To honour Richmond’s 200th anniversary, we will be posting factoids about our rich history. Over the next year you should expect to see 200 pieces of information that you may or may not have already known. The topics included in this post are: #6. Col. George T. Burke #7. Winter #8. Support for soldier/settlers #9. The Richmond fox #10. Duke of Richmond
If you have a question about the source of a factoid please contact us.
Col. George T. Burke’s time as Superintendent of the Richmond Settlement (1818 -1822) came after a long and illustrious military career. His exploits before and during the War of 1812 have been well documented, but little has been written about his time as community builder. From his office located in the imposing log administration building near the Richmond depot, Burke controlled many facets of the settlers’ lives. Not only did he make land grants and oversee the acquisition and distribution of supplies, he was also a magistrate and the postmaster. He ensured that a school was built and a teacher in place. Despite his efforts, in 1822, the British military leaders decided that the settlement no longer needed support and funding stopped. Burke lost most of his positions. Unlike many of his fellow officers, he was not independently wealthy and petitioned his friends in government to find him alternative sources of income. He finally secured the post of registrar for the District of Bathurst, (which included Richmond) but was centered in Perth. When Carleton County required a registrar he moved to Bytown where he spent the rest of his life. Although Burke was gone from the village and had lost much of his power he had not lost his influence. He was a member of the Legislature Assembly of Upper Canada in the 1820s and leader of the local militia.
Factoid # 7. In a winter with such variable weather, it is interesting to look at the past.
In 1818 the soldier/settlers had a dreadful first year; many were still living in tents at the end of November when the cold and snow arrived. At least 2 settlers froze to death before spring. Travel was treacherous as it was on foot.
In 1940, travel was still treacherous. In the biography, “J.J. Dallaire – Barber”, Ed. Dallaire recounted his sister Lorraine’s experience. At that time many Richmond young women worked and lived in Ottawa during the week and came home for the weekend. “During the winter of the big snow…Lorraine, Eileen (Rushleau), and the rest of the usual gang on the Richmond bus started from Ottawa to Richmond without knowing what was in store for them. When they got to Fallowfield, around Charlie Owens’ place, it got bogged down and couldn’t go any further. Some of the passengers went into Charlie’s. ..and some went to Hartin’s but some others were a little more brave and started walking home in behind Charlie’s and back of Dunbar’s to take a little short cut. They got lost in the snow storm and Lorraine recalled that she was sitting on a fence in this blizzard with Eilleen…and her suitcase was open and all her clothing was falling out and the same with Mary Trimble. They were completely lost and just frozen in the middle of nowhere ….
Some way or other word got to the village about the bus and about some of them starting to walk home. Dad ( Joe Dallaire ) got word to Lindsay Arbuckle, because his girls were on the bus too, and Lindsay came to the village with his team and sleigh and picked Dad up on the way and they went looking for the girls in the middle of the storm.
This was getting onto midnight when they left the village but nobody knew what was going on or where the girls were…. you couldn’t see your hand in front of you. Anyway, they stopped at every house on the road and finally found them at Bill Dunbar’s (corner of Eagleson Rd.)…How they (the girls) made it that far across the fields, in snow to their waists, half frozen, lost, and above all in great fear we will never quite understand.”
At that time the Richmond Road was sometimes blocked for days.
Even in the 1950’s Goulbourn roads were often not plowed. I remember one night when my family decided to go to Brockville to see the Richmond Royals play hockey. My aunt, Violet, and uncle, Howard, decided to come with us but they had a problem as they owned a farm on Shea Road, which was impassable. My dad drove along Huntley Road from the village. Stopped. Waited a few minutes. My aunt and uncle came scrambling over the towering snowbank. They had walked through the fields from Shea Rd. to Huntley Rd. We drove to Brockville and back. At midnight my relatives reversed their route and I remember seeing their dark forms as they made their way home – back across the moonlit snow!
Factoid #8. During the period 1818-1823 there was a great difference between the level of support the government provided to civilian settlers and that provided to the ex-soldiers. Civilian settlers received only free land. The soldiers were provided with transportation to the settlement, the right to keep their weapons, land, the supplies needed to clear the land and build houses, and the means to feed themselves.
From the Richmond depot, each soldier/settler received the following tools: 1axe, 1 broad axe, 1 mattock, 1 pick axe, 1 spade, 1 shovel, 1 scythe, 1 drawing-knife, 1 hammer, 1 hand saw, 2 scythe stones, and 2 files. For their new homes they were given: 1 camp-kettle, 1 bed tick, 1 blanket, 12 panes of glass, 1 lb. putty, and 12 lbs. nails. There was a crosscut saw, whipsaw, and grindstone to be shared by every 5 families. This seemed very generous to outsiders but the soldiers, unlike the civilians, had few personal tools and little money.
