The Trials, Difficulties, Slow but Steady Progress and
Finally Success of the Hardy Pioneers Written
Especially for the “Courier” — Inter-
FIRST SCHOOL-HOUSE AND KIRK — THIS IS LANARK.
Written By Mr. C. M. Forbes.
Published in The Perth Courier, Dec. 15, 1905 through Feb. 9, 1906.
Transcribed for the LCGS website by Charles Dobie.
Eighty five years ago the Village of Lanark came into existence. A band of Scottish emigrants hailing from Glasgow arrived at the eminence overlooking the valley of the Clyde in the month of September, 1820, and viewed for the first time their new Canadian home. These hardy progenitors were mostly weavers and spinners in the old land, who, at a time when the industry in which they were engaged suffered from general depression, were induced under the British Government’s colonization scheme to leave their native heath and seek homes in Canada. This was but a part of the great tide of emigration which, beginning at the termination of the American War of 1812-15, continued unabated for a decade.
It was no trifling impulse that led these people to separate themselves from the ties and associations of Auld Scotia but rather the resolute determination of men and women bound by tradition and national sentiment to the principle of “glorious” independence. To them pioneering was an experiment fraught with trials and experiences to which they were unaccustomed. Years of factory life where the daily routine consisted of a close application to the affairs of threads and looms and evenings spent on the Trongate, Argyle and Jamaica streets, meeting and bowing to numerous “kent” faces was a far cry back from the strenuous work of wrestling with pine trees and maples, and nights endured in gloomy forests. And as the stout ship Commerce lay tied up to the quay at Greenock that grey drizzling June morning ready to cast adrift and bear this band away to the new land it cannot be wondered at if they felt certain misgivings as to the outcome of their venture. Nor has time dimmed the perspective of that parting scene. We see them grouped in circles of families and acquaintances, in the sheds, saying goodbye. “Auld Lang Syne” is sung in the “Glesca” fashion and as no others on earth can. There is perhaps the slightest trace of emotion in some of the voices when they sing “we’ll meet again some ither nicht,” but it is only for a moment and then the chorus reels grandly in conclusion, “for auld lang syne.” And among the many matters demanding attention is that of their future religious observances. A Scotchman without his “kirk” is like a ship wanting a rudder. So a petition is framed, signed and handed to the “meenister” there to see them off, that just so soon as the new colony is established and a suitable living assured the church authorities at home are to send out a clergyman.
The voyage across the seas is long and tempestuous so that the voyageurs experienced a sense of great relief when they set foot upon the new shores.
LANARK AT LAST.
A rough road from Perth to Lanark allowed the use of wagons. It may be surmised however that this roadway was not up to the standard that we now recognize; in fact the emigrants expressed their disapproval of the King’s highway in strong broad Scotch. “It’s no fenzies bus yir on noo, Tam, and this no Sauchiehall Street !” exclaimed Jems, as the wheel jolted over a boulder for the thousandth time. But all things come to an end, the settlers were left to move for themselves upon arrival at Lummix — as it was then christened and has been ever since known by many — the wagons returned to Perth relieved of their human freight and effects.
“Whit is yon, Tam ?” enquired Jems as he gazed out upon the world of pine and tamarack that rolled away in a vast green mass before them. “Whit is yon ?” He pointed in the direction of a hut built of bushes, on the farther side of the stream. “I dinna ken,” ventured Jems, “but it looks maist awfy like a Robinson Crusoe hoose an’ ah shuldna wunner if a body in goat skin robes shuld come oot ot.”
Just then a tall military gentleman emerged from the hut engaging their attention, crossed the river on a log that served for a dry passage, advanced along the trail and approached the newcomers. This was Brevet-Major Marshall who had been sent out by the Government to superintend the new settlement on the banks of the Clyde. Other parties had arrived during the summer, coming over on the ships Brock and Prompt and these, including families which were later destined to play an important part in the history of Lanark Village, had proceeded on to the Townships of Dalhousie, Lanark and Darling.
“THIS IS LANARK.”
The feelings of our forefathers on coming to this, their destination, can be well imagined. The embryo Lanark Village was only known by a placard on a tree which stood as nearly as can now be determined on the middle of the present main street between Caldwell’s store and the Clyde Hotel, bearing the words, “This is Lanark.” On every side was a forest of pine; the little “burn” gleaming among the trees was an unimportant waterway compared with the Clyde of Bonnie Scotland. This however was where our stout-hearted pioneers had to begin their new life and they entered into the work with spirit and zeal.
THE PIONEER HOMESTEADERS.
Major Marshall proved a wise and competent official. The allotment of lands progressed without friction and in a short time work had been begun on new possessions. James Hall, Alex. Ferguson, Robert James, James Timmson, A. Blackwood, Peter McLaren, Captain Matthew Leech, James Lindsay, James Thomson and Wm. Gordon were among the first establishing homes in Lanark. The British Government had given these men grants of land, each 200 acres, and in addition a bonus in money to carry them through the early stages of their undertaking. Implements were also provided but these were heavy, cumbrous tools and one [was??] a hardy man indeed who today would wield the hoe of 1820. Grindstones were a necessary article of the settler’s equipment but these were furnished on the group system — one grindstone to a group of perhaps a dozen families. Lanark’s first grindstone did almost hourly service at its stand at Bower’s Rapids. Here our weavers slowly acquired the art of grinding to a keen edge although it was impossible to get the shapely bit and well balanced head our choppers demand today on account of the clumsy pattern of the Government axes.
The fall of 1820 saw a number of houses erected to form a nucleus of the village but as much haste had to be exercised constructing these, in order to make them endurably comfortable for the winter, their exteriors did not present a pleasing type of architecture. Moreover, a Glasgow weaver is not the person one would engage to build a house. The niceties of carpentry are not part of his education and it must not be wondered at if a door or window were set out of plumb.
SCHOOL-HOUSE AND KIRK.
We have it that on the 18th day of December, 1820, the settlement arrived at such condition of forwardness that a meeting was held at the home of Mr. James Hall, “to devise the best means of erecting a school-house that also might answer the purpose of a place of worship until able to provide both.” Indeed, ground had already been set apart by the Government — two acres for a cemetery, one acre for a church, one acre for a school-house, one acre for a minister’s residence and one acre for a school-master’s residence, in all six acres in behalf of people professing the Presbyterian religion.
The signs are before us of our forbears’ allegiance to the kirk. In fact, through a long period following, notwithstanding a most distressing and discouraging inability to obtain a minister of Presbyterian light and learning there remained with the people an almost stubborn refusal to ally themselves with any other body. “Oor ain kirk or nane,” was the slogan of an abiding faith. Thus when Methodist missionaries applied to the trustees for permission to use the church building on Sabbaths when it was vacant, seven big Scotchmen got upon their feet and said “No” with a roar that disturbed the pines around and quite overwhelmed two weak voices who ventured “Yes.”
