DURING THE LAST war with the United States, it was found that the transporting on of stores and reinforcements by the route of the St. Lawrence was attended with great inconvenience and risk. The south bank of that river being the enemy’s frontier, every brigade of boats was continually exposed to attack unless strongly guarded. This circumstance seems to have suggested the necessity of but opening a safer line of communication between Montreal and Kingston. Various plans, were proposed, and for some time occupied the attention of government. At last it was resolved that the navigation of the Ottawa or Grand River should be improved as far as the Nepean, which is about 122 miles from Montreal; and that from the Point, or landing place there, a military road should be opened through the Richmond and Perth settlements, and from thence to Kingston. To the execution or this plan some considerable obstacles were opposed.
The river Ottawa contains a long, and dangerous rapid called the Longue Sault, which neither boats nor rafts can pass without the greatest difficulty. This obstacle is to be removed, by building locks, and cutting a canal on the north bank of the river to the length of about twelve miles. This undertaking is now executing at the expense, and under the direction of government. About one-half of the cut is already completed, and is attended with very considerable expense, most of it being through a hard rock. When finished, it will tend greatly to improve the country; as, besides its original intention, it will a direct and easy communication between Montreal and the numerous settlements formed, and to be formed on the banks of this fine river.
The military road from the Point of Nepean on the south bank of the Grand River to Kingston, is already opened but not finished. The distance from the Point to Richmond is twenty miles, from Richmond to Perth thirty miles, and from Perth to Kingston about seventy miles; so that the whole distance from Montreal to Kingston by this route will be 240 miles.
To facilitate this plan, as well as to contribute to the improvement of the country, the military settlements of Perth, Richmond, and Lanark, were formed under the direction of the commander of the forces. Having already given you some account of the first of these, I shall now proceed to the second.
Richmond settlement was formed in the summer of 1818. The 99th regiment being reduced that year, the men were offered a location of land in the usual proportions, if they chose to settle there. A great number of them accepted this offer, and were conveyed to the settlement at the expense of government. They were placed under the superintendence of Major Burke, and received rations for one year, besides the usual allowance of implements, &c. Some of them have become useful and industrious settlers, but, like other discharged soldiers, a great proportion of them left the settlement as soon as their rations were consumed.
A more steady and persevering class of farmers was found in a body of emigrants, who, in the same summer, arrived from Perthshire, in Scotland, under the direction of a Mr. Robertson, who had previously arranged the terms of their emigration with Earl Bathurst. They paid their own passage to Quebec, but were conveyed from thence to their land at the expense of government. They were nearly all settled in the township of Beckwith, which lies about mid-way between Richmond and Perth. With good characters and industrious habits, they could not fail to succeed, and they now enjoy independence and plenty.
The town of Richmond, which has its name from the commander of the forces, who unfortunately died near that place, is pleasantly situated on the banks of the river Jock, which runs though it, and falls into the Rideau, twenty miles below the town. It is about the same extent, and laid out something like Perth, but it does not contain so many houses. A few half-pay officers are settled here, who have contributed much to its improvement. In the town there is a government store and several merchants’ shops; and about a mile higher up the river there is both a saw-mill and a grist-mill, the property of Captain Lyons. Richmond settlement, like that of Perth, contains much good land; but, being mostly level, there are several swamps of considerable extent. But when these are cleared, drained, and sown with grass, they will make excellent pasture.