and the common expression “did you ever see better?” is heard on all sides of the ring. When the day is over, the directors county their earnings and in their joy another success financially has been added to their credit.
The surrounding country is beautiful—the land productive and settled with a sturdy class of people. Here we find the Afflecks and the Somerville string to out number each other. No finer type of citizen to be found anywhere. The Crofts, the Guthries, the Blackburns, the Mathers, the Yuills, the Mitchells and many others of like type. These are real citizens co-operating in all good work their motto being “service for mankind”.
Open Victoria Day weekend to Thanksgiving weekend, noon to 4pm, every Saturday, Sunday and Holiday Monday. COVID-19 Protocols: Masks are recommended but not mandatory for visitors. Admission $5 per person; children under 12 free.
Archibald Rankin who for more than a generation ranked as one of Lanark County’s outstanding men today spends the evening of his long and useful life in a ivy clad cottage that is surrounded by a wealth of beautiful flowers and where from the shaded rose arbors this fine old gentleman may look out upon the rugged hills and verdant valleys—whose enchanting beauty attracted his forebears, perhaps because it so resembled the burns and ferns of beloved Scotland.
The quaint little village of Middleville where Mr. Rankin resides was once a center of social and commercial activity and shared with Lanark Village the distinction of being the community center for these early settlers who came to Upper Canada in 1820-21. Among the number who came out at that time were Archibald Rankin and his wife Jean Scott; they came in the fall of 1821 when Lord Dalhousie, who is described as a distinguished soldier and close friend of Sir Walter Scott, was governor of Canada. The Rankins settled near Middleville and a few months after their arrival a son was born and they called him James.
Eventually James Rankin and Jean Campbell were married and to that union a family of six were born the eldest son being Archibald Rankin, subject of this sketch who has lived his useful life of 82 years in that vicinity most of the time on the farm that had been cleared through the toil of his pioneer grandfather. His services to the community have been generous; his ministry to those about him have been unselfish and his attitude has been:
“Thrice happy then if some one can say
I lived because he has passed my way.”
After acquiring a modest education in the quaint little school at Middleville, Archibald Rankin qualified as a teacher and for four years taught in the school in which he had been educated. He became clerk of the municipality a post which he filled with the utmost satisfaction for the record period of 52 years he having succeeded his great uncle William Scott. Mr. Rankin recalls that John Rayside Gemmill was the first municipal clerk when the township was organized; he was also the first to publish a newspaper in Lanark County and subsequently as a publisher went to Sarnia.
But clerk of the municipality was only part of Mr. Rankin’s many and varied duties. He was a secretary and treasurer of the famed Middleville fair over a period of 55 years; he practically organized the Middleville Division of the Sons of Temperance; he was a member of the Sons of Temperance when he was 13 years old; he attended several conventions as a youth and in 1913 at the Cahawa(?) Convention he was elected Grand Worthy Patriarch of Ontario, the highest office in the gift of the members. He was treasurer of the Congregational Church of Middleville for more than half a century and he continued to serve as treasurer and Sunday school secretary after the advent of the church union. He was secretary of the local Oddfellows and Foresters Lodge throughout the greater part of his life. He joined the church choir in the days of the precentor and tuning fork and is still an active member at the age of 82.
Mr. Rankin recalls the coming to Middleville of the first clergyman of the Congregational denomination. He was Rev. R.H. Black, a sturdy man of strong principles who came out from Dunkirk, Scotland in 1852 and organized the congregation in Middleville. In that church, Mr. Rankin was married to Beatrice Ellies(?) Ekles(?) daughter of a pioneer of Dalhoiusie Township who passed away in 1900. They were the last couple upon whom banns were pronounced. The license system came into vogue at that time.
While performing the exact duties of his many offices, Mr. Rankin also operated a farm on the outskirts of Middleville but in 1913 he disposed of the property and moved to his attractive present home in the village where with a devoted daughter he is enjoying the peaceful sunset of a busy life. He is a constant reader, a deep thinker, and his penmanship is like copperplate; he delights to dwell on people and events of the past and perhaps his most treasured possession is a Bible presented to him by the pupils of that little Middleville school upon his retirement in 1876.
Asked his favorite author, Mr. Rankin says he found enjoyment in reading the works of most good writers; of the poets he prefers Burns and thinks for clearness of expression an depth of sentiment the Scotch bard wrote nothing better than this:
Russell Borrowman, Sam Yuill, W. Albert Craig, Sam Burko, Dr. L.U. Croft, David Burke, Charlie Craig — with Charlie Craig, Russell Borrowman,Sam Yuill, W. Albert Craig, Sam Burke, Dr. L.U. Croft and David Burke.– Photo by Laurie Yuill
Photo by Laurie Yuill
Jim Bowes, Agnes Yuill, Jane Yuill, & Alex Buchanan Yuill in Hopetown, July 1913
Mr. & Mrs. Archie Rankin– Photo by Laurie Yuill
Archie Douglas in 1914– Photo by Laurie Yuill
Billie Yuill & Jack Rankin– Photo by Laurie Yuill
Roy Yuill in front of Archie Rankins house in Middleville in 1927. He was 4 years old. He grew up to work in Lionel Barr’s General store and at Barr’s sawmill. He later became the local electrician servicing many parts Lanark County.– Photo by Laurie Yuill
Bessie Manson- Photo by Laurie Yuill
Sister & brother, Jean & Walter Yuill from Middleville- Photo by Laurie Yuill
Horses: Dexter & George & Dexter Sr. with Samuel Yuill — Photo by Laurie Yuill
Walter Yuill and Annie Barr.– Photo by Laurie Yuill
Susan Barrie & Walter Yuill — Photo by Laurie Yuill