Jasper ( Irish Creek, Olmsted’s Mills)
Jasper lies in the North East section of Kitley along the boundary with Wolford Township, with Irish Creek running through the village.
Joseph Haskins, the first miler in these parts, settled on the future site of Jasper in 1802. At that time, Irish Lake was a muddy swamp (Mud Lake) or marsh, drained by Irish Creek which turned into the Rideau River north of Haskins’ Mill.
Haskins dammed the creek near his homestead then used the dam water to run a grist mill he erected. A sawmill followed and pretty soon a hamlet grew up around the homestead.
Damning of the creek backed up water to form a lake where the marsh land had existed. The name Irish Lake was given to this body of water.
Haskins’ dam created such a body of water that when Col. John By’s surveyors were laying out the route of the proposed Rideau Canal in 1925 they seriously considered running the new waterway down Irish Creek, through Irish Lake and thence westward to Bellamy’s Mills, now Toledo. However the prospect of having to cut through high ground west from Toledo deterred the surveyors and further tests on Irish Lake indicated some six feet of mud would have to be excavated over the entire length of the lake to make a channel feasible.
The Irish Creek – Irish Lake idea was abandoned and the surveyors laid out the canal route past the estuary of Irish Creek on to Smith’s Falls, eventually cresting the height of land at Newboro and then going downhill along the Cataraqui River to Kingston.
In the 1820’s, Irish, English and Scottish settlers flooded into Kitley, helped by free passage over the Atlantic guaranteed by the government and an offer of 100 acres of free land per family.
Many Irish settlers took up homesteads in the area lying east of the present No. 29 highway, along a shallow pond which still today is called Irish Lake. At the north end of the lake, a settlement called Irish Creek grew up. Today it is the modern village of Jasper.
The new settlers also farmed the area east of Frankville known as Crystal. The community boasts one of the earliest Loyal Orange Order Lodges, No.8.
In 1806 a Mr. Haskins built a grist mill in the tiny settlement then called Albune. In 1820 Gideon Olmstead bought the mill, and the community became known as Olmstead’s Mills.
In 1830, construction of the Rideau Canal raised the water level in Irish Cr. and destroyed the waterfall, which had supplied power for the mill.
That closed the mill but allowed Irish Cr. to be used for rafting timber.
When the Brockville and Ottawa Railway was built from Brockville to Smiths Falls in 1859, railway officials complained that the name Irish Creek sounded ‘petty.’
They urged residents to come up with another name. In 1864 the post office was renamed Jasper, the name chosen by residents from a list provided by the post office.
A fire in 1938 wiped out one corner of the main business area of this village and from the ashes rose a hotel and general store and post office.
The Jasper Hotel stands on the site of the Fitzgerald Hotel, a famous hostelry dating back to the days when the settlement was called “Irish Creek”. Thomas Fitzgerald was running the hotel back in the 1870’s and then Jasper boasted two other hotels.
Jasper United Church was built in 1877 as a Methodist house of worship. The old red brick building with its tall silver prier is a focal point for the faithful of this village
In 1815 Irish Creek was described as being 60 feet across, today it is more like 200 feet. It no longer caries the river traffic associated with the early mills which dotted its banks more than a century ago. Lying south of this village, Irish Lake, also figured prominently in the development of the area.
Irish Lake from which Irish Creek springs is a body of water five miles long, a mile across at its broadest, lying south and east of Toldeo. The lakes headwaters originate in the area west of Hwy No.29 between Plum Hollow and Frankville.
The lake roughly follows a southwest- northeast line east of Hwy No. 29, passing Newbliss Its outlet Irish Creek meanders through a peaceful farming country, through Jasper and emptying into the Rideau River at historic Polley’s Point.
From time immemorial Irish Lake and Irish Creek and their adjoining marshes have been a mecca for hunters.
In the early 1800,s muzzle loading muskets were used by settlers during the annual fall migrations of ducks. The birds were taken for immediate food, or for preserving and use during the long winter months.
One of the area’s earliest hunters was Roger Stevens and he was the districts first duck hunting causality. Stevens a pioneer mill owner in Wolford and Montague townships drowned on a creek emptying into the Rideau in 1795.
Stevens was hunting ducks at the time. He apparently stood up in his boat to fire at a passing mallard, and the recoil of the old hammer triggered shotgun, knocked him out of the boat into the ice cold water.
To this day, the stream bears his name, though some geographers have misspelled it “Stephens”. Roger Stevens was a brother of Able Stevens, first settler at Delta and Philipsville, and the man who brought the Baptist Church to north Leeds.
In 1818 Kitley had 300 residents, most living along the creek and in the Toledo area. In addition to Haskin’s Mill, a grist mill was operated by Richard Olmsted (or Olmstead) and Able Kilborn had grist mills and saw mills south of Irish Lake. He also had mills on Bellamy’s Lake west of Toledo.
