Vintage Lanark Farm Photos & Stories

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Photo by Linda Seccaspina of Willis Cabin at the end of Lake Ave West in Carleton Place

What Do You Know About the Burnt Lands?



According to the Millstone Burnt Lands is just a scrubby, bare piece of land on which there had been some fires in the past. Well imagine our surprise when we found out that our (Yes, our) Burnt Lands was in fact an Alvar – and a global (Yes, global) rarity to boot.

What’s an alvar? They are naturally open areas of thin soil lying over flat limestone or dolostone. The vegetation is generally sparse and is usually dominated by shrubt know about yous and native herbaceous vegetation. Trees seldom grow in these habitats because of the restricted soil available and because of drought conditions during the growing season. When trees are present, they can be found in the deeper and wider cracks in the bedrock where soil has accumulated over time”.


I don’t know about you, but I had no idea about any of this. Time has healed the dreadful burning of that land–but the scar remains-even after all these years. It was on the 17th day of August in 1870 that fire swept across Huntley Township. It is hard to imagine the devastation, and there are surely no eye witnesses now.

There had never been a drought like there was that year in 1870. For weeks before the harvest not a drop of rain had fallen and the fields were parched and the woods were tinder dried. The cedar log fences were hot from the sun, and the summer days passed and no rain came.

In the Almonte Gazette small reports of dire distress caused by wildfires was scantily reported. The dry weather was disastrous to Ramsay and neighbouring townships. Another fire had raged near Bennie’s Corners destroying timber fences and growing crops.

The editor of the Almonte Gazette did not do the fires justice in his paper and printed more about the Franco-Prussian War and “The Woman in White” than feature articles on Stittsville and Bells Corners burning to the ground. In Clayton people were in alarm due to the close proximity of  a fire in the woods and had moved all their furniture out of their homes ready to flee. This fire was serious enough, but nothing like the fire that raged over the concessions northeast of Almonte. One swept very close to Almonte- but there remained smouldering moss on the floors of the swamp, and one gentle sweep of the wind an ember could spark a new fire.

The Big Fire began somewhere to the northwest of Pakenham that day in August. The flames rose to hurricane force and made its presence known in  Fitzroy, Huntley and Goulburn Townships. What had remained smouldering from the previous fires rose up with increasing winds and the country of which Highway 44 crosses became a charred desert. The fire was now advancing at two miles an hour and twelve people lost their lives, and the destruction in most places-complete.

It was chronicled far and wide but not in Almonte, and one has to wonder if the fire had just been too close, or too many telegraph lines burned to the ground. However, it was said one man in Almonte was concerned and that was Pat Reilly the owner of the British Hotel who later built the Windsor Hotel (co-op). He hired a team of horses filled with spades and shovels and along with a team of men made his way to the scene of the fire by Long Swamp Road. Those lads dug and cleared a fire-guard west of the buildings but sadly the fire turned and passed on the far side of the 11th line.

Now information is long lost–and this is all we know about the Big Fire of 1870.

August 20 1870 Almonte Gazette— page 2

The Fires: The topic of local interest at this time is that of the great amount of fires in every county. Reports of house and barns being burnt down in every direction. Besides immense injury to the woods, this county is in deplorable state and if we do not get rain, as soon we will be surely ruined. Horses and cattle are wandering in promiscuous flocks over the country, vainly seeking food where not even a green twig is to be seen. It is impossible to say how many farmers are irretrievably ruined, their houses, barns, farm implements, crops are destroyed; not food left them for a day, nor shelter of any description.  What cattle have survived the fire must be either sold or killed. The fire has had so ruinous an effect even upon the wealthiest of farmers that four or five years hard and continuous labour will be necessary to repair the damage alone, as to retrieving the loss we are not over estimating the time required by putting it- at 20 years.

Fire at Stittsville

It has been reported in Stittsville a small place 12 miles below Ashton that it has been completely burned and not a house standing.

Bells Corners Burned

We learn that the village of Bells Corners near Ottawa has been consumed by fire and several people were burned to death. The new depot of the Canada Central Railroad was destroyed. We can give no further particulars in this issue.


