Irish Christmas in Lanark County

The Irish brought their Christmas traditions when they settled in Lanark County, in the earliest times. Our ancestor, Tobias Stafford, came in 1816, from County Wexford, Ireland, and married Elizabeth, ‘Betsy’ McGarry, who came from Mullingar Parish, County Westmeath, Ireland.

Christmas, in those times was a far more religious, and far less commercial holiday than it is today. Priests traveled from larger centers, like Perth, to smaller communities, and people gathered at one of the larger neighbourhood homes to hear mass, and to celebrate the birth of Christ. In 1856, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church was built, on a gentle hill, overlooking the Mississippi River. Finally, the locals had their own church, not just to mark religious holidays, but also a place to witness baptisms, weddings, and to seek comfort at the funerals of their dearly departed.

St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, built in 1856, Ferguson Falls, Ontario

Advent Candles

One of the early Christmas traditions at St. Patrick’s Church was the lighting of the Advent Candles.

Four candles were set up at the front of the church, and one was lit at each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.

1st Sunday of Advent

The first candle was lit with a sermon on being watchful and alert, waiting for Christ’s arrival:

“Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” Matthew 24:42  

2nd Sunday of Advent

On the second week, the next candle was lit, with a sermon focusing on making preparations for the birth of Christ:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’ Matthew 3:3

3rd Sunday of Advent

On the third Sunday of Advent, after the lighting of the third candle, the sermon focused on St. John the Baptist, and the foretelling of Jesus coming to earth:

“I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.” Luke 3:16-17

4th Sunday of Advent

Week four of Advent was the lighting of the fourth candle, and a reflection on the unwavering faith of Mary and Joseph, and a call to those who believed in what was to come:

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke 1:45

Thomas Stafford’s Family

Thomas Stafford, the youngest son of Tobias and Betsy, was just 10 years old when St. Patrick’s was established, and so, he attended the church as a child, and throughout his entire life, with his own children, as he remained on the ancestral Stafford property, on the 11th concession of Drummond Township.

Family of Thomas Stafford, his wife, Mary (Carroll) Stafford, seated with their eldest son, Peter in the middle row. Back row – Ann Stafford, Mary Stafford (local schoolteacher in Ferguson Falls), Thomas Patrick Stafford, and Julia Stafford (who married William Quinn), front row – Margaret Stafford, Anastasia ‘Stasia’ Stafford, and Michael Vincent ‘Vince’ Stafford, (my grandfather, named for his uncle, Rev. Father Michael Stafford, the Apostle of Temperance), photo taken 1896.

In the weeks before Christmas, dried fruits were soaked in whiskey and rum, and more alcohol was added each day as the fruit became plump and full. A large, square piece of fresh clean cloth was dipped in hot water, and rubbed with flour to make it waterproof. After two weeks of soaking, the fruit was added to a traditional cake batter, and this ‘pudding’ was tied in the cloth sack, boiled for one hour, and then hung in the pantry to ripen.

Christmas puddings were hung in cloth sacks to ripen

An Irish pioneer’s Christmas pudding

Christmas Decorations

Back in their homeland, the Irish decorated with sprigs of holly, ivy, and other evergreens native to Ireland like Arbutus, and Yew. Once in Canada, they used the native Eastern Ontario greenery – like spruce, pine, and cedar.

Small branches of spruce and cedar were brought into the home, and laid along the mantle

A spruce tree was cut from the surrounding forests, and brought into the house about a week before Christmas. White candles were attached to the tree, and lit in the evenings leading up to Christmas.

I recall our Dad saying that he was nervous when they lit the candles on the family tree because so many house fires were caused by this practice in the Ferguson Falls area, around Christmastime, when he was a young lad.

Shiny Christmas ornaments that we know today were very rare in the early days, and most of the decorative glass ornaments were imported from Germany, were very expensive, and only available in larger towns, like Perth, or Carleton Place. Often, the ladies of the family made homemade ornaments to hang on the tree, and some were made using needle-craft, like tatting, or crochet.

Lace Christmas ornaments were hand-crafted by the early settlers

Some of the more affluent families purchased ornaments imported from Europe

Precious and costly ornaments, imported from Europe

Bloc na Nollag – the burning of the Yule Log

The cold dark days and nights of the winter solstice were known as “Yule” in Ireland, and most of northern Europe. Burning the “Bloc na Nollag” (Nollag pronounced ‘null-egg’), was an old Irish tradition that continued through the generations, and was common to the Irish who settled in Eastern Ontario. The men of the family dragged home the largest log they could find. After dusting off the snow, the log was placed whole at the back of the fire. This large log was supposed to last for the entire 12 days of Christmas. A small piece of the log was saved to use as kindling for the lighting of the next year’s yule log .

Yule Log

A Candle in the Window on Christmas Eve

All through Ireland a candle is lit and placed in the window on Christmas Eve. This tradition was brought to Canada by the settlers, and was a symbol of welcome to the Holy family. It is thought that this custom originated with the tradition of lighting the way for all travelers on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. It is a tradition for the eldest person in the family to light the candle in the window on Christmas Eve.

A candle lit in the window on Christmas Eve, lighting the way for the Holy Family

An orange in the Christmas stocking

According to Dad, they hung simple stockings, sometimes wool socks, without decoration, on Christmas Eve, and in the morning, the stocking would hold a few pieces of hard candy, a small toy usually made of wood, and always a lovely, ripe, Christmas orange. He said that fresh fruit was scarce when he was growing up in the 1920s, and it was a very special thing to receive a fresh juicy orange on Christmas morning.

