Mr. George Mills, one of the old and well known residents of Napanee, came here with his parents in 1837, and spent all his boyhood days here. He was a mere lad when they first came here but he retains an excellent remembrance of the place as it then was, - a small backwoods hamlet - and of many of the early settlers at that time. He has kindly furnished us, for use in THE BEAVER, with some of his remembrance of Napanee as it then was, and of a number of the people who were among its well known citizens then, nearly every one of whom has since passed over to the great majority.
NAPANEE IN 1837
There were busy times here in the winter of 1837, as it was in the stirring times of the Mackenzie Canadian Rebellion and the patriotic men were largely enrolled in Militia companies, drilling and prepared to go out at any time wherever their services might be ordered. The place never before or since assumed such a military aspect as then, but fortunately none of their services were required. There were no evidences of any uprising there, though this county had been one of the strongholds of the old Reform party. Mr. Mills, however, does not refer to these things. He was a mere lad at that time.
He gives the following facts as to the hamlet as it then existed. There were no houses east of East street previous to 1837. There were a few shanties along where the canal now is (the canal was not built until about 1840). The flour mill then stood just south of where the canal now is, between that and the river, about where the Herring foundry and machine shop now is. The only house then north of Bridge Street was John Benson's residence, a frame house where Mr. John Thomson's fine brick residence now is. There was a large swamp just in the rear of where the Eastern Methodist church now stands. No church was built there until after 1840. The only church then in town was the old stone St. Mary Magdelene, on the Newburgh road, which had been previously built and presented free by John Solomon Cartwright, M.P.P., of Kingston, at that time representing Lennox and Addington in the Upper Canada Legislature in company with Mr. George H. Detlor, a merchant and resident of the village.
Between the heart of the village and what was then known as "the Shaw farm," the next lot west of where Mr. Elliott Wiggins now lives, there was almost a continuous swamp, and there were five corduroy road crossings, in a distance of not more than a mile. There was almost a continuous swamp from Isaiah Huffman's farm, west of the town to the old road through "Slab city" as it was then called north-west of the present Napanee cemetery. there was no straight road then towards Kingston; the only way of reaching towards Morven was down the present road towards Hamburgh to the cheese factory and then along the concession road out to miller's Corners near where Mr. Rombough now lives.
The corner on which the remains of the old "Tichborne House" now stands was vacant and form some distance east to the stone building now occupied by Messrs. McKim and Knight. There was a frame house where ex-Mayor Jamieson's residence and shop now is, occupied as a residence by Dr. Allen. On the corner where the Rennie block now is, occupied by Lahey & Co., there was a frame building in which Stewart & Ramsey kept a general store. It was the largest store in the village for a time. There was a good sized frame dwelling on the rear corner of that block, where the Messrs. Smith, the jewellers, now live. It was destroyed by fire during its occupancy by Dr. James Allen.
The stores here then were kept by Stewart and Ramsey, two Scotchmen; John Benson, in the stone building now owned by the Blewett estate; Paul Wright and George H. Detlor. In Clarksville Mr. Archibald McNeil had a store, and there were some other shops there. Clarksville had been a more important business centre than Napanee proper, but it had lost ground considerably by 1837.
SOME WELL-KNOWN RESIDENTS
Mr. Mills supplies a pretty long list of the names of residents at that time, comprising nearly all who lived here, and he appears to still retain a good remembrance of the history of nearly all of them. We have not space to give them all but will enumerate most of them whose descendants are yet in this locality.
Dr. James Allen resided here for years and reared a large family. He moved to Marlbank, when the locality was yet but an almost unbroken wilderness, where he obtained a large tract of land, and erected a good saw mill, besides making other important improvements. He was a pioneer at Marlbank and was then impressed with the value of the great marl beds in that locality, from which such great quantities of Portland cement are now being made, but it was of little commercial value then. He spent the balance of his days there, and was the head of the large and well known Allen family now in that locality and in this town.
Dr. David Allen was another well known practicing physician here at an early time; but the two doctors though of the same name, were not at all related. He lived at one time where Mr. T. Jamieson now lives and at another in a house standing where the ware-rooms and office of the Gibbard Co. now stand, where he had a small drug store as well as a surgery. He moved to Sandhurst where he lived and died. He was the first postmaster there. He had no children.
Ashley was a hotel keeper in a frame house where the Campbell house now stands. Later is was occupied by John Taylor, who was killed by being thrown from his horse one Sunday morning on what is now Piety Hill.
