Tag Archives: auctions

Burns Westra and Walker Auctioneers

Burns Westra and Walker Auctioneers

“Oh, and you can take that old lamp over there, if you think you can get anything for it,” the woman said, pointing to a small, dust-covered lamp sitting neglected in the corner. “That thing’s been sitting around for years.” Joe Westra glanced casually at the lamp, and when he saw it, he smiled. Westra, a professional auctioneer called by the woman to auction off some of her belongings, knew he was looking at a Pairpoint, an American lamp from the early 20th century that had been reaching higher and higher prices at auctions throughout North America.

“I decided to wait and see how much it got and surprise her,” says Westra. It was a nice surprise. The old lamp sold at auction for $625. “It’s really nice when things like that happen, when people have something they don’t know is valuable, and then you can surprise them with a nice cheque they weren’t expecting,” says Westra. For nine years, Joe and Jill Westra have been running Bytown Auctioneers, and they’ve had more than few such pleasant surprises along the way. “One of the best things about this business is going out to someone’s house not really knowing what to expect and then coming across a beautiful item in good condition. You just hope that when you have the auction, it gets the price it deserves.”

Bytown is one of several companies in the Ottawa area that hold regular auctions to sell off items from family estates. The auctions regularly draw hundreds who engage in frenzied bidding on what were once beloved family heirlooms. The companies may be asked to sell a few select items from a home or they may be asked to auction off anything and everything they think they can sell, from paintings and furniture and Persian rugs to pearl necklaces, sterling silver, china, crystal and vintage clothing. Often, an elderly person has to move into a small apartment or old age home, or has died, and the family wants to dispose of the household goods. In either case, says Westra, a visit to the home by an auctioneer to evaluate the items can be an emotional time.

“Many of our clients are older couples, and it can be a sad, traumatic time for them, saying goodbye to the things that have been around them for years,” says Westra. “But they’re in a position where they don’t have a choice. I try to make it as easy on them as possible, taking my time, sitting down to tea with them, not just rushing in and putting a price on everything.”

On the search for sellable items, auctioneers will examine a home thoroughly, even going through trunks, dressers, closets and attics. “You really go through a family’s history when you go through all the things they have had through the years, things that have obviously meant a lot to them,” says Westra. “It’s sort of sad. You go through boxes of old photographs which no one wants and you end up throwing them out.”

While some companies will take only furniture, jewelry or art, Westra’s company will even auction appliances (separately from furniture) and old clothing.


“There’s a very high demand for nice old clothes. Things like beaded flappers’ dresses and babies’ gowns sell very well.” Westra says he loves the “sense of anticipation” he feels when he visits a home, “always wondering if you’ll come across a treasure,” but he says such discoveries don’t always have happy endings. “One woman had a really rare, large Pairpoint lamp that I was sure would have sold for about $2,000 or more, but she didn’t want to part with it. Later she called me and said I could have the base, because she had tripped over it and broken the shade. But it was the shade that made it valuable. I think we got $80 for the base. That was sad.”

Antique Reverse Painted Pairpoint Lamp Artist Signed W. Macy Landscape  Scene For Sale at 1stDibs
Pairpoint Lamp

Peter Walker, who runs Walker’s Auctioneers and Appraisers, an Ottawa company founded by his father in 1932, says auctioneers are looking for anything of quality that they think will sell. “We don’t judge something so much by how old it is, but by how well it’s made. It doesn’t have to be more than 100 years old for us to sell it.” He said it would be rare to come away from a home empty-handed. “Most people have at least a few things that are worth auctioning.” Walker says people have several reasons for selling through an auctioneer rather than an antiques dealer.

“Many antiques shops specialize in one thing or another. You may have to go all over to find one shop that will take the china, one that will take the furniture. We take it all at once.” With an auction, he says, “there’s also the chance that you can get a very good price for certain items if you’ve got several people at an auction who are determined to get them.”Conversely, an item may not fetch what it’s worth, if there isn’t more than one buyer seriously interested in it. But if they wish, sellers can usually set a minimum price below which they don’t want their items sold.

