A Glimpse into the
Here is the earliest known photograph of Paisley, taken in 1865, when the village was only 14 years of age. So many changes have been made in the buildings since then that one cannot begin to enumerate them. However, older readers should recognize many of the landmarks. For instance, the frame building at the lower left of the picture, is now the residence occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Jas. Cavill. In 1865, and for many years afterward, it was an hotel. The original Knox Church, a frame structure, can be distinguished at the top left hand corner, while the Anglican church is seen near the top centre of the picture. The building now occupied by the Co-op. should be recognized by even the younger readers, while the Central Hotel is similarly easily identified. The saw and grist mills are plain to see, but it would require a keen-eyed old timer to put proper name on each building along that muddy old road. And take note of those wooden bridges. By the way, can any of our old time readers tell us who the photographer was, and from what point of vantage he snapped this particular photo away back in 1865? The photo from which the reproduction was made was sent to The Advocate by Mr. Arthur Claxton of Lindsay.
A Glimpse into the Dim and Distance Past
Paisley in the Early Days
Paisley thirty-nine years ago, who can desciribe it? Probably over the wide stretch of deep snow which covered the ground where the town now stands, tall trees extended their bare leafless branches, each limb bearing upon it the white crest with which an all merciful Providence had supplied it, apportioning, with the nicety of -omniscience, to each tiny sprig or brawny arm the weight of burden which it was able to bear in contributing its share of beauty to the matchless scene. Winding among the trees between its banks the river ran, its surface doubtless covered with a thick white coat of ice and snow, and on its breast numerous foot prints of prowling wolves and foxes, the tracks branching off near the spot where we write, each taking the stream along which it expected the fattest prey was to be found. Or if an opening at any point occurred in the river, around its edges the rich clear water gurgled against crystal pendents wrought by the hand of nature into all manner of fantastic shapes. Two months later the scene presented a different aspect. The warm spring air had melted the snow, leaving exposed the decaying dress of last year's leaves spread carefully over the accumulations of a century's foliage. The ice had broken up, and an angry swollen stream rushed past, while a dark watery fog hung low on the river and covered the wooded flats to the north of the confluence.
On the evening of the 18th of April, 1851, Simon Orchard with his wife and family landed from a raft which had carried them down the river, and on the bank at the confluence of the Saugeen and Teeswater, near where Mr. Wittman's stable now stands, he pitched his camp for the night. He had come from Durham to Walkerton. There he made a raft and set sail down the river in search of a home. Night found him at the spot above mentioned. Next morning before setting out further on his journey down the river he took a stroll into the woods to look
around him and the rich appearance of the flats with the general lay of the land and the vigorous growth of forest, caused him to decide upon remaining where he was; besides it is said that the whole scene before him was one which he had seen in his dreams and not being entirely free from a tinge of superstition this too may have had some effect in influencing him to the decision arrived at. With a few boards which he had brought with him on the raft and what convenient material he found around, he built a temporary shanty until he had time to get ready something more substantial. The first white men whom Mr. Orchard saw were a party of surveyors under Mr. Alex Vidal of Sarnia (now Senator Vidal), who were locating the Elora Road and laying out 100 acre lots on each side of the road. They turned in and helped Simon to put up, near the present site of Mr. Steele's store, a small log dwelling on the first of May, and then took their departure leaving him as he often afterwards said, "monarch of all he surveyed."
On the 9th of May, Mr. S. T. Rowe arrived on the scene with his family and his little stock of belongings, and after reporting a stormy and adventurous passage as sea captains usually do, proceeded to unload his cargo, having full confidence in Simon's ability to spy out the land.Mr. Rowe took up his quarters on the south side of the river and put up a log shanty where the Wilson House now stands, and in his shanty he opened out a tavern.
