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Teskey Home, Appleton, erected about 1830.

Settlement in Ramsay Township believed to have started in 1819

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is another in an ongoing series of historical articles which will appear on the pages of The Herald­ Gazette. This week’s chapter is titled "Settlement in Ramsay Township" and is taken from 'A Pioneer History of the County of Lanark'  Part two appears next week.

By Jean S. McGill

It is believed that the first settlers in Ramsay Township were Thomas Smart and Robert Wilkie who, in 1819, built shacks along the west bank of the Mississippi River about two miles southeast of present­ day Almonte. They took up land on Lot 12 of the 9th Concession. James Smart also located about this time on Lot 11 and Archibald Wilkie on Lot 19, northwest of Almonte. Several other men came in about the same time - Thomas Lowry, Archibald Muir, John Million, Edward McManus, James Metcalfe, Neil McKillop, and Andrew Rae. Thomas Lowry settled along the 9th line obliquely opposite the farm of Archibald Wilkie on Lot 18 and Neil McKillop on Lot 17 of the 8th concession. Archibald Muir located across the Mississippi River from Wilkie on Lot 19 of the 10th concession. John Million, Ed. McManus, James Metcalfe, and Andrew Rae took up 100 acres each along the 9th line between the centres later called Almonte and Carleton Place on lots 12 and 13 of the 8th Concession. The same year David Shepherd, a United Empire Loyalist, constructed a sawmill on his 200 acre lot where Almonte now stands. His grant from the government was conditional upon his erecting a grist mill and having it in operation within a limited time. The mill was destroyed by fire in 1820 and the concession passed to a "Yankee" from Brockville named Boyce. Daniel Shipman, another Loyalist, married to Boyce's daughter, Prudence, proceeded to Ramsay and rebuilt the sawmill in 1821. Living in a log hug nearby, his family still in Brockville, Shipman with the help of a few settlers, added a grist mill in 1822. In the early years the location was called Shepherd's Mills, later changed to Shipman's Mills. A few Lanark Society settlers of 1820 located along the first concession of Ramsay at Clayton Lake and in the Union Hall area. Several pushed further on into Ramsay which was reputed to have some of the finest land in the new settlement. John Graham, head of the Glasgow Emigration Society, who came aboard the Commerce in 1820, located on Lot 10th concession northwest corner of Shepherd's Mill was John Neilson with his wife came from Paisley, Scotland, to settle with their family on the 12th concession of Ramsay on Lot 6.  In 1821 another group of emigrants arrived from the British Isles. Along the 9th line where Highway 29 now runs, the following took up 100 acres each John Donaghue, Thomas and Robert Mansell, William Lummox, Catin Willis and William Hawkins. On the first, second and third concessions of Ramsay were Thomas Forster, Alex Leary, James Smith, Fred DeLisle, Patrick McDermott, Arthur Nugent, George Blackburn, Stephen Young, Charles Sterne, William Chapman, John McKerecher. Along the sixth line settled John and Donald Joseph McLean, Joseph Hewitt, and John Dobson. Late in the summer of  1821 the Lanark Society sponsored settlers began arriving in Ramsay. The experience of a few will serve to represent those of all. John Gemmill from the parish of Dunlop, Ayrshire, Scotland, came to New Lanark with his wife and son, John A. Gemmill. Mrs. Gemmill died while the family was still at the Lanark depot. Mr. Gemmill took up land in Ramsay the west half of lot 15 on the 9th Concession, later known as "the Gemmill property" and today part of the town of Almonte. Here he built a shanty and opened the first store in Ramsay. Arthur Lang, another of the Lanark Society settlers, also located near Shipman's Mills on the cast bank of the Mississippi River (Con. 10, Lot 14). Lang sailed with his wife and six children aboard the Earl of Buckinghamshire on April 28, 1821. He kept a diary of the turbulent crossing and the voyage to New Lanark. They arrived at Lachine on June 20, where they were "huddled in cold, damp reeky barracks", and then began the tedious journey, up the St. Lawrence, the men rowing the heavy sweeps of the cumbersome Durham boats. Ten days later they reached Prescott where they found the emi­grants from the Commerce. From here they proceeded in wagons and on foot to Brockville and thence to Perth and Lanark Village. Women and children remained in thatched huts while the men located on their land, made small clearings, and erected log shanties. “I set out for Ramsay settlement (Lang wrote on July 19th) to pick out 100 acres and after six days hard labour travelling through swamps and untrodden paths through woods, I had to return without land and now I have to do the same thing over again. Canada abounds in rocks and stones in the townships of Lanark and Dalhousie.. .you have no idea of cedar swamps but conceive Paisley moss for instance, all over-grown with large trees, some fresh and green, others half-rotten and a great deal rotten from top to bottom, almost as many lying in all direc­tions as are standing, with not a living creature to be heard or seen except a bird or two, and the owl scream­ing in your ears at night." On November 1st he wr0te"I received the second instalment of money paid in sterling ‑ if you had seen the foolishness of some who were willing to spend and be merry and the sad countenance of others who had lost most of their fami­lies and of course had little to receive, I am sure you would have looked with contempt on the one, and