The Harold Kettles Series – Blowing up Beaver Dams in Beckwith


Harold Kettles of Carleton Place was an explosive man. Not only in his field of work of “explosives” but also how he could sit down and tell you stories that would pop your eyes out. A folk hero is a person, who may or may not have existed, and is famous and well liked by people, or people of a certain country. Usually it is someone who helped the common people or fought against the authorities, such as a bad king.

Well Harold was real alright– and you either liked him or you didn’t. Harold was always there with a helping hand, and as far as I know he didn’t really like kings or those in authority. They always seemed to mess with his plans. He was also a risk taker from what I knew of him, so I am combining a story of explosives in his honour called The Harold Kettles Series.



Yesterday Caroline Nembhard told me a tale of growing up just outside of Prospect. Word was Elmer Bud had a distillery over in Montague township off Boundry Rd on the Pinery Side Rd. Caroline believes there was also one on the 9th line, but she can’t recall the owners name. Oh wait, maybe it was Howard Kettles who worked with dynamite, but she is not sure. Caroline’s neighbour Bob Purdy used to visit both distilleries and come home feeling no pain shooting off his gun as per the usual ritual, but he never seemed to hit anything.

One winter in 1971 the threesome of  Purdy, Kettles and Bud had too much to drink and decided to blow up a beaver dam on Purdy’s property on the 3rd line of Beckwith. Well that beaver dam happened to be located in a very large swamp that was frozen over in the middle of January. After the Three Musketeers followed through on that promised explosion, it flooded from the 3rd line of Beckwith to the 4th in no time at all.


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Cavanagh Construction had to be called in to rebuild the Townline, now known as Ashton Stn. Rd. The morning after they blew up the dam, not knowing about any damage, Carolyn’s mom got her ready to head out to the school bus. Except, there would be no school bus that day since the road was washed out.

Caroline was 6 at the time and remembers this vividly, along with the fact she was wearing a dress and leggings. Her mom stood on the porch watching Carolyn valiantly trying to make her way down the laneway, which was now covered in water and ice. After falling a few times Caroline gave up, turned around, and went back into the house. The family was stranded in their home for a few days until Cavannagh rebuilt their driveway, and she remembers they also got a new deep ditch as they never had one before.

Their family was one of only 5 houses on the road at that time and the rest of the winter the kids played on the ice in the fields caused by that dam blowing up. As Carolyn said, this was just one of a few stories of living out on the Townline on the edge of Beckwith Township. 




Clayton Ontario History Photo
Howard Bolger at a beaver dam in the Clayton area. All the trees that are down in this area were cut by the beavers.



KETTLES, Harold Vincent – In hospital Carleton Place, Ontario on Saturday November 7, 1987, Harold Vincent Kettles of RR 1 Carleton Place, in his 63rd year. Beloved husband of Evelyn Neilson. Dear brother of Helen (Mrs. Bill Simpson), Ashton, Ontario and Hazel (Mrs. George Tinker), Santa Barbara, California, USA. Friends called at the Kerry Funeral Home & Chapel, 61 Lake Ave W, Carleton Place, Ontario. Funeral Service was held in the Chapel on Tuesday, November 10, 1987 at 2 p.m. with Rev. W. E. McDowell of Zion Memorial United Church officiating. Interment United Cemeteries of Carleton Place, St. Fillan’s Section. Donations to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario would be appreciated.



Evelyn Kettles with Peggy Saunders


Evelyn Ketttles


The pic on left is martha mccauley and right is dot miller and evelyn kettles 1967 parade .. mom is on womens inst float and evelyn and dot in front of harold kettles-photo donna mcfarlane

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Dale Costello–I think he owned the farm next to my grandfather, James Aitken on the 9th line. He lived in a beautiful stone home. There was an old sugar shack on the back end of the property, next to Kettles property. Had to careful back there as the wolves hung out nearby.

Mike Dakers– I can remember as a boy, and this was allowed, Harold coming to the farm and blowing beaver damns to smithereens: sticks,mud,water,Harold flying every It was quit an event. Good memory,Harold was quite a man, but was good at what he did.

Shawn Devlin– When I was a wee lad living at the blacks corners Store. Harold would come in for a visit and would quite often bring me a gift. One time he brought me a rain deer statue and I placed it in the window.
Evelyn came to get gas and said isn’t that neat I have the exact same thing at home. (oh no she didn’t, not anymore) lol– He would also lick his thumb mark an X on your arm and then smack you one!

Dawn Jones-I heard a story of Harold Kettles doing the blasting for the New Beer store up on Townline. He must of been quite the legend. Several stories to hear.

Related reading:

The Harold Kettles Series –Sandpit Blasting 1884

A Dy-no-mite Story About Harold Kettles of Carleton Place

The Uni-Bomber of Carleton Place? Didn’t I Blow Your Mind?

An Explosive Highway 7 Tale

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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