“We’ll let someone set a minimum, but I make sure they’re being realistic,” says Westra. “I tell them if they haven’t got a chance of getting the price they’re asking.” For people who attend auctions, the appeal is that they may find a one-of-a-kind item they couldn’t find elsewhere or that they may get something for a lower price than they would pay in a store, says Walker.

“There are people who have a specific interest in collecting, like china cups or Royal Doulton figurines or certain kinds of glass, and they come to all the auctions hoping they’ll find another piece for their collection. If there’s a piece they want, they’ll often spend almost anything to get it.”

Others, he says, just go hoping to get things they need for their home at a bargain price. Auctioneers make their money by charging commission on all sales, usually between 10 and 20 per cent of the total value of the goods sold. But the firms’ rates and fee structures vary, so anyone who is interested in having an estate auctioned should call various companies for a thorough explanation.

Some companies will agree to negotiate their usual commission if a seller has an unusually good collection of items that are expected to bring high prices. Walker says that for some reason, many people are still intimidated by attending or selling things at auctions. “I think they’ve heard the stories about people accidentally buying something when they scratched their noses or took their glasses off. But it doesn’t work that way. People get the hang of it very quickly.” And once they do, he says, they often start attending auctions on a regular basis, reading the Citizen’s classified pages every Thursday, when the upcoming auctions are announced.

“There are people who go every weekend, even if they aren’t planning to buy something, just to see what’s being sold and what prices they’re getting and to socialize with the other regulars,” says Walker. For more than 15 years, Nepean resident Doug Rourke has been an auction regular, attending auctions in search of household furnishings at good prices. “I’m surprised more people don’t go to auctions. They’re a great way to get things at unbeatable prices,” says Rourke. “You can almost always find things of very good quality at prices you couldn’t match at a store.”

When Rourke wanted a new colour television, for example, he patiently scanned the auction ads until he found an announcement for an electronics store that was going out of business. The advertisements often list in detail what will be sold. One item was a 21-inch television with remote control. By calling other stores he found out the selling price was about $700. At the auction, he got the television for $310. He attended a recent auction to find some furniture his son will need this fall when he heads back to Kingston for his second year at Queen’s University. He got a never-used office desk for $50 and an 11-foot long, six-piece sectional couch for $200. “You can get most couches for $100 or less, but we really needed a sectional, so I paid more than usual,” he said.

Though he says he doesn’t particularly need anything for his home anymore, he still occasionally attends previews, held earlier in the day or the day before the auction to give customers a chance to examine the items that will be sold. “You should always go to the preview, so you can examine the things and talk to the auctioneer. about them. They’re usually very honest and point out any flaws,” he says. “You should never just go to an auction and start bidding on something you haven’t seen before. The preview is your chance to examine what you’re getting.” At previews, auctioneers are happy to give customers an indication of what a particular item has been selling for, although they stress no auction is predictable.

“We can only give people an idea of what an item has reached at previous auctions,” says Westra. “If you have two people who really want something, the price can go much higher than it normally would.” Rourke has seen it happen. “People have gotten carried away, bidding $30 for a cup and saucer that would normally go for about $8,” he says. “The regulars just look at each other and shake their heads.” He says it doesn’t take very long for newcomers to get a sense of what various items are selling for, and to plan appropriate bids if they are interested.

“I set a maximum of, say $100 for something, and then I might go five or 10 dollars over that if the bidding is slow. But then you don’t go higher. If you get carried away, you’ll regret it and you may end up paying more for something than you would in a store.”‘


The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
15 Aug 1988, Mon  •  Page 54

The Armour Sisters Auction

So Who was this Auctioneer?

Tales from an Auction–Everyone Knows a Hillside Johnny!

