Tag Archives: stories

Memories of Homemade Quilts — Linda Knight Seccaspina

Memories of Homemade Quilts — Linda Knight Seccaspina

Memories of Homemade Quilts  Linda Knight Seccaspina

Last week I reposted a story I wrote about quilts and how much they mean to me. One, I lost in a fire, another is hanging on by a thread, and last year a Lanark County one made in 1902 was rescued at an auction.

Friday morning, my friend Julie Sadler called me up and said she had something for me. She had a precious quilt from her grandmother May Morphy. I didn’t know what to say, but I believe a bed without a quilt is like a sky without stars. I asked her to send me a story about the maker of the quilt and she did.

May Morphy ( Mrs. Warner Morphy) was her maternal grandmother. Born in Ottawa in 1895, she married her husband Warner in 1922. He was Edmond Morphy’s great-grandson and grandpa worked at the train station. May was a very private lady and her passion was quilting.

As long as Julie can remember, she was at the church hall every Wednesday afternoon quilting with the ladies rain or shine. Her mother was born in the house she lived in and the front room always had a quilt set up. She made dozens over the years and there wasn’t a sewing machine in sight! Every stitch was by hand with love and her quilts are prized possessions! Quilts are a link to our past and they each have a story.

Mae Morphy’s quilt – Julie Sadler

My second quilt was purchased at an auction and was a crazy quilt made in 1902 in Lanark County. It is signed by approximately 30 people who had a hand in making it. The quilt was made as a fundraiser–either church or community, and all the stitching looked to be very consistent. This would indicate that likely only one person would  have had a “hand” in quilting/making it. Usually the quilts made as part of a “quilting bee” had many people helping to make them, and you can usually notice differences in how the stitches are done.  Stitching is similar to everyone’s hand signature. Each one is slightly different from person to person. 

Have you ever asked yourself why everyone loves quilts? What drove families to gather in their communities and make quilts for their families?  Quilts connect everyone, and they speak about former lives of families, and their joys, their hardships, and their homes.

Seven days after my birth I was placed in a quilt my grandmother had made and brought immediately to her home as my mother was ill. I was tucked into my crib with the same quilt I came home from the hospital in. One night my father gathered me up in that same quilt and smuggled me into the Royal Victoria Hospital hoping my mother might remember me as she had postpartum depression. I can still see her looking down at the cards she was playing solitaire with while I was holding on to the edge of that dear quilt in fear. To this day I will never forget that image – my father says I was barely two,  but I still remember the greyness of the room. While my life was sterile and cold, the quilt held warmth and security. My grandmother always said that blankets wrap you in warmth but quilts wrap you in love.

At age 12 my mother died, and my grandmother sat with me on her veranda and wrapped that same quilt around me while I cried. Life was never the same after that, and the quilt was placed on my bed like an old friend when I stayed with her.  I would stare at the painting on the wall while I tried to sleep and thought that a lot of people understood art but not quilts. If I had a lot of money I would own a quilt and not a piece of art,  because in the end which gives you the most comfort?

When I got married at age 21, my Grandmother sat at the dining room table for weeks and worked on a quilt for my new home. As I travelled down the road of life the quilt was always there while people came and went. Although it was ageing gracefully it was still heavy and secure anytime I needed it. Through death and sickness it held comfort, and the promise that it would never desert me. This quilt held my life with all the bits and pieces, joys and sorrows, that had been stitched into it with love.

At age 47 the quilt died peacefully in my arms. A terrible house fire had destroyed it, and as I looked at the charred edges I realized the thread that held it together had bound the both of us forever. Now it was time to go down the final road by myself,  and remembering the words of Herman Hesse I began the journey.

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”

Buttons and Quilts by Sherri Iona (Lashley)

The Lanark County Quilt and its Families

The Ladies of St. Andrews

Clayton United Church Quilt Fran Cooper

From Dawn Jones

Hi Linda

Reading your posts and enjoying the beautiful quilts. A picture of one quilt I own made by my Aunt Betty James. She made quilts of different colours, patterns and themes for every one of her nieces and nephews. She is a retired teacher, and a former councillor of Portland Ontario, mother, aunt, grandmother, sister and friend. She made many quilts over the years for her church and various fundraisers close to her heart over the years. I wonder how she found time. But I’m grateful she did. I’m happy to use it on my bed. Who needs a weighted blanket when you have one of these.

Lisa Marie Gordon is with Sean Gordon.


As a little girl my mama made two quilts, one for me and one for my sister .. Time passes and the quilts were sold with our bedroom furniture.

The other day Sean had decided to treat my mom to a lunch date. He had her by the arm and together they were walking the Main Street in Almonte, my Mom glances up in the antique store window.. and says to Sean, there’s my quilt!!! Gulp!

Today I bought it back for her… Isn’t it crazy how life comes full circle? Thank you Mom.. FOR EVERYTHING!

