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THE STORY OF
THE VILLAGE OF HARPER

This is a manuscript in the Perth Museum research files.
Transcribed by Charles Dobie.


           The following is the summary of a paper presented to the members of the Harper Women's Institute, by Clyde Bell, on November 21st, 1963. Mr. Bell [was] a director of the Perth Museum Inc. His family came to the Harper District in 1817, and his great grandfather, James Bell, was granted a Crown Deed for the West Half of Lot 23 in the 6th Concession of Bathurst Township on April 27th, 1827.
           The paper is based on the recollections of his neighbour, the late G. E. Wilson, the stories told by his late father, Wm. R. Bell, and on the records in the archives at the Perth Museum.



           There is nothing new in the anti-American feeling we hear about. I sometimes think that Canada was developed for the wrong reasons, for many of the progressive steps that we have taken towards nationhood, we have taken because some group of Canadians was anti-this or anti-that. The Perth District was formed because the Government of Upper Canada had good reason to fear the United States during the period following the war of 1812 - 1814, and for some time afterwards, American politicians claimed that the liberation of the Canadas was their "manifest destiny". A nice way of saying all of Canada is ours.
           Just to show how real this fear was on the part of the officers charged with the defence of the Canadas, I am going to quote from a letter written by Colonel Edward Baynes of the Glengarry Light Infantry, to Governor, Sir George Prevost, in June, 1814. This letter is in the Public Archives of Canada, and is also quoted in part on page 13 of Andrew Haydon's book, "Pioneer Sketches In The District of Bathurst."
           (Quote) "In the Upper Province the population is very scanty, and, with the exception of the Eastern District, are chiefly of American extraction. These Settlers have been suffered to introduce themselves in such number that in most parts they form the majority, and in many, almost the sole population.
           A military force formed of such material could be but little depended upon, and this has been very generally exemplified in some of the most populous parts of the settlement, where two-thirds of the inhabitants have absconded, abandoning valuable farms, and, in repeated instances, have seduced and assisted the soldiers to accompany them. Even Members of the Provincial Legislature have deserted to the enemy, and his chief source of information is drawn from the disaffected settlers who remain. This impolitic system has been suffered to grow to such an extent that, had it not been checked by the war, a few years would have rendered Upper Canada a complete American Colony. Indeed, that had been so nearly accomplished on the important line of communication between Kingston and Cornwall, that had it not been for the counterpoise afforded by the loyal Scots settlers of that place, Stormont and Glengarry, it would have been impracticable to have preserved communication with the Upper Province, and the intercourse once interrupted, it would have been impossible for the Upper Province to have long sustained itself, as it is well ascertained that the several predatory incursions of the enemy between Kingston and Brockville were perpetrated with the connivance and aid of the settlers in that neighbourhood." (End of Quote)
           To overcome the dangers set out by Colonel Baynes, the Government of the day decided that a loyal population must be established inland from the St. Lawrence River, for they clearly believed that the water-way must remain for all the future, the nation's first line of defence. As a move of the utmost urgency, Colonel Baynes suggested "the opening of the Rideau water system and the Ottawa in such a manner as to permit the passage of the greatest of our ships between the Ottawa and our vital fortifications at Kingston."
           In addition to the canal system, a road was planned from the Ottawa, running north of the Rideau River system to Kingston. A loyal population of British settlers, supplemented by disbanded soldiers, was to be located along both the Military Road and the Rideau River system. These settlers would be fully armed with muskets and field-pieces of the latest kinds, and always ready to sweep invaders from the front part of the Province. A population in the back townships producing supplies for those on active duty at the American frontier was a policy of undoubted wisdom. I would not be here tonight, but for the fact that the Government gave my great-grandfather 100 acres of land, and transportation for himself, his family and his loom, so that he would be able to weave cloth from local wool, and I understand from reading similar agreements, that the army would have first call on his services as a weaver, and on the products of his loom.