  Independent Directions to this Site: From Highway 417 (The Queensway) take exit 155 (March Road or Regional Road 49). Turn left or southwest onto March Road and follow it for 9.6 km to the entrance on the right or northwest to The Burnt Lands Alvar PNR – SE Block, less than a kilometre beyond Burnt Lands Road.

        Mississippi River Valley Route Directions: From the junction of Old Almonte Road & Ramsey Concession 12, go northwest for 2.8 km on Ramsey Concession 12 to March Road or Regional 49. Turn right and drive northeast 1.8 km to the entrance on the left or northwest to The Burnt Lands Alvar PNR – SE Block.


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The Lanark Gardens Ginseng Company?


PHOTO FROM The Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

In the early 1900s Walter J Robinson conceived the idea of growing ginseng under cultivation. After an exhaustive examination into the project he became convinced the Lanark soil and climate would be ideal to the growing of Ginseng as wild Ginseng had been already found throughout the vast hardwood forests of Lanark County.

So Mr. Roberston prepared a corner of his garden, bought an assortment of  seeds and roots, and began his career as a Ginsengist and people thought he was a bit crazy. When fall came  along the next year the plants reddened and grew beautiful. The garden was one acre and one quarter would be planted with Ginseng, and in September and October the berries would become vibrant red.

The large brilliant bunch of berries projecting so brilliantly attracted much attention from the locals. But, then there were the questions as to the use and commercial value of the plant.  Out of this rose The Ginseng Gardens and Mr. Roberston became manager, C. M. Forbes secretary, and the other members of the company were:

Mell T. Watt

James N. Dobbie

Robert Wilson

They had initially invested a capital of $2500. The market was paying $6.00 a pound and the worth of one acre was $50,000 and the roots were shipped to China where the media said 400 million were addicted to its use. However, there were many locally who doubted its future existence.  But some said there should be no fear as tobacco and tea were still on the rise. Robertson insisted those who got in on the ground level would be rewarded. Anyone in Lanark County deciding to grow Ginseng was advised to contact the company for information.



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The Old Steam Engine Tractor on Mullet Street



For years when I used to make my way to Townline in Carleton Place a Steam Engine Tractor sat on the lawn of a Mullet Street home. Can anyone add any information? Where is it now? We found out in short order.

Jeremy Stinson added : I lived across the street from Desmond and Jean Moore, who owned the steam engines you mean. Many of their children/grands are still around the area.
After Dez passed, Jean said she was contacted by the Milton Heritage Farm  and sold everything to them. They came, packed everything up as is and carted it off. She said they were quite happy Dez had spare parts like turn signal for his old 2 ton truck.

Jody Capello added: The steam engine belonged to my grandfather Desmond Moore. Thanks for sharing the photo. It was nice to see it again.

Janine McDonald Azzouz–Here’s a photo from 1979 with my Grandpa taking all the kids for rides around the neighborhood.


Author’s Note- It is now being well kept at the Country Heritage Park in Milton Ontario.


Robert McDonaldMy wife’s grandfather, George Marshall, used to work on Steam Engines in Carleton Place. Here is an old photo of him from the mid 1970s. 


Here is another photo of George Marshall and the steam engine.
Linda Gallipeau-Johnston— We lived just around the corner of the Moore’s for a short time – the kids loved that they could go and check out this machine by just walking down the street.


