The Longest - Time Resident
An interesting talk
about the Early Days
There is scarcely a man, woman or child in town or country who does not know Mr. R. W. Bartlett and consequently there are few to whom the following lines will not prove interesting reading. The Record dropped in at his comfortable home the other evening, and tall if not in Gath, found him sitting by a bright wood bre enjoying, as he well knows how, a fragrant cigar. (this is how it appears in paper) We asked him to tell us something of his first days in Smiths Falls, and in the course of a pleasant conversation, we found that he was born at Rome, New York State, on the 5th of August, 1816. He came here with is parents when he was 15 years old or in the spring of 1831. The family came by way of the Erie canal to Oswego and down the St. Lawrence to Brockville, but in place of accompanying his parents, he drove to Morristown with an apprentice of his father’s, and there awaited the coming of the others. They hired wagons in Brockville and came out here, staying for the first few days with the Simpson family, some of whom his father knew before coming. Houses of any kind were not very plentiful here then but after casting about for a day or so they finally took up their abode in a small log house which stood about where the lock house is now. They only stayed there a short time when they moved into what was known as the Holliston house, which occupied part of the site of the present Russell house. There were only four frame houses in the village when he came here and not a single brick or stone one. The frame houses were Mr. Simpson’s store, which was where Mr. J. M. Clark’s store is now; Jones Bros., a small shop next to Simpson’s; the Holliston house already mentioned, and a tavern kept by Obidiah Reid, about where Mr. Bell’s stores are, next to the Washburn block. All the other buildings were shanties and there were not many of them at that. Old Mr. Bartlett was a cabinet maker and immediately after his arrival he built a shop, the building now occupied by M. J. Wilson and Son and opened business. He also built the home at present owned and occupied by Mr. Bartlett. The father pushed the chair and cabinet business while the son, the subject of this brief sketch, went to clerk in Simpson & Middleberger’s store. After two or three years of mercantile life he joined his father in the cabinet business and until a few months ago, when he sold out, he has been connected with the business ever since. They built up a large and successful business which was well begun by the father and ably continued by the son.
Since those early days of his first coming to Smiths Falls he laughingly said, “there have been many changes,” and out of those who were here at the time of his coming he is the only one now living in town. The only ones he could think of who are alive are Daniel Tierney and Daniel Murphy, of North Elmsley, but neither of these is a citizen now. The village was laid out in a kind of way into streets but they were very short ones and did not look much as they do now. There was no road into Beckwith then and none to Roseville except a trail through the bush. Beckwith street was laid to St. Andrew’s church and after that it was a path through the woods. Across the river it was the same way. Beckwith street gave them much trouble in the olden days as it was continually being washed away by heavy rains. Several stumps stood in the middle of it for years, just in front of where the Russell House is now. In 1832 the canal was finished and in that year the first boat, a tug, ran here from Ottawa. There was great rejoicing in the village and in order to properly celebrate the event a couple of men undertook to fire off an old cannon belonging to Mr. Jason Gould. They put in too much of a load and the result was that the cannon burst, covering the two men up in sand and throwing a piece of itself weighing about 100 pounds up on to French hill. The cannon proved a strong competitor with the tug for public attention and carried off the honors as the tug was entirely forgotten in the excitement over the burst cannon.
In 1855 Mr. Bartlett was appointed town treasurer and for forty years he has discharged the duties of the office faithfully and well. He began on the princely sum of $10.00 per year. The assessor and the collector receiving similar amounts.
He is now in his 79th year, and takes as keen an interest in things as ever. He has come in and gone out among the people of Smiths Falls for over three score years, and by all he is held in the greatest respect and esteem. He belongs to a family who never made much noise in the town but to whom the town owes a great deal for the good work done in the years that are gone.
On the 4th of December, 1844, Mr. Bartlett married Miss Elvira Frost and happily down the way of life they have journeyed together. May they have a pleasant Christmas and many of them.
Four Score and Four - Mr. Rufus S. Collins the Oldest Man in Smith’s Falls
Something about Smith’s Falls as it was in the Thirties – Reminiscences of the Pioneer Days.
One of the most familiar figures on the streets of Smith’s Falls is Mr. Rufus S. Collins, who also enjoys the distinction of being the oldest man living in the town. He was born in the Township of Augusta on the 15th of August, 1810, so that he has gone four years over the four score mark, which by reason of great strength man sometimes reach. His father, Stephen Collins, was a native of Vermont State and was one of the stout-hearted U. E. Loyalists who left their homes for conscience sake and came to the wilds of Canada. They came to Augusta and were among the first settlers of that famous old township. At the age of seventeen the subject of this sketch went to Perth and there learned the trade of blacksmith. He remained there for seven years and then came to Smith’s Falls where he stayed but one summer and then went to Cornwall to work on the canal then a building there. After three years, or on the 12th of March, 1838, he returned to Smith’s Falls, having seven days previously taken unto himself a wife, Miss Mary Drew, of Cornwall. He rented a small cottage containing two rooms, which building is still standing on Main Street, the property of the late Miss Loucks. It was then owned by Daniel Tierney, and Mr. Collins paid $4 a month for it, a fact which shows that rents were high in Smith’s Falls even in those days. He bought the lot on the opposite corner, where he now lives, and at once built a blacksmith shop and started to work. The shop, he says, was not a very pretentious one, as he started to build it one day and was working in it the next. After about two and a half years he built the present substantial stone house he now lives in which was one of the first, if not the first stone building in the village. Mr. Edward Chalmers and Mr. Jas. Watkins were the other blacksmiths at the time. Mr. Collins gave special attention to axe making and so did he make them he had customers all the way from Ramsay. When he bought his lot he was quite out of the village and was told by Dr. Burritt at the time that he, Dr. Burritt, would have bought it before only that he would be so far away from the rest of the people. It was all woods where St. Francis de Sales Church now stands and any morning in season he could hear the partridges, drumming in the bush from his door. The population, he says, was then about 400. When he first came, a young man, there was no church in the place. He belonged to the Anglican Church and they used to meet for worship in a log building, a government storehouse, which stood just back of where Mr. John Splane’s house now is. A clergyman from Franktown, Mr. Padfield, used to minister to them once or twice a month and occasionally the Rev. Mr. Tremain, a traveling missionary, preached to them. In 1834 St. Andrew’s (Presbyterian) Church was built, everybody turning out to assist at the raising. It was the first Protestant Church in the town, but he thinks the Roman Catholics had a small church then.
There were only three stores in the place in those days, Shaw’s, Ebenezer Bell’s and Andrew Thompson’s George Middleberger was postmaster and the office was in a small frame building on the site of the Washburn block. There were two “taverns”, one kept by Arthur Wall, the other by Reuben Brooks. Wall’s “tavern” was called the best hostelry between Brockville and Pembroke. The boats running on the Rideau in 1838 were the Hunter, the Otter and the Beaver. Wm. P. Loucks was magistrate and the late Captain Chambers was a captain on one of the boats on the canal.
Mr. Collins has many entertaining reminiscences of those early days, his remembrance of which is very clear. Despite his great age he is a comparatively active man and still keeps up connection enough with his trade of other days to make about the best butcher knife that can be found in the market. He makes lots of them and there are few homes in the country around about without one of Mr. Collin’s celebrated knives. He is about one of the best natured men in the town and has a cheery word and kindly smile for everyone. By a life of probity and unyielding integrity he has gained the good will of everyone, and all will join the Record in wishing him and his helpmeet many happy Christmases.