St. Vincent de Paul Church – DeWitt’s Corners

St Vincent de Paul church

Summer in the country was a time for swimming in the Tay River, hanging out with friends at the millstone at Cavanagh’s general store, and regular bike rides up and down the Third Line.  There were farm tractors, hay-wagons, mothers outside hanging their washing on clotheslines, and daisies and black-eyed-Susans waving in the ditches, as I flew by on my old red bike.

old bike

I always passed by the familiar farms and houses along the way – Mitchell’s, Conboy’s, pedaled like lightning past Heney’s, so their dogs couldn’t catch me.  I continued past Radford’s, Siebel’s, Mitchell’s, Kerr’s, Closs’, heading up the Third Line toward Kyle’s, Perkins’ and Doyle’s when one day, something unusual caught my eye.

A stylish wedding party was entering St. Vincent de Paul Church; a bride in a flowing white gown, three bridesmaids dressed in pastel pink, carrying matching nosegays.  Several cars were parked outside, decorated with pink and white tissue flowers.  I pulled over to the side of the road to watch the procession. The old Catholic church had been around for as long as I could remember, and appeared as proud and majestic as ever on that hot summer day so long ago.

wedding couple   bridesmaids

The early settlers in Bathurst Township were keen to have their own church, instead of driving to St. John’s Church in Perth, or St. Bridget’s Church in Stanleyville.  Roads were treacherous at times in the winter, with deep snow, sometimes freezing rain, or both.

Long before St. Vincent de Paul Church was built, Roman Catholic services were held for 69 years, in the home of Mrs. Ed. Lee on the Third Line.

Mrs. Ed Lee

The people of Bathurst petitioned Bishop James Vincent Cleary for a church of their own. They needed a suitable, conveniently located place to erect a new church building.

John DeWitt, son of a pioneer settler, and his wife Mary Neil knew there was a need for a Roman Catholic Church to serve the growing community. Hoping to improve the situation, they made a promise to donate the land to build a church.

The paperwork was completed, and the land on lot 11, between the 2nd and 3rd concessions of Bathurst Township was donated by John and Mary DeWitt on July 26, 1889. To ensure that the transaction was legal, the land was sold for the token sum of one dollar to the Kingston Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.

DeWitt deed

 

DeWitt deed part 2

The construction progressed quickly, and the first mass was held on November 23, 1889.  The church was packed that day, and this stately building has served generations of families around DeWitt’s Corners and the area for over 125 years and counting.

Pastors who have served St. Vincent de Paul:
Rev. T.P. O’Connor  1889-1899

Rev. John O’Brien – 1899-1901

Rev. J.H. McDonough – 1901-1912

Rev. P.J. Keaney – 1912-1917

Rev. J.J. Keeley – 1917-1926

Rev. J.V. Meagher – 1926-1928

Rev. L.B. Garvin – 1928-1934

Rev. Walter Whalen – 1934-1940

Rev. J.W. Callahan – 1940-1947

Rev. W.L. Terrion – 1947-1952

Rev. J.C. LeSage – 1952-1976

Father Karl Clemens – 1976 – 1983

Father Richard Whalen – 1983-1985

Father Liam Tallon  –  1985 – 1993

Father Karl Clemens (back) – 1993 – 1998

Father  Lindo Molon – 1998 – 2006

Father  Mark Ruckpaul   – 2006 – 2012

Father Aidan Dasaah – 2012 – 2014

Father Jan Kusyk – 2014 –

 

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One of the weddings in the early days of St. Vincent de Paul Church – Henry Edmund Hagan, son of Hugh Hagan and Agnes Bennett, Westport, married Anna Victoria Jackman Hagan, daughter of John Jackman and Matilda Nagle, Wemyss, on 25 September 1918. Henry was 25 and Anna was 17.  (according to Richard Frizzell, their grandson on his mother’s side – ” Family history has it that she married so young in order to escape having to rear her 4 brothers and sisters after her mother passed away in 1916.”)

Hagan Jackman wedding jpg

St. Vincent de Paul wedding Richard Frizzell's maternal grandparents

According to their grandson, Richard Frizell, “Henry and Anna farmed up on the mountain in Westport until 1956 or 57. They sold the farm and moved to Glen Tay. They had 5 children; my mom, Vera, was the oldest girl.”

