Perth Courier, July 16, 1926, July 23, 1926 and July 30, 1926
Early Settlement of Fallbrook and Playfair
The following is a paper prepared by Mrs. George Kerr and read at a meeting of the Fallbrook Women’s Institute. The first installment appears this week and the balance will follow in the next two issues.
The modern historian has to a great degree discarded the old idea that the history of a country consists of treaties and invasions, etc., with their dates in detail. He seeks rather to give us an insight into the social life of the common people and to make us acquainted with their struggles to better their social, moral and material conditions. The object in preparing this article is to briefly and plainly sketch the early settlement of our community of Fallbrook and Playfair for the younger generation.
By the phrase “early settlement” we refer to the original location of the early settlers in the part of the Bathurst District between the 9th and 12th Concessions where the two places known as Fallbrook and Playfair are situated.
In early days with the British occupying the country, the vast areas of land were thrown open for settlement. The U.E.L. having settled along the southern frontier of Upper Canada and their success with agriculture in their forest homes kindled the zeal of the British government to place other settlers in the western colony. This resulted in bringing to Lanark County many of the people who first settled in these parts. In the year 1815 a proclamation was issued in England for free passage for those desirous of proceeding to Canada for the purpose of settling on the land as a further inducement to settlers they offered free provisions during the voyage and for some time after their arrival. They were also given a cash bonus of twelve pounds sterling as a loan. Then to each group of four families was given a grindstone, cross cut saw and whip saw while each family received an adze, scythe and snath, reaping hook, two hoes, pitch fork, skilled, camp kettle and blankets for each member of the family. Quite a number took advantage of this offer. At the close of the Peninsular War when many of the regiments of the Duke of Wellington’s were practically disbanded, many of the officers as well as privates were induced to come to Canada and ship load followed ship load across the Atlantic all destined for somewhere in Canada.
One of the centers to which many of these officers and soldiers directed their course after a long and wearisome voyage in a slow sailing vessel, which sometimes took seven weeks or longer, was Lanark County. If small pox broke out among them they were quarantined a long time before they could land.
The Foley Family stone house, located at Fallbrook, Ontario, built ca. 1834 by Michael Foley.
Quite a number of the first settlers came from the Highlands of Scotland, chiefly Perthshire and naturally the name of Perth appealed to them as this was one of the first places of settlement for Lanark County. Needless to say, some of them wandered a great distance from Perth before settling on a site on which to build a home for themselves and their families. As there were no proper roads in those days, just paths made through the bush till they reached the rivers, then boats were made and used to carry their scant supplies from one place to another. At certain places there were ferries where they crossed before they got bridges built. Although those early settlers were not all trained settlers they fought a stern and successful battle with the wild forest and the forces of nature. With many privations, they endured hardships and worked hard and long clearing land, making roads and bridges, building their houses which were mostly of cedar logs, roofed with scoops (which is hollow in the center, split and laid with the hollow side up and the other down covering the joints in that way).
Later on they build a lime kiln and had the lime for plaster. Many stone houses were built and today many of those houses may be seen in good condition with the cozy fire place. Now the present generation are enjoying the fruits of their labor. They are all passed away today.
We will now mention some of the names of the pioneers. During the first year of 1813 Col. Playfair arrived in Quebec with his regiment. As the American War was going on, he was ordered to take 100 men to Kingston in the month of February. As there was no rod and snow four feet deep in places and the weather bitter cold, many succumbed on the way. But the Colonel reached Kingston with the residue.
Fallbrook Cheese Factory
After the American war, he came to Perth for a short time and then came out this way. He crossed the ferry at McDermott’s Corner and came up the Mississippi as far as the rapids at Playfair and there on the high bluff on the south side of the river he spent his first night. An old stone chimney remains there at the present time. This is where the first house was built. The colonel soon built another comfortable house on the north side of the river for himself and his wife. Mrs. Gillies, Sr., of Carleton Place was born in this house and some years ago when her daughter visited Fallbrook she made a specific request to be shown this spot where her mother first saw the light of day. One reason for the colonel coming so far back from the frontier was to avoid the horrors of war he had witnessed in the War of 1812.
