Tag Archives: wives

Six Women in Town but Lots of Logging

Six Women in Town but Lots of Logging

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Black and white photograph of women at Halladay Cemetery in Elgin, Ontario around 1910


When Mr. James Scannell, of Chelsea, went to Portland township with his parents in the year 1860, Portland was still almost a virgin wilderness. The township had not long been opened for settlement. Mr. Scannell’s father, John B. Scannell, had left the third line of Huntley and had gone into Portland to take advantage of the fine and cheap timber land which was there being offered to settlers.

Mr. James Scannell was fifteen years of age in 1860, and therefore old enough to be able to give an intelligent story of things as they were in Portland in 1860. At that time the roads were mere trails through the virgin forest and the settlers were few and far between. Over 85 per cent of the settlers were single men, who were “proving” their claims. Some of them were from Eastern Ontario, but most were from Western Ontario.

Mr. Scannell tells that in 1860 out of a total number of settlers of about 60 there were only six women. When a young settlers decided to take to himself a helpmate on his farm, he usually went back for a time to his old home and secured one. In Carleton Place they were missing men and had too many women.

The first settlers spent nearly all their time cutting the pine and oak off their farms and hauling them the nearest creeks, where the lumber jobbers took them off their hands. The creeks in question all fed into the Lievre river.

Mr. Scannell saw the beginnings and growth of the village of Portland. The start of the store and other enterprises of Wm. F. Bonsall and the erection of the churches. For fifteen years from 1860 Portland township did not know what a doctor looked like.

There was practically no ordinary illness, and when anyone happened to break their leg or arm there was always somebody in the settlement who could set the limb. If the injury happened to be serious the victim was hauled to Ottawa or Hull on a buck-board. In later years Mr. Scannell left Portland township and moved to Kirk’s Ferry, where he ran a grocery store. Still later he moved to Chelsea village, where he and Mrs. Scannell conducted a summer hotel for years.


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.


There was No Shortage of Wives in Carleton Place

It Wasn’t Raining Men in Carleton Place!



 “Sale” Fairs — Crops and Sometimes Fair Damsels

 “Sale” Fairs — Crops and Sometimes Fair Damsels


Sale Fairs were a huge rural feature. One of the old time customs of holding fairs every spring and fall was for the disposal of farm produce and other merchandise. They were,  the old timers say, the occasion of lively gatherings and shared with political meetings, camp meetings, etc, the opportunity for early settlers to meet in social converse and exchange greetings, as well as dispose of their wares and maybe wives.
Fairs of 1851 
Among the fairs established in 1851 were those located at:
South March. Cross Roads lot 8 con. 6 Huntley
Sand Point
Pakenham and Fitzroy Harbor
In 1852 Lot 13 con. 8  Renfrew Co Village of Ramsay township of Ramsay; and the village of Ross.
Renfrew co. were established as market centres.
You can also read: The Country Fairs 1879

Between the late eighteenth and the mid-nineteenth century there was a strange and fascinating custom called wife-selling. During this period there wasn’t a year without a newspaper report of a court case involving the sale of a wife. Between 1780 and 1850, around 300 wives were sold in England.

In Lanark County and surrounding area a few men did not think their wives worked hard enough, or were tiresome, and exchanged or bartered them at the local fairs or in private.  Since the sheriffs were in charge of these events, they were either done in secret or they looked the other way. I wrote a story about a woman and her children in Drummond who was sold by her husband to the neighbour and I can’t find it. The woman ended up being happier with her neighbour as her previous husband had been a piece of work. It is bad enough trying to trace folks with wives dying early from childbirth and the widower remarrying 3 or 4 times, but this gets to be a tad confusing.

The first divorce was established in 1857 and before that it was very difficult and costly to dissolve a marriage. The average man could not afford an annulment and the only alternative to divorce was to separate through the process of a public sale. In poor districts, a wife was considered a chattel to be bought and sold like any other commodity.

The husband would take his wife to the marketplace or cattle auction in England and register his wife as a good of sale and a rope was placed around her neck, waist or wrist, and they were made to stand on an auction block.

It was an illegal practice but also the only alternative for the average man and the authorities turned a blind eye to it. In most 18th- and early 19th-century sales, the woman usually was sold in a cattle market. Payment often was based on her weight.

There was one wife who turned the tables on her spouse by suggesting she would sell better in a different town. She then had him shanghaied for a long cruise, leaving her with their home and possessions. Feminists who opposed the practice often used stones and weighted socks to disrupt some sales. They actually caused one auctioneer to seek protection.

When the deal was done they would go to the local tavern to celebrate the successful transaction. Almost every single wife went on sale or to an auction of her own volition and held a veto over where she went next. In many cases, the sale would be announced in advance in a local newspaper and the purchaser was arranged in advance. The sale was just a form of symbolic separation.