H B Montgomery Auctioneer

50 cents I ’m bid–Auctioneer Clayton Hands

The Auction of the Year in Carleton Place

Howard McNeely- I Aim to Please

 “Sale” Fairs — Crops and Sometimes Fair Damsels

 “Sale” Fairs — Crops and Sometimes Fair Damsels


Sale Fairs were a huge rural feature. One of the old time customs of holding fairs every spring and fall was for the disposal of farm produce and other merchandise. They were,  the old timers say, the occasion of lively gatherings and shared with political meetings, camp meetings, etc, the opportunity for early settlers to meet in social converse and exchange greetings, as well as dispose of their wares and maybe wives.
Fairs of 1851 
Among the fairs established in 1851 were those located at:
South March. Cross Roads lot 8 con. 6 Huntley
Sand Point
Pakenham and Fitzroy Harbor
In 1852 Lot 13 con. 8  Renfrew Co Village of Ramsay township of Ramsay; and the village of Ross.
Renfrew co. were established as market centres.
You can also read: The Country Fairs 1879

Between the late eighteenth and the mid-nineteenth century there was a strange and fascinating custom called wife-selling. During this period there wasn’t a year without a newspaper report of a court case involving the sale of a wife. Between 1780 and 1850, around 300 wives were sold in England.

In Lanark County and surrounding area a few men did not think their wives worked hard enough, or were tiresome, and exchanged or bartered them at the local fairs or in private.  Since the sheriffs were in charge of these events, they were either done in secret or they looked the other way. I wrote a story about a woman and her children in Drummond who was sold by her husband to the neighbour and I can’t find it. The woman ended up being happier with her neighbour as her previous husband had been a piece of work. It is bad enough trying to trace folks with wives dying early from childbirth and the widower remarrying 3 or 4 times, but this gets to be a tad confusing.

The first divorce was established in 1857 and before that it was very difficult and costly to dissolve a marriage. The average man could not afford an annulment and the only alternative to divorce was to separate through the process of a public sale. In poor districts, a wife was considered a chattel to be bought and sold like any other commodity.

The husband would take his wife to the marketplace or cattle auction in England and register his wife as a good of sale and a rope was placed around her neck, waist or wrist, and they were made to stand on an auction block.

It was an illegal practice but also the only alternative for the average man and the authorities turned a blind eye to it. In most 18th- and early 19th-century sales, the woman usually was sold in a cattle market. Payment often was based on her weight.

There was one wife who turned the tables on her spouse by suggesting she would sell better in a different town. She then had him shanghaied for a long cruise, leaving her with their home and possessions. Feminists who opposed the practice often used stones and weighted socks to disrupt some sales. They actually caused one auctioneer to seek protection.

When the deal was done they would go to the local tavern to celebrate the successful transaction. Almost every single wife went on sale or to an auction of her own volition and held a veto over where she went next. In many cases, the sale would be announced in advance in a local newspaper and the purchaser was arranged in advance. The sale was just a form of symbolic separation.

Have you read?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?–A Tall Lanark County Tale about Wives, Cattle and Tomfoolery


 - WIFE SELLING Still a Rude Commercial Form in...

Clipped from

  1. Messenger-Inquirer,
  2. 30 Dec 1903, Wed,
  3. Page 5 - Wheat Wlvks Wer Sold. A century or to ago wife...


    A Smith’s Falls “Frustrated Young Love’s Dream” Purdy vs Lenahan

  4. Sixteen Wives– What Do You Get? Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

  5. I’m so Sick of that Same Old Love — Bigamous Relations in Lanark County

    James Watson– Bigamy and Shoes

    A Smith’s Falls “Frustrated Young Love’s Dream” Purdy vs Lenahan

    She Came Back! A Ghost Divorce Story

    One Night in Almonte or Was it Carleton Place?

    Bigamists? How About the Much Married Woman? One for the Murdoch Mystery Files

    Bigamy–The Story of Ken and Anne and Debby and Cathy and…

Memories of Conversations With Johnny

Memories of Conversations With Johnny

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When I was a child my father would bring me to many Eastern Townships rural auctions. We would sit for hours on hard wooden benches in some old barn while he bought a lot of old furniture he didn’t need. During that period of time I learned a lot and bring that knowledge with me every single time I venture into a thrift shop or an estate sale. I might not be a mathematician, but I can tell you when things were made and how much they’re worth pretty quickly.

