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2. SUMMARY HISTORY OF NORTH GOWER VILLAGE 1

The first European settlement in North Gower Township occurred at about the same time as Osgoode across the Rideau River and for the same reasons, although it is likely that the settlers in neither place knew of the presence of the others for some time. The explanation is that the outlet for the timber, which was what attracted the strangers, was different. The cut from Osgoode went into the Castor River and then reached the Ottawa by way of the Nation, while the cut from North Gower went into Stevens Creek and down the Rideau.

In 1793, Roger Stevens, who had settled on what became lot 30 in the Broken Front of Marlborough, [where the jail is now] and William Merrick, founder of Merrickville, travelled down the Rideau River to the Ottawa to investigate the potential of a mill-site at the mouth of the Gatineau. Returning by canoe, the two men made a detour into the creek which now carries Stevens' name, perhaps to investigate its use for lumbering. There Stevens drowned under somewhat mysterious circumstances. One account was that he fell overboard while shooting at ducks, but this explanation seems not to have been universally accepted.

The original survey of North Gower Township was carried out early in 1794 by John Stegman. Mr. Stegman surveyed the boundaries of the township and some interior lines but the survey was not complete until 1824 when Asa Landon, working for Rubin Sherwood, ran all the concession lines and marked the corners of the lots and road allowances. It is probably no coincidence that at about the same time lumbering in the township began to open the land for wider settlement.

Stephen Blanchard, Sebra Beaman and Richard Garlick were the first to enter the township to stay. Mr. Blanchard located on the site of the present village of North Gower in 1820, and Mr. Beaman on the Second Line about a mile down Stevens Creek, in 1821. Mr. Garlick chose lots 30 and 31, concession 1, on the bank of the Rideau south of the present village of Kars, in either 1821 or 1822. These were all lumbermen, and all descendants of United Empire Loyalists from the front townships - i.e., the townships on the St. Lawrence, which had been settled much earlier. They each had a number of men about them, some of whom became permanent settlers. They themselves, however, did not bring in their families until after 1823.

During the summer of that year Peter Jones, a Methodist preacher who had married Anna Eastman of Cornwall, built his home on the Fourth Line in lot 18, concession 4, just north of the future village. Mr. Jones had been born in the United States in 1788 and had no special status, but Anna was the daughter of Nadab Eastman, late of Jessup's Rangers, so she was eligible for a grant of land. She petitioned in 1810 and received the Crown grant in 1812 but did not settle on it until the township had been opened by the lumbermen. In the new house, she gave birth to the first settler's child born in the township, a son. Mr. Jones taught the first school in the township and preached the first sermon, although it is reported that "the attendance was thin". He also cleared his land and farmed like the other pioneers.2

David McEwen and his wife Mary Eastman also settled in the township in 1823, and were followed shortly after by Andrew Christie, a shoemaker, and his wife Mehitable Eastman, and four other Eastman families. William Mains and Stephen Covell [or Cowell] had also settled by 1825 and all these pioneers began farming near Stephen Blanchard and formed the nucleus of what was later to become North Gower Village.2

Almost all the first families to come into the township were were born in Canada, either of United Empire Loyalist descent or of Canadien parentage. The first large group from the British Isles entered in 1828 - 1829. They brought with them their own customs, values and traditions which probably tended to predominate in the social conventions of the township during the second half of the nineteenth century. One of the early families was that of John Thomson, who left Dumfries, Scotland in 1817 and settled first in South Gower Township, moving to lots 25, 26 and 27 in Concession 3, North Gower, in 1828. Mr. Thomson's log house and barn still exist, though much modified: see 2223 Lockhead Road in Part II below.2

When James Johnston, hotel keeper and one-time bailiff, arrived to build a store and public house about 1846, the settlement at "North Gower Corners" had started to take on the appearance of a village. Mr. Gilbert Thomson already had a store, presumably on Church Street 3, before 1845. Before many years had passed, the village was of sufficient importance to have stage connections with outside points, Mr. Johnston being the promoter and proprietor. In 1850, cleared acreage in the whole Township was shown as 34,230 acres, with a population increase from 500 in 1840 to 1743 in 1850.

The first industry located in the village appears to have been a saw mill operated by water power, with the dam and mill pond between the present Church Street and Main Street bridges. In the 1850's and 60's, this mill was owned and operated by David Barrows. The costs and difficulties of transportation encouraged local production for local sale, and by 1871 there were 5 general stores, 2 carriage makers, 3 milliners, 3 blacksmiths, 2 tanners, I saddler, 1 harness maker, 1 tailor, 2 hotelkeepers, 3 shoemakers, 1 cooper and 1 cabinetmaker doing business in North Gower Village. Another source from 1879 reports that the Village of North Gower contained 4 good stores, a large number of mechanics' shops, 3 handsome churches [Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal, with parsonage, manse and rectory attached], one graded school with two teachers, two good hotels and at least 250 inhabitants. The Town Hall had been built in 1876 and it was also the seat of the Division Court of which Mr. James Beaman, Township Clerk, was the clerk.

