Posts Tagged ‘Genealogy’

Well, I’m still trying to finish off the cover. The last “quote” has just come in and is being worked on. This means careful editing of the first two quotes to make room, but I think that this has also tightened up the focus.

No guarantee of success, but the folks that are aware of what’s in the book are very positive about it. I hope that the operations and maintenance staff will feel the same way.

Equally as important is the reaction of the general public along the Rideau. Unless you know someone ( a relative or friend), there isn’t much available information on how the canal kept going all these long years. I think that it’s a hell of a good story and I hope that everyone will agree.


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Dad-sketch-5Looking for something to do next weekend ?
Plan a daytrip to Newboro Lockstation. Take #15 to Crosby and then follow the road to Westport. (You’ll get to Newboro first -just follow the signs to the Lock Station).

EVENT:          Newboro Boat Show

WHEN:           June 13th & 14th

WHAT:           Day Trip

HOST:            Rideau Boat Tours

START:          Saturday June 13 @ 10:00 AM

END:              Sunday June 14 @ 6:00 PM

WHERE:          Newboro Lock Station

See you there!

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Dad-sketch-5I’ve gathered a lot of names of men who worked as masons, stonecutters, quarrymen, derrickmen, grip men, engineers, and blacksmiths for my new book on the Rideau Canal. In the early 1900s, repair work on the locks meant finding a source of large enough stones to replace those that were cracked, broken, etc., by ice, wayward steamers and clumsy barges.

This was an on-going preoccupation of the Superintending Engineers, and various quarries had been used over the years – for example, at Elgin. Hard to believe, but eventually the quarries ran out of rock that could be quarried and cut to the proper size – really big.

Anyway, eventually business shifted to the Westport quarry. I have a picture of a mason gang at Westport – stripped to the waist, not much shade, lots of loose rock lying around, a derrick in the background. Great stuff! But …. just where was this quarry?

It couldn’t be north of Westport – that’s the Foley Mountain area –  red granite. We’re looking for limestone – sandstone. OK – the quarry must lie south or west, but where? It had to be close enough to transport these big stones by teams down to the docks where they could be loaded onto scows and floated to the repair site.  

So…. when in doubt, ask Ken Watson – webmaster of the great Rideau web site, www.rideau-info.com

Horrors! Ken didn’t know – so I asked Margaret Brandt of the Westport Review-Mirror. Sure enough, she “dug” around and came up with a location that she passed on to Ken. He had the bright idea of looking for the location on Google Earth and found it. Then he e-mailed the Google Earth file to me, so that I could “fly” over it. A white/gray quarry sure stands out against the green forest.

On my next trip down to the cottage, I think I’ll stop by and take some pictures to go with that old-time gang. Margaret gave me the phone number of the current owner.

 Incidentally, the Westport quarry itself started to run out in the early 1920s. It was closed and all the machinery – derricks, steam engines, buildings, etc., were hauled away to Brooks Bay on Sand Lake, where a large deposit of fine gravel was located. Here concrete blocks were poured and finished – replacing the hand-cut stone blocks. Almost no men were needed – a foreman, a concrete finisher, some labourers, and a camp cook. Cut the cost of stone blocks by two-thirds.

When the first dredge, Rideau, was scrapped a year or so later, the engines and so on were removed and the hull and superstructure were towed to the concrete yard by the new dredge, Tay. The hulk was beached and used as living quarters for the men. Your grand-dad knew all about recycling, sonny!

Or, as an old lady once told me when, as a teenager, I tried to show her up, “Don’t try to teach your grandmother how to suck eggs!”

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dad-sketch-53More info:

Ken advises that  his tour and talk is all about:

“Merrickville Landscapes:  Pre- and Post – canal landscapes of the area around the locks.”

A chance to stretch the old legs without undue danger of breaking a sweat – sweet!

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In my earlier books on fishing guides along the Rideau, there were some 500 names that I found – there were probably another couple of hundred that I’m still not aware of. Life is like that.

Moving to a different topic – lock staff on the canal – has brought back the guides. One of the issues that the lock staff still face is managing water levels. Well, if water levels are lowered too quickly to a too low level, then it seems intuitive that fish will be hurt.

In the spring, it could ruin spawning. In the fall and winter, it would be fish survival, if they get caught in shallow holes that then freeze to the bottom. This also leads to winter kill of fur-bearing animals, such as muskrats ( ‘rats”). A lot of guides also trapped rats.dad-sketch-56

In the 20’s and 30’s, there were a number of petitions drawn up to protest water level management and that claimed massive fish and rat kills. While it seems that these claims were somewhat exaggerated (they were fishermen, after all), there was some truth to it and besides, it was possible to “fine tune” water levels. Anyway….

What I wanted to say is that I was surprised to see  the original petitions with the original signatures. Legendary guides such as Carl and Bob White of Elgin/Jones Falls, Fred Randolph of Chaffey’s Lock, Bill Lake of Newboro, and other guides from Westport, Seeley’s Bay, and Battersea are all there, along with names of guides that are new to me.