In August Mr. John Valentine who was then living at Fergus and who had located the mill on the Mud River at the land office sent in two men to take possession of the property and make preparations for the erection of a mill. One of those men, David Ross, died in September and boards were taken from the floor of Mr. Rowe's shanty to make the coffin. He was buried on Valentine's property down near the grist mill. The next whom we may mention was Mr. Peter McArthur who although not becoming a settler then, came in
the summer of 1851 and took up his land on the town line of Bruce and Saugeen. He afterwards went to the Pacific coast and succeeded in amassing a considerable amount of money from lucky strikes in mining which gained for him on his return the appellation of "The Gold." He was intelligent, sociable, industrious and upright, and though not coming in for the amount of hardship in this settlement which the other pioneers did, his early trip to Bruce must not be missed in this sketch. In October 1857 Mr. John McGraw walked from Richmond Hill to Owen Sound and in company with Jas. Legg and his two nephews, Moses and Aaron took through the bush from Owen Sound to Southampton, reaching there with the aid of an Indian guide. From Southampton he proceeded up the Saugeen to old Mr. Gowanlock's and there took up a farm on the river. Next lie proceeded up to Paisley, or Mud River as it was then called, and went back to Richmond Hill by way of Walkerton, Durham and the Garafraxa Road. In December he returned to Bruce and spent Christmas day at Mr.. Gowanlock's where an incident occurred that, though a little late as an item of news, is well worth a place in this issue: Two of Mr. Gowanlock's daughters had taken some travellers across the river in a canoe, in the morning. They left them across all right but in returning, the river which had all morning been running snow, slush and ice, became so full that they could not drive the canoe through it. No rope or pole could be got that would reach them from the shore. Sometimes the canoe and snow would all stop and remain immovable, and getting loose the whole would take a sweep down the river, but little progress could be made towards the shore. It was a bitterly cold day and only by working incessantly at the paddles could they keep themselves from freezing. Not until about dusk were they rescued from their perilous situation, and then it was by felling a small tree into the river Which by the greatest of good fortune was able to reach them as they were passing. One of these ladies became afterwards the wife of Mr. Jas. Rowand, M.P., for West Bruce.
After six weeks stay the snow became too deep for chopping, and he left again for home, returning in the spring when he cleared off a piece of ground and planted some potatoes, but having the bad fortune to burn down his shanty, he struck a bargain with Mr. Valentine who was passing down the river to go and work for him in putting up his mill. He left the piece of clearing and took up his quarters at Mud River. The improvement on and right to the place he sold to Archie Pollock and the potatoes to Timothy Craig. The next land he took up was the property on which the Paisley Station is situated, and this he located in 1852, putting up on the 11th of October a shanty on the very spot where the G.T.R. ticket office now stands, and into this the family were moved in January 1853.
Mr. John Eckford was located at Dunkeld in the summer of 1851. In May 1852 Messrs. David Lyons and Thos. Hembroff came in and settled at Lockerby. They drove in with them a fat cow which they intended to kill and salt down, and they made the cow carry on her back through the bush the salt which was afterwards used.
