Rideau Ferry Inn – Those Hot Summer Nights!

Rideau Ferry Inn blog post image

Oh, those hot summer nights at the Rideau Ferry Inn!  The dancing, the laughter, stolen kisses, sneaking drinks in the parking lot, and the best live rock and roll around!

Its official name back then, was the Poonamalie Pavilion, but nobody called it that.  To my friends and me, it was simply the Rideau Ferry Inn; and you could find us there most weekend nights in the summer, socializing, laughing, and dancing the night away.

Situated along the clear, blue waters of the Rideau, the Rideau Ferry Inn has hosted many generations of tourists and boaters, providing sumptuous meals, comfortable accommodation, and lively entertainment.  Arguably, the highlight of the small settlement of Rideau Ferry, our former teenage haunt, wasn’t the original structure at this location.  The original building was actually a home.

The original structure was a house built in 1853 by Archibald Campbell.  Archibald married Elizabeth Buchanan, a preacher’s daughter.  Her father was the Reverend George Buchanan, and was one of the early Presbyterian ministers of Beckwith Township, serving the congregation at Franktown.

Their daughter, Helen Buchanan Campbell, married John Coutts.  As her parents were aging, and needed assistance, the couple moved in with them in 1870.  During that time, John made some additions to the home, and when he was finished, they not only had ample room for themselves, but had more than enough room to accommodate guests.  They began to rent rooms in the house to summer tourists, who were traveling by boat ,along the mighty Rideau waterways.


As the years went by, their home became known as ‘Coutts House’, and eventually, had the reputation of being a very fine hotel.  In 1893 a three-storey addition was built at the back of the house.  A large dining room was added to the first floor. The second and third floors had fifteen hotel rooms each, and an indoor bathroom.

Rideau Ferry Coutts House 1889

After 1905, the building was rented to a series of business men. During the 1920s and 30s, regattas became popular, and Coutts House held canoe races, and rowboats races. The Coutts family also sponsored competitions for sailboats, and it was the site of many grand daytime celebrations, and intimate evening affairs, for the wealthy travelers, visiting in the summer.

In 1947, Doug Wallace, native of Osgoode bought Coutts House, tore it down, and built a new structure with wood framing, and grey granite blocks.  It was a two-storey building, and the second floor featured a large dance area, with seating on three sides.

By the 1960s, the building had become known as the Rideau Ferry Inn, and during this time, became licensed for liquor sales.  Up until that time people would smuggle in their own booze, particularly in the roaring twenties when rum-running along the Rideau had its hey-day.

Rideau Ferry Bridge

It was in the 1970s, that I first heard the tales about the popular night spot, and all the good times that were had at the Rideau Ferry Inn.  There were stories told up and down the halls of the Perth High School – stories of summer romances with cottagers staying at seasonal properties nearby, or the ultra-cool teens that traveled by boat along the Rideau, with their parents.  There was also talk of the teenage kids from the States, and their hip clothing and accessories; styles that would take years to reach our little communities near Perth.  There were lots of accounts at our high school of the talented rock bands that performed, and of the nights spent dancing to the top hits played by edgy disc jockeys.  I couldn’t wait to go and see it for myself.

Paul Tarle Band

photo: L.  Steve Francis, Mike McPherson, Brian Jones, and seated – Paul Tarle.

The main house-band at ‘The Inn’ in the early 1970s was the Paul Tarle Band – and we showed off our cool dance moves, as we listened to their popular rock classics.

Dance 1970s

One of the best parties of our steamy Lanark County  summers was the annual Rideau Ferry Regatta. Beautiful, sleek, boats from all over, competing for the sought-after prizes, and the prestige of being ‘Number 1’ on the big lakes.

Boat Show Rideau Ferry

Regattas were all about hot sun, cold beers, the cool, clear waters of the Rideau Lakes, and beautiful boats all around us.

