Informing and engaging area residents

Historical Factoid

Historical Factoids #56 to #65

To honour Richmond’s 200th anniversary, local historian Marion Scott is posting factoids about our rich history on her blog, Richmond Heritage. Over the next year you should expect to see 200 pieces of information that you may or may not have already known. We are pleased to reproduce them here with the kind permission of Marion. Visit Marion’s full historical blog here.

Factoid # 56

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]On June 18, 1812 Britain declared war on the United States and the 100th Regiment of Foot prepared for battle. Six years later, in July 1818 the disbanded soldiers and their families left Quebec City to begin their long journey to the wilderness called the Richmond Settlement. This past weekend, June 15-17, the village celebrated 200 years of history. Congratulations to the organizers and volunteers who made the weekend such a success.  The highlights were many and it didn’t rain on Richmond’s parade!

A special thanks goes to the members of the Goulbourn Township Historical Society, the military bands, and the re-enactors who brought both our military and civilian heritage alive.  The planning of tours, creation of costumes, researching of historical figures and buildings, and writing of scripts required the efforts of a willing army. Well done by all!

Factoid #57

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]We see the first mention of THE missing guns in 1820 when Governor General Lord Dalhousie wrote that he had ordered “200 stand of arms and two light field pieces” to be placed in Richmond.  In March 1822 Lord Dalhousie complained to Sir Peregrine Maitland that “The two Guns for Richmond have been lying at Philemon Wright’s since last June.” Eventually they arrived. These armaments had been requisitioned so the soldier/settlers had more than their own muskets for protection in case of an American attack.

In the winter of 1837-1838 the guns were used by an Artillery Company led by Edward Malloch and Sergeant Henry McElroy.

In a speech written in 1923, William McElroy, grandson of Henry, outlined the importance of the guns to the villagers. “In 1837, at the time of Wm. Lyon McKenzie’s Rebellion, an artillery company was organized here for service if required at the front. (American border) The Company was drilled in the winter on the ice…using two brass field guns -3 pounders- which had been taken from the French in the Napoleonic wars….”

In fact the guns had quite a history having been captured from the French by the British during the Napoleonic War, captured from the British by the Americans and then recaptured by the British in the War of 1812.

McElroy also outlined the fate of the guns. “In 1842 these guns were lent to Bytown at the celebration there of the opening of a bridge between Ottawa and Hull and were never returned.”

Over the next decades Richmond tried unsuccessfully to reclaim its firepower. Even a century after the disappearance of the guns, Richmond residents, who had long memories, were lamenting their loss.

Factoid # 58

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]The village had cottage industries about which very little is known. One such endeavour was the making of potash.  In pioneer society, potash was useful to individual settlers as it was a base ingredient in the making of soap. If made in large volumes it could be exported to Great Britain where it was used by several industries including the flourishing textile mills. So this little industry both provided a needed household product and a source of supplemental income.

We see some evidence of this in early Richmond life. In 1832 Hugh Ronan made provision in his will for the disposal of his leaches, kettle, and any potash on hand. The proceeds were to be distributed among his five daughters. In a later period William Birtch made 37 bushels of potash in a year.

Potash making required a source of hardwood – either beech or maple was preferred. The wood was burned and the ashes were placed in a container, which was often a barrel but could even be a hollow tree trunk. Covering them with water leached the ashes and the resulting mixture was collected. The mixture was placed in an iron kettle and the water slowly evaporated. What was left in the kettle was the “salt of ashes” or potash.

Factoid # 59

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]One of the industries, which flourished in the 1840s, was the making of leather. John Alfred Torney was said to be a “man of means” when he arrived in Richmond in 1822. He built a tannery on the northern bank of the Jock River at the end of Fowler St. and also operated a farm in the village. At some point he constructed a two story log house at the corner of Fowler St. and York St. While the tannery is long gone, the house still remains and is the only example of its type still remaining in the village.

The Torney enterprises seem to have been very prosperous. They supported 10 children and at times as many as 8 workers: tanners, apprentices, labourers and servants.  The two eldest sons attended McGill University. John Jr. was involved in the construction of the first Telegraph line between Bytown and Montreal; Hugh became a lawyer in Bytown. The family continued to own the tannery until it was sold to Mr. William Hemphill in 1875.