Mr. Henry Brown arrived first on a prospecting tour in July 1852. In November 1852 he came back in company with his friend Robert Cochrane; they put up a shanty and chopped three acres each. Coming down the river they camped on the bank and got up in the morning to find nine inches of snow on them. He left Mr. Rowe to burn the brush for him in the spring of '53, which he did and the shanty along with it. In the summer of '54 he put up his house. At the raising there were Thos. Bryce, John Scoffield, Simon Orchard, S. T. Rowe and John Megraw. On the 15th of March '54, he brought in his family. Mr. Elves moved in to Elderslie also in about the late summer of '52. On the 17th of October 1852, McArthurs, McKechnies and some other families arrived and next day they took up their land on the town-line between Bruce and Saugeen. In November, 1852, Messrs. John McPhee and Angus Galbraith, who had come from the County of Victoria, came in by way of Southampton, where there was but one tavern and at it they were nearly starved. They proceeded through Port Elgin where an old man named McLean had squatted but afterwards disposed of his right to the German pioneers of that village who came from Waterloo County. Messrs. McPhee
and Gailbraith proceeded by the Goderich road to the elbow and taking the town-line headed for Paisley. Passing a shanty on the way side belonging to Mr. McKinnon they entered but found no one in. A fire was smouldering and several bags of flour were in the shanty. With the starving which
they had at Southampton and their inability to procure food to
take with them on their tramp, they were too hungry to stand on ceremony and at once set to work to bake themselves some cakes. They next fell in with Mr. Simon Orchard who had taken Mrs. Lamont home from Valentine's mill where she had been waiting upon Mrs. McMartin, the wife of Mr. John McMartin who was engaged framing the mill. They followed Mr. Orchard to Paisley and found on reaching there that Mrs.McMartin had died. This was the second death in the settlement. The remains of Mrs. McMartin with those of her infant, were interred at the cast end of Valentine's grist mill where they remained until about the winter of 1874 when they were taken to the family burying ground at what is known as "the Rocky Saugeen." Messrs. McPhee and Galbraith took up the land which they or their families now occupy. There was at that time in Elderslie township sixteen souls all told, and these were to be found principally in Paisley and Lockerby.
On May 25th, 1853, Mr. Jas. Rae came in and next day took up the land which he now owns. He went back to Hamilton and returned on the 17th of June. Simon Orchard and John Megraw put the roof on a shanty for him, and in the same house which is still standing. Mr. Wm. Green also came in May of that year, Mr. McBride in August and Mr. Valentine moved his family from Fergus to Southampton in September of that year, and Jacksons came in the fall. John Hagan of Elderslie came also that year. Next year, 1854, was the year of the land sale and the settlers flocked in very rapidly.
For the sake of convenience and to make our subject more intelligible to our readers, we have been pleased to divide Paisley's early history into epochs, each one being marked off by some event which stands out more prominently than others, and the event which we have selected to mark the first is the Land Sale of 1854.
As we have made reference to some of the settlers who have come in the first epoch, we will now refer briefly to some of the improvement which marked it, and in this as in the matter of settlement Mr. Simon Orchard takes a prominient place. Kind-hearted and obliging he was ever ready to help on a settler, and in the matter of work, he never was the man to shirk his share. In 1851 he set to work to span the Teeswater with a bridge. That summer he built the piers and put a stringer across it, and completed the job next summer. It was cross-wayed all the way from the north end of the bridge, across the flats to the north side of the Hanna House. In the fall of '51 he underbrushed a road along the left bank of the Saugeen all the way to Southampton and took a team over it. The road to Southampton on the Government Survey was not passable until '54 or '55 and then the road was not chopped all the way, nor
was it passable except in the driest weather. To the south, patches of the Elora Road were chopped out in '51 but not very much. S. T. Rowe had the contract of chopping it out from Paisley to Ellengowan in the winter of '54 and '65. Mr. John Valentine who was also to be considered a public benefactor in those days had his saw mill going in '52 and settlers could thus obtain lumber to push forward improvements. The bridge at Rae's was put over the Saugeen in 1854. The logs which covered it were cut by John Megraw of the ground now lying between Stark's house and the town-line to the east of it. He was paid for them one shilling and three pence a piece, and Jas. Sheridan helped to do the work. The logs were sawed into three inch plank for the covering.