Rideau Ferry Inn 1982

We’ll never forget the annual regattas, or the great music at the Rideau Ferry Inn. Bands like ‘Sammy Seaman’ and his group kept us up until the wee hours.  Some nights it was ‘Woody Herman and the Young Thundering Herd’, and other evenings we were entertained by the ‘Paul Chabot Band’.   Occasionally, instead of live bands at the ‘Inn’, there was a ‘Disco’ dance provided by a local disc jockey, by the name of  ‘Sounds Great’.

Many years after our frequent teenage visits to the Rideau Ferry Inn, the building was purchased by Elmer and Eva Purdon.  It was still ‘the’ place at that time to host fancy wedding receptions, or 50th wedding anniversary celebrations.

Because we’d had so many good times at the Rideau Ferry Inn, it was a terrible shock for my friends and I when we heard about the fire in February of 1986, that destroyed our former dance hall.  The fire started on the top floor, where the dances had been held for so many years.  The ground floor was also destroyed in the fire, and that is where the kitchen, the large dining room, and bar were located.

My friends and I drove down to Rideau Ferry a few days after the fire.  I don’t think it was so much out of curiosity, but more out of disbelief.  Could it be true, that the place where we’d passed so many of our happy youthful hours was really gone? There were so many memories of friendships, dancing, and all of the special evenings we spent at the Rideau Ferry Inn.

We drove up to where the Inn had stood, and looked around. No one said a word.  I think that as we stared at the charred foundation of the building, each of us was recalling our own versions of the times spent there, in our youth.  They were such innocent, awkward, magical, teenage times. We sat there for a few more moments, still silent, and then drove away, back up the Ferry Road toward Perth.

The building may be gone, but our fond memories of the Rideau Ferry Inn will remain with us forever.  We will always remember the music, the friends, and the good times. Those long summer nights, when the stars seemed to shine a little brighter, the sunsets glowed a little softer.  The peaceful, pristine, waters of the Rideau Lakes made a perfect backdrop for those innocent days of our youth, when life stretched out ahead of us…..so full of promise, and our dreams for the future.

Lake Life sunset


An excerpt from – ‘Revelry and Rogues on the Rideau’  – ‘Lanark County Chronicle’ available in local book stores, or online. ISBN 978-0-9877026-23

LC Chronicle from web


Local Names:

Although there were lots of tourists and visitors in the summer, they were only there for a few short weeks at most. We became acquainted with many of the folks who lived year-round at Rideau Ferry, and some of the local names at that time were: McLean, Donaldson, Buchanan, Gemmill, Frost, Sewell, Coutts, Gallagher, Beveridge, McKay, Wills, McVeety, Millar, Tully, Oliver, Dettrick, Bethune, Purdon, Hitchcock, Fitzgerald, Hall, Gould, Irving, Joynt, King, McCue, Wallace, McKay and Campbell.


Join the author on a steamy hot summer night, park your car outside the Rideau Ferry Inn in the ‘passion pit’,  duck as the beer-bottles fly, and the action heats up outside.  Hear some of the top bands from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s play some classic rock and roll along the peaceful shores of the Rideau – read about it in the new book, released September 2020:

“Lanark County Collection: Winding Our Way Down Memory Lane”

LC Collection cover

available at The Book Nook, and The Bookworm, in Perth, and Mill Street Books in Almonte.

Also online at http://www.staffordwilson.com

photos:  Perth Historical Society, Carol-Ann McDougall, Perth Remembered, Vintage Smiths Falls and Perth, The Perth Courier, Georgia McNally, Vintage Race Boat Shop, and from private collections.

For boating on the big lakes  – Rideau Ferry Marina

Rideau Ferry Regatta



Family Reunions – Lanark County 1970s & 1980s

Lanark County Family Reunions


Someone once said,

“Families are like branches on a tree – we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.” 

Many families who settled in Lanark County came from Europe – mainly Ireland, Scotland, some from England, and from countless other locations around the world.   As sons and daughters grew up and left the family homesteads, they in turn spread out across the country and beyond.  Organizing a family reunion became a yearly ritual for some families, and many advertised their reunions in the local papers.