Lanark’s first schoolhouse was erected on July 14th, 1821. A log structure, hurriedly assembled in its parts, the building gave little promise of permanency in the enlightenment of future generations of Lanark boys and girls. Robert Mason, a Glasgow man of education, had the distinguished honor of filling the first mastership. His professional duties commenced February 18th, 1822, seven months after the erection of a schoolhouse.
Two ranks of scholars sat under this excellent dominie — those taught free of charge and those who paid for their education. The first were children of parents holding land in the township, the second were children of those residing in Lanark but not entitled to land in the usual manner. For these latter a schedule of rates was arranged, viz. : English reading and grammar, 2/6 ; writing and arithmetic, 3/ per quarter.
Mr. Mason received his salary from the Government until February, 1823, when this was withdrawn. The schoolmaster thus deprived of his means of livelihood appeared before the trustees in a doleful frame of mind and announced that if the bonus were not renewed the teaching would have to stop. A petition, couched in strong terms, was prepared, forwarded to the Earl of Dalhousie and produced a shock to the official conscience that caused immediate repentance and forthwith at an emergency meeting of the school worthies it was proudly announced that the “maister’s salary wud conteonue till the Christmas, 1823.” The Government could not resist the rhetorical onslaught of the Scots.
We must not follow the fortunes of this interesting school farther than to say that when the State aid was finally cut off, the people themselves paid the teacher’s salary.
Money was a scarce medium in those days and a wheat equivalent had to be inserted and agreed upon in the articles between master and scholar. Two dollars per quarter for each scholar, one dollar in money or wheat, this payable on the 1st February yearly, those settling with grain to deliver same at the home of the schoolmaster after valuation by the trustees whose decision was irrevocable. Each scholar also had to lay down at the school door one third cord of wood or in place one peck of wheat, in which case the master supplied the wood.
The growth of Lanark Village in the early twenties was slow and tedious. The trees were big and unwieldy. Only men with a practiced “sleight” could properly fell those monarchs of the forest. One who has not acquired chopping in his boyhood, experiences the utmost difficulty in his latter years. As has been noted before the axes were clumsy and heavy, the handles or helves badly made and placed in the hands of men unskilled in their use they could not but fail to accomplish much. The affairs of the household, too, called for an altogether different system of management and economy as had been conducted in the Old Country. “Rin oot Johnnie, and get hauf a stane o’ tatties, a dizzen o’ Irish eggs and’ a pun o’ Danish butter,” the city mother might say and expect the errand back inside of five minutes. But here the ground had to be cleared, crops hoed and tended, hens did not thrive in the cold winter and milch cows were a luxury to which but few of the settlers had attained. Moreover when the flour bag ran low a long trip to Brockville over precarious river crossings, and through stretches of mere trails, was the saving chance of replenishing the store.
It is true that Alex. Ferguson built a grist mill in 1821 on a site furnished by the Government. But this did not meet the requirements of the expanding neighborhood and Brockville was known as the headquarters for milling supplies for a long term of years. The merchandizing of Lanark rose but slightly above the immediate necessities of life in those days. Miller Ferguson, with an eye to future importance in the realm of commerce, had opened a store also in 1821. This was Lanark’s second business establishment. Messrs. James Muir, of Glasgow, also, later, had designs for capturing Lanark’s future trade and carried on for a number of years a branch distributing house, this on the present site of Lanark’s town clerk’s residence. But these were small stores as compared with Lanark’s present busy shops, and the variety of their stock did not reach much beyond tea and treacle, axes and awls.
The enquiring mind of our average present day Lanarkite might perhaps be attributed to that fondness for literature which was part of the make up of our pioneer fathers. They liked books and were satisfied only with the most profound. In this way, then, we see Major Donald Fraser, president, and Mr. Robert Drysdale, treasurer, in conjunction with Mr. Robert Mason, librarian, arranging books on the library shelves in 1822. These books were : “Confession of Faith”, “Dick on Inspiration”, Paley’s Evidences”, “Protestant”, 4 vols, “Walker’s Sermons”, “Wardlaw’s Sermons”, “Butler’s Analogy”, “Edwards on Original Sin”, “Evans’ Sermons”, “Vincent’s Explanatory Catechism”, “Dodderidge’s Sermons”, “Dodderidge’s Rise and Progress”, “Stevenson on the Atonement”, “Beddow’s Sermons”, “Erskine’s Evidences”, “Paley’s Natural Philosophy”, and many others of like character. This was the sole public reading in the settlement, excepting newspapers sent by friends across the sea, and mails being at that time both uncertain and expensive, the reading matter received from that source would not now be thought of much importance. It was no doubt this paucity of the lighter literature as well as an inborn talent for music that induced the young people to get up a singing class. They applied for permission to use the only public building then in the village, the school-church, on certain week nights. Donald Fraser was horrified. He protested vigorously again at such desecration but upon seeing that others were more favorable to the proposal, said tentatively, “If the music club would meet on Sunday when they might praise God as well as learn to sing then he ‘wudna objeck’.”
SETTLEMENT THINNED OUT.
Dark times came upon the settlement when the Government bonuses expired. These had been intended to start the new settlers and were certainly well advised and needful. But left to their own resources the people began to feel the pinch of want, in fact letters which passed at that stage of Lanark’s history give forth vivid pictures of the dire distress to which many families were reduced. Indeed, some returned to Scotland, a few went to the United States and the settlement was thinned out by a large number going to Western Ontario where the Canada Company under a new agreement made with the Home Government regarding Clergy Reserves had acquired large tracts of choice lands.
This temporary leaving made the conditions even harder for those who remained. The public burdens fell upon fewer hands. So in the building of a church and getting a minister there was much ado. Dr. Gemmill preached for the first years and did much good in his itinerary. He did what he could and had to depend, frequently, on what people voluntarily subscribed for his support. Estimates for a stone church were handed in May 6th, 1822. The building was 36 feet long, 26 feet wide, wall 14 feet in height, 8 windows of 24 panes, each 8½ by 9½, rafters 3 in. by 6 in. This church was built where the present Presbyterian church now stands and served for a long time after the first ordained minister came from Scotland to take a Lanark charge, Mr. McAllister, who arrived in 1831.
While much of the early social life of Lanark is obscured in the “twilight of uncertainty and the night of forgetfulness”, yet we are able to learn that the Scots who first came to Lanark were the “Scots wha hae.” Not in the Wallacian sense however and in no sense historically unless we should say perhaps “Rhoderick Dhu.” [Transcriber’s appeal — can anyone tell me what the previous two sentences mean?] Four taverns in town when Lanark was young is a sad significant fact. Nay but the godlessness which prevailed particularly among the younger people was so rampant as to wring a heartrending appeal from heads of families to a society in Glasgow. Here are some of the words : “Oh, sir, wore your society duly sensible of the rapid progress that ungodliness is making among us — of the great mass of our population living perfectly indifferent about their eternity, their cares engrossed with what they shall eat and drink, and a young generation following the same deplorable path.”