At this point of the Mississippi, there was a splendid water power. After he had located he set about building a saw mill, grist mill and later on a carding mill. These mills did good work for a great many years under his supervision. Later on his two sons, Johnny and Andrew, went further up the stream and built two mills one on each side of the river and for many years did a flourishing business. There was plenty of pine forest and great demand for lumber for building purposes. In later years, the mills were operated by John J.’s son William who many of us will remember as of a kindly disposition and a good businessman. He was married to Elizabeth Mitchell, sister of Mrs. P.J. McIlquham, of Lanark. They spent the greater part of their lives here. He moved to Lancaster, near Hamilton, a few years before he died. When he was in business a great quantity of lumber was drawn to Oliver’s Ferry at the Rideau and shipped from there. This gave labor to both men and teams during the winter months. Large quantities were delivered to Perth. At one time there were two tanneries. One was situated on what is known as the foot of the church hill on the bank of the river and the upstairs was used as a hall for meetings and lunch served until the church was built. Col. Playfair was a true British subject always trying to help and promote the development of his country. He was a local preacher and in later years was a member of the House of Commons.
Residence and store of John Fumerton–Fallbrook-Perth Remembered
Another person who was highly esteemed by all who knew him was his nephew John, better known as Little John, son of John Playfair, Easton Square, London. He was a local preacher and had a great gift of oratory and could speak on almost any subject without much difficulty. He was a great reader and when he read an article he could remember it. He came from England some time after the Colonel. As he had learned the trade of blacksmith, he had a shop for this work and also made bolts for the sleighs used in the lumber shanties. He was a great church man and was one of the men who were instrumental in getting the church built at Playfair. During the early settlement of the county, it was surveyed into 100 acre lots and could be had for settlement duties. There were also 100 acres in each district set aside for clergy, known as the Clergy Reserves. The church and property at Playfair was deeded to the Methodist Church in 1860. The carpenter was John Keays and everyone helped. It was a united effort by everyone and all were welcome. There was not other church nearer than Balderson or Lanark. The first death that occurred was that of Robert Russel. It took three days to make and brush a road to Lanark to bury him. The coffin was taken in an ox cart. The first minister was Rev. Alexander Lester. Mrs. Lester who resides in Perth now, was the first bride in the new parsonage. This church is still in good condition. Two years ago it was remodeled and painted. It is now known and the United Church of Canada. Rev. G.L. Ralph is the pastor. Yes, the old church, dear to us, all and many have taken their stand for the Master’s service here. During the later years of Rev. Plett’s pastorate, there was a Christian Endeavor Project formed and from that Society, four young men went out to study for the ministry: Rev. W.T.G. Brown, now in Sydenham Street Church, Kingston; Rev. John Caldwell of Manitaba; Rev. James Caldwell of Saskatchewan; and Rev. John McConnel near Winnipeg. Meetings were held on Friday evenings. Prayer services and choir practice were on Wednesday evenings with a good attendance of both young and old. Every member of the choir was expected to know the hymns for Sunday services and we enjoyed the practice. The old time singing school under Professor Lewis about 46 or 50 years ago was a source of pleasure for those who attended.
Now, to look back at other settlers who came from England, Ireland and Scotland in the year 1820 were William Buffam, mill wright; John Jackson, Thomas Skillington and Alexander Shanks. John McDonaldwho was a junior officer in the 104th Regiment under Col. Playfair, took up land the same time as the colonel. In the year 18?? John Playfair and brother of the Colonel and father of Little John, James, Williamwho was a book keeper for Messrs. Shaw and Matheson for many years, Jane and Louisa his two daughters and his wife, settled on the 12th Concession one mile east of the Playfair Iron Mines. His son James cleared the land and improved the farm. There is a splendid gravel pit on his farm. Large quantities are used for highways and also for cement work.
