To Hoods Corners by Way of Watsons Corners.
By Ed Somers 1985 edited 2005
Where, on the map, is Hoods Corners? Watsons Corners is on the map. Both of these places are located in Ontario. To be even more specific they are in Dalhousie Township, Lanark County in Ontario, just a little to the southwest of Ottawa. It takes about one and one half hours to drive from the Ottawa airport. At least that is how long it took me to drive back from Hoods Corners after I had found the place.
There is the rub. I was looking for Hoods Corners. It had shown up in the story of the Hood family and since a lot of Jack family are part of the story, I wanted to get an eyeful of the place that my ancestors had lived when the first came to Canada on the sailing ship "Prompt" way back in 1820.
On November 5, 1985, I was sent to Ottawa on a business trip that was to last couple of days. It turned out that I had some extra time on the second day before I had to fly back to Manitoba. The opportunity was there so I took off to try to find Hoods Corners.
With the help of the good people at the office in Agriculture Canada, I was told to head out west on the Queensway until I saw the sign for Carleton place; then to find the road to Lanark; then the next stop was to locate the last point shown on the map, Watsons Corners.
Here's the story as I dictated it as I drove into the countryside.
I have just crossed the Mississippi River in Lanark County after driving down from Ottawa. When you drive through this country you see open spaces without any evidence of human habitation either now or even in the past. Then you'll come across vigorous looking farmsteads.
There are rock outcrops within most of the hill cuts along the highway. It gives the impression that the soil is very shallow. Between the rocky areas there will be a swamp or in some cases an area of decent soil that is cultivated. Interspersed with these are the homes of what would appear to be non-farm residents, many quite attractive. They show evidence of a degree of affluence and the wish of some city dwellers to get out of the city and into the country.
The fences along the right-of-way are page wire. Into these run split rail fences, many in good condition. I wonder when those rails were split and carried to where their role of keeping the cattle and horses out of the fields, or of keeping them in the fields.
I have just gone through another rock cut, obviously limestone. It shows the horizontal lines of an ancient sedimentary deposit. The countryside along the end of the road is getting rougher. On the side of the road is a two acre field of corn resting in a small hollow of soil between the rocky areas. There is evidence of only small areas of arable land. In these spots it is often wet.
All along the route there are cedars growing --- many cedars, beautiful cedars, and again there are some fine looking cornfields. Harvesting has been completed for there are only the remnants of the crops still in the fields. They have been lifting the cobs, probably threshing corn through a combine with only the kernels going onto the bin. There is no evidence of crib storage. There are just the odd silo pushing its way into the sky, the rural skyscraper you will see outside the edges of cities or large town's.
Buildings are usually brick houses, tin sheeted barns or vertically sided barns. Once in a while there will be a log barn or a group of old log buildings. Some are evidently still in use. Close by are dairy cows or beef-on-the-hoof resting, chewing their cuds or quietly grazing on the last grasses of the fall.
Another cornfield! Is this was one still in the process of being harvested for some of those stalks still stand. I suspect it is the field that I saw on the way back that had a combine busy hammering through the standing stalks, stripping the cobs and sorting the golden kernels into the hopper. A truck waiting patiently by the edge of the field until it is its turn to carry out its part in the gathering of the harvest. The same steps that my great grandfather Willie and my great-great-grandfather William Jack in both cases - would also have done though the crops would most likely be oats or a little barley or maybe even a little wheat and the way of harvesting was a scythe and a flail and the winnowing basket.
You find an answer only to get another question. What grains did the Jack family grow when they lived in Lanark County from 1820 until 1832? From the looks of the land it must have been a difficult way to raise any food and the trees were much greater in both abundance and in size. Since these were Scots, it is likely that the basic potato played a major part in keeping hunger from the door. One will have to look further into the history books and the stories that have been written to find the answers.
Note; Information passed down indicates that the Jack family and likely other families in Dalhousie township left for Simcoe because they were slowly starving.
From the appearance of the majority of the farms, the dairy industry is the mainstay of the present farmers in this part of the county.
I'm now driving down No. 7 highway from Carleton Place heading towards Toronto. Shortly I want to turn off towards Lanark and thence down to the road that would lead me to Watsons Corners. There I will try to locate someone who might know where Hoods Corners might be located.
