Aged Residents of Omemee Have Dear Recollections Of The Early Pioneer Days

George English Tells How Main Street Was Dotted With Stumps

Humourous Signs

John Beatty Says Village Had More Buildings in 1867

OMEMEE. George English was born one mile north of Omemee, on Lot 5, Con. 5, 80 years ago. His father was one of the earliest settlers in Omemee, having taken 14 weeks to cross the ocean from Ireland to this country in 1820. Mr. English recalls Confederation year distinctly. It was in the year 1867 that he commenced to learn his trade in J. Hamilton's carriage factory, Lindsay. It was during the same summer that the Lindsay jail and courthouse were built and Mr. English helped put the iron on the flag pole, which was an immense stick like the mast of a schooner, to hoist the flag for the Confederation Day celebration.

In the brief conversation Mr. English was reminded of the numerous stumps which used to infest the main street of Omemee. He also cited the following verses, which hung from a sign in front of J.S. Little's store where the Temperance House now stands:

"With the icy season waning fast,

The sleighing has not long to last.

And warmer grows the northern blast.

The roads will soon be broken.

And if you might your means be mending

Just make a trip to Omemee.

And when you're there, if ne'er before

Just call at J.S. Little's Store.

You'll pass the threshold of his door

And then you'll marvel greatly;

The old, the young, both girls and boys,

Make such a clatter and such a noise.

And buying off a stock of toys,

And eating of his candy,

And then his earthenware to see

His glass, his china and his tea,

For its flavour, all agree,

The like is not in Omemee.

His tea so cheap, so fine and strong,

It is the prayers of every tongue,

And the people all agree

The like is not in Omemee."

Mr. English is the only surviving member of a family of seven children. He himself has four sons and one daughter living: Messrs. William and John of Toronto; Edward of Saskatchewan, and Thomas of Bangor, Maine, and Miss Sadie of New York.


John Beatty, eldest son of the late Mr. and Mrs. George Beatty, was born in Omemee 75 years ago, and has a very keen memory. He remembers distinctly Confederation Day, but there was no community celebration in Omemee. I reviewing past history, the village of Omemee had at that time more houses and buildings than today, but of course not as good. The population was about the same. There were more stores and places of business. For instance there were three tailor shops, 5 shoemaker shops, five blacksmith shops, four carriage shops, and now the village can hardly boast one of these. The school was situated on the present site and composed of a high and public school; the teacher of the high school being John Shaw, while Miss Knowlson had charge of public school. There were six hotels and three liquor stores, and yet there were five churches 3 Methodist, the Episcopal, the Wesleyan, and the New Connection; a Presbyterian, and an Anglican and all were well attended. Pigeon River was then open for navigation, lumber being transferred from Bobcaygeon by steamboat.

The 24th of May was always a red-letter day in Omemee, when all showed their loyalty by attending the celebration. It was also known as training day, when the volunteers were trained by Drill Sergeant Turner of Millbrook, in preparation for the Fenian Raid.

Mr. Beatty recalled four men by the name of English, whose families totalled 42 children, and what a splendid showing they made as they attended church or any gathering at one time.

One of the humorous reminiscences related was an advertisement which hung very conspicuously from one of the prominent hotels. On this sign was the picture of a bee-hive with numerous bees around and underneath was the following verse:

"Within this hive we live and thrive,

Our drinks are sweet as honey,

And if you're dry, come in and buy

But don't forget your money."

Miss Margaret Beatty and Joseph T. Beatty of Omemee, are other members of the family. He has also two daughters, Mrs. T. E. MacPherson of Omemee and Miss Lyla Beatty of Rochester.


Gabriel Balfour, who is one of the pioneer residents of the village, having been born here 75 years ago and made his home in and near Omemee all his life, sanctioned what Mr. Beatty had said concerning the village and distinctly remembers many incidents in his early life. He is one of a family of ten children, all of whom have finished this life out but two brothers, William and John of Carberry, Manitoba.


Henry Laidley, who is now 85 years of age, was born on Griffins' Hill, west of Omemee, and while his memory is not as keen as a few years ago, he recalls many incidents, both humorous and full of interest. To hear the wolves howling in the swamp near his home and to have an animal killed by a b ear were two hear-raising (sic) incidents recalled. Mr. Laidley was the eldest of a large family and worked hard as a young man logging, under brushing and many a bushel of grain he threshed with a flail.

Wild pigeons inhabited this neighbourhood and, as described by Mr. Laidley, they appeared in large flocks that would almost cloud the sun. He has killed as many as two dozen birds with two shots on the stubbles after the crop was taken off.

