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The idea to form a national group was first considered in 1912. In 1914, however, when the war began the idea was abandoned. At the war’s end, Miss Mary MacIsaac, Superintendent of Alberta Women’s Institute, revived the idea. She realized the importance of organizing the rural women of Canada so they might speak as one voice for needed reforms, and the value of co-ordinating provincial groups for a more consistent organization. In February 1919, representatives of the provinces met in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to form the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada.
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How the Almonte Gazette was for many years the only link between certain pioneer settlers of Manitoba and the outside- world, is told by Mr. James McKelvey, who with his wife has been visiting relatives in this district before leaving on a trip to the old land.
Mr. McKelvey tells how the Gazette was the only newspaper which came into their district in these early days. His father was a faithful subscriber and a warm friend of the late Hon. W William Templeman. When the McKelvey family had faithfully perused the contents of the Gazette’s weekly budget of news it was passed on to the nearest neighbor.
A stream flowed between the two farms, and the neighbour was always on the alert for the first sign that the Gazette had fulfilled its mission on the McKelvey homestead. The creek could not always be forded and there was no boat so the McKelveys used to wrap the newspaper around a stone and fling it across the stream. Neighbor after neighbor read it for miles around and at the end it was so worn that the print was scarcely decipherable.
‘The district correspondence which appealed to the McKelvey family most was the Middleville news written over half a century ago, as it is now, by Mr. Archie Rankin. It was a strong link which bound them to their old home. Mr. McKelvey spoke affectionately of the message of cheer and friendship which the Gazette brought, to those people who in earlier days had gone forth to make a home for themselves in the wilderness.
It is doing the same today, in far places and every little scrap of news about the old home and the old friends and the old associations is eagerly read. Mr. McKelvey is a cousin of Mr. Robert Stead, the novelist, and on his visit here he was accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Stead.
1900, Friday December 21, The Almonte Gazette page 9
The Late John Menzies The Registrar for North Lanark Succumbs to His Injuries – Sketch of His Career – An Active Citizen for 55 Years – Filled Many Public Positions. Contrary to the general expectations, Mr John Menzies, registrar for North Lanark, did not rally from the injuries he sustained by a fall on the ice here couple of weeks ago. He passed away last Monday at 6 p.m., at the home of his daughter, Mr J. L. Morris, Pembroke. The announcement of his death caused general and sincere sorrow in town, where Mr Menzies had spent fifty-five years of his life, and where his gentlemanly manners, courteous bearing, and his bright social characteristics endeared him to all who enjoyed the pleasure of his acquaintance. He was one of our landmarks – conspicuous figure in our social and business life – and he will be greatly missed.
After being taken to his daughter’s home Mr Menzies seemed to improve for a time, but it soon became apparent that he could not survive the complications that arose. he realized the fact, and met the issue with a strong faith and a cheerful mind. In the closing days, like many another of those who have passed the allotted spank, he was much with those of his boyhood – with his parents and the friends of his youth in bonnie Scotland. During the midnight hours of Sunday, in spite of his weakened condition he was heard distinctly reciting the twenty-third Psalm from beginning to end; and in his semiconscious moments the watchers recognized the words that told of the old-time friends. Mr Menzies suffered little physical pain, and was patient throughout. The funeral took place today (Thursday), the remains being brought by train to his residence here, where many took a last look at the familiar features. At two o’clock a service was held at the house, conducted by Rev Mr Hutcheon, pastor of St Andrew’s congregation, of which deceased was a member; and at its conclusion a large cortege, composed of people of al classes and creeds, followed the body to the grave. The late Mr Menzies was born April 6, 1822, in Little Dunkeld, Scotland, a village which is of historic interest in the famous Vale of Athol. It is almost within gunshot of Logie Rait, the birthplace of Hon Alexander Mackenzie.
Mr Menzies was one of six children, and worked on his father’s farm till he came to Canada in 1844 – over fifty-five years ago. After coming across the Atlantic he worked for a year in a store in Bastard township, Leeds county. He came to Almonte in 1845, and had been a resident of this place for fifty-five years. After coming to Almonte he entered the store of the late Mr John Gemmill (father of Lt- Col J.D. Gemmill). After six years’ service with Mr Gemmill he was taken into partnership, the firm being styled Gemmill & Menzies. About a year later Mr Gemmill died. Mr Menzies bought out the interest of the estate in the store, and continued the business in the same place till 1853, when he built a store and residence on Queen street and moved into it. Mr Menzies owned that property at the time of his death, and occupied part of it himself.