❤️❤️ feeling so grateful❤️❤️

LOVE this from Stu Thompson

Hi Linda. I saw your posts today of quilt memories, and it reminded me of a photo that I have of a display of quilts that my mother had quilted over the years for her children and grandchildren. They were brought by the family members to the celebration of our parents’ 50th anniversary, Nov. 8, 1988, and put on display. Alan and Betty Thompson, with the family, and with the extended family.–Snippets of the Thompson Farm — Ramsay

Thanks to Lucy Connelly Poaps

Dinny O’Brien of the Burnt Lands of Huntley

Dinny O’Brien of the Burnt Lands of Huntley

It was in Bedore’s interview that I first heard of Dinny O’Brien of the Burnt Lands of Huntley. My interest was piqued by this character but it was not until I decided to do the oral history collection of the humor of the Valley that I went in serious search of him throughout the Almonte area. Someone in Almonte — I can’t remember who — told me that I should go to Concession 14 of Huntley off Highway 44 and there I might find him That in itself was somewhat of a wry joke for when I talked to the Lynches Flynns Graces and O’Briens along the concession all descendants of Potato Famine Irish.

I discovered that although I was indeed in Dinny’s territory that leg-end-in-his-lifetime had been dead for 40 years. I tracked down the farms on which he had lived only to discover that all that then remained of the O’Brien buildings was a roothouse on the side of a hill. I went down a goodly number of dead ends fn the Almonte area visiting Vaughans Morrows and Flynns. Some of them were “beyond the pale” already and one of them at least said to me “I cannot speak of the dead” and closed the door. I was really despairing of ever truly fleshing out this incredible character when an Almonte lawyer a friend of mine sent me to the then 87-year-old Ray Jamieson a fourth-generation Ulster Irishman who had practised law in Almonte for over 50 years.

Jamieson immediately hung flesh on Dinny’s legendary bones “I wouldn’t say that Dinny drank a lot” said Jamieson “but he was addicted to alcohol. “Dinny was litigious He was a good talker -who could explain anything. He spoke pretty good grammar with a real lilt. Dinny was remarkable and unforgettable. If he had been educated he would have done something. He was full of brains.”

Greedy to have more about this amazing Valley entertainer I sent a letter to the editor of the Almonte Gazette and heard back from W J James of Carleton Place who when I visited him added more Dinny O’Brien stories to the collection. It was anally a Vaughan who sent me to Basil O’Keefe on Concession 11 at Almonte who for several generations had had his ancestral farm adjacent to land that belonged to Dinny.

Mr O’Keefe then aged 79 with genuine affection and caring further reclaimed for posterity the character of Dinny his friend and neighbor for so many years. Dinny always had a home for somebody but his only fault was that he used to like to drink a bit. He wasn’t an Irishman if he didn’t drink a little. But here at my place I could hear him coming away to hell out the road there singing in the dark. He’d go to town and he’d come home singing at the top of his voice in the black night. I can hear him coming singing yet along that road there in the pitch black.

The trail then led to Judge Newton of Almonte whom I taped in the Newton Room of Patterson’s restaurant in Perth. He not only told old and new Dinny O’Brien stories but he also told great stories of the other wonderfully funny characters of Carleton Place Perth and Almonte: George Comba the Carleton Place funeral practical joker. Straight-Back Maloney Paddy Moynhan “The Mayor of Dacre” Pat Murphy of Stanleyville. Tommy Hunt of Blakeney. Mrs O’Flaherty of Carleton Place who charged her lodger Lannigan with “indecent assault.” Con Mahoney who ran the hotel out on the Burnt Lands.

“When they were building the new Roman Catholic church in the Burnt Lands of Huntley at Corkery the priest came to collect from Dinny. He was collecting from each parishioner according to his means. “Now Mr O’Brien”, said the holy father ‘you have a fine farm here You should be able to give 50 dollars’ “ ‘Aha God!’ Dinny said (he always said ‘Aha God!’) Not from me! Sure I’d far rather Join the Protestants first and go to hell. They’re pretty near as good — and a damn sight cheaper?

He not only told old and new Dinny O’Brien stories but he also told great stories of some of the other wonderfully funny characters of Carleton Place Perth and Almonte: George Comba the Carleton Place practical Joker. Straight-Back Maloney Paddy Moynhan “The Mayor of Dacre” Pat Murphy of Stanleyville, Tommy Hunt of Blakeney, Mrs O’Flaherty of Carleton Place who charged her lodger Lannigan with “indecent assault”. Con Mahoney who ran the hotel out on the Burnt Lands. Judge Newton added treasures to the Dinny O’Brien collection:

Of course when I visited WT (Billy) James in Carleton Place to get his Dinny O’Brien stories I realized while I was there that Billy James was himself one of the great characters of the Valley ready to contribute not only to the humor collection but also to the lumbering saga and to the annals of farming lore through his experiences working in the bush for Gillies and from his many years at Appleton as one of the outstanding farmers in Canada. A breeder of prize Herefords and a pioneer in the fight for the elimination of the barberry bush it was so difficult to choose a story from the diversity of the James repertoire. llluminating the social history of every place he ever lived and every field he ever worked in.

