The history of Sinclair Supply Company

A story of the Siversky family’s success in Vankleek Hill

In 2001, Historical Society summer student Seema Maloni interviewed Sidney Siversky. Here is an excerpt focused on the Sinclair Supply business that his older brother Alex Siversky began in the 1940s, and which Sidney joined as a partner.
The interview covered various aspects of Sidney’s busy life: arrival of the Siversky Family in Canada; his business life; and his political life when he served as Mayor of Vankleek Hill.
As Sidney Siversky mentions here in 2001, his older brother and business partner Alex Siversky died in 1996. Sidney died in 2005, and their brother Frank Siversky passed away in 2020. Frank, together with his wife Frances Siversky, founded and managed the successful Siversky Hardware store on Main Street in Hawkesbury. The brothers were a powerhouse example of entrepreneurial spirit.
Here is the Sinclair Supply Company portion of the 2001 interview, in Sidney’s own words. Additional content is clearly indicated.

Sinclair Supply: the beginning

The company my brother Alex and his partners bought in Vankleek Hill was operated by John A. Sinclair. After we purchased the company, Mr. Sinclair used to come down and sit in the office and he did this for probably four or five years. He didn’t work or anything, but he was interested in the progress the company was making. We decided to continue operating the business under the name Sinclair. Because of the different ventures, we called it Sinclair Supply Company. He was well-known in the community, and, until the end of the business we used Mr. Sinclair’s name.
The company was originally purchased in 1947 by my brother Alex and his partners. And then the partners were eventually bought out. My brother Alex and I worked together for some 50 years. He is now deceased.
The year I came to Vankleek Hill, my brother Alex had come 2 or 3 years earlier, and bought a building that operated as a building supply company in those days.

Clipping from 1945 issue of the Glengarry News. These ads demonstrate the determination of Alex Siversky to connect with a wide community, and to develop a business response.

They sold coal, they sold lumber, they had a sawmill, they had a kiln to dry lumber, and a little sash and door plant. The sash and door plant was inside the former Agricultural Society building. It was a very interesting building in the design of it.

Historical Society Note: The first fairgrounds in town were at the corner of Mill and Boyd streets, today vacant land. The Vankleek Hill Agricultural Society purchased the land in 1872, and a segment of Mill Street became Agriculture Street. There was a $575 mortgage which was discharged in 1880. As the fair became more popular and expanded, the Fair Board sold the land for $805. In 1886, they purchased a larger lot on Main Street West for $1,625, where the Vankleek Hill Agricultural Fair is held today.

Vankleek Hill Insurance Map, 1912. Alex Siversky used this old map because the property he purchased at the corner of Mill and Boyd streets still contained the same buildings. He superimposed his Sinclair Supply Company needs over the old buildings he would re-use. The L-shaped building opposite the top of Jay Street (to the right) and circled in green is the Agricultural Society Hall constructed between 1874 and 1886. (Musée Vankleek Hill Collection, donor Ted & Marcia Liddycoat)

Sidney continues: When I first came to Vankleek Hill to join my brother, I drove a truck. We had an old Model T Ford truck. I did that, delivering merchandise.
In those days, we made some changes in the sash and door plant. We started building furniture, and we built end-tables and sold them to Eaton’s in Montreal. After a few years, we found out that this wasn’t a viable profit-type of operation, so we abandoned doing that.

Sinclair Supply Company Ltd., c. 1945. This building first served as the hall for the Vankleek Hill Agricultural Society between 1872 and 1886, when the Society purchased the current location on Main Street West for the Fair. Alex Siversky re-purposed the building. (Photo Siversky Family Archives)

We continued making door frames and windows in the sash and door plant. We sawed the lumber and we had a lumber-drawing in the yard, and kept a big inventory. We had the kiln, and we had horses.

