Long before the days of fast-paced living, our family had a weekly ritual, known as the Sunday drive. It always took place after church, following the noon-time meal. Families were large in those days, and Mother wanted to make sure that everyone had a hearty lunch before heading out into the country. Looking back, it seems like a curious thing to do, when you already live in the country, to drive to another part of the country, but it wasn’t uncommon in those days.
The Staffords, getting ready for a Sunday Drive: left to right, Roger Stafford, Jackie Stafford, Tim Stafford, Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford (Dad), Arlene Stafford, missing from the photo: Judy Stafford who was taking the photo, and Audry Stafford (Mother), who was likely making one last trip to the pantry to pack some cookies for the ride.
Home, the starting point for our drive, was the Third Concession of Bathurst Township, some called it the Third Line, or the Christie Lake Road. After we’d all climbed into the car, we often headed straight to Balderson, to pick up a bag of squeaky curd for the trip. We almost always visited Ferguson Falls, where Dad grew up, and Lanark was another familiar stop along the way. There was sometimes a debate in the car at this point about whether to travel up toward Calabogie. Mother often protested, saying that all those hills, twists, and turns on the back-roads made her stomach queasy. With a twinkle in his eye, and a promise to take it slow, more often than not, Dad headed up the road toward Clyde Forks and Flower Station.
The landscape around Flower Station was a spectacular sight to behold in the autumn, when the colourful maple leaves were at their peak. Gold, red, green, and orange, in every direction, as far as the eye could see; just like a postcard. Small in size, but big in heart, it was one of the tiny hamlets that sprung up in the late 1800s, during the heydays of the nearby mining operations; and the Kingston and Pembroke ‘K & P’ Railroad stopped daily, bringing mail, and supplies.
The village was named for Roswell Pettibone ‘R.P.’ Flower, Governor of New York, who financed this section of the railway. At the height of the mining operations in the late 1880s, there were three boarding houses, two general stores, a church, a school, and a railroad station. Postmaster, Gilbert White, operated the post office, and sold general merchandise, out of his residence.
Thomas Miller’s General Store – 1905
Albert ‘Abbie’ McGonegal
Tragic Loss Follows Dance
at Flower Station
Joseph Lalonde Walks 15 Miles
in 1942 to Recruiting Center
‘Granny’ Jennie Crawford Majaury
Jackson Siblings Die Within
Hours of Each Other
Maud Bradford Hart
Calvan McGonegal Wins
James Brothers Fishing Trophy
Cardinal, Lalonde, & Kells
Take Top Spots
Minnie McGonegal Ferguson
Party for Wilfred Jackson
Reeve Henry McGonigal
Follows in his Father’s Footsteps
Mrs. Eldon Majore
Peace of Mind in the Country
Stranded by Floods
Irene (Gemmill) Crosbie
90th Birthday Party
Don and Marlene Love
Met at a Sugar Camp
Winnifred Closs – 1916-2008
Extraordinary Local Writer
As the lumber business tapered off, and the mining operations slowed down, the K & P railway never saw the volumes of traffic they had anticipated in the beginning. By late in the 19th century, the railroad was experiencing financial difficulties, and by 1894, the company, operating at a loss, went into receivership.
The Canadian Pacific Railway, ‘CPR’ began to buy up shares, and by 1901, owned 83% of the shares, and had replaced many of the top executives with their own. The C.P.R. officially gained control of the K & P Railroad in 1913.
By the 1930s, passenger service declined and they began to operate ‘mixed trains’ of passenger cars and some freight cars. By the late 1950s, only freight cars remained. The last ‘through’ train ran on December 29, 1961. As time passed, in the 1960s, the smaller, less profitable stations along the railway line were closed, including Flower Station.
K & P Trail
The original route of the K & P is being converted, in sections, to a recreational walking and biking path, known as the “K & P Trail”
Take a Sunday Drive
Visit Flower Station
The tradition of the Sunday drive at our house went on for as long as I can remember. Mother occasionally scolding Dad because he was over the speed limit, and he always countered with the same excuse – that he needed to burn the carbon build-up off of his sparkplugs.
There were often bags of squeaky curd, and sometimes a stop for ice cream cones, or a cold bottle of Pure Spring pop. Once in a while there was pushing and shoving in the back seat, met by a stern glance backwards from Mother.
No matter where those winding back roads in Lanark County led us, there was always beauty around every corner; with crystal-clear lakes and streams, quiet spots for a picnic, trails and paths beckoning us to come for a stroll.
Maybe one of these Sundays, you’ll venture out to Flower Station. Travel north on highway 511 past Hopetown to Brightside. Turn west on Waddell Creek Road to the French Line. Proceed north on the French Line Road to Joe’s Lake, then west on Flower Station Road to Flower Station.
Be sure to walk or hike the beautiful K&P Trail in the village of Flower Station. Head north past Flower Station, to Round Lake and Clyde Lake or, walk south, past Widow Lake to join Clyde Forks Road. Be prepared to enjoy the unspoiled forests, the sounds of nature, breathe in the pristine air, and spend a tranquil day in one of Lanark County’s special gems – Flower Station.