A simple stocking with a precious fresh orange was a treat in the 1920s, in Drummond Township

On Christmas morning, the family got dressed up in their best clothing, hitched up the horses to the cutter, and headed to St. Patrick’s Church.

All of the families in the area donated a bit of money to the local priest, and presented it to him with thanks, at the end of the service. The custom came from Ireland and was known as the ‘priest’s box’, even though the settlers used an envelope, or folded paper together and sometimes painted colourful designs on the outside.

Envelope for a special Christmas donation for the local priest

Irish Christmas Dinner

Many of the traditional foods from Ireland were not available to the Canadian pioneer settlers, so they made a few substitutions when needed. Although goose was the traditional bird cooked for Christmas dinner in Ireland, the settlers sometimes roasted a duck, chicken, or turkey, instead. The clove-studded baked ham was a tradition brought from the old country, and cooked in our ancestor’s homes. Stuffing was made of bread crumbs spiced with sage, onion, salt and pepper. Potatoes were always a favourite daily staple, and they were usually roasted in the fat of the duck or chicken. Roasted carrots were served, along with gravy made with the poultry drippings. The plum pudding was boiled again on Christmas Day, then a whiskey or rum sauce was poured on the top and it was lit at the table, at the end of the Christmas meal, and served as dessert.

Traditional Irish Christmas dinner with ham, turkey, stuffing, carrots, potatoes, gravy, and Brussels sprouts

Clove-studded baked ham

roasted potatoes and carrots

After dinner, the leftover food was put away, the dishes washed, and chairs were moved close to the fire, placed in a semi-circle. This was a time for music! Fiddles were played, and traditional Irish songs from the old country were sang around the fire. Stories were told of Christmas’ past, and jokes were shared, generous glasses of whiskey were poured, and the dancing of a little ‘jig’ to go along with the music was common.

The merriment went on into the wee hours, and it was a tradition for the youngest in the family to leave the home’s door unlatched, before going to bed, to give shelter to any travelers who may pass by. When the story-tellers and the musicians grew weary, and the last soul in the house finally retired to bed, it was their task to make sure that the Christmas candle was still lit in the window, to help guide the Holy Family through the long, dark, night.

And so, the traditions and customs of our Irish ancestors were passed down through the generations, from the very first settlers, to the present day. The special Christmas foods, the hanging of the stockings, the lighting of the candles for Advent, the singing of songs, the fiddling, the whiskey, the story-telling, and the lone candle in the window, lighting up the dark, cold, December night.

So, I’ll leave you with a traditional Irish Christmas blessing, and hope that you will pass along some of your own family’s customs to the next generation, from your grandparents, to your parents, to you, and onto your children, and their children. Peace be with you and yours this holy Christmas season.

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My Mother, she was Orange…..and my Father, he was Green

“You picked a hell of a day to get married!”

Those were the first words spoken to our mother, the day she met her new father-in-law, Vince Stafford.  He was referring to the fact that they were married on the twelfth of July. He made it quite clear that he was not pleased that his son had chosen to welcome a Protestant into their Roman Catholic family, on July 12th of all days!

Some called it Orangeman’s Day, and some referred to it as the ‘Glorious Twelfth’.  On July 12th each year, Protestant organizations celebrated the victory of Protestant King William of Orange, riding a white horse, who defeated Catholic King James, at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690.

William white horse

 

The Orange and the Green

When I was a kid, the Irish Rovers recorded a song called “The Orange and the Green”, about a child growing up with one Roman Catholic parent, and one Protestant parent.  We saw them perform the song many times over on a popular television show called ‘The Pig and Whistle’, and the irony of the song was not lost on us.

Irish Rovers “The Orange and Green”

Our father, a Roman Catholic, from Drummond Township, grew up attending St. Patrick’s church in Ferguson Falls, while our mother attended Calvin United in Bathurst (Tay Valley) Township.

 

St Patricks and Calvin

Although the feelings of bias and animosity between these two religions may seem foreign to us in these more inclusive times, they were still very much in the forefront, during the 1940s, when my parents married. Mother said she never felt accepted by Dad’s family, particularly his parents; and that never changed even up to the late 1950s and early 1960s when the in-laws passed away.

This religious prejudice ran on both sides of the fence. I recall our cousin, Ruth Rutherford, in Ogdensburg, New York, was forbidden to marry her sweetheart, a Catholic lad, and she never got over it.  She remained single for the rest of her life, unable to marry her true love.

It may be difficult for us to imagine, but there were times in our early history in Canada where it was not uncommon for the July 12th celebrations to result in violence or even death.

Montreal Orangemen riots

‘The St. Alban’s Advertiser’, July 20, 1877, p.3

 

In the early years of the last century, the Orangemen’s Day parades in Canada drew crowds in the thousands, and it was not unusual for fights to break out, and insults along with injuries were to be expected.

Orange Day parade Toronto 1911

Orange Parade, Toronto, July 12, 1911

 

Although Orangeism originated in Ireland and England, Ogle Robert Gowan, the Order’s first Canadian Grand Master is recognized as the founder of Canadian Orangeism.  It is interesting that Gowan is known to have been a frequent visitor to a local fortune teller, Mother Barnes, the Witch of Plum Hollow. Not wishing to be seen consulting a sooth-sayer, he often sent his wife and their maid to ask questions about his politics and his career.