My Dad met a pair of elderly twins at those auctions that had lived in the hills of the Eastern Townships for most of their lives. One of them had been nicknamed Hillside Johnny. Johnny was a recluse and seemed to talk to just a chosen few, and very few seemed to be on that list. When the folks at the auctions spoke about him and his home,it was said that his was not “a home of culture”. The more they talked about him, the more curious I became.
John used to walk up and down the length of the auction barn sporting a strange shirt, soiled pants, well worn work gloves and “highwater” pinkish underwear that seem to explode above his pants. Every 15 minutes his hat seemed to change like magic and the holes in his socks appeared larger.
As the long-haired man spoke here and there to some I overheard that his brother lived with him, but they had not spoken in 5 years. He no longer used his kitchen after they converted it into an extra bedroom and cooked on a hot plate in a disgusting over-crowded garage. This in a home in a highly sought neighbourhood in Bromont with a view that would soon cost mega dollars.
I listened carefully as Johnny told my Dad that he had not driven a car in years, but instead rode his bike the 3.5 to 5.5 miles up and down the hills that would give a younger man a heck of a workout.
Each time my Dad saw him he handed Johnny something in a coloured shopping bag that seemed to match his underwear. What was in that bag? I never found out, and after the auction John used to slowly wander down the road clutching the bag along with a significant body aroma trailing him.
In my life I have always been called different, but some days I wonder if I am slowly morphing into the same classification as Johnny? Will I too some day cook on a hotplate inside a garage after my vintage clothing collection takes over my home? Maybe we all have a little Hillside Johnny in us, and being weird is kind of like being a limited edition. Johnny was just something that people didn’t see that often, and maybe strange was all he had– or wanted. After all, an original has always been worth more than a copy, and that’s the way it should be.
Glenn van der Werff I read that very nice piece of yours the other day Linda. Thanks for sharing it. I recall there being a weekly or monthly auction in the barn at Moynan’s home near the apple orchards on the road between Cowansville & Farnham. They mostly sold cattle but there could have been other stuff too. 🙂 Keep on writing.

Tales from an Auction–Everyone Knows a Hillside Johnny!




When I was a child my father would bring me to many a rural auction where we would sit for hours on hard wooden benches in some old barn while he bought a lot furniture he didn’t need. During that period of time I learned a lot and took that knowledge with me every single time I ventured into a thrift shop or an estate sale. I might not be a mathematician, but I can tell you when things were made and how much they’re worth pretty quickly.


My home is filled with Lanark County finds from estate sales and acutions. Most of my clothing is vintage, and yes, to put it bluntly, comes from dead people. Sometimes I argued with the customer once in awhile when I volunteered for the Oakland Children’s Hospital Thrift Shops in California,

“Where do you think all this stuff in thrift stores comes from?”

In California the auction is a lost commodity, and every Friday estate sales leap out at you from Craigslist by the hundreds. Every single Friday was once dedicated to seeking the cheap, the unknown, and meeting really interesting people. One of these sales found me sitting on a curb with two twins in their 70’s discussing sales and life for a few hours until the sale opened up.

I told them of a strange estate sale I attended last year where handcuffs were hanging from the ceiling and hundreds of naked pictures were glued to the wall of the garage. One has to wonder what the surviving family thought when entering Grandpa’s home and seeing he enjoyed more than reruns of“The Waltons.”


All Photos by Linda Seccaspina

The elderly twins had lived in the hills for almost 40 years and told me of a strange neighbour they felt was out of the Twilight Zone that had been named Hillside Johnny. John was a recluse and seemed to talk to just a chosen few, and they weren’t one of the few. The more they spoke about him and his house that was not “a home of culture” as they said, the more curious I became.

It didn’t take long before Hillside Johnny walked up and down the street sporting a “shirt”, soiled pants, well worn work gloves and highwater pinkish underwear that seemed to explode above his pants. Every 15 minutes his hat seemed to change like magic, and the holes in his socks got bigger.


