Submitted by Arlene Stafford and published in the LCGS newsletter, Sept., Oct. and November, 1998.
Tobias Stafford was born in County Wexford, Ireland in 1786, the son of Tobias Stafford and Bridget Waters. Since Tobias was not the eldest son, and therefore would not inherit his father’s property, coming to Canada ‘passage-assisted’ meant that he would stand a better chance for economic success.
A large number of Irish came to the Ottawa Valley from County Wexford. One of the reasons for this may have been because of the Insurrection which had taken place in 1798 and left many people in poor economic conditions. The Insurrection was a rebellion against English rule. The group called the United Irishmen was led by a patriot named Wolfe Tone. His goal was to unite Catholics and Protestants in Ireland to fight for their common cause – to rid themselves of the oppressive English. The worst of these uprisings took place in County Wexford where the peasant class challenged their landlords. Many Staffords were slaughtered by the English during these uprisings and suffered persecution because of their Catholic faith.
It is likely that Tobias must have been an adventurer at heart, like so many other pioneers, to leave his home knowing he might never again set foot on his native soil. Many thousands of parents during those years in Ireland said goodbye to their grown children for the last time as they headed for North America. There is a legend in Ireland that the thousands of seagulls that fly over the shores are the souls of the Irish emigrants who have returned to their homeland.
The voyage to North America was a dangerous one and the trip took several weeks. Because of the large numbers, sleeping was usually done in shifts and the quarters were small and illness was very common. Tobias was one of the lucky ones who survived his journey to Canada.
Following the difficult weeks spent aboard the ship, the young Tobias Stafford likely landed at Quebec City, which was common at this time for ships coming from either Scotland or Ireland. From Quebec they most likely travelled by steamboat to Montreal. At Montreal the next mode of transportation was land carriage from there to Lachine. The next part of the journey would see them in boats which took them to Prescott. From Prescott most settlers at that time travelled on to Brockville and then to Perth in wagons.
When they arrived at Perth and then on to their farmlands which they had been granted, they would see that the land was only partly cleared and often they would have to travel through the bush to reach their land. Some spent weeks without shelter as they built their first homes. Local folklore in the Fergusons Falls region says that the Staffords spent the first two years living on Stafford Island before building their house on the shores of the Mississippi River.
Settlement in Lanark County was initiated by the British Government following the War of 1812. Britain was attempting to reduce the expense of developing Upper Canada, and also to boost loyalty to the Crown. Because of [Lanark’s] location, populating this area with colonists from Britain would also discourage invasion from the south. Lanark County’s settlement was a forerunner of the huge emigration from Britain that flooded the colony beginning in the 1820s. This county was settled predominantly by both British military and civilian settlers.
Drummond, Beckwith & Bathurst Twps.
These townships were all named and initially surveyed in 1816. They were the first townships of the county to be laid out specifically for settlement by British emigrants and demobilized navy and army personnel after the War of 1812. Drummond is the only township in the county to be named for a native of Canada: Lieutenant-General Sir Gordon Drummond (1771-1854).
Tobias Stafford – Settlement on the Mississippi River
In May 1816, the first Superintendent of Locations at Perth wrote a letter to the Lieutenant-Governor’s secretary describing the future County of Lanark:
“Having been informed by Indians and others that in the rear of the river Tay there was a much larger river that emptied into the Ottawa, I directed Mr. Groves about ten days since to follow the line between the townships of Bathurst and Drummond until he struck this river which he did in front of the 11th concession. He reports it to be a fine river, and the land between this and it of an excellent quality.”
Tobias Stafford was issued a grant of land along the Mississippi. A land grant on the Mississippi was a very desirable property at that time because the river was such an important link to other communities. The Mississippi River was the county’s main transportation route for the local lumber industry and well as steamboat travel for carrying both passengers and goods.
The first section of land acquired by Tobias following his arrival in 1819 was a free grant for C11 of Drummond Twp., the north-east half of L10. Tobias was part of a group referred to as the Perth and Richmond Settlement Locatees and they were originally administered by the Quartermaster-General’s Department of the British Army during 1815-1822. These settlers were classified as military emigrants (ME) and given an Order-in-Council which was a command by the Crown’s representative in Canada for the right to reside on Crown land.
The Stafford-McGarry Union
The original land grant was issued on 04 February 1824, and just six days later on 10 February 1824 Tobias Stafford married Elizabeth McGarry at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic church in Perth. Betsy McGarry, as she referred to herself on the marriage register, was the daughter of John McGarry and Mary Tone and had emigrated from Mullingar Parish, County Westmeath, Ireland.
