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Taylor’s Gas Bar – Lot 8 East of Main Street, Kinmount

June 20, 2024

Pat Taylor Fills Bill Scott's Car at Taylor's Esso Station, 1965

By Guy Scott

The former site of Taylor’s Pioneer Gas Bar served the transportation needs of Kinmount for generations. The site emerged in the 1870s as a blacksmith shop, ideally located at the corner of the Bobcaygeon and Monck Roads. William Macdonald was the first blacksmith to practice here, followed by William Davidson, Robert McKee, Robert Davidson and William Morrison in 1883. The Morrisons (William, John and James) ran a series of small businesses from the blacksmithy, including making carriages and weaving carpets. Members of the Morrison family had been weavers in Scotland before immigrating to Canada. They settled first in Smith Township, near Peterborough, and then moved to Verulam Township before relocating in the 1870s to Kinmount, then a thriving boomtown. Another son, Alexander was a farmer and left his journals to posterity.

The Morrison family were Scottish through and through, and brought their heritage and traditions with them. One old Celtic tradition was Beltane Fires, or its more modern version, the “Need-Fire.” The tradition was born of ancient superstition, that on May 1st of each year a purification fire was built to scare off evil spirits and purify the farmer’s livestock. This need-fire was kindled on a prominent hill, closest to the heavens and readily visible to everyone in the area (including the evil spirits!). Over time the tradition evolved into a celebration of the coming of spring (May Day). But Celtic tradition also allowed “Need-Fires” to be used at any time a special occasion dictated a blessing. For several years, in the late 1800s, Kinmount was the site of such a need fire, held on July 1 to celebrate the birth of Canada: literally a Canada Day celebration. The ceremony was held at midnight and William Morrison would transport his big blacksmith’s anvil to the rocks high above the east bank of the Burnt River. At dawn, the anvil was ‘fired’ to create the Need-Fire. The common method was to place a charge of gunpowder on the anvil and set off an explosion. On one occasion, too much gunpowder was used, the anvil was blown into the air and the horn or point of the anvil was bent upon landing! With William Morrison’s departure for western Canada in 1903, the “firing the anvil” ceremony was discontinued.

The next blacksmith on site was Joseph Walker. In the early stages of the motor car, he constructed his own “homemade” (or should we say Kinmount-made) version and proudly chugged up and down the main street to show of his mechanical prowess. Walker’s jalopy lacked lights, and on one occasion when he returned in the dark, his wife was forced to walk ahead with a lantern to light the way! Evidently speed was not an issue. Joseph Walker sold his business to Roy Umphrey in 1922. By then, motor cars were becoming more common and the business gradually evolved into a blacksmith/auto repair shop.

In 1946, Pat Taylor became the proprietor of the shop. He had a construction/contracting business and was a car dealer on the side. He operated two service bays and sold gasoline. Eventually everything but the gas pumps was discontinued, but today it is the only gas station in town. Lucky Taylor is the current operator.

Obituary of James Morrison, April 12, 1902

James Morrison was born in Dunblane, August 11, 1826. His parents were Alexander Morrison of Gargunnock and Jean Morrison of Campsie, Scotland.

Alexander Morrison was a young man when the Great Napoleon conquered all Europe. He enlisted in the 42nd (Black Watch) Highlanders, and fought under that gallant British General, Sir John Moore, in his brilliant campaign through Spain, which terminated in the glorious victory of Corunna, where General Moore was killed, and Morrison was severely shot through the right shoulder with a musket ball and received a bayonet through his thigh. He used to jokingly say that though the French tried to take his life, they were the means of saving it. One day in passing a bread vendor’s stall in a village through which they were passing, Morrison asked the proprietor for a piece of bread, the man shook his head with a scowl and made a pass with a knife. This roused the rage of the fiery young soldier and he raised his musket and fired at the man’s head intending to blow it off, but the bullet only took off the man’s nose.

The soldier was arrested immediately, court-martialed and sentenced to be shot. His belts were taken off and a party of his own comrades were about to take him out to be executed when the bugles rang loud and clear. The French were attacking! No time to carry out a death sentence then, every man and the condemned man also joined in the charge and drove the French back. It is said that the French were the means of saving his life, he never charged them with greater spirit than at this time. Finally, he reached his native land and settled down quietly as a peaceful citizen, enjoying a small pension as long as he lived.

James Morrison was the youngest son and after he grew up he made up his mind to emigrate. In the year 1854, James Morrison and Miss Mary Heddle of Edinburgh, were united in marriage. Miss Heddle was born in the Manse, Parish of Firth, Orkney, Scotland. In the year ’56, he calculated to go to Australia, but through some error, or mistake in getting their papers, he changed his mind and sailed for Canada, with his wife, mother, infant son and landed in Peterborough in July. He lived in the town of Peterborough for about two years, working principally for the woollen mills, and he was a carder and spinner as well as a weaver. His partnership business in the mills not proving satisfactory, he moved into the Township of Smith, on the Communication Line, near the 4th concession, where he followed custom weaving, a business which at that time was very remunerative, and got a great deal of his work from the famers of Ennismore. The last three years he was in Smith, he resided in the 3rd concession, nearly opposite where now stands the brick school house in S.S. No. 3 Smith.

His children were all born in Smith Township, except the eldest, who was born in Scotland, and the second who was born in the town of Peterborough. The eldest daughter died at the age of nine and was buried in the Little Lake Cemetery.

In the year 1869, he removed to the Township of Verulam, having bought the west half of lot 25, in concession 10, and commenced farming, not that he cared for or liked the work, but he wanted to keep the family together. He lived there quietly, improving and cultivating his farm, and doing a little at his trade of custom weaving, until about six years ago, when he decided to give up farming and removed to Kinmount, as two of his sons and his two daughters were already settled there. He was a keen fisherman and in the summer was to be found very often on the banks of the Burnt River with his fishing rod and tackle.

Mr. Morrison was a staunch Presbyterian from his youth up, having joined the Free Church of Scotland, when a lad. He was an elder for some years in the Bobcaygeon church and also in the Kinmount Presbyterian Mission Band. He even took a deep interest in everything pertaining to the Presbyterian cause, but he was in no ways a bigot, as he attended the meetings of other denominations, principally Methodist and Baptists, and aided them whenever he could. For years he was the superintendent of the Union Sabbath School in Verulam and Harvey.

In his early fifties, while in Scotland, he joined the temperance movement, and always took an active interest in the cause. In politics he was a Liberal and always gave to others the same liberty of opinion that he claimed for himself. He was a great reader, and had taken the Bobcaygeon Independent from its first issue, Mrs. Morrison having now in her possession the first copy of the first volume. Of a family of nine brothers and sisters, one brother survives, Mr. David Morrison of Falkirk, Scotland.

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