The long-haired man spoke here and there to some, and I found out that his brother lived with him, but they had not spoken in 5 years. He no longer used his kitchen after they converted it into an extra bedroom and cooked on a hot plate in a very over-crowded garage. This in a home in a highly sought neighbourhood in the Berkeley Hills with a view that costs millions  of dollars.

I watched as he seemed to take us all in with some sort of amusement, and told whoever would listen that he had not driven a car in years, but instead rode his bike the 3.5 to 5.5 miles up and down the hills that would give a younger man a heck of a workout.



As he stood behind me in the final moments before the sale opened, the organizer handed him something in a pink paper shopping bag that matched his underwear. What was in that bag? No one found out and John disappeared from the line wandering down the road clutching the bag with a significant aroma trailing him. Would he add whatever was in that bag to his collection in the garage I silently wondered?
After that final thought we all marched into the house and mayhem and bedlam ensued. I opted not to get the vintage 70’s Levi Strauss pants and instead purchased a teapot purse and more sunglasses. My sons still shake their head when they see my attire and collections, just like how we viewed Johnny I guess– and their late father always asked them what they were expecting from me and said,

“You know your Mother has always been a little different!”

Just like Hillside Johnny I guess…. oh well–all- Johnny B Goode:)



Related reading:

Howard McNeely- I Aim to Please

H B Montgomery Auctioneer

50 cents I ’m bid–Auctioneer Clayton Hands

Antique Furniture? The End of an Era?

In the Year 1923 —- “BHM”– (Before Howard McNeely)



So Who was this Auctioneer?


We have Clayton Hands, HB Montgomery and Howard McNeely– so who is this Lanark County lad?

Thank you Joann Voyce-The Hollingers. Father and son from Fergusons Falls


November 12, 2016- Did You Know?

Charles Hollinger Sr. w as a farmer and cattle drover who shipped livestock and cattle drover until he died in 1945. He became an auctioneer in  the 1890s and his son John and grandson Charles continued the tradition. In 1896 it cost a whopping ten dollars for an auctioneering license for the County of Lanark for that year. How much would it be today?


Photos-Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

Howard McNeely- I Aim to Please

H B Montgomery Auctioneer

50 cents I ’m bid–Auctioneer Clayton Hands

Howard McNeely- I Aim to Please




Photo–Here it is, of course I’m on a booster too.
I believe that’s my first hair cut Photo–Donovan Hastie
EnerCare Home Services


Linda Gallipeau-Johnston– The best thing I remember about Howard McNeely is him driving around in his car with the big speakers on the top and telling everyone to come out to the Tombola at Central School yard. That’s the way stuff like that got around in the 50’s. I’m sure he did it for other stuff too – but that’s the one that caught my ears at 7yrs. I just remember how he could drum up excitement doing that!

Author’s Note- Lynda I still use the word “tombola” LOL and people give me the strangest looks.

Ann Stearns Rawson –Do you remember going to the Tombolas? I remember one in particular because my dad was working at it for the IOOF (I think).

Debbie RoyHoward used to call for square dancing all around the county while my Grandpa Shail played fiddle, my Nanny Shail played piano, my Dad on guitar, and my Uncle on banjo. He was such a fun-loving guy!

Nancy Hudson Yes I remember Howard calling sqare dances at local dances, he really kept everyone on their toes and was always the life of the party. He also served as Mayor for quite a few years and his barbershop first beside Woodcock’s Bake shop and later down the street at the corner of Elgin[Emily] st. was always a meeting place for local men.

Christy Zavitske McNeelyMy mom Tina McNeely worked for him as the auctioneer recorder??? Secretary???

Dale LoweI remember the inside of his barbershop….little things like the Export A calendar that hung on the wall. When you were small, Howard placed a padded board across the arms of the chair so your head was at at a good level for him. It was a memorable day when you were finally tall enough to get your first haircut without that board…a rite of passage!
                              Photo-Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

“Will somebody make it twenty?”

