Some Side-Lights on Early History of Middleville
Copy of an Address prepared by Miss Agnes Yuill for Presentation Before a Meeting of the Young People’s Society
The following interesting account of early days in Middleville was included in an address delivered at a meeting of the Y.P.S., recently by Miss Agnes Yuill, clerk of Lanark Township and was kindly furnished to the Almonte Gazette for publication on the Gazette’s request. Found in the Perth Courier, 1 July 1932, pg. 7
How many of the members of this society, who have been born and reared here know how our little village came to have its name, Middleville? In early days owing to its central location in the township it was called Middleton. It happened, however, that there were two post offices of this name, I do not know the location of the second one, but I presume same had been in Ontario, and the name of this little hamlet was then changed to Middleville to avoid confusion in mail matters.
At the time of the corn laws in the Old Country, quite a number of families emigrated to Canada and settled about here. I am not sure that any came in 1818 but it is possible the Colquhoun and Herron families did. Many of you will recognize the names of your ancestors in the following families who came out in 1820, namely – the Campbells, Reids, Afflecks, Andersons, Ballantynes, Somervilles, Scotts, Borrowmans, Mathers, McLaughlins, McKays, Hendersons, Murrays, McIntyres, Rodgers, Peacocks and the Rankins and settled in and about the village. There were other families no doubt, but these are mainly those of greater numbers. There was a family by the name of Dody, one named Stark, one named Mathesis, one named Bogg, one named Ritchie and others but those died out or removed elsewhere and the former families or parts of them have remained to this day.
The First Store
The first store in the village was a part of the building on the corner now owned by Mr. Barr and was operated by a Mr Glossop who also was a shoemaker by trade and at that time the entrance to the store was from the street we now call Hall street. Later Stevenson Blackburn had a little store where Mr. Stanley Blackburn now lives; George Affleck and later Robert McDiarmid kept store in the building where James H. Rodger now resides, which later was owned by Peter Morris, who ran same as a stopping place known as Commercial House and there was also attached a candy shop and a tinsmith shop and weaving looms. And at this time A.R. McIntyre and Co., operated in Mr. Barr’s Stand. Mr. Stewart having been located there after Mr. Glossop and previous to Mr. McIntyre, and William Croft and Sons operated a general store in the building where Dr Croft is now located. This also served as the post office until the year 1910 when it was moved to its present location. As most of you can remember William Croft and Sons dispersed in 1910 and in 1914 McIntyre’s sold to Mr. Conn, who sold to Mr. Somerville, who in 1925 sold to Mr. Barr.
There were also several shoemakers in the early days, besides Mr. Glossop, who had Willie Guthrie as his apprentice, who later opened a shop in the upper story of the residence of Mr. Samuel Affleck and had several apprentices. Mr. John Affleck having served his apprenticeship to Mr. Guthrie; Mr. A.C. McIntyre also had for his shop; the residence now owned by Mr. Harry L. Mather. Besides the three mentioned shoemaker shops, Thomas McGee with Peter Turriff as his assistant went through the country and “whipped the cat,” that is they went from house to house remaining there to make the required number of shoes. Mr. Dan McCathern operated a tannery on the property now owned by Mr. Roger Somerville. He later moved to Herman in Hastings County.
Three Wagon Makers in Village
There were also three wagon makers in the village – John Mather, grandfather of the John Mather you all know, operated in the building which stood on the Willis property until a few years ago and his residence was a log building alongside the same. Edward Guthrie operated in the building now used by Mr. Eric Somerville as a blacksmith shop and William Rankin who lived where Miss Jean S. Rankin now lives, was also engaged in this trade.
Mr Burke’s father also was a cabinet maker and had a little shop beside the present home of Mrs Burke. In the old country he had been training as a medical doctor but had not completed his cours. He was an educated and learned man and a great musician. Many of our parents can tell of having been taken to Old John when suffering from toothache and having gone through the ordeal of being planted on the floor, their heads held securely between the old fellow’s knees, while he rapped or tapped the teeth till he reached the offending member and the same was extracted by an instrument which canted them out.
The First Blacksmith
John Anderson was the first blacksmith her and his shop was located on the site where the old cheese factory stood, he later built the stone shop that yet stands on the corner. Robert McLaughlin also had a shop where the stone church now stands. This was operated for a time by Dan Munro then by Robert Watt, whose widow resides now with Miss Amanda Affleck and then by Thomas Deachman who sold the same to the Congregational body who built the stone church in 1884. In later years Robert C. Somerville blacksmithed in a little log building in the corner of Mr. Barr’s property. A frame shop stood on the corner of Mrs. W.B. Affleck’s property and was operated by William Truelove, while William Cunningham conducted a like business in the stone shop. This was later occupied by R.C. Somerville and W.A. Craig had Truelove’s stand for a time, later moving up to the stand now owned by J. Eric Somerville.