           If you would like to follow up the plan for settlement in this area, I would suggest that you obtain a copy of Andrew Haydon's book, and you will find a complete outline of the local history in the chapter "Perth-on-the-Tay." On page 33, you will find the story of how our Township of Bathurst was purchased from the Indians. This is a quote from Folio Q-320, page 45, Public Archives of Canada, and dated 22nd of February, 1816.
           (Quote) "Hon. Col. Claus, Deputy Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs at York, sent to Captain Ferguson, the Resident Agent of Indian Affairs at Kingston, the following instructions as directed by Governor Gore.
           It being the object of His Majesty's Government to make a purchase of four or five townships in the rear of those mentioned in the margin (Crosby, Burgess, Elmsley, Montague and Marlboro) you will immediately communicate the same by wampum to the Chiefs of the Chippewa and the Messesawguay Nations, owners of the said lands, and inform them that the King, their great Father, will make an establishment on the land described, to which I am confident, no objection on their part will be made. By his Excellency Lieut.- Governor Gore's order, you will on this occasion, as well as on all others, place yourselves under the immediate command of Major General Sir Sidney Beckwith, Quarter-Master-General, and during your absence order Capt. Anderson to assume the duties of Superintendent of the post at Kingston." (End of Quote).
           The Folio also contains a plan outlining the land to be acquired by the survey of the three new townships, now Bathurst, Drummond and Beckwith, containing about three hundred thousand acres. Thus [for] three belts of wampum, the Indians gave the title to the land for all time.
           It is against this background that we view the history of the Harper district, for it was a part of the over-all plan for the Rideau Settlement. I did not take the time needed to make a detailed examination of the records of each property at the Registry Office in Perth, [now in Almonte -Ed.] and I am not prepared to swear that this information is a hundred percent correct, but I am sure that you will find it sufficiantly accurate to guide you in preparing a complete history of the district.
           Lot 20 in the 6th concession of Bathurst Township was granted by the Crown to Winkworth Brown, a military artificer, on October 31st, 1821, and consisted of one hundred acres. Mr. Brown was a tinsmith by trade, and did not farm to any extent. On January 30th, 1824, he sold the rear fifty acres of this lot to John Menzies, who later sold lots to the Grange, a form of farm co-operative, to Peppers, John Butler, Fergusons, Jim and Louisa Margaret, Henry Margaret and others. These lots have changed hands several times during the past century. Cliford Kerr has the original Crown deed for the Brown property, and he has kindly lent it to me for this evening. The school now stands on the lot where the Grange was first built.
           Lot 21 in the sixth concession, on the East of the Sideroad, was divided into three lots of 66-2/3 acres each. Lot A was granted by the Crown to William Glascott in 1826, and he seems to have sold several small lots. The balance of this lot was purchased by Joseph Harper about 1840, and it then consisted of approximately 40 acres. Mr. Harper was a former soldier with the rank of Sergeant, who had settled near Stanleyville, in Burgess Township. When it came time to select a name for the Post Office, the people of the district voted on the choice of two names, Harper or Menzieville, and Harper won the contest.
           Lot B, was granted by the Crown to Peter McNee, and Lot C by the Crown to John Lafferty, but I can not give you the dates involved. Lot B may still consist of the original 66-2/3 acres, but the other two lots have been cut and whittled to the point where I think the Jackson field, originally a part of Lot A, has since been added to Lot C. Joseph Warren built a home and store on the West corner of Lot A. Leighton's had a hotel and a blacksmith shop next to the Warren property, and lots were also sold to Lakes and Jacksons, from Lot A. John Lafferty's son, James, married Elizabeth Brown, a daughter of Winkworth Brown. They are buried in Elmwood Cemetery. Mr. Lafferty died in 1881, and his wife in 1901.