Mr Menzies continued the store in this building till 1863, and in 1864 was appointed registrar for the North Riding of Lanark, the position being left vacant by the resignation of Mr Ormond Jones (registrar at that time) to accept a similar position for Leeds county. Mr Jones was the first registrar appointed for North Lanark, but never lived here. He resided in Brockville, and the work was done by the late Matthew Anderson, deputy-registrar, who died in the year 1867. (A coincidence may be mentioned here, viz., that Miss Anderson, daughter of the above mentioned deputy-registrar, had been for some years and is still filling the position of deputy registrar.) Mr Menzies filled the position ever since 1864, and is said to have filled the office for a longer period than any other registrar in the province. In September, 1852, Mr Menzies married Miss Mary Agnes McFarlane, of Pakenham, sister of Mrs D. Fraser, of this town, of the late Mrs Brooks, of Brockville, and of the late Robert McFarlane, of Stratford, who was for many years the able representative of Perth county in the old Canadian parliament. Mrs Menzies died in March, 1888, leaving behind her, besides husband, three children – Dr J.B. Menzies of Lachute, Que; Mrs J.L. Morris (Minnie), of Pembroke, and Mr Robert Menzies, of Victoria, B.C.
In the fifties Mr Menzies was captain and adjutant of the old militia company – in the days when the company used to drill on the 8th line of Ramsay, near the old church, and at times in Almonte, which was at that time called “Waterford.” For a great many years Mr Menzies was an influential member of the Almonte school board, and was one of the most active in securing the establishment of the Almonte high school, which was opened in January, 1871. He was returning officer for North Lanark many times. He was justice of the peace for thirty years or more. He was a member of the Ramsay council for one year – before Almonte became a separate municipality. Mr Menzies was always a good businessman. He was president of the Ramsay Woolen Cloth Manufacturing Company, which was organized at a joint stock company in 1850, and was the first woolen factory in Almonte. In 1852, when the mill was nicely in operation, it was destroyed by fire. Mr Menzies was the first president of the North Lanark Agricultural Society, a position he held for two or three years, and was for many years on the board of directors. In recent years he filled the position of an auditor for the society. It will thus be seen that Mr Menzies served his day and generation in a great many capacities, and that his experiences in life were many and varied.
Possessed of a high degree of intelligence and an excellent education, he always took an intelligent and cautious view of all public matters. Blessed with a good memory, he was full of interesting reminiscences of the “good old days,” and found pleasure in relating them to his younger friends. In politics, before he was appointed to office, he was an active an influential member of the Liberal party. Mr Menzies was hale and hearty for a man 78 years of age, and but for the unfortunate accident he met with he would probably have reached the nineties. But he had gone to his reward, leaving memories of a pleasing personality and a genial cordiality which will not soon be forgotten.
This seventeen-room house—all rooms interlinked—was built in 1853 by John Menzies, a school trustee, township councillor, and registrar for North Lanark. Of the Anglo-Norman style, more commonly found in Quebec, the lower half was originally used for a workshop/store and the upstairs for family living quarters. In the 1920s, it was threatened with demolition, but was saved by a local druggist, Mr. Patterson.
No one would want to spend a glorious spring Saturday cooped in a church hall debating planning issues. So the 70-odd people who gathered at Almonte United Church to tussle with the question of Ramsay township’s future may all have been a little mad. But then, the people of Ramsay Township care about the place. And Ramsay Township must soon choose its fate: to preserve itself, or let itself be transformed into a suburb.
It is an old township. People started coming here in the 1820s; people still live in houses built more than a century ago. Part of the land valley farmland: fairly flat, criss-crossed with concession roads, dotted with farmhouses and barns. The rest to the west is Shield: the roads meander over hills and around rocks and through the maple bushes that are the only crop. It is a place of split rail fences, dirt roads, stone houses; of tiny villages created around the grist and saw mills that once exploited the rivers but now have vanished or are in ruins; of families that go back seven generations and remember all of it.
It is also a place of ranch-style bungalows that look as though they were plucked from Barrhaven and tossed, haphazard, onto the protesting landscape. It is the place of Greystone Estates, Mississippi Golf Estates, Hillcrest, Carlgate, Ramsay Meadows suburban subdivisions of monstrous homes on big lots. There’s no place in Ramsay township that’s more than an hour’s drive from downtown Ottawa, and that fact has started to sink in.