Great stuff! Now how to get this into a second edition of “Fish Tales” or maybe just put it into the almost-ready third book, “The Invisible Army”.

Stay tuned. If you have any views or questions, I’d like to hear them.

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I’ve fallen behind in posting, trying to get to the end of the research for my upcoming book, The Invisible Army.  Anyway, here goes.

1. John Baird, Minister of transport, Infrastructure and Communities will be announcing “Economic Action Plan” funding for “Tourism Infrastructure And Heritage Preservation in Eastern Ontario”.  This takes place at Laurier House, 335 Laurier Avenue East in Ottawa.

I plan to be there  to push for funding for the Friends of the Rideau’s efforts to get a paid position for someone to oversee and manage our information distribution and visitor contact centre in Merrickville at the Depot. We’ve been doing this on a volunteer basis for years but the volunteers are “wearing out”.

We produce and distribute a ton of stuff on heritage, environment, culture, community events, places to see and stay, etc.,  and just plain talking to visitors – we think this is important.  Let’s see if  Minister Baird  is willing to back a proven, time-tested approach or will be seduced by some heavily-marketed proposal with no track record. More to come.

2. As an example of the above, the Friends ( mostly Ken Watson and a sprinkling of volunteers), continues to make available to the general public some important documents on Rideau history that were produced by Parks Canada for their own use. Examples are;

 Forbes Bush’s “Builders of the Rideau Canal, 1826-32” which has been OCr’d, proofed, and reviewed and will eventually be available as a PDF on CD.

Robert Passfield’s report on “Historic Bridges” should be available on CD for our Annual General Meeting in Merrickville.

Larry Turner’s book, “Recreational Boating on the Rideau Canal” is in the process of completion by one of our volunteers, Helen Parson.

Larry Turner’s works on the Tay Canal are in the process .  We want to get them available for the 175th this summer.

Judith Tulloch’s “The Rideau Canal 1837 – 1914 is now on CD.

Ken also has volunteers working on “Industries and Industrialists of Merrickville” and “Commercial Navigation on the Rideau Canal”. They will be available in the fullness of time.

3. A 52 page report, entitled “As Was Said Forum” on the Rideau Canal Landscape Strategy Forum of April 2 has been published.  There is a lot of good insight and food for thought in it.

I say that and I’m a great skeptic of such fora, having taken part in so many over the years – more than I want to remember or count. If there’s any interest in getting copies, call the Parks Canada office in Smiths Falls at 613-283 -7199.

4. A “Watch Your Wake – Rideau Canal Boating Safety Campaign” , meeting was held March 31st  with reps from the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons, Ontario Marine Operators Association, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, Ottawa Police Service, Rideau Roundtable, Parks Canada, and, last but not least, Friends of the Rideau and the Rideau Heritage Network.

A Communications Plan of print and radio ads has been started. An Information package has been included in mailings to boaters when they ask for lockage and mooring permits. Gillian Organ of Long Island is vigourously pushing this with her fellow marina operators and her clients.

Four other elements are also being reviewed and prepared: Education, Signage, Enforcement, and Research. They are linked together to see, for example, the impact of the communication, signage and education elements on enforcement. Research will be done on the impacts of wash and wake on shorelines and wildlife habitats ( especially loon nests and sites). The research will also look at erosion damage and identify sensitive areas along the Rideau.

Finally, various sections of the Rideau will be looked at to assess the need for additional speed zones.

An ambitious agenda, but necessary and timely.

5. The Annual Spring Meeting of the Friends of the Rideau will be held Saturday, May 9th, 9:30 to noon, at the Legion Hall in Merrickville. The business portion WILL BE BRIEF. This will give Heather Thomson, Heritage Planner for Parks Canada, lots of time to talk about the Rideau Corridor Landscape Strategy and to answer questions.

Our post-meeting walking tour last year was a great success. Another tour is being set up, even as we speak (so to speak). 

See you there.dad-sketch-55

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EdMargaret Brand of the Westport Review-Mirror has written a kind article on the topic of my new book, The Invisible Army. Since the paper covers the heart of the Rideau, I hope that people who have information on family, relatives and friends who worked on the canal get in touch. I can be reached thru this blog or at info@rideaufriends.com.

I’m looking for the names and some brief work history of the operating personnel during and after WW II. Thinghs like lock stations worked at, date started and finished, position, and anything that helps to tell their story.

I’m also interested in the carpenters, masons, stonecutters blacksmiths, etc., who did work on or for the canal. Again, I have a pretty complete list up to 1930 but then it gets spotty.  Ditto for people who may have worked on the dredges, tugs, scows, etc., since 1930.

I hope to get it out around the end of June. I have to – I’m already booked for August to talk about my books at Fort Henry in KIngston.

Thanks again, Margaret. You’re the greatest!

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