Orange Lodges, as the membership halls were called, sprang up all over Canada, and in Eastern Ontario, they were a common sight in almost every community.  The closest Orange Hall to our house was at Wemyss, frequently used as a dance hall, and a place to play cards and socialize.

Wemyss orange hall

  “The Perth Courier” Sept. 27, 1940, p.4

 

Carleton Place was one of the first communities to establish a Loyal Orange Lodge, along with Perth, Smiths Falls, and Montague Township.

Carleton Place Orange Lodge

 

In the early days, thousands attended Orange events:

Orange celebrations Perth 1904

“The Perth Courier”, July 8, 1904, p4

 

Through the decades, many community organizations also held their meetings and socials at the local Orange halls.

Drummond Centre

“The Perth Courier”, Oct. 23, 1941,p.1

 

Carleton Place had one of its largest crowds of visitors on July 12, 1920:

 

Orangeman's Day 2910

In 1921, the Orange Order agreed on several resolutions, including one intended to abolish all separate schools in Canada.

Orange resolution passed

The popularity of the Orange Order celebrations continued through the 1930s…

orangemens day 1934

“The Perth Courier”, July 13, 1934, p.1

 

orange order flag

Flag of Canada’s Grand Orange Order

 

An Orange parade was often led by one of the members on a white horse, symbolizing the white horse ridden by King William of Orange, at the Battle of the Boyne.

orange order white horse

Some of the symbols worn by members of the Orange Order

orange parade symbols

Orange Order – ‘Keys to Heaven

orange order keys

 

To assist in the war efforts, every Orange Lodge in Canada was turned into a recruiting office in WWII

orange lodge war efforts 1940

“The Perth Courier”, July 19, 1940, p.1

 

Lanark County Oranges Lodges, Active in 1946

orange lodges lanark county 1946

Lanark County – Orange Order Officers 1946

orange lodge lanark county officers 1946

“The Perth Courier”, July 18, 1946, p.1

 

In 1957, the Orange Day celebrations were held in Almonte, and Rev. Canon J.W.R. Meaken, shared some comments as part of his address to begin the meeting:

orange order address 1957

“The Perth Courier” July 25, 1957, p.7

 

Interest in joining the Orange Order began to dwindle in the 1960s and 1970s, and instead of thousands attending the annual parade, it became ‘hundreds’.

orange parade 1971

“The Perth Courier” July 8, 1971, p.1

 

Memberships grew smaller and smaller in many parts of the country, and in Lanark County, one of the oldest Orange Lodges, in Carleton Place, closed after 185 years, in January of 2015. The existing membership would merge with the Montague lodge # 512.  (The Grand Lodge of Ireland issued the original warrant for the Carleton Place Lodge back in 1830.)

orange lodge Carleton Place closing

Left, John Arksey, County Master for Rideau/St. Lawrence County Orange Lodges,center, Kevin Bradley, Grand Master of the Carleton Place Lodge, and Mark Alexander, provincial grand master, Ontario East, of the Grand Orange Lodge of Eastern Ontario.
“Inside Ottawa Valley” Dec 02, 2015, by Desmond Devoy, ‘Carleton Place Almonte Canadian Gazette’

 

At one time, there were 30 Lodges throughout Lanark County. After the closing of the Carleton Place Lodge in 2015, only the Montague Lodge and the Smiths Falls Lodge (No. 88), remained. The Almonte Lodge (No. 378) amalgamated with Carleton Place in 1987, Franktown in Beckwith Township (No. 381) in 1992, and Drummond Centre in Drummond/North Elmsley Township (No. 7) in 2013.

…………

Throughout the many decades of the celebration of Orangemen, their sometimes vocal, and occasionally violent encounters with the Catholics, our family will continue to celebrate July 12th for a different reason. July 12th, for us, was the joining of the two religions, historically separated on this date, a young Protestant girl from the west, and a handsome Roman Catholic lad from Drummond Township.

mother-and-dad-dating-in-lethbridge1

Maybe they were ahead of their time.  It was 1943 afterall, and marrying outside of one’s religion was often frowned upon.  Luckily for us, the five children that followed in this unconventional marriage, would grow up in a home where we learned to respect different opinions, different points of view, and different religions.

Christmas baking

And so, the Protestant girl, and the Catholic boy were married for almost 50 years, until Dad passed away.

I still smile when I hear that Irish Rover’s tune, “The Orange and the Green”,  and July 12th, for us, will always be a special day in our own family history.

………….

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

 

 

 

Free Online Lanark County Land Records 1763-1865

Tobias Stafford petition

Did your ancestors immigrate to North America between 1763-1865? This online database contains more than 82,000 individuals who arrived in present-day Ontario, Canada between 1783 and 1865. Keep in mind that may pioneers from America landed and settled first in this particular area of Canada before moving on to the United States.

Lanark County land record

To obtain a grant of free land, each pioneer settler was required to submit a written petition. He had to supply the necessary certificates from a local judge confirming his age, that he was of good character, and if available a discharge certificate from the military. Usually, the documents were returned, so they are not included with these land petitions.

