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Armstrong’s Corners: Cross Roads of History

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Armstrongs Corners, Ontario

Author’s Note- Armstrong Corner’s intersection which was between Lanark and Balderson was the site of  a road toll-gate.  Duncan Ferguson and his wife Annie operated it and when Duncan was away- she collected the coins. Duncan’s other job was levelling off the roads and keeping it smooth with hand rakes.

Perth Courier, November 9, 1961

Armstrong’s Corners:  Cross Roads of History

If you have been driving on the Lanark road during the past year you will have seen the number of attractive homes springing up at the junction of the 6th Concession of Bathurst and Drummond townships but you may not know that this little village is rising on the site of a settlement almost as old as Perth itself.  The Drummond Hotel once stood on the property now owned by Don Campbell while Clark Devlin farms the land cleared by Jimmie Armstrong, a farmer and blacksmith who gave his name to this little cross roads hamlet.

Nature was the deciding factor that located this early centre on the Lanark road.  The black ash swamp on the north side of Ferguson’s hill blocked the northward traffic on the town line between the townships of Bathurst and Drummond and forced the early settlers to turn to the right and follow the high land along the south shore of the swamp to a narrow point between the 7th and 8th Concessions of Drummond where it was an easy matter to cross tot eh north shore and continue on to the Mississippi river where a ferry was operated for a number of years at a point north of the R.H. McIlquham farm.

Many of the first settlers in the townships of Lanark and Dalhousie followed this road and Andrew tells in his book “Pioneer Sketches of the District of Bathurst” about the pioneers who built rafts on the Clyde and Mississippi rivers and floated down to Murphy’s Falls, Apple Tree Falls, and Shipman’s Falls to settle in the north part of the county.  In later years the road from Armstrong’s Corners was extended to Prestonvale, Ferguson’s Falls, Boyd’s Settlement, on past the Wolves Groves to Shipman’s Falls, now Almonte.  This was called the Perth Road and is clearly marked as such on the Carleton Place sheet 31 F-1, Army Survey Map, a copy of which may be obtained from James Brothers Hardware.

In his diary, Rev. William Bell, first Presbyterian minister in Perth, speaks of Armstrong’s Corners, the hotel, the blacksmith shop, and the first winter road across the black ash swamp.  He also reports the serious accident he experienced during February, 1857.  Driving a borrowed horse and cutter to Lanark, the horse ran away while going down the steep hill at Stanley’s and struck a stump with such violence as to break the shafts from the cutter.  Mr. Bell was thrown against the stump, cutting his scalp.  He reported in his diary that four men rushed from Mr. Armstrong’s blacksmith shop and carried him into the house where his wound was dressed by Mr. McNichol and Mr. Armstrong lent him new shafts and harness which enabled him to drive back to Perth.

When the present road to Lanark was opened complete with toll gates, the lower road was used less and less while the hotel, blacksmith shop and Armstrong’s Corner faded into the past.  Now we see history repeating itself as the new hamlet rises.  The diaries and journals of Rev. William Bell are in the care of the Douglas Library at Queen’s University, Kingston.  Rev. Bell helped to found this institution and his son Rev. George Bell,L.L.D., was the first student entered upon the books of Queen’s on March 7, 1842.  Later Dr. George Bell served as a professor at Queens’ and was named a trustee and later still, the registrar of the University.

Ryerson Press of Toronto published a book in 1947 “The Man Austere—Rev. William Bell—Parson and Pioneer” by L. Skelton which tells of Mr. Bell’s early years in Scotland and his life at Perth and in early Canada from 1817 to the time of his death forty years later.  A copy of this work is in the Perth Library and new copies still may be available from the publisher.  With Canada’s centennial coming in 1967 it is more important than ever that we should remember and retain records of this district’s past.

 

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Perth Courier, April 19, 1872

Milne—Died at her residence in Perth, on Wed., 17th April, Isabella Bain, relict of the late Thomas Milne, Drummond, aged 84 years.  The funeral will leave her late residence by the Sewing Machine Factory, at 10:00 this Friday morning, for the place of interment near Ferguson’s Falls, by Armstrong’s Corner, Lanark Road.

Perth Courier, May 9, 1884

Morris—Birth, at Armstrong’s Corners on the 23rd April, the wife of Mr. W. R. Morris of a daughter.

U.S.S. No. 7 Drummond & No. 9 Bathurst
Armstrong’s Corners School

This school was originally built in 1820 on Lot 1 Cons. 6 Bathurst.  It became a union school with No. 9 Bathurst on Lot 25 Con. 6 Bathurst sometime before 1890.  A third school was built across the road in 1952 before it closed for good in 1967.
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