Have you read?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?–A Tall Lanark County Tale about Wives, Cattle and Tomfoolery


 - WIFE SELLING Still a Rude Commercial Form in...

Clipped from

  1. Messenger-Inquirer,
  2. 30 Dec 1903, Wed,
  3. Page 5 - Wheat Wlvks Wer Sold. A century or to ago wife...


    A Smith’s Falls “Frustrated Young Love’s Dream” Purdy vs Lenahan

  4. Sixteen Wives– What Do You Get? Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

  5. I’m so Sick of that Same Old Love — Bigamous Relations in Lanark County

    James Watson– Bigamy and Shoes

    A Smith’s Falls “Frustrated Young Love’s Dream” Purdy vs Lenahan

    She Came Back! A Ghost Divorce Story

    One Night in Almonte or Was it Carleton Place?

    Bigamists? How About the Much Married Woman? One for the Murdoch Mystery Files

    Bigamy–The Story of Ken and Anne and Debby and Cathy and…

Why Should Our Local Unmarried Lads Pay a Tax?




Carleton Place Gillies Woolen Mill Employees– 12 women-4 boys and 24 men

Photo from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

Almonte Gazette 1897


A writer in the Smith’s Falls Record has the following commentary on the obnoxious poll tax which the young men of Almonte, Carleton Place and other towns, are compelled to pay :

“There is a poll tax which all young men who have attained their majority, and who elect to remain unmarried, must pay. It has just occurred to me that all young women who fill the bill in the same manner should likewise be compelled to pay this tax.”

In this age, when women are fighting hard to earn their own living, and in many cases crowding the young men to the wall, the consideration gallantry should be abandoned, and the law, which always had a weakness for the side of the ladies, should be modelled more in accordance with the spirit of the times.

I don’t know whether or not there are any young ladies over 21 years, in the towns of Almonte or Carleton Place who are unmarried, but if there are any they should be made pay the poll tax or get married. The matrimonial agencies would go out of business if this law were fairly carried out, and I don’t, at present, see any reason why it should not be.


Author’s Note–A poll tax was assessed against any unmarried men over 21 years of age. What is funny is the dog tax was 2-3 dollars, basically the same as a poll tax.


Read the Almonte Gazette here





The Tax on Bachelors

William Atzinger, aged 35, notified the assessor of Chouteau County, Montana,
that he will refuse to pay the poll tax of $3 levied on bachelors by the last
state legislature. In his declaration he says, “Spinsters are responsible for
my not being married in their refusals of my wooing in the past.”

The report from Great Falls, Montana, further quotes the defiant bachelor as
follows: “Tax the spinsters of the same age and I will gladly pay, but
otherwise it is class legislation and I stand upon my rights. Furthermore I
refuse to get married to escape jail and I refuse to pay a bachelor tax to
escape jail.

01-Charlotte-Smith-1896In 1896 a Mrs. Charlotte Smith, feminist activist and President of the Women’s Rescue League, spearheaded an anti-bachelor campaign based on her concerns about the increasing numbers of women who could not find husbands — a surprising development considering men outnumbered women in the United States then by 1.5 million.

Her solution to the “problem” was to denigrate, malign, and ultimately punish bachelors in order to pressure them into marrying any women unlucky enough to remain unwed. Mr’s Smith’s wage of war on bachelors began with attacks on public servants and officials, saying that bachelors have always been failures, and that bachelor politicians, especially, were “narrow minded, selfish, egotistical, and cowardly.”

She further claimed that, “It’s about time to organize antibachelor clubs in this state. It should be the purpose of every young woman to look up the record of each and every man who is looking for votes and, should his moral character be such would make him unfit for office, then his shortcoming should be the point of attack by the antibachelor women of Massachusetts. There are 47,000 girls between the ages of 20 and 29 years in this state who cannot find husbands… [and] the bachelor politicians, they do not dare discuss the social evil question.”

Part of her remedy was to have bachelors excluded from employment in prominent public sector positions. Her second punishment proposed a universal bachelor tax of $10 per year be applied,  amounting to between 1-4 weeks of the average wage, with the proceeds to provide living standards for ‘unmarried maidens’ orphans and the poor. In 1911, Mrs. Smith was still spruiking the tax on bachelors, claiming statistics showed that 60% of eligible men in Massachusetts never married, especially men of “small means” because “in order to be popular at the club now it is necessary for a man to have one or two automobiles a yacht, and two or three mistresses, but no marriage.”
Many proponents of the tax believed that it would encourage marriage and thereby reduce the state’s burden to care for those who did not financially support themselves. Perhaps most importantly Mrs. Smith felt that the tax would lower the number of men “who go around making love to young girls”.
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