Discover some fascinating stories about Lanark County back-roads tours, like “Mills, Mines, and Maples: Touring the Back Roads of Lanark County in the book, “Lanark County Connections: Memories Among the Maples”
Read about a WWII war-time encounter overseas, with a young soldier named Jim, from Flower Station, in “A Grand Era in Lanark”, from “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”
The warm spring sun flooded the playground that June afternoon at Glen Tay Public School. Only two weeks of classes remained for the year, when I first heard about the lost boy, from my teacher, Mrs. Conboy. One of my friends had seen the story on the evening news, and asked our teacher if she thought they’d ever find the little boy…..
Many decades have passed since the young Adrian McNaughton disappeared near Calabogie, Ontario. Police call it a cold case, but promised they’ll never stop looking.
It was June 12, 1972, when five-year-old Adrian was on a fishing trip with his father, his father’s friend, and his three siblings, at Holmes Lake. Holmes Lake is about an hour’s drive from Lanark village, half an hour from Burnstown, and around a 15 minute drive from Calabogie.
Adrian wandered away from the area where everyone was fishing. He was last seen playing near the shoreline, wearing a blue jacket and brown shorts.
He was wearing a blue nylon jacket, brown shorts, an orange-striped shirt, and rubber boots.
Divers Search Holmes Lake
Father Seeks Help from Psychics
Psychics Point to Clyde Forks
Psychics were consulted and advised the McNaughton family that Adrian was taken to, or somehow ended up in Clyde Forks, a forty-minute drive from Holmes Lake.
What visions and impressions led the clairvoyants to the small village of Clyde Forks in Lanark County? What did they find there? Discover the fascinating details of this decades-old cold-case.
“Mystery in Clyde Forks”,
a story from “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”
Hallowe’en was observed by the Irish settlers in Lanark County, in the earliest times, beginning in 1816, after their arrival in Drummond Township. At that time, it was not a holiday centered around children collecting candy, but instead, marked a spiritual night when the veil between the living and the dead was at its thinnest, allowing spirits, good and evil, to pass through.
The celebration of All Hallows Eve, or Hallowe’en originated in Ireland, with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, (pronounced sow-win (sow sounds like cow). The Druids, the high-ranking members of the Celts, built enormous bonfires, and everyone in the community, young and old, gathered around. The Celts wore simple costumes, consisting of animal skins, to hide themselves from evil spirits, and believed that on that special night, they had the ability to tell each other’s fortunes.
Samhain marked the end of the harvest, and the beginning of the dark, cold winter. The Celts believed that on October 31st, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred, and that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
When the evening’s celebrations around the fire were over, each family brought a small torch from the bonfire, and used it to re-light their hearth fires at home, believing that it would protect them during the coming winter.
Lanark County Irish Hallowe’en
There were many ancient customs, traditions and even food, associated with the early Irish settlers to Lanark County, each year, on October 31st. Although many of the pioneers were Roman Catholic, a handful of customs from the times of the Celts still remained. Some of the traditions were centered around the idea that everyday people were able to predict fortunes on this special night. A traditional Irish fruit loaf was baked, which held specific symbols that were believed to predict each person’s fate. (recipe below)
A large part of the evening was the telling of ghost stories. Some of the early settlers were not able to read nor write, so the story-telling was a way to pass down their traditions and beliefs, so that the next generation would remember them.
On Hallowe’en, after dusk, when the last light had faded from the sky, it was customary light a few candles, push back most of the furniture against the walls, and sit around the hearth. The lady of the house would serve the fruit loaf, with butter, jam, and tea, shots of whiskey for the grown-ups, and the telling of the ghost stories would begin…..
This is a story that was told in the 1930s in Perth, by Jimmy McNamee, our father’s cousin, about the night his parents Mary Quinn, and Maurice McNamee, heard a Banshee, while they were walking down a dirt road, coming from a house party.
Legends say that the cry of the Banshee foretells of a death, and the old timers claimed that only those with pure Irish blood running through their veins, could hear the cry of the Banshee.
Some of the Irish settlers said that the Banshees were withered, scowling old women, but many said the Banshees were pale, fair-skinned beauties with red flowing hair, who could bewitch men with their charm. It was said that each family had its own Banshee, and that they followed the people who left Ireland, across the ocean, to their homes in the new world.
Not long after they were married, in the late 1860s, Maurice, and his wife Mary, were coming home after a dance at a neighbour’s house. They were walking down a bush road when they heard a cry unlike anything human they had ever heard. It was half sobbing, half moaning cry, as though someone was in distress.
Mary Quinn McNamee said, “Maurice, can that be a Banshee?”
Still fairly close to the neighbour’s house, they decided to turn around and go back, and tell the others what they’d heard. During the short walk back to the house they heard the cry a second time, and just before they reached the front door of the house, they heard it again.
After reaching the house, they told the neighbour and the rest of the guests what they’d heard, and everyone came outside to listen, but the cries were not repeated.
Three days later a man died accidentally in the bush close to the house where the dance was held……
Many stories were passed down over the years about Jimmy Whelan’s tragic drowning, and his beautiful young lover, who still walks at night, along the shores of the Mississippi River, searching for her beloved Jimmy. This story was told and re-told in the area of Ferguson Falls, particularly at the infamous Stumble Inn, operated by Billy McCaffrey.