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Father James Keeley St. Vincent de Paul

Father James Keeley – served St. Vicent de Paul from 1917-1926

ArchbishopannouncementPerthCourierOCt171930p6

Oct. 17, 1930 – visit from the Archbishop

June 26 1931

June 26, 1931 – Dance at DeWitt’s Corners

 

I recall that Father J.C. Le Sage was the Priest of the parish from 1952 through to 1976.  Fr. Le Sage was well-liked, and a good friend to many of the local parishioners.   He was known to be extremely intelligent, and it was widely believed that he had come from a very capable family.  He had a reputation for being an excellent business manager, and ensured that the Church was in good repair.

Father LeSage McNamee weddiing 1955

wedding of Peter and Mary McNamee – September 24th,  1955, with Father J.C. LeSage

During his time serving at DeWitt’s Corners he hired an exceptionally talented Dutch painter who cleaned and restored the wood ceiling of St. Vincent’s, and painted the interior of the building.  He was also instrumental in building a parish hall in Stanleyville (the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish Hall) to serve both parishes (St. Vincent de Paul in Dewitt’s Corners and St. Bridget’s in Stanleyville).  Because of his excellent fiscal management, the total costs for the new hall were paid off quickly. Along with Fr. Le Sage’s sound business sense, an active Catholic Women’s League helped to raise money for the church, and assist with local charities.

At the age of 67, Rev. Father LeSage suffered a heart attack at his home, near Stanleyville, and passed away on September 13, 1976.

Nov 4 1976 p 14 Fr. LeSage part 1Nov 4 1976 p 14 Fr. LeSage part 2Nov 4 1976 p 14 Fr. LeSage part 3

 

St. Bridget's sign

 

Dec 22 1977 p 8 Christmas St. V de P

December 22 1977 – ad for Christmas Eve Services

March 22 978 p 14 display ad Holy Week

March 22, 1978 – ad for Holy Week

In 1979 the parishoners from DeWitt’s Corners and Stanleyville, sponsored a family of seven ‘Boat People’, who had fled their homeland for Canada.

Aug 22 1979 The Boat People

August 22 1979 – sponsoring the ‘Boat People’

Sept 12 1979 picnic

September 12, 1979 – A picnic in Stanleyville

Nov 21 1979 St V de P complete

November 21, 1979 – St. Vincent de Paul Anniversary

Nov 21st 1979 special mass

November 21 1979 – special mass planned

Nov 28 1979 St V de P anniversary photo

November 28 1979 photos of St. Vincent de Paul anniversary celebrations

Dec 19 1979 Nativity Scene

December 19 1979 – Nativity Scene

Dec 19 1979 Junior Choir

December 19 1979 – Junior Choir

October 1 1980 Annual 40 Hours of Devotion

October 1, 1980 – Annual Forty Hours Devotion

March 11 1981 Shirley Scott

March 11, 1981 – Shirley Scott is new president of St. Vincent de Paul CWL

Dec 2 1981 CWL anniversary

December 2, 1981 – CWL Anniversary

October 20 1982 Guest Speaker

October 20 1982 Guest Speaker display ad
October 20, 1982 – Guest Speaker

August 17 1983 Farewell Mass

August 17, 1983 – Farewell Mass for Fr. Karl Clemens

 

St. Vincent de Paul, the pretty red brick church at DeWitt’s Corners, has served the community for well over a century.  Both residents and seasonal visitors from nearby cottages have found comfort and a sense of belonging, inside these stately walls.

June 8, 1983 - Summer Schedule

June 8, 1983 – Summer Schedule

Many weddings, christenings, and funerals have taken place over the past hundred years, and to those of us who grew up in this neighbourhood, St. Vincent de Paul will always remain a memorable place, in our hearts.