Factoid #60

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]By the 1840s, the number of old soldiers was diminishing. These men who had fought as brothers, and worked together to start a new land, still retained their ties with the military. Four times a year they gathered in Richmond to receive their pensions. William McElroy remembered these men “In my younger days I was personally acquainted with many of the old veterans of the 100th and other regiments who had settled here. I can well remember seeing them coming in (to the village) on Quarter Day to be paid their pensions. On these occasions they wore their medals and clasps, on which I have often read the names “Niagara”, “Salamanca”, etc. – places far apart- some, even were here who had fought with Wellington, then Lord Wellesley, in India.”

For the aging soldiers, some who had not adapted well to farming, these quarterly pensions paid for small luxuries: tobacco, tea, sugar and, of course, a pint of whiskey.

Factoid # 61

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]In the 1830s a fair was held in Richmond usually two times a year; local farmers traded or sold livestock and produce.  On March 2 1837, the Bytown Gazette described the fair as successful for sellers but not buyers. “At the Fair in Richmond, on Tuesday last, the quantity of Farming Stock was rather scarce for the quantities of buyers, consequently high prices were obtained.”

Factoid # 62

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]The Fairs were held on the old administration land close to the intersection of Strachan St. and Cockburn St. Drinking and fighting were a major problem and in 1847 the government issued a Patent, not to a fair committee, but to the District Sheriff empowering him to organize a semi-annual fair (January and July), to levy tolls and to take whatever actions were necessary to make the fairs “convenient, commodious and most useful to the public at large”. There is no record as to whether the sheriff was able to control the amount of drinking and fighting. (see “Letters Patent for Richmond Fair”)

Factoid # 63

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]Richmond had the county sheriff to contain the violence at the Fair and magistrates to prosecute lawbreakers, but sometimes civilians took matters into their own hands. J. L. Gourlay in History of the Ottawa Valley (1898) extolled the strength of Rev. Terrance Smith (whom Gourlay called Peter). Rev. Smith was known for breaking up fights among the fair goers. Gourlay wrote that Father Smith ” who ruled there (Richmond) many years, had both hands full on many a fair day held twice a year in the village. He was of giant stature, and when mounted on a splendid charger with a long whip, or even on foot, he was a terror to evil doers.”

Factoid #64

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]In the late 1830s and into the 1840s, a number of social and economic conditions led to riots and violence in Bytown. In the beginning, the main combatants were the Irish Catholic navies (Shiners) who had worked building the Rideau Canal, and the French Canadian rafts men who dominated the timber trade. The violence spun out of control and roving gangs attacked and robbed travelers. Goulbourn farmers returning from taking their produce to market in Bytown were easy targets.

The Richmond Road was a dangerous place. In one incident a Mr. Hobbs from Goulbourn was involved in a personal altercation with a Shiner, Mr. Gleeson. Gleeson held a major grudge. Michael Cross in the “The Shiners’ War” presents a description of the ensuing events. On 14 February 1837 Gleeson and his gang encountered female members of the Hobbs family. “The Irishmen attacked the sleigh, beating the girls. Hobbs’s pregnant wife, terrified at the violent assault, attempted to leap from the sleigh. Her clothing caught on the side and she was dragged behind the vehicle bumping over the frozen road, while the Shiners beat her with sticks. The women eventually escaped.” The Shiners then turned on the horses and when Hobbs found them, they both had been mutilated, their ears and tails cut off. The fight had become a sectarian conflict.

Infuriated, the local farmers marched to Bytown several times and demanded justice but got no satisfaction from officials. Eventually they turned on an easy target, the peaceful Catholic population in Richmond, whom they harassed and threatened. These were men and women who had played no part in the Shiners’ violence. In one incident shots were fired at the home of a Catholic veteran. Unlike Bytown where people were killed and badly beaten, no written record has been uncovered of anyone being seriously injured in Richmond because of these incidents. The Magistrates struggled to keep the peace. Sectarian violence was now added to the already complex social mixture of transient teamsters, visits of local farmers, and too much drinking. Distrust had been created among local residents and resentments were felt for many years. This situation was to last throughout the 1840s.

Factoid #65

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]In Richmond in the 1840s there was no police force. The magistrates, with the aid of citizens whom they appointed constables, were responsible for the administration of justice. In the early years the jail and courthouse were located in Perth, but after 1842 when Richmond was included in the newly formed District of Dalhousie, they were in Bytown.

When Richmond was first settled, the military officers:  Burke, Lyon, Lewis, Maxwell, and Ormsby were all appointed Magistrates.  In 1843 when the system was reformed, little changed in Richmond. George T. Burke and his son George R. Burke both were living in Bytown and became Magistrates in that area. The four Richmond Magistrates continued and there were new appointees from the surrounding townships.