Lennox and Addington Historical Society Papers and Records, Volume 1, 1909
Note.-These letters were written by an "old resident," and were published in The Beaver in 1873 and 1874. They appear in one of the Historical Society Scrap Books.
LETTER I. LETTER II. LETTER III. LETTER IV. LETTER V. LETTER VI. LETTER VII.
The flourishing Town of Napanee is very pleasantly situated in the County of Lennox and Addington, (of which it is the County town), on the Napanee river, six miles from its confluence with the Bay of Quinte, to which it is accessible by large vessels. It lies midway between Kingston and Belleville, on the Grand Trunk railway, in the midst of an exceedingly rich and enterprising farming community.
Napanee possesses an excellent water power of some thirty feet fall, capable of driving a large number of mills and manufactories, and as a grain market is unrivalled by any between Toronto and Montreal. The town is one of the most healthy and picturesque in Central Canada, and is becoming the centre of a large trade and commerce, and a place of no inconsiderable importance. At the present time it has a population of about 3,500, which number is very rapidly increasing.
Napanee and its vicinity was first settled shortly after the American Revolution, by United Empire Loyalists-a noble class who came from the United States, not being willing to live under other than British rule. Those men, and women too, underwent great hardships in this, the country of their choice. The Government, however, nobly rendered them all the assistance in its power. Accordingly, in 1785, Robert Clark, a millwright, who had then just completed a mill on the Cataraqui river, near Kingston, was employed by the Government to construct a mill at Napanee. This mill, which was built of logs and was located on the east side of the river, was raised on the 23d of March, 1786. This mill was called by the Indians "Appanee Mills," (appanee in their language being the name of flour), and our town from this obtains its name. At the mill there was a clearance of 1 3/4 acres made, which was the first clearing made in Napanee.
In the construction of this mill there were some novel appliances, one of which was that of the bolting of the flour being done by hand, each customer having to turn a crank to bolt his own flour. After the erection of the mill it was delivered up to one Collins, and the land afterwards granted to Capt. McDonald, who sold it to the Hon. Richard Cartwright, of Kingston, grandfather of our present Finance Minister, R. J. Cartwright, Esq.
About this time a man named Smith, whose posterity are now living in the Township of Richmond, started a Smith's shop near the mill.
On the 28th of August, 1792, Mr. Cartwright commenced the erection of a new stone mill on the west side of the river near the present foundry of John Herring, Esq. In this mill one run of stone was first put in, afterwards two, and latterly three, as business increased.
Mr. John Grange, a canny Scot, was for many years millwright in this mill, and in 1800, his son, the late William Grange, Esq., was born, being the first white child born in Napanee. Mr. John Grange afterwards settled on the farm a mile north of this place, where the family has since resided.
At about this period a Carding Mill was built on the east side of the river, and a trip-hammer was put up by a Mr. Kesler. Both were, however, shortly afterwards burned down. Kesler soon after erected a blacksmith shop, and remained here for many years. He was an odd old German, and was very piously inclined. An incident is related of him, that on his visiting the first caravan that ever exhibited in Napanee, on coming to the elephant he shouted out : "Ghlory to Got ; only see vat He has made."
After Mr. Cartwright had completed his mill it was rented to one Crawford and others, and latterly to Allan McPherson, Esq. John Hosey, whose sons are now living in Napanee, was brought up by Mr. Cartwright. Having learned the milling business, provision was made by Mr. Cartwright when he leased the mill to Mr. McPherson, that John should always have a place in the mill-as long as he lived, if he desired. Many of the older inhabitants will remember him.
A distillery was started at about this time, and the highwines, excepting what was required for home consumption, was shipped west to the Hudson Bay Company's posts.
It was about the year 1812 when Allan McPherson, who had married a daughter of Judge Fisher, of Adolphustown, rented the gristmill and opened a store. "Mac," as he was generally called, for many years carried on an extensive trade in the purchase of grain, staves, saw logs, timber, ashes, etc. He, indeed, might have been called "King of Napanee," as he had everything his own way. He was once asked who made him, and on replying that he was made the same as other men, was told that he was not, that it was the Township of Richmond that made him. Although "Mac" had rather an overbearing manner, still he was very good to the poor, and kind and obliging to his friends and neighbors. He afterwards obtained the appointment of Crown Lands Agent for the Counties, and removed to the City of Kingston, where he still resides in quiet retirement. His son, Donald, succeeded him in business, which he continued for many years, but a few years since removed to and entered into business in Montreal, where he still resides.
Among the first ministers who visited this part of the country was the Rev. Darius Dunham, a Methodist preacher. He was known far and near for his eccentricity, and we think a story, often told of him, will bear repeating. He always supported a good horse, and once when riding along where a party of men were doing road work, was asked by a new-made Justice of the Peace why he rode so fine a horse, saying that when our Saviour while on earth rode an ass, and why did he not do the same. Dunham, always ready with a reply, retorted that he would do so, only that the Government had made J.P.'s of all the asses.
About sixty years ago a schoolhouse was built near the railroad bridge, which also for many years served the purpose of Church and Town Hall. Here it was that the then rising generation of Napanee received their education; here it was that the Rev. Saltern Givens, missionary to the Mohawks, preached the gospel to the people, while John A. Macdonald, now Sir John, who was then a student at law, "pitched" the tunes; and here it was that the "free and independents" of Richmond met each year to choose and elect their Township Officers. That old schoolhouse was only a few years since taken down, moved to "Piety Hill," and converted into a dwelling house.
In the year 1824 a Plot of land on the east side of the river, belonging to John C. Clark, was laid out into town lots by a surveyor named Rider, and named Clarksville. Several lots were sold, and some buildings erected, one of which is now occupied by Mrs. McNeill, widow of the late Archibald McNeill, Esq., and mother of "Archie," -the owner of the Campbell House. Mr. McNeill kept a store, was an active, intelligent and enterprising man, and at that time one of the leading men of the place. His respected widow is now said to be the "oldest inhabitant" of the town. For many years the only public house in the place was the "old red tavern," still standing near Fralick's blacksmith shop, which is now used as a dwelling house. It must now be about sixty years of age.
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