Dinny O’Brien’s only fault was that he used to like to drink a bit. He wasn’t an Irishman, if he didn’t drink a little. But, here at my place I could hear him coming away to hell out the road there singing in the dark. He’d go to town and he’d come home singing at the top of his voice in the black night. I can hear him coming singing yet along that road there in the pitch black”

Joan Finnigan

The Kingston Whig-Standard

Kingston, Ontario, Canada05 Jan 1991, Sat  •  Page 47

Dennis O’Brien and Mary White
The eldest son of Timothy O’Brien and Mary Fitzgerald was Dennis (Dinny) O’Brien my Great-Grandfather. He married Mary Teressa White (my Great-Grandmother) at St. Michael’s Church, Huntley in 1888. Dennis O’Brien and Mary (White) are listed in the 1901 census of Huntley Township with children Honora b.1889, Hellan 1892, John (my Grandfather) 1894, Dennis M. (Milton) 1899, Norman T. 1901 and John Gibney, his widowed brother-in-law. They are living on the farm that Mary inherited (or would soon inherit) from her father James White. James had left the farm to his son John provided that he returned to claim it within 15 years (he never returned).Dennis was dibilitated in 1930 from an illness and after that collected a pension. He died about 1947 and Mary died about 1950.

When I asked my Dad about his Grandfather, he laughed but couldn’t explain why. I gather that my Great-Grandfather was a great wit and story-teller.Dinny O’Brien became somewhat of a mythic figure; he is one of the Ottawa Valley characters in Joan Finnigan’s book “Laughing All The Way Home” (apparentley many of the stories attributed to Dinny happened after he died!) He is also mentioned with fondness in Garfield T. Ogilvie’s whimsical book about West Huntley “Once Upon a Country Lane”. read- O’Brien Family Page click

CLIPPED FROMThe Ottawa CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada07 Sep 1929, Sat  •  Page 2

CLIPPED FROMThe Weekly British WhigKingston, Ontario, Canada25 Oct 1920, Mon  •  Page 3

CLIPPED FROMThe Daily StandardKingston, Ontario, Canada02 Nov 1920, Tue  •  Page 14

CLIPPED FROMThe Ottawa JournalOttawa, Ontario, Canada28 Jan 1887, Fri  •  Page 3

Today we celebrate Valentine’s Day– back to normal tomorrow. Tom Edwards Photo–

Here is quite a pair together. Steve Maynard and Joey Nichols. The date on the paper is March 15, 1978.

CLIPPED FROMThe Ottawa CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada11 Jul 1991, Thu  •  Page 19

The Burnt Lands Part 3 – The Great Fire of 1870

Lanark County Hand Typed Notes –Burnt Lands

What Do You Know About the Burnt Lands

The Drought of 1871 and the Mills on the Mississippi River

How Many Stitts of Stittsville Remain?

The Bush Fires of 1870 Perth Courier — Names Names and more Names of the Past

Ottawa Valley’s Great Fire of 1870


Part 1, Making Land

Gemmill Stories and Geneaology

Gemmill Stories and Geneaology

Dr. Ernest Welland Gemmill

February 1945

Medical practitioner in Toronto, Dr. Ernest Welland Gemmill, died Saturday, February 10th at the home of his son, Rev. Claude D. Gemmill, aged 79 years. The late Dr. Gemmill was born in Horton Township, near Renfrew, a son of the late John Gemmill and his wife, Ann Jane Coulter. When he was an infant the family moved to Clayton where they resided for eleven years and thence to Almonte. Following his graduation from McGill University he practised in Almonte for a short time, coming to Pakenham in 1890, where he practised for 29 years. He then went to Toronto where he carried on in the east end for 25 years until he became ill last August. In his younger years he was an enthusiastic curler and cricketer. He was a devout member of St. Mark’s Anglican Church where he took an active part in all organizations. Surviving are his widow, the former Miss Edfta Gibson of 299 Kingswood Rd“ two sons, Rev. Claude Gemmill and John Gemmill, one daughter, Betty Gemmill, all of Toronto. Of a family of six, he is survived by two brothers, Rev. Wm. Gemmill of Victoria and Edwin M. Gemmill ofj Lindsay, Ont., one sister, Miss Catherine Gemmill ofV ictoria, B. V. Oni son Ted, died in the last Great War. Mr. Wm. Banning of Almonte is cousin. Interment was made at Toronto.