Benoni Briggs was a shoemaker and dealer here and one of the well known citizens for years. He lived and died here, Mrs.. Briggs and some of their children yet represent the family in town.
John Benson was one of the early merchants and a man of a good deal of business importance for years. he was appointed collector of Customs and held that office at the time of his death. Peter Bell had a tailor shop opposite Miss McBean's residence on Dundas street, in the vicinity where the large livery stables of Blanchard and Potter now stand. He was also Captain of the small steamer "Napanee" the property of Paul Wright, which made regular trips between Kingston and Napanee. The steamer was finally burned at Kingston. James Booth was a tailor, and Englishman of considerable intelligence and refinement. He originated the first choir in the old brick Wesleyan church here, but at "Quarterly meeting" time the occasion was considered too sacred for a choir to lead. He moved to Belleville, where he died. Some of his descendants are now residents of that city.
Peter Conger was a brick and stone mason, and built nearly all the stone and brick walls and chimneys in this locality for years. His sons nearly all followed their father's trade. Mr. Belyat Conger, now one of the oldest residents here is a son. The others are now dead. Dr. Thomas Chamberlain was born in Fredericksburgh near this, and spent all his professional days there, being a popular and prominent citizen for years. He died in his residence on the corner of Centre and Bridge streets, now owned by Mr. Peter Gould. Gilbert Clapp was a well-known land surveyor and civil engineer, and a man of considerable wealth and influence. He died here. Mrs. Dr. Leonard is a daughter. Alex Campbell was also a land surveyor, a merchant, and a general business man. He built the Campbell House block, which bears his name, and the large stone residence on his farm on the south river road just opposite Piety Hill. He was one of the first editors and proprietors of the old "Napanee Standard" away back in the fifties. He died there. Mrs. J.A. Fralick and Mrs. T.D. Pruyn are daughters. Luke Carscallen was a well-known farmer and much respected resident on the farm just across the river from the west end of the town, where he died. Mrs. J.C. Carscallen and Mrs. A. Dunwoodie of the south river road are daughters. Joshua Chesbro was first a tanner at Clarksville on the river bank just back of A. McNeil's large residence. He then bought a farm in Richmond, where he built the brick residence now owned by Mr. Milling. He moved to Hastings County, where he died.
Christopher Cramer was first a carpenter and builder and later on, built the first wooden factory here, located across the river near where Craig's flour mill and Joy's saw mill now stand. Mr. John W. Perry became his business partner in the factory that was burned a number of years ago. Dr. Clare was also a well-known physician for years. He lived in Clarksville in the house where Miss B. Henry now resides. Later on he moved to Mill Creek, now Odessa.
Ephraim Dunham was a son of Darius Dunham, the first Methodist preacher in the province. When a young man he taught school here for years, and then got in the merchantile business and newspaper publishing. He was a prominent Methodist local preacher. He was appointed collector of customs, and was finally promoted to the same position in St. Thomas, where he died.
Robert Doak was a wagon-maker, and a well-known man. His shop stood on the corner just below where Myron Mills' shop now stands on Centre street.
There were several of the Detlor family here who were well-known citizens; George H., M.P.P., and merchant, and later on county clerk of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, and then in the Customs at Kingston; John McGill, who moved to Tweed when it was a mere hamlet, where he spent the rest of his days; John V., who had a brewery near where the old soap factory now stands, and who later on became a prominent resident and leading business man at Goderich where he died. Edward Dickens carried on the baking business and vessel building here, and was a well-known and active business man. He built the stone block and first established the business where Mr. Rikley now is. He died here years ago. John Douglass came here from Ireland in 1832. He was of Scottish descent. He spent the remainder of his days here. He lived on Dundas street, where the office of the Gibbard Co. now stands. Mr. Henry Douglass of Dundas street is a son, and so is Mr. Andrew Douglass of Tamworth. Mrs. M. Clark of Tweed, is a daughter. They were all reared and educated here.
George H. Davy was for many years a well-known business man here, first as a merchant and then as a hotel-keeper. The old Tichbourne House property is a part of his estate. Mrs. Davy is still one of our old residents. Robt. Esson was for years a very active business man, a merchant, grain dealer and lumberman. He died at his residence at the corner of John and Thomas streets, where Mr. Caton now lives. Benjamin Foot, a tailor, was a well-known resident. His shop was where the Aylsworth block now stands. He died here. Mr. Fennell was a mason and brick maker, and lived just east of the present cemetery, where his son now resides. He died here. William Fell had a bakery on Dundas street just east of Madden's grocery. The building still stands and is now owned by Mr. Hulett. It was one of the first brick houses built in Napanee. Mr. Fell was probably the first baker here. He moved to Prescott.