LANARK, HUB OF COMMERCIAL LIFE.
The expansion of the townships adjacent as years rolled by led Lanark on to a position of some commercial importance. New emigrants came and took the place of those gone away. While the means for growth did not lie within her own gates yet the natural advancement of her neighbours of the back townships operated for Lanark’s good and in the thirties the village began to assume a busier appearance. Where people assemble for a living, business follows as a matter of course, and we now see names that have not heretofore appeared prominently on the stage of Lanark’s moving scenes. The Hall‘s were among the first arriving and shortly afterwards came the Mair‘s. These two families shared largely in our affairs of early days. Mair carried on a lumbering and commercial business and built a large stone building that afterwards became and is now a part of our chief industry. Hall’s built that famous incline of our principal thoroughfare, was named after the merchant at the top who at one time had the back country under his thumb. This arose from the system of long credit which was then in vogue. Potash was about the only commodity that produced cash in these parts long ago. So when the man from the township with a “bill” at Hall‘s wanted a few dollars in cash he went to Perth passing through Lanark the back way for reasons that are obvious. These two firms lumbered on the Clyde River for many years, shrewd, honorable business men but who have long since passed from the circle of Lanark’s active business.
THE CALDWELL’S COME.
In 1837 the lumbering industry throughout Canada passed into an era of unexampled prosperity. This attractive business condition marked the entrance into active life of the village the Caldwell family, who coming out from Lochwinnoch, Scotland, in the early twenties, had gone on with others to the Township of Lanark. But the strong armed young sons John, Alexander and Boyd had learned woodcraft and possessed the business acumen and foresight to penetrate its possibilities. They were more ambitious than could be gratified on the Lanark homestead. Alexander and Boyd formed a partnership in 1837 and for thirteen years together engaged in the export timber business. They acquired lands and when they dissolved partnership these were divided, Alexander retaining the Clyde lands, Boyd the Mississippi, and pursuing separately the fortunes of the timber trade. They moved into Lanark Village and until their death remained the central figures of that great lumbering industry which they carried on.
Sandy, as Alexander was affectionately called, possessed in a marked degree the power of winning men. His promises and his threats were alike accepted irrevocably. If a man proved himself on a jam of logs and Sandy said he should have more per month than he engaged for then the man got the increase, or if big Mick Ryan, swinging, swaggering Mick, tearing down Hall’s Hill shouting in response to a query, “drunk again ?” “Yis, be gad, it’s not every day I kill a pig” — if Mick went home and ill-treated his wife and Sandy knew of it then there would be threats and executions. Poor Mick he feared nobody but Sandy ; one day when in response to a summons for help the latter went to remonstrate with the Irishman for his cruelty he found him sitting in the house busy with a saucer of tea. He never looked up but at the first word from Sandy, Mick threw the tea in his face, but for his impudence and other misdeeds found himself sprawling upon the floor. Sandy nearly broke his hand with the blow.
But there were happier times than this settling of family disputes. Every person acquainted with the life and disposition of a “shantyman” knows that in his merry moments, when through with the season’s operations in bush or on “drive” he is wont to engage in diversion of an innocent nature. And also in the long winter evenings when the work of the day is done and the “lads” have all returned from the woods and are seated around the camboose. It has been an arduous day perhaps out in the “works”; from before dawn till twilight’s close the men have been faithfully attending to all the parts of making logs or timber, chopping, scoring, hewing, skidding, hauling, with a brief midday meal of bread and pork at the base of some tall monarch of the woods, then thankfully coming to camp at night the lads file in, take their turn at the wash basin and then red cheeked and hungry they get down to a good substantial meal of meat and bread and tea. The appetite of a shantyman is great and swift. He eats a lot and it doesn’t take him long. So when the meal is over there are axes to grind, peavies to tighten up, axe handles to make and everything to get ready for the morrow’s operations. After this is all carefully attended to the jubilant spirits of the “shantymen” find expression in songs and sports. And it was in these sports that the leader Sandy excelled. He was always ready for a trial of swayback, twist the broom, hop the barrel or any one of the many games of the woods. This was the winning side of his nature but he also possessed a keen appreciation of the practical side of affairs and was ready to note every detail of the business in which he engaged. Thus, on the “drive” season when a jam of logs or timber obstructed the stream no readier arm or knowing mind ventured out upon the mass of locked timbers. Quick to find the place where the pinch of a peevie would do most good, where the unloading of a log would relieve the pressure in the proper spot, he appeared to possess a genius for bringing order out of chaos by this speedy restoring the tranquil passing of the drive. Moreover in the estimating of a timber limit few men of his time knew better than Alexander Caldwell how much square timber or logs a given area would produce.
The partnership of 1837 then, between these two brothers Alexander and Boyd Caldwell, was one destined to have only good results for they were both eminently qualified. Thus we see them for thirteen years actively engaged side by side until the importance of their interests led to an understanding that each could pursue his fortunes alone. This perhaps was a good thing for the young village because it now became the home of two aggressive lumbering concerns instead of one and these added to a number of other companies who did business on the Clyde or Mississippi gave Lanark that picturesque bearing and character which belongs to every prosperous lumber town. In those days Lanark Village was spread over as much area as at the present time.
LUMBERING TIME IN LANARK.
The early fathers seem to have had an eye for the full web and made the warp first. Houses were built in a straggling line all the way from what is now known as Manahan’s gate on the Perth Road to the big elm tree near the Andrew Baird farm. Up and down the long stretch of road in spring and fall the shantymen used to roam. In the days when it came time to hire for the woods gangs of men would spend days in the village enjoying a rollicking time. Those were the days of sights and they continued each succeeding spring and fall until within the last 15 years when the lumber business had waned and almost passed away. The McIlquhams, the Robertsons, the McLarens and a host of other Scotch names were among the men in this class ; strong, clean limbed fellows, that could fall a pine or ride a stick of timber or saw leg with any others on earth. They would stay around until their gang left for the woods ; then Wat, or Tom or Jack would disappear until spring when perhaps he would return for a few days more before going on the drive. There are men in Lanark today who well remember the jaunty step of chain-lightning Stewart of the Madawaska, his long curly hair hanging down upon a pair of strong broad shoulders, a big brimmed hat sitting defiantly on just a part of his head and his heels clicking their impatience. It was said, this man would get upon a log in the water without any pole or stick to balance and upend the log still retaining his position on top, or he would rush through a tumbling rapid upon a stick of timber without any balancing aid.
