The James Black Homestead

Old News

Newsletter of the Almonte/Ramsay Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC)

The James Black Homestead

by Graham Swan - September 1997.

As you head up the Clayton Road on your way to the cottage, it's easy to miss the James Black Homestead, half hidden behind mature shrubbery at the intersection with the 7th line of Ramsay.

This small but handsome stone home was built in 1852 by James Black and his wife Janet, on the land allocated to his father, Walter, some thirty years earlier. Walter Black, a wheel-wright by trade, left his home in Dumfrieshire, Scotland in 1821 to come to Canada as a Lanark Society Settler. In 1821 he was allocated the 100 acre parcel on which the James Black Homestead now stands.

James inherited the farm upon his father's death in around 1851. The following year, he built the house that presently stands on the property. It is typical of many early Lanark County homes, one and a half stories high and of rubble-stone construction. The side and rear elevations are built in un-coursed fashion with segmented stone lintels and sills. The front elevation, by contrast, was built with better, larger stone, laid in a coursed (i.e. regular) fashion.

Gracing the front of the house is a fine central door with an elliptical glass fanlight transom and sidelights, and a cut stone surround extending down to the sill. This style of door was common in the Rideau corridor, but is found less often in Lanark County. The two front windows have solid cut stone lintels and sills. The front corners of the house are finished with beveled cut stone quoins. Also at the front is a full height exterior basement entranceway originally leading to the cellar kitchen.

Unlike many houses of its era, a center gable was never added to the James Black Homestead. A small dormer window at the rear provides much needed light to the upstairs hall. The original cedar shakes are visible under a metal roof. Original wood soffits and fascias are also present.

Inside, the house retains many original features, including a fireplace at each gable end of the main floor, and a bake oven in the former kitchen cellar. Much of the wood trim, doors and flooring is also original.

For many years, James Black was an active director of the North Lanark Agricultural Society, and was well known for his innovative farming techniques. He was a member of the Ramsay Township Council from 1864-75, serving as Deputy Reeve for ten of those years.

James and Janet Black lived on their farm until their deaths around the turn of the century. It subsequently passed through a number of hands, and a series of severance's in the 1960s reduced the original 100 acre parcel to its current 3 1/2 acres. Several years ago a tombstone was uncovered in a field behind the house during ploughing. It marked the grave of James and Janet Black and their son Charles. It was carefully removed and is now situated at the fence line.

(Our thanks to Peter Mansfield for permission to use his illustrations in this newsletter. These, and other of his beautiful drawings of designated properties can be found in the Ramsay Heritage Driving Tour. Peter sells these drawings - in color and in card format - ideal for greeting cards. If you are interested, give Peter a call at 256-0431. Gemmill's General Store in Clayton usually has some in stock too.)

The James Black Homestead.


Investigation into Missing Tombstone

This burial site is for Walter Black and his wife and son, Charles, not James Black and his wife Janet Johnstone.  James and his wife are buried in the Auld Kirk Cemetery, near Almonte.

Tombstone Pictures:              

Inscriptions: BLACK, WALTER HIS WIFE AND SON CHARLES

                        BORN 1769, 1773, 1813

                        DIED 1851, 1842, 1830

Keith Thompson, 4 July 2001.