In 1829 there were 801 persons living in Kitley and the following year 96 families were living north of Irish Lake and 86 south.
Around Olmsted’s mills on Irish Creek a small settlement grew up, originally called Irish Creek, later Olmsted’s Mills, still later Jasper. That is how the modern hamlet of Jasper came into being.
The hamlet received its greatest boost in 1858 when the Brockville to Carleton Place (later to Ottawa) railway was developed. Though Olmsted’s mills had been idle for 30 years, the hamlet was thriving.
Legend says that the first railway engine to use the line north of Jasper was brought by scow down Irish Lake and Irish creek from the railway line being inched north from Brockville. The two sections joined here.
Martin Doyle was the first station master. At that time there was a store operated by G.Cross, a hotel run by J. McLeod, a school house and five houses.
Ambrose Olmstead had a 100 acre spread here in 1854 and in 1862, he hired John Burchill, a surveyor to lay out a village which he was going to call “Albune”. The village was laid out in 12 blocks, with 95 lots available. For streets he had the following names: Queen’s Highway, Centre, Maple, John, Main and William. Though the plot plan was approved May 31, 1862, the lots were not registered at the Grenville registry office until 1888.
The name ‘Albune’ never caught on and the railway settled the issue by calling the station ‘Jasper’.
Because Jasper became a focal point for produce of all kinds, the railway erected extensive freight sheds, with facilities for handling dressed pork, mutton, butter, wool, clothing, flour and grain.
The Dominion Gazetteer of 1873 listed 750 people in Jasper, but most historians believe that the figure was greatly exaggerated. The following business were also listed: W.S.Cameron, store; W.A.Chester, milliner and dressmaker; Albert Clark Blacksmith; Thomas Fitzgerald, hotel; Tom Huffman, tinsmith; John Mrquette; Mrs. Ambrose Olmstead, grocery; W.S.Ralph, store; Chris Richards, store; Amos Robinson, hotel; Levi Soper, blacksmith; W.H.Sparham. stationmaster.
The railway provided area farmers with a ready flow of cash, since engines burned cordwood by the load. The wood was cut into four foot lengths to fit into the engine fire-boxes. The wood was stacked in sheds along the tracks and every spring an official scaler would come along and measure the wood for size and pay the farmers.
The first station burned in 1871 and was replaced.
Excerpts from the “History of Leeds and Grenville from 1749 to 1879”
by Thad. W.H.Leavitt pub 1879
This church is substantially built of brick; it is 30×46 feet, with a tower 14 feet square surmounted by a spire. The charge includes four congregations, viz., Jasper, Easton’s, Kilmarnock and Roseville, the total membership being 190. The trustees of the church are Thomas Edmunds, James Edmunds, Levius Brown, William Cross and B. Warren, the pastor (1878) being the Rev. Eli Woodcock.
is a paperback book written by Edna B. Chant and was published in 1998. Edna Chant was a reported with the “Athens Reporter” for 23 years and she is the author of four books.
Her book, which is made up of news clippings from various sources, from which we have taken excerpts, gives us a glimpse into life in our area for over a hundred year period ending with stories from 1975.
While her book covers many areas of Leeds and Grenville we have only focused on the area within Elizabethtown-Kitley Township.
Harry Moffatt postmaster and merchant of Jasper, had a close call from death on April 25, 1900. He had been to market in Merrickville and was on his way home. He had not sold all his load, and was taking home fie cases of eggs. When he got in front of Alex Clark’s farm, he decided to water his horse and he drove to the waters edge. He cannot explain what happened but the next thing he knew he was in the water, with the struggling horse and wagon on top of him. He used every bit of his strength to reach the surface, and when he got his head above water, he was too weak to crawl out. In the meantime, Mrs. Phillips of Riverview saw the accident and had gone for Mr. Clark. Together they helped him from the water and he had to cling to the fence for some time before he could stand on his feet. He was unable to speak but after they got him to the house and wrapped him in blankets and out his feet in hot water, he quickly recovered. His first concern was for his horse, but Mr. Clark attached a chain to it and pulled it out with his team, but the animal was dead. It was still attached to the wagon.
The cheese factory at Jasper burned on July 7, 1901, the fire starting from the chimney. The proprietor, Isaac H. Fifield, who lived upstairs lost all of his possessions.
Mrs. W.J. Anderson of Jasper was killed in a motor accident at Newbliss on October 30, 1937.
On July 18, 1939 Connerty’s store and Fitzgerald’s Hotel burned at Jasper.
Alfred Leacock of Jasper died of injuries received in a motor accident on November 20, 1940
On November 10, 1959 William McCabe, 51, of Jasper and his 20 year old son Michael drowned when their auto plunged into the Rideau River.