“If you have a house going up here, a house going up there, that’s one thing,” protests Clarence Gemmill, who has run the Gemmill’s General Store in Clayton with his wife Betty for nearly 19 years. “But you get these subdivisions, they’re different. People are just there to sleep between trips to the city.” Ramsay Township, like so many within driving distance of Ottawa, is in danger of losing its identity as a rural Valley place, and turning into something of which only ; a Nepean politician would be proud.
The township needs to update its official plan. Two years ago, a planner hired by the township proposed a new plan at a public meeting. There was so much anger and criticism that the township council promptly scrapped the plan and started again. “It was presented as ‘Here’s what we’re going to do to you,’ ” remembers Cliff Bennett, one of the organizers of the Saturday meeting. ” ‘Over our dead bodies.”
People were angry, not so much with what the planner had planned, but that no one had asked them what they wanted. So now there are committees, and subcommittees of committees, and there are forums and discussion papers and polls and presentations. ; “You’ll have as much public participation as any municipality in the area,” promises Ben James, a township councillor. This time the people are going to be heard. Some people at the planning seminar talked about ending strip development single houses on lots along the concession roads. Some talked about clustering houses together, off the road and out of sight to protect the natural look of the place.
Some talked about imposing rules on what houses should look like. Julian Smith, a heritage architect who lives in Appleton and works in Ottawa, pleaded for a re-thinking of the planning philosophy. Forget about zoning, he argued: Forget about densities and land uses. Simply apply this rule: “Any development should be shown to improve what’s around it.” But little of what the group proposed sat well with Brian Keller. Keller is a truck driver who lives in Clayton. He came to the workshop because “I wanted to see that it was more of a full consensus of the whole population.” Everyone was going on about housing clusters and setbacks and protecting this environment and that environment.
“They’re all typical city ideas, that people are saying can work rurally,” said Keller, dismissively. The last thing he thinks Ramsay needs is more restrictions on the rights of property owners. His wife’s father has been trying to sever his farmland for years, so the children will have a place to live. But the township won’t let him. “He told me, I can’t give my land to my own family. I’ve got to wait for a politician to tell me.’ ” Councillor James understands Keller’s concerns. “Over the past hundred years, individual landowners have had autonomy in what they do with their land. And you don’t want to curtail that too much. You have to let people do what they think is best, within certain limits.” But if some people want to see controls on development, and others want to protect the rights of property owners, can there be any real hope for consensus? “Not likely,” James acknowledges. “Not in total.”
The Duncan family has been farming on the Ninth Concession since 1821. But no more. There isn’t any money in it, and the latest batch of kids are pursuing different careers. The Duncan home, built in 1870, is being turned into a bed-and-breakfast. But Don Duncan doesn’t feel like offering any heart-in-the-throat eulogy to a dying way of life. “The Ramsay township of the past doesn’t have any future. The question is, what kind of future will there be?” The township council hopes to have its new official plan by 1994, maybe 1995. There will be more meetings and more presentations and more groping toward consensus. Three new subdivisions were recently approved.
Work is well on its way to demolish the stone bridge that was so much admired for a great many years as a masterpiece of the mason’s craftsmanship. It presented quite a problem to the contractors . It is understood they intend to remove as much of it as possible from each end on the surface and then drop the rest of it into the gorge from which the larger stones will have to be retrieved.
It is likely that destruction of this sturdy stone span will present about as much trouble as erection of the new single span which will have no mid- piers but only abutments at each end. As the stone bridge comes down it becomes more apparent that it never could have withstood the heavy traffic for very long even If it had been wide enough.
The Town Council’s chief headache in connection with the new bridge is described in the underlines beneath the cut that appears above. The Council has been criticized for not grappling with these problems sooner and for leaving it to the last minute as has been the case.
It is said that some members thought they could get a fair sum of money for the old residence, but they soon found out that this was not the case especially when contractors who looked at it agreed that it could not be moved. It is said that there is little money to be made into a ring down sturdy frame house as much of the lumber is destroyed for building purposes in the process.
Not much is known about the history of this house. It had little land around it. The backyard was close to the cliff that leads down to Cannon Falls . However, people who lived in it years ago said it was a comfortable dwelling. But with the cliff behind it and the highway at its front door, it was a poor place to bring up young children. How the Council is going to get this building out of the way by Oct. 2nd when it is now Sept. 24th is anyone ’s guess. Maybe the fairies will wave magic wands over it and say hocus- pocus you old house —jump into the Bay.