The process of granting the land followed four essential steps:

• Assigning of specific lots to each settler;
• The land assigned was surveyed to establish exact boundaries
• Settlers were required to clear and cultivate a small section of the land
and build a dwelling house
• Finally, when all of these requirements were satisfied, the deed was issued

Click on the link below to search for your ancestor:

Index of Land Petitions of Upper Canada

Type your ancestor’s name into the search fields:

Land record search

Search land records

This link is an index to the petitions, with full details on where the actual petitions can be found for each individual listed. Remember to note the microfilm, volume, and page numbers, so you may easily find your ancestor’s land records using the next link:

To see the actual images of your ancestor’s land petition:

Digitized Image of Land Petition

land search results

The digitized images are presented in PDF, but there is also a link on the page to the JPG file if you would like to print the record, or save it to your computer’s hard drive.

Once you have the microfilm number, in my case it is C-2739 (see above), then click on the Land Record link below, and it will take you to the page with the digitized images.

Land Record

 

land record link to microfilm

Your record may be on the first page, or you can use the ‘Next’ button at the bottom of the page to move forward to the page where you’ll find the link to your ancestor’s record:

 

link to microfilm

Click on the link to your record, and look for the listing that matched the results in your first search:

 

(this shows you the Petition number, the Volume number, the Reference numbers, etc.)

land record search info

microfilm listing

Use the arrow to move to the pages that you are looking for.  In this case, for my record it is in Vol. 421, RG 1, L 3, and document 59f-59g:   (you may have to check the tops of the pages for the page number you are looking for.  Make sure that you are in the correct section according to your initial search results)

land record page number

….and here is the record for my ancestor, Tobias Stafford, on concession 11, lot 10 of Drummond Township:

land record Tobias Stafford

 

If you are researching your family history, a land record is a valuable addition to your genealogical records.

Finding the land records for your family can be fun to do with the kids or grand kids, and can teach them a bit about their own family history.

grandkids

 

Lanark County also has an interactive map showing historic land ownership.

Click on the link to the site below, click on the township and concession where your ancestor lived, and you will see the listing for the land grant:

Historic Land Ownership for Lanark County

Lanark County historic Land ownership

 

genealogy image

 

The original records are available on microfilm at the Library and Archives Canada.

Contact the Library and Archives Canada

If you are not able to travel to Ottawa, you may email or call the LAC to find out if these microfilms may be loaned to your local library (NAC Series RG 1, L 3)

For more help in finding your Lanark County ancestors’ land records, contact the Archives Lanark:

Archives Lanark

(images of land records and search pages are from the Library and Archives, Canada, 395 Wellington St, Ottawa, ON K1A 0N4)

 

Good luck with your search!

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St. Patrick’s Church, Ferguson’s Falls, Lanark County

Image

In 1856 St. Patrick’s church was erected in Ferguson’s Falls, on land donated by the Quinn family. The lumber for the church construction was cut from the farm of William Scanlan.

It is one of the oldest Catholic missions in Ontario, and two of its own members joined the priesthood:  Father Michael Stafford, son of pioneer Tobias Stafford and Elizabeth McGarry entered the priesthood in 1858.  Also Reverend Edmund Quinn, son of John Quinn and Anna Byrnes entered the priesthood in 1947.

Before St. Patrick’s was built, the local Roman Catholics had to travel to St. John’s Church in Perth, which was a long, difficult journey by horse and buggy, particularly in the long, harsh winter months.

This photograph above shows my brother Roger Stafford entering the grounds of the cemetery at St. Patrick’s, July 4th 2012.  Many of the early Roman Catholic pioneers are buried in this cemetery.  Stafford, Richards, Quinn, McGarry, Foley, Holliger, McKittrick, Blair, Carberry, Kehoe, McCaffrey, to name a few.

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The Tale of the Seven Bachelors

There were seven young bachelors who left Ireland at the same time, and during their voyage across the ocean they swore that they would stick together, and help each other in their new country.  They pledged to stay only if they could carve out a life for themselves, and if not, they swore they would all leave together and return to Ireland.

The Irish bachelors were Patrick Quinn, John Quinn, James Carberry, William Scanlan, Terrence Doyle, John Cullen and James Power.

The bachelors cleared about ten acres of land about two miles from Ferguson Falls, and lived together in a rough log cabin that they had built together.  They were given 200 acres of land each, in connecting sections, and each cleared their land and began to farm.  They married local girls, and started families.  The area where they lived was known as the Quinn Settlement.  The story of the Seven bachelors was passed down through the generations.

(The story of the Seven Bachelors was shared with me on two occasions by two local lads, both were raised in the area – from James ‘Jim’ Quinn in 1998, and from my cousin Thomas Stafford in 2001.  My Great Aunt Clara Richards married Tom Carberry – a descendant of one of the seven bachelors – James Carberry)

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112 Years of the St. Patrick Mission in Ferguson Falls – written in 1968

One week before Christmas, December 19th, 1968, “The Perth Courier” published an article celebrating the 112th Anniversary of St. Patrick’s Church.

St. Patrick's # 1

St. P 5

St P 9

St P 10

St P 11

On September 3, 1858, Father McDonagh recorded his Dedication of St. Patrick’s church in the parish register of St. John’s R.C. Church in Perth, Ontario:

Dedication of St Patrick's Church edited

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Patrick, Apostle of Ireland

The tiny country church in Ferguson Falls was “dedicated to the service of Almighty God, under the invocation of St. Patrick.”

Patrick was a 5th century Christian missionary, and is the primary patron saint of Ireland.  Early records show that Patrick was the first Bishop in Ireland, and is regarded as the founder of Christianity.  It is said that Patrick converted the Druids to Christianity by using the clover, a plant which grew in abundance all over Ireland, to explain the concept of ‘the Father’, ‘the Son’, and ‘the Holy Spirit’.