The Playfair Iron Mines were the property of John J. Playfair the Colonel’s son. In 1869 he sent samples of the ore to Montreal to have it assayed and it proved to be of such great value that they sent a man to open up the mine. In a very short time, a Mr. Cowan of Ottawa who was overseer, put on a gang of men and a large quantity was taken out and drawn to Perth but in those days they did not have the facilities of operating a mine that they have today. First the water and the ore were drawn up in large buckets with chains and pulleys; using a team of horses for drawing that and a team of about 30 men were employed. It gave steady work to the men and teams in winter time. Quite a large quantity was taken out and all went well until one evening the men went off work and came down to Sandy Bain’s tavern. The water filled the mine shaft where they had all their tools. Needless to say the men got filled with liquor and were unable to return to work when they should have been on duty. The result was that the tools were buried in the water and as the main shaft was very deep they were unable to proceed with the work. The mine was closed down and the remained so for many years. Some years ago Mr. Caldwell bought the property from Mrs. J. Forgie, daughter of John J. Playfair. During the war, in 1915, a small quantity was taken out from the banks near the main shaft by a firm from Montreal. Last year W.K. Smith of Toronto bought these mines and minerals of 150 acres of land. Also they bought the mineral rights of another 150 acres. They claim it has a good iron mine also. It is a beautiful place where Mr. Smith has built his up to date house on the hill above the rapids where you get a good view of the scenery along the banks of the Mississippi River. People come from far and near in the summer with their lunch baskets to spend a quiet afternoon under the shady maples. There is also a splendid water power on the Mississippi at this spot.
Playfair village has for the most part passed away. Places that were once busy have disappeared. Still the scenery of the majestic Mississippi River holds its enhancing beauty and many an auto load of visitors stop by its banks and fish and spend the day resting away from the noise and bustle of a busy town. It is an ideal spot for a summer resort. The county highway passes through from Lanark to Perth also at McDonald’s Corners. Every year the Sunday school and children hold their annual picnic along the shore on Mr. R. North’s property under the shady trees. Two important places remain where the village once was—the beautiful home built by John J. Playfair (father of Mrs. Forgie) who now owns the property and has improved the large stone house where she and her daughters spend the summer months and last but not least the little church on the hill where the two communities of Fallbrook and Playfair worship together. The Anglican Church at Fallbrook was built two and a half miles up the 11th Line as most of the congregation lived up there when the church was built.
Among the early settlers that came to Fallbrook were Messrs. Ben Bolton and Sandy Bain. Bolton took land on Bolton’s Creek on the lower 11th Line. He built a saw mill and grist mill which was certainly a boon to the new settlers in those places. Shortly after this two Ennis brothers (oatmeal makers) from Ireland also built a mill up on the Fall River where John Blair now lives. Later on the mill was sold to Little John Playfair. In later years another saw mill was built opposite where Jas. Anderson’s mill now stands. William Anderson had built on the opposite side, a fire occurred and both mills were burned down. Mr. Anderson built again and this mill is still doing good work in custom sawing under the management of James Anderson, grandson of William who built the mill. Among the early settlers were Mr. and Mrs. George Buffam from England who settled on the south side of the Fall River in the year 1846. The place where the village now stands was maple and pine woods. Many rafts of pine timber were floated down to Quebec in later years. Mr. Clendenningwho lived where Mr. Peter Kirkham resides took down the first raft to Quebec. George Buffam was a first class mill wright and carpenter and as the industry of the new village was mills, his work was in great demand. One son, Robert, and daughter, Mrs. Cameron, still reside in the village. In his youthful days, he often went down to Quebec with the rafts of square timber taken down the Mississippi. In years gone by the lumber farms of Boyd Caldwell and son and Peter McLaren did an immense trade in lumber along the Mississippi.
The first hotel was kept by Frank Hughes, situated on Bolton’s Creek. It was burned down and then he built where W. Walroth & Son now keep a general store and post office. Sandy Bain kept a little store up on the hill where Herb Gallagher now lives and then he built a hotel on the banks of the Clyde River.
William Lees, ex-M.P.P. was a native of Bathurst. He was the youngest son of William Lees who came from Roxborough, Scotland in 1817. He lived for a while in Ogdensburg, New York and then came to Fallbrook locating on the farm now owned by Charles McKinnon. Mr. Lees early displayed an aptitude for public affairs and management of people. He was placed at the head of municipal council for a score of years. He was the county warden for three years. After his father’s death he managed the farm for some time and then he sold it to Thomas Gallagher and moved up to Fallbrook and had a grist mill and saw mill built on the Fall River. Alexander Wallace, millwright and George Buffam built the mills for him in 1851. In 1879 he was elected as a member for the provincial parliament. He was a very charitable man and took a great interest in the school He presented Fallbrook school with the school bell. He was a trustee and secretary for a number of years. Alexander Wallace, millwright came out from Edinburgh(?) and settled in 1873. His daughter, Miss A.C. Wallace, artist and music teacher, still resides in this village and has a beautiful collection of paintings and water colors.