Ernest Welland Gammill
Birth Date
19 Jun 1866
Birth Place
Renfrew Ontario
Death Date
10 Feb 1945
Death Place
Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada
John Gemmill
Anne Jane Gemmill
Edna Gibson
Certificate Number


John Gemmill and his wife, Ann Jane Coulter purchased a hotel in Clayton from James CoulterJr. in 1869. In addition to the hotel he had the contract to run the mail from Almonte to Clayton daily which included a stage business where riders paid 50 cents each. In 1876 John took over the Almonte Hotel and sold the Clayton hotel to John McLaren. He also bought the Davis House in Almonte. from Whispers from the Past, History and Tales of Clayton” sold out the first printing of 200 copies during the first week. Today I picked up the second printing, so we are back in business! If you want to purchase a book please email me at rose@sarsfield.ca or call me at 613-621-9300, or go to the Clayton Store, or Mill Street Books in Almonte.

The following letter is from our old friend, Mr. Dugald Campbell of Vancouver. Readers of the Gazette are always pleased to see an article by him and this time he sent several. The journalistic spirit must have moved him after a long silence:

 Vancouver, B. C. Nov. 27th; 1958. Editor Gazette: 

Much interested in the photo of the late Lt.-Col. J. D. Gemmill. He was gone out of the district when I was a lad but we always remembered the fine picnics we were able to hold, several of them each summer, in Gemmill’s Grove. 

One of the fine interesting characters of Almonte in my day was John Gemmill, who was my host of the old Davis House. Not only was he a good hotelman, he kept the place in excellent order, and it was the home of many of the valley travellers who used the local railway during their work.

The eldest son became an Anglican clergyman and went out to Japan, and later on his sister went out there with him. This couple experienced the terrible time of the great uprising and typhoon of Tokyo, and they lost everything. They came back to Canada and  for a time lived in Victoria, B. C. Charlie Gemmill was a druggist, learning the business with P. C. Dowdall, and he was the chef of the Davis House and later when the Davis House changed hands, after the demise of their father, Herb went up Toronto way and carried on his calling in fine form. 

Perhaps the most interesting of the Gemmill lads was big Ed. He became a husky lad early in life, and he did the driving to the CPR station to pick up the travellers’ grips. Ed. has gone these past few years, but I had several most interesting visits where he was in charge of the Empress Hotel there. The first time I went there I camouflaged my name a little, and he gave me a fine room but Mien he found out who I was, well we stayed up more than half the night chin-wagging about old times in Almonte.

Ed. Gemmill told me yarns about my home town which I had never heard in my youth there, yarns that could only come from night-clerking at the old Davis House. John Gemmill, the owner of the Davis House, was a fine horse fancier, and at the local NLAS fair and there was great competition between Gemmill and A. C. Wylie, and a little later, with your famous Dr. Archie Metcalfe.

Gemmill had a pair of smart bays and Alex. Wylie had a pair of fancy chestnuts, and competition around the old oval was really something. When Archie Metcalfe got into the picture, he also had a pair of very smart steppers, and I think, perhaps, the carriage competition in that direction was the outstanding event of the third day of the fair for a number of years. So the Gemmills have come and gone in the great procession, but they were a fine group of folks just the same.

Dugald Campbell.

Letter from Davis House to Scotts in Pakenham- Adin Daigle Collection– Where Was Davis House?

Jeremy Woodchuck of Gemmill Park

The Gemmill Well in Almonte 1951

So What Happened to Miss Winnifred Knight Dunlop Gemmill’s Taxidermy Heads?

Gemmill Park Skating Rink May Be Illegal–1947

Jessie Leach Gemmill -The “Claire Fraser” of Lanark

History of McLaren’s Depot — by Evelyn Gemmill and Elaine DeLisle

Next Time You Drive Down Highway 15–Gemmils

From Gemmil’s Creek to the Riel Rebellion

Orchids in Gemmils Swamp June 1901

To Noreen Tyers with Love

To Noreen Tyers with Love
Thanks to the kindness of Noreen Tyers

I have known Noreen Tyers for a long time. Her daughter Teri White used to come visit her mother in law Joyce White across from my home quite a bit and they all became like family to me. Noreen has always written her stories and illustrations and I began sharing them in 2018. Good storytellers are hard to find and Noreen is one of them.

This year she put together this marvellous book of her writings etc. and I was lucky enough to get a copy which I treasure. My favourite stories of hers are the ones from Richard’s Castle, as I have always loved this home. I have put the links to her stories at the bottom of the page that she has allowed me to document for her.

Love you Noreen,and thank you


read–ancestral roofs
Noreen Tyers—Grandparents in front of Richards Castle, in Snow Road
around the 1940’s John and Charlotte (Mavis) Lahey Summer holidays at the Stone House.

