Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Eastern Ontario Countryside

About noontime, we arrived in the town of Hawkesbury.

Celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2009, this town of 10,000 is situated right on the Ottawa River.

This is the Long-Sault Bridge, which we crossed over between Grenville, Quebec and Hawkesbury.

But the main site I wanted to see on this trip was the Higginson Observation Tower at Vankleek Hill.

The tower was originally built be Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Higginson, an Irishman who settled in Vankleek Hill in 1829.

The tower was first built by him as a windmill about 1830 so that he could grind wheat and corn, but it failed due to inconsistent wind power.

He then turned it into the first private observatory in Eastern Ontario.

In 2003, it was decided by the business people of Vankleek Hill to restore the tower to its former glory, and now you can visit it by walking up the stairs inside to the top of the tower, and take in the wonderful view of the village and the hills of Quebec to the north.

To the right of the tower is the Anglican Church, and in the back of the tower is the home of William Higginson, the son of Thomas, the builder of the tower.

At the foot of the tower, going all around it in a circle, are bricks of stone with the businesses and people who contributed to the restoration of the tower.

After spending an hour there, we took old Highway 17 back to Ottawa and passed through the villages of Alfred, L'Orignal, Plantagenet, Riceville, Treadville, and Wendover.

We stopped in at L'Orignal to take the Jailhouse Tour, but it was raining, and since there was a tour underway, we decided not to wait. Instead, we took a tour around town, and took pictures of various buildings, including this one of the land office.

Hawkesbury and the subsequent villages we visited on our way back to Ottawa are located in Prescott County, and they have an excellent genealogy site at <www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onpresco>.

Here, you will find Prescott County Families; Maps; Cemetery and Vital Records; and Lovell's Canadian Directory.

After an enjoyable ride through this part of Ontario, we stopped into Orleans (Ottawa East) for a lovely supper, took a ride into downtown Ottawa, and then went home.

Facing west, here is a picture of Ottawa's skyline at dusk (taken several miles away).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Quebec Countryside

Before starting, I wish all of our American readers a belated Happy Fourth of July. We came home too late to post this issue, but having spent many a summer visiting American cousins in the Boston States, my thoughts were with you on this special day.

Yesterday, we took off for a drive down the Quebec countryside from Gatineau to Grenville along the Ottawa/Outaouais River, and covered such areas as Les Collines-de-l'Outaouais, La Lièvre et la Petite-Nation, and Les Laurentides.

Remember how I said it was going to be sunny? It rained! Not all the time - but enough to be bothersome.

However, we pushed on through the rain drops, and while we didn't visit as many museums nor sites of interest as we would have liked, we did drive around quite a bit in the rain, and had time enough to enjoy a nice supper back in Ottawa.

We started from the easterly side of the city of Gatineau, which includes the sectors of Alymer, Gatineau, Hull, Buckingham, and Masson-Angers. These cities and towns were amalgamated into the City of Gatineau in 2002.

After a short delay so that my husband could check for a laptop part at a computer store, we took off to follow the river almost down to its mouth at the St. Lawrence.

The Ottawa River was a key river in Canada's settling, as it was the waterway to the heart of the country for early immigrants to Canada, and vital to the early lumber industry.
Ottawa River, located near Thurso, Quebec

The first place we went through was Thurso. It was settled in 1886 by Scottish people, and was named Thurso after the town in Scotland.

Its liveliehood has been in lumber industry, and in the early days sent its lumber to England to be used by the British Navy, but there are rumours now that the paper plant (after troubles in the lumber industry) is set to close.

It is a village of 2,000, and today the population is mainly French, although there is still a healthy population of English-speaking residents with Anglo-Celtic roots.

The next place we visited was Papineauville.

It is a pretty town, the former seigniory of Louis-Joseph Papineau, one of Quebec's early politicians.

It was settled around 1855.

And then on to Montebello, a very picturesque town which has become an artist's paradise, and is home to the Chateau Montebello, a first-class hotel and the largest log structure in the world. It was built in 1930.

We stopped at the nearby tourist bureau, which is an old train station (note the "weather vane" on the roof), and it was here that we encountered our first of many rain showers.

Tourist Bureau in Montibello, Quebec

We continued down the road, following the Ottawa/Outaouais River to Hawkesbury, going through such settlements as Fassett and Grenville.

Until tomorrow ...