The following is a snapshot of some of the families who held reunions in the 1970s and 1980s in Lanark County.  Our story begins with some commentary from a popular local journalist, Bill Smiley, and his personal views on family reunions…..

Family Reunion column by Bill Smiley

(December 18, 1975. p.2 – an excerpt of Bill Smiley’s column)


Lanark County Family Reunions banner


Andison Family

(Aug. 6, 1970, p.12 – “The Perth Courier”)

Andison family


Crampton Family

(October 21, 1971, p.10)

Crampton family


Schonauer Family

(July 10, 1975. p. 12)

Schonauer family


Slack Family

(Aug. 28, 1975, p.10)

Slack family


McKay Family

McKay family

June 2, 1977, p.4


Barr Family

Barr family

Aug. 18, 1977 p.16


Patterson Family

Patterson family 1

Patterson family 2

July 19, 1978 p.19


Kirkham Family

Kirkham family

Aug. 30, 1978 p.6



Love Family

Love family

News from Flower Station, Aug. 22, 1979 p.7



Geddes Family

Geddes family

Snow Road News, Aug. 19, 1979, p.31



Kirkham, Dixon, McKenacher, Truelove, and Tysick families

Kirkham family 1

Kirkham family 2

September 26, 1979, p.26


Desjardine Family

Desjardine family

Flower Station news – March 5, 1980 p.11


Barrie Family

Barrie family

Snow Road news – July 9, 1980, p.8



Rintoul Family

Rintoul family

Aug. 15, 1981, p.5


Hermer Family

Hermer family

Oct. 7, 1981 p.15 – Ardoch news


Massey – Marshall Family

Massey family

Massey family 1

Massey family 2

Massey family 3

May 26, 1982 p. 19



Caswell Family

Caswell family

July 14, 1982, p.11



Miller Family

Miller family

July 21, 1982, p.14



Camelon Family

camelon reunion

July 21, 1982, p.14



VanAlstine Family

VanAlstine family

July 21, 1982, p.14




Closs Family

Closs family

July 28, 1982, p.7



Echlin Family

Echlin family

July 28, 1982 p.14



Arnott Family

Arnott family

Aug. 4, 1982, p.3





Larmon Family

Larmon family 2

Larmon family

Aug. 18, 1982 p.27



Adrain Family

Adrain family

Dec. 22, 1982, p.22


McDonnell Family

McDonnell family

July 20, 1983 p.10 – Donnelly’s Corners


Brady Family

Brady family

July 27, 1983, p.22


Crosbie and Gemmill Families

Crosbie and Gemmill family

July 27, 1983, p.22



Devlin Family

Devlin family

July 27, 1983, p.22



Killingbeck, Koffman, & Baxter Families

Killingbeck family

Sept. 7, 1983 p.6



Bowes and Mahon Families

Bowes and Mahon families

July 25, 1984 p.3



Umpherson Family

Umpherson family

Aug. 1, 1984, p.13


McKenzie – Peters, Thomas, Morrow, Kerr

McKenzie Peters families

Sept. 26, 1984 p.14



Hill – Millar Families

Hill Millar families

Oct. 3, 1984, p.10


Chabot Family

Chabot family

Oct. 17, 1984 p.12



memories quote


Stafford family reunion 2012 Oshawa

photo: Stafford family reunion – 2012, at the Marriott Hotel, Consumers Drive, Whitby,  Ontario
Back row, l to r:  Roger Stafford, Sam Wharton, Kevin Wilson, Tim Stafford, Jim Ryan
Front row, l to r: Ruth (Parks) Stafford, Jackie Stafford Wharton, Arlene Stafford-Wilson, Marian (Salemink) Stafford, and Judy Stafford Ryan


News clippings of all Lanark County family reunions – from: “The Perth Courier”