By Carol Bennett McCuaig
This article is an excerpt from an address given at the “Leaving Lanark” Seminar at Perth, May 4, 1996. It appeared in the LCGS newsletter, May, 1996.
In the village of Douglas, in Renfrew County’s Bromley Township, Isabella Street honours the memory of a young woman from Perth who died before her time, as a result of childbirth. Few people there know who she was, although everyone seems to know that it was her husband, Judge John Glass Malloch of Perth, who developed the village.
In the 1840s Lanark and Renfrew were still part of a judicial district of which Perth was the seat of government. Renfrew was settled later than Lanark with the result that land there was available for people who wished to leave their original homesteads. A number of moneyed Perth-area men took up land in Renfrew as an investment, Judge Malloch among them.
His wife died giving birth to their sixth child and the following year, possibly as a way of channelling his grief in some constructive way, the Judge had his land at Douglas surveyed and divided into village lots. All the streets were given names; some commemorated the Malloch family and others the Bells. Isabella was a daughter of the Rev. William Bell, pioneer Presbyterian clergyman of Perth, and sister to the wealthy brothers for whom Bell Street in Carleton Place is named.
It was Malloch‘s intention that Douglas should eventually become a town or city. In fact, when Renfrew became a separate county the residents hoped that Douglas would be chosen as the county town, but they were beaten out by Pembroke. By-passed by the railways, Douglas never did grow to prominence, and many of the planned streets were not developed. However, Isabella Street is there still.
Judge Malloch did not live at Douglas although he frequently visited there to hold court sessions. Some years later he was married again in Ramsay Township and apparently lost interest in the community he had attempted to found. However, two of Isabella’s nephews, Andrew Wilson Bell and his young brother, George, did live there for a time.
Andrew married Mary Anne Rosamond, daughter of James Rosamond of Carleton Place, who owned the woollen mill at Almonte. James built a grist mill at Douglas and installed his son-in-law as miller there, with brother George as clerk. [See Alex Hughes‘ story The Rosamond Woollen Mill Of Almonte“].
Andrew remained in the area for some years, serving as Postmaster in the pioneer community. Eventually he retired to Carleton Place where, at the time of this death, he was said to be one of the wealthiest men in the Ottawa Valley.
Hundreds of Lanark County families moved up to Renfrew County in the period between 1825 and 1850, and Bromley Township was one of the more popular destinations. Many of the incoming pioneers settled there before Judge Malloch took an interest in the area yet it is true to say that, through his influence and monetary input, he made a valuable contribution to the development of one section of the community.