The first store in Paisley was erected by Thos. Orchard in '54. Previous to this time, he vended his little stock of wares in a room in Rowe's tavern. The store erected is still standing and is occupied by Mr. Robert Scott as a flour and feed store. The door and windows were first cut out of the east end of it, as the road at that time ran to the east of the building, but before it was completed the road was changed to the west of it. The logs were then put back in the west to face the street or rather road. When the building was put up a bottle of whiskey was broken on the top log and it was christened "Rowesburgh Commercial House." It must be remembered that at this time Paisley had not been given its name. Three names were being pressed, viz : Rowesburgh, Orchardville and Montrose, the last mentioned being the choice of Mr. Valentine. Not until 1856 when the Post Office was opened and named by the P.O. Inspector did Paisley get its name. The name Four Rivers we think would have been preferable to any of them, and physically considered it would hit off in a word the whole topographical character of the place. It is not worth while quarrelling with the name at this late date, but Paisley is no way appropriate
The rivers in those early days teemed with fish and captures were made which both in numbers and size of the haul would gladden the hearts of the modern sportsmen. In the summer of '52, before Valentine's dam was built an old Indian in a bark canoe followed a sturgeon down the Teeswater. He had speared it somewhere up the river and the spear head with about a foot or so of the handle which had snapped in two with the struggle, was sticking in its back. When going over the rapids, the fish was too big to swim them and it turned sideways and rolled down them like a huge log. Soon the Indian came after him arid hunted him up in the deep water below, out of which he drove him and getting the canoe alongside tomahawked him where the water got shallower about where the railway bridge now stands. The fish wighed 112 lbs. About a couple of years after, a nigger named Jones from Hanover captured another in the dam, and out of it took a patent pail of spawn. These were in the old days before men had got into the practice of telling fish stories.
The next epoch we will call from the Land Sale in 1854 to the bad summer of 1858.
Early in this or in the year 1855, Mr. Valentine built the old grist-mill, which was a boon to the people in those early times and lightened for the settlers much of the labor of packing provisions. In the hands of Mr. Valentine, in whose disposition generosity was a central principle, the old mill niinistered to the wants of the needy and many a bag of flour was given out of it for which the proprietor never received nor expected pay. The works on the Valentine property turned the activity of the village and the settlement in that direction so that a considerable part of the last epoch saw attention directed to the northern part of Greenock township. A man named Ned Boulton explored a large part of this township and on some of his trips was accompanied by John Megraw. Bolton finally settled on the farm now owned by Mr. Wm. Bowes at Pinkerton and the year '54 saw the greater part of Greenock gore located. Mr. Valentine gave the right of way of a road through his property in the town plot, which shortened the way to his mills, and the road is to-day one of the most widely travelled roads leading to Paisley. In compensation for this the streets in that portion of the town plot were not laid out, this road furnishing all the outlet necessary and the property was afterwards laid out in lots in the manner now known as the Valentine survey.
Not until a number of years after, was the road built down the hill to the mills, as it is at present. At one time there was room for a team to go in at the south of Jas. Mair's house on the bank and take an angling course along it to a fordable spot on the river below the dam, but soon this caved away and the thorough-fare was by a road along the watershed between the Teeswater and the Willow Creek, coming out on Church street immediately west of what is now 'Mr. Chambers' residence. Along this road were some frightful mud-holes, and at one point it touched a part of the bank of the Teeswater about 100 feet high and so precipitous that no trees would grow on it except a few shrubs. This in old settlement parlance was known as "the looking down place." Down this declivity the writer with the assistance of a few chums as mischievous as himsalf, and by the aid of pries, started a saw-log in its mad course, and before it had time to reach the bottom scampered off home terrified with the enormity of the offence committed, for the log every once in a while on its way down would bound into the air.
Mr. Valentine who was conducting a store in Walkerton in company with his brother-in-law, Mr. Geo. Jardine, but who spent most of his time with the men down at the mill, moved his family from Southampton in 1855. During his trips between Walkerton and Paisley he brought in the mail matter for the settlers as the nearest post office was Welkerton, Paisley office not being opened until the first of February 1856. Early in 1855, he erected a store in Paisley where the McClure house now stands. Mr. Jardine went to Lockerby and invested in property there, and for a time it was declared a disputed point which was to be the town, Lockerby or Paisley. Lockerby was laid out in town lots; immense plans and maps of the place were
got out and circulated through the country-in fact it was a miniature western paper town, in the wilds of Bruce, and it succeeded in bringing parties in - but Lockerby was doomed to go under. To that boom we owe the getting of Mr. Hornell as a citizen.