 

hands bible

 

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photo of St. Vincent de Paul church c. 1970s, courtesy of JoAnne Cavanagh Butler
photo of wedding -Peter and Mary McNamee 1955 with Father LeSage – courtesy of Mary McNamee
photo of wedding – Henry Hagan, to Anna Jackman Hagan, and photo of Father Keeley- courtesy of Richard Frizell
(story is an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”)

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Meet Me in DeWitt’s Corners

‘The Corners’ was a phrase heard often in our small community.  The Corners referred to DeWitt’s Corners, a mile or so west of our farm, and was located at the crossroads of the Third Line, Munro’s Side road and Cameron’s Side road.

The early settlers in Bathurst Township were keen to have their own church instead of driving to St. John’s Church in Perth, or St. Bridget’s Church in Stanleyville.  Roads were treacherous at times in the winter, with deep snow, sometimes freezing rain, or both.  John DeWitt, son of a pioneer settler, and his wife Mary Neil knew there was a need for a Roman Catholic Church to serve the growing community. Hoping to improve the situation, they made a promise to donate the land to build a church.

St. Vincent de Paul Church

The construction progressed quickly, and the first mass was held on November 23, 1889.  The church was packed that day, and this stately building has served generations of families around DeWitt’s Corners and the area for over 125 years and counting.

A bike ride down the Third Line often meant that my friends and I would gather around the millstone at Cavanagh’s general store.  It was a central meeting place where we could sit and talk.  Between us, we could usually scrounge together enough pocket change to buy some penny-candy at the store.

Shep with the Millstone

DeWitt’s Corners was a busy place in the 1960s and 1970s, with cars stopping at Cavanagh’s store for gas and groceries, or zooming up the Third Line toward Christie Lake.  Christie Lake was a tourist destination with accommodations of all kinds for seasonal visitors.  Norvic Lodge, Arliedale Lodge, and Jordan’s Cottages, were some of the busiest places in the summer months.

Cavanagh's store black and white

 

Across the Third Line from Cavanagh’s store was the old Bathurst cheese factory.  The factory produced cheese until about 1954 and then ceased operations as other larger factories began to edge out the smaller producers.

DeWitt Cheese factory

Photo: old Bathurst cheese factory in the background with Helen and Jim Cavanagh and Shep.

Not far from the ‘Corners’, just up Cameron’s Side Road was the little white school house – S.S. # 4 Bathurst, where many of the members of our family attended school.  Mary Jordan taught all eight grades, keeping order in a compact classroom, heated with a wood stove, and bursting with energetic farm kids.

S S # 4 class in 1968

Front row – Brent Scott, Carl Gamble,John Conboy,John Cameron, Peter Kerr, Bev Miller
2nd row – Standing Kim Kyle,Betty Conboy, Judy Radford, Janice Jordan , Nancy Radford, Beverly White, sitting in front of Nancy Radford is Bobby-Jean Gamble and beside her is Mary White
Beside Kim Kyle is Brent Cameron, Bryan Tysick, Maxine Closs with her arms around Judy Radford, behind her is Kenny Perkins, Brad Kyle, Susan Turnbull, Darlene Charby,
Back row Randy Sargeant, Kent Shanks, Mrs Carrie Barr, Doug Jordan, Brian Miller and Mark Greenley

S S # 4 School for book

S S # 4 school from Janice # 2

Back row: Mrs Carrie Barr, Mary White(in front) Beverly White, Anne Marie Kyle, Nancy Radford, Bobby-Jean Gamble, Maxine Closs, Darlene Charby, Doug Jordan, Brent Scott, Carl Gamble, JoAnne Cavanagh, Bev Miller, Judy Radford, Betty Conboy, Kim Kyle, Janice Jordan, Susan Turnbull
Front row: Brent Cameron , Peter Kerr, Mark Greenley, Raymond Shanks, Randy Sargeant, Brad Kyle, Brian Miller, Ken Perkins, Kent Shanks, Brian Tysick, Dan Charby, John Conboy, John Camerom

 

When Mary Jordan wasn’t busy teaching eight different grades, she coached the DeWitt’s Corners softball team.  Both of my sisters Judy and, Jackie, played on the championship team in 1959. My brother Roger was on the team in 1964.