Frank BlakeleyWhen the stone from the bridge was being hauled away, my dad intercepted the dump trucks, and had the drivers drop their load of stone off the edge of our property on Hope St. for fill. On the way out, the drivers got a beer for their trouble.
The worst fire that has occurred Almonte in many years broke out in the mill of the Campbell Woolen Company shortly before midnight on Monday evening. The mill was completely gutted, and Mr.. P. J. Campbell estimates his loss at $50,000, partly covered by insurance. The origin of the fire is unknown.
It would seem to have started in a frame addition to the mill which was used for the storage of wood and coal. The blaze was first noticed by a young lady shortly before midnight. She immediately telephoned the alarm in. By that time, however, the fire had made considerable headway and the flames were shooting high into the air. It was just about 12 o ’clock when the siren awoke the sleeping town. The fire brigade was quickly on the scene but it was found it impossible to save the mill. By 3 a.m. the building was completely demolished.
The building was formerly owned by the Kirben Company, makers of furnaces. It was taken over about eleven years ago by Mr. P. J. Campbell who had for a number of years been operating asuccessful textile mill at. Blakeney. Mr. Campbell states that, he will not rebuild the Almonte factory. He has had offers from several towns to relocate and he is considering these. The loss of the Campbell mill to the Town of Almonte is a serious one. Although it had not been in very active operation of hue there were prospects of a busy season in the near future. The loss to the owners is also a serious one and the deepest sympathy is expressed for Mr. Campbell and his associates.
The former Campbell Woolen Mill building originally was built in 1872 as the Almonte Furniture Company by Messrs. Kirby and Bennett and was known locally as the KirBen Building. In September of 1876 The Almonte Furniture Factory had a large fire and the town wanted it to be rebuilt even if it was thought due to indifferent management and heavy loss the furniture factory would have to close down. The shares in the company were so low that shareholders were willing going to dispose them for 30 cents on the dollar- Read-The Sad Saga of The Almonte Furniture Factory
Darlene MacDonaldLocated at south east end if Water St. Next to C.P.R. tracksWhere Drynans was.Who knew
Allan StanleyGrowing up my father’s house was the last one on Water Street before the Campbell Mill, where my Grandfather was a night watchman at one time. The mill burned down under mysterious circumstances after the owners lost “water rights” access to the Mississippi river. There was a lot of suspicion regarding the final fire… just some gossip perhaps that I had heard from elders when I was young.
Recently, Marjorie Campbell, a resident of Almonte, donated a painting of the Campbell Woolen Mill to the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum. The picture was painted at the request of Marjorie Campbell by Mr. D. R. Faire in 1979 from a photograph taken in the 1920’s. It was a gift for her husband Donald M. Campbell whose father had owned the mill. The picture had, hung in Mrs. Campbell’s living room for many hears, but she felt the picture and the story of the Campbell Mill should be hanging in the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum as a reminder of when Almonte was the center of Woolen manufacturing in Canada. The Campbell Mill was located at ‘the south-east end of Water Street, next to the C.P.R. tracks, where Brian Drynan now has his automotive repair shop. It was the only local mill that was located away from the Mississippi River, the source of power for all early mills. It was one of the earliest mills driven by steam power.
Our Heritage By Gerry Wheatley
Campbell Wollen Co.
