Along the St. Lawrence River

We drew open the blinds this morning to reveal a dazzling sunny day. Crisp and clear. It was without question a happy chance for the proverbial Sunday drive. Nor did we shilly-shally about launching the exploration. Initially we headed to Westport on the Upper Rideau Lake then southeasterly to Gananoque. But our more compelling direction was along the Ivy Lea Parkway adjoining the St. Lawrence River (above where it drains into Lake Ontario) en route northerly through Rockport and Mallorytown past Brockville and Blue Church to Fort Wellington at Prescott then back to Ottawa all the while having traced the Canada/United States of America border separating the Province of Ontario and New York State.

It was a passage which, though we had taken portions of the run previously, followed hitherto unidentified bailiwicks. Our lazy agenda grew to include Katarina’s Coffee Shop in Prescott but upon arrival there we saw that it had closed about an hour earlier. So much for the affogato al caffè! By this time, late afternoon, the sun was already hastening its decline, spirited by the change last night from daylight savings to standard time. We did however succeed to bolt in and out of familiar haunts in the towns and villages on the way, basically focusing upon whatever was immediately adjacent the St. Lawrence River. The grand stone homes in Brockville in particular spoke of centuries of diligence and military splendour. Everywhere were traits of Scottish heritage. I recall too that Dr. William Mostyn, an Irish born medical practitioner and the first Master of Mississippi Masonic Lodge No. 147 in Almonte, began his fateful Canadian career in this historic area on the St. Lawrence River before moving to what was probably then called Shepherd’s Falls. Mostyn’s untimely demise was first reported as follows:

On the morning of Tuesday, March 29, 1881, the people of Almonte slowly became aware that one of their most prominent men was missing. Also missing was the son of another of the town’s well known citizens.

Search parties, under J. C. Stevens, who was a miller in Almonte, and W. H. Wylie, a woollen manufacturer in Carleton Place, started to drag the Mississippi River until first an upturned boat, then a fur cap and then, several days apart, two bodies were found, not far from a part of the river then known as Gleeson’s Bay, about a mile down river from Appleton.

On the previous Monday afternoon, Dr. William Mostyn, anxious to visit a sick patient in Appleton, and unable to use the roads because of their bad condition, finally got J. W. Manning, Jr., son of the celebrated Temperance worker, to take him in his skiff. In spite of a high wind and bitterly cold weather, they reached Appleton safely.

Dr. Mostyn visited his patient and James Manning conducted some license business with Mr. McArthur, a hotel keeper.

Manning, during the absence of his father, J. W. Manning, in England on a speaking tour, was acting as License Inspector for North Lanark. They were last seen at 4:30 p.m. by Adam Tesky, who accompanied them to the landing stage. Manning was rowing and Dr. Mostyn was sitting in the stern steering and paddling.

Dr. Mostyn was descended from a Welsh family who moved to Ireland in Cromwell’s time. He was born in Ireland in 1836 but came to Canada soon after with his family. They settled in Kingston, where his father was Inspector of Licenses.

From his arrival in Almonte, Dr. Mostyn had immersed himself in village affairs. He had been President of the Cricket Club, participated in Penny Readings, was a member of the Board of Education and, at the time of his death, had been President of the North Lanark Agricultural Society since 1867.

He was associate coroner for Lanark and also a surgeon major in the Militia, connected with the 42nd Battalion of Infantry.

He was the first Reeve when Almonte was incorporated as a village in 1871 and between 1875 and 1879, he sat in the Ontario Legislature as a liberal Conservative. In fact, as the 1880-81 Directory of Lanark County noted he “has held every local office in the gift of the people up to member of Parliament”.

His silence in debates on the stricter regulation of the sale of liquor may have helped defeat him in 1879 as he was known by supporters of the Dunkin Act as the “leader of the whiskey ring in Almonte”.

This active public life was only rivalled by his contemporary, Bennett Rosamond. But Dr. Mostyn had one advantage over Bennett Rosamond, he was never married and so had no need to devote any of his time to family life.

By 1879 he was one of only two members left of the Anti- Connubial Club, a group who celebrated the benefits of bachelorhood. In 1880 Bennett Rosamond and Dr. Mostyn both wanted to be the first Mayor of Almonte but neither would run against the other. So Dr. James Patterson “came up the middle” to win that distinction.

Dr. Mostyn’s funeral was organized by the Freemasons. It was held on Saturday, April 2 and stores and mills were closed.

The procession from St. Paul’s Church to the station was impressive, led by the clergy, the band, the Mississippi Lodge AFAM, pall bearers, mourners, the mayor and town council, officers of the NLAS, the Board of Education and the curling club.

But this order was disrupted by “a solid mass of people”. There was a half-hour wait at the station for the train to Kingston, where the doctor was buried in the family plot at Cataraqui Cemetery.

