|Fall 2007||Volume 5 Number 3|
Several years ago, the Historical Society was in crisis. Dozens of community members had made huge contributions of ideas and time to the Society, none more than our past president and recipient of our first 2007 Heritage Award of Merit, Denis Faulkner. But before Denis took over, membership had been failing and enthusiasm waning. It was time for rebuilding. Under Denis Faulkner’s leadership the Society has been able to rebuild to regain its previous level of success.
A strategic plan was developed to clearly focus our on a few projects which were in our jurisdiction, were still reasonably achievable and desirable. An increased number of monthly lectures were held, the newsletter and posters were employed to keep members informed and a new highly successful web page was developed. Application to the Ontario Trillium Foundation and a grant from the estate of Thomas Manning allowed our archives restoration project to begin. All of these actions were aimed at providing value to members and they responded in record numbers. For his leadership and continuous service to the Heritage community, The Merrickville & District Historical Society was pleased to present to Denis Faulkner, the Heritage award of Merit.
Originally it was a double fronted frame house with central stairs, built on a full basement foundation of ashlar stone. At the back was a summer kitchen and behind it, near collapse, was a carriage house and woodshed. Restoration took close to five years with the able assistance of Charles’s father a skilled professional carpenter.
In their renovations the Watson’s have nobly addressed the dilemma of where to draw the boundary between restoration and modernization which dictates fire safety concerns. They have chosen to remain faithful to the spirit of the old building minimally adapting it for modern living. The woodshed is now heated by
In recognizing Elodie and Charles Watson with the Merrickville & District Historical Society Award of Merit, we are also recognizing those who recognize, that acquiring a heritage home also means acquiring a responsibility to protect and preserve it, not only for their own use, but for the enjoyment of the ages.
At Hog’s Back it was the application of homegrown rough and ready dam construction by Philomen Wright that resolved a problem which had twice defeated the best efforts of the same Royal Engineers who triumphed at Jones Falls. And, at the eight entrance locks at Bytown it was not the Engineers nor Surveyors who determined the route, but rather avaricious politicians and land speculators that caused the canal to be constructed in perhaps the most difficult and inappropriate location.
Since we introduced www.merrickvillehistory.org, our web site, we have received many enquiries which we try to answer; not always adequately, like the one below.
Dear Folks at the M&DH Society,
Just found your wonderful website and. Read with interest that the original name was "Mirickville" and that the man gave Colonel By some grief. (vol.3 No.4) Is it known why the name was changed?
Dear Reader, You ask a question we have often pondered. The “Merricks” came from Wales, where their name was “Meyrick”, and arrived on the east coast of America in the 1600’s. Real pioneers, they migrated westward and by the time William crossed into Canada, around 1788, he had adapted the “Mirick” as his surname.
By 1856, the Mirick sons William Jr., Stephen and Aaron had built successful businesses, all of which advertised their services under the name “Mirick” . Then in July 1860 the Village was incorporated as “Mirickville”, with Aaron Mirick as Reeve.
Until 1862 the spelling Mirick was used for the Village and in the “Mirickville Chronicle”, the newspaper of the day. Then suddenly, the spelling “Merrick”, began to appear. On May 23, 1862 the newspaper was published as “the Mirickville Chronicle”. One week later on May 30, 1862, it appeared as “the Merrickville Chronicle”. Simultaneously, advertisements for the family businesses now referred to “Merrick”. At the same time, the spelling “Merrickville” was adopted for the Village. The change was swift and complete. “Mirick” was out, “Merrick” was in. . . . But your question ; “WHY?” remains.
The family name Merrick and its many derivations goes back to ancient times. An early ancestor of William Mirick, Richard Amerike was appointed the King's Customs Officer for Bristol in 1486, 1490 and 1497. He became chief sponsor for John Cabot's expedition to Newfoundland in 1497 and it is suggested by some that the new land, “America” was named after him as reward for his patronage. Furthermore, his coat of arms, a shield of stars and stripes, could well have formed the basis of the American flag. From web page Merrick-Mirickfamily.com
In the second part of this article, (Vol. 5 No.2 Summer 2007) we told of the maturing of the Merrickville Foundries and their achievements of the “The Percival Plow and Stove Company” in producing a line of agricultural plows that would make Merrickville famous. In this section we examine the Percivals’ successful participation into the stove business and the new technologies which threatened its success..
Another popular stove was a cooking range called “Forest Beauty.” * This was widely used as was the Percival “Home Perfection.” These stoves with their high, deep ovens, water tanks and immense fire boxes are said to have replaced the old fireplaces and bake ovens of earlier days. Another stove, an example of which is in the Blockhouse Museum was the “Imperial Upright” heater with its isinglass windows in the doors and with a nickel-plated railing to support “cold feet.”
The “Percival Pipeless Furnace” was another heater which came into quite wide use about fifty years ago and which can still be found in use. There were three sizes of these furnaces all modeled after the Heckla type but which bore the name of Percival.
*Stove Photos courtesy James Nicholson, “Cast from the Past”, Bourget, Ontario
When the Percivals were at their peak they employed up to 65 men in the foundry with 5 in the office, The hours of work were 7 am. to 12 noon and from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. with 1 hour less on Saturdays. And there were no “coffee breaks” in those days.