Living in the Past from Noreen Tyers

For the Love of Fungi and Leprechauns By Noreen Tyers

Hair Attention — Noreen Tyers

The Handmade Tablecloth — Noreen Tyers

Cutting a Christmas Tree at the House of Old at R. R. # 4 — Noreen Tyers

Making the Fudge for that Special School Affair 1940s Noreen Tyers

The Teeter Totter Incident Noreen Tyers

Childhood Movie Nights at Reliance Motor Court in Eastview — Noreen Tyers

Hats, Ogilvy’s and Gaudy Teenage Years — Noreen Tyers

Sending Thoughts of Winter to You, from my Wee Dog Ruffy Noreen Tyers

A Trip in the Carrying Case– Noreen Tyers

Just Me Growing Up in the Early 1940’s Noreen Tyers

Grandma and the Cute Little Mice– From the Pen of Noreen Tyers

Another Broken Bed Incident — Stories from Richards Castle — Noreen Tyers

Lets Play Elevator- Charles Ogilvy Store — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers

At Church on Sunday Morning From the Pen of Noreen Tyers

Jack’s in Charge-Scary Stories — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers

Adventures at Dalhousie Lake at the Duncan’s Cottages —- From the Pen of Noreen Tyers

I am Afraid of Snakes- From the Pen of Noreen Tyers

Hitching a Ride Cross Town — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers

My Old Orange Hat –From the Pen of Noreen Tyers of Perth

Out of the Old Photo Album — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers

Snow Road Ramblings from Richards Castle — From the Pen Of Noreen Tyers

Summer Holidays at Snow Road Cleaning Fish — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers of Perth

Snow Road Adventures- Hikes in the Old Cave — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers of Perth

Putting Brian on the Bus– Stories from my Childhood Noreen Tyers

My Childhood Memory of Richard’s Castle –From the Pen of Noreen Tyers of Perth

Grandpa’s Dandelion Wine — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers of Perth

My Wedding Tiara — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers of Perth

The Art of Learning How to Butter Your Toast the Right Way — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers of Perth

Smocked Dresses–From the Pen of Noreen Tyers of Perth

The Kitchen Stool — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers of Perth

The Flying Teeth in Church — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers of Perth

The Writings of Noreen Tyers of Perth

Memories of Grandpa’s Workshop — Noreen Tyers

Cleaning out Grandmas’ Fridge — Noreen Tyers Summer Vacation at Richard’s Castle

My Flower Seeds — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers of Perth

My Barbra Ann Scott Doll –Noreen Tyers

Greetings From Ruffy on Groundhog Day Noreen Tyers

That Smell Of The Lanark County SAP Being Processed — Noreen Tyers

Adventures at Dalhousie Lake at the Duncan’s Cottages — Noreen Tyers

The old Sheepskin Slippers Noreen Tyers

Did You know they Wanted to Cut the Bay Hill Down? And Other Stories

Did You know they Wanted to Cut the Bay Hill Down? And Other Stories
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
04 May 1907, Sat  •  Page 19
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
26 Sep 1904, Mon  •  Page 5
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
08 Nov 1923, Thu  •  Page 6
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
03 Mar 1939, Fri  •  Page 5
A view of Almonte from Bay Hill.
Almonte– Mill of Kintail Files
Photo is from Almonte.com —Bay Hill towards cameronian church
The township’s Reformed or Cameronian Presbyterians moved their place of services in about 1867 to the former Canadian Presbyterian church on the Eighth Line, later building their present church facing the Mississippi’s Almonte bay–

read also

The Story of “Old Mitchell,” Who Lived Outside of Almonte

Stories From Fiddler’s Hill

Stories From Fiddler’s Hill
Fiddler’s Hill

I have written stories about Fiddler’s Hill yet I had never seen it before. I guess I had this romantic vision of this hill on the 3rd concession of Dalhousie of a fiddler named Alexander Watt keeping the settler’s safe that night from the wolves. Not only did he fiddle for safety but everyone knew the land was scarcely usable for agriculture. Seeing the vast expanse of untamed wilderness ahead of them from the top of the hill, they became discouraged. They did press on the next day, and came to another hill the following night where some settled and founded the community of Watson’s Corners, visible in the distance from this hill. Fiddler’s Hill— Where the Green Grass Doesn’t Grow in Lanark

So when Jennifer Ferris turned the corner off the highway she said,”|Oh by the way this is Fiddler’s Hill!” I said, “What?”

It is definitely a hill when you coast down the hill away from it or drive back up– but it was not what I was expecting. But still another thing off my bucket list.

I found this very tragic story about Fiddler’s Hill.. but there is so much love I put it here for posterity

As a military wife, and later a mother, Girl Guide leader and grandmother, Sharon Alward could make any house a home. But an often-nomadic lifestyle which included military bases in Cold Lake, Alta., Lahr, Baden and Heidelberg in Germany, Kingston, Toronto, Halifax and Ottawa had never given her and husband Randy the opportunity to build their own home. Then, a couple of years ago, when the couple began to look for a spot to spend the rest of their years, they came across a 20-hectare lot in the Lanark. Highlands at Fiddler’s Hill, just kilometres from the village of Lanark. They were eight weeks from realizing their dream when an accident Saturday left Mrs. Alward critically injured. She succumbed to her injuries Monday, at the age of 56. “We just felt it was the right spot,” Mr. Alward said yesterday of the location as he fought back tears.