The Phelan family (this family pronounced their name as Whelan), had a farm along the 11th concession of Drummond Township, backing onto the Stafford farm. The two farms were separated by the Mississippi river. My great-grandfather, Thomas Stafford, was a friend of Daniel Phelan, younger brother of Jimmy, so he knew the family well. It was well-known in the area that of all the children in the family, Jimmy, was his father’s favourite, and in the father’s will, Old Man Phelan even singled him out, referring to him as “his beloved Jimmy”.
James ‘Jimmy’ Phelan, of Drummond Township
It was said that Jimmy possessed a spirit of wanderlust, and instead of working on the family farm, he was drawn to the excitement of living in a lumber camp, moving from place to place, along the river. All winter long they cut and hauled tall white pine logs, to the Ottawa River’s nearest tributary, and in the spring, when the ice broke up, they floated the logs down the river. One year, the water on the Upper Mississippi was particularly high, and a dangerous jam formed. The jam shifted, and Jimmy and the foreman, both standing on floating logs, were knocked into the cold icy waters. The foreman was rescued, but they didn’t recover Jimmy’s body for over half an hour. It was a terrible tragedy.
In the old days, the Irishmen would sit outside of Charlie Hollinger’s hotel, and one of the stories they told was about the ‘gates of glass’. They believed that at dusk, between the rising and the setting of the moon, when the waters were still, the veil between the world and the spirit world becomes very thin. It was said that spirits could pass from one realm to another through the still waters, and this was known as the ‘gates of glass’.
Many years later, following the death of Jimmy’s former lover, people in Ferguson Falls began to see what appeared to be a misty image of a young woman, walking along the shores of the Mississippi. The old timers said it was the spirit of Jimmy’s beloved, trying to reunite with him.
They say she still walks along the river at dusk, searching for Jimmy.
Although there were three hotels at one time in Ferguson Falls, perhaps none had such a wild reputation as the Stumble Inn. The hotels in the village were popular with the locals, travelers, and the lumber crews who worked along the river. The difference between the larger hotels and the much smaller Stumble Inn was that the smaller bar chose to ignore the local laws for their operating hours, and so, alcohol could be purchased at almost any time, including Sundays. There was even a Sunday ritual among some of the male parishioners of the nearby St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic church – to stop by, before, or after services, for a wee nip of whiskey.
The Stumble Inn, Ferguson Falls
The longer business hours of the Stumble Inn were perhaps one of the causes of the legendary fighting that took place at this small establishment. More drinking, naturally led to more fighting. Apart from the fighting though, it was also a place where a young musician, like Dad’s uncle, Jimmy Richards, could bring their fiddle or flute, and were encouraged to entertain the patrons; and so, it also became known as a venue where the budding musicians of the area gained experience performing for the crowds. Along with the music, and the fighting, there was card-playing, gambling, and story-telling.
Billy McCaffrey, owner of the Stumble Inn, passed away in 1940, and most of the old musicians who played there are long gone. Some say that if you walk along the river near the Stumble Inn, on a warm summer’s eve, you can still hear the echoes of the music and the laughter – the spirits of the old gang who frequented the Stumble Inn.
(William Henry ‘Billy’ McCaffrey, owner of the Stumble Inn, was a cousin to the Staffords, through his grandfather, Peter McGarry, brother of our great-grandmother, Betsy McGarry Stafford.)
Michael McNamee and his family sailed from Warrenpoint, Ireland, on the ship, ‘Dolphin’. According to stories passed down by Michael, the voyage took seven weeks, and he sailed in the company of Michael Stanley of Stanleyville, and Michael Cunningham, who settled in Perth.
It was a common belief at that time, when the Irish immigrants arrived in Canada, that their particular banshees, family fairies, and little people, came with them.
Michael’s son, Maurice McNamee, and his helper, George Murphy, worked as charcoal burners on the west side of the hills, close to Westport. They lit the wood, and covered it with a bed of sand so that the wood might be merely charred instead of being burned. They sold the charcoal to local families, and it was used for cooking, to heal wounds, to ingest in the case of food poisoning, and to mix with ash to make cleaning products.
One morning, Maurice and George returned to their work site, and found the sand they poured over the charcoal pit was covered with tiny foot-prints. The prints were about two inches long, and were in the same shape as a human foot. Both the marks of the heels and the ends of the toes were very clear, and the entire surface of the pit was covered with the footprints, as though some tiny folk had been dancing on the mound.
Maurice and George did not want to disturb the sand. They wanted someone to come and see the prints to verify what they had found. There was no camera in those days, and they had neither pen nor paper with them to draw a sketch of what they’d seen……
Maurice told the story often, and then his son, Jimmy McNamee, passed the story down to the locals in the Perth area. Jimmy was a bit of a legend in the area for his story-telling skills, and often came to one of the hotels in Perth, and passed the old stories down to all who were interested. Our Dad heard that particular story from Jimmy in 1935, in Perth, and passed it down to us.