Howard McNeely has been seeking bids for 40 years

By Mary Cook

Carleton Place Canadian, 1987

Forty years ago a large broad axe fetched a quarter.  Today, if it’s really old it could command a lofty $60.  The crowds were smaller back then, and Howard McNeely, the newest auctioneer in the valley knew just about everyone by his first name.  But times have changed since that day almost 40 years ago when Howard thought he could do what he had been watching other auctioneers do for years.  He thought…..”there’s nothing to this.  All I have to do is stand up on the platform or the back of a truck and ask for bids.”  Well, it turned out not to be quite that simple.

A young Howard McNeely had been following the local auctions for years.  He never paid too much attention to the “stuff” being sold, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the auctioneer.  He was fascinated with the fast talking, the rapport with the crowd, and the obvious delight when a bid was over.


Photos-Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum


Actually, Howard had had plenty of experience on the stage by the time he first tried his hand at auctioneering, so he wasn’t walking into the job cold.  For years he had an orchestra that toured the Ottawa Valley, and he was well acquainted with standing up before people.  He is probably one of the few people who had an orchestra but never mastered a musical instrument.  But that didn’t stop him from enjoying the toe tapping valley music everyone loved.  He really had two orchestras.  One was a rag tag group who got together for the sheer love of valley music.  It included Ab Duncan, Stewart Comba, Les Neild.  When he wanted to fancy things up a bit he added Jack Peckett and Les’ daughter Elsie on the piano.  Howie kept up a steady patter between songs and dances and found it pretty easy to entertain the crowd, so that the first time he took to the platform at an auction sale, he wasn’t even nervous.  “I had been so used to being in front of people, that I never gave it a thought.  And besides, in those days you knew everyone…everyone!” he said.

Not so today.  Even if the faces of the collectors and dealers are familiar, Howard often doesn’t get to meet them personally.  For that reason, and because the crowds are so much bigger now, Howard finally had to go to a number system like the big auctioneers in the city.  The crowd didn’t like it when he first introduced numbers about 15 years ago, but as he said, times had changed.

Howard’s first sale was on Park Avenue, “just across the fence from where I was born and raised”, and Burnett Montgomery was the auctioneer who set out to show Howard the ropes.  Burnett had been auctioneering for a long time, and the partnership was to last for 30 years.  “All that time we never had a disagreement.  It was a great relationship.  We got along well, and I learned a lot from Burnett” he admits.



Photos-Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum


The biggest sale Howard ever held was when he sold the Mississippi Hotel by public auction.  All the furnishings went too, and then the big stone heritage building was put on the block.  Howard lives by the adage that discretion is the better part of valor, and insists he cannot honestly remember what the landmark building sold for.

One of the longest running auctions was on a farm on the old Ashton road that took three days to complete.  “It was loaded with antiques, and the dealers were there from all over.  The prices held up for the full three days too” he remembers.

There are items today that couldn’t be given away 40 years ago.  Old milk cans command a good price now, and Gingerbread clocks which sold for $10 in the 50’s would be considered a good buy today if you paid a mere $100.


Photos-Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum


Although he won’t say from which sale it sold, Howard recently got the bidding up to $6,800 on an old corner cupboard.  “Forty years ago, you’d consider it a pretty good sale if you got that for a whole house full of furniture.”

Over the years Howard has always tried to keep a good sense of humor.  Early in the game he learned if one person in the crowd was entering into the spirit of the sale by bantering back and forth with the auctioneer, you capitalized on that.  Just last week one woman seemed to be in perfect sync with Howard.  They both ended up cracking jokes throughout the entire sale much to the delight of the crowd.

In the early years Howard has sometimes inadvertently sold the same item twice.  It can happen.  Two different helpers will hand Howard the same item after it has been sold….but as a rule the crowd is astute, and there is always someone there to holler, “Hey, McNeely, you’ve already sold that once today.”

Howard remembers an incident from years ago that still makes him chuckle today.  “It was a large sale, with two or three people in on it.  Someone handed me up a baby carriage.  It was in pretty good condition too.  It was one of those old fashioned jobs.  You don’t see them around anymore.  Anyway, I asked for a bid and got one right away.  The bidding went pretty high too.  And it sold to someone.  Then this woman came to me in an awful sweat.  It seems she brought her baby to the sale in the carriage, and was just off looking at something else when I sold it.  Everyone thought it was very funny, because I had to get the carriage back.  The people who bought it were just loading it into their car.  I was a bit embarrassed, but those things happen.”