Expansion continues

As time went on, we decided to buy an oil truck. We could see that oil was the coming fuel, and we did an assessment of the area and we found that none of the trucks had meters on them, only gauges. It was a visible type of thing. So, we bought a new truck with a meter on it. We built-up quite an oil business.
We found that we had developed a lot of steady customers with our lumber supplies sales. When a large construction contract was awarded in the area, we’d complain that we were not able to sell these customers any materials. Our customers said, why don’t you get into construction and you can supply your own materials.
So, then we decided to get into construction.

Disaster strikes

And then we had a terrible fire.
We were pretty well wiped-out of the whole business of the sash and door plant. There was no town water system, so we just grabbed what water we could. That was the end of that operation.

In 1951, fire destroyed the offices and workrooms of Sinclair Supply. Decisions had to be made about whether or not to continue. (Photo James Oswald Family Archives)

After the fire my brother and I sat down and discussed, “What do we do?,” “Do we rebuild?” We had no insurance. We couldn’t afford insurance because there were no fire hydrants, no fire protection; insurance was too costly.
We did rebuild, and later we had some 200 employees. We had our own plumbers, our own electricians, our own carpenters, so it was a big responsibility.

Sinclair Supply Rebuilds Bigger

Sinclair Supply Company building, late 1950s, at corner of Mill & Boyd streets. The log home on opposite corner remains in place today, covered by siding. (Musee Vankleek Hill Museum. Photo by Archie Hardy)

We started doing repairs in the construction field. We did renovations. Somehow, we got into housing, and we did a considerable number of houses in the community. We started the first subdivision in Vankleek Hill just off Highway 34. (Hillview Subdivision)
And we built houses in the subdivision (Stevens subdivision – nicknamed the ‘new development.’). We built houses for CIP. Over a 15- to 20-year period, we built a house for every CIP President elected. We were fortunate to be awarded those houses.
During that period of time, we also worked at the Seigneury Club in Montebello. They built some huge houses.
But then because we lived in a small community, and our staff was getting larger, we felt that we had to expand.

Sinclair Supply Employees Remembered

We had several employees in those days, and a lot of them were related or inter-related. We had quite a few employees, and their names were Lapensée. We had four or five from the same family working for us. Then we had another family by the name of Cummings, and we had two of their family working for us. Then we had twins working for us, their name was Doth. They stayed with us for years and years. I’ve forgotten how many, 35 or 40 years.

Memory from J. Denis Seguin Architect of Vankleek Hill who worked summers as a student at Sinclair Supply, and credits many of the longtime employees for grounding him in construction methods.
Denis adds: When we remember the employees, it is equally important to recognize the Siversky Family as ‘donneur d’ouvrage’ – their business efforts kept countless families fed in this region.
There were in-store workers like Lionel Mercier, and Gerry Piché. Carpenters, such as René Ouimet – in my view, a man who could make anything with any material.
My stint with Sinclair began in the estimating office working under Leonce Delplancke. In 1976, I was a junior estimator at $5.00 /hr. This was summer employment while attending university.
Later that same summer I asked Mr. Siversky – Sydney – if I could join the construction/carpenters crew. He said, we need to know what you can do. He gave me the job of adding tin to the 2nd floor office rooftop. I was up for it, and jumped at it for a raise to $ 7.00/hr if I did well.
Télis Lapensée took me down to the third yard, known as the company scrapyard, and left me there to sort through secondhand tin. There was a lot of re-purposing back then. After I completed my selections, Télis returned with the big Hyster fork lift and got the sheets of tin. He raised it all to the roof and I unloaded it.
It took a few days for me to complete the roofing, and Sidney came to inspect. His response was, job well done. He brought me orange paint to make it all look good from afar.
I got my raise, and was sent out with the men to construction sites in Cornwall, Prescott, Hawkesbury and then across the river to Quebec projects. We left the shop at 7:00 or sometimes at 6:00 a.m., which made for 44-hour weeks with some O/T.
Sinclair was building homes all over the place. René Ouimet and I were on the finishing crew. We did all the touch-ups, special installs like fireplaces, poured walkways, installed floor finishes and carpet, hung doors etc.
Sinclair began doing social housing projects in Cornwall. René and I did final stairs, window caulking and deficiencies clean-up for final inspections.
Once Sinclair got the provincial contract to build and maintain OPP stations, I got to help. We also did work on their buildings in Hawkesbury and Vankleek Hill.
In Vankleek Hill, in the ‘new development,’ I worked on the 28-day house at the corner of Home and Barton streets. It was built in 28 days.
Sinclair had me build decks and even window flowerboxes such as at the Orr’s house on Barton Street. They are still there, 40 + years later.
I worked for Sidney and Alex Siversky for four summers, and it strengthened my construction knowledge which led to my becoming a successful architect. To this day, I can walk through any construction site and say, “I did that kind of work.” Because of my experience with Sinclair Supply and the employees I worked with, I know what it takes and how to do it well.