(According to Jimmy, ghost stories were not told at daytime activities like barn-raisings or at gatherings in broad daylight. It was in the evening, gathered around the hearth, or a bonfire, that the stories were to be told by the old-timers, and passed down to the younger folk, from one generation to the next. Jimmy’s son, Sylvester, was married to Dad’s cousin, Bridget ‘Carmel’ Stafford)
Predicting Your Future Husband with an Apple Peel:
All of the young ladies present at the gathering carve a long single peel from an apple, and toss it over their shoulders. It is believed that the peel will fall on the floor in the shape of their future husband’s initials!
Fortunes Told with Saucers
Another custom involved the placing of three saucers on the table. Salt is poured onto one saucer, the second saucer holds a ring, and the third saucer holds a small mound of earth. Each person is blindfolded, and led around the table three times, and then places their right hand on one of the saucers. If they touch the saucer containing the earth it is a reminder that the time is not far off when they will be but a handful of graveyard soil; if they touch the saucer with the ring it means that a happy marriage will be theirs; and if they touch the salt they will cry tears in the next year.
Leaving a Path for the Fairies
Many believed that on Hallowe’en the fairies like to come in, and warm themselves at the fire. It is customary to move the furniture back toward the walls, and leave a clear path from the front door to the fireplace so the fairies will come in, sing and dance with the family, and tell them what the future holds.
Many bake a special cake for Hallowe’en called a Barmbrack. Inside the cake the baker places a match, a tiny piece of cloth, a ring, a thimble, and a button. The cake is cut into pieces, and given to those present at the gathering. The person who finds the match will have conflict in their life, whoever finds the piece of cloth will suffer from poverty, the person finding the ring will be the next to marry, the one who finds the thimble will not marry, and if a man finds the button he will be a bachelor forever.
Traditional Irish Barmbrack for Hallowe’en
2 ½ cups chopped dried mixed fruit
(raisins, apples, currants, cherries)
1 ½ cups hot brewed black tea
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup marmalade
1 tsp finely grated orange peel
Soak the dried fruit in the hot tea for 2 hours, then drain and gently squeeze out excess tea.
Stir the flour cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda together in a bowl
Beat the egg, and combine with the sugar, marmalade, orange zest, and tea-soaked fruit
Fold in the flour gently and pour into the pan.
Bake in a greased 9-inch Bundt pan at 350, for 1 hour, or until the top of the cake springs back. Allow to cool in the pan for 2 hours before removing.
Wrap the objects in waxed paper (thimble, ring, etc.) and press into the cake through the bottom before serving.
The loaf may be served with tea in the afternoon, after dark on Hallowe’en, or may be sliced, toasted and served with butter and jam for breakfast
And so, the spooky traditions of Hallowe’en were passed down through the generations, from the earliest Irish settlers in Lanark County, and on down through the years, from the old timers, to the young ones.
The ghost stories were told, and re-told, at night outside, around the Hallowe’en bonfire, or in the home around the hearth. Shots of whiskey were often served, or for the younger folks a cup of strong black tea, along with a slice of the traditional buttered fruit loaf.
As the evening progressed, and the whiskey took hold, there was always music, fiddling, flute-playing, singing of the old traditional songs, the telling of jokes, and many exaggerated tales of glory from days gone by.
Whether you spend your Hallowe’en in the traditional ways of our Lanark County Irish ancestors, or you have your own customs that you practice on this special night of the year, have a very happy and safe Hallowe’en, and be sure to watch out for the ghosts, and the little people!
For more Lanark County Irish Ghost Stories:
The story of Jimmy Phelan and the Ghost of Ferguson Falls, in its entirety, in “Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home”.
For the complete story of the Banshees in North Burgess Township, and the Little People of Westport – “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”
For more information on The Stumble Inn of Ferguson Falls – “Lanark County Collection: Winding Our Way Down Memory Lane”
Just a short drive from the pretty town of Perth, along the Lanark Road, lush, green, farmers fields welcome us into the Township of Lanark Highlands. We follow the blue skies, and warm, summer winds, into the village of Lanark, and pull up near our destination – the Lanark and District Museum.
Greeted warmly by Anne Graham, we make our way up the well-worn steps, into a very special place, where the caretakers and guardians of our history, preserve our memories, our stories, and our heritage.
If you walk along George Street in Lanark, you will see a sign out front, greeting visitors, listing upcoming events, and welcoming all, with no charge for admission, and donations accepted. Anyone seeking knowledge, or in search of their history, is assured that they’ve come to the right place.
Not far from the front entrance, a plaque displays the names of those who went above and beyond, volunteering their time and expertise, throughout the decades, to keep the museum running smoothly.
A photo on the wall reminds us of those who played key roles in the earliest days of the museum. Their foresight and dedication to preserving our local history leaves a lasting legacy, that will be enjoyed for many generations to come.
Many of us have ancestors from the area who served in the military, and the Lanark Museum has many displays highlighting our local heroes. Perhaps your ancestor is one of these soldiers who has been featured in the museum’s display cases.
The museum also features a number of Rolls of Honour, listing the names of soldiers from the area who fought bravely for our country.
There are a tremendous number of local photographs. It’s great fun to see the old cars, some of the buildings no longer with us, and even recognize some of the smiling faces in these photos.
The museum is fortunate to have the help of two students for the summer. Meagan was kind enough to document our visit using her photography skills.
