Informing and engaging area residents

Historical Factoid

Historical Factoids #96 to #105

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 #96.

Two years after the Roman Catholic congregation built a new stone church, the Anglicans finalized plans to build a similar style building. An examination of the list of contributors to the building fund reveals the extent to which the original military elite and the children of the leaders showed their loyalty to their community. Several of the largest donors no longer lived in the village. Mrs. Henrietta Lauder and her brother John Bower Lewis both lived in Ottawa but still contributed large sums of money. Their mother, the widow of Capt. John Lewis paid for the stone floor, which is apparently still to be found under the current wooden flooring. Edward Malloch, also an Ottawa resident and an ardent Presbyterian, whose wife Margaret (nee Hill) had been raised in the Anglican congregation, donated $100 while many parishioners were only able to give $1.

Whereas the original log church had faced York St. about half way along the block between Fowler St. and Maitland St., the new church was to the east, facing Fowler St.  St. John’s church was built in a combination of styles popular at the time. The basic construction was symmetrical (Georgian influence) with the entrance placed in the gable end. The steep roof and arched windows were similar to the Gothic Revival style of the age.

The interior of the church evolved over time and it might surprise some readers to learn that there was once a loft accessed by stairs near the entrance

Factoid #97.

The existence of a local militia has been mentioned several times in earlier factoids. These militias came and went as the threat of an invasion from the United States heightened or diminished. In the 1860s the major danger was an invasion of Canada by the radical Fenian society. This was a group of American based Irish nationalists who planned to invade and capture Canada and exchange it for the end of British control of Ireland. The Fenians were not a harmless threat; they did in fact launch attacks.

In Richmond a Militia company was formed. Oral histories recount that the militia actually used the abandoned log Anglican Church as a drill hall.

Loyalist feelings were strong, and more than 50 area men formed the Richmond Company.

Factoid #98.

In 1863 H. F. Walling created a wall map (of Carleton County), which included a detailed enlargement of Richmond. The map showed the location and owners of buildings, of both major and minor importance and provided a treasure of information for researchers.

It is this map that recorded that both a Town Hall and a Grammar School had been built on the west side of Lennox St. between Strachan St. and the Jock River. (This information has been confirmed by written references.) This was a departure from the traditional location on the administration block. The buildings were here for approximately 20 years until new ones were constructed on the old Cockburn St. site. It is not know why the Lennox St. location was abandoned. Could the fact that it was in the floodplain have been a factor?

The map also provided information about the social makeup of the village. For example a close examination reveals several properties with the label T. Lewis T. H. These were properties owned by Thomas Lewis the merchant son of Capt. John Lewis. The T.H. indicated that the property had a house inhabited by a tenant. Thus we know that Mr. Lewis had income other than that of his store.

The map also showed that there was no rectory beside St. Philip’s Church. Rather, Rev. P. O’Connel(l) lived on Fortune St., south of the Jock River. Other evidence shows that his brother, a farmer, also lived at that location.

These are only three of many pieces of information one can gain from an examination of this important source.

Factoid # 99.

In the nineteenth century, there was no social safety net nor was there a formal banking system in the village. Both the Masonic order and the Orange Lodge helped fill these voids. Both groups had been active in the village in the first years of settlement but both were disbanded as interest waned. The Orange Lodge was revived in the late 1830s and the Masonic Lodge in the 1860s. Both were known to provide support to people in need: the ill and elderly, as well as orphans and widows. Better off members of the organizations lent money to their “brothers” who needed support. In the 1860s both groups were said to have held meetings in the area above Patrick McElroy’s store.

Factoid #100.

An article, which appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on Friday May 25 1868, recounted a celebration held in the village on the preceding Monday. “Monday was observed as a general holiday in the Village of Richmond. All places of business were closed and work generally suspended, and flags liberally displayed over the various public buildings among which we may mention the Town Hall, Drill Shed and the Orange Lodge Room.”

So it seems probable that the Union Jack was proudly displayed on Lennox St. It is also possible that the other two sites mentioned were the old Anglican Church building (drill shed) and Patrick McElroy’s store (Orange Lodge Room).

Factoid #101.

The May holiday of 1868 had flags and military musters; it also featured a lacrosse game. “In the afternoon a sharply contested La Crosse match took place which attracted a large number of spectators to the ground, who watched its progress with great interest. The players were all dressed in the club costume which gained no small admiration from the many ladies present at the match.” Richmond had a lacrosse club with uniforms. What is still unknown is if there was a league or regular games. Life was not all hard work and strife. There was time to party and play.

Factoid #102.

As noted in previous factoids, hotel owner Edward Rielly loved horses and operated a stagecoach between Richmond and Ottawa. It should not be surprising that the census of 1861 recorded that he owned 22 horses. Mr. Reilly also loved horse racing and built a track on land, which is now part of the fair grounds.