John E. Playfair bought the Lees property from the late A.E. Lees who conducted the business for some years but owing to ill health sold to John E. Playfair and moved out west but only lived a few years afterwards. The old saw mill is still in use. The grist mill was burned down 21 years ago. Mr. Playfair built a cheese box factory.
Fallbrook was originally Bolton’s Mills as they were built by R.(?) B.(?) Bolton on Bolton’s Creek and later operated by S. Bain and Jacob Bolton. Then George Wallace bought them and did a splendid business in the woolen trade for a number of years. Later on his brother William was in partnership with him. They were afterwards sold to Donaldson Brothers and got burned down 23 years ago.
The first blacksmith was built and owned by Sandy Hunter at the island where James Cameron conducts his shop and worked up a good trade in later years. J. Cameron still is doing a good business in his work shop while his son Walter keeps the blacksmith shop and general store. Mrs. John Fumerton began store keeping on a very small scale—thread, needles, boot laces and school supplies and Mr. Fumerton drove a team for W. Lees. However, it was not very long until she worked up a good business and this tore was conducted on a large scale by Mr. Fumerton and his son James for many years.
Walroth’s Store c.1920-Fallbrook-Perth Remembered
Another man who figured in the business part of Fallbrook was W.G. Cameron. He and his wife came to Fallbrook in 1875. He bought the hotel from William Smith and afterwards kept the general store and post office. No liquor was sold in Fallbrook by license since the Scott Act was passed. Later on Mr. Cameron sold out his business to the late Daniel McKerracher and moved to Perth. He was a manager for the Lanark Mutual Life Insurance Company. Daniel McKerracher worked up a splendid business in this store. He was a very obliging and kind hearted man and he took an interest in school, church and community work. A few years bore his death he sold this property to W. J. Walroth and his son Ralph who conducted a good business in dry goods, groceries, etc.
Other old pioneers were Thomas Foley and William Keays on the 9th Concession. They were hardy and industrious and cleared their land and made splendid farms out of their bush lots. It is on Mr. Keays’ land that the Feldspar Mine is located. They are hauling it to Glen Tay and shipping from there. There are signs of feldspar on several of the farms on the 9th Line of Bathurst which is a short distance from Fallbrook. Years ago when the macadamized road was built to Fallbrook there were two toll gates between Fallbrook and Balderson. You had so much to pay every time you passed through with a vehicle. The coppers came in handy for tolls when they were in a hurry. But the old settlers tell us it was an awful nuisance especially in the winter. Frank Hunter of Playfair used to break the stone with a sledge hammer for the stone road and he made a good job of it as they had no stone crushers and they had a very good road to travel. Alexander Montgomery lived in the toll gate (house??) at Fallbrook for many years. He was a cattle drover and was a school trustee for some years. John Mitchell, another pioneer, had a mill six miles up from Fallbrook on Bolton Creek. Harvey’s had another saw mill. The Murdoch family settled on the north side of the Fall River. One son was a Baptist minister. For a while he lived on the farm where J.C. Anderson now resides. As he preached in Lanark, Drummond and Middleville, the farm was not worked much and when J.C.’s father came down to see about buying the place he naturally inquired of a neighbor what sort of soil it was. “Well” said the neighbor, “I can tell you one thing about it. It can grow fine burdochs and big thistles”. “Is that so” said Mr. Anderson, “well, I am glad to hear it. For if it can grow this, I shall soon have it growing something better”. He was very optimistic, could see the best of everything. He bought the farm, planted an orchard, kept a nursery for a number of years and today it is one of the best farms in this part of the country with nice grounds and beautiful flowers. His son J.C. and Mrs. Anderson have been a great help to the community and enjoy seeing the young people play tennis on their lawn where they always receive a hearty welcome. J.C. is a member of the Bathurst Council and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Fallbrook Cheese Factory.