Mr. Laidley moved with his parents to Manvers Township when a boy and the land was not cleared there, as in this part. The shanty they lived in was roofed with basswood boughs and later they shingled it with pine shingles, which he helped to make by hand. He recalled the fireplace and the stone hearth, where his mother used to bake bread. The bread pan stood on legs and coals were placed underneath and on the lid of the pan to cook it. The handle of the frying pan was about six feet long and was supported by a cord from the ceiling.

The first horse his father owned was vividly recalled, and later he had a team of horses and a yoke of oxen at one time. One horse was disabled and the one horse and ox worked well together.

A true story of his uncle, James Laidley, who had just arrived from Ireland, was narrated by the aged gentleman. His uncle had settled on a hill to be above the treetops in the valley of Omemee. One evening, while the children were playing around the shanty they heard what they thought to be someone calling for help, so they told their father immediately. He, upon hearing the call (Who-hoo-hoo-who-hoo) maintained the same thought, and answered in a loud tone, "Keep the moon to the right and come this way; I'm a stranger in the country myself." The lost man was afterwards found out to be an owl, but Mr. Laidley showed his willingness to help during the remainder of the night.

The surviving members of his family are one sister, Mrs. (Rev.) Phelp, of Lindsay, and one brother, Isaac, also of Lindsay. He has three sons, Fred of Colorado and Howard and James of Saskatchewan, and one daughter, Mrs. Margaret Stephenson of Omemee.


Mrs. Joseph Morden, born in Ayrshire, Scotland, is now 78 years of age, and recalls visiting her brother in Illinois during Confederation year, going from Millbrook to Sarnia by train and continuing from there by boat. A vivid remembrance was the seeing of a bear with her two cubs, while she was crossing the field to visit her uncle. Needless to say, her nerve was not as good thereafter.

Mrs. Morden has two sons, Joseph Graham, of Pomona, California, and David Graham, of Detroit.


Joseph Morden, who is 75 years old, attended the first celebration of Confederation at Belleville. He was born near Tweed.

He has six sons living, namely: David of Peterborough, Harry of Bowmanville, Fred of Reaboro, and Clare and Bert of Mount Pleasant.


Henry Nugent, born in Tyrone, in Darlington Township, is in his 82nd year. He recalls to mind many happenings when a boy, and also remembers attending the first Confederation Day celebration in Port Hope. The mode of conveyance was on a flat car, with seats across and cedar bought around the outside. One notable feature of the day was the large crowd and the train had to make the trip to Lindsay and return for the remainder of the passengers, who got home at daybreak.

Mr. Nugent recalls the Fenian Raid, having been called out in 1870, at which time he served eighteen days. (Sickness of Mr. Nugent prevented the obtaining of any further reminiscences. Mr. Nugent has a wonderful memory.)

Of a family of nine children he and three sisters, Mrs. Mary Robinson of Janetville, Mrs. J. W. Ridd of Elm Creek, Man., Mrs. Matilda Poast of Loop City, Nebraska, and one brother, Thomas, of Iowa. The members of Mr. Nugent's family are his wife, who was Mary Jane Cork of Picton, two daughters, Mrs. L. A. Mahood of Omemee, and Miss Ida Nugent, of Toronto, and four sons, Rev. Walter H. Nugent, of Portland, Oregon, Fred and Percy, of Lindsay, and Milton of Grand Forks, North Dakota.


Thomas Henry McQuade of Omemee, who has passed the four-score mark, being now 82 years of age, is one of the pioneers of this district. He was born in Emily Township, and has resided there all his life. He is the eldest son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Arthur McQuade. He recalls incidents of over sixty years ago. His father was M.P. and he too took an active part in politics and general affairs of the community, having served as warden of the county at the time of Sir John A. MacDonald's death, and had the privilege, with the other members of County Council, of attending his funeral. He remembers distinctly of practising in preparation for the Fenian Raid a few months previous to Confederation.

Surviving members of his family are his three brothers, William, Bertrim, George, and one sister, Mrs. Charles Ivory, all of Omemee.


William Henry Kennedy, although only 71 years of age, recalls the meeting of Fathers of Confederation in Montreal. He was born on the 14th concession of Emily and has resided in and around Omemee all his life. He has four brothers, namely, Rev. J. A., at present of Omemee, George and Joshua of Lindsay, and David, on the 14th Concession of Emily, and two sisters, Mrs. J. Courtney, of Omemee, and Mrs. T. Johns, of Toronto.

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