James Wallis [ 1807 - 1893 ]

James Wallis is considered one of the founders of Fenelon Falls as his speculations and investments were of vital importance to its early development. His business operations in partnership with Robert Jameson carved the village out of the wilderness.

Originally from County Cork, Ireland, James Wallis arrived in Montreal from Glasgow in 1832, aged 26. Sidney Bellingham, who took Wallis on as a business partner, was familiar with the Peterborough district, and he no doubt encouraged Wallis to speculate in the area [Wallis; 263]. Wallis was certainly buying land in Fenelon Township by March 26th, 1833, as did Robert Jameson. Nonetheless, his first visit to Fenelon did not take place until January 24th, 1834, when he arrived at John Langton’s house in company with Robert Jameson, among others2. By 1833 Wallis’s partnership with Bellingham was in financial trouble [Wallis; 259] and Wallis was no doubt checking out his investments. A partnership with Jameson followed “soon afterwards”, probably in late March 1834 [Langton; 72]. John Langton writes, “I am glad to say that we have every chance of having [Wallis] as a settler here, as he has joined Jameson in all his speculations but you must not mention this, as it is yet a secret…” [4 April 1834] [Langton Collection]

Wallis only lived in the village intermittently between 1834 and 1841, finally settling in Peterborough, although he did retain his land holdings in Fenelon Falls well into the 1860s. During his residency he established saw and grist mills, a tavern/inn, and a store. Eventually he also operated a steamboat called Ogemah in the area waters. Despite his importance, reconstructing his activities remains problematic due to lack of adequate sources. This is what we have so far.

791 For biographical and historical information on Wallis see Hugh M. Wallis’ “James Wallis : Founder of Fenelon Falls and Pioneer in the Early Development of Peterborough”. Ontario History. 53:4 (December 1961) : 257-271. See also his mss “James Wallis, 26 Jan. 1807 – 23 May 1893 : Collation of Information re his life and background… / Collated by Hugh M. Wallis (1959) [original in the collection of the Fenelon Falls Museum].

792 Wallis (along with James McLaren) is listed as a mill owner and “general dealer in dry goods, hardware, groceries and produce, etc.” in the Canada Directory (1957/58) and in the Directory of the United Counties of Peterborough and Victoria (1858). See also under McLaren, Angus.

793 See Wallis; 266, and Tatley; 26.

794 Jameson appears to have been most active in the village from 1833 to 1834. After 1834 it was Wallis who took most of the initiative, and who made a commitment to stay in Canada. See under Jameson, Robert.

795 Wallis Papers (MU3102). Envelope VII. Archives of Ontario.

796 Langton. Early Days in Upper Canada; 69.

797 Langton implies in a letter dated 13 June 1834 that Wallis only ever intended “to live a couple of years at Cameron’s Falls”. [Langton Collection (MU1690) Env 9 [Archives of Ontario] : Original Notebook of JL’s letters copied by Thomas Langton; 96-97]. Wallis also purchased land in Peterborough in 1835, upon which he built his permanent residence “Merino” in 1851. He also purchased the “Brown Mill Property” in December 1836 [Wallis; 259, 262].

798 James Wallis sold 5000 acres of land in a large sale held at the Jewett Hotel in Lindsay on Tuesday January 26th, 1864 [CP 28 Jan 1864; 2]. Wallis was visiting Fenelon Falls as late as 1880 “after a long absence from our town” [CP 12 March 1880; 3]. His son H.A. Wallis may have been living in the village.

799 See Tatley; 26.

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