St Patrick

March 17th is known as the ‘Feast of St. Patrick’, celebrated around the world to mark the date that St. Patrick died.  The day is marked by church services, and the wearing of green to symbolize the clovers or shamrocks implemented by St. Patrick, to teach the concepts of Christianity.  Historically, the restrictions of Lent such as eating and drinking alcohol were put aside for the day, which in recent years gave way to the tradition of alcohol consumption as part of the celebration.

trinity shamrock

The Celtic Cross (below) was often used in the grave stones and monuments of the settlers who had come from Ireland, like those who attended St. Patrick’s Church in Ferguson Falls.

celtic cross

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Quinn Family of Ferguson Falls

These members of the Quinn family are direct descendants of the pioneer Quinn family who donated the land for St. Patrick’s R.C. Church

Quinn family

Father Michael Stafford – 

(first member of the congregation to enter the priesthood)

Father Michael Stafford

Michael Stafford was born March 1, 1832 in Drummond Township, and died November 12, 1882, age 51 at Lindsay, Ontario.  He is interred at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Lindsay, Ontario.

(Older brother to my Great-Grandfather Thomas,  Father Michael Stafford was my Great-great Uncle)

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Father Michael Stafford # 2

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Priests Who Served at St. Patrick’s Church

Ferguson Falls

Father McDonagh                          1858-1866

Rev. Dr. Chisholm                           1866-1878

Rev. John O’Connor                        1878-?

Fr. Michael O’Donoghue               ?-1889

Fr. M. O’Rourke                               1889-1907

Father Keaney                                  1907-1912

Rev. Father R.A. Carey                    1912-1925

Father Eugene O’Sullivan              1925-1928

Father Walter Whelan                    1928-1934

Father J.G. Clancy                            1934- 1941

Father Walter Healey                     1941-1947

(Fr. Healey designed the cobblestone cross that stands in the center of  St. Patrick’s Cemetery)

Father Harold Rice                            1947-1950

(following Father Rice’s death in 1950, the parish was under the charge of Rev. Brennan  for two months)

Rev. Fr. Edward Trainor                   1950-1956

Rev. Father Francis Meagher           1956-1959

(after the death of Fr. Meagher, Rev. Fr. Neal administered the parish for one month)

Rev. Fr. Joseph Healey                       1959-1967

Rev. Fr. Edward Keyes                       1967-1975

……………………………………………………………………………………………

Several women from the Ferguson Falls parish chose to serve the Church, at the House of Providence in Kingston, Ontario

House of Providence Kingston

Sister Mary Vincent

Julia Stafford 1844-1886

Julia was the daughter of pioneer Tobias Stafford and Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ McGarry Stafford. Three members of this family devoted their lives to the divine service: Rev. Father Michael Stafford, who was parish priest of Lindsay at his death in 1882, and Julia and Margaret, exemplary members of this Institute.

Julia entered the House of Providence in Jan. 1868.  She enjoyed working with children and preparing them for first communion.  She also worked to keep the wayward on the straight and narrow, and to bring the sacraments to adults whose early education had wandered from their religious duties. She taught an evening class of adults,  In the early spring each year many of these poor fellows would be prepared for Confirmation and presented to His Lordship.  To protect them against the voice of intemperance to which sailors are inevitably exposed, she would persuade them to take the “pledge” before setting off on their perilous journeys, she gained a sense of satisfaction when they pledged to keep their promise. In a work so noble Julia strongly resembled her Rev. Brother Michael Stafford, who was deservedly styled the “Apostle of Temperance in Canada.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Sister Mary Elizabeth

Margaret Stafford  1845-1925

Margaret Stafford

Sister Mary Elizabeth, or as she was known in the world, Margaret Stafford, was descended from a strong Irish Catholic family. Her father and mother, Tobias and Elizabeth (McGarry) Stafford, in the Township of Drummond, in the Parish of Perth. She had several brothers, one, the Reverend Michael Stafford of the Kingston diocese, and later of Peterborough, was a great temperance lecturer and won the appellation of “a second Father Matthew”. Her younger sister, Sister Mary Vincent, who entered the Community a year or more before, predeceased her several years. Like all the family Sister was of a very large build, tall and strong. Her very appearance would command respect at any time or place.

Born February 22, 1845, she entered the Novitiate at the age of 23 on November 21, 1868. She seemed very much older. She received the Holy Habit Dec. 13, 1869, and made Holy Profession May 31, 1871.

In 1888 she was given charge of the men’s department. She took complete charge of the apartment. She ruled as one having authority. There was no questioning, no back answers or insulting words would be tolerated. There was a rule to be observed and it must be followed. The time of rising and retiring had to be observed strictly.  Although she was strict, she was very kind. If anyone was sick or in trouble, she was always there to help. As a result she was loved and respected by all.

Margaret Stafford (Sister Mary Elizabeth)  passed away on St. Patrick’s Day, 1925.

Margaret Stafford obit 1925

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Sister Mary James

Theresa Quinn  1878-1949

Theresa Quinn

The former Theresa Quinn, born in Ferguson’s Falls, was one of a large family of boys and girls, including Sister Mary. Edward. She entered the Novitiate, on September 8, 1905. She served the church in Smiths Falls, Brockville and Lancaster. She was one of the original members of Rosary Hall, our first foundation in Edmonton, Alta. and spent her remaining years 1905-1949 caring for the sick at the House of Providence in Kingston.

