Old listings of the Who’s Who of the community are always fun to see. This 1880 Canadian County Atlas Digital Project, McGill University, is no exception. It features the “Prominent Westmeath Township Citizens” (those persons who were paid subscribers to the Atlas).
In the Library and Archives Canada collections the Renfrew County Directory of 1888 is now available online. By 1888, Victorian colonial life had prospered. The floodgates for settlement had been opened for over two generations. 1888 Directory of Renfrew County. This 175 page document is wonderfully rich with details – lots and concession, occupations – of every resident of the County of Renfrew. The advertisements and full-of-facts and sometimes flowery descriptions of the county, its towns and townships are well worth a read.
The Westmeath portion from the full 1888 directory: 1888 Westmeath Twp Pages. Both male tenants and male landowners are listed – however, the only women listed are widows.
Throughout the early years these large reference books were used to inform the scattered pockets of pioneers of the places, peoples and activities in the emerging nation. Luckily for the present day reader, these are now available online.
This is not entitled a “Gazetteer” but it should be viewed as such because it describes in an extensive, well written overview, the Upper Canada of 1805. Anyone with a background in agriculture will enjoy the chapters dealing with crops and land usage. Even then, the Canadian point of view was affected by our closest neighbour; the United States.
1813: A Short Topographical Description of His Majesty’s Province of Upper Canada in North America to which is Annexed a Provincial Gazetteer, Second Edition. London: Published by W. Faden, Geographer to His Majesty and to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, Charing Cross. 1813.
This very early gazetteer does not contain any listing of the place names: Bathurst, Renfrew or Westmeath; although it predates the Upper Ottawa Area being included, it is still very worthwhile reading for anyone interested in historic Ontario place names.
This is written against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars with the British Crown at war with the Americans; War of 1812-14, and one can only presume that it is was vital to that effort that the Crown take an extensive inventory of the Great Lakes Region. The Regency Era in the United Kingdom is the period between 1811 to 1820 – when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son, the Prince of Wales, ruled as his proxy as Prince Regent. In 1820 the Prince Regent became George IV on the death of his father.
1846: W.H. Smith’s Canadian Gazetteer, Canada West [Ontario] 1846
This Gazetteer is a very large book so to easily zero in on the Westmeath Township listing simply go to the upper right of this link’s page; use the drop-down “front cover” tab, chose Section 12 and go to Page 217.
The entry for Westmeath is found on Page 217 of the Gazetteer in Section 12 and this excerpt reads as follows:
A township in the Bathurst District; is bounded on the east by the Ottawa River; on the northwest by the township of Pembroke; on the south-west by Stafford; on the south-east by Ross. In Westmeath 15,863 acres are taken up of which 1,684 are under cultivation. Westmeath is as yet but little settled, and 34,200 acres of crown land are for sale in it at 8s currency per acre. There are two saw mills in the township.
Population in 1842: 628.
Ratable property in the township: £ 7,056
Currency Conversion Note: Crown Land for sale in 1846: “8s” means 8 shillings per acre . There were 12 pennies (pence) in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. Thus there were 240 pence (20 x 12) to every pound Sterling. Those 8 shillings converted to today’s currency would be £218.34 or $350.62 CAD per acre of land.
Ratable (taxable) property £7,056 (1846 UK pound Sterling) converts to £3,851,593.80 (2012) or $6,190,666.71(CAD 2012)
What is Bathurst District?
From Wikipedia : “The Bathurst District was a historic district in Upper Canada (Ontario) which existed until 1849. It was created in 1822 from the Johnstown District and contained Carleton County. The district town was Perth. In 1824, Lanark County was created from part of Carleton County. In 1838, Carleton County became part of a new Dalhousie District. In the same year, some townships were transferred from the Johnstown District to Lanark County. In 1845, Renfrew County was created from part of Lanark County. In 1849, the district was replaced by the United Counties of Lanark and Renfrew.”
The time period 1846 when this book was originally published is of special interest to those who are researching families in early settlements in Ontario. Place names often changed, especially during the time when early post offices were established. Many hamlets, villages and towns took new distinct names, at the request of the Post Office, in order to avoid confusion between two villages with the same name. If the name changed prior to 1846, the gazetteer usually identified that change and when it happened. There were far fewer municipal name changes after 1846.
Mr Smith’s reasons for compiling the gazetteer in 1846 were far different. In compiling this, the first Gazetteer of Canada West in 1846, William H. Smith declared that he was
“induced to undertake the task by the great ignorance which he found to exist respecting the Province, not only amongst persons in Great Britain, or newly-arrived emigrants, but even amongst many of those who had been for years resident in the country; and from ascertaining that the various, contradictory, and occasionally false accounts given to emigrants on their arrival, respecting distant localities, frequently led them to alter their original intentions respecting their destination; and often induced them to leave the province altogether, and settle in the United States.”
1869 Gazetteer & Directory In this Gazetteer, Westmeath was only noted to have a Post Office with Alexander Fraser, Postmaster. Beachburg Village has a more sizable entry on Page 45 listing the prominent citizens. This Google eBook is fun reading for the advertisements of goods for sale in those days.
1871 Dominion of Canada, A Pocket Gazetteer, John Lowell, Montreal
From the original book loaned by Beryl and Arthur McBride, Gore Line.
This 1871 Gazetteer like its predecessors is a huge encyclopedic volume (over 6 inches thick), supplying current information on thousands of topics. The widest range of information was included: the imports and exports of trade, the school statistics by province, the patents of invention issued by province, listings of barristers and attorneys, tariffs of custom, populations and descriptions of settlements of all sizes, societies and associations by province, government department by name and employees, religious affiliations, newspapers published, railway and steamboats routes.
Who would use such a massive volume? As John Lovell stated in the Preface:
“…. those who would make themselves familiar with the merits of the book; by Devines and Statesmen, by Officers of the Government and Members of the Learned Profession, by Bankers and Brokers, by Merchants and Traders, by Travelers and Salesmen, by Farmers and Mechanics.”
1871 Listings for Beachburg and Westmeath Villages
“Westmeath – A small village in the township of the same name, county of Renfrew. The steamers of the Union Forwarding and Railway Co. have a landing within six miles of the village. Distance from Pembroke 16 miles, from Sand Point, the terminus of the Brockville and Ottawa railway, 85 miles. Mail tri-weekly. Population about 170.”