There is a wonderful display of original telegrams, some sent, and some received, by the Lavant Station, many years ago. These are real treasures, and give us some insight into the past and how different life was in those days! There are lots of familiar surnames on these telegrams, and some even provide a window into our family histories!
Along with the countless documents displayed there are also some lovely artifacts. The old wash bowl reminds us of the times before indoor plumbing was standard in our homes. We can imagine how different our ancestor’s lives might have been, and how carrying water from an outside well into the home was a daily event for these pioneers.
If your ancestors lived in McDonald’s Corners there is a wonderful remembrance displayed, honoring those who served their country, so well, and so faithfully.
There are also a number of displays listing those soldiers who attended specific area schools and the names of those who served.
Another of the many area schools and their lists of those in service.
The Lanark Museum has many, many of these displays, and this is only a small sampling of what is available to view.
Being a history buff, it wasn’t easy to tear myself away from all of the exhibits in the museum, and get down to business, and read a couple of stories from my books. I chose two stories from “Lanark County Kid – My Travels Up and Down the Third Line”. I read one about a childhood visit to Lanark, and shopping for back-to-school clothing at the Kitten Mill.
My second story was “Balderson Cheese – Craving the Curd”. Our family often went on Sunday drives, and a visit to Balderson for a bag of soft squeaky curd, was something not to be missed! In the story, we go behind the counter, and watch the Master Cheesemaker, Omar Matte, and the others, while they stir the vats of heated milk, and then press the curds into big wooden circular presses. Considering that the factory is no longer there, it is a precious memory to have witnessed this process.
There are some really wonderful displays highlighting the Kitten Mill, and those who worked there over the years.
The Museum has done a wonderful job of preserving the artifacts and documents from the days of the Glenayr Kitten mills, and reminding us of the impact to employment and the economic influence to the village.
I think that many of us remember visiting the factory outlets, and all of the wonderful knitted clothing produced locally.
One of the special highlights for me was a visit with the Shamrock Quilt. While we can’t be sure of the date of its origin, I recall seeing it displayed at the museum many, many years ago, and was delighted to see it once again. This quilt is embroidered with the names of local families. If your family lived in the area it would be worth the trip to see this marvelous quilt, and discover your ancestor’s name embroidered in green.
The Shamrock Quilt holds a special connection for Doris Quinn and myself. My Dad’s Aunt, Julia Stafford, married William Quinn, and both the Quinn and Stafford families are among the many, many, names on this precious artifact. It was a wonderful moment to be able to stand beside Doris, and see those names from the past, those who are no longer with us, but remain forever in our hearts.
Photo below: Julia Stafford and Bill Quinn, on their wedding day, Sept. 14, 1909.
The following, are just a few squares, a small sample from the quilt, to show how the names have been stitched and displayed.
There are many other squares that were not photographed. Anyone with ancestors from this area may want to visit the quilt themselves for a more in depth look.
Another square of the quilt, but the quilt is enormous, and would be best viewed in person.
A final square from this historic piece. Hopefully the museum will photograph and digitize the entire quilt. That might be an interesting and very worthwhile project for the summer students!
The late afternoon held a wonderful surprise – a visit from an old friend Susan Newberry Sarsfield. It was a real delight to visit with Susan, her Mom, and her daughter!
Like all good things, our visit to the Lanark Museum came to an end, and our host Anne Graham, kindly walked us out and into the sunny July afternoon.
It was a day filled with history, and the importance of preserving our past. There are few tasks more essential than being the caretakers of our heritage. The Lanark Museum is the proud custodian of our region’s artifacts, memories, stories, and treasures.
Many thanks to the kind folks at the Lanark and District Museum for hosting us, and sharing their collection of priceless treasures. Thanks also to the visitors who stopped by to share some stories and recollections. Anne, Norma, Gene, Doris – it was so nice to spend time with you – thanks for helping to make our day special.
As we said goodbye, and headed down the highway, we are struck by the pristine beauty of the Lanark Highlands, the clear waters, the fresh air, and the greenery as far as the eye can see, on this beautiful summer day.
A sunny, warm, late September day brought record crowds to the official book launch for “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”.
The Book Nook, a popular store on the main street of historic Perth, Ontario, was the setting for a steady stream of book lovers eager to read the latest collection of stories set in Lanark County, the picturesque maple syrup capital of Ontario.
The newly released stories in this series are set in Perth, Lanark, DeWitt’s Corners, Pakenham, Clyde’s Forks, Middleville, and the former North Burgess Township, taking the reader along on a journey back to the 1960s and 1970s in rural Eastern Ontario.
An early visitor to the store on Saturday, was Tara Gesner, from Metroland Media, a reporter covering the book launch for the local newspaper.
A reader from Port Elmsley stopped by, interested in local history, and had certainly come to the right book launch for stories set around the region.
Dianne Tysick Pinder-Moss, former classmate of the author has purchased the entire collection for her mother, who has been a fan of the series since the beginning.
Nancy Townend, Pakenham resident, came to the launch after hearing that one of the stories ‘Perils in Pakenham’, was set in her lovely,scenic, village.