Sister M. James was faithful at all times, devoted to her work in the care of the aged and infirm brought comfort and joy into the lives of others by her cheerful nature.

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 Sister Mary Hilda Quinn

Sister Mary Quinn

Clara Anastasia Quinn 1888-1956

Sister Mary Hilda (Clara A. Quinn), born in Ferguson’s Falls, Ontario, Educated at Lanark, taught school for one year, then entered the Novitiate of the Sisters of the House of Providence in Kingston in January of 1907, at the age of 19.  She graduated from Queen’s University in 1924 with a Bachelor of Arts. She taught school in Belleville and Chesterville for a total of 42 years, 17 of which were as the Local Superior of the Convent.  Her motto for her students, which she wrote on her chalkboard: “That they may have life and may have it more abundantly.”

Sister Mary Hilda Quinn

Rose Mary Quinn  1887-1982

Rose Mary Quinn

Sister Mary Edward (Rose Mary Quinn) was a descendent of one of the pioneer families who emigrated from Ireland in the early years of the nineteenth century and settled in Ferguson’s Falls.  Bishop MacDonell, the first Bishop of Upper Canada, first offered Mass in the Quinn home when he visited the remote missions of his large diocese. Sister Mary Edward’s parents, James Quinn and Elizabeth McNaughton, raised eleven children and three of the children were called to serve the church: Sisters Mary James and Sister Mary Edward, and a grandson, Rev. Edmund Quinn.

Rose Mary Quinn was educated in the local school, then attended Lanark High School and Ottawa Teachers’ College. She entered the Novitiate at St. Mary’s of the Lake on August 15, 1913, and taught in various schools in Portsmouth; St. John’s, Kingston; Smiths Falls; St. Mary’s, Kingston; Tweed and for thirteen years at St. Michael’s, Belleville. In 1946 she was appointed to Arnprior in Pembroke diocese, where in 1959 she completed a teaching career of almost fifty years.

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Ferguson Falls – Early Settlement

Originally known as Millford, Fergusons Falls was renamed in honor of the early settler Captain Ferguson when a post office was established there. This was the closest village to the Stafford farm on the 11th concession of Drummond, and was a source for supplies, postal services, blacksmith services, social activities, and later St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church.

Thomas McCaffrey was the first settler, arriving in 1815. McCaffrey was a good friend of Tobias Stafford and Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ (McGarry) Stafford. Thomas was one of the witnesses to their marriage ceremony in St. John’s Church in Perth. He also signed his name as witness to one of Tobias’ later land transactions, and was present at the baptisms of some of the Stafford children.

The Forces of Nature

The early settlers not only faced the challenges of clearing heavily-wooded land, building a home, and providing for their growing families; they also dealt with hot summers, and cold winters.  Some years had wet conditions, and some years they dealt with drought. As if that wasn’t enough to cope with; there were the storms…..

The Cyclone of June, 1888

Ferguson Falls Storm 1888 June 15 p 4

More on the Storm of 1888:

Ferguson Falls storm 1888 part 2 june 29 p 6

In the spring of 1896 there were record-high water levels that hadn’t been seen since the flooding of 1870:

Ferguson Falls high water April 24 18896 p.1

Violent thunderstorms caused damage and sometimes total destruction to homes, barns and precious livestock.  In the summer of 1897  Ferguson Falls farmer Thomas Haley nearly died trying to save his horses, when lightning struck his barn.

Ferguson Falls Haley Fire July 30 1897 p 5

In June of 1921 Ferguson Falls experienced a terrible heat wave, lasting more than three weeks.

Ferguson Falls heat wave July 15 1921 p 5

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Ferguson Falls Stories and Legends

The Ghost of Jimmy Whelan

James Phelan

There are conflicting stories about a logging accident in Drummond Township that took the life of Jimmy (Phelan?) Whalen.  Some say the accident took place in 1876, and some say 1878.  What can be agreed upon is that Jimmy died as a result of  trying to break up a log jam.

Log driving was a popular occupation for spry, young men, who were agile enough to leap from log to log, or to coast down the river while keeping their balance on such a precarious vessel.

A poem was written, and later sent to music, describing the ghost of Jimmy Whelan, and how he appeared to his lady-friend as she walked along the river bank.

Lost Jimmy Whelan

All alone as I strayed by the banks of the river,
Watching the moonbeams as evening drew nigh,
All alone as I rambled, I spied a fair damsel
Weeping and wailing with many a sigh.

Weeping for one who is now lying lowly,
Mourning for one who no mortal can save.
As the foaming dark water flow gently about him,
Onward they speed over young Jimmy’s grave.

She cries, “Oh, my darling, please come to me quickly,
And give me fond kisses that oft-times you gave.
You promised to meet me this evening, my darling,
So now, lovely Jimmy, arise from your grave.”

Slowly he rose from the dark, stormy waters,
A vision of beauty more fair than the sun,
Saying “I have returned from the regions of glory
To be in your dear loving arms once again.”

“Oh, Jimmy, why can’t you tarry here with me,
Not leave me alone, so distracted in pain.”
“Since death is the dagger that’s cut us asunder,
Wide is the gulf, love, between you and I.”

“One fond embrace, love, and then I must leave you;
One loving farewell, and then we must part.”
Cold were the arms that encircled about her;
Cold was the body she pressed to her heart.

Slowly he rose from the banks of the river,
Up to the heavens he then seemed to go
Leaving this fair maiden, weeping and mourning,
Alone on the banks of the river below.