your very heartstrings ached for the other .. Mankind are indeed a strange class of animals. I have seen more inhumanity to man than I ever expected to see." On November 7th Lang was finally able to bring his family to Ramsay, and heavy snow and a frozen river soon showed them how different the New Land was from the Old. He was one of the first ‑ probably the first ‑ school teacher in the township, opening a school in his home. His son John was later in the saw mill business at Almonte. Other settlers, not wishing to leave their families behind at New Lanark, devised a method of trans­port by water. Among these were John Steele, Walter Black, John Downey, Thomas and James Craig, John Smith, William Moir, William Hart, and William Paul. They improvised scows of logs and rough timbers and proceeded from New Lanark down the Mississippi River to Ramsay Township, past Ferguson Falls, through the rapids at Innisville, down the 10 mile expansion of the Mississippi at Morphy's Falls, past Appletree Falls (now Appleton) to Shipman’s Mills in Ramsay. The story is told that when the party stopped at an island in Mississippi Lake to replenish their strength by food, a huge Indian appeared and strode ominously toward their camp. Apprehensive, the party froze except for John Steele, always equal to any occasion. He seized a loaf of bread and thrust it toward the Indian as a token of friendship. The offering was not accepted but the Indian departed peacefully for another part of the island. When the party reached Shipman's Mills they erected rough wig­wams for their families until they could locate their allotments of land and clear portion for dwellings. John Steele married Mary Johnstone and located on Lot 22 of the 7th concession. The land is still owned by the Steele family descendants. Walter Black, a wheel­wright of Durnfrieshire, Scotland, settled on Lot 21 of the 7th concession. Annals of the Black family include a story of whole grain being boiled to make an unsavoury but necessary food. Even this failed eventually, and at one time starvation was near. Mrs. Black stole from her cabin during early morning while her four children slept and, guided by instinct and sense of location, made her way  to Snedden's grist mill, four miles away, where she obtained some cornmeal and returned to prepare a sumptuous breakfast before her children awoke. James Black, a son, recalling the early days, said the first flour in this small settlement was carried from Morphy's Falls by four Bowes brothers who had taken two bushels of wheat each, following a surveyor's blazed trail down the 7th line of Ramsay. Along the west side of the 8th line in the neighbourhood of Bennie's Comers, settled Walter Gardner, William Anderson and Walter Bain. On the east side located James Bennie and Robert Carswell. Bennies land was later situated at a crossroads point which became the village of Bennie’s Corners. Walter Gardner and his wife, Mary Lindsay, with a son Walter and daughter-in-law, Cecilia Brown, settled on Lot 26 of the 7th concession. During the early days the Gardners walked 12 miles to Morphy's Falls every Sunday to church. Mr. Gardner once walked to Brockville with a block of cherry wood from his farm to have it made into a roller for a cheese press. Further along the 8th line located William Moir, James Johnston, Patrick Slattery, Thomas Buchanan, John Downie, James and Thomas Pollock, James More, Thomas Craig. Near the crossroads comer later known as "The Tannery" James Mitchell, Sr. and Jr., John and James Gilmour, Hugh Cherry, John Buchanan, James Kattans, James Nicholson, Allan and Hugh Gilmour took up land. As Ramsay grew in population the main line for traffic from Pakenham Township to  Morphy's Falls was along this eighth line of Ramsay. Logs were laid across it corduroy-fashion wherever it was swampy, and at one time it extended through Wolf's Grove all the way to Perth. Today it is only a dirt road and a concession line. Behind the land of James Bennie the Toshacks  settled on the ninth Concession. John Toshack wrote to a friend in Glasgow, describing early hardships: "I gladly embrace the opportunity of writing you by Mrs. Graham who lost her husband and is returning to Scotland. Our family are all well now. By the mercies of God, they are recovered. We had four of them in the fever since we came here – Margaret, Andrew, Helen and Aeneas. Many have died since arriving in Canada, some of the fever, some of the flux, and others from the effects of fatigue ... William, John and James Bennie, and I have got each 100 acres together in a square. It is most beautiful land and resembles Dalmarnock haughs, and according to what I have seen on other land, it will produce abundantly all of which is necessary to support a family; but the land is by no means generally good. There is much rock and swamp in many lots ... We have built two flat boats of fir boards ... I have got a house 22/16 feet which will do to begin with. Our land abounds with beautiful wood -elm, maple, birch, beech, pine, bass; the latter is somewhat like your saugh." James Snedden took up 100 acres of land near to the Toshacks running from present No. 29 highway to the village now called Blakeney. His cousins, Alexander and David, had emigrated from Cambuslang, near Glasgow, Scotland, in 1819, locating in Beckwith Township near Ashton.

‘On November 7th Lang was finally able to bring his family to Ramsay, and heavy snow and a frozen river soon showed them how different the new land was from the old!’

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NOTE: 'Settlement in Ramsay Township' will continue in next week Herald - Gazette.

Posted: 16 June, 2005