Photo of H B Montgomery and Howard McNeely-Photos-Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum


Right from the day Howard started auctioneering 40 years ago, he has always been on the lookout for stealers.  He remembers one sale where two women were busy loading their shopping bags with small things at a sale.  “But unknown to them Herb Cornell, the Chief of Police was watching them.  It was his day off, and of course they didn’t know he was a policeman.  When he showed his badge they put everything back in a hurry.”

At another sale many years ago, he was aware of a big jackknife that was in the auction.  “It was a beauty..very old, and huge, with a handmade wooden handle.  During the sale I remembered it and asked my helper to hand me the jackknife.  Well, it was gone.  It vanished in a couple of seconds.  That’s all i


The biggest sale Howard ever held was when he sold the Mississippi Hotel by public auction.  All the furnishings went too, and then the big stone heritage building was put on the block.  Howard lives by the adage that discretion is the better part of valor, and insists he cannot honestly remember what the landmark building sold for.-Mary Cook


Related Reading

H B Montgomery Auctioneer

50 cents I ’m bid–Auctioneer Clayton Hands


In the Year 1923 —- “BHM”– (Before Howard McNeely)

So was there Money Hidden in the Schwerdtfeger House?



Bertha Mayhew Schwerdtfeger, wife of Henry Schwerdtfeger & mother of Hazel & Gladys Schwerdtfeger

All  Photos from  the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum


A few years ago at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum we did a well-attended hat show in memory of Bertha Schwerdtfeger who once had a hat store where the As Good as New store is on Bridge Street. Bertha Mayhew ended up marrying the tobacconist named Henry Schwerdtfeger next door and after she married she retired from her business and had two daughters Hazel and Gladys. Much has been told about the two odd sisters of Lake Ave West, but I wish I would have met them as they were quite the characters.

Gladys died in 1982 and Hazel died a few years later. There were rumours abound about those two gals and very few had been invited inside their home. It has been said time and time again if you were called to fix something in the house once you went in that house you were locked in until lunch or quitting time. As few ever got inside the front door you can imagine they came in droves to the huge estate sale that was held after Hazel died.


The museum inherited many old millinery trims and feathers from Bertha’s old shop. Some of the visitors to the exhibit said they had never seen anything like it before. A few feathered birds were still even filled with traces of arsenic, as that is how hat accessories were made in those days.


As hundreds sat in that yard that day buying bits and pieces of Carleton Place history tales of those two sisters continued. Truth be told, no one might have come into their home but the two of them did participate in the various senior events around the area. As you can imagine the two two sisters were very close and they used to walk one behind the other on the streets of Carleton Place when they attended church or went shopping.

Hazel became a nurse and only worked a short timeher mother Bertha became ill. After their mother died the two sisters stayed in the home until Gladys died in 1982 and Hazel now found herself alone. A neighbour, the late Joan Kehoe then became Hazel’s closest friend and helped her with what she could.


So that day the contents of the Schwerdtfeger family home was sold in its entirety and one more page was turned forever on another one of Carleton Place’s older families. But, since there were rumours abound about the sisters, it was said that they kept money hidden in the house. Like one of those lucky buyers on Storage Wars word travelled quickly that someone had bought a box of odds and ends containing $2000 of King George’s bills.

Auctioneer Howard McNeely denied it so did Joan Kehoe who had packed every single box. The both of them were probably quite correct, but you still hear the whispers on the streets of Carleton Place about the Schwerdtfeger house on Lake Ave West that was supposedly full of money.



Linda Gallipeau-Johnston I My Mom knew the sister’s well as they bought garden produce from her every year. I can remember them dickering over price. My Dad used to refinish furniture for them and the same dickering went on. They were just part of the package of living back then.


Related reading:

The Schwerdtfegerisms of Tobacco and Gambling

Bertha Schwerdtfeger — Mother of the Carleton Place Schwerdtfeger Sisters