In the meantime, there are some places to check for genealogy -

The Quebec GenWeb page on West Quebec at <www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~qcoutaou/home.htm> has a free look-up based on what area you are researching in the West Quebec (Outaouais) region, and <www.islandnet.com/~cghl/region.php?cat=Quebec> has listings of cemetery transcriptions for the province of Quebec, such as the website found at <http://cemetery-index.tripod.com> for some the areas we travelled yesterday.

Also, check on other sites mentioned in this blog.

Friday, July 3, 2009

22nd Wedding Anniversary

Tomorrow is our 22nd wedding anniversary, and to celebrate, we are going to take a circular trip through the Quebec side of the Ottawa River towards Montreal (in the Outaouais region), then cross the river to Hawkesbury (on the Ontario side) to celebrate its 150th birthday, and then we will return to Ottawa via Eastern Ontario.

Some of the places we plan to stop at are Thurso, Papineauville, and Montebello on the Quebec side, and Hawkesbury (of course), Vankleek Hill (they have a special museum there), and various towns along the way back.

For those not familiar with the area, let me assure you that it is very scenic — as our pictures will show — and historic in nature.

As usual, I am packing my notebook, pencil, and camera, and will gather information for the various publications I write for, and for the blog.

It's supposed to be fair tomorrow - sunny and warm - so here's hoping for a nice trip, and a lovely supper!

Canada's New Tombstone Project

We are invited to drop by the Canadian Headstone Photo Project, where digital images of tombstones will be put online <www.canadianheadstones.com>.

The founders of the project say that the stones are becoming harder to read, and in order to read the inscriptions, they are archiving the images.

The website covers all provinces and territories, as well as Ireland and the United States.

So I checked Canada's section, and found nothing yet, but that understandable because it is a new service.

You can do either a surname or cemetery search - or both.

The service is free - both to upload and download.

But if you check Ireland, you will see tombstones for County Tyrone and County Farmanagh, and a transcription is right under the picture.

The date which the transcription was done is also given.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Nipissing University, North Bay

I've been researching Nipissing University in North Bay and their Institute for Community Studies and Oral History, and discovered that they have a robust interest in the social history of the area.

Not only is it a "robust interest", but over the past few years, have been sending their students to collect local history stories about the people and places of the Near North in Ontario, from the earliest times to the present.

Current interests include Family Rituals, the Early Families Project, and the history of local townships.

So if you have any ancestors living in the Near North of Ontario, consider contacting them at <icsoh@nipissingu.ca> or go to their website at <www.nipissingu.ca/icsoh>.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

The 142nd birthday of Canada (July 1st) has rolled around again, and it is raining with thunderstorms in Ottawa - but it's a birthday!

I remember when it was Dominion Day, for it was only changed to Canada Day in 1983, and it took a bit of getting used to the new name.

Typically, everyone has the day off, and although it is a day for picnics, and having fun in the great outdoors in the summer time, it is also a time to remember our ancestors - the French and Anglo-Celtic peoples who first came here in the 1600s and 1700s, and the hard times they had in making a life for themselves in an often unforgiving land.

We also remember the Irish Potato Famine Immigrants who came here in the 1800s, and what a difficult time they had settling in their new land; of the Eastern Europeans who, in a great way, settled and tamed the Prairie Provinces in the early 20th century with nothing more than hard work and an unswerving dedication; and of the Chinese, who came and developed the railway, and in so doing, opened up the West to the rest of Canada.

And, of course, all these new immigrants came and built upon a land originally settled by the Aboriginal peoples, who themselves came here thousands of years ago.

And to all the other immigrants who have come to Canada, and have found a home and prosperity here - welcome to Canada!

There are only eight more years before Canada's 150th anniversary, and I hear that planning for it has started already.

So Bonne Fête, Canada - Happy Birthday, Canada!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Newfoundland Memorial Day - July 1st

Not only is it Canada Day tomorrow (July 1) in Newfoundland and Labrador, it is also their Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is held in memory of those Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that lost their lives in combat, especially during World War I.

Members of the Newfoundland Regiment fought and died at Beaumont-Hamel in France during the opening day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916.

Because Newfoundland and Labrador was not yet a part of Canada until 1949, they were still considered a British colony.

They went to war in August, 1914.

The first day of the Battle of the Somme was particularly hard for the Newfoundland Regiment because only 68 of 801 soldiers survived. All of the others were either killed, wounded, or went missing in action.

You can visit the trenches at Beaumont-Hamel and see the statue of a caribou - the Newfoundland Regiment's emblem.

For more on their history, visit the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial website at <www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=memorials/ww1mem/beaumonthamel>.