Carol-Ann McDougall, resident of the Big Rideau Lake, featured in the story “Lake Life – A Rideau Ferry Love Story” Lake Life – A Rideau Ferry Love Story brought a lovely, bright yellow chrysanthemum to grace the table of the book launch. Carol-Ann has read all of the books in the Lanark County series, and has been looking forward to reading the newest collection of stories.
Carla Brown stopped by, as she often does, to purchase the latest Lanark County book for her grandmother Shirley Myers.
Avid reader of local history, Tom Ayres was eager to get the latest book in the series. Tom has read all five in the collection, and is the reader who requested the story on Antler Lodge, featured in the last book – Lanark County Connections. Antler Lodge
One of the stories in the new book, Lanark County Classics is ‘Meet Me in DeWitt’s Corners. The story takes the reader back to the earliest days of the hamlet, recounts the history of this proud settlement, and the DeWitt family, whose name still graces the community today. It was a special treat to have members of this founding family attend the book launch.
Jane DeWitt Brady O’Grady – descendant of pioneer Zephaniah DeWitt, founding family of DeWitt’s Corners.
Also, a direct descendant of Zephaniah DeWitt, and native of DeWitt’s Corners – William ‘Bill’ Cavanagh, son of Helen DeWitt and James ‘Jim’ Cavanagh, and his wife Brenda.
Another native of DeWitt’s Corners, and descendant of pioneer Zephaniah DeWitt, sister of Bill, JoAnne Cavanagh Butler, daughter of Helen DeWitt and James ‘Jim’ Cavanagh:
It was a real treat to share some memories of DeWitt’s Corners with Jane, JoAnne and Bill!
Along with the DeWitt descendants, long-time residents of DeWitt’s Corners, Elaine and Dave Morrow stopped by the book launch. Both Dave and Elaine contributed their memories and stories of DeWitt’s Corners for the book. Owner of The Book Nook, Leslie Wallack, is standing to the right of Elaine. Leslie and her staff were busy the entire day assisting visitors to this popular store.
Beverly Miller Ferlatte also stopped by the book launch. Beverly shared her memories of S.S. # 4 , Bathurst, School for the story based in DeWitt’s Corners. Beverly’s grandmother Mary Jordan was a well-loved and respected teacher at the school for many years. The school house has been converted into a residence and Beverly’s brother Brian is the current owner of this historic building.
Janice Jordan Gordon was another contributer to the DeWitt’s Corners story in the book. Janice was very helpful in identifying the children in several class photos from S.S. # 4 Bathurst School.
A book launch would not be complete without a visit from former neighbours from the Third Line of Bathurst, Margery Conboy and her daughter Diana. Margery and her husband Wayne Conboy also shared their memories of DeWitt’s Corners, and the historic cheese factory that remained at ‘The Corners’ until 1979.
Another former neighbour, Dave Mitchell,stopped by the book launch. Dave was also interested in reading the story on DeWitt’s Corners, and finding out more about the history of the area where he was raised.
The Book Launch at The Book Nook was a great success! Many thanks to host Leslie Wallack and her staff, for keeping up with the steady crowds, and for providing the delicious refreshments.
A special thanks to all who came, from near and far, to stop by and chat, to share some memories, and to be a part of the busy day!
Since the infamous sightings in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, people across North America have become more aware of strange lights, and unusual objects, in the night skies.
By the late 1960s in Perth Ontario, details of sightings were published in the local papers, and many credible witnesses reported their accounts of these strange events.
Flying Saucers With Red Lights Over Port Elmsley Confirmed by Perth OPP
April 27, 1967, p.1, “The Perth Courier”
Ivan Vandusen, R.R. 2 Smiths Falls, – one of the first to report the UFOs
April 27, 1967, p.1, “The Perth Courier”
Flying in Formation, Ten Feet Apart…..Moving toward Carleton Place
April 27, 1967, p.1, “The Perth Courier”
Mrs. Essex Clement in Port Elmsley:
“They just disappeared.”
April 27, 1967, p.1, “The Perth Courier”
Two Perth OPPs see UFOs on HWY 43 hovering over the Army Tower in Drummond Township
R.C.A.F. Asks for a Full Report
April 27, 1967, p.1, “The Perth Courier”
UFOs Seen Over Mississippi Lake
April 27, 1967, p.1, “The Perth Courier”
Fall 1973- was called the
“Autumn of Aliens”
The night skies in Eastern Ontario became very active in the summer and fall of 1973, and some organizations reported that it was one of the largest number of U.F.O. sightings over North America, calling it the ‘Autumn of Aliens’.
Huge Chunks of Ice Fell from the Sky
In Lanark County, it all seemed to begin with a sudden hailstorm, on the Friday the 13th of July. The hailstorm came out of nowhere, and huge chunks of ice fell, many almost three inches in diameter. Hundreds of windows and car windshields were smashed by jagged pieces of ice. A Smiths Falls resident was cut on the head by a chunk of falling ice, and required seven stitches. No one was seriously injured, although there were a few farmers that got caught outside, working in the fields, and had to seek shelter from the large chunks of ice falling from the sky.
Barely 48 hours after the hailstorm, police departments in Perth and Smiths Falls received a number of calls from residents, claiming to have seen flying objects in the sky.