The building originally was built in 1872 as the Almonte Furniture Company by Messrs. Kirby and Bennett and was known locally as the KirBen Building. The factory operated for many years, then had financial problems. In 1887, James H. Wylie, who owned other mills in Almonte, installed a one set flannel mill in the building, added two more sets over the next two years, and called it the Elmdale Flannel Mills. In March, 1919, Mr. P. J. Campbell of the Blakeney Woolen Company purchased the Kir-Ben building and started moving the looms and other machinery from Blakeney to the KirBen building to produce flannels. In March, 1928, a Saturday fire heavily damaged the building. The Almonte Gazette. reported that “spontaneous combustion in the dryer room’ was suspected as the cause. “An alarm was I given and the fire brigade did effective work and succeeded in confining the blaze to one department.” The damage amounted to $12,000. Later in 1928, the picture of the Kir-Ben building was printed in The Almonte Gazette with the following report below it.“Campbell Woolen Company’s Mill at Almonte which was destroyed by fire in a Monday midnight conflagration. The loss is estimated by P. J. Campbell at $50,000, partially covered by insurance.” The Campbell Woolen Mill ceased operations, the remainder of the building was demolished i and the Company was closed a few years later. I wondered whether there was any evidence left of the old Campbell Mill so I drove down Water Street to Brian Drynan’s Garage. Brian had found considerable evidence of the Campbell Mill while building his garage, house and other structures. The railroad siding to the Mill is still in place. He found stone foundation walls; a six inch cast iron pipe from the river to the Mill, thought to bring water from the river; and two large concrete slabs, one now serving as a base for propane tanks. And bricks’ lots of bricks. Brian remembers the bricks had markings on them and was told they were made in Almonte. He will try to find some of the old bricks for the museum. I am not aware of a brick factory in Almonte.
Listen to the noise..During those years Almonte was known to travelers on the trains as The Woolen Town, because the Rosamond Woolen Company, the Old Red Knitting Company, the Penman Woolen Mill, Campbell’s Woolen Mill, the Yorkshire Wool Stock Mill and Wm. Thoburn’s Woolen Mills all made the flat metallic clacking of the looms as familiar a sound of Almonte as the whistle of the CPR steam locomotive. (from roots.org)
“Now Howard Sadler, as everyone knows, is a man who walks on his heels and his toes; He lives on a farm right forninst Irishtown, growing beans and potatoes most all the year round.
He’s lived on this farm some hundreds of years, growing spinach and squash and corn in the ears, And carrots and beets and peas in the pod; Sure, all come up smiling when Howard turns sod.
In summer he’ll fill up the back of the truck with produce of garden and field and the muck, and off into town he’ll drive with the stuff, and everyone wonders “Has he brought us enough?”
He’ll stop at the houses and talk till noon bell With gossip and stories, all news fit to tell, Of things agricultural, local, historical, And nary a word of it merely rhetorical.
One day I asked Howard, in spite of his fame, “Do you mind all the Irish? Remember their names? All of your neighbours, their houses, and, well, If Irishtown talked, what do you think it would tell?”
Well, Howard, he stopped and he wrinkled his brow, He stared past the hedges, the pond and the plough, he pushed at his chin with a three-fingered hand, Took a deep breath, and thus he began,”
Sunday within the Octave of Groundhog Day. Two o’clock in the afternoon. Sun blazing full blast. Both Jean Steel and I squinting. Not a shred of cloud in sight, yet a sharp chill in the air; even so, snow melting from the woodshed roof at Howard Sadler’s place on the edge of Almonte.
A dozen polled beef cattle in the barnyard stood in the sun near the wall of the barn, stiff-legged from winter’s confinement inside, not knowing where to go now that they had been let out for the day. Thick hair on the flanks of a few of the animals was matted with clumps of manure; all were dusted over with chaff and hayseeds. Two of them ventured to walk away from the wall of the barn, but so slowly that it seemed as if they were caught in a trance. Other than twin jets of hot breath streaming regularly from their nostrils, they could have been characters in a bovine mime.
Strength, however, was stirring in the February sun, and the woodshed roof had caught the warmth and held it close, and now from the lip of the roof in at least a dozen places, water dripped steadily, plopping into little craters scoured out from the mound of snow at the entry to the woodshed. So much snow had melted that the water was splashing over the sides of the craters below, and already had formed a slick coating of ice, a barrier at the threshold of the woodshed.
Inside, three rows of stove-length, split maple, stood piled against the wall of the woodshed. A bucksaw leaned against the empty sawhorse in the middle of the shed, and on the other side of it, a pile of old fence posts lay waiting to be cut into stove lengths.
The timelessness of sawdust, chips and bark from split maple mixed in the woodshed with the promise of new life from the heat of the sun and water from the roof melting away and trying to soak into the ground. Still, the cattails standing frozen into the ice of the frog pond called out the need for patience.
Howard met us at the door.
“Let’s go inside if we’re going to talk about Irishtown,” he invited.
He led the way into the kitchen, and before the cheery fire in the Quebec heater, we sat and talked. The mica in the door of the stove glowed cherry red, and flames from the stick of burning maple danced behind the mica curtain with quiet enjoyment. From a cage, full in the face of winter sunlight streaming in the living room window, a bouncing canary with black wing tips chirruped excitedly.