James W. Manning, whose body was found a few days later than the doctor’s, was buried on April 8 under the auspices of the Odd Fellows. He was 26 years old and had been a clerk with Brown and McArthur, and later James Robertson, in the present Keepsakes building (northwest corner of Mill and Bridge Streets).

Before his death he was working with a firm in Arnprior but planned to go to Clinton, Ont., where a brother lived, to study law.

The procession left St. Andrew’s Church near the family home on Elgin Street.

It comprised the clergy, the fireman’s band, the Arnprior Hook and Ladder Company, Alpha Lodge No. 154, pall bearers, mourners, the Mississippi Curing Club, the high school and citizens on foot and in carriages.

It went along Elgin, Bridge and Mill Streets on the way to the Auld Kirk cemetery. Stores and mills along the route were closed. Ironically a man perceived as a supporter of the unregulated sale of liquor and the son of a great disciple of temperance met their death together.

Dr. Mostyn left a lasting legacy to Almonte. In 1867- 1868 he built a house here, the lovely stone house on the corner of Queen and Clyde Streets (many years later occupied successively by Dr. John Dunn and Dr. Francis Murphy both Irish born medical practitioners). His sister, Miss Mostyn, who had kept house for him, lived in the house until 1890 when she sold it to lawyer R. J. Dowdall for $4,500.

In 1891 there was an auction sale of Dr. Mostyn’s furniture and belongings and soon after, Dr. lynch bought the house and moved in, thus continuing the tradition of the “Doctor’s House”.

As a Past Master of the local Masonic Lodge I have the privilege to have walked in the shadow of Dr. Mostyn. Mostyn also oversaw the laying of the corner stone of St. Paul’s Anglican Church of which I am a former Warden; and is reputed – perhaps apocryphally – to have had a hand in plotting the assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, that fiery parliamentarian and outspoken federalist, who was felled by an assassin’s bullet on Sparks Street in 1868. It is said that this scheme was plotted in the house on Queen Street.

MOSTYN, WILLIAM, M.D. (North Lanark)

Of Welsh descent. Family moved to Irel., at time of Cromwell, and became large land owners in Connaught. B. in town of Elphin, Roscommon, Irel., 5 June, 1836. Accompanied his parents to Can., in following year; and was ed. at the grammar school, Kingston, in which city they settled. Graduated as M.D., at Queen’s Univ., Kingston, 1858. Unmarried. Is Surgeon 42nd “Brockville”, Batt. V.I. Has been Presdt. North Lanark Agricultural Society since 1867. Elected first Reeve of Almonte, 1871, a position he continued to retain for three years. Represented Rideau and Bathurst division in the Ont. Medical Council from 1869 to 1872; and was Associate Coroner Lanark for fifteen years. Was D.D.G.M., for Ottawa Dist. in the Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Can., in 1867 and 1873. Has also held a fellowship in Queen’s University. First returned to Parlt., for present seat at last g.e. A Liberal Conservative – Almonte.

I won’t however pretend to have the chutzpah of Dr. Mostyn who on one occasion in particular was required to confront a fellow Mason (Anderson) and a leading member of the community who had turned up at a Masonic Lodge meeting drunk and irascible.

On June 24, 1864 (at a meeting at which Bro. Anderson was again present) Bro. Mostyn moved “that Bro. Anderson’s demit be not granted by the Lodge until he apologized to the Lodge for his past misconduct, a part of which is on record under date of 22nd January, 1864”. The motion was unanimously carried. Bro. Anderson “acknowledged that he had used profane language in the Lodge Room, and of coming to the Lodge with intention of making disturbance, but in extenuation of the offence he said that he was excited by anger and other causes, he positively refused to make an apology for anything he had done. After considerable entreaty by Brethren of the Lodge and a good deal of harsh language by Bro. Anderson the case was dropped”. The Lodge closed, but without mention of harmony.

On August 12, 1864 “Bro. Anderson made an apology to the Lodge in reference to charges recorded against him in the Minutes of the Lodge. He said that he had been hasty and rash and had done and said what he should not and wished the Lodge would accept his apology and overlook his offences”. Notably, Bro. Mostyn moved that Bro. Anderson’s apology be received and placed on record. The motion was carried unanimously; and the Lodge closed in harmony.

A History of Mississippi Lodge No. 147 A.F. and A.M., G.R.C. (in Ontario) Chartered by the Grand Lodge of Canada July 20, 1861

I would not give much for your Masonry unless it can be seen. Lamps do not talk, but they shine. A lighthouse sounds no drum, it beats no gong, and yet far over the water its friendly spark is seen by the mariner. So let your actions shine out in your Freemasonry. Let the main sermon of your life be illustrated by your conduct, and it shall not fail to be illustrious.