Sidney continued: At that time, I was looking after construction, and doing the estimating and pretty much everything except doing the inspection of the construction. We thought that we would have to specialize, and go farther afield.
From there, we got involved with curling clubs; there was a need for curling clubs. So, we built the curling club in Vankleek Hill; we built the Hawkesbury Golf and Curling Club. Then we went to Baie d’Urfe and built a curling club. From there we went into different types of construction, we went into schools, and we did high schools too. Another year, it was church halls. Then the Ontario government decided to subsidize housing and build senior citizens’ homes. We set-up a department to look after that. We built them in most communities from here to beyond Cornwall, and up as far as Ottawa.  We stayed out of the big cities.

Housing & Industry Markets

We built hundreds and hundreds of either individual houses that were subsidized, or senior citizens’ homes that were probably 40 or 50 units at a time, in different towns like Finch, Avonmore, Lancaster, Hawkesbury.
Alex looked after the building supply company; he looked after the financing of both that and the construction because it grew so large that we pretty well had to divide it. We still operated under the same name, but I was responsible for construction and he was responsible for the financing. As the projects grew, the financing was considerable.
Then in 1970 or 1972, there was a movement from the province of Quebec for industry, and we got involved in what we call ‘design build.’ We hired our own designers and by that time we had three estimators in the office, and we started building plants.
In Hawkesbury alone, we built about 80% of all the new plants. We expanded and went into Cornwall to build some plants, and then up to Kingston, Brockville and Napanee. During those years we were specializing in industrial buildings.
At the same time, we sometimes got involved in what is called a turn-key building, that we owned and we would lease to the manufacturers. We built some of those, kept some of them for ourselves which we still own. There was another period where we got into building banks. We built numerous of those.
At the same time, we built-up quite a large land-bank in the Hawkesbury area. Between the two communities of Hawkesbury and Champlain Township, we had some 400 to 500 acres of industrial or commercial land, and we have been developing it.
Within the town of Hawkesbury, we also have commercial land which we have sold over the years. Where the new Zellers store is, that was developed on our land.

Note: The Zellers building is Walmart today. In 1999, Hawkesbury named the street access to Walmart, Alex Siversky Street.

In the late 80s, Sinclair Supply built a second outlet in Hawkesbury. It was a 10,000 square foot building on Spence Street which had a modern building supply store and it was operated for three or four years.
But it proved to be unnecessary as it was too close to the one in Vankleek Hill which maintained its popularity.

In 1967, Vankleek Hill Mayor Sydney Siversky promoted the publication of “An Invitation to Vankleek Hill.” It was published by the Industrial Committee and the contact for investors was Cecil E. Barton, Clerk of Vankleek Hill. This page is an excerpt from the booklet. (Musée Vankleek Hill Collection, donor Michelle Landriault)