As McDermontt’s Ferry was down the lower part of the 11th Line, it was settled there first by the Lees, Mackies, Murdochs, Bains and Fosters who afterward moved to western Ontario. Andrew Kerr bought this farm and settled on it with his family, coming from Pakenham about 54 years ago, his oldest son Dawson was drowned in Mud Lake in the fall of 1880 while out duck hunting. George Kerr, J.P. also agent for Lanark Mutural Life Insurance Company.
The first school house was situated at the foot of Bolton’s Hill now Ashby’s. It was built of logs and the first teacher was Alexander Shanks from Scotland. He taught for a short time here and up at Bathurst line. He was a weaver by trade and his wife a great seamstress. She made all the wedding garments by hand which was quite a task in those days with so many fur bellows and frills not the plain dresses we have today for which we are very thankful. This old school was also used for Sunday school in those days and Rev. A. Murdock visited this place some 25 years ago and writes the following item about the old fashioned Sunday school in those days: “The building itself was not much to look at as during the week it was used as a public school It was built of cedar logs chinked with splits and plastered. It stood high upon the bank of Bolton Creek, furnished of the rudest description, seats around the wall and made of butternut. The teacher was a little lame man and he believed in ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ if he deserved punishment. There were only two windows one in the east and one in the west and we all thought there should be one in the south where we could have varied our studies by looking out to see a duck, muskrat of black bass go swimming by. It was a great day for the boys when a raft of square timber came down this creek. The dam was only a short distance above the school, but we could see the great white sticks some of them sixty feet long enter the narrow slide, pausing for a moment, balancing on the brink, then go plunging down, tossing a spray of water high in the air. The old dam and mill were driven by a ponderous wheel and was a constant source of delight to the boys. Once in a while the miller would open the door and show us the wheel in motion. This was a picturesque spot. The white birches trailed their drooping branches in the rushing water. The hamlet was a busy place during the week. The grists came and went away. Along side was the saw mill driven by that primitive contrivance called a flutter wheel and a single saw in a ponderous frame slowly ate its way through the logs. Now the mills are gone the wheels have made their last revolution. The dame is gone, the stream has dwindled, there is high water for a few weeks in the spring and then diminished flow but on the Sabbath a great peace fell upon the scene. Those old settlers remembered the Sabbath and kept it holy. Everybody went to church. Those days the Sabbath was not given up to pleasure as it is in many places today.”
“The Sabbath school superintendent was known as Little John Playfair. A Methodist local preacher, happy, cheerful and optimistic and a good singer. The old fashioned Sunday school had no frills. It opened with a hymn, Duke St. Hebron and Dundee were favorite tines played and then each line of class got its study. Each scholar had his own Bible and we were there to learn the Bible. The older scholars have all passed away, a few of the younger remain and not one trainee in that school made a shipwreck of his life. Frank Murdock became a doctor in Pittsburgh, Rev. Alexander Hardy became a Methodist minister in Montreal, William Clendenning was school inspector at Walkerton. These are a few of the boys who distinguished themselves. Other assistants in the Sunday school were G.C. Mills, Miss Barbara Murdock, William Lees and the Colonel’s son know as Big John who was a very tall man.”
Later on the present public school was built on the main road on the hill a much better situation for it, surrounded by lovely maple shade trees and the children have a good play ground. The Women’s Institute is opposite. In 1919 they bought two acres of land for a play ground for school children and young people for base ball and lawn tennis. The school trustees gave $25 towards it. The first teacher in this school was Mr. Fowler than Mr. Jamieson who still resides in Perth. Thomas Balderson, uncle of Robert who taught here a few years ago, P.C. McIntyre of Winnipeg, Miss Lafferty, Miss Cameron, W.H. Churchill and many others. In the early days when Miss Lafferty taught, there would be between 70 or 80 scholars in the winter months. Some of them were grown up young men and women taking advantage of an education when they were not busy on the farm. About 30 years ago an additional room was built and two teachers supplied for a number of years. Now the number of pupils has diminished and there is only one teacher, Walter McFarlane of Toronto.