He was a “white water” man of the first class and idolized among his kind for his intrepid and daring deeds. And indeed it is not so long ago that Lanark streets knew far-famed “Larry Frost“, and faith if the plaster has not been removed from a certain ceiling it can yet be shown where Larry left the impression of both heels done with a single spring from the floor. He was a wonderful man, Larry, tall, large shouldered and well set up, slender waisted with small hands and feet. When out with the boys his whole being seemed to bunch into nerves and muscles and just to show how easy it was to loosen up he would spring from the floor and knock his heels both at once on the ceiling.
These were lively scenes in the early shanty days. In the business of lumbering numerous horses are used not only in the woods operations but also in “cadging” the provisions long distances from the storehouses to the camps. Lanark had a great showing of horses and in the fitting up time when new teamsters were preparing for the woods the streets presented such a scene as we are only now permitted to see at some horse fair. Also in the springtime when the yellow sun had honeycombed the snow and the wearied winter teams came down, sometimes only “the tail and hide,” there were great days of conditioning and toning up.
IMPETUS OF THE FIFTIES.
The growth of the village so far as steady population and the erection of houses are concerned was slow until the fifties. Then an impetus seemed to be given progress and we find the Caldwell store and residence among the substantial structures that came into form at that time. This building is one of the best pieces of masonry in the place and indeed we know of no walls built here since that excel these in point of workmanship.
It was also in this decade that the Congregational church of Lanark came into existence.
A simple incident brought this about. Certain preachers at Middleville had been holding strong attractive meetings and a few of the elders and members of the Presbyterian church had gone to hear them which brought upon the offending churchmen the displeasure of the meenister. This precipitated a church quarrel which ended in 60 families seceding from the Presbyterian Church owing to what they called arbitrary treatment and setting up a branch of the Congregational Church. This was about 1848 although the congregation was not formally organized till 1852. Two years later an offshoot found good soil in Lanark Village when a congregation was organized here and in 1856 a church built and opened. This was the building partially destroyed by fire in 1900 and torn down to make room for the splendid new church in 1903 with Rev. D.C. McIntosh, pastor.
LANARK’S ORANGE LODGE.
It was in the fifties too that the first secret fraternity unfurled its Orange banner in this village. An elevated site was chosen for the Lodge room of the Loyal Orange Lodge, the exact spot being near where Mr. William Spalding‘s storehouse now stands. The lodge succeeded in gathering beneath its colors a large and flourishing membership and it looked for a time at least that this was one of Lanark’s permanent institutions. But something happened one night that stopped a lodge career. From Buffam‘s tavern to the lodge room the brethren cleaved the air with their discontent. An eye-witness says it was certainly a rough night and obviously he was not referring to the weather. When you hear a brother shout “Paice, bhoys, paice and brotherly love,” while he belabors you with a drum stick it is high time to call a halt and that is exactly what the Orangemen of Lanark did. They held no more meetings, the building fell into disuse and later was removed to its present stand where it serves the public faithfully day after day and is known as Darou‘s bakery. The Buffam‘s Tavern referred to stood where the residence of Mr. R.F. Robertson is now. At one time this building was occupied by the McLaren family as a store, the scene of many boyhood experiences of the Hon. Peter McLaren, of Perth, whose father was the merchant.
LANARK VILLAGE INCORPORATED.
In the fifties Lanark was in the preparatory stage for corporate existence. Its activity as a lumbering centre attracted numbers of people within her gates and the village held out every promise of future importance. Thirty years had elapsed since the “first oots” and the great hardships were fast disappearing by the general settling up of the surrounding country and a consequent bettering of the conditions of living. The soft “Glesca” accent too changed. Even the old people did not drop their “t’s” so frequently and began to pronounce buer butter, and here and there you would hear an old cronie “frae the Shaws” say “I guess.” Many of the old Scotch customs however were retained for a long time after this. That of “frostput” at New Year was a general favourite. It seems now however to have completely passed and we would elect the roysters half demented who would dare troop into a Lanark home after 12 of the clock at night, produce a black shining bottle from his pocket, offer us a “wee tait” and begin lustily proclaiming “A guid New Year tae ane and a'” and yet this was the proper thing to do in ye good old time. “The folk noo are ower prood” was the explanation for the disappearance of the venerable custom ventured me by an old Scotchman the other day, and he added “God gie us sense tae be mair sociable.” One thing is certain. Social intercourse among the people was more enjoyed then than at the present day and the Lanarkites of the fifties partook of the pleasures more fully than we of delightful walks among the farmers. It was thought a matter of the slightest importance walking out five or six miles to see a friend. And then there were the social dances and gatherings in which all joined so heartily.
But we must hurry on to the year 1862 when Lanark became an incorporated village and entered upon an era of steady advancement. First to receive the gifts of office were Wm. Robertson, Reeve; A.G. Hall, James Drysdale, Peter McLaren and Thomas Baird, councilors; John Wright, clerk; Francis Turner, collector, and Adam Craig, treasurer.
ERECTION OF TOWN HALL.
About a year later the Town Hall was built adding one more to Lanark’s extending list of public buildings. This stone concert room, Council chambers, court house and jail has seen a life of the utmost usefulness. Claim can never be laid for architectural beauty in its angular lines nor can praise be justly given its interior decorations but a deserved tribute comes when we say that the Town Hall has been the best public servant Lanark ever had. People who have left the old town long years ago will perhaps remember better than any other event or incident that ever happened during their time, the penny readings held within the walls of the old Town Hall. Ball room, lecture room, house of worship, court room, concert hall, Council chamber, political platform, anniversary hall, dear old room what has not happened there? And so it stands with a jail below, a fire engine behind and a reading room before and the tall brick hose tower looks down from the dizzy heights as each day at seven and twelve and six the cupola creaks and the bell rings.
THE POST OFFICE.
The post office in any community is a place of common interest. Uncertain youth early aspires to run for “the mail,” middle age includes in the daily routine a call at the wicket and “the sere and yellow leaf” sits expectantly awaiting the return of those gone to bring letters and newspapers. The sojourner in a strange land enquires among first things for the building where he may deposit and receive communications to and from friends residing elsewhere. Thither he travels daily for some sign that will serve to keep him in touch with the great world round about. Through the vast arterial system of the postal service the thought of the world flows, oftenest arousing our sensibilities, stirring our profoundest emotions, raising our hopes, quieting or provoking our fears. And the temple of this universal force is the post office. Hence in Lanark, since the inauguration of a bi-daily service, at ten in the forenoon and at seven in the evening, men, women and children wend their way to Postmaster MacLean‘s at the summit of Hall’s Hill. The crowd is always largest in the evening and once in a while when the stage from Perth is late there accumulates a gathering of people that is one of the interesting sights of the village. A clan of red-touqued boys and girls usually clamor and kick near the wicket till a warning head cranes round the edge of the box case and says “beware,” along the grocery counters on sides social, municipal and political topics are freely discussed, here and there may be seen the anxious eye of a mother intently noting every motion of the postmaster’s and his assistants’ deft fingers picking up and unerringly assorting the letters while she prays that this time word will come from a long gone son or daughter, or perhaps yon clear-eyed handsome faced youth expects a note of response from some fairy sweetheart far away, or that disconsolate maiden, dainty and neat, yet with a sad expression upon her face, is fervently hoping that her youthful lover out in the world wooing fortune that he may win a bonnie bride, has sent one of his ardent messages to her at this time. And when the little wicket door clicks and opens the throng falls into Indian file in order to go forward by the right and out at the opposite side of the big woodstove standing in the centre of the store, they move ahead slowly, one at a time, utter a name or a number, receive mail or are told there is none and turn away either happy or dejected.