The history of Vankleek Hill’s Mill St. Park 1950-1979

A Story of Kids Finding a Way To Play

Twice, Vankleek Hill has constructed an arena on a lot facing Mill Street and backed by Wall Street. How did the arena come to be in this location?
This is the location of a small body of water known as the “tarn”, a lingering glacial depression that collected water. In this case, an underground spring. The lane that sweeps behind the current baseball field is Loch Street, named after the original pond.
From an undated scrapbook comes this nostalgic 19thC memory of the pond and the big rock that sat within the water. It was written by W.D. McLaurin – William Drake McLaurin (1850-1938) – the son of Vankleek Hill merchant John McLaurin and Hannah Drake. In his 20s, William was a cooper and at the time of his death at age 88 in 1938, he was described as a street car conductor.
The reason for his death in October, 1938 speaks to his independence. William caught a chill at his Union Street home while chopping wood for the winter, and died of pneumonia in the Vankleek Hill Hospital on Bertha Street.
His brief memoir of adventures at the pond in his youth provides us with a precious view of how children made their own fun – all year long – before the existence of modern parks and recreation. Note that W.D. McLaurin refers to knowing Peter Vankleek – this would have been Peter Cass Vankleek, great-grandson of Simon Vankleek. The memories take place about 1860 when William Drake McLaurin was 10.
What prompted him to write? He tells us it was the deliberate blasting apart of the large rock that was, for the children, the central spotlight of the tarn. Based on his reference to friends long gone, I suggest that he wrote this in the 1930s.

The Stone in the Mill Pond by W.D. McLaurin

Yes, the stone, or rock I might call it, the one that stood in the centre of the pond, is there no more, destroyed last Fall, what about it? Only a stone, blown up to make room for something else, it may mean nothing to you, but it does to me, for I miss it every time I walk down Mill Street. It may mean the same to my schoolmates, but they are silent about it.
There are only a few of us left anyway. But I remember when the pond was to us boys a “Lake, ” yes, a lake, for I have seen it roll up to the road, beautiful waves on a windy day, the sparkle of the sun light playing upon it, made it appear as if the great stone were a Scotch pebble set in a brooch of diamonds and pearls. Then, our swimming place at the foot of the old lime kiln, where the water was clean for about one hundred feet, is now all covered with weeds.
On the pond I had my raft, where I spent many happy hours. Peter VanKleek made a boat and gave me a ride in it, which I enjoyed very much. I never forgot Peter for his kindness to a boy. But the stone, what was there about it, that if I went near it, it filled me with awe. I kept away from it, somehow I felt as if it were very deep there, and if I fell in, they would never find me, and I did not want to die and go to Heaven, Vankleek Hill was heaven enough for me, but I did row up to it one day, and touched it.
A party of us made a raft of four logs, and when we got near the rock two of the logs broke away, and into the water went the boys, my brother Peter among them. Dexter Flynn lifted the boys back onto the two logs I was sitting on, then Dexter waded ashore. Peter and I went home, Peter to dry his clothes; for punishment we were sent to bed at four o’clock and us hearing the boys playing out on the street, however it did not prevent me from being on my beloved raft the next day.
Then when winter came, and the pond frozen over, what a gathering place the great stone made for the skaters to rest themselves upon. The girls in the afternoon, the boys in the evening, the delightful sociability of it all, that clusters about that stone.
By and by, like our grove which was our play ground and park, the pond also like the grove, only a memory, who cares, or do you care? Well, let me tell you about another stone, when you pass away, loving relatives will place a stone at the head of your grave, plant flowers and visits will be made every afternoon, by and by the flowers will wither and die, the stone will commence to lean over, a little more next year, a few years more, it lies flat on its face. What about it, nobody thinks enough of you to straighten it up. Who cares.
— W.D. McLaurin

Where did the children find logs for a raft? A variety of small sawmills were in operation scattered around Vankleek Hill, including Mill Street. In 1883, the tarn/pond attracted Albert Cheney and Robert Dunning who opened a large sawmill business, located where the arena stands. The company expanded in 1891 to become the Vankleek Hill Manufacturing Company with general store owner Malcolm McCuaig as president, postmaster William McAdam was secretary-treasurer, and Albert Cheney remained as manager. The tarn or pond was used for floating the logs. There was a turning mill for sash and door making, as well as fancy work such as gingerbread scroll work.