The Post Office was established in 1846 with George Hartwell as Postmaster. Horatio Holden served from 1857 to 1861. In 1865, George E. Johnston took over as postmaster, apparently followed by a Mr. MacCartney who held the office for a brief time before turning it over to Hiram Scott in 1870. Mr. Scott was postmaster for 54 years, until his death in 1924. His daughter, Miss Emma Scott, succeeded him and served as Postmistress until her retirement in 1937 when R.B. [Rex] Craig was appointed.

Until about 1920, many people in the village kept a horse and a cow, a pig and some hens, so at the back of many houses were stables and carriage sheds where the livestock were kept and the buggies and cutters stored. Woodstoves were commonly used both for heating and for cooking; this made for cosy kitchens in the winter, but they were uncomfortable in warm weather and many houses accordingly included well-ventilated summer kitchens. After hydroelectricity reached the village in 1926, electric stoves and forced-air furnaces gradually replaced the wood stoves, and many summer kitchens were either torn down or more often converted for year-round use. Electricity was also used, of course, to power water pumps, which in turn made indoor plumbing possible. It is interesting that while individual long-term residents interviewed in the LACAC studies and other surveys recall different aspects of life in the village sixty years ago, nobody fails to mention the dramatic change in lifestyle consequent upon the arrival of the hydro.

Fire was [and is] a constant danger. At least twenty-five buildings including fourteen homes are known to have burned between 1876 and 1950 in and around the village. Many of these homes had stables and sheds attached and these were almost invariably destroyed also. It appears that the school burned down in 1869, and again in 1876. Following a fire in 1908 when a house and stable belonging to William Morphy were burned, the people of North Gower decided to raise money to buy a hand pumper and hose reel, complete with several hundred feet of hose. After a particularly disastrous fire in the winter of 1948, which destroyed several buildings in the core of the village, the North Gower Township Council bought a pumper truck with a 500 gallon water tank, several thousand feet of hose, and other fire-fighting equipment.

Serious as they were, some of these fires were reported as having a comic side as well, especially when a hotel burned and casks of whisky, beer and wine were rolled out into the street. Judging by the stories told for years afterwards, the people of the village knew how to make the best of their opportunities.

By January, 1954, the village had a population of about 400. It had three Protestant churches [Anglican, Standard and United], one bank,[Royal], a Post Office with three Rural Mail routes, 4 garages, a grist mill and seed cleaning plant, a sawmill, a Co-op and egg grading plant, one hotel [dry], one clothing store, a hardware store and farm implement agency, one barber shop, one beauty shop, two trucking businesses, one planing mill with builders' supply and lumber yard, a community centre with hall and four bowling alleys, a four room public/continuation school and, finally, the Township Hall, garage and firehall. 4

By 1980, the evolution of the rural economy and the village streetscape, consequent upon new transportation and agricultural technologies, was evident in North Gower. Although the population of the village had increased, many of the businesses recorded in the previous paragraph had disappeared. On Main Street through the centre of the village there were three garages, two grocery stores, one bank, one beauty shop, one funeral home, one farm equipment agency and a few other small businesses. The three churches remained - one in a different location - as well as the old town hall building, with the public library in the former firehall. In 1967, the Township office was opened in the Centennial Building at the corner of Roger Stevens and Perkins Drives. In December 1978 the office moved again to the new Township Hall on Roger Stevens Drive about a kilometre east of the village.

1 Based partly on a text prepared for LACAC by Marcia M. Render during the summer of 1980. As her sources, Ms. Render cited H. Belden & Co, Historical Atlas of Carleton County, 1879; North Gower Women's Institute, Tweedsmuir History; Coral Lindsay, Kars on the Rideau, 1972; Carsonby Historical Society, Carsonby: A Community History and personal interviews with the late Mrs. Muriel Jago and Mr. Colin Thomson. The text should be read "as of 1980".

2 These three paragraphs after Coral Lindsay, Kars on the Rideau, Kars branch of the Women's Institute, 1972, which contains much more information including an interesting map of settlement by 1830.

3 But which Church Street? See the discussion on street names in the next section - editor.

4 There were also at least two grocery/general stores, although they were not picked up in this account.

March,1990

 

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