Admittedly, he said, “it didn’t look like much,” but somehow, even through the dense bush, the couple could envision the ridge with their house resting on it and a plateau behind. They imagined paths where they, their children and grandchildren would walk. And they talked of sitting around a small pond on the property, one like no other, and canoeing down a nearby creek. Mrs. Alward died before being able to enjoy her new home. She fell three metres and banged her head against a rock after a longtime friend, helping her pull firewood with an ATV, inadvertently backed up and knocked her off the ledge. The woman, absolved of all blame by everyone involved, is so distraught she is in the care of counsellors and tragedy is hitting on two family fronts.

 “It still is a beautiful spot,” said Mr. Alward, comforted by daughter Stacy and son Douglas while five grandchildren ran about. “It was where we were going to spend the next 20 to 30 years, figuring it might take us the next 20 years just to get ‘t the way we wanted. And we wanted to do it ourselves. We would have moved July 15. “Just Saturday morning, we took a walk and talked about how we would develop it further. I know I said many times I wanted this and often thought, does she? I wondered what she would do in 15 years if I died. But I asked her and she wanted it.” Last week, they bought a pair of nine-week-old black Labs. Everything seemed set, almost perfect.

In hindsight, Mr. Alward regrets that neither woman had the training to handle the ATV so close to a ledge. It just never seemed possible they could be harmed. Even as he ran to his wife, she quickly regained consciousness, spoke to him, then later told paramedics her names, first and last. She remained conscious in the air ambulance on the way to Ottawa Hospital’s Civic campus and the prognosis seemed positive. However, the swelling in her brain increased, and by Sunday night doctors rated her chance of survival at less than five per cent. Mrs. Al-ward’s family made the decision to donate her organs. “One gentleman who had a day or so to live due to liver failure received a new liver,” said Mr. Alward. “Both her lungs went into someone else. Her heart went to another person. “Perhaps the one good to come out of this is knowing that she somehow saved the lives of others.” And then, the Alwards will have another decision to make, one about completing the dream. “I hope I have the strength to finish it, for the kids and the grandkids,” said Mr. Alward. “And when I walk out there, she will always be at my side. “There will never be a ‘No Trespassing’ sign go up on that property. It will always be open for anyone.” Visitation is scheduled for today and tonight with a funeral Thursday at 9:30 a.m. from the Central Chapel of Hulse, Playfair and McGarry.

CLIPPED FROMThe Ottawa CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada12 May 2004, Wed  •  Page 25

The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
23 Apr 1999, Fri  •  Page 81

Fiddler’s Hill— Where the Green Grass Doesn’t Grow in Lanark

The Preaching Rock of Lanark County

A Giant’s Kettle in the Middle of Lanark County

Something I did not Know About –Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust — From High Lonesome to Blueberry Hill

Where Are They Now? Paul Keddy of CPHS 1970

Notes of Lanark County Dances and Fiddlers

Hal Kirkland –A Machine for Making Money

Hal Kirkland –A Machine for Making Money


Christine Macfarlane–Our iconic Lanark County Hal Kirkland being sent off with prayers from Nellie Macfarlane(my Great Grandmother) She lived on William Street in Almonte. Thanks Christine Mcfarlane!
In 1971 The Ottawa Citizen reported that Hal Kirkland, the retired postmaster in Almonte was still writing great stories. Hal had a shock of snow-white hair, and he did not hear so well anymore. Here is one of his stories.

The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
09 Mar 1968, Sat  •  Page 34

Christine Macfarlane—This is a pic of Hal Kirkland before he left for war.


Stories of Big Joe Montferrand

Stories of Big Joe Montferrand


Big Joe was a logger and he plied his dangerous trade along the Ottawa Valley as he led the men who conveyed the long trains of logs down the swift rivers to the pulp mills of Montreal and beyond. He was a man of extraordinary strength and courage, attributes matched only by his civility and kindness. During his life he was called upon to teach a lesson to many a quarrelsome braggart or would-be-bully, but unlike the fictitious Paul Bunyan, Big Joe lived and his numerous descendants still reside in Quebec.

In January of 1925 Mr. Derby told a very personal story about Montferrand when he boarded in Aylmer with the Derby family. Mr. Derby Senior and Big Joe were friends and Derby said that the fabled stories of Big Joe Montferrand of being a quarrelsome lad was a myth– except when he was in action.

Joe was generally a good natured man, but when someone started anything he went into action. He instantly became a real wildman and it was said that his kick was deadly. In 1855 however Derby was in Quebec with Montferrand and they were lying off on a raft of wood off Cap Rouge near Quebec. At one point they both decided to get a wee shot of booze and a man asked if he was not indeed Big Joe Montferrand and that he was pleased to meet him.