Mrs. E. Foley now Mrs. Edward Buffam of Toronto taught the senior room for ten years and many of her pupils taught in the Fallbrook school afterwards—Laura Skillington, Dr. Blair, Morna Cameron, Lloyd McKerracher and Dawson D. Kerr all proved successful teachers. The first young men who went to college from this present school on the hill were Andrew Lees of Vancouver and W.A. Moore who was County Clerk and lived in Perth for many years and now is in Hamilton and from that time on this district and the surrounding district have produced doctors, ministers, nurses, druggists and teachers galore.
One more place I will mention as it is very important to the surrounding country and where some thousands of dollars are distributed every year is the Fallbrook Mutual Cheese Factory built in 1884, 42 years ago and has been in operation six months of the year ever since thought it passed through some hard times. One year when the late William Lees was secretary there was very little demand for cheese in Canada and he shipped it to Liverpool in the fall and the pay did not come until the following May and then only realized five cents per pound of cheese when their payments were made. And yet they had faith and kept on and tried again. The factory is will equipped and in good order with Peter Kirkham, cheese maker and George Kerr, secretary and chairman. The names of the men who were instrumental in getting a cheese factory built were the late William Blair, Sr., William Lees, Thomas Ennis, Sr., James Playfair, William Jackson, Chares and William Mackie.
In the early days money was hard to get. The making of potash was one way they had of getting cash when it was shipped to Montreal and graded. If it was first grade a one hundred pound barrel would bring $20 cash. Potash was made by burning log piles, gathering the ashes, and putting them in a (illegible word) and watered. Then the lye was boiled in very large metal kettles until it was like red iron, then cooled. Afterwards it was filled into strong oak barrels and shipped to Montreal. Sandy Campbell, a Scotch pioneer who came out in 1920(?) made a great many of those barrels as he was a cooper. When Sandy was going to be married he asked the girl’s mother for her and she said: “Ay, ay, Sandy but bide a wee bit till the barrel of potash is ready and they would have some silver”. But Sandy was a determined young man and saw no need of waiting. He had Mr. J. Rozin(?), Patsy’s father, drive them into Perth where they were married and came home that evening to see a tree had fallen across the road this side of the creek up on the Lanark road. The teamster jumped the horses over it and the front wheels made it but the two hind wheels and Sandy and his bride were left on this side of eh creek and as there was no bridge and the horses on the far side Sandy picked up his bride and forded the stream carrying her safely over on his back. Although he was not a big man he was very strong. After Mr. Lee’s grist mill was built he worked there and often after work carried one hundred pound bags of flour home with him a distance of three and a half miles.
People tell us that before the grist mills were built some have carried a bushel of corn and seed all the say from Brockville. Before they got coal oil for sale in the stores they used tallow candles made in molds and they had some very fancy candle sticks. When traveling through the bush after night they used gummy pine for a torch.
PLAYFAIRVILLE, a post hamlet in Lanark County, Ontario, on the Mississippi River, 12 miles from the county seat, and a station on the C.P.R. It contains a Methodist church and a saw mill. In the vicinity are iron mines, not now, however, worked. Pop. 30 …from Lovell’s 1906 Canada Gazetteer
From Susan Darcy
My mother’s distant cousin Hugh Playfair, wrote a history of the Playfair family published in 1894. Here are a couple of excerpts from his book:
Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew William Playfair (1790-1868) … left … with the 104th for active service in Canada in the 1812-1814 war … When the 104th was disbanded in 1817 … Lieutenant Andrew took up Lot 22 of the 12th concession of Bathurst one of the military settlements in Lanark County, an area of several hundred acres on a bend of the Mississippi River, a small tributary of the Ottawa river, twelve miles north of Perth. There he founded the Village of Playfairville, originally Playfair’s Mills. Surrounded by huge stands of timber – pine, hemlock, ash and cedar – he built a dam, and established lumber, grist and carding mills which flourished until the 1900s when the forests were exhausted. The business was sold by his grandson William, and by the 1930’s only the stone hearth chimney of the original house remained. “His greatest scheme was a rail-sea link from Atlantic to Pacific which he proposed in a pamphlet of 1852, some thirty years before the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed.”
Andrew William Playfair was Scottish, born in Paris and Educated in Edinburgh
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