Since 1882 Mr. John McLean has acceptably filled the postmastership of Lanark. In public life he is well known as a prominent member of Lanark County Council and reposes in the confidences of his fellow councilors. He was also Reeve of the village for a number of years, acquitting himself with honor and dignity. Mr. McLean is a Scottish Canadian of Highland descent. Coming to Lanark when in his teens he entered the employ of Messrs. Boyd Caldwell & Son, retaining a clerkship in that firm till he launched out in business for himself.
LANARK’S FIRST POSTMASTER.
Eighty-three years ago Lanark’s first post office was established with Mr. J.A. Murdock as postmaster. At that time and indeed until 1851 it was controlled by the English post office. Mails were not so frequent as now and were carried on horseback from Perth. John Hall acquired the position in 1834 and appears on the scene of incoming and outgoing mail bags until 1854 when A.G. Hall succeeded to the office. This gentleman resigning in 1858 left an opening for William Moorehouse, who was appointed on Oct. 1st of that year. He held office for less than three years, resigning on April 1st, 1861. A.G. Hall was reappointed on Oct. 1st, 1861, and remained the incumbent till his death which took place January, 1866. William Robertson next took the position on April 1st, 1866, was removed from office in December, 1872, and Alexander Munro appointed. In 1874, however, William Robertson was reappointed and remained till the 11th March, 1879, when he resigned and A.P. Bower thereafter ruled behind the scenes, until 1882, when Mr. MacLean was asked to step in. The Lanark post office was made a money order office on the establishment of money order offices in Canada in 1855 and a savings bank business was established in 1868.
That peaceful residential part of Lanark now known as Beatty Corner was once the neighbourhood where two taverns flourished, viz, Buffam‘s, mentioned before, and Mrs. Lamont‘s. The Lamont inn supplied a sort of home for the shantymen when off work and many tales are told of the roistering times passed within its hospitable walls.
The outstretching hand of Freemasonry laid upon a building in this locality for the meeting place of a lodge and in 1869 on July 15th Evergreen No. 209 A.F. and A.M. was established. The charter members were Chas. Esdale, Robert Pollock, Thomas Watchorn, Alex. G. Dobbie, William Caldwell, David Munro, James Wilson and Chas. E. Field. Chas. E. Field was elected worshipful master, Robert Pollock senior warden and Thomas Watchorn junior warden. Few of these men are now living and the last remnants who had not moved away from Lanark, Mr. W.C. Caldwell and Rev. James Wilson, have been called away during the past year to join above with the great architect of the universe. For a number of years regular communications were held in the Lamont building, the lodge room was in the loft of an outhouse which long ago was converted into a stable and is used for that purpose to this day. The craft moved to more commodious and comfortable quarters in the Young block opposite the Town Hall where the mysteries of the fraternity are handed down from master to apprentice.
Evergreen Lodge has had a career of vicissitude and change, sometimes pitched on the crest of prosperity, sometimes in the trough of adversity. Nevertheless the mother lodge has reared sons of whom she might well feel proud in the Masonic circle and the names of Chas. E. Field and John H. Bothwell stand out like great shining lights amid a multitude of lesser forms. Brother Bothwell enjoyed the distinction of possessing a fund of Masonic lore and learning enjoyed by few men of the craft and during his deputyship of the district had a most enviable reputation for his knowledge of Masonic ritual law. But the times have changed and Evergreen droops and pines from lack of attention. The signs however are hopeful and after a long rest who knows but greater things than have been are in store for the compass and square in Lanark.
While dealing with fraternities we might state that Lanark has had a full share of them. Oddfellows, Foresters, Workmen, Sons of England, Sons of Temperance, Select Knights and others have set up shrines inside our gates and all of them have had their seasons of plenty and years of famine. The Oddfellows after a long period of inertia have taken upon themselves fresh comeliness which has attracted a number of young men with an eye for the beauties of the order. An at home held by the Oddfellows recently was taken as an evidence of the coursing new blood that is beginning to flow. The Workmen and Foresters are in the dolarums with never a sail flapping and the Sons of Scotland — fie upon Lanark — are unworthy the name. In a village whose ancestry was intensely Scotch we find the thistle drooping and the heather dry and shrunken. The Sons of Temperance have seen ups and downs like the rest of societies, and at the present time are almost bereft of that vitality and power that once were theirs.
PROMINENT TOPOGRAPHICAL POINTS.
The rolling nature of the country upon which Lanark is built has given prominence in name to some of the more conspicuous peaks and stretches inside the corporation. Thus we speak of the French Hill, Legary’s Hill, the 50 acres, in the same manner as Glasgow people speak of similar peculiarities in the topography of their city. The bend of the High Street was the Bell o’ the Brae, where according to ancient tradition Wallace won his strategic victory over Bishop Beck of Durham and the English garrison of the Castle. Balamany Brae was another historical incline and Glasgow Green at the foot of the Saltmarket was a fashionable promenade down to the end of the eighteenth century. At that date John Mayne could write :
Whae’er has daunered oot at een
And seen the sights that I hae seen
For strappin lassies tight and clean
May proudly tell
That, seach the country, Glasgow Green
Will bear the bell.
I have often thought of dear old Glasgow Green when on a Sunday afternoon perchance I roamed over Lanark’s 50 acres. It is true that the 50 acres will ill compare in point of size or historic association with the famous green, nearby the Court House where in July, 1865, the last public execution took place. It was that of Dr. Pritchard, the Sauchiehall Street poisoner whose mortal agony was watched by some thirty thousand persons. But our 50 acres is a considerable stretch of green and here in the summer time Lanark lads and lassies are wont to stray even as they do in the Old Country and moreover where Ned Belton and a certain cobbler along with a number of cronies held full many a sweet and savory “bouillon.” Our own poet John Moran has immortalized this feature of the 50 acres in his clever verses on the “Stolen Gobbler.”