Two sisters, Mrs. Albert W Morrison aged 64 years, and Miss Harriett Cannon aged 68 years died together when their car was struck by an oil truck driven by Garnet Sands of Frankville on May 4, 1961. They lived at Jasper and taught school to Toledo. They were on their way to school at 8:45am and drove from the Jasper Road onto Highway 29, directly in front of Sands who was travelling towards Smiths Falls and he was unable to avoid a collision. Both car and truck were demolished, the latter catching fire and burning to a shell. Sands was able to escape but received severe burns and shock. He had his 3 year old son Terry with him and he was able to save the boy but he was also burned. Mrs. Morrison was the former Edith Pearl Cannon and both sisters were born at Portland. They had been teachers for many years and were very well known and highly regarded.
Damage was estimated at $100,000 when fire destroyed the William Connerty and Son grain elevator and feed plant at Jasper on May 20, 1961. Several hundred tons of grain were in the plant as well as valuable machinery. Firemen were able to save four homes located across the road. A 14 car train of the CPR was due and would have to pass dangerously close to the fire, but it was flagged down. The train was already four hours late due to an accident at Trenton. It was delayed anther hour at the fire scene where CPR officials carefully guided it by the blazing buildings only a few feet from the track.
On May 17, 1961 a large sheet metal warehouse owned by C.A. Pryce was burned at Jasper. The building was full of crown assets merchandise. The Smiths Falls fire department prevented the fire from spreading to other buildings.
On the farm of Lorne Driver on the road between Hwy 29 and Jasper, the fire made a clean sweep of all his outbuildings on June 26, 1965. Seven barns in all fell to flames. Firemen from Smiths Falls were able to save his house. No livestock was lost but one barn contained over $1,000. worth of lumber.
A Jasper youth James Elwood Wells, 19, had a miraculous escape from death on September 16, 1966 when the car he was driving was totally wrecked by a Brockville bound CPR train travelling at 57 miles per hour. The car was hurled 37 feet into a ditch, with the motor torn out and pieces of the vehicle scattered right and left. The youth escaped with a fractured leg and a slight concussion.
Mr. and Mrs. Jonas Ellis of Jasper were married 60 years on May 12, 1969 and were at home to 150 friends and relatives. Mr. Ellis was born at Rocksprings in 1878. He is known by all as “Joney” and he learned the blacksmithing trade early in life and worked at this trade until he was 85 years of age. Mrs. Ellis is the former Eva Edwards and was born at Wolford Centre. They raised a family of 14 children and all are living except one daughter Stella May. They are Ormond, Clayton, Marjorie, Wesley, Donald, Dorothy, Sidney, Geraldine, Meda, Earl, Jean, Norma and Robert.
A Jasper girl, Emily Scouten, aged 16 years, was killed on June 26, 1969 when a car in which she was a passenger crashed in heavy fog. The accident occurred at the Kitley- South Elmsley Line and the driver was William Bertrin, 18, of Perth. Other passengers in the car were Joan Purcell, 20, of Smiths Falls and James Duberville of Brockville who were slightly injured.
Milton Cardiff, 56, drowned at jasper after falling from a boat on August 5, 1973.
Mr. and Mrs. John Luckey and their daughter Miss. Mary Ann Luckey were murdered at their home at Irish Creek on Oct. 11, 1892
Charles Luckey was hanged in Brockville on December 14 for the murder of his father, mother and sister at Irish Creek, 1893
On February 13, 1909 Michael O’Connor and Henry Rathwell of Kitley had spent the evening at Irish Creek and left about 10 o’clock to return home. The cutter was on its side, the horse was in the ditch tangled up in the harness, O’Connor aged 60 was lying face down in the snow with Rathwell lying on top of him. O’Connor was dead and Rathwell unconscious. Dr. W. Anderson said O’Connor died of suffocation. Rathwell was suffering from frost bite but recovered.
Mrs. Harry Stevens aged 32 and Miss Bessie Jones age 20, were drowned in Irish Creek on September 1, 1909. They had been visiting at the home of Harvey Timleck and went out alone in a boat. No reason can be given for the accident as the water was only three feet deep and they could have easily made it to shore.
The Athens Reporter and County of Leeds Advertiser
Excerpts have been taken from this paper referencing the following hamlet for the years 1889, 1894 and 1895
Tuesday July 16th, 1889
At Irish Creek on Tuesday last, a builder named James Heaslip was rendered insensible by a stroke of lightning, and H. Johnston who was standing by, was slightly injured at the same time. Both men are recovering.
Tuesday April 9, 1895 issue–
Miss May Johnson of Irish Creek is the guest of Miss Helen Dixon who recently returned from New York where she was visiting her sister, Mrs. Howard McGrath