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Puslinch Historical Society Spirit Walk
20 September 2015
My name is Dave Carter and I am the fifth generation of the Carter family to live at Arkell. When my great-great-grandfather, James Carter, left Wiltshire, England with his wife Charlotte and four children, the eldest three daughters remained in England.
The family were neighbours of John Arkell in England, but we don't believe they were related. In a February 4, 1831 letter that John Arkell wrote back home from Puslinch he recorded they had arrived the summer before and, “On the 3rd of December we moved James Carter and his wife and children from the cabin where we were living into a new one.” This establishes that the Arkells and Carters spent their first months in Puslinch in a log shelter together. John Arkell referred to Charlotte Carter as “Dame Carter” and said that Dame Carter had been given the task of baking the bread and washing the clothes of the Arkell men. He said she was frightened by the sounds of the bush and would say that the cannons back home were nothing to the noises in her new home. Apparently her fear was shared by my earliest Puslinch ancestor, called “old Jimmy” in John Arkell's writing, as he hunted for the wolves and bears they were so leery of. James was 62 when he emigrated from England and Charlotte was twenty years younger, so may have been his second wife.
The Carter farmhouse sits on a hill east of Carter Road, near the site of the original log house. James had chosen a lot that proved to have excellent soil, making it one of the best in the Township in his son Thomas's day.
My great-grandfather, Thomas Carter, was next to farm the Arkell homestead. In 1876 the C.P.R. ran their track through the Carter farm, which proved to be of benefit to the Arkell-area farmers as they could ship and receive stock and produce without ever leaving Farnham Plains. Thomas died in 1881. My great-grandmother Eliza was an Iles from Farnham and she outlived him by 25 years. Their son William Henry Carter, my grandfather, was listed on the 1881 Puslinch census as a woolen carder and spinner, age 21. Known locally as “Harry”, he was likely working at the Caulfield Woolen Mill nearby. But his father's death changed everything and he took over the homestead.
My grandfather's younger brother Thomas, named after their father, married Robina Topping and eventually farmed the old Caulfield place. Their older brother John and his wife Annie Goodings had bought a farm on the Gore when they were married, but sold it and moved to the former Keenan farm on Lot 2, F. Conc. 8 on the east side of Brock Road because it offered better land for their herd of dairy cows. There were Carters on the west side of Brock Road as well, but early Puslinch censuses record that they were Scottish, so they were not descendants of John and Charlotte.
Like other rural families in the 19th Century, the Carters married into the families of their fellow settlers: Iles, Hewers, Cooks, Rudds, Arkells and Laings. Many pioneer families including ours held family reunions a century after their arrival in Puslinch. On Sept. 1, 1932 seventy-five Carter descendants gathered on the original homestead.
Most familiar to me are the stories from my father Howitt Carter's time. He was the next to farm the original homestead and also worked as a guard at the Ontario Reformatory. Born in 1905, he married Algeva Phelps of Eramosa Township and our family are: my sister Sylvia, the oldest, who married Fred Ryder; my sister Pat, next, who married Horst Pietschinski, with me being the youngest. When my wife, Sharon Brown, and I married we severed a lot from the homestead before it was sold out of the Carter family in the 1990s, after nearly 170 years.
The best known incident in my parents' time was the break-out from the O.R. on August 26, 1941. Three young men escaped while working in the greenhouses, which was an assignment given to more trusted inmates. They escaped through bush and cornfields arriving at our farm while my father, a retired guard, was not at home. My mother was standing on a table wallpapering when they burst in, frightening my two sisters who were 5 and 8 at the time. One man stood guard outside while two others went through the house searching for, and finding, the farm's .22 rifle. Asking my mother if we possessed any shells, she replied we did not. This resulted in them going wordlessly through the house, ransacking drawers until they found what they were looking for. I'm told my sisters cried the whole time this was taking place. Thankfully, the men took off immediately towards Campbellville, holding up a farmer named Carson in his home near the village at gun point and demanding the keys to his car. He managed to overcome them by throwing a chair at them and they continued on their way on foot towards Milton.
Besides farming and his work at the Reformatory, Dad was an enthusiastic photographer with a large slide collection. Needless to say, I shared his interest in this field in my career as a professional photographer with the Guelph Mercury and now in my retirement I am still doing freelance photography. My father Howitt died in 1983, and my mother Algeva in 1990.
[touching John & Charlotte's tombstone] Sharon and I raised our family and continue to live on a piece of the land James and Charlotte pioneered in 1831 – 184 years later!
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Membership in the society is open to anyone interested in the history of Puslinch Township giving you access to the archives, assistance with your research from committed volunteers, a newsletter and occasional events of historic interest.
29 Brock Road South
Puslinch Historical Society
c/o Puslinch Library
29 Brock Road South
Puslinch, ON N0B 2J0