The theme of the evening was Whiskey and Wickedness, taken from the speaker's, expertise on the subject. Mr Cotton has written many volumes of the early days of Whiskey and Wickedness in the pioneer days of southern Ontario.
I purchased one of his volumes and found a section dealing with my town: Carleton Place. I have taken some snippets from this section and included them below. Much of the wording, even when apparently not quoted directly is almost verbatim from the Whiskey and Wickedness book dealing with Carleton Place along with many other nearby communities.
Our town. Carleton Place, was initially settled in 1819 by an Irish Protestant, Edmond Morphy, at the location of a waterfalls on the Mississippi River. The town of Morphy's Falls soon boasted a saw mill and a grist mill; the grist mill serviced a large area up into Renfrew County.
(The Moore House still stands as a museum and Chamber of Commerce office)
Whether this was a new grist mill or the one mentioned above, in 1820, a Mr Coleman purchased a mill site for a grist mill. He soon sold it to Hugh Boulton, who built the mill. In the same year, William Moore opened a blacksmith shop and Robert Barnst began a cooperage business. A year later, Alexander Morris, opened a combination inn, general store and potash factory, on the banks of the river just north of the present day town hall. This later became Manny Nowlan's Mill Road Tavern. Soon more inns and general stores began to open, especially along the roads leading to the various grist and saw mills.
(Below: two photos of the Boulton Brown Mill, now condos, front and back)
The aforementioned Mill Road Tavern became the site of the Ballygiblin Riots of 1824. Both Scottish ex-military personnel and some recently arrived Irish immigrants were present when talk turned to extra support that had been granted to the Irish. The Scots, led by Morris, were aggrieved by this preferential treatment, and whatever the exact events, windows were broken, items were smashed, and a gun was fired. Several days later, about 100 Irish men marched from Almonte to Carleton Place to perpetrate more damage.
A quote from a visitor to Carleton Place in 1841: "There are ... more taverns I think than necessary for comfort or accommodation, numbering about five or six." Tavern trade was apparently lucrative enough for new establishments to keep appearing through the 1840s and 50s.
Carleton Place became quite a Protestant community with an Orange Lodge of goodly membership. Meanwhile, surrounding townships had a sizable number of Irish Catholic settlers. Needless to say, relations could become strained as related in this account of the final day of an 1861 fair in Carleton Place.
There was an average stock of drunken bipeds in the village, some of whom were under eighteen years. The day was finished by one of those party fights between Orangemen and Catholics, which have the disgrace and ruin of Ireland, and which occasionally break out among her sons in this land of their adoption. The revengeful, rancorous and bitter spirit manifested by both parties exceeds anything of the kind which ever transpired here. We know not to what length their passions would have carried them,had the not been checked by the prompt and decisive action of Mr. Robert Bell, who was called to the spot by the uproar, where there were about fifty actually engaged, and the whole crown which filled the street were fast giving was to their passions.By 1864, Carleton Place had a population of 700, serviced by three licensed inns, but there were up to seven more illegal ones in operation. Of course, a temperance movement began to gain ground. The following is an opinion about whiskey by a Scot, Dr. Guthrie.
Whiskey is good in its place. There is nothing like whiskey in this world for preserving a man when he is dead. But it is one of the worst things in the world for preserving a man when he is living. If you want to keep a dead man, put him in whiskey: if you want to kill a living man put whiskey in him.
Indeed, there were some wild times in days of yore, but it's all pretty sedate now.