DeWitt's softball champs 1959

 

DeWitt's Softball Champs 1964

 

FRONT ROW David Scott and Bill Cavanagh
MIDDLE ROW Earl Conboy and Ronnie Brown
BACK ROW; Arthur Perkins, Roger Stafford Norman Kerr Arnold Perkins Connie Conboy and Mrs Mary Jordan

S S 4 School colour

Interior photo of S.S. # 4 Bathurst School

Front row Earl Conboy, David Scott, Arthur Perkins, Ron Brown, John Conboy, Bill Kyle

2nd row Arnold Perkins,Joe Mitchell, Roger Stafford, Norm Kerr, Bob Perkins,Paul Cavanagh

3 rd row Peter Kerr, Betty Conboy, Anne Kerr, Bill Cavanagh, Carl Gamble, Judy Radford, Janice Jordan, Doug Jordan Back row Mary Jordan, Kim Kyle, Connie Conboy, John Scott, Richard Cooke, Sharon Doyle

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There always seemed to be a sense of history in DeWitt’s Corners, and intriguing tales of the early settlers were told and re-told around that small hamlet. Most of us in the community were aware that Helen Cavanagh was a member of the DeWitt family, but many may not have realized how far back her roots stretched to the earliest settlers.

William DeWitt, and his wife Margaret Noonan DeWitt had a large family of eight daughters:  Helen Mae DeWitt who married Jim Cavanagh, Margaret Gertrude DeWitt, Vera DeWitt who married Ed Brady, Carmel DeWitt Matthews who settled in San Francisco, California, Jean DeWitt Garry, Mary DeWitt O’Hara, Josephine DeWitt who settled in Toronto, and Sophia DeWitt.

Cavanagh’s Store

The store opened on June 3, 1947 – carrying a full line of groceries, confectionaries, and tobacco products. Along with groceries and everyday sundries, Cavanagh’s store also sold gas supplied by Esso, a branch of Imperial Oil. Locals and cottagers, along with campers at nearby Christie Lake, were all pleased to hear that there would be a general store in the area, and they would no longer have to drive to Perth to pick up daily necessities.

Jim and Helen Cavanagh operated the popular neighbourhood store for nearly four decades until they retired in 1985.

Cavanaghs store for book

Many members of this proud community played a part, and their descendants carry with them the legacy of this historical settlement in Lanark County:

Adams, Allan, Blackburn, Blair, Brady, Cameron, Carberry, Cavanagh, Chaplin, Closs, Conboy, DeWitt, Dixon, Doyle, Fife, Foster, Gamble, Heney, Hogan, Johnston, Jordan, Keays, Kerr, Kirkham, Korry, Kyle, Leonard, Majaury, Menzies, Miller, Mitchell, Morrow, Munro, Murphy, Myers, Noonan, Palmer, Perkins, Popplewell, Radford, Ritchie, Somerville, Scott, Siebel, Stafford, Stiller, Truelove, Turnbull, and Tysick.


 

Thanks to JoAnne Cavanagh Butler for contributing the photos, and thanks to Janice Gordon, JoAnne Cavanagh Butler, Roger Stafford and Beverly Miller Ferlatte for all of their help identifying our neighbours and classmates in the photos!


 

For more information about the history of DeWitt’s Corners and the people who settled in the community, you can read the full version of the story in “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”

Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm & Blackwood Originals in Perth,  Perfect Books & Books on Beechwood in Ottawa, Arlie’s Books in Smiths Falls, Mill St. Books and Divine Consign in Almonte, or on http://www.staffordwilson.com

Lanark County Classics Book Cover small for blog

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

The Cry of the Banshee in North Burgess Township

banshee

In the 1840s, the Irish came to Canada by the thousands, to escape a horrible famine, that swept through Ireland  like an unstoppable plague.   A disease called Potato Blight ravaged their crops for nearly a decade, and during that time over a million died of starvation, and an equal number fled Ireland on ships sailing to Canada and the United States.

irish potato blight

Most were tenant farmers, leasing their land; unable to pay their rent when their crops failed, and were evicted by ruthless landlords.  They bundled up what little they had, and boarded ships headed for the new world.