Early in this period work was commenced on the property at present owned by the Fishers. A man named Lyons in '55 bought the property from S. T. Rowe, made a commencement towards building a dam and put up the frame of a saw-mill. He left and the water made havoc of what work had been put in on the dam. Rowe made several bees to repair this damage made by the freshets of each spring. A man named Gibson had a claim on lot 16 down the Saugeen river and purposed putting up mills down there, but the dispute over the property was so vigorous that he abandoned the project. Had this gone on it is quite possible the greater part of Paisley to-day might have been down in that direction. This in fact was but a beginning of the many disputes about land, and litigation that left men penniless. Some on the other hand took the more pacific as well as polite method of compromising and going halves in preference to letting the courts take the whole. Now also began in full earnest the struggle of clearing the land, and in the evenings the horizon on all sides was marked with the glare above the tree tops, of a burning fallow or the steady blaze from numerous burning log heaps. Right hearty too were the times when the settlers met at the logging bees, and in the evening when the hard day's work was done, a knot of loggers gathered round the shanty door, and the song and the joke went round. Then it was that the matchless feminine charms of ideal heroines like "black-eyed Susan," were sung; and the writer at the present moment, has a clear recollection reaching away back into childhood, of one such refrain which ran:
"Tell me ye jovial sailors, tell
To attempt in this opoch to tell who were the settlers who came in or the order of their arrival, would prove a vain effort, for everyone came. On one occasion about the year 1855 Simon Orchard and John Megraw were taking a tramp through Brant township and along the townline in the vicinity of where the McCurdy's are living. The country presented an uninviting appearance for the settler, as the land was covered thickly with ground hemlock. Mr. Orchard remarked that there would be land there to be taken up ten years hence, but his prophecy did not turn out to be true for another year or two saw the whole of it settled. Tradesmen make their appearance in Paisley and bit by bit the cluster of little shanties in the small patch of clearing began to widen out and the whole to take on the appearance of a town. Speaking of tradesmen, Mr. Thos. Irving, was in those days an essential part of the community, and invariably his aid was sought. His little workhouse on the bank overlooking Stark's mill was a veritable curiosity shop. It was a foundry and a watch-maker's shop, and everything from a broken down printing press to an old gun or a sick
watch, was benefiitted by.his treatment. Long will the memory of his quaint sayings remain with the younger people especially.
Soon we come to the first deadweight that stood in the way of the progress of the settlement - the bad summer of 1858 - which brings us also to the end of this epoch. To the failure of crops was added a general trade depression, and the outlook to the settler, whose means were small and who had but begun in the bush his hard battle of hewing out a home, was decidedly blue. Flour rose to $30 a bbl., and the poor fellows had not the money to buy it with, nor could they obtain any employment from which they could earn a dollar. Is it any wonder therefore that it was an experience which burned itself into thhe memories of heads of families who saw nothing but want staring them in the face, and who dreaded the moment which appeared inevitable when the last morsel would be gone and their children would cry for bread, with notihing to give them? To relieve the distress in a measure and ward off utter starvation, corn was brought in from the United States, which sold at a lower price than flour, and Indian meal was the staple diet of the settlement. The township councils and the provisional county council of which Mr. Valentine was that year the head, took action. They adopted the plan of creating work by opening out sidelines and concessions and giving the settlers an opportunity to earn a little money. They borrowed to pay for this and also to buy seed wheat as well as bread to keep the people from straving, the settlers giving their notes for payment. One improvement which may be mentioned was the building of the Saugeen bridge on Goldie St., which took place in the summer of 1858. Simon Orchard had the contract and Sam Webb was his foreman. The bottoms of these old piers are still in the river although they have since been built from the water up by the Sinclair's.