One who is at all acquainted with the history of Lanark cannot mention “French Hill” without recalling memories of a pleasant old Frenchman who once lived there. Whence he came I know not nor do I care to enquire, for the people who knew him always speak so reverently and affectionately of “Old Tut Millotte” that I fain would believe he spent all his days in Lanark. Everybody knew him and none had an ill word to say. Fortune had not been kind to Tut even when we consider a lack of making the best of opportunities. But though the fickle dame frowned and despotically refused to accord the beaming old fellow any roseate chance yet he never showed discouragement.
He had a position with the Caldwell firm when that company were in the heyday of their lumbering. Cooper by trade, it was his duty to make barrels in which to pack pork. This he did in the summer time and cut up and packed the pork in the fall. His workshop situated on George Street at the base of the hill between the Era office and Nelson Affleck‘s blacksmith shop contained all the equipment necessary for the business. In one end stood a pair of scales of the old pattern, large board squares supported by chains from a balance beam of iron. A huge cutting block and a ponderous cleaver such as some Gargantua might use, a sharp knife, a huge fork, a pot of lamp black and a brush with which he marked B.C. & Son on the carcass completed the outfit. He also wore while in this inspecting house a special suit which bore thickly spread evidences of his calling for the grease accumulations of years deepened until it was reckoned by inches. Pork for Millotte‘s inspection was usually sold at the Caldwell office or store before submitting for inspection and almost invariably Millotte received it with the remark “No meestake, fine pig for Boyd’s Willie.” This perhaps was not intended as a word in praise of the pork so much as it served to please the seller, and brought the reward of a glass of malt at Dobbie‘s tavern, and when night came he was pleased to boast, “No meestake, twenty one horn of malt and all right yet,” accompanying this statement with a slap of the right hand upon his open mouth which produced a sharp sound indicating all was right below. Dear old Millotte ! Your bronzed features and fringe of snow-white hair, your imperturbable disposition has set many a one thinking.
The corporate robes which Lanark assumed in 1862 imparted to the natural comeliness of the place fresh attractiveness. Within her own gates she now began to demonstrate that stability of character which has ever since marked the career of the village. The lumber industry operated to advance the commercial interests while it also established in the community a set of men who found the social and business air congenial and determined to identify themselves permanently with its life and institutions.
The Council board created by the act of incorporation which marked a new municipal era offered positions for such men as had the affairs of Lanark at heart. There was great scope for the abilities and ambitions of councilors. Roads, bridges, and buildings were required to meet the increasing needs of the place and strictest economy must at all times be practiced to meet the approval of Lanark ratepayers. And it appears at this time there came upon the scene of municipal activities a class of public men whose names well deserve to be emblazoned on the page of Lanark’s history. Among these none was more energetic, enthusiastic and painstaking than Thomas Baird.
Thomas spelled Lanark with capital letters all through. He was ready at all times to take off his coat for the “Old Town.” He served for many years on the Council. His advice, invariably sound when affecting the welfare of his beloved village, was eagerly sought and his services employed when any important work had to be done. He deemed it not enough to sit around a table and do the business of the town that way. Like Paul he was a man of action and if there was a road to build Tom Baird felt it a duty incumbent upon himself to appear in person at the works, discard his coat and set to with pick or shovel or bar and do the work of a roadmaker. And nothing slipshod or imperfectly done was permitted under his surveillance, as many excellent parts of road will attest to this day. His maxim, “What is worth doing at all is worth doing well,” appeals with a force most potent when we view some of the substantial highways which can be traced directly to the bold enterprising hand of Thomas Baird. One striking evidence of Mr. Baird‘s work is the Horticultural ground. He was one of the ardent men who laid out the track and planted the trees which now grace the slopes of Lanark’s beautiful public place.
Much comment has been made during the past year on the condition of the road between Perth and Lanark. Doubtless a good deal of this was justifiable but when a comparison is made between our present road and the bumpy line which our forefathers suffered we are led to become devoutly thankful that we live in an age of good roads. And when we examine still further and are confronted by the performance of “Eagle Pointer,” Mr. John Kerr‘s swift roadster who closed the gap between the bridge on Drummond Street, Perth, and Dobbie’s Hotel, Lanark, last Sunday in 15 minutes, we are forced to the conclusion that such stepping was not possible in the good old days.
Unquestionably the deplorable condition of the road between Lanark and Perth was a vital and important question of the time away back in the fifties. It was work of an arduous kind moving the heavy freight which had to be brought in for the maintenance of the people and the necessities of the times. The advent of the saw mills whose lumber had to be hauled to Perth and thence to Oliver’s Ferry demanded a better means of traverse over the 12 mile stretch.
OLD PINE ROAD.
The abundance of pine and numerous saw mills proved the economy of making plank roads. From Lachine to Montreal plank roads had already been in use. One was built from Lanark to Perth and over this smooth flooring of pine loads of lumber and other heavy stuffs rattled for years. It appears to have fallen early into disuse for the pine rotted quickly, the surface became unequal and resembled in its days of disrepute the present jolting corduroy that we sometimes meet and are glad when we pass by. However for a time, in the days of newness and a sound body this plank road served very well. It was divided in two sections owned by different companies, one from Lanark to Balderson, the other from Balderson to Perth.
The Lanark-Balderson end was subsequently sold to Mr. George Kerr, of Perth, and under the arrangement whereby the good roads became the especial case of the county these two companies sold out their interests.
THE STAGE CAREER.
The present commodious and speedy stage which the well-known proprietor, Mr. Michael Murphy, conducts between Lanark and the county town is the modern representative of what has been a stage career of vicissitude. The first man appearing as the man behind the whip, Matt. Stanley, held the ribbons of honor for many a day. His running was not done at the comfortable hours with which the present mail carrier is blessed. The initial Lanark mail carrying was done on horseback, then as the place acquired more commercial importance and a heavier mail followed, the authorities indulged in the luxury of a “buckboard” which for years jigged out and in. Then the passenger traffic grew and a more substantial form of conveyance was required. And in these olden days, the rattle of the wheels was not sufficient to warn you of the approach of “Her Majesty’s” service, but there must needs be a large horn from whose flaring mouth the most blatant sounds issued. The mail left Lanark at five o’clock a.m. to return at twelve o’clock p.m. and at these times of day and night the royal mail arrived and departed with all the eclat and ceremony of an imperial equipage.
The sawmilling interests at Lanark in the sixties were at their height. Thus though a mill had long before been built at the canal yet it was of small capacity compared with the later large and well equipped mill that appeared. In 1868 the cut in this was 8,000,000 feet of pine. Dinwoodie had the contract and the summer season during which they operated was one of the best Lanark had known for years.
LANARK’S WOOLEN INDUSTRY.