           Lot 21, Concession 7 was granted by the Crown to Archibald Campbell on April 15th, 1824, and on December 22nd, 1836, Mr. Campbell sold part of the Lot to Mrs. Elizabeth McNee. Mr. Campbell also gave a small plot of land in the East corner of the Lot to Andrew Shiperal for a cabin and school. I believe that a family, by the name of Fisher, was the early owner of the Lot 20 in the 7th Concession, but I don't know if they obtained the Lot directly from the Crown. A small Methodist Church stood at one time on Lot 21, Concession 7, while Dick Darou had a small house on the East corner of Lot 20 in the Seventh.
           I have come to know about the early history of the District from our former neighbour, the late G. E. Wilson, and from my father. Winkworth Brown's daughter, Jane, married my grandfather's brother, Samuel Bell, and they moved to the Kars district in Carleton County, where they cleared their farm and built a home. They are buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery near the village of Kars. The inscription on the grave stone reads: "Samuel Bell died January 7, 1893, age 77 yrs. Also his wife, Jane Brown, died Jan. 1, 1910, age 87 yrs. and 7 mos." This means that Miss Brown was born in 1823, in the very early days of the Settlement. My father remembered Mrs. Bell, for she spent a part of each summer, following her husband's death, with his parents, and he could retell many of "Auntie Jane's" stories about Harper and the Sixth Line.
           G. E. "Little Ned" Wilson's mother was Jane Churchill, a step-daughter of "Daddy" Harper, who gave his name to the Village. Mr. Wilson's mother died on September 9th, 1920, and as she was 90 or 91 years old at the time, she also remembered the early years of the Harper district.
           If I recall Mr. Wilson's story correctly, Mr. Harper had four daughters by a previous marriage, at the time he married Mrs. Churchill, a widow with two daughters and one son. Perhaps there were more children in the families, but I remember Mr. Wilson speaking of at least seven. One of the Harper girls married a Mr. Bowes. A grandson, Mr. Alfred Bowes, lives on the Scotch Line. Another daughter married a Mr. Foley, and they lived for many years on a farm in the Fallbrook district, where Charlie Ennis now lives. A third daughter married a Mr. Deacon, who lived in the Township of South Sherbrook. I believe that one of their sons was Judge Deacon of Pembroke. Walter Cameron tells me that he believes the fourth daughter married a Mr. Gallagher of Fallbrook. One of Mrs. Churchill's daughters, Jane, married Thomas Wilson and came to live on the sixth line of Bathurst. The log house that Mr. Wilson built for his bride is still standing, but has not been used for a home since Mrs. Wilson's death 43 years ago. Mrs. Churchill's son lived on the Harper farm for some time, but I understand that he later moved to the Innisville district. The second daughter married a Mr. Hughes from the 8th Concession of Bathurst.
           My great-grandparents were still living at the time Mrs. Wilson came to the sixth line, and according to her son, she remembered the huge loom and how great-grandfather and his wife could change places on the bench without losing a throw of the shuttle. At shearing time, the first year after they were married, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson washed some of the year's copy of wool and took it to the Carding Mill at Playfairville. Mrs. Wilson spun the rolls into yarn, and my great-grandmother wove two blankets for her. According to Ned's report, they were used for about 30 winters, and by this time they were getting thin in the middle, so they were cut down the centre and the heavier outer edges sewn together. In this way they were made to last another 20 or so years, and finally they were used to line horse-blankets the year that Ned and Gerald Cunningham cut wood at the Boulton Creek, about 1900. Apparently great-grandmother had never heard of built-in obsolescence.
           My father was blind from 1942, and because of this, he tended to lose contact with current events, but he could recall stories of the past as vividly as though they had happened yesterday. He looked forward to the frequent visits Mr. Wilson paid him, and they never seemed to tire of retelling the old stories of Harper. One story that has always intrigued me, is the story of the buried gold, for I am quite sure that it is true. Perhaps the members of the Harper Women's Institute would like to make the finding of this buried treasure your project for Canada's Centennial Year.