Our next epoch - from the bad summer to the establishment of the county seat - saw brightening prospects and the good crop of 1859, though there was but little clearing to take it from, was increased year by year until the marketing of grain became a feature of the settlement, and with it came also the establishment of more mills.
In the latter part of 1858 Mr. David Hanna came to Paisley from Howick and had a look at Rowe's property. He returned with his father and his brother James, and they bought from Mr. Rowe the mill site, early in 1859 and went vigorously to work. They fixed the dam, cut out the race, erected the grist mill utilizing in doing this, part of Lyon's foundation and frame for the saw-mill, they erected another saw-mill also on the south bank of the stream and put the machinery in it.
The fight over the county seat was one which occupied several years, and Paisley relied too much upon the justice of her claim (being undoubtedly the most centrally situated claimant in the matter), while Walkerton did, the wire-pulling and with the loose principles of sundry county councillors who were up for the highest bid, assisted by a miserly grasping spirit at home, Paisley lost in the race by a mere vote of one. The northern
Reeves were advised that in a few years the county would improve to such an extent that it would have to be divided, and in that case it was to their interest to have the county town not only away from the centre, but as far out of the way to the south as possible. Whether they have realized anything from the view they then took or not, they are themselves in the best position to judge and it is not within our province to discuss it in this sketch.
Following the establishment of a county seat, the people had their attention next drawn to the matter of railways. The broad and narrow gauge schemes were before the country, and every influence was brought to bear to gain the support of the people towards each. Hamilton city had then a large business connection in this county; it was also the headquarters in Ontario for the Great Western Ry. and by dint of Hamilton energy and Hamilton platform talent as represen.ed by men like the late Hon. Thos. White and Adam Brown, the broad gauge gained the day. A charter was obtained for the building of the Wellington Grey and Bruce branch; the county gave a heavy bonus; the contract of building this portion of it was let to Wm. Hendrie, of Hamilton, and on the 8th of June 1872 the first train made its way into Paisley drawn by an engine called the "William Hendrie," amidst the wildest enthusiasm. September of that year saw the running of regular trains to Paisley which was then the terminus for about five months, and about the time of the Christmas holidays they began to run on a regular schedule to Southampton, end of the line.
Then began a period of wonderful activity. Buildings went up right and left; property rose rapidly in value and a general era of prosperity was inaugurated. Property changed hands and industries that were crippled before for the lack of capital to conduct them fell into the possession of others who were able and willing to push ahead and soon what was before an unpretentious village paying its taxes into a township treasury and doing its statute labor like any other country corner, felt big enough to run a show of its own.
From 1874, steady progress was made in spite of the period of depression which had begun to set in and which calminated in the summer and fall of 1877. Times began to brighten in a couple of years, and the hum of prosperity which became general over the dominion, did not make any exception with Paisley., But with the vigorous Railway policy of the Government which caused a boom in the northwest, a heavy emigration began which made itself felt in this vicinity. Many valuable citizens left the place, and real estate fell in value, but we are not aware that Paisley suffered much worse in this respect than the average Ontario village or town.
The last five years has witnessed substantial progress. The large flouring mills of Mr. Jas. Stark'as well as those of Messrs. Fisher, with the extention and improvement of industries before in existence has added very much to the business of the place. Our crowning improvement has been the splendid system of waterworks which was put in a little over a year ago, and this with increased financial and business facilities cannot fail to attract manufacturers. The large number of splendid residences lately erected, is also a marked feature of the improvements which have been going on.
The Queen's Birthday, 1874
By W. H. Reed, Winnipeg
The first celebration of Queen Victoria's Birthday (May 24) of which I have any recollection, was in 1874. Her Majesty had been on the throne for 37 years, and although I participated in many, and remembered the Golden and Diamond Jubilee celebrations, none brought such a thrill to me as that of 1847.
|Return to top of Page||Return to top of Page|