On the side of the road is a good example of what the Westerner calls on Ontario barn. There is the stone base plastered and cemented together with a tall frame above it and sides covered with vertical boards. The fields around the barn have been fall ploughed. Next to these ploughed fields are others with grazing cattle and a few horses living what appears to be a life of leisure.
The tamaracks are changing colour. The bright yellow of their needles in sharp contrast to their evergreen cousins. The dominant tree seems to be the cedar. They are everywhere.
Before leaving Carleton Place, I visited the town office where the clerk gave me directions to Lanark. Across the street was store with tartan shirts in the window. I looked into the store to see if there were any local books that would add colour and some facts. The Lanark Book by Morton Brown was not in stock however the operator said he would get a copy and send it to me. He also gave me the name of a local Renfrew lady who might have some further history material. There is some evidence of localized industries beside the road was a factory that was making fence posts and apparently also makes fences of some type. And it looks as if the material of cedar or perhaps tamaracks.
Just passed through Ferguson Falls, a very small village beside what must be the Mississippi River -- Ontario style. Besides the road and stretching into the fields are more fantastic rail fences. In the village were log houses with the logs showing and evidently still lived in for the windows were lined with curtains. The road splits the village right down the middle.
Just outside of the village were some apple trees with the apples that were left struggling to retain their hold on the leafless branches.
Now into the town of Lanark where I promptly got lost. After a quick turn around in the road, I return to the village. On the way I passed a fairly substantial sawmill down over the crest of the hill.
In Lanark I pulled into a candy store that made homemade fudge. I asked for directions. Oh my! The chocolate smells and delicious look of candy, fresh looking candy, with was too much for me. I bought some bars of fudge: maple walnut, chocolate mint, rum and butter and one more than escapes my taste palette for the time being.
One of the clerks, a young lady, indicated she had heard of Hoods school but she did not know if it was the same as Hoods Corners are not.
After travelling for another few miles, I'd turned into Lanark County road No. 8. It seems to hit in the northwest off of No. 511. The sign indicated eight kilometres to Watsons Corners.
There it is. Watsons Corners located on a hill. It is not very large to say the least. There are some older buildings, one that looks as if it had been a livery barn, another with the ever present veranda roaming around the outside. It does not looked like the most progressive place of the world. Over on the other corner is Hannah’s store, with the another sign over the other side of the building stating that it is also MacKenzie store.
I turned north-westerly, I think. The directions are fading because there's no sun to come through the clouds and give a sense of direction. From the maps that I remember, the survey lines do not run in the North-South-East-West line's that the western country is used to. The township is surveyed on the diagonal On the south of the road United Church, the St. Andrews United Church of Watsons Corners, and across from it is the community hall that has an historic sign recognizing Dalhousie Library.
Following is thus inscription:
"In 1828, eight years after the original settlers of this area, the St. Andrews Philanthropic Society founded the first public library within the old Bathurst district. A log building known as the St. Andrews Hall housed the library for many years. The Earl of Dalhousie, governor in chief of Canada, 1822 to 1825, subscribed money for its support and donated a number of books. Thomas Scott, a pioneer settler was the first president, and among the distinguished citizens who subscribe were the right Rev. Charles Stewart, Anglican bishop of Quebec and Archdeacon John Strachan, later first Anglican Bishop of Toronto. The library was incorporated in 1852 and the number of the original books are in the present community hall."
There is no sign of their being anyone around, not a soul.
Driving through part of the town, I finally found one person, a lady walking toward the centre of the Corners. She gave me directions to the cemetery and to a place further down the road about two miles, to what is known as Hoods Settlement.
The village is made up a both modern and older homes with some of the edge of the ancient vintage having the bedraggled look that is not unfamiliar with visitors to the prairies.
The time is getting close to 2:30 in the afternoon and I have to fly out at 6:35 that means four hours from now. There isn't much time left to check out much more. I'll find the cemetery, check it out and see if I have time to go to the place that the lady said was Hoods Settlement.
In the graveyard I looked at the gravestones and these are some of the readings.