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Desmond Moore

In Memory of Desmond and Jean Moore

MOORE, Desmond Arnold Peacefully, surrounded by his family at the Carleton Place and District Memorial Hospital on Tuesday October 28, 2008 at the age of 87 years. Loving son of the late S. James Moore and the late Margaret (nee Shane). Beloved and best friend of 60 years to Jean (nee Gould). Adored father of Carol (Joe) McDonald, Donna (Ewen) Marjerrison, Karen (Denis) Prieur, Cheryl (Brent) Wheeler. Cherished grandfather of Jody (Steffen) Capello, Janine (Sam) Azzouz, Dane Fellows, Jennifer (Brian) Minifie, James Marjerrison (Grace Jung), Taylor Wheeler, Vanessa Wheeler and his great-grandchildren Nicholas and Sophia Capello, Yasmine, Aden and Siena Azzouz, Desmond and Caine Fellows and Avery Minifie. Friends may call at the Tubman Funeral Homes, Carleton Place Chapel, 61 Lake Avenue, Carleton Place on Wednesday October 29, 2008 from 7 to 9 p.m. and Thursday October 30, 2008 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Funeral Service will be held at St. James Anglican Church, Carleton Place on Thursday October 30, 2008 at 2:00 p.m. followed by interment in the parish cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to St. James Anglican Church, 225 Edmund Street, Carleton Place, ON, K7C 3E7 or the Carleton Place and District Memorial Hospital, 211 Lake Avenue, East, Carleton Place, ON, K7C 1J4

792776_A_20130718.jpgMOORE, Jean B.
(nee Gould)
November 2, 1928 – July 17, 2013
With heavy hearts, we announce the passing of our wonderful mother, Jean B. Moore. Beloved and best friend of the late Desmond A. Moore. Left to mourn, her adored family Carolann McDonald (Joseph), Donna Marjerrison (Ewen), Karen Prieur (Dennis), Cheryl Wheeler (Brent). Her cherished grandchildren Jody Capello (Steffen), Janine Azzouz (Sam), Jennifer Marjerrison (John), James Marjerrison (Ashley), Dane Fellows (Ciara), Taylor Wheeler and Vanessa Wheeler. Treasured great-grandchildren Nicholas and Sophia Capello, Yasmine, Aden and Siena Azzouz, Avery Minifie, Desmond, Caine, Drake & Cruz Fellows. Predeceased by her parents John and Anna Gould (nee Jackson) and by her sister Edna Lightbody (Eldon). Fondly remembered by her nephews Bryant (Donna), Roydon (Lynn) and David and their families.
Friends may call at the Carleton Place Chapel of Tubman Funeral Homes, 61 Lake Avenue West, Carleton Place on Thursday from 4-8 p.m. Funeral Service will be held at St. James Anglican Church, 225 Edmund Street, Carleton Place on Friday at 2 p.m. Interment St. James Anglican Cemetery.
In her own quiet way, she served the needs of many and was a faithful member of St. James Anglican Church.
In lieu of flowers donations to the Carleton Place and District Memorial Hospital or St. James Anglican Church would be appreciated.



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Thrasting Bee in Lanark Township about 1890.


Submitted by Del DunlopPhotograph by Robert J. Stead.

This is the Thomas Watt & Son stove display probably at the Middleville Fair.

Comment on Steam Engines at the Middleville Fair from The Almonte Gazette 1895

“I was disappointed at seeing that few steam plows were exhibited.  The sheep were very fine,  of which there were some superior animals. There was also a large number of pigs on exhibition,of which there was some fine specimens and for which large prices were asked”

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Life on the Farm in Photos From Gillies Corners –1950s

Sarah Cavanagh from Carleton Place sent me these pictures yesterday of life on the farm in Gillies Corners. They tell a of hard work like the Edwards family in Carleton Place. Sarah sent along a small photo bio:

“They aren’t too old 1951-55. They are photos from the farm my dad grew up on (and still lives on) in Gillies Corners. 4/5 are from 1955 and picture the family harvesting  the season’s hay. The hay barn in the pictures is still used today. The one (of the 2 men sawing) is from 1951. The little boy on the tractor in the one hay picture from 1955 is my dad at 6yrs old. The women in the house dress unloading the loose hay is my Grandmother (Irene Brown) helping my Grandfather (Bill Stevens). And the 1951 picture is my Grandfather (Bill Stevens) and a neighbor sawing barrels in half with the bucksaw”.






Life in North America in the 50s was dominated by hot and cold wars. This period began in 1950 with the Korean Conflict. It ended with the Vietnam War. And everyone lived with an uneasy Cold War in between when life seemed to teeter on the brink of all-out nuclear attack.there were more immediate concerns, as it may have been for most farm families during this time. They were aware of the world events, but were more concerned with keeping the family and the family farm together. It is pretty evident in these pictures that Sarah’s grandparents felt the same way.


