Richmond 200 – Factoids # 91 – #95

To honour Richmond’s 200th anniversary, we will be posting factoids about our rich history. You should expect to see 200 pieces of information that you may or may not have already known.  The topic of these posts are: #91. Thomas Miller #92. George Seymour Lyon & tipcat #93. The burning of St. Philip’s #94. The New St. Philip’s #95. Population in 1861

If you have a question about the source of a factoid please contact us.

Factoid #91. At a time when Richmond had many “cordwainers”, “boot makers” or “shoemakers”, Thomas Miller stood out from the others and was known as a fine craftsman. According to a local legend, while still living in his native Ireland Thomas had made a pair of white satin slippers for royalty. Miller recounted to villagers that he had to wear white gloves to ensure that no blemish marked the surface.

In an interview published in the Ottawa Citizen March 5 1938, retired Richmond merchant, Thomas Lewis, related his memories of several villagers including Miller. “The late Tom Miller, village shoemaker in the sixties, was so thorough in his work that it would take an expert to determine where one sole was joined to the other. Everytime he made a pair of boots for a person he put their monogram on the soles with shiny brass tacks.”

Miller also participated in the civic life of the village. He was a school trustee, and village Clerk – Treasurer.

Factoid #92. George Seymour Lyon, a Richmond native, is famous for winning an Olympic gold medal for golf in 1904. Much has been written about his achievement in a wide range of sports, including cricket, and his relationship to the Lyon family. His grandfather, George Lyon, appears to have groomed his many sons for different professions or to assume control of different aspects of the family’s commercial enterprises. Robinson E., his son, and father of George Seymour controlled a large area of the estate’s agricultural land and lived just north of the fair grounds along the Huntley Road. George Seymour grew up on the farm and attended Richmond Grammar School.

What isn’t well publicized is the relationship of George Seymour to the Maxwell family. His mother, Sarah, was a daughter of Lieut. Joseph Maxwell, also a veteran of the War of 1812, and as such was also a member of the Richmond elite.

If the following passage from Olympic Lyon written by Michael Cochrane is historical fact and not fiction, Sarah had an influence on her son’s initial attitude towards golf.  When George first played golf in his late 30s he mentally compared it to a childhood game. “Sarah had taught him the children’s game called tipcat. It involved flipping short tapered wooden pegs into the air and then trying to hit the peg with a larger stick. This was followed by noisy debates among the children scrambling to measure how far it had been hit …. He had fond memories of hopping through the grass, yelling and laughing, and cheering as he hit and flipped the pegs.”  He thought that if tipcat was a children’s game so to might golf. The first golf Olympian honed his basic athletic skills on Richmond’s fields but around 1880 when his family moved to Flower Station, George moved to Toronto.

Factoid #93. The Richmond Military Settlement had a large number of Roman Catholics among its early settlers. In 1819 the Rev. Alexander MacDonell became the first clergymen to visit the village. He was a highly respected priest from Glengary and later became the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Upper Canada.

The Catholic community shared the schoolhouse with all the other denominations but in 1825 began construction of its own church. Like all the other early churches, it was a log structure and served the needs of the Catholics in Richmond, Goulbourn, and the surrounding area for decades.

In the late 1830s and throughout the 1840s religious tensions ran high in the village. (factoid #64). Tensions eased, but in January 1856 they heated up because of events surrounding a Nepean election. A Catholic man, Dennis Tierney, died when a fight erupted in a hotel near Twin Elm. The incident went unresolved and both Orangemen and Catholics harboured resentments. Soon after two Catholic Churches were torched in other areas of Carleton County.

In 1857, St. Philip’s was burned. The following account is from the Ottawa Tribune, a Catholic newspaper edited by James Henry Burke, a son of Col. George Burke. In the August 8th edition, the events were recounted. “It appears a mowing bee took place on Friday last at the house of a person in Richmond at which liquor was freely given. Some time towards morning a man, whose name we forget, residing about one hundred and fifty yards from the church, was disturbed by parties throwing stones at his windows; he got up and saw two men retreating whom he recognized. … Some time after he observed one of the men running down the street from the Church in the direction of his house; about twenty yards from the house …the person turned off and retreated up a creek which led off in another direction.

The fire broke out soon afterward, and amongst those arriving first were the men McGuire and Keays, their clothes splashed with mud. We understand they could give no account of where they were during the interval between their being observed first and the breaking out of the fire. … The Rev. Mr. O’Connor said Mass at eight o’clock the morning before, and put the candles away carefully in a large box, which also contained the matches; this box was thrown out of the church after the fire was discovered which was built upon the altar. These are the facts. Warrants were issued for McGuire and Keay’s (Keays); the former cleared, but is now pursued by constables. … Keay’s (Keays) is now in jail, committed to await his trail for the offence.”

Factoid #94. After the burning of the log St. Philip’s church in 1857, the congregation quickly rallied to construct a stone replacement, which forms the base of the present building.

This was the first stone church in the village.

St. Philip’s 1913
courtesy GTHS

The earliest picture I’ve seen is the 1913 photo at left. It shows a rectangular building in the classical Georgian tradition: with windows on either side of the entrance in the gabled facade.  There were 4 windows on each side of the building.

The church had certain Early Gothic Revival features: arched windows, the division of the windows into smaller elements by decorative tracery, and a central entrance tower rising within the perimeter of the building.

The 1861 census recorded that the church could accommodate 500 people, and it was valued at $2 400.

Factoid # 95. The 1861 census showed that Richmond had a population of 516. This was about the same as the population after World War II.

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