A Ramsay Elopement

Article from the Almonte Gazette – 1972.

A Ramsay Elopement

By Edna Gardiner Lowry.

At the resort area of Norway Bay on the Ottawa River a plaque was erected in 1972 to mark the spot where the earliest home in the area was built back in 1853. There was only forest there then, with no indication of the summer recreational spot that Norway Bay presents today.

The author learned about the romance that led to the establishment of that humble home from Mr. Lorne McArthur of Ottawa, a grandson of the young people who built it, and from Mrs. Peter Syme of Ramsay, and from several other sources.

Ellen Naismith was a lovely young lady of twenty years, who lived with her parents on their farm on the sixth concession of Ramsay. Across the Clayton Road lived a young man, Neil McArthur. They were deeply in love with each other and hoped to marry before long. Neil with his father, Archie McArthur, had come to Ramsay in 1847 from McArthur’s Mills in Renfrew County. Mr. McArthur bought the farm from Mr. James Bowes who had settled there in 1821.

Young Neil was a fine looking young man of twenty-five when he went to the lumber camp some distance away to earn money during the winter months. He had a very special reason to earn all he could as he intended to marry Ellen Naismith when he came back in the spring.

Sad to say, Ellen’s parents were not keen on her marrying Neil. They had set their hearts on her marrying another young man in the neighbourhood who was much better off financially.

The mother tried to encourage Ellen to accept his attentions. Ellen objected and cried, saying that she loved only Neil; but in spite of her pleadings, her mother went on making preparations for the wedding, so it would be over before Neil returned home from his winter’s work. The date was set for March 17th, 1853. A very lovely wedding dress was made for the event. Arrangements had been made with the minister of the Auld Kirk and all was in readiness.

Neil was seventy-five miles away to the northwest at McArthur’s Mills where his older brother was starting up a lumber business. Here he would work all winter and bring home his pay in the spring. He had kissed his sweetheart goodbye when he left and both of them looked forward to that great day when he would return to claim his bride. Now, Ellen’s heart was torn with agony, but there was no way for her to contact Neil.

Finally in the early part of March, Ellen learned that some men from Almonte were soon going up to McArthur’s Mills to help with the sawing of logs into lumber. She wrote a long letter to Neil telling him the state of affairs and how if he could not get home in time she would be forced to marry another and she begged him to come quickly.

Somehow she got the letter into the hands of one of the men who was going north, but by the time Neil got it there were only three days left before the wedding date and he was far from home.

When he got the word, he immediately drew his pay and set out for home.

At home in Ramsay, Ellen waited! Her mother went on busily preparing for the wedding. The invitations were out, the house was in order and much of the baking was done in readiness for the approaching occasion.

On the night of March the 16th, Ellen’s mother suggested that she retire early to get her beauty sleep. She sadly went off to her room at the rear of the house. Fortunately, the others slept at the front. Ellen got into bed with a heart full of sadness wondering if Neil had ever received her letter. She could not sleep. Finally the others went to bed and all was still in the house.

Still lying there awake she thought she heard something like footsteps in the snow beneath her window. Then there was a sound of something gently hitting the wall. She held her breath. When a soft snowball hit her window, she jumped out of bed. Her heart leaped with joy for there in the moonlight stood her beloved Neil. She wanted to shout for joy, but didn’t dare make a sound. She tried to raise the window. At last it went up and Neil whispered to her "Hurry"!

She quickly dressed, grabbed some clothes, but left the wedding dress hanging in its glory. She whispered to Neil to get the ladder from the woodshed. He got it quickly and Ellen descended to his waiting arms.

Neil had borrowed a horse and cutter from his brother and left it out at the gate. Silently they ran to the cutter and away. Safely out of sight of the house, they laid their plans. They would go at once to the manse on the 8th line of Ramsay near the Auld Kirk. (Both buildings are still there) It was well past midnight. It was most unusual for a minister to be awakened at such an unearthly hour. Indeed, he was sound asleep and Neil had to rap on the door several times before he awakened the Rev. John McMorine. When he came to the door in his nightcap holding a flickering candle in his hand he wanted to know what on earth they wanted at this time of night and why they couldn’t come at a decent hour.

When they told him that they wanted to get married, he refused to marry then and told Ellen to go back home like a good girl and not bring disgrace on her parents with her foolishness. He absolutely refused to marry them. After all, how could he? How could he face Ellen’s parents if he married her to Neil when all arrangements had been made for her wedding to another the next day?

When the young folk got back into the cutter, Neil suggested that they go to Pakenham. He knew the Rev. Dr. Alexander Mann, the Presbyterian minister there and he was sure that he would marry them. Ellen declared that she would go to the ends of the earth with him if she had to.

Pakenham was another ten miles away and it was just breaking morning when they arrived at the manse there. This was the second minister that they got out of bed to accommodate them; but they were in a desperate hurray. If they were safely married, Ellen’s parents could do nothing to bring her back.

Dr. Mann recognized Neil and invited them in, no doubt wondering, as Dr. McMorine had wondered why they came to see him at such an unearthly hour.

Neil hastened to tell him that they wanted to get married. Dr. Mann suggested that they have breakfast first and then he would marry them but the young folk urged him to marry them first and have breakfast later so the minister roused his wife, witnesses were summoned, and the nuptial knot was tied.

In the parlour of the manse, the two were wed and Mrs. Mann gave them a bountiful breakfast after which they drove fifteen more miles to Sand Point where they left his brother’s horse to be picked up. The bride and groom then walked across the ice on the Ottawa River to Norway Bay where they stayed with friends till spring when they built their first little home at Norway Bay,

One hundred and five years later, crowds gathered at Norway Bay, as a plaque was unveiled to mark the spot where this little love-nest stood. It brings to mind the old adage so often repeated, "Love will have its way!"