In 1916, after thirty-four years of operations the business was sold to the P.T. Legare Company, Ltd., of Quebec City. This company continued to turn out the same line of machines as the Percivals for awhile but offered an expanded business which included eight retail stores. An elaborate and costly catalogue was published which included, not, only the Percival products but a whole range of articles such as gas engines, threshing machines, vehicles of all kinds and even washing machines and player pianos.
There were actually about 30 different types of stoves listed and illustrated, all bearing the name Percival.
The Legare Company tried to carry on for almost 20 years in spite of the knowledge that public demands were rapidly changing The advent of the tractor marked the beginning of the end for most of the farm machinery they were producing, while electricity, gas and fuel oil spelled the doom of the old cook stove and stove heater. They had fought a good fight but eventually Legare’s were forced to close down and pass on their assets for other uses. In he late l930’s Legare’s sold the business to Professor Riley of McGill. Riley was a
In 1993 ownership was acquired by Karl & Linda Feige. Earlier, the old Percival ”machine shop” was sold off and eventually became the business now operating as Aylings Marina while the foundry continued to be operated by the Feige’s as the Alloy Foundry and Village Metalsmiths.
It is rare that any business operates continuously for some 165 years. To think that one did so in Merrickville is even more remarkable and is a tribute to the capability and enterprise of a succession of exemplary entrepreneurs. Ref L. H. Newman, 1969, MDHS archives
Any who have attended the Rideau 175 Lecture Series held in the beautiful Sanctuary of the Merrickville United Church will have noticed the magnificent pipe organ behind the alter. But did you know that the organ was installed in 1909, some twenty years after the Church was built. One half of the cost being covered by the Carnegie Foundation, the balance by the parishioners. Over the years the Percivals, strong supporters of the Church, and major valued customers of Carnegie Steel, were able to approach the Carnegie Foundation for support for installation of the beautiful organ, still in operating condition today.
This Summer, MPP Bob Runciman and the Ontario Trillium Foundation congratulated the Merrickville and District Historical Society on receiving a $25,000 grant. The three-year grant was made in July 2007 and is being used for equipment and resources to continue work to preserve archives in digital form, establish a secure accessible virtual archive and safely store valuable paper documents. The grant follows a 2005 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant which allowed the Historical Society to begin its long held objective for ensured safe preservation and improved access to the Merrickville Museum’s important collections.
In accepting the award, Society President John Cowan said. “The continued preservation and improved public access through updated indexing and digital access remain the objectives of the project.,” “Much has been accomplished with the first Ontario Trillium Foundation grant and since this current OTF grant covers funding over the next three years we are confident we can meet our objectives.”
The Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Ministry of Culture, receives annually $100 million of government funding generated through Ontario's charity casino initiative. The Foundation provides grants to eligible charitable and not-for-profit organizations in the arts and culture, environment, human and social service and sports and recreation sectors.
Speaking of names and pronunciation, is it possible the long time locals employ pronunciation tricks just to identify folks from “away”? Like me? Upon arrival I was darned if I could find North “Gore” on the map, nor a mountain south or anywhere near Mountain. And who would guess Clowes is pronounced “Clows”, like “cows”, or Kitely, as “Kittly or Irish Creek, Irish “Crick”. Or how about Dwyer Hill, pronounced “Dyer Hill”. Or that the Wickware brickyard in Easton’s Corners was pronounced “Wickwire”.
So if you find yourself asking for directions to Jellyby Rd. and are met with an indulgent smile and , “Do you mean ‘Jellybye’, you might as well have just said, “I’m new around here.”
In April we enjoyed our Spring Dinner in the Historic 3rd floor Baldachin Ballroom. A special guest was Sir John A MacDonald and his second wife Agnes who were reincarnated for the event. Following a delicious dinner, and encouraged by a little “Scottish Mist”, Sir John A regaled us with some of his more memorable anecdotes and favourite songs. We are grateful to Brian and Renee Porter for their entertaining portrayals and amusingly patriotic 19th Century songs.
It is highly likely that on his frequent trips between Kingston and Ottawa, that Sir John A MacDonald would have overnighted in Merrickville. Can anyone of our readers shed any light on this likelihood?
As we approach the end of a very active year it is appropriate to again thank our supporters. The Village of Merrickville-Wolford for moral and financial support for our Archives project and Blockhouse Museum operation; the Patrons and Sponsors and the Merrickville United Church who allowed us to conduct a truly memorable 175th anniversary lecture series; Parks Canada for their upgrading and re-focusing of the Blockhouse Museum. (We will have welcomed close to 12,000 visitors this year – a new record. ); Ken Watson for his generous donation of time and expertise in creating and maintaining for us a truly exceptional web page (www.merrickvillehistory.org).
In addition, assistance of the Government of Canada through various funding agencies, as well as the Province of Ontario and Ontario Trillium Foundation grants are gratefully acknowledged.
Of course special thanks to our hard working Committee members and to the volunteers who enabled us to conduct all our activities.
And most of all, thanks to you our members for your interest and generous support and encouragement through membership and participation.
Copyright The Merrickville & District Historical Society, 2007,
John Cowan, Editor
Merrickville and District Historical Society
PO Box 294
Merrickville, Ontario K0G 1N0
website design donated by Ken W. Watson
©2007 The Merrickville and District Historical Society