“Irishtown. That’s it, is it?” Howard asked, seeking reassurance, as if Irishtown were a thing so self-evident that he found it surprising that anyone might inquire about the obvious. Irishtown had been so close to him for nigh on seventy-five years that he found himself now searching for a suitable spade to dig properly around this place called Irishtown, and show it as it was, its people, its way, but principally its people.
“Howard,” I started, “Jean Steel was asking me on Ground-Hog Day a very simple question, and I said it was one that should really be put to you for an answer.”
“I’ll try,” said Howard. And turning to Jean he said, “What was the question?”
“The question is,” Jean began, “Just where is Irishtown? Where does it begin? Where does it end? Why is it called Irishtown? That’s what I’d like to know.
“Well,” Howard began in a testing king of way, “Irishtown is where the old Irish lived in Almonte. I’d say it’s where most of the Irish families lived here years ago. Of course, things have changed a lot. I’ve lived here most of Seventy-five years now, and these old families have been my neighbors for all those years. So I remember the. I’d think that Irishtown is where the Irish lived. Is that it? But I suppose you’d like to know who were these people, and where did they live, and so on, the like of that?”
“Yes,” Jean said. “Yes, Howard, the like of that.”
Howard paused, and looked out the window past the canary in a dreamy kind of way, silent, thinking to himself, about Almonte, and Irishtown, people an so on.
Why, every town in Ontario has its Queen Street, and its King Street, and most have a Victoria Street, and in years gone by a great many had clearly defined areas of Irish because the massive emigration from Ireland tended to make Irish enclaves in many communities. Why, until a very few years ago Ottawa had its Corkstown, a small collection of houses along the railway right of way, way out west in Nepean township overlooking Britannia Bay. It had one street running off the main highway towards the scattered houses, and the street came to be called, also simple Corkstown Road.
Well, the road is still there, although little of Corkstown except the name Corkstown Road remains. Even it is paved now, and is a major artery running alongside the abandoned railway line which for nigh on a hundred years, beginning in August 1870 ran proudly as the Canada Central from Ottawa, out past Corkstown, and on to Carleton Place, to form a junction there with the Brockville and Ottawa, and a decade or so later they were both amalgamated into the Canadian Pacific Company’s main line from Montreal to Almonte and on to the Pacific at Vancouver.
And so we sat in Howard’s kitchen and went on to discuss the fact that we couldn’t think of any other place in Ontario which still has an Irishtown quite as distinct as Almonte’s, and that the closest we could find was in the Peterborough district, where a second Irish emigration, the one of 1825, and like that of 1823 to “a place with a falls on the Mississippi” under the superintendence of the same Peter Robinson, resulted in the settlement of 2500 distressed Irish from Cork, Tipperary, Waterford and Killarney on the crown lands along the Otonabee River and in the townships adjacent to Lake Chemong. And, we reflected with Howard, that even in these days, the wayfarer who travels from Peterborough on the return journey to Ennismore and takes the causeway over Lake Chemong is said, in tones full of mock solemnity and respect, to have passed over into the Holy Land.
For over a hundred years stirrings of the same king of religious fervour have animated wayfarers in Almonte on they finished their work in the mills along the Mississippi and headed out across the bridges to their homes in Irishtown. Though less elegantly phrased perhaps than those of the Ennismore Irish, these stirrings and holy sentiments of people from Irishtown found quick expression once the wayfarers turned at the blacksmith shop, came in sight of Barney Lunney’s store, and then the bridge over Jimmy Moreau’s creek, the creek that cuts diagonally across the width of Irishtown from French Hill to the Mississippi, there indeed lies the heart of Irishtown, and, well, Howard was looking back from the window. Evidently, out of his momentary reflection had come a decision.
“We’d just have to get all these old Irish people in,” he said, coming out of a momentary reverie. “Yep, begin, let’s say, on a far side of the frog pond, by Mae Gallagher’s house, and go down Ottawa street, and over to Gore.”
“As far as Jim Little’s pasture fence?” I asked.
“Yep, on that side, and take in Maude and Victoria on the other”. Howard went on.
“That takes us right to French Hill,” I suggested to Howard.
“Right. And go a little further down, even to take in Union and Main Streets.”
“Howard, that takes you past the blacksmith shop,” I offered, to see if he would put a stop to Irishtown there. But no, he did not.