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The Inventor’s of Carleton Place –Robert Metcalf- Butter Maker

Perth Courier, October 23, 1868

Out of a long list of patents of inventions granted to Canadians and published in the Canadian Gazette on the 17th inst., is  the only one from this county:  Robert Metcalf of the village of Carleton Place, merchant, who created “a new and useful machine for working butter called Metcalfe’s Butter Worker”.

A different kind of butter worker emerged in the first part of the 19th century. The big picture shows one of the new kind in the kitchen of a German-American Wisconsin farmhouse. It seems like a good design: tilted to help liquid drain away through the holes, simple to make with home carpentry skills, and easy to operate. Moving the rod from side to side over the butter will press it and “work” it into good shape.

American butter worker from the 1800s

From Home Things Past—The simplest of the “modern” butter workers are generally only slightly more complicated than using a rolling pin on a wooden table. In the course of the 1800s more sophisticated combinations of roller and board were introduced. Rollers cranked by a handle, using metal fixings, lightened the work without being too complicated or expensive. People started to patent a variety of designs.

Butter worker with handle and roller

In the picture the kitchen looks crowded with the butter worker and of course it is not a likely place for it to have been originally. You always need to do dairy work in a cool place even if you don’t have a dedicated dairy building. In a traditional kitchen the hot stove or hearth makes the room unsuitable for making butter or for doing any other work with milk or cream.

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Old McRostie Had a Farm in Carleton Place


I never really thought much about the little stone house that sits quietly on the end of Flora Street in Carleton Place. It wasn’t until I was doing some research about the old floating bridge that spanned the Mississippi River to the oldHawthorne Mill that I wanted to know more.

The little home that grew into a farm was built in 1840 by John McRostie. The land was first cleared by Thomas Burns, but what few know is that the grounds you see are probably the approximate upper limit of the long rapids which once existed. It has always been known among historians as the place where the Ramsay Settlers of 1821 had their last overnight camping spot before they traveled by water from north Lanark to Almonte. Locals now know it as Centennial Park. As time went on, the McRostie’s prospered and moved into more elaborate homes.


Thomas Burns held the first crown grand of 80 acres in 1828, but Robert Johnston was shown as the owner in 1829. John McRostie bought the property in 1840, built the house and it remained in the family until 1919. It was then sold to Alec McClean who actually flipped it to Daniel Sullivan. In 1923 Albert Powell took possession with the acreage at this point being drastically reduced and it was bought by Howard Dack.


Mrs. D. Findlay, Sr. (Catherine McRostie) – 1837/1933. Oldest Surviving Daughter of Carleton Place.

The stone home didn’t come back into its own until Howard Dack bought it and proceeded to restore and renovate it. When Dack bought the house from Albert Powell in 1946 the stonework had to be completely redone including the stone trim of the front door. Old wooden shutters were attached to the windows, and the sun porch facing the river was an addition. The large fireplace that sits in the living room came from the old Captain Glendinning home on Glen Isle.


*Glendinning House in Glen Isle

The original pine floors still exist on the top floor, but all had to be replaced on the first level. Like most older homes, the enormous cedar beams in the basement are as solid as they first day they were installed. Seeing the house today, you have to stand there and remember a time gone by when it was a farm and Centennial Park was abuzz with livestock andthen Ab Nichols lumber yard.

B/W Photos- Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum


The Glenndining  home is said to be the oldest stone house in Beckwith, this home is located on Glen Isle. It was built c. 1820 by Captain Thomas Glendinning, the man who helped incite the Ballygiblin Riots of 1824.

Glendinning, a native of England, served in the British army as a Lieutenant before retiring on half pay in Beckwith Township. According to legend, Glendinning escaped the Irish Settlers on day two of the Riots by hiding in a large chimney recess above the fireplace in this house. Unable to find him, the Irish carried on to the Morris Tavern in Carleton Place, where they broke in and damaged the now vacated tavern.


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Farmers, Passengers and Food–Flower Station Train Station

flower (1)

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