But changes have been pressing the trend of events forward and in 1868 we see their culmination in a business departure which has exerted a wonderful influence in the social and commercial life of the village. Indeed the establishing of the Clyde Woolen Mills, for that is the event to which we refer, brought a fixed community to the place that could never be expected from the lumbering industry. Shantymen are the creatures of the calling which moves with the pinery. Pine trees take hundreds of years to grow but sheep’s wool is a never failing product. The history of the woollen mill has been full of achievement for that steady growing industry. Mr. Boyd Caldwell who founded the enterprise planted the principle of honest goods and from that has grown up a business whose manufactures are known throughout the length and breadth of Canada. A new class of men joined forces with the rugged men who descended from the pioneer fathers. The process of evolution had taken a strange turn for first of all we had weavers gradually transformed to woodmen, now the reaction sets in and we have the blood reverting to the old calling.
But the influx of these operatives gave Lanark impulse that has told in the intervening years. Vacant spaces in the village began to fill up, old buildings torn down and new ones erected, and a noticeable improvement in the dress of the people took place.
Among the woollen employees were a number of congenial spirits who found the life in Lanark agreeable. These individuals were also an acquisition to social life. Hence at all the Lanark concerts held in the Town Hall for a number of years the name of Adam Melrose appeared on every programme. A whole-souled Scotchman, Adam was ready to take part in all the social functions and it was a common occurrence of the times for the Rev. James Wilson to arise at a church tea meeting and announce, “by special request Mr. Melrose would sing ‘Miss Brady’s Pionofortay’.” This special request and the song which followed lasted for years and even today one can hear Lanarkites in their reminiscent song mood sing : —
|One, two, whree, don’t you see|
She would hammer away like a naller.
Adam’s Scotch tongue could not pronounce three but persisted in “whree.” The occasions can be counted by the score upon which Mr. Melrose promoted concerts and “big days” in Lanark and they were uniformly successful.
Associated with the shantymen these “greasies” as they were jocularly called, enjoyed an enviable reputation as men of undoubted courage and valor. Once this was severely put to the test at a mammoth picnic held near Balderson’s Corners. The grove presented a lively and picturesque scene. Hundreds of pretty girls from the surrounding country attended, and to be sure, as many young men. A brass band from Perth looked to the musical part of the show. Suddenly the sky lowered and a great downpour of rain dispersed the crowd. All had been merriment and fun and now there were hurryings and scramblings to get out of the wet. As if moved by a common impulse the crowd directed their steps to the Balderson Inn. Drinking followed among the men and an unpleasantness arose through certain misunderstandings as to right of way at the bar. Watty who had just returned from the States took umbrage at remarks made by someone from Perth. This precipitated a fight in which many who are now staid old men engaged, “greasies” and shantymen from Lanark against a contingent from Perth. It is now averred that the Lanarkites succeeded in putting the Perthites into utter flight and their quickening heels beat a hasty retreat over McGregor‘s hill.
LANARK’S CHURCH HISTORY.
Lanark is pre-eminently a village of churches. Almost 50 years ago many of the denominations had congregations here. The Methodists’ and Baptists’ first buildings have long since passed away and the present comfortable houses of worship in which these bodies assemble are of very recent date. The old Baptist church stood where the smaller school building now rears its head. A few families of enthusiastic church folk managed to form a congregation but it never appears to have possessed that vitality that would ensure growth. The building fell into disuse as a church and was occupied with remarkable frequency by a flock of sheep who loved the cool comforts of its interior. But the denominational spark never died out and subsequently a new church was built and its present site at the north-west of the village is well known. St. Paul’s Anglican church stands on the spot near where Lanark pioneers got their first glimpse of the great green world beyond the Clyde. This land was presented by Mr. Manahan to the church in the fifties and the building which shortly afterwards was erected thereon is now showing evidences of its half a century enduring the weather.
A PIONEER OBSERVER.
The Lanark Observer, a semi-monthly newspaper devoted to literature, science, politics, agriculture and general intelligence, was started as one of Lanark’s early enterprises. The first issue appeared August 14th, 1850. The Observer contained 24 columns of matter including poetry. A six stanza poem, entitled “The Fading Flowers,” appeared in volume one, some lines of which seem singularly applicable when speaking of those good old times : —
And at last o’er the grave we shall wonder and weep
Till sorrow shall lull the poor pilgrim to sleep
And together we rest with the dead.
There, like frail flowers of earth, we shall goon be forgot
Though the green grass will cling to the desolate spot
And the daisies shall deck our lone bed.
J.R. Gemmill printed and published the Observer. Mr. John McEwen was traveling agent and collector and with a complete staff of agents from Perth to Admaston the newspaper gave promise of a long and useful career. Lack of patronage during a period of commercial depression forced the Observer to relinquish what influence and power it had in this part of Canada. The newspaper moved to Sarnia where it afterwards became a potent factor in Dominion politics.
The death of Alexander Caldwell in the sixties and Boyd in 1868 passed the control of the family interests on to a younger generation. The late W.C. Caldwell, M.P.P., took up the business which had been established and vigorously prosecuted, with success by his father; T.B. Caldwell and William Caldwell succeeded to the holdings which had made the name of Boyd Caldwell and Son prominent among Canada’s foremost commercial firms. The old school dropped into history and Lanark’s business circles were now formed of younger men who by their energy, push and enterprise have shed fresh lustre upon the family name. Early in life W.C. Caldwell became identified with the political life of the province and for upwards of thirty years stood as the leader of the Liberal party in the North Riding of Lanark. He engaged in numerous political campaigns and invariably won the admiration and respect of those with whom he came in contact even when they found their views diametrically opposed to his. His manly bearing and straightforward manner were of the kind one might expect in a son of a worthy sire. Lanark mourned when her honored son was laid low, for his achievements in public life had brought enoniums not only upon himself but also the village of his birth. One of the more important election contests in which he invited public opinion was that of 1879 when he defeated Dr. Mostyn by the majority of 282 votes. When the news was announced after the returns were counted up, wild enthusiasm prevailed. A procession was formed and marched out to meet the conquering hero who had spent that day in Almonte and was returning home in the evening. Ardent supporters manufactured a banner out of colored cloth and upon it the number 282 flamed. With this emblem of victory waving proudly in the breeze, the long line of men entered the village and shouts of acclaim greeted the man who won the day. A banquet held in Baird‘s brick block the same evening has never been surpassed in point of excellence. Political fervor also ran high and speeches made which are remembered down to the present day.
Mr. William Caldwell moved to Toronto a few years ago and his removal left Mr. T.B. Caldwell the sole representative and proprietor of the Boyd Caldwell interests which included the Clyde Woollen Mills, timber limits, iron mines, and the large Lanark store. T.B. Caldwell is now North Lanark’s representative in the Federal Parliament. Since the death of his father the expansion has ever been reflective of that careful business administration combined with aggressive enterprise which have always characterized the name.