“The idea is to get all these old Irish people in”, he stated, and then went on.
“We could start right here at the top of the hill where Simon Kelly lived. And just below that house were two Irish ladies named Dolan. Maggie and Fannie, worked in the woollen mills. Spinning. And across the road, that’s Ottawa Street, was Ben Bolton and next door was Theriault’s and Oakleys on the corner.”
“Theriault’s, Howard,” said Jean, “Was that an Irish family?”
“Right in the heart of Irishtown,” Howard explained. Case closed.
“Now you take Harold Street”, Howard went on, “that was all Irish. There was Paddy O’Meara, Jim Farrell, Jack Farrell, and Mick Welsh, and the Badour house on the corner.”
“Martin Dwyer’s house was across the road. Martin ran a little market garden on his lots there. And then you’d find Jim Nagle, and Frank LeClair, and the O’Reillys. The two O’Reilly girls lived a good number of years.
Howard went into another slight trance, and we wondered what would come next. It didn’t take long to find out. It was about men who worked in specialty jobs in the big Rosamond No.1 Woollen Mill.
“Next door to the O’Reilly’s was Mick McKevitt. Mick was one of the maintenance men down at No. 1 Mill. He used to run in the big engine with the steam turbine when the water went down in the river in summer time, and that engine kept the whole mill working.
Mick McGrath across the street from him was one of the loom fixers, and his brother Billy, who lived on Victoria Street, was another loom fixer. Then there was Jack Lyons. He was the head engineer and boiler man. The Lockhart’s and Elmer Boyce’s.”
“The old, what we used to call the “old” Cottage Hospital, the first hospital in Almonte, which was first started in 1908, was right there too. “On the corner across from that was Charlie Liberty’s, and then John Slattery’s. There was the Slattery house and the Slattery store. And then the Letang’s. That house is now owned by Mrs. Jim. Houston.”
“Letang,” I said. “Would that be French, Howard?”
“Couldn’t be,” Howard replied. “Next door to the Letang house was Malones, you see, and in the next house was another Malone, and they owned a store, No French there that I could see.”
“Course, all this is goin’ back some,” Howard pointed out.
“And there’s not too many in the town today would remember all these old Irish.”
“Well,” Jean said, “How could I describe the limits of Irishtown if someone asked me to put it down on paper?”
Howard was quiet for a moment, for he couldn’t get the people out of his mind. At length he turned the question round to me and asked how I would answer Jean’s query.
“I’d have to say that Irishtown is that portion on the north side of the town of Almonte which begins at any one of the cattails on the south shore of Howard Sadler’s frog pond, and fans out from there like a tom turkey’s tail feathers to reach the mount of Jimmy Moreau’s creek to the falls of the Mississippi.”
The three fingers of Howard’s right hand scraped across his chin and helped him to reflect on the accuracy of that description for an instant.
“That would seem to cover the ground” he said at length. “But that’s goin’ back some.”
All my sister’s children are sick with the measles, and she has a stepson 14 years old
who is now delirious. I think he had a setback, no doubt caught cold with it. I have
an idea he took a cold bath I am not sure tho’ because I heard him say that if any
one should get sick, they bathe in cold water and will always get well.
He heard some Indians talking in that fashion and no doubt believed it, because one day, I was cooking dinner and he came in the kitchen and was trying to get warm and his hair was wet. and I asked him where he had been and he said, he was down to the creek, so I scolded him because he was not well enough to go to the creek. But that is always the
way that the Indians talk, and now it will be no doubt a death to the little orphaned boy.
Her next letter of October 29 reveals that the young boy is dead. The letter is
rich with the significance of that death to her personally and talks about how
Margaret’s family purifies themselves and their property in response to that death.
What is shocking is that a white doctor is charging $50 to treat Indian patients
during the midst of an epidemic :
Measles has been raging at our house now for six long weeks. My own little niece
that lives with me has taken down for the last four days, and she is the last child of
the bunch to have it. And I hope to goodness, I never hear of measles again. My
sister had a relapse and we had to have an American doctor come up and he
charged us $50.00 for one visit, but she pulled through all right. He said she had
black measles. So we had to wean the baby, while the other two kids were sick a bed
too. “Believe me”, we had our hands full. I mean my brother in-law and I. I am in
hopes he does not get the disease. The little boy I was telling you about, my sister’s
stepson died a few days after writing to you. I am almost positive he took a cold plunge
in the creek.