           Andrew Shiperal, the first school teacher at Harper, was a citizen of the United States. In fact, he had come to Canada as a soldier during the war of 1812 to 1814, but he didn't have much liking for the war, so he walked away and left the rest to do the fighting. He sems to have lived around the Brockville district, or The Front, as it was then called, but he moved inland when the Rideau Settlement was begun. You can understand that an American deserter was not very popular in the Military Settlement of Perth, so he made his way to the Harper district, where he found work clearing land for Winkworth Brown. Sometime during the 1820's, Archibald Campbell gave Mr. Shiperal a plot of land on the Seventh Line for a cabin and a school.
           Shiperal had around $100.00 in United States gold coins, and for some reason he placed these, along with his papers, in a bottle and buried it near his cabin. During the winter, the settlers helped him erect a schoolhouse, but the following spring, he could not find the bottle containing his papers and the gold coins.
           Thirty years later, he and his two sons returned from the United States, and offered one half of the gold coins to anyone who could find them. Mrs. Tom Wilson remembered the young men about Harper digging in McNee's field, but, if the coins were ever found, this fact was never divulged by the finder. Uncle George Wrathall owned this property at one time, and he kept telling me that I could have the gold coins if I could find them. So far as I could see, Uncle George would get his field dug up and I would get the exercise.
           Andrew Shiperal was an outstanding person in many ways. He must have had a fair education, for he later "got religion" and became a Methodist minister, and no doubt helped form the Methodist Congregation at Harper, for he held services in his school house. We know this from the books written by the Rev. John Carroll, who was the Methodist Minister in Perth at one time, and the son-in-law of Capt. Adams at Glen Tay. Mr. Carroll writes about Brother Shiperal holding services at his school and in the homes throughout the Mississippi Circuit. Jane Brown had a Protestant Catechism that Mr. Shiperal had given her during the 1830's.
           The students had to pay the teachers a small fee in cash, or in kind, and this was the teacher's salary. Grandfather Bell, who was born in 1822, attended Mr. Shiperal's school until the first school was erected on the sixth line of Bathurst, where the Hon. Arthur Meighen's grandfather taught for a term or two, before moving to teach in the school at Balderson. Mr. Shiperal married a Miss "Mary" Maria Buell of Perth. They returned to the United States sometime around 1840, and lived in the State of Pennsylvania.
           The buried gold is not the only lost treasure in the Harper District. Back a good many years ago, my mother's father, Lupton Wrathall, and his brother, George, paid a visit to the wise-woman at Plum Hollow, who told him that there was a silver mine on his farm, Lot 15 in the Sixth Concession of the Township of Bathurst. Either Mother Barnes was having an off-day, or Grandfather didn't dig deep enough in the right place, for so far as I know, a silver mine has never been found in the district. I asked the Department of Mines about the possibility of silver being found in the area, and I was told that outcroppings of silver bearing rock might occur, but it was unlikely that it would be in a large enough quantity to make it worth while developing a deposit. The Geological Survey conducted in this area by J. Dugas of the Department of Mines, Ottawa, during the summers of 1948 and 1949, makes no reference to a silver deposit having been indicated on Lot 15, Concession VI, Bathurst Township.
           As most of you know, Walter Cameron's mother and my mother were sisters, so I asked Walter about the silver mine. He could tell me very little more about the story, except to say that our grandfather had never taken Mother Barnes seriously, and had made no great effort to find the mine. He recalled Uncle George and Uncle Archie Wrathall showing him the site of the mine, which was supposed to be on the face of the hill north of the barn, now long gone. Uncle Will Wrathall took more interest in the story than the other members of the family, but never got more than the exercise in payment for his efforts.
           Walter did tell me a story about the Grange, however, that I feel is worth repeating. The first secretary of the Grange could neither read nor write, but he kept track of the accounts by drawing pictures. At the end of the year, he would obtain the help of one of the members, who would send out the statements for him. One member promptly called to say that he had not bought a cheese from the Grange. "Oh but you must have", the secretary told him, "for I have a cheese marked on your account." The member was positive that he had not bought a cheese, but he had bought a grindstone, and had not been charged for one. "By gad you're right", exclaimed the secretary, "I had drawn a circle and forgotten to put the hole in it."