Philemon Wright from his well-established settlement in Hull was the main source for many of these tools and his men also supplied some outside labour. When the road was being cleared from Richmond Landing at the foot of the Chaudiere Falls on the Ottawa to Richmond Village, the soldiers watched as Wright’s experienced French-Canadian lumbermen wielded their axes. When it became apparent that the axes provided by the government were far inferior to those of the lumbermen, the soldiers rushed to acquire replacements – from Wright, from newly arriving civilian merchants, and even from Montreal merchants. It has been said that the wealthy merchant, politician, and land speculator, Edward Malloch, earned the early part of his fortune by selling axes to the soldiers.
Factoid #9. The Richmond fox is not really the Richmond fox. The animal, which carried rabies and caused the death of the Duke of Richmond, was living along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River in Lower Canada. A year after his arrival in Canada, the Duke decided to visit Upper Canada. June 21, 1819, on his way from Quebec City to York (Toronto), the Duke and his entourage stopped at Sorel to visit Fort William Henry.
There are various accounts of what happened. Some say that a rabid fox bit the Duke but others say his own dog, which had been infected by the fox, bit him. The most common accounts are similar to that which appeared in the “Illustrated Atlas of Carleton County” (Belden, 1879): “While walking with his pet dog Bucher, he came across a pet fox owned by one of the soldiers at the Fort and expressed a wish to purchase the animal, which wish, apparently one of his servants acted on that evening. The following morning June 28th the Duke was so pleased to see the fox he immediately proceeded to pet the animal and was bitten on the hand….”
Although the bite mark healed quickly, the Duke had unknowingly been infected by rabies. He continued on his tour of York and the nearby area. On his return trip to Quebec, he made the important decision at Kingston to detour to the new military settlements of Perth and Richmond. It was there two months after he was bitten, the Duke of Richmond began to show the symptoms of hydrophobia.
Today, 200 years after his death, the short time spent by the Duke of Richmond in the village is still frequently used as a defining feature of Richmond and its history. The loyal soldiers/settlers, Tories all, and their descendants certainly talked about these events for decades. To the settlers the visit reinforced the importance of their sacrifices both on the battlefield and in the wilderness. An examination of events suggests that the visit made no material difference to the community. However, the Duke’s courage and fortitude as he faced an excruciating death provided a example to the settlers, and the mere fact that he had gone out of his way to visit their community was a source of great pride.
Below is a brief outline (in our words) of the Duke’s visit based on the reports of Col. Francis Cockburn:
August 24, 1819 – Started in Perth. Duke didn’t look well. Refused to turn back. Very tired. Spent night at store in Beckwith (Franktown).
Aug 25 – Traveled to Sgt. Vaughan’s shanty 3 miles west of village. Frequent rests along the way. Getting weaker but also very agitated. Unable to continue to village. Aides sent ahead to facilitate his arrival.
Aug 26 – Provisions sent to Vaughan’s to augment their provisions. (the family was still living on army rations) The Duke had difficulty swallowing. Accompanied by Superintendent Burke, the Duke entered Richmond looking very ill, wet and dirty. He refused to change or rest. Toured the village but avoided the river as he was very agitated by the sight of water or any liquid. Finally agreed to rest at the hotel run by Sgt. Andrew and Maria Hill. In the evening the Duke attended a lavish banquet where he met local dignitaries.
Aug 27 – The Duke’s condition worsened. Couldn’t stand the sight of water to wash or drink tea. He did enter a canoe and traveled down river to Chapman’s farm (just east of Twin Elm and presently the location of the cairn). The Duke ran to the barn, convulsed and collapsed. That night his aides moved him to the house where the doctor bled him (not for the first time).
Aug 28 – At Chapman’s farm the Duke dictated messages for family members. The hydrophobia caused by the fox bite two months before finally led to his death.
The Duke’s body was first returned to the village where Maria Hill prepared it for burial, and then taken back to Chapman’s. Philemon Wright sent a wagon to transport the casket to the Ottawa River, and then it was carried by boat to Quebec City where the Duke was interred in a vault in the Anglican Cathedral. The man who had romped on the playing fields of England and dueled with a king’s son, died a horrible death in the Canadian wilderness.