Preserving and Promoting local history for the former Rideau Township
Log Fence

The team combined original images, both still and movie, with commentary, interviews, sound track and original music to capture our interest. The Karluk, originally a wooden whaling vessel, was used for a Canadian Arctic Expedition in 1913 to map the Beaufort Sea in an effort to establish Canadian sovereignty in the north. It sailed north from Victoria, but became locked in sea ice in the Beaufort Sea, pushed by the ice over several months to Siberia, then crushed. The crew then travelled by dog sled to the nearest land, Wrangel Island, weeks away, where they spent many months. Captain Bartlett set out for help, again by dog sled, travelling 1200 km. over six months, eventually sending a ship back for his crew, several of whom had perished by then. The film closed with this quote, “Man has not conquered the Arctic, but merely survived her harsh embrace.”

The Karluk

The Karluk

Those who enjoyed this look at an Arctic adventure will be looking forward to a program this fall on the discovery of the Investigator, hidden beneath the ice for 150 years. A speaker from Parks Canada will describe the search.

Susan McKellar then described an organization, W. I. N. (Write It Now), which sponsors courses that teach people how to write their life history. The RTHS is proposing a two-year course, with spring and fall sessions, starting in the fall of 2014. She encouraged members to spread the word as the optimal size of such a group is 15-20 persons.

        Write It Now Logo

Colin Wright talked about several businesses in North Gower with a 50-year history. Many of these have changed hands and/or locations over the years, and many owners have had multiple businesses. He also showed copies of photographs of some of the old buildings. One example was the Cummings Funeral Home that began in 1942 and has just been sold. The last owner, Lee Cummings, was a fourth generation undertaker. An earlier proprietor, J. A. Cummings, had several businesses including a store, an oil business, a butcher shop, and used a slogan that he looked after you from the cradle to the coffin. The store burned in 1977 and the space now houses a mall.

Colin stressed the fact that the owners of these long-time businesses also participated in the life of the community, including serving as volunteer fire-fighters. They were the town fathers, and met informally to discuss local issues.

Some of these businesses, with recognizable names, are still operating – H. L. Perkins, P. O. Sadler, Edgar Leach insurance, Harrison’s Garage, H. O Wright & Sons, the Co-op. Others have passed out of existence – Charles B. Craig farm machinery, Leach’s store, Stinson’s garage. Some like the Marlborough Pub have gone through various incarnations.

It was obvious that Colin has an encyclopedic knowledge of many aspects of the village of North Gower, lots of stories, and a loving interest.  

The presentations at the May meeting covered a variety of subjects including R. Tait McKenzie, the Last Voyage of the Karluk, Write Your Own Life History, and Historic North Gower Businesses.

It was an evening of foretastes – Dennis Osmond gave us a taste of the Mill of Kintail which we will be visiting on our June excursion, Brandon Kassis gave us a taste of Arctic expeditions of which we hope to hear more in the fall, Susan McKellar gave us a taste of learning to write your life history, and Colin Wright tantalized us with snippets of history of the businesses in North Gower – a precursor of a book?

            Dennis Osmond

Dennis Osmond presented a very good overview of the career of R. Tait McKenzie, an extremely interesting Canadian.

The RTHS June excursion is a trip to various museums in the Almonte area, including the R. Tait McKenzie and James Naismith Museums at the Mill of Kintail. Dennis Osmond gave us some background on McKenzie and Naismith, who were friends, and the Mill, which was built in the 1830s, fell into disrepair, and later was restored by McKenzie. Naismith is well-known as the inventor of the sport of basketball in 1891. McKenzie was a heart surgeon and gymnast, and combining these interests became the medical director of physical training at McGill in 1894. He also was a well-known sculptor, mainly of the human body, and produced statues, friezes, and medallions. Osmond worked for 35 years in the McGill Medical Building as a researcher, and became familiar with McKenzie’s work there.

           James Naismith

James Naismith, inventor of basketball  

          "Sculpture The Plunger".

The Plunger", a sculpture by R. Tait McKenzie

Brandon Kassis, the RTHS Youth Director, is also a history student at Carleton University and works as a guide at Dickinson Square during the summer. He worked on a group school project last year that researched and produced a very professional short video entitled “The Last Voyage of the Karluk”.. Not only did it garner an A, it won the Frank Underhill Undergraduate Award at Carleton. And it may be shown on CBC this summer.

The May 2014 Meeting

Presentations by: Dennis Osmond, Brandon Kassis,
Susan McKellar, and Colin Wright

Article and Photos by Susan McKellar