To go back to the churches, it is of interest to know that the first Baptist church was a big building situated near the 7th line corner on Stanley Rodger’s farm and unlike our buildings of today the roof was finished with boards on all sides with the roof coming to one sharp peak. For a time, the minister or speaker (he not being ordained) Old James Smith lived in the house where Arthur Blackburn now lives but later the little log house which stands near the Clayton road on the property now owned by Arthur McKay became the Baptist manse. Later the present building was erected, and the residence now owned by Mr. Albert E. Affleck was then the Baptist manse. The first Presbyterian church stood on the same site as the present brick edifice and the first minister was Mr. McAllister and at that time Dalhousie field was united with Middleville. Later during Rev. Fraser’s time, a party of 12 families severed their connection with the Presbyterian church and formed the Congregational body and the building now used by Crawford Dodds as a stable was the church the stone building being erected in 1884. I have been told that the stone used in erecting the stone church was brought from a quarry near Appleton. Mr. Black was the first Congregational minister, and the manse was situated where the present manse stands. The Presbyterian manse having been the property now owned by Mr. Alex McKay. It is interesting also to know that the first communion dishes of the Old Congregational Church came from Scotland and comprised an urn and two cups and two japanned serving trays. The first table cover for communion purposes was woven from cotton by Archibald Rankin, grandfather of the late Mr. Rankin known by us who resided on the farm now owned by William Langstaff.
About 35 or 40 or more years ago this little town could boast of a photographer, whose name was Meggs, a tailor by name of Doherty, a harness maker, Brown by name, a milliner, Frank Abernethy who later became an actor and whose obituary you may have read in the Toronto newspapers last summer. There was also a weaver whose name I have been unable to find but he was a little Scotchman and known as Jimmy the weaver. There was also a dentist called Kennedy and later Dr. Sam Wilson of Perth had an office here.
Grog Shops at Middleville
The residence of Miss Agnes E. Affleck was a one-time shipping place and operated by Aunty Scoular and Elizabeth Harding was her business partner. At this time liquor was sold here and previously there was a little building alongside this and just to this side of W.R. Affleck’s lane which was known as “Ann Wark’s Grog Shop.” During this time George Aitken owned and operated a stopping place where George Mather resides and at that time liquor selling was also a means of revenue here. In those times Middleville seems to have been quite a little town as parties of Yankees used to come back up here to buy horses and cattle, and payment was made in gold and silver coin. Parties would come from the front and stop off going and returning from the annual hunt in the fall.
$200 A Year for Teacher
The first schoolhouse was situated where Mrs. W.B. Afleck’s residence now is and old John McIntyre was the school master and I am told his salary was $200 a year to instill the principles of reading, writing, arithmetic into the minds of the scholars of that day. Then the present stone building was erected by Robert Stead. Tom Thompson and John Mather (the speaker’s great grandfather). Speaking of educational matters, it may be of interest here to learn that our present deputy minister of education is a descendant of Mr. Colquhoun who resided on the farm now occupied by Mr. Eddie Rodger and whose grave thereupon marked by a cherry tree was preserved for many years by the occupants.
About 1860 the Township separated from Lanark Village, the town hall there having been erected for the purposes of all business meetings. About 1863 the township acquired an old building near Mrs. Mary McKay’s residence, known as the Mechanic’s Institute. This was fitted up as a town hall and later the site was exchanged for the present one and the brick building erected in 1901. The present site was formerly owned as a cooper’s shop by a man named Dorset.
The cheese factory was erected I think in 1887 and as you all know underwent many repairs and renovations previous to the fire in 1929, when the present up-to-date building was erected. Penman’s sawmill was erected some years ago by Archibald Penman, operated later by his sons and now by Mr. McFarlane.
The first doctor to locate here was Dr. Duff, who was followed by McArthur, Mather, Klotz, Woodruffe and Croft, who has been here for a number of years.
In preparing this paper I have found it difficult to convey to you all the interesting items and families and it seems rather a pity that some of our ancestors had not kept a record of the families of even one local school section. Probably if one ha time, some information of earlier days might have been procured from early assessment and collectors’ rolls, but I am sure you all have heard enough of this for this time. I thank you for your splendid attention to these rambling remarks.