William Hood died 1874, at age 74 years, also his wife Martha Park, died Jan. 21, 1880 at age 80 years. Note: It is my belief that this is the William Hood, son of James Hood of the “Prompt” and progenitor of the Hoods that live at Basswood, Manitoba.
As I walked through the graveyard, there were a number of other names: Fair,
McInnis, McDonald, Whyte, Crosby, Park. There are quite a few of this last name.
The oldest stones are in the centre of the graveyard. This is where I found the Hoods stone, a large stone compared to many of the others stones found in the same area.
I was looking for any sign of the name Jack on any of the old stills. However this was not to be one of the first run through. I found no name was Jack. There was a Gemmill, Penman and then as I was working my way back to the car, I found a stone with the Jack name on it.
Here is what was on the marker.
Henry P. Barry 1820 - 1898 and his wife Susana Jack, 1823 - 1900.
Albert E. Barry 1893 - 1893
Christina Barrie 1894 - 1897
Dalbert 1903 -1904,
James Barry 1856 - 1932 and his wife Gertrude Prince 1864 - 1962.
This was the first indication of anyone with the Jack surname. This would reinforce some of the information that Marie Tryon had located in her research of the Perth news files. It is probable that Susana Jack is a descendent of the James Jack listed on the “Prompt.”
Other names were Barr, McArthur, Paul, Labelle.
After leaving the cemetery, I went to the junction where the McNicol or McNichols lived. There is a Baptist Church on the corner. It is called Dalhousie St. James Baptist Church. I learned that this church had been sold to a lady and nothing and happened to it since that time. There's no indication of a burial ground associated with it. There are a number of houses at the corner so I wouldn't be surprised if this is Hoods Corners.
Just before I was going to leave away I decided drop into one of the places to see if anyone was about and see if I could get any more information from them.
I'm drove up to the house close to the corner, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Pretty. Mrs. Pretty was formerly a McNichols. I went into the house with them and they said that this indeed was Hoods Corners and the house that we can see across the pond was the Hoods house where Arthur McNichols and his wife Winnie lived. She suggested that I drive over there and have a visit with them since they would know much more than she did.
Across the pond I drove to the log house known as the Hood House.
Winnie McNichols showed me through the log house which she suspected to be at least 150 or more years old. McNichols Sr. had lived in the house. Apparently they had moved there in 1903 until they had built the house that the Pretty’s now live in. The house stood empty for about 25 years. Along came the Depression of the 1930s. Arthur and Winnie wanted to get married and they needed a place to live that was not too expensive. Winnie agreed to live Hood house. It had been used as a shop for making axe handles. A new roof was added and a kitchen was put on the side of the building.
The present structure is a neat well-kept building with an additional room added plus divisions in the second story which included waterworks. The main or log part of the house has three rooms on the ground floor, a kitchen living space with the stove, a parlour and a bedroom. Upstairs had been one large room at the head of the stairs.
Down below the house is a spring that never stops running. It is now enclosed in a concrete structure. The water is piped up to the house and by gravity down to the barn. The overflow goes into the pond I crossed.
Across from the spring and up the rise of across the other intersecting road is Hoods school, now a summer home for outsiders.
Up behind the Hoods house is a rocky knoll, interspersed with grass and shrubs. It must rise about 50 feet. The McNichols invited me back, particularly, if Arthur could be at home to talk with me. On this occasion he was out hunting deer with his son, a member of the Ottawa police force. Thus this visit must do for they are retired people and are very good to talk with.
Apparently before the McNichols purchased the farm, the land about had been all the people by the name of Park. I guess it is not coincidental that William Hood was married to a Park. Mrs. Meg Nagle indicated that most of the land around Hoods Corners had been owned by people called Park.
The time was 3:30 and I had a flight to catch so I had to take flight as well. I was back to the airport with about an hour to spare since I did not get lost and I had no difficulties.
I had found some more information. This was the country where my great-grandfather William (Willie) Jack played as a little boy. He had just arrived from Scotland and then left the district as a young man to settled in Simcoe County, then to move to Bruce County in 1869 and finally to Strathclair Manitoba in 1877.
There is more story. And someday someone will add to this article.
Ed Somers — November 12 1985
Re-entered June 2002
Edited November 2005
Created 12 June 2016 with RootsMagic Genealogy Software