Tag Archives: red headed wench

Searching for the Red-Headed Wench of Carleton Place



Coal Pit Wench

It is difficult searching for information about local wenches– as let’s face it, who really wanted to have a wench in town except a group of lust hungry gentlemen. For months I have been digging for info on the famous ‘red headed wench’ of Carleton Place to no avail. The only thing I had gathered was: that she had been run out of town, and most likely by the local female population. So what is a wench? Well back in the olden days it seemed to be a generic term for lower class women:

A young woman; especially : a young woman who is a servant

Molly, 40, ordinary wench, incurable lame of left arm, Black Pioneers. Formerly slave to Mr. Hogwood, Great Bridge near Portsmouth, Virginia; left him in 1779.
Jenny, 9, Black Pioneers. Formerly slave to Mr. Hogwood, Great Bridge near Portsmouth, Virginia; left him in 1779.

Or– if you go to the Urban Dictionary –which is today’s generation dictionary it is this:

A voluptuous female pirate type woman, usually with a fiery attitude, and usually seen around taverns and bars, seaside fishing towns, and wherever pirates roam.
“Argg! That wench be as ugly as a fox!”
“I am a wench. Kiss me.”


Fantasy Victorian Wench


Most likely what they all looked like

Now, it’s said that sometime around the Victorian period, women of high birth who looked down on peasant women who worked to earn a living began using the term wench to define loose and lowly women as working to earn your keep or not depending on a man for income was not done in that time. Unfortunately, this usage stuck from then on!

Last Saturday at the monthly Lanark County Genealogical meeting Rose Mary Sarsfield handed me a copy of an article from the Carleton Place Herald dated April 5, 1895. Who was in that article? The red-headed wench!

The Herald congratulated the population of Carleton Place in that article on the fact that: their “dilapidated” village had been somewhat improved by the removal of the *rookery. That would be the same rookery occupied by the red-haired wench. It was also mentioned that she had been prone to to displaying “her attachment” to any single or married man in Chiselville. To honour her with a visit, it seems payment was simply a drop of whiskey.


Last year I posted a story about a section of Carleton Place that was called Chiselville.  That area of town that sat between Miguel Street and Lake Ave East was called Chiselville and yet no one had heard of it– but it was definitely the wrong side of town.  

Farther down in that Carleton Place Herald article it mentioned that it would be a great satisfaction to the town of Carleton Place if she, (red haired wench) Tam, Jock, and a few more addicted to similar fare could be prosecuted. Would the town not bring about free lodging and board at the local jail and finally drive them from the neighbourhood?The Herald figured it would be the cheapest method to finally rid of them all lock stock and whiskey barrel.

The paper mentioned that years ago in the town of Kilsyth, Scotland the townsfolk hired the village drummer to get rid of the parasites of the town. But, alas a local village drummer was not to be had, so mention was made that maybe Carleton Place should hire the Beckwith Pipers to lead the low-lifes out of town like the Pied Piper. Their departure would cause little public lamentation the Carleton Place Herald mentioned.


*”Rookery” was a colloquial term given in the 18th and 19th centuries to a city slum occupied by poor people and frequently also by criminals and prostitutes. Such areas were overcrowded, with low-quality housing and little or no sanitation. Poorly constructed dwellings, built with multiple storeys and often crammed into any area of open ground, created densely-populated areas of gloomy, narrow streets and alleyways.

Related reading:

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap in Chiselville?

Want to see more? Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

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