Vankleek Hill Manufacturing Company, Mill Street c.1910 (Vankleek Hill Museum postcard collection)

The business prospered as local farmers now had a place to bring all types of wood from their land clearing, while at the same time they could pick-up finished products for their new buildings, as reported in the Eastern Ontario Review on March 2, 1894.
Fire was a constant threat in sawmills where sparks would easily leap and quickly find combustible materials. In 1918, the VKH Manufacturing Company sawmill on Mill Street burned down to the ground.

Report on successful Vankleek Hill Manufacturing Company activities. The Eastern Ontario Review, March 2, 1894.

Detail from the Vankleek Hill Insurance Map, 1912 showing the buildings of the Vankleek Hill Manufacturing Company on Mill Street.

In the 1920s, the property was advertised for sale for at least two years. A reduced business of milling finished-lumber continued until 1928. That year, lumberman John R. McLaurin bought the property to use for storage.

Short years later, in 1933, owner John R. McLaurin died, and the property passed into the hands of his widow Elizabeth “Bessie” A. McLaurin.
Even during those sawmill years, children still dared to have their fun at the pond. According to author Alan MacKinnon, his late father Clifford played “on the logs in the mill pond when the ice went out in the spring. The farmers would bring the logs in by bobsleigh in the winter time and leave them on top of the ice.

“The young boys would jump from log to log playing lumber jack to see who could last the longest. In the winter time they would slide down the large frozen sawdust pile (to the south-east of the sawmill building) on their feet.”
With the 1930s abandonment, town children returned to make their fun on the pond in the summer, and on the ice in the winter. Even the remaining smokestack became a target for bb guns and stones. The late Lionel Mercier, a Vankleek Hill councillor, enjoyed recounting the time as a child when he and a few friends removed – borrowed – the base of a new small coffin from the back of a furniture store on High Street to use as their boat on the shallow pond.
In 1950, widow Elizabeth “Bessie” McLaurin donated the sizeable property to the town for recreational use. Bessie was able to see the new arena completed before she died in 1955.

First Vankleek Hill Arena

Vankleek Hill Flyers posing for their photo in the 1950s arena. Photo James Oswald.

Once the property became municipal, final drainage of the pond took place and the work began to develop an indoor arena. The Vankleek Hill Chamber of Commerce and VKH town council supported the project, and money was raised in the community through auctions, raffles, benefit hockey games and entertainment.
Interviewed in 1989, retired VKH Postmaster & WWII veteran Jack Hurley recalled being on VKH council at the time. He said, “Everybody helped. There were no government grants then; it all had to be raised locally. Ninety percent of the labour was donated.”
Once built, Hurley recounted that in the early 1950s, crowds of up to 1,100 would pack the new Vankleek Hill arena to see the intermediate hockey team that he managed, made-up primarily of Hawkesbury players, defend the town’s honour in the Central Ottawa Valley Hockey League: “That was in the pre-TV years,” he said.
Hurley explained his belief in the importance of sports. “Sports are the greatest thing for a kid to get into.” He connected sports to the camaraderie he had experienced in the RCAF – the team spirit. “The same applies to sports,” he said.
The formation of the local Legion branch kickstarted sports for kids and for “old vets,” he added. Soon there was a ball club, and an outdoor rink at the current location of Country Depot on Home Avenue.
He added from his time coaching young male hockey players, “I’ve had the chance to meet so many nice people. There is a lot of comradeship. Sports can bring pride to a place. There is always a certain amount of pride, even if you lose. In the old days, our teams didn’t win a provincial or national championship, but we had a lot of fun trying. We may never have had too many big stars in town. But I’ve coached a lot of good players who grew up to become really fine fellows.”

Gregoire “Bulldog” Matte, 1953.

Jack Hurley laughed when he remembered the “good, friendly rivalry” between towns. Vankleek Hill kids taunted visiting hockey teams. With the advent of house leagues, said Hurley, that rivalry waned. And without the rivalry, the finances and team fan interest dwindled over the years.