Irish immigrants

Seven weeks was the average length of time spent at sea, and the conditions endured by these Irish immigrants were so terrible that the ships were nick-named ‘coffin ships’.  The lice, ticks and fleas common in these over-crowded vessels were the ideal breeding grounds for the transmission of disease, and by 1847 an average of 50 passengers died each day of typhus on their voyage from Ireland.

coffin ship

 

typhus

Many came to Lanark County, and the number of Irish who settled in North Burgess Township, was so great that it was referred to at the time as ‘The Irish Invasion’.   Most, but not all came from County Down and County Armagh, and some settled around Westport, and around the Scotch Line, Black Lake, and Stanleyville.

counties Down and Armagh

nburgess

These new settlers brought their traditions, customs and stories with them to the new country.  Stories and legends were passed down from father to son and from mother to daughter.  Tales from the old country were told in the evenings by the fire, and the one story that seemed to run up and down the concessions in North Burgess was the legend of the Irish Banshee.

Irish legend

The Banshee, or ‘Bean Sidhe’ is an Irish spirit, and her high-pitched wail foretells of a death in the family.  It was said that each family had its own Banshee, and that they travelled with them from the old country.  Some said that the family’s Banshee would stay in Ireland at the family’s estate, and mourn the dead.  The settlers to the new land brought their vivid descriptions of the Banshees – some claiming that she was an old hag with red eyes, but others said she was a fair, pale Irish beauty with long red hair dressed in a flowing gown.

Banshee   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s been said that whoever hears her high and piercing shriek could be sure that there would be a death within 24 hours.  Irish lore tells that the Banshee always wailed when a family member dies, even if the person had died far away, and news of their death had not yet come. The wailing of the banshee was the first warning to the household of the death.

When several banshees appeared at once, it was said to foretell of the death of someone prominent, or of an accidental or unintended death – often of a murder victim, a suicide, or a mother who died in childbirth.

The early settlers in North Burgess passed down their stories of banshees, fairies, ghosts and the little people.  Although they were fiercely loyal to God and to the church, they never abandoned their beliefs in the spirits and creatures of their ancient folklore.

Some of the families who were among the earliest settlers to North Burgess Township:

Adam

Bennett

Byrne

Byrnes

Byres

Callaghan

Chaffey

Darcy

Deacon

Donnelly

Dooker

Doran

Eagan

Farrell

Hanlon

Haughian

Jackman

Kearns

Kelly

Kerr

Lappan

Lennon

McCann

McCracken

McGlade

McIver

McLeod

McNamee

McParland

McVeigh

Mullin

Murphy

O’Connor

O’Hare

O’Neill

Parry

Powers

Quigley

Quinn

Ryan

Scanlon

Smith

Stanley

Stapleton

Thompson

Toole

Traynor

Troy

White

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In 2002 the townships formerly known as North Burgess, South Sherbrooke and Bathurst were part of an amalgamation, and adopted the name of Tay Valley Township, as they are known today.

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For genealogical records of the founding families of North Burgess Township:

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onlanark/nburgess.htm

National Archives of Canada – Immigration Databases Online Searh –  Immigration to Canada

St. Bridget’s Cemetery Staneyville Ontario

Roman Catholic interments North Burgess Township

Scotch Line Cemetery – Burials from 1822-2000  North Burgess Township

Scotch Line Cemetery – North Burgess

Irish Immigration to Canada

Irish Immigration to Canada National Archives

Lanark County Genealogical Society

https://lanarkgenealogy.com/

Archives Lanark

http://archiveslanark.ca/index.php

Search the census records for North Burgess Township, Lanark County

Searchable online census records for Lanark County

Irish Genealogy Records online

Irish Records

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For more information on Irish Folklore in the early days of Lanark County:

Banshees of Burgess’, is part of a collection of short stories in the new book ‘Lanark County Classics – A Treasury of Tales from Another Time’. The reader will discover more about the early families from Ireland, and their customs and beliefs in the supernatural, brought from the old country.  The story explores some of the tales passed down by these Irish settlers, and documents their personal experiences with Banshees, ghosts, and fairies while living in Lanark County.

Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm & Blackwood Originals in Perth,  Perfect Books in Ottawa, Mill St. Books and Divine Consign in Almonte, or Online

 

Lanark County Classics Book Cover small for blog

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(map of Northern Ireland – By Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) – map by NNW, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7918534)