John Gibbard, now one of our oldest and most respected residents came here in 1836, and was in the employ of Mr. Cramer as carpenter. His business gradually grew under his judicious management until he became the founder and head of the Gibbard Manufacturing Co.
John Herring came here at an early time and established a small foundry at the foot of John Street next the river. His business increased under his management until he founded the large agricultural implement factory now conducted by his sons. He was long an active and prominent citizen. John Hosey came here at an early time and was one of the first millers in the old flour mill. He married a Miss VanAlstine and reared a family here for years. He lived on Dundas street near where the Herring business office is now.
James Henry came here in the thirties and spent all the balance of his days here. He resided in Clarksville, where his family was reared and where he died. His sons Alex Thomas and Robert, and his daughters Miss Bella and Mrs. C.F. Fuller, have long been among our well-known citizens.
James C. Huffman, now one of our oldest prominent citizens was here in the thirties a young man; a clerk in John Benson's store. The Huff family of whom there have been a good many, resided here from the thirties on to the time of their death. Peter Kesler, a Dutchman, was among the well-known citizens here for many years. He had a large stone blacksmith shop on Dundas Street, about where Mr. Coxall and the Smiths now have their shops. A room overhead was used for a preaching place for some time before schoolhouses and churches were available. He moved with this family to Michigan where he died.
The Lamphier brothers, John and William, were active and successful business men here for years, and became quite large property owners. They were first shoemakers, and branched off into brick making, farming and other lines. George Mills the elder came here with his family in 1837 and carried on harness making. He reared a large family here, and died in the sixties. He was a well-known and much respected man, and a member of the Methodist church. Stauts Sager Madden was also a well-known resident, and carried on a large tannery, erecting the building where the new rock drill and foundry now is. He died here years ago.
Charles McBean came at an early time and carried on cabinet making and undertaking. He lived and died on Dundas street, where Miss McBean now resides. Allan McPherson was, for years, a leading business man, the first postmaster, a merchant, miller, distiller and lumberman. His large brick store stood east of the present Gibbard Co. buildings. He built the large residence now owned by Peter Dafoe, Esq., which was, in its day, the finest residence in town, if not in the whole country. He moved to Montreal where he died.
Daniel Pringle was a leading hotel keeper for many years; first where the Royal hotel now stands, and later on he built and occupied what was at last known as the Tichbourne house. He also built and owned the brick block next east, now occupied by Joy & Perry. He died here years ago. Mrs. G.H. Davy and Mrs. Shirley are daughters.
Henry Rikley, now the venerable postmaster at Hayburn, was then a young man here, employed as a carpenter and builder. He helped erect the first Methodist church, the big flour mill and other buildings.
Dr. Thomas Shirley was an early resident and for years a successful and much respected physician. He was a son of the Rev. Paul Shirley, of Camden East. He died here. Mrs. Shirley and her daughter are still residing at the old home.
William Templeton came here in the thirties from Kilmarnock, Scotland, and purchased the tannery from Chesbro on the river and afterwards moved his business to the village. His brother, Allan, who died an old man at Smith's Falls a year ago, also came here and spent some time in the same business. Mr. Wm. Templeton, of THE BEAVER, and Mrs. D.H. Preston, are children of William.
Paul Wright was a very active business man for years. He first had a store and brewery at what was then known as "Liverpool", a mile or two down the river. He built the large house there now owned by Mrs. Whyte. Later he built the brick block now known as the Brisco House here, and kept a store where Mr. Paul is now established. He also owned a steamboat and carried on a large timber trade. He died here. Robert and Ralph Wales came here about 1840 and carried on blacksmithing, first in connection with the building of the York road at that time, and then at Salem, and at Kesler's shop here in town. Mr. Wales here now is a son and a successor.
A number of other well-known and familiar names, with the histories of the families, have been supplied us by Mr. Mills, together with other facts in regard to the rise and growth of the town, which cannot now be even made mention of for lack of space. The names of these pioneers are well worthy of a perpetual remembrance here. To their energy and industry much of the present stability and success of our good town may be now attributed. In many cases their children and their children's children are now enjoying the fruits of their years of early toil and hardship.