Tag Archives: harold kettles

The Harold Kettles Series – Blowing up Beaver Dams in Beckwith

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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.

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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. 

 

historicalnotes

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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.

 

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Evelyn Kettles with Peggy Saunders

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Evelyn Ketttles

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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 where.lol 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

The Harold Kettles Series –Sandpit Blasting 1884

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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.

 

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For all the tunneling, blasting, mining, trenching, dredging and excavation to be made possibl–people needed explosives. To chip away at rock for hours was ineffective when you could instead blast the rock apart and then just simply carry away the leftover pieces. Easy in theory, very difficult in practice.

The biggest problem, apart from this, was the unpredictable nature of early explosives. People knew it was unstable and that a jolt could cause it to blow up, but the problem was…they didn’t know how much of a jolt. You could strike a bottle of nitroglycerine with a hammer and nothing could happen. Or you could jump up and down with a bottle in your hand and it would blow up in your face.

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It was for all these reasons, it’s legendary instability and frustrating unpredictable nature, that a safer explosive had to be found. Something that could be safely transported, safely carried, safely detonated without the risk of exploding unexpectedly. Like this story.

Carleton Place Herald  1884 –While engaged in opening up a sand pit one of our local men made use of dynamite to facilitate operations. After lighting the fuse he retired to a safe position in a cellar to await further developments, but when the dynamite failed to explode in what he considered a reasonable time, he proceeded to hold an investigation as to the cause. While thus engaged, the dynamite went off, landing him about a rod from the excavation, but what was strange was that he received no serious injury, escaping with the loss of only his eyebrows, moustache and right ear.

 

Related reading:

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

 

historicalnotes

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The Use of Black Powder and Nitroglycerine on the Transcontinental Railroad

 

 

 

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

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Over a decade ago a Lanark inspector was shot and I thought it was an isolated case. Not likely around these parts pardner.

Perth Courier, April 11, 1884

A dynamiter has written a letter to the Carleton Place assessor in which he threatens to blow that official skywards.

The document was embellished with a skull and crossbones and other ghastly reminders of immediate mortality.

So what is an assessor? That would be an individual who is a local government official who estimates the value of real property within a city, town, or village’s boundaries. This value is converted into an assessment, which is one component in the computation of real property tax bills.

There was no mention of death in the next issues of the Courier or the Almonte Gazette, so I assume things were worked out some way or another.

Was this shades before the time of my hero Dan Miller of the Queen’s Hotel who also fought with the town of Carleton Place assessor? I do believe my favourite Carleton Place folk hero Harold Kettles was around at that time. Maybe he could have hooked Dan up with some dynamite?

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Clipped from

  1. The Ottawa Citizen,
  2. 21 Nov 1906, Wed,
  3. Page 5

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

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I always thought my grandfather and father were spinning yarns with their dynamite stories. It seemed like it was a different and simpler time back in their day. I also vaguely recall older people talk about buying dynamite for clearing stumps or large rocks on their farms.

Was there ever a point in time when the local hardware sold dynamite to the public? Did it come with an instruction manual? In fact, until the late 60s, you could probably go to any farm and feed and/or hardware store and simply purchase it. While some would limit who they would sell it to, many would look at the license, look at you, and then make the sale. They also kept terrible records, especially for cash sales and found many suppliers had no idea as to who they had sold dynamite to.

 

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Not Harold Kettles!

 

 

When we built the addition on Campbell Street we hit bedrock almost immediately. Ange decided we could either get a chipper in or maybe blasting through the rock would be faster. Harold Kettles was known as someone who could blast through any rough spot in Carleton Place while holding a beer in one hand and dynamite in the other. He was known as the master!

Each week for a month Harold and his wife Evelyn would drop in after supper and sit a spell in the living room while Harold told Ange what he was going to do and how he was going to go about it. His wife was a lovely lady and was related to the Neilson family on the Appleton Side Road, and never flinched an inch while he talked about dynamiting up part of the back yard.

The more I heard about the blasting, the more I began to think that we were going to come within a skinny half inch of blowing ourselves to crap—let alone all the neighbours all around us.

There was no doubt that dynamiting was cheaper than bringing in a chipper for a week, but the more Harold “layeth the facts smack down” I began to realize we might be about to make a Three Stooges movie. It didn’t take long for the neighbour behind us to hear all the talk about the pending blasting and immediately complained to the town building inspector. Harold was shut down as quick as you could say Molson Canadian, and was none too happy about it either. In the end a chipper was brought in and maybe saved the neighbourhood from blowing to kingdom come. But, we will never know will we?

 

The facts come out: Thank you Jim– 🙂 Like I said-The more I heard about the blasting, the more I began to think that we were going to come within a skinny half inch of blowing ourselves to crap—let alone all the neighbours all around us.

Linda,
Part of your story was true; however, there was a little more to it. Normally, companies involved in blasting operations, use blasting matts to cover their charges. Harold was rather unique, being from the old school, and used to doing most of his blasting in the country with no houses in the vicinity , he never had a concern for perifial damage. His idea of a blasting Matt was a bucket of sand. After a visit from Harold, in his somewhat normal state of semi inebriation, to check my foundation for cracks before he began his blasting operation ( I was the neighbour behind you ) I realized ,We,being all the neighbours , could be in big trouble , if his operation was to continue. I apealed to Ange ( to no avail) to stop the ” operation”. My next option was an apeal to the building inspector and eventually to mayor Melba Barker who had the foresight to realize the likely catastrophic possibilities. As a result, Harold’s operation was shut down, but not before a visit the next morning from Harold, in a full inebriated state, wanting me to come out on my front lawn and settle the problem like men. In the end, we all listened to a full week of the chipper.
Jim