You know how superstitious the Indians are. I had to clean house and rake the
yard and burn everything which the boy came in contact with. My sister wanted me
to burn the single buggy and I wouldn’t do it. So now I will only wash the thing with
rose bushes, which they claim drives the evil spirits away, of course I do not believe
all that, but I will have to do it to satisfy them. I even had to wash the milk cow with
rose bushes, so she will not fear me to milk her. Ain’t that funny, but my sister is
thoroughly Indian, more so than Julia and I. She is the one whom my aunt raised.
I told you about her before. And the funniest part of all this deal is that I feel creepy
to go outdoors alone at night.
The day that the boy died, I went to the post office, with the thought I would call
a priest to come and see him since he is of the Catholic faith, and it was night when
I was on the way home. I wasn’t thinking much of anything when I saw a bright
light flash up a tree, which attracted my attention and I saw a flimsy white form go
up towards the heavens, and then I was so frighten, even my horse was afraid, and
when I reached home, he had been dead fully half an hour and that was about the
same time. I had the presentment. Ain’t that stränge? but it is true Big Foot. The
the little boy always thought so much of me. And he knew I think that I went to town
for his interest, poor fellow. He was a very good boy. He was as innocent as a small
child. And I think God wanted him away from this evil world and took him away.
By November 19, 1917, she could write that all was finally well, although clearly
she had not yet recovered from her own near death experience.
During the severe winter of 1917–1918, many troops were housed in crowded and poorly heated wooden barracks or tents. Many recruits had experienced measles as children and were thus immune; however, many others, particularly families from the rural areas had not been infected and were immunologically susceptible. During the winter of 1917–1918, there were large outbreaks of measles and nearly 2,000 measles-related deaths, mostly in mobilization camps and aboard troopships bound for Europe. Most measles-related deaths among soldiers were caused by secondary bacterial pneumonias.
MOURNING DOVE’S CANADIAN RECOVERY YEARS, 1917-1919
This being an Olympic year, Almonte is moving in to grab a piece of the action. The Almonte Legion Little Olympics they plan to call it and It’s scheduled for July I, Dominion Day, 1968 at a 50-acr site built to official Olympic specifications. ‘The Almonte Legion has sponsored a July 1 track and field meet at this Ottawa Valley town 30 miles southwest of Ottawa for the past three years; and it has grown in size and quality every year on til in 1967 more than 200 of Ontario’s top athletes took part.
Runners, pole vaulters and hop-step-and-jumpers from all over the Valley and as far away as Toronto took part. Ottawa sent the Uplands Harriers and Olympia club members. In gearing this summer’s event for national recognition by the Amateur Athletes- Little Athletic Union as a top-flight Canadian track and field meet, Almonte is laying its unblemished record of triumphs in its own meet on the line.
“I think it was sheer weight of numbers,” jokes -Almonte High School track coach Don Maynard. That may be part of it, but in fact Almonte High School has dominated the Lanark County track and field scene in recent years. Almonte’s championship hopes this year are pegged on such performers as potential Canadian champ, Doug Sonnenberg. who reputedly can heave the eight – pound shot 56 feet outdoors, and pole, vaulter Ron Robinson, who has cleared close to 11 feet in intermediate “B” company.
Maynard and his troops would like a head-on collision with perennial Renfrew County champions from Arnprior District High School. Amprior athletes have won the Renfrew. County meet almost from the day Champlain lost his astrolobe near Cobden and last year became the first Valley school to win the Eastern Ontario aggregate championship in Ottawa.
Last year Almonte ran a series of twilight meets with athletes from such places as Cornwall and Toronto, and may try to set up the clash with Arnprior at such a dual meet this summer. The Almonte Legion, helped by a host of enthusiastic town citizens, has come up with a first rate layout and additional improvements are planned.
On the betterment list this year improved sanitary facilities to handle the big crowds expected. Ten years ago the high school athletes could expect two meets a year their own school’s and the county’s and that was it,” says Maynard. By comparison, May of this year will see the individual meets, the county meets (Lanark’s is at Almonte May 14), a Cornwall invitation meet May 10. and a Kemptville Legion invitation meet May 20.
The EOSSA meet at Cornwall May 18, and so on, and so on.Track and field. in Eastern Ontario is booming and with its fine quarter-mile cinder track and permanent pits at its big layout beside the Community Centre, Almonte figures to stay in the forefront of the boom.