Factoid #103.

The Presbyterian congregation in the village was much smaller than that of the Anglicans or Roman Catholics; it received far less support from the government. Although two acres of land were set aside for a cemetery in 1818, a petition in 1823 for six acres on York St. was denied. The congregation continued to use the schoolhouse and was part of the circuit covered by the Rev. William Bell of Perth well into the mid 1830s. The Rev. Andrew Glen had been the resident minister for three years in the 1820s, but it was not until the 1840s with the arrival of the Rev. David Evans and his family that the congregation had a resident minister for any length of time. Lot 8 on the east side of McBean St. (site of the present church) was purchased in 1838 and a frame church was completed in 1847.

This location was not the congregation’s prime choice for the location of a church. In 1855 the congregation purchased for £150 sterling a 10-acre park lot on Perth St. (Lot 13) at the corner of the Huntley Rd. (now a vacant lot). The intent was to build a church and manse, and to use some of the land for a new cemetery because the  cemetery land it received in 1818, and still uses today, was low and frequently flooded. Only a manse was constructed at this location.

“St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church” a history published in 1983 provides us with a unique history of the manse. “It was a log building now clapboarded. It is a centre door plan with four rooms downstairs, the parlour with a bedroom behind it on one side, and the dining-room and kitchen on the other. The front door has side and top lights.” This construction and layout were very typical of many of the log houses built in the village in its first fifty years.

The church history tells us that in 1867 a soirée was held to raise money to build a fence in front of the manse. The congregation decided that “a good and sufficient board fence and a large and small gate be procured and built at the front of the manse grounds”. In 1870 a shed and kitchen were added to the house for a cost of $55. In 1877 a well was dug and in 1877 it was decided to get outside (storm) windows. The manse became redundant in 1889 when the decision was finalized to erect a new manse beside the church at the McBean St. location.

In the twentieth century the Neelin family owned the house for more than 60 years. Unfortunately it was demolished.

Factoid # 104.

Celebrations like the May holiday as well as the need to constantly provide hospitality to the hundreds of travellers passing through the village would have required some alcoholic refreshments. In the early days Richmond had as many as five distilleries. Although the Canadian Directory of 1858 recorded Thomas Lyon as a distiller, no whiskey production is listed on the 1861 census. Lyon struggled to maintain his family’s various businesses but the distillery may have been the first casualty.

Some whisky would have been purchased from Bytown but village merchant Thomas Lewis had another source. He had an agreement with J. P. Wiser of Prescott whose business was flourishing. The comparison of the dynamic growth in Prescott and slow decline of Richmond is apparent. (You may read more at the recent post “Whiskey Merchants – Thomas Lewis and J.P. Wiser”)

Factoid #105.

The “Ottawa Citizen” of July 3, 1868 published a list of students who placed first in the exams for various subjects at the Richmond Grammar School. This list tells us the specific subjects that were taught in the school and also gives us insight as to the brightest students in the community.

First Greek Book (B. Shillington )

Latin Prose Composition (J. B. Lewis), Virgil & Caesar (J. B. Lewis), First Latin Book (R. Pearson)

French 1st Class (M. Scott), 2nd Class (Robert Y. Street), 3rd class (J. Pettit)

Euclid Books I, II, & III (R. Pearson), Arithmetic 1st Class (J. B. Lewis), 2nd Class  (R. Y. Street)

Canadian History 1st Class (R. Pearson), 2nd Class (B. Shillington), English History (J. B. Lewis)

English Composition (R. Pearson), English Grammar (B. Shillington), Spelling (B. Shillington), Writing (R. Y. Street).

Who were these young scholars?

  1. Shillington was probably Thomas Benjamin, aged 15, who lived with his parents and five siblings just a half a block from the school at the corner of Lennox St. and Strachan St. His father, William, was a storekeeper. Benjamin spent most of his adult life in Blenheim Ontario where he was a teacher, merchant and tailor. He was a two-term mayor.
  2. J. B. Lewis was the third generation of Richmond men named John Bower Lewis. He was a grandson of Capt. John B. Lewis and a nephew of the Ottawa mayor and lawyer J. B. Lewis. This young man, son of merchant, Thomas Lewis, spent his early years living on Strachan St. within sight of the school and then moved to McBean St. As an adult “Bower” became a Civil Engineer, Dominion Land Surveyor, and Provincial Land Surveyor. He lived most of his adult life in Ottawa. Unmarried, he had a great love of flowers and his Echo Drive home had a garden containing hundreds of perennials.

As for the other Richmond Grammar School scholars, if you have any information, please leave a comment.