(By William Moorhouse, Hastings, Minn.)
As I do not expect to be able to avail myself of the great pleasure of attending the reunion of the old boys and old girls of Perth, June 30th – July 3rd, I will give you, in brief, some of my early recollections of the old town and its business establishments as I recollect them; and how I became adopted into the family of “ye old time boys” of Perth-upon-Tay. One Monday evening, in November, 1850, the day before the fair — I do not remember the date — foot sore and tired, having walked from my father’s home, four miles south of Smith’s Falls, making sixteen miles that afternoon, I arrived in Perth about sundown. Many long years lie between the Then and the Now, and much, very much, has happened. The world of today is so changed, and the environments are of another order entirely.
I went to Perth to learn the mercantile business with James Shaw & Son, who then kept a store of general merchandise in the old stone building on the corner opposite Arthur Meighen & Bros.’ present stand. I visited Perth in October, 1902, and I found the old town was different than to what it is now. A half century ago the streets were muddy for several days after a rainstorm, and the sidewalks were made of boards; and here and there one of them had so rotted out that it was dangerous walking after dusk, for there were no lights on the streets then, and when a fellow wanted to go and spend an evening with his best girl he had to grope his way in the dark. Not so now. Young men, you have well paved streets, and granolithic walks, and electric lights to light you on your way now.
Perth, at that time had a good, bright, intelligent lot of business men — what you might call pushers. James Shaw & Son not only ran the store business, but had also a large foundry, and were the original founders of the British Standard newspaper, with Burton Campbell, editor and manager, and Thomas Cairns and Reid printers. James Thompson, the ex-sheriff, owned and published the Courier at that time. The Hon. Roderick Matheson, Sr., was senator at that time, and I am pleased to know that one of his sons has lately been honored by his neighbors and friends in Perth, as well as being elevated to a high and honorable position of trust in the Ontario government.
The business men of the town at that time were James Shaw & Son, Grant & Erskine, McDonald & Hall, Thomas Brooks, John Doran, George Kerr, James Hicks, and James Allan, and some other minor establishments, which I must not take up your time with here. Mr. C. Neilson repaired our watches. Robert Douglas, Robert Kellock and Mr. A. Lister built our houses. David Hogg made our furniture, John Hart & Son did our painting, William Butler, John Campbell and Mr. McLeod our tinware. James Allan and J.K. Fairbairn baked our bread and made our confectionery, William Lock and William Wordie manufactured our beer and Robert Gemmill our malt whiskey. William O’Brien and William Brown made our shoes, John Rudd made our clothes. Richard Code carded wool and dressed cloth, and the Haggart mill furnished us our flour. Dr. Wilson and Dr. Nichol administered to the needs of the sick and John S. Coombs dealt out the needed drugs. Lett James and Walter and Thomas Hunter pounded iron and shod our horses. George Cox and Thomas Patterson made our waggons and buggies, and Thomas McCaffrey and Mr. Halliday made our harness and trunks. William Glascott, John McCallum and William Wordie made the weary traveller comfortable, giving them good lodgings and something good to eat and drink. Our legal fraternity was composed of Judge John Malloch and Lawyers MacMartin, John Deacon, Donald Fraser, Adams & Shaw, and John Sache; with Bill Matheson as jailer and Andrew Dickson sheriff, and he was a tyrant to evil-doers.
There were many spirited contests at the municipal elections then as now, and one of the prominent was Richard Shaw, who was a very shrewd politician and seldom was defeated. In this connection there may be no harm in telling this bit of election history. One election did not suit J.K. Fairbairn and he called Shaw a chisler, and got up a cartoon for the paper in which he had Shaw prominently outlined with a big chisel in his hand.
I must now tell one on Mr. C. Rice, who owned and published the Courier in the 50s. He was a tall, thin man. In those days much space was occupied in the weekly paper — the only one then we had for news — by patent medicine men advertising their medicines, such as Moffet’s pills, Phoenix bitters, etc. One Robert Drysdale, who lived in Lanark, when in Perth one day, called at the Courier office to renew his subscription, and remonstrated with Mr. Rice about giving so much space to advertising patent medicines, instead of more solid reading matter.
Mr. Rice‘s reply was the following : “Mr. Drysdale, those are what we live on.”
Drysdale humorously returned : “You look just like a man who lived on that kind of food.”
Many, very many, pleasant incidents of my life in Perth are recalled, but when with it the thought and question of where are all the boys of that period it brings sadness as well, but I hope the Perth old boys and old girls will have the time of their life at the reunion.