Flying Object Seen Near Balderson
A local man reported that he and five others were on the Eighth Line near Balderson at 9:30 p.m., when a flying object appeared to be travelling south to north, then returned to the south. He observed that it was quite large, shaped like a tart. Another report came in from a resident of Sherbrooke Street in Perth, who saw the same object overhead. He said that his dog had howled constantly while the object appeared in the sky.
CJET Radio holds call-in show due to large number of UFO Sightings
So many people had observed the same object that CJET radio station in Smiths Falls held a call-in show the following Monday, so that people could phone the show, and share reports of what they had seen.
Sparkling Yellow-Orange Light Over Perth
“The Perth Courier”, Thursday, April 19, 1973
Julian Kustra reports flying object over Sherbrooke Street in Perth
“The Perth Courier” , Thursday, July 19, 1973, page 1.
UFO Reported in Beckwith Township on Tennyson Road
The next UFO sighting to be reported in the fall of 1973 took place in Beckwith Township. A young man was returning to Perth from Ottawa, driving along Highway 7 near Carleton Place, when his headlights suddenly went out. Concerned that he might be pulled over by the police with his headlights out he decided to take the back way, and turned onto Tennyson Road. The section of the road closest to Perth has swamp on both sides, and the lad noticed two large lights in the sky, hovering over the swamp. The object was in the sky just above the tree line. He pulled the car over to the side of the road, and as he stopped the car he noticed that the object stopped as well, and hovered over the swamp. He remained parked for a few minutes, and then started to drive again. When he began to move, so did the object, and it travelled parallel to him for a few more minutes, then disappeared. Early the next morning, when he pulled out of his driveway in Perth, his headlights were working again.
Small Sphere Hovers in Sky over Smiths Falls
Another sighting in the late summer of 1973 was first reported by a young lad working at a gas station in Smiths Falls. He spotted a small sphere in the sky that appeared to be hovering in one fixed location. He reported seeing silver flames coming from both the top and the bottom of the craft. The lad was quick to call CJET radio station, and ask if anyone else had seen the odd sphere in the sky. The radio station confirmed that yes, indeed; they could see it as well. In the days that followed, at least 40 people in the Smiths Falls area came forward, stating that they had seen the object as well.
…and in the Ottawa area in 1973:
“The Ottawa Citizen”, August 30, 1973, p.3
UFO Over Ottawa River
“The Ottawa Citizen”, August 31, 1973, pg. 2
Army Squadron sees UFO
“The Ottawa Journal”, Nov. 7, 1973, p.89
Frightened on HWY 417
“The Ottawa Journal”, Nov. 10, 1973, p. 1 & 2
“The Ottawa Citizen” December 11, 1973, p.41
Cigar-Shaped Object in Sky over Horseshoe Bay, Rideau Lakes
In the summer of 1974 people were once again talking about another strange object in the sky. It was a typical warm summer evening on the Rideau Lakes, and there were cottagers and residents alike, who saw more than they bargained for, on the night of August 12th. At around 10 p.m., many were sitting outside, enjoying the call of the loons, and listening to the water lapping on the shore. Suddenly, high in the night sky, a cigar-shaped object appeared. Some described it as a long, flat shape, orange in colour. Many said that it was more red than orange, and was shaped like a sphere. Everyone that saw it agreed that it was silent, and it hovered over the Big Rideau Lake, on the south side of Horseshoe Bay, for several minutes, and then vanished.
It wasn’t just in the Perth area that strange objects and lights appeared in the sky. Several residents of the town of Brockville, including some local police officers, confirmed the sightings of some odd lights moving in the night skies.
From “The Perth Courier”, January 3, 1979, front page, a sighting reported by George Shanks of Lanark, Ontario:
White Blinking Light in Sky over Ferguson Falls flies from Almonte to McDonald’s Corners
Cartoon printed in “The Perth Courier”, January 10, 1979, page 2
Flying objects in the sky became the talk of the town!
Strange sightings of unidentified flying objects were recorded in the Perth area as early as the late 1950s. Fiery balls of light, objects moving up and down, back and forth, quickly, in ways that airplanes were not able to maneuver.
UFO Tracking Station
Established near Ottawa
UFO tracking stations were established just outside of Ottawa, and rumours of government radio towers and underground facilities were heard up and down the concessions in Lanark County. Excavations were reported near Almonte, and government agents were testing the soil on several farms in Ramsay Township.
When reporters attempted to investigate further, the government representatives denied all, despite the fact that local men were working as labourers on many of the projects and could confirm what they had seen.
“On August 8, 1954, Smith, and his team at Shirley’s Bay recorded a disturbance, they believed was caused by a UFO. Among the observations that day were transmissions being received too rapid for a trained operator to decipher.”
December 26, 2018, ‘The Ottawa Citizen’ p. A6
Just days later, ‘Project Magnet’, as it was known, was disbanded, without explanation.