The man expressed interest in him as the strongest man in the area and said he would like to see if this story was true by fighting him. Big Joe agreed and they both went off to the hotel yard ready to fight. Derby  thought it was best to stay in the bar at this point and have a couple of drinks as really he had no idea they were going to fight.

Before long Joe came in and told the barkeeper he had best come out and take care of what was now a dead man. According to the story the two of them had not been fighting long before the man began to  fight unfairly bunting his head. Joe warned him to fight fairly or he would kick, but the man refused to listen. So Joe did what he did best and that was to kick his opponent, and he kicked hard. One of Joe’s kicks went near the man’s heart and that was the end of the story, and his opponent dropped like a log.

Of course a huge fuss ensued and Joe was not arrested but was detained for a few days until he was able to go back to his logging crew. He had learned a lesson that day and never fought anyone else who challenged him.

Montferrand stood 6’4″ and was lithe and powerful, and one of his biographers, Andre de la Chevrotiere, described him as “prodigiously strong and at the same time generous, charitable, patriotic and with a love for hard work.” Anyway, big Joe was a famous fighting man, and some of his memorable battles took place right here.

He spent a lot of time in Hull and Ottawa between 1825 and 1850. One of his brawls became known in every shanty as “the battle of the beast with seven heads.” Montferrand was a ladies’ man, and he had a date with a fair creature who was coveted also by one of seven MacDonald brothers. The MacDonalds were an unruly lot four of them standing more than six feet, and they knew Joe – would be crossing the Footbridge at the Chaudiere from Hull to the Ottawa side. They decided to confront Joe in the middle of the bridge.

Joe pounded six of them senseless, and came to the youngest, and took mercy, and told him to go home to his mother. Joe continued on his way to keep his rendezvous with the lady fair. ‘ He was a bush foreman, and when the lads were taking off with civilization for the bush, it was Joe’s custom to stand them treats in a tavern, and it was said his generosity usually exceeded his purse.

One time, he was leading his gang into the woods for the winter when they came to The Tavern of the Pretty Widow.  Montferrand wanted to stand the treats but he was broke. He asked The Widow for credit, and she granted his wish, and so Joe decided to leave a calling card. From his “turkey” the bundle the men carried containing all their belongings he got out his “cork boots” (caulked boots), cleared a path, launched himself into the air and planted both feet on the ceiling, leaving his heel marks.

So was born “the legend of the cork boots,” and so many travellers stopped into The Widow’s place to see the marks of the feat that she was well repaid. He had one line of challenge: “No man on the Ottawa can stand up to Jos. Montferrand.” In those days when a “rough and tumble” or “a toute fain” meant using the head, feet, fists and even teeth’, nobody ever did.

Did you know?:- Far more often, though, the appellation ”Mrs.” indicated a widow’s tavern. As the only women to be licensed in their own right were widows. 


The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
09 Nov 1935, Sat  •  Page 32

Canada’s Mythical Mufferaw is a real part of Mattawa


Mattawa and District Historical Society

All About Lorraine Lemay –Mississippi Hotel

Architecture Stories: The Hotel that Stompin’ Tom Connors Saved

Stories my Grandfather Told Me– The Circus

Stories my Grandfather Told Me– The Circus


My Grandfather used to tell me stories about his youth in London, England in front of the old radio after the BBC news. Some were about life in the trenches in World War 1, and others were about life with his mother Mary Knight, not to be confused with my Grandmother Mary Louise Deller Knight.



Actual postcard of the grave 1912 that was destroyed in World War 2


Great Grandmother Mary came over to Canada with her son Fred when he emigrated to Cowansville, Quebec after the war. His father Alexander Arthur Knight had left them and his job running a music publishing business in London to only die upon his entry into the United States to become a songwriter at the age of 53. His body was sent back and buried in Plymouth, but the cemetery was bombed in World War 2 and everything was destroyed.

Grampy Knight used to tell me stories about the British Music Hall scene and because of his stories I always wanted to be a carny in a travelling carnival. But that was never to be, but the stories I remembered. Here is one of his many stories:


The circus was on a Monday night and it was said to be the best talent ever seen in the city of London. There was a good sized sized audience and Mother and I sat in the balcony in the seats my father had provided for us. The first person I remember seeing was someone dressed in a ridiculous costume selling peanuts and candy.  He was persistent all evening and Mother would not allow me to have any refreshments as she said it would cost Father money we did not have.

I remember the orchestra being quite grand, and there were all sorts of people under the circus tent. The one thing that still stands out in my mind were the photos of freaks exhibited on the front canvas, and how the circus announcer told stories about them, and for a nickle they could all be seen inside. People stood there in wonderment but, Mother hurried us along to the big tent.