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From a letter written in 1923, by Mr. Christopher Forbes, of Perth, Ontario:

“The Phelan family live in this district.  The name is pronounced ‘Whalen’, locally.  James’ brother Thomas, whom I knew intimately, died a few years ago.  Regarding the James Phalen tragedy, John Smith of Lanark Village, an old timer and singer of the ‘come all ye’ type, wrote the words which I now enclose.  He sings the Jim Whalen song with much pathos, and with that peculiar dropping off of the last word from a singing tone to a speaking voice.  This style of finishing a song is used by sailors and shanty-men.

I was fortunate in meeting an old shanty foreman, Peter McIlquham, well known on the Mississippi River for over half a century, who told me he was present at Jim Whelan’s death.

It happened 45 years ago (1878), at King’s Chute, on the Mississippi River.  Whalen was a river-man under ‘Old Quebec’, a French-Canadian whose real name was Edward Leblanc.  McIlquham was also a foreman on the river at this time.  Both rafts of longs had come out of Crotch Lake by the river-men.  McIlquham came to assist Old Quebec putting over King’s Chute.  A dangerous and difficult jam formed in the Chute.  ‘Old Quebec’, McIlquham, and Phalen were close together when the jam shifted, and precipitated Phalen into the water.”

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Like the tale itself, there are two different authors given credit for writing the song – Tim Doyle of Drummond Township, and John Smith of Lanark.”

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Stumble Inn

The infamous ‘Stumble Inn’ was one of the three hotels in Ferguson Falls, located right on the shore of the Mississippi River, and is said to be one of the oldest buildings in the village.  According to the lads who grew up in the area it was ‘the’ place to stop for a drink, before or after mass at St. Patrick’s Church.  During the week, local men often gathered there to play cards in the evening, and on the weekends, helped along by a little (or a lot) of alcohol, there was singing, dancing and fiddle-playing.  The Stumble Inn was also notorious for its fights, and it wasn’t uncommon for one or two of the lads to end up in the river before the evening was over.

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Education –

The School at Ferguson Falls

S.S. # 8  Lanark

The original log school house was built around 1820, replaced with another log building in 1871, which was eventually constructed with bricks.  The school remained open until 1968.  That was the year when all students of the small, one-room school houses in Lanark County were sent to larger more centralized schools.

Results of the Ferguson Falls School Exam – school year 1868-1869:

Ferguson Falls school Jan 8 1869 p 3

In the late fall of 1888 the little school at Ferguson Falls lost one of its most beloved teachers Jennie Doyle:

Ferguson Falls teacher dies Nov 16 1888 p 8

Death Certificate of Ferguson Falls teacher Jennie Doyle, age 22.

Jennie Doyle death certificate 1888

It wasn’t always easy to find a good, reliable teacher for the tiny school at Ferguson’s Falls.  Below, is an ad that was placed  in November of 1891.  My Great-grandfather, Thomas Richards, served as one of the School Trustees.

Ferguson Falls ad for teacher Nov 6 1891 p 5

In November of 1893, my Great Aunt Mary Stafford was hired to teach at the little school.  The article also mentions one of the Hollinger lads who had accidentally shot himself in the leg.  Apparently there were some thieves in the area stealing livestock.  The last mention is of Mary Stafford’s father Thomas driving his herd of lambs through the village, likely on his way to Carleton Place where they were put up for auction, or shipped by train across Canada or into the U.S.   Some livestock were even loaded on ships and sent overseas to England.

Ferguson Falls teacher Mary Stafford Nov 10 1893 p 4

Another column, from November 13, 1896, highlights some of the activities taking place at that time in the village.

Ferguson Falls news Nov 13 1896 p 5

The school Honour Roll – 1896

Ferguson Falls honour roll Nov. 13 1896 p 5

(mentions Vince Stafford – my Grandfather)

A news column from December of 1897 mentions teacher, Mary Kehoe, and her plans for her Christmas vacation. Also interesting is that the local businesses have decorated their storefronts for the Christmas season.  Near the end of the column is a mention of a “disgraceful scene” on the street on the previous Saturday evening, then a veiled reference which may or may not apply to one of the local Doyle lads who would have been living in the area at that time.

Ferguson Falls news Dec 24 1897 p 1

In February of 1898,  Sarah Ferguson was listed as the teacher at Ferguson Falls:

Ferguson Falls teachers Feb 4 1898 p 6

A porch was added to the Ferguson Falls schoolhouse in the fall of 1899

from an article printed – March 23, 1900:

Ferguson Falls School update Mar 23 1900 p 6

By 1909, Margaret Doyle was the teacher at the little school in Ferguson Falls:

Ferguson Falls teachers March 5 1909

Results from the Lanark Entrance Exams of 1925:

Ferguson Falls Entrance exams July 10 1925 p 1

 S.S. # 8 Lanark (also known as the Ferguson Falls School, and also known as the Quinn School)

S.S. 8 Ferguson Falls

1951 Back row: Janet Hollinger, Arthur Forrest, Charles Hollinger, John Hollinger Middle row : Marion Gilles, Brian Rothwell, Ken Ruttle Front row: Marjorie Murphy, Doris Gilles, Leonard Murphy, Bert Forrest

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Commerce

By 1857, Ferguson Falls was booming. More than 400 people lived in the village.  John Doyle was the Innkeeper, James McCaffrey was listed in the business directory as a Wagon Maker, John & M. McCaffrey were the local Blacksmiths. John Stafford, (Tobias Stafford and Elizabeth McGarry’s son) was the area Shoemaker, and would later open a shoe store in Almonte, then in Perth. There was also a sawmill, and a grist mill owned by Robert Blair and a hotel owned by Charles Hollinger.