For more information on strange sightings in the night skies over Lanark County, and the government’s classified projects in the 1960s and 1970s, read the full story ‘Perplexed in Perth’, from “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”, ISBN 978-0-9877026-54
“In this collection of short stories the author invites the reader to journey back to a small farm in Eastern Ontario in the 1960s and 1970s. Discover Irish legends, and learn about the troublesome banshees of North Burgess Township. Visit Clyde Forks, and share in an unsolved mystery that continues to baffle police today. Join the celebration of a milestone, in the picturesque village of Middleville, and watch as a tragedy unfolds along the shores of the Mississippi, in Pakenham. Chat with the neighbours at a popular general store in DeWitt’s Corners, and witness something unusual in the night skies over Perth. Join the author as she travels back to a simpler way of life, in this treasury of tales from another time.”
“Once again, Arlene Stafford-Wilson triumphantly transports the reader into the heart of rural Eastern Ontario in the 1960s and 1970s. The stories selected for Lanark County Classics, are a fine and timely follow-up to her 2015 release Lanark County Connections.
Stafford-Wilson’s stories are composed with an intense clarity of phrase and image. As in her previous books, her fascination with the human and natural history of her native ground — the rural farmlands, villages and small towns in Lanark County is inexhaustible.
In her latest renderings, even seemingly uneventful lives in sparsely peopled Eastern Ontario hamlets like DeWitt’s Corners, Clyde Forks, Lanark, Middleville and Pakenham — farmers, shopkeepers and townsfolk — are brought back to life for closer examination. Her stories come alive with local names and family connections. In the simplest of words, and with the richest descriptions, she makes us see and hear an ‘unremarkable’ scene that we will never forget.
No one, having read this latest book, would ever again question, “What is so interesting about small-town rural Canada?” Her thorough and dedicated study of historical ingredients, always come up rich and fresh, seem never to be used up, and draw the reader into that place and time.
What makes Stafford-Wilson’s growth as an author so crisply and clearly visible throughout Lanark County Classics is the familiarity of her materials. With her vivid reminiscences set in rural towns and villages; the more she returns to it, the more she finds.
This latest work, once again confirms that the short story is alive and well in Canada where these heart-warming tales originate, like cool fresh breezes straight off the Rideau Lakes.”
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
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Many members of this proud community played a part, and their descendants carry with them the legacy of this historical settlement in Lanark County:
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
Don Rennie, reporter for “The Perth Courier”, wrote a story on the Burgess Ghost in 1967:
“Strange occurrences were happening in 1935 at a farm in North Burgess just off the Narrows Locks road. Mr. John Quinn, his wife and two children, Michael, and Stanley, ages 13 and 11, reported innumerable phenomena taking place in their home. Stove lids, according to the Quinns, “danced” in the air, the teapot “jumped” off the stove into the wood box, three flat irons “walked” down a staircase and dishes “pranced” on the dining-room table. Word of this mysterious goings on spread quickly throughout the district. Although, perhaps skeptical, hundreds of persons from miles around flocked to the Quinn home.
On the Sunday after the reporting of the “ghosts” more than 100 cars arrived at the Quinn farm. Along with the cars a flotilla of cutters and sleighs dotted the white-capped farm. The snow fell incessantly and the thermometer dipped way below the zero mark.
Newsmen from across the country arrived, and the CBC news from Toronto, reported the strange events. Although the strange occurrences could not be readily explained, many held doubts in their minds as the credulity of the phenomena. Believing that there had to be a reasonable explanation behind the occurrences, the Perth detachment of the OPP decided to hold an investigation.
On a Saturday afternoon, members of the force motored to the Quinn home, and inspected the building. Nothing strange occurred while they were there. That same evening Inspector Storey returned to the house. He remained there until Sunday morning along with about a dozen district men, sat in the house, speaking in hushed tones, but again nothing happened.
photo: members of the Quinn family, and the local police force
Mr. Quinn was unable to explain the strange occurrences that had been going on for the past couple of weeks. Pieces of beef he had placed in a barrel had been found littered throughout the house, he said, and the Wednesday before a window pane crashed for no apparent reason. He had not thought that too odd until it happened the very next evening.
Andrea Burke, a neighbouring farmer, declared that a bone thrown out of the home time and time again had always returned to the house for no explicable reason. Another neighbour, William Cordick, swore that he had seen three flat irons descend the Quinn’s staircase one after another.”
Irish Settlers to North Burgess Township, Lanark County
Most, but not all of the Irish in North Burgess Township, came from County Down and County Armagh, and many came in the 1840s, 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.
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.
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.
The areas where this ‘wave’ of Irish settled in Lanark County:
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.
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.
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.
The Story of the Burgess Ghost became a local legend….
The story of the ghost in the Quinn house was passed down through the years, told and retold at family gatherings, around campfires, and particularly in the weeks each year leading up to Hallowe’en.
In a strange final twist to the mystery of the Burgess Ghost, the Quinn family home burned to the ground. The cause of the fire was never determined, and remains a mystery to this day…..
In 1972, the Quinn home was burned to the ground.
Mysterious Fire Destroys Burgess Ghost House
“The Ottawa Journal”, Jan. 4, 1972, p.5
Some of the families who were among the earliest settlers to North Burgess Township:
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.
For genealogical records of the founding families of North Burgess Township:
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 ‘Lanark County Classics – A Treasury of Tales from Another Time’. The reader will discover more about the early families from Ireland who settled in Lanark County, 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, Mill St. Books and online.