Clipped from

  1. The Era,
  2. 24 Nov 1900, Sat,
  3. Page 24


Really, I told Mother, all I wanted to see was the freak show and hear the barker explain all about their peculiarities. I had seen the snake charmer with the red wig and elaborate costume with huge diamonds and snakes around her neck while Fiji Jim danced wildly around her. But Mother was a no nonsense woman and before I knew it the first act of dancers came on stage wearing light trousers and white sweaters. The ringmaster wearing red tights, blue coat and high boots cracked his whip at the audience as the dancers left the stage and the white horses came out and galloped around while the band played a circus song.

My father Alexander was at the side of the stage selling songbooks, and all of a sudden small books came showering down from the gallery and everyone got a copy of the 1903 Almanac. The crowd went wild and the ringmaster told them sternly to keep their seats and he cracked his whip again for the rest of the show to begin. Two elephants played with the clowns and a giraffe did the cake walk. After the tightrope and the contortionist act the ringmaster advised the audience not to leave early and stay for the finale.

At the end some of the audience was asked to come to the front and others remained in their seats. The curtain went up and the stage was in utter darkness. There was a sudden flash of light, a picture had been taken of the performers and a voice from the darkness said the concert was over. I realized this might be the last time I see such a thing, as Father was restless. Like life the circus had arrived without warning, it was simply there when yesterday was not.



Photo from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum. Possibly Riverside Park 1920s-“The Circus Comes to Town”

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte


When the Circus Shut the Town Down

The Boy that Ran Away to the Circus and Other Stories

When the Circus came to Carleton Place

The Continuing Curse of William Street in Carleton Place

What Happened the Day the Circus Left Carleton Place

Just Beat It! Carnival Riot in Carleton Place at Riverside Park

The Horses of Carleton Place– Wonder if they ever had a Merlin?

My Greatest Summer Show on Earth!

Hitching a Ride Cross Town — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers

Hitching a Ride  Cross Town — From the Pen of Noreen Tyers
Chemin Montreal panoramique FLAT mediummm3.jpg
In The 1940’s
As a child, for some reason the fascination with trains and the tracks was always there.  Maybe it was due to the fact my Dad rode the trains from New Brunswick to Ottawa after he went to find his Mom who had left  him in England.  He had little money in his pocket when he arrived in Canada and this was a way to travel the country and not have to pay.
I spent much time watching the trains, there were side tracks between Montreal Road and McArthur Road.  On certain tracks they would drop of various sections of the train..  There was a place for Oil Tank cars to be emptied into the Permanent oil tanks.  There were cattle cars filled with Cattle to be dropped off at the slaughter house.  Now this was not a nice place one could hear  the cattle and the end result was not a good one.
Across the two lane of tracks was National Grocer and they had a set of tracks to drop off the groceries, to be delivered to the various stores in the area.  Fruits and Vegetables arrived this way, we sometimes would investigate the premises of these box cars and sample the goods.  Now workers from National Grocery would spot us and tell us of the many spiders that could be found in the bananas.  This did not deter us for when the thought of fresh fruit  took over we would once again investigate. I did very well climbing the cars once again I was with the boys.  (A BIT OF A BAD CHILD – MAYBE  – sure no prissy little girl.)  Now one has  to remember FRESH Fruit was a luxury item as money was tight.
I had become at ease with the trains and had little fear.  I would wait for them to stop at the various spots and before long would be climbing on the ladders, hanging on and going to the next stop and jumping off.  Our neighbors and playmates had moved from Gardner Street to Queen Mary Road in Overbrook, I was rather bored and came up with the idea that maybe I should ride the train to see the kids.  I could drop off on Queen Mary Street, as it was a crossing and the train went slower, I was quite confident and though this will be easy.
Now one gets to know the times of the trains so it was not hard to plan my time. .  You soon realize that the train usually slowed down between the Montreal Road and McArthur Road. Over to the tracks I went and when the train was going by I reached for the rail.  I was so intent on what I was doing I hadn’t noticed my Dad was behind me.  Just as I was reaching he grabbed me by the back of my clothes.  At that moment I was never so frightened for I thought I was going to fall under the train and be run over.
I do not think my feet touched the ground the whole way home. And I did get punished.
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The Vanier Parkway, specifically the portion between Prince Albert and Beechwood, was constructed along the same route that once carried the tracks of the Bytown and Prescott Railway Company through the commercial, industrial and residential areas of today’s Overbrook, Vanier and New Edinburgh. At the time the railway was constructed, this area of the Ottawa region was known as Junction Gore—the northwestern corner of Gloucester Township located at the junction of the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers.
The area continued to grow and small businesses started to open up along Montreal Road and McArthur. By 1909, the villages of Janeville, Clarkstown and Clandeboye amalgamated to form the new village, and then town, of Eastview. Sizable vacant lots along the railway provided the opportunity for larger industries to set up shop.

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte

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