Mississippi Cheese Factory – 1890

Ferguson Falls cheese factory 1890 June 13 p 1

In 1909 the first telephone line was installed to serve the community around Ferguson’s Falls.

Ferguson Falls telephone line Jan 29 1909 p g

The ‘Falls’ at Ferguson Falls were man-made

Robert Blair built a dam across the Mississippi River which created the ‘falls’, in order to provide power for his two mills.  As time went on, local lore tells that the water from the river backed up along the banks because of Blair’s dam, and caused flooding of the lowlands for the farmers located upstream.  Eventually the dam was taken down.

There were many issues over the years, some even resulted in legal action between residents of the area -like the case between Playfair and Blair in April of 1865:

Playfair vs Blair dam at Ferguson Falls

Problems with the dam continued, and several letters like the one below, were sent to the Editor of ‘The Perth Courier’ in the summer of 1870:

Ferguson Falls dam 1870

Ferguson Falls Hotels

At one time there were three hotels at Ferguson Falls to provide accommodation to travelers passing on their way to Perth or Renfrew.  The Log-Drivers who worked on the Mississippi were frequent visitors to the hotels.  It’s been said that the floor at Charles ‘Charlie’ Hollinger’s Hotel had to be replaced each year due to the Log-Drivers dancing on the wooden surface, in their spiked logging boots.

In 1890 Mrs. John Murray advertised her hotel for sale in the local newspapers.

Ferguson Falls hotel for sale March 7 1890 p 7

Social Items

Hollinger -Nagle Wedding 1875

Ferguson Falls wedding Teresa Hollinger May 7 1875 p 4

Teresa Hollinger Richard Nagle wedding day

Teresa Hollinger and Richard Nagle on their wedding day in April 1875

Hollinger sisters

Hollinger sisters of Ferguson’s Falls  – taken c. 1900 in Perth, Ontario

Left to Right:  Elizabeth Hollinger, seated.  Theresa Hollinger is standing, second from the left.  Julia Hollinger McGarry is seated, and standing at the far right is Maria Hollinger.

(daughters of Charles Hollinger and Elizabeth Cokely)

There were also three brothers –  Charles, John and Patrick

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Teresa Hollinger Nagle obit the Ottawa Journal

Theresa Hollinger Nagle – obituary from ‘The Ottawa Journal’  Friday, March 2, 1928.

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July 1897 – news from ‘the Falls’

Ferguson Falls Hollinger McGarry July 30 1897 p 1

McDonald-Quinn Wedding June 7, 1909

Ferguson Falls Quinn McDonald wedding June 18 1909

Obituary for Mrs. John Rathwell  (March 1893)

Ferguson Falls obit Rathwell Mar 24 1893 p 1

Murphy – Stafford Courtship Begins!

In the fall of 1893, a dance was held – ‘Murray’s Ball’ – a very successful event, and it was during this time that my grandfather’s older brother Peter Stafford began to date the lovely Miss Mary Murphy.  They would later marry, and have a large family.  Peter was a stagecoach driver, and had a little ‘taxi’ service where he transported local folks back and forth between Perth and Lanark, and places in the surrounding area.

Ferguson Falls Murphy Stafford courting Oct 13 1893 p 8

Closs-Vallely Wedding

In June of 1894 a lovely summer wedding took place at St. Patrick’s when Alice Closs married Anthony Vallely, ceremony performed by Father O’Rourke.

Ferguson Falls Closs and Valely wedding June 29 1894 p 8

Sullivan- Brady Wedding   – May 1895

Ferguson Falls Sullivan Brady wedding May 17 1895 p 8

Hollinger Obituary – 1906 – long-time Postmaster in Ferguson Falls

Ferguson Falls Hollinger obit Feb 2 1906 p 8

McGarry Obituary  – 1912 – owned the McGarry Hotel in Innisville

Ferguson Falls McGarry obit Feb 9 1912 p 1

Julia Stafford Quinn – obituary 1927

Julia Stafford Quinn Apr. 23 1927

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If you’re in the area…………….

St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church is set in a picturesque location, not far from the mighty Mississippi, and is a lovely spot to visit, and to reflect, on a warm, sunny day.

We remember those who came before us, stood on these very grounds, celebrated baptisms and weddings, and mourned the loss of their loved ones at the funerals held at this small country church.

It is well worth a visit for anyone with local connections, to spend some time at this historic and sacred place in Ferguson’s Falls.

Irish blessing

photo of St. Patrick’s church, and Roger Stafford in the red shirt) by Arlene Stafford-Wilson (sister of Roger Stafford)
photo of the Quinn family:  James ‘Jim’ Quinn of Ferguson Falls
photo of Father Michael Stafford, and details of his service to the church – and excerpt from the book: “Staffords: From Ireland to Canada and Beyond” Arlene Stafford-Wilson
news clippings:  “The Perth Courier”
oral history of the Seven Bachelors and the Stumble Inn – Thomas Joseph Stafford, and James ‘Jim’ Quinn (brother of Edmund Quinn), 2nd priest from the St. Patrick’s congregation)
names and dates of the priests who served at St. Patrick’s R.C. Church – provided by Doris Quinn
http://www.staffordwilson.com