           We talk about juvenile delinquents today, but I think that they are only chips of the old blocks. Ned Wilson liked to retell the story of the plank that the Ferguson family had placed across the ditch in front of their house. One spring evening, a couple of the young men about Harper took the plank up to Joe Warren's store, and cut the plank all but through from the under side, and then replaced it. The next morning, when Mrs. Ferguson went to walk across the plank, it broke and dropped her into a foot of cold spring water. Then there was the night that someone stood Dick Darou's wood supply in front of the doors and windows of his house, and he had to creep in home on his hands and knees. Or the time that two fellows tried to steal one of Jim Margaret's bee boxes, with the mistaken idea that bees would not come out of the box after dark, but they did, and Jim Margaret found the box the next morning, where it had been dropped by the side of the seventh line.
           In closing, may I say that each community has its history, and its stories of the past. With each passing year, the possibility of recording the events of bygone days becomes more difficult. We can only do so much in recording local history at the Perth Museum, for ours is the larger field of the entire Bathurst District, which includes most of the counties of Lanark, Renfrew and Carleton. The exception being the three townships of Burgess, Elmsley and Montague, and the township of Marlboro, now a part of Carleton County. This area was attached to the Johnstown District, and governed from Brockville for many years after the District of Bathurst had been set up.
           After I have said a few more words about the Perth Museum, I am going to suggest that any of you who wish to do so, may look over the old crown deeds and pictures that I have put on display. You may be confused by the wording on the Crown Deed issued to Mr. Winkworth Brown, and lent to us by the present owner, Clifford Kerr. You will see that it says "to Winkworth Brown, 100 acres, more or less, in the Township of Bathurst, the County of Carleton, the District of Johnstown, Upper Canada." From 1798 until 1822 all the area we know as the present counties of Carleton, Lanark and Renfrew (excepting the Townships of North Elmsley and North Burgess) was called the County of Carleton, and a part of the District of Johnstown. It was not until November 13th, 1822, that Lieutenant Governor Maitland issued a proclamation stating that the County of Carleton, of the District of Johnstown, should henceforth be a separate judicial district known as the District of Bathurst, and the same to be administered from the centre of the Military Settlement now established at Perth, Upper Canada.
           On the 29th of January, A. D. 1823, an Act was passed by the Parliament of Upper Canada, confirming the proclamation of the Governor, and ordering that a special session of the Justices of the Peace be held immediately at the Town of Perth. This session was held in a log house, which had been erected as a Court House, somewhere near the site of the present County Buildings. When you look at the Crown Deed issued on April 27th, 1827, to my great-grandfather, James Bell, you will see that it says 100 acres, more or less, in the Township of Bathurst, the County of Lanark, and the District of Bathurst, Upper Canada. Lot 23 in the Sixth Concession.
           When you look at the Crown Deed issued to my grandfather for our second farm, Lot 17, in the Fifth Concession, you will see that a third change has taken place. At the time of the Act of Union, 1841, Upper and Lower Canada were united to form one Province and were known as Canada East and Canada West. James Bell, the younger, on the 28th of February, 1855, received 100 acres, more or less, in the Township of Bathurst, in the County of Lanark, Province of Canada.
           You can see from this, that it is not possible for the Perth Museum to record detailed accounts of each farm, in each community in the District, nor is it possible for the Museum to have a family tree for each settler, much as we would like to do so. This is something that I feel must be undertaken at the local level, and I would like to compliment the Women's Institutes across Canada, that have undertaken the preservation of the history of their community. I am sure that fifty years from now, that these local histories will be considered a community's greatest treasure.



Editor's note: the last page of the manuscript consists of a list of licenses issued in Bathurst District for 1848. This has been posted as a separate article.

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