The Original Farmhouse
Tobias Stafford and Betsy (McGarry) Stafford built their home on the shores of the Mississippi River. Off the shores of the Mississippi, not far from the original home, Stafford Island stands as a silent reminder of these original settlers.
The home was constructed of mud and straw and its walls were six feet thick. Oxen were used to compact the mixture, and it has been speculated that ramps were used to transport the oxen up and down the walls during construction. The original house had just three rooms and a loft, but despite its modest dimensions Tobias and Betsy raised seven sons and five daughters there.
Expanding the Farm
Tobias purchased additional land on March 28th, 1840 for the price of 75 pounds. The land was sold by Matilda Powell and the deed witnessed by John Doran (an in-law — John was married to Betsy McGarry‘s sister Mary McGarry) and Robert Moffatt. The land purchased was L10 C11 Drummond.
On February 23rd, 1848 Tobias Stafford again decided to expand the farm and purchased another section of land at L10 C12. This land was originally designated for clergy reserve and was sold by the Canada Company, a deed being issued to Tobias Stafford.
Originally known as Millford, Fergusons Falls was renamed in honor of the early settler Captain Ferguson when a post office was established there. This was the closest village to the Stafford farm and would have been a source for supplies, postal services, blacksmith services, social activities, and later St. Patrick’s Church.
Thomas McCaffrey was the first settler coming in 1815. McCaffrey was apparently a close friend of Tobias Stafford and Betsy (McGarry) Stafford. Thomas was one of the witnesses to their marriage ceremony in St. John’s Church in Perth. He also signed his name as witness to one of Tobias’ later land transactions, and was present at the baptisms of some of the Stafford children.
Other early Ferguson Falls residents were John and Patrick Quinn, Patrick and Martin Doyle, James Carberry, James Power and William Scanlon. Two Stafford girls married into the Quinn family. The Hollinger family was also among the first settlers.
By 1857, Ferguson Falls was booming. John Doyle was the Innkeeper, James McCaffrey was listed in the business directory as a Wagon Maker, John & M. McCaffrey were the local Blacksmiths. John Stafford, Tobias Stafford and Elizabeth McGarry‘s son was the area Shoemaker, and would later open a shoe store in Almonte, then in Perth. There was also a sawmill and a grist mill owned by Robert Blair and a hotel owned by Charles Hollinger.
1904 – Post Offices in Lanark County
The community named McGarry had its own post office named for James McGarry, a discharged soldier and one of the earliest settlers in the community. In 1904 this post office was operated by Patrick McGarry, a descendant of Peter. Peter McGarry was also a brother of Betsy (McGarry) Stafford. Alex McGarry, another descendant of Peter, also served as a postmaster and keeper of a general store located at Innisville.
In the same year the post office at Wayside was being operated by James Doyle. The Doyle family were also amongst the earliest settlers in Drummond Twp.
The Role of the Church in the Community
The church was the centre of both spiritual and social activity in the early days of settlement in Lanark County. In Drummond Twp., where Tobias Stafford and Betsy (McGarry) Stafford were raising their family, the closest Catholic church was St. John the Baptist in Perth. Attending Mass meant a two-day walk through the bush. During this time, travelling priests would often visit different communities to offer spiritual guidance to those who were not able to make the trip to Perth. One such travelling priest was Father John MacDonald who made many trips through rugged terrain to visit his parishioners.
In 1856 St. Patrick’s Church was erected at Ferguson Falls. This must have been a great relief to those who had made many trips back and forth into Perth.
A Large Family
Tobias Stafford and his wife Betsy McGarry raised twelve children in their small home. Three of their children chose to serve the church. Michael Stafford became the Parish Priest at St. Mary’s Church in Lindsay ON, while Julia and Margaret Stafford became Sisters with the House of Providence in Kingston. Peter married a local girl, Catherine Linnen, moved to Niagara Falls and served with the Ontario Police Force. Tobias Stafford Jr. also married a local girl, Elizabeth Ryan, and they moved to Renfrew ON, where Tobias became a town councillor. John married Johan McKean and four of their sons moved to New Orleans LA, where they operated a successful publishing company and a real estate business. Henry married Mary Hanover, a girl from Pakenham, and they moved to Almonte where Henry ran a liquor and grocery store. One of their sons, Bill Stafford, K.C., served as a lawyer in the Almonte community for many years. James and Thomas Stafford chose to farm the land in Drummond Twp. as their father Tobias had done for so many years. Thomas married Mary Carroll, a girl from Elmsley, and many of their descendants remain in Lanark County to this day.
The Staffords continue their long tradition of service in the Military, Law Enforcement and the Church. Like many of the pioneer families who settled in Lanark, their hard work, perseverance and spirit of adventure lives on.