An article appeared in “The Ottawa Evening Citizen”, on Saturday, September 28, 1929, by George R. Wilson. Transcribed below, it gives us a view into the past, who was living there at that time, and some of their recollections.
“Ferguson’s Falls in Drummond Township, county of Lanark, 13 miles to the rear of Carleton Place, is a beautiful little hamlet which has seen better days. At the present time, the village is endeavoring to achieve a reputation as a summer resort and a fishing center, and succeeding pretty well.
But there was a time back in the 1860s when the Falls boasted a sawmill, a grist mill, and a tannery and other enterprises and looked forward t finding a place on the map. The two mills were operated by water power which was provided by a dam across the Mississippi River. By the way, we omitted to mention that Ferguson’s Falls is located on the Mississippi River.
Just how the place got the name of ‘falls’ is hard to understand as there never was any natural waterfall there. There always was a rapids, as far as can be learned, but the drop in the river was never, according to old inhabitants, sufficient to be honoured by the name of ‘falls.”
A Dam Was Built
About 1850, Robert Blair built a dam across the river and thus created an artificial ‘fall’. On the north bank of the stream he built a sawmill, and on the south bank a grist mill.
Blair’s dam in high water flooded the low lands up the river and the farmers naturally objected.
In the 1870s, fire visited one mill after the other. Then, the farmers above the dam got busy and induced to government to prevent Mr. Blair from rebuilding. Soon afterwards the government removed the dam and now the waters of the river have free flow.
Named for Military Officer
The site of Ferguson’s Falls appears to have been originally owned by one Captain Ferguson, a disbanded military officer, who received his grant back in the 1820s from the Perth military settlement office.
Ferguson’s Falls is on the highway between Perth and Renfrew and other points. The road between the Falls and Perth, a distance of 13 miles, was originally a “forced” road.
Local tradition has a story of how seven Irishmen, all young men, in the early part of the 1800s, came from the St. Lawrence to Perth by the existing road, and then hewed a trail through the unbroken forest to the district just northwest of what is now Ferguson’s Falls.
These seven young Irishmen are said to have been the first settlers between Perth and Chief McNabb’s Scotch settlement around White Lake.
Mr. Thomas Holliger, who tells about these seven pioneer Irishmen, recalls the name of four of them as Quinn, Carberry, Hartney, and Neville. Descendants of these men are still in the locality.
(note: the Seven Irish Bachelors were: Patrick Quinn, John Quinn, James Carberry, William Scanlan, Terrence Doyle, John Cullen and James Power)
Busy Place Once
At one time Ferguson’s Falls boasted three hotels and a post office, which was kept by Robert Hick. Today there is no post office at the Falls. To reach a resident of the Falls by mail, one addresses him or her via R.R. No. 1, Lanark.
The Falls today has a small sawmill, but it is not operated by water-power. It is run by Louis Bedard.
Among the present residents of Ferguson’s Falls are Mrs. Gray, a widow, William McCaffrey, a retired harness maker, Alex Sheppard who runs a general store and blacksmith shop, William Dickenson who conducts a hotel, Charles Hollinger, Auctioneer and drover, Tom Command, Trapper, Thomas Hollinger, Farmer and owner of a number of summer cottages, Louis Bedard, sawmill. Hope we haven’t missed anybody.
The Falls boasts a fine cement county bridge
The marshy portion of the river just above the Falls has always produced a large crop of muskrats. They are still plentiful.”
note on William ‘Billy’ McCaffrey – he also owned the infamous local bar, known as The Stumble Inn. For more information on Billy’s pub:
Girl Was Drowned
Back in the 1860s, the Mississippi was a scene of a sad drowning. A Miss Kitty Felleter was drowned just east of the village. The boat upset while she was fishing. Miss Felleter and her brother, a bachelor, had lived together not far north of the village.
In the 1860s a lot of pork was packed at Ferguson’s Falls for use in the shanties. Mr. Charles Hollinger, grandfather of Thomas and Charles Hollinger, had an inspection office at the Falls, and the pork had to be passed by him for quality before it could be sent into the surrounding shanties. Mr. Hollinger also kept a hotel.
Road Was Only Trail
In the 1860s and 1870s the road between Perth, Ferguson’s Falls and Renfrew was still little more than a trail. Today it is a road to travel with a car.
Ferguson’s Falls is one of the most picturesque little spots in eastern Ontario.”
(article by George R. Wilson, Ottawa Evening Citizen, Sept. 28, 1929)
A Few Photos of Ferguson Falls, from August 2021
St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, established in 1856, built on land donated by the Quinn family.
photo: St. Patrick’s Church, Arlene Stafford-Wilson sitting on steps. Photo: Alexander Duhaney, Aug. 2021
Gravestone of Elizabeth McGarry Stafford, originally from County Westmeath, Ireland, and in the background, her g-g-great grandson, Alex Duhaney, patiently waiting, but likely not as interested in visiting yet another old cemetery as his genealogist mother, Arlene Stafford-Wilson
close up – Elizabeth McGarry Stafford, native of Co. Westmeath, Ireland 1800-1886
For more stories on St. Patrick’s Church and some history of Ferguson Falls:
For stories on the Irish Wakes of Ferguson Falls: