Historical Documents

Historical Documents

Early Lanark Village

supplied by Christine M. Spencer of Northwestern University, Evanston, Il., USA.

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Perth Courier, March 16, 1900

From the Era

It may not only be interesting but also profitable to look upon the past and make a comparison with a view to improvement.  With this end in view I write my recollections of the past 31 years.

On December 1, 1868, I arrived in Lanark Village to serve my indenture as a clerk in a general store.  The terms were these:  I agreed to serve my employer faithfully, to be obedient to his commands and regulations, and on all occasions to guard his reputation and property.  During said three years my employer agreed on his part to teach and instruct me in the business of a general store, to provide board and lodging, and to pay me at the rate of ten pounds for the first year, twenty pounds for the second year and thirty pounds for the third year.  My recollections of that day and the night following always remain vivid in my memory.  I had left the home of kith and kin to enter on the responsible duties of life on my own account among strangers.  A feeling of loneliness was mine, though kindness was shown me by all with whom I came into contact.

I arrived by the mail courier from Rosetta, the route being by Middleville and Hopetown which were served tri-weekly from the Lanark post office.  Thomas Dodds (now in Mayo), was the courier and he was an obliging one too.  As I look back to the day, oh! What a change one third of a century makes in a village and its inhabitants.

The village was incorporated six years before.  William Robertson now of Pilot Mound, Manitoba, at that time occupied the position of Reeve, Warden of the County of Lanark, Justice of the Peace and Issuer of Marriage Licenses.  His office was situated on Mill Street, near the red bridge in a frame building since destroyed by fire. The councilors were Boyd Caldwell, Peter McLaren, Sr., Thomas Baird and James Drysdale, all of whom have passed “the borne from whence no traveler ere returns”.  John T. Robertson was village clerk   Finlay McIntyre was treasurer and Peter McLaren, Jr., was assessor. 

The royal mail from Perth arrived in the village (heralded by the blowing of a horn) during the night.  John Wardrope was the driver, employed by James Allan, the contractor.  The post office was opened at 9:00 am and closed at 5:00 pm.  The postage on a half ounce letter was three pence.  The following mails were sent out as Lanark was the central point for the distribution of mail which was sent as far north as Renfrew, east to Carleton Place, and to the limits of Lanark County.  Rosetta, Middletown and Hopetown were carried twice a week; Watson’s Corners mail by Poland; McDonalds Corners and Elphin went three times a week, John Henderson being the courier; Playfair post office having Mr. Mills as courier and its mail going once a week.

The patriarchs of the village were Robert Drysdale, carpenter by trade yet endowed with much mental capacity, who wrote for the local paper.  I shall never forget the first salutation on his coming to the store.  I had been instructed to ask every person that came in if there was anything I could do for them.  His answer was to give another question:  “Your name and your place of abode?”  We afterwards became fast friends.  He called often to chat with my employer and to get the reading of his paper and books.

Adam Craig was another prominent figure in those days with white flowing beard who daily appeared on the village streets with kindly manner and friendly questions to all strangers as to their welfare and gave prudent and good advice to the young.

John Mair, Sr., a retired shoe maker was methodical and stately in his manner and ever Sunday was to be seen wending his way twice a day to the Presbyterian Church.

John Smith, Sr., was a tanner by trade and an Englishman by birth.  By his industry and businesslike abilities gained a well earned

George Blair, Sr., was a weaver and nursery man.  He also had an apiary and exported forest seed which he collected and prepared.  He was noted for his precision and knowledge in these lines.

Thomas Kelso was a well known, genial Scotch farmer.  He and others from the back townships were to be seen on Saturdays coming in for the weekly paper.  One of these was taken by each household and exchanges were made to circulate the news of the day.  The leading papers were the Toronto Globe, Carleton Place Herald and the Perth Courier.

The venerable men mentioned were great readers and took a great interest in the public questions of the day.  At the time of which I write those spoken of were retired from active, public business.

Perth Courier, February 27, 1900, by “Mac”

From the Perth Courier, old home week issue 1924

Men of Lanark Township 75 Years Ago

By Donald Fraser of Victoria, B.C.

There were four families of striking promise in Lanark when I was a boy 75 years ago.  The Rev. Thomas Fraser and four sons Thomas, John, Andrew and Joshua; John Hall and three sons John, Francis, and Alexander; James Mair and four sons William, James, Holmes and Charles; the Caldwell brothers William Boyd and Alexander; of the Thomas McLarens, only one was prominent, Peter, afterwards senator.  I knew all these men in the strength of their young manhood and to some extent I could particularize but must content myself with speaking generally.

Of the Fraser family the sons for the most part took possessions and left Lanark at an early age.  All the others remained, identifying themselves with lumbering and the mercantile business.  As I remember these men I would find it difficult to duplicate them in appearance, physical energy or business capacity in any community.  They were the mainstay of Lanark and surrounding country and exemplified the highest type of citizens.  Lumbering was done principally in square timber, the product finding its market in Quebec.  John G. Hall built a large steam saw mill near the Mississippi bridge intending to cut lumber for the American market.  I remember the building of the mill very well.  Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire soon after it was finished.

Of all the names I have mentioned, there is so far as I know only one remaining at the present time, Charles, the youngest son of the Mair family now in his 87th year.  He finished his classical education in Perth, afterwards graduating in Arts from Queen’s University, Kingtston at an early age.  His literary career and thrilling experiences in the

Northwest Rebellion are matters of history.  His alma mater has recently conferred upon him the honorary degree of L.L.D.  At his advanced age, his natural forces are somewhat abated but his eye is not diminished by any means and his mind and memory are astonishingly clear.  Nothing gives him more pleasure in his retirement than to talk about old times in Perth and Lanark.  He has recently read the special edition of the Courier covering the old boys reunion of 1905 and is looking forward to another account of the present reunion with much interest.

Posted: 09 June, 2005