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HISTORY OF FORT HEMLOCK



Published in The Perth Courier, May 6, 1904, and credited to the Rideau Record.
Transcribed for the LCGS website by Charles Dobie.

The Rideau Record recently gave the following bit of history concerning Fort Hemlock :

The destruction of Fort Hemlock by the flood has centred public interest in it for the past week, and has recalled a good many reminiscences of olden days. It has passed through strenuous times and this is by no means the first excitement that it has furnished to the people of Smith's Falls. Until yesterday it was a plain ordinary looking two storey brick building used as a store in the ordinary course of business, with nothing about it of a warlike nature, and many have asked why it was called "Fort Hemlock."

Thereby hangs a tale, a tale of struggle and strife that makes municipal life now seem positively dull and tame. According to the unofficial historian the site of Fort Hemlock, a small angle of land at the water's edge, was in dispute and this gave rise to the trouble, an incident of which was the reading of the riot act on the street, the first and only time it is said the riot act was ever read in Smith's Falls.

The lot, if it was a lot, was vacant. The adjoining lot, where H. Lyang's block now stands, was owned by the Wall family and a small building on this was occupied by Michael Carroll as a grocery and liquor store. He used the vacant lot between him and the river to pile wood and boxes and barrels on and for a number of years this continued. Then Mr. Jason Gould, who claimed to own the lot, set about enforcing his claim and the trouble began. Mr. Carroll claimed it by right of possession and to offset this Mr. Gould sent lumber there and had a small building erected on it. The lumber was hemlock and so we get the origin of one part of the name.

One summer's night, now almost forty years gone by, a crowd gathered about the place and began to make a demonstration not altogether of a peaceful character. Before it dispersed it had torn the little building all to pieces. The excitement, it is said, was intense and the row about the biggest that the town ever saw. The riot act was read and for a time it looked as if there would be serious trouble. No lives were lost however, although a few men were not able to follow their usual avocations for some days, but of course they had not been in the melee. It was only a coincidence that they were not able to be out for the next few days. The building was demolished anyway but another was built and then Mr. Carroll entered a suit at law to be declared the owner of the lot. He failed. Then Mr. Gould built the brick building which has stood there ever since until yesterday when then the surging waters of the Rideau tore it away.

In connection with the erection of the brick building a sensation was caused one morning which is vividly recalled by many. When the masons went to work one day one of them noticed a string hanging out of the stonework of the foundation. On investigation it was found to be a fuse which, when followed up, led to a can of powder that had been placed in the wall by somebody during the night and covered over. The excitement caused by this was intense and the building was guarded from that time until its completion. It is supposed that the powder was secreted there for the purpose of blowing up the building but fortunately such a dastardly crime was frustrated.

A well-known citizen, who has been dead several years, christened the place "Fort Hemlock," we presume on account of all the sieges it had come through and Fort Hemlock it has been ever since. Even the owner accepted the name and the white date stone in front of the building bears the inscription "Fort Hemlock erected A.D. 1868. Rebuilt by Jay Gould 1877. Jus Vincit."

Of course nobody knows who was concerned in the attack on the little old hemlock building but there are certain well known citizens of the town to-day, sober, sedate, successful men, who say it was a wild night and look at each other with a knowing smile.

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