The Scott Carpet Saga, continued: Family History

We knew some things about the Scott Carpet from family lore — I summarized what I was able to pull together in my original post about the carpet, back in the winter. Since that original post, we’ve been connecting dots — a lot of dots. I signed up for Ancestry online and started by plotting the information we knew. My original sketch of the family tree looked like this:

Family history

Beatty/Armstrong/Scott/Gibson family tree (down to my mother’s generation)

 As Mom and I dug around Ancestry more, the tree sort of grew a little. We managed to trace Ellen’s mother’s line back to Scotland to her great-grandparents.

The family tree branched out a little as we started to research it… There are something like 850 people listed on it now, as it grows to encompass more branches of the family.

We have a handful of family photos that relate to the carpet:

Clockwise from top: The Scott Carpet; Maple Hall Farm (the home the carpet was woven for); Jean Scott MacDonald (my grandfather’s cousin) and her new husband Leslie MacDonald on the carpet; Ellen Beatty Scott; my great-grandmother Jean Scott Gibson and her new husband Maxwell Gibson on the carpet; Ellen and her children (Ellen’s on the right, my great-grandmother Jean is on the left). The Museum has copies of two of these pictures: the photo of the house and the photo of Ellen alone.

Well, here’s what the Perth Museum had to say about the carpet’s history. This comes verbatim from the signs they had posted when it was last on display in 1995.

History of the handwoven carpet

This carpet was woven by Mrs. Ellen (Beatty) Scott to carpet the Banquet Room, wall to wall at Maple Hall: lot 13 Concession 3, Bathurst Township.

The Scott family emigrated from Scotland in 1817 when James Scott and his wife Jane, having married in February sailed from Tweed in June of that year. Upon arriving in Canada, they settled on a farm (Crown land) in Elmsley Township.

They had four sons: John, Robert, William and James, and three daughters, Mary, Helen and Margaret.

William and John worked on the farm in Elmsley Township. In 1872 they bought out their sisters’ and brothers’ share of the estate which they had all inherited from their father. That same year at an auction sale in Perth the brothers bought, sight unseen a farm in Bathurst Township near Elliot Post Office (now DeWitts Corners). The farm became known as “Maple Hall Farm”. The brothers sold their farm in Elmsley Township and moved to Maple Hall. John remained a bachelor.

Ellen (Beatty) Scott’s grandparents emigrated from Paisley Scotland in 1821 and came to Ramsay Township.

In 1822 they moved to and settled in the Front of Yonge Township, Leeds County. Walter Beatty, Ellen’s grandfather, was a weaver in Paisley and continued at his trade in Canada. William Beatty, the eldest son, farmed near Young Mills with his brother Jack. In 1835, he married Ellen Armstrong and in 1839 they had a daughter, Ellen Beatty.

In 1877, William Scott married Ellen Beatty. They had one daughter and two sons. Jean married Max Gibson from the Scotch Line; John married [Mena] Hossie and settled in Toronto; James married Ethel Stewart from the Balderson area in 1912. James remained on the farm.

In 1887, Ellen went to Lansdowne for the winter and made the carpet for the banquet room in the big stone home on Maple Hall Farm. Mary Weir [William Scott’s oldest sister] came to Maple Hall to live with her brothers and sister Helen. Mary looked after the children while Ellen was away.

Ellen, working from scratch, secured enough wool to wash, card, spin, dye and weave this large carpet (17’ x 18’) woven in strips and then sewn together by hand. The carpet was in the Banquet Room of Maple Hall for 97 years and in storage for 18 years.

Ethel (Stewart) Scott, James’ wife would lift the carpet each year, hang it over the clothesline outside to air, and it was the duty of the children to beat the carpet with carpet beaters to dispel the years’ accumulation of dust. It was then re-installed each time after the wood floor had been thoroughly scrubbed by hand, covered with newspapers, and the perimeter of the carpet was secured with carpet tack. Moth crystals were placed around the perimeter before tacking it down.

In 1974, Bill Scott sold Maple Hall Farm and his sister Jessie, bought the carpet to keep it in the family. On her death in 1980, Jean (Scott) McDonald kept it in storage until it was donated to the Perth Museum in 1992 by Ellen (Beatty) Scott’s grandchildren Jean (Scott) McDonald, John (Jack) Scott and Stewart Scott, the children of James and Ethel (Stewart) Scott.

We knew that Ellen’s father was a weaver; it makes sense that her grandfather was as well, but I wasn’t quite clear on that. It’s likely that when he emigrated, James brought only the most complex mechanical portions of the looms, and rebuilt the large beams once he settled in Canada. His loom (assuming it’s what Ellen wove the carpet on) must have had a weaving surface of about 3′, so it must have been what is called a barn loom — but as a professional weaver, he probably had it in the main house rather than in a barn, so that he could weave in relative warmth year-round. (At least, I hope for Ellen’s sake that he did — she wove the carpet in winter, after all!)

We (or at least I) hadn’t known how Ellen had managed to leave her husband and children for an entire winter, to weave the carpet at her father’s. The youngest child was only about 8 years old at the time, after all. It seems that her sister-in-law Mary (William’s eldest sister) came to stay with William and the kids, AND that their sister Helen and brother John (who were unmarried) also lived with them at the time. I wonder who was with Mary’s family during that winter, or whether her kids were old enough to manage. It’s obvious that it took a lot of logistical planning and family support to weave the carpet — let alone to produce and prepare all the fibre.

We hadn’t realized how much work went into keeping the carpet in good condition, either. When you look at the carpet, you can clearly see where the edges were tacked down to the floor. There’s a strip of coarse tape (linen?) along the edges where it was tacked and ripped up every year — it seems to be part of the original carpet, as opposed to something applied later. The edges are definitely the worse for wear — but there are relatively few holes that look moth-y, and the newspaper underpadding probably helped keep both carpet and floor in better condition.

scott carpet perth museum 33

The edges are definitely in the roughest condition of any part of the carpet — this area’s in better shape than some! Notice how brilliant the colour on the underside of the carpet is.

We did know that Jean Armstrong and Jack Scott (siblings, and cousins of my grandfather) had been the ones to donate the carpet to the Museum. We also knew that Jessie (their aunt, an unmarried spinster [ooooh, that word, with all its etymological implications] schoolteacher had been the one to “rescue” the carpet when Maple Hall Farm was sold outside the family. I wasn’t clear on exactly who had lived in the house after Ellen and taken such good care of the carpet, but apparently I just hadn’t asked Granny the right questions! She and my aunt both remember visiting the house and standing on the carpet in the “banquet room” (dining room)…

[I’m going to post this now, as it’s bedtime, and a certain cohort of my uptownknitmob friends are getting antsy about “the next installment”! I’ll pick up the story tomorrow with what we learned about the construction/production of the carpet.]


Filed under Adventures, Family, Scott Carpet

4 responses to “The Scott Carpet Saga, continued: Family History

  1. Grace

    I’m “dyeing” to hear what you learned about dyeing. I love dyes, especially late 19th century synthetic dyes. They have to be chemical dyes, right? I’ll be shocked if they’re natural. By the way, hooray for conservator gloves!

    • Annie Bee

      There’s no definitive information on what she used, and it’s not like we could take apart the carpet to snip samples for testing. But we have some guesses!

  2. Pingback: The Scott Carpet Saga, Continued: The Carpet Itself | AnnieBee Knits

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