LANARK’S AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY.
For the birth of the Lanark Agricultural Society we have to go back to the year 1850. On the 14th of May a meeting was held in the village, the first annual meeting of the society, and there and then a constitution was agreed upon. The following persons were chosen officers for the year :
President — Mr. James Mair.
Vice-President — Mr. J.M.G. Hall.
Sec’y-Treasurer — J.A. Gemmill.
Auditors — Messrs. H. Mair and F.G. Hall.
Managing committee — Messrs. Alexander Horn, Robert Boyle, Robert Craig, Robert Robertson, William Stead, James Foley, John Murphy, James Young, Alexander Ferguson and Francis Hall.
So long as the township remained under one municipality the society flourished with the village as the scene of its annual exhibition. But with separation the detached interests each wanted its own representative fair. Now we have excellent fall exhibitions at Lanark and at Middleville which stand for the two branches of the family tree. With the formation of the Lanark Horticultural Society in 1889 and the affiliation with it of the Bathurst Agricultural Society, Lanark Village Exhibition has grown to be one of the best patronized and most popular affairs of the kind in the county. Large crowds attend and good opinions are expressed of the many novel features both entertaining and competitive that may be seen at the annual show. The natural amphitheatre surrounding the race track, shaded by growing maples, and carpeted with a full green mantle of grass, make it a most desirable place from which to view the exciting events that take place beside and around the judges.
LANARK’S FIRST FIRE ENGINE.
The present efficient fire engine which has done good service in fighting Lanark fires during the past few years is the second steamer that has entered the force since the brigade was inaugurated. In 1870 Lanark became the proud possessor of a fire steamer which had the distinction of being the first of its kind in the county. This old timer was looked upon as a safe protector in the old days and at many memorable fights stoutly seconded the efforts of the brigade. But the old must go and the new come in. In the natural order of things the engine of the Dreadnoughts had to make room for one more modern and more powerful.
The Militia of Canada is indebted to Lanark Village for having furnished its ranks with a company of volunteers that in point of height and weight stood second to none in the regiment’s long service at the time. That was about 1888 and the lads from Lanark were a powerful force in the gallant 42nd of Canada. T.B. Caldwell was paymaster and honorary captain in the regiment and the company of soldierly bearing which he marched out of the town were almost all villagers, one or two residing in the immediate neighbourhood.
The first iron bridge in Lanark County is that which now spans the reach of the Clyde on George Street. It superceded an old wooden structure that had suffered the knocks of time. Much discussion among the ratepayers and councilors took place how wide to build the bridge but unwise counsel seemed to prevail for the narrowness of the crossing has always been an eyesore and detracts from the natural beauty of the scenery round about. In 1905 Lanark built its second iron bridge and this now vies with its older brother.
The telegraph and telephone are conveniences introduced into Lanark within the past 36 years ; indeed it was in 1870 that the telegraph line first strung its mystic wires and the village was able to tick its news to the outside world and receive the tingling swift messages in return. But the telephone did not reach us until 8 years ago if we may except the private Caldwell line. How we could get along without these things is a question often presenting itself to our busy merchants when they think of the quickness they are now enabled to exercise in communicating business needs and demands all over the system.
Lanark’s financial institution, the Bank of Ottawa branch, is seven years old and carries all the marks of prosperity. The business men and farmers find the bank a convenience and they patronize it liberally. Mr. Duncan McNamara was the first manager and Mr. H.S. Walker now fills that position.
In 1895 Mr. John Sutherland landed in Lanark and began publication of the Era, the village weekly. Subsequently the proprietorship passed into the hands of Mr. Robert Wilson and under his guidance the news of village and district is disseminated.
LANARK’S OLD SCHOOLMASTER.
In a former portion of this brief historical sketch we noted a few of the leading events which attended Lanark’s first school and its splendid old dominie Robert Mason. Since penning the story of those incidents of close to a century ago the writer has had the pleasure of viewing a pen picture of Mr. Mason as cleverly limned by the late Rev. Joshua Fraser in his book entitled “Shanty, Forest and River Life.” This book, and more particularly the chapter dealing with Lanark’s first schoolmaster, is worthy the perusal of every student attending Lanark school, as it graphically illumines the school life of those old days and stands out in bold contrast to the school life of our own time.
Pages might easily be written of Lanark school history. The buildings themselves, the masters and subordinate teachers who have held sway and the scholars that have passed from within the walls, all these have cherished recollections in the minds of a great host now scattered over the world engaged with the struggles of life. Men and women revisiting the scenes of childhood always love to look upon the dear old school where many happy days were passed. Happenings almost forgotten rush back into memory’s seat with gladness like the meeting of long separated friends. Perhaps some frolic of the day when the youthful mind was directed to the secret delights of playing hookey, or the gambols in the playground when an old woollen kickall served for a football, or in summer when the boys would hold up fingers like a V, meaning “let’s go swimming,” and a troop would madly rush to the river’s edge and flop in, or may be it was the thought of that rollicking night years ago when the result of the McLaren – Caldwell suit was made known, the men built bonfires for a great celebration and the school boys sturdily joined in. These and a score more of cherished escapades crowd upon the visitor whose name once appeared on the attendance roll. The old wooden buildings which sheltered rising Lanark for many a day were removed in 1899 and now spend an honored old age as peaceful dwellings for several families living on Princess Street. The splendid structure, built of stone, which took their place is a commodious school, and an efficient staff under the principalship of Mr. Robert Beatty carry on the work that was begun 85 years ago by that faithful Scotchman, Robert Mason. The boys and girls play as many pranks as did their predecessors, they enter quite as heartily into the jubilation of any public event with the same gusto as the juveniles of old and the watchword of the school is as it has ever been, onward and upward.
The Victoria and Clyde are Lanark’s hotels well-known to the traveling public for the excellence of their cuisine and smart attendance. The Victoria has been remodeled several times and retains a liberal patronage. Mr. James Pepper, the landlord, is known far and near and a kinder hearted man never lived.
The Clyde is an old landmark of Lanark. Standing on the corner of George and Mill Streets it first meets the eye of the incomer as he whirls into the main street of the village. The whole-souled proprietor, Mr. James Dobbie, is a universal favourite and few persons there are in the Ottawa Valley who have not heard of his comfortable house. His father Thomas Dobbie was a model landlord and the good traits have all descended to the son.
And now we must bring to a close this abbreviated sketch. Time and space only permitted a glimpse here and there of the eighty-five years of Lanark history. Doubtless many inaccuracies have crept in as we had to depend for dates on the memories of those who have been longest residents of the village. Perhaps at some future time one more capable than the writer will come upon the scene to take up the story of dear old Lanark.
CHRIS M. FORBES.