Arena Demolition in 1971

In 1971, that first VKH 1950 arena building was condemned by provincial inspectors. The 1959 fatal roof collapse of the Listowel ON arena, that killed six young hockey players and their coach,brought changes to building codes following the inquiry. Professional building inspections were now required. Limited government grants, through the pooling of tax monies to meet various needs across the province, were available – if the VKH community raised its share of $465,000 for a new arena.

Former Champlain Township Mayor Gary Barton explains: “The first arena was closed after the province required the town to have an engineer inspect the building for safety purposes. An arena in Listowel ON had collapsed due to excessive snow on the roof.

“At that time, I was the Chair of the Vankleek Hill Recreation Committee and we were called to a meeting one Saturday morning in February, along with the members of the Town Council. Sidney Siversky was the Mayor. Gaetan Lascelles P. Eng.  from Hawkesbury presented his report, and informed us that the Arena had to be closed.

“I asked him, ‘when?’ and he replied, ‘Today!’ Obviously, shocking news to all of us. In any case, there are many other details related to the building that still stands there today.

“But most important, was the community support received in order to build the new arena that we know today. With limited government grants, the new arena was opened in 1979 and it was debt free.”

Once again, volunteers swung into action with the same 1950s list of small town fundraising activities. Building codes prevented volunteer labour from being a large part of this new 1970s equation; however, donations of second-hand equipment played an important role in the fundraising that went on for several years until the 1979 opening.

Boys of Summer Resurrect Ball Field

Denis Seguin Architect alongside Cooper Smith at the 2019 Historical Society Retro Fashion Gala. Cooper is modeling Denis’ Vankleek Hill Stones ball uniform. Photo Gabriel Landriault.

The 1971 demolition of the 1950s arena, plus the years needed to raise almost a half-million dollars, put a long pause on team sports played in town. Several Vankleek Hill hockey teams played in St. Isidore, or in L’Orignal, St. Anne de Prescott and Alfred.
The demolition made the ball field unusable as it became the debris field for the old arena trusses and other large wreckage. The ball diamond, already in poor condition, only got worse.
Over time, the old arena construction materials sank into the ground, and the grasses grew tall and wild.
On a spring day in 1971, a group of curious teenagers rode their bikes over to assess the ruins. These future ball players saw potential, and with their collective hat-in-hand, they went to VKH town council to plead their case to clean-up the demolition rubble to restore the ball field.
Council agreed to lend a hand in return for a promise from the boys to help clean-up the ball field. It was agreed, and the town removed the debris.
With step one accomplished, the ball players – Denis Seguin, brothers Michel and André Martel, and Frank Martel – persevered. Town employee Edward Seguin, Denis’ uncle, had a couple of scythes to loan them. They got to work cutting down the high grass on the field.
Then the foursome borrowed their family lawnmowers and gas, and off to the park they went to cut down the grass. Next, the white fence around the field (Loch and Wall streets) was in bad repair and they nailed it back together. Leftover white paint was used until it ran out.
Town residents noticed the efforts, and stopped to talk, and to encourage these Vankleek Hill boys of summer.
Denis Seguin recalls obtaining a roll of heavy wire from his Uncle Edward to sew together the chain link fence used as the back-stop, stitching through the holes in the wire.
He added, “The ball diamond was weeded and the whole thing raked. We started after breakfast everyday and went on into the evening. It was fun, and now and then we put on our ball caps, our ball mitts, and played a little ball.
“We got it as far as we could, and then came the time when we needed more help.”
They returned to address Council, and their work was acknowledged. “We pleaded for a load of dust stone for the diamond and I think we got two. We raked it and cherished the new look of it. We were in heaven,” said Seguin.
He added, “After that it had to be up to us.” Michel Martel was the acknowledged leader of the small band, and together with the Martel Family dedication to the Vankleek Hill community, the next phase put into motion what needed to be done to actually play ball.
“We needed to raise money, so off we went to see Mr. Levac, Furniture and Electrical Appliance, at the corner of Main and High streets,” said Seguin. The raffle was for a table-top b&w 12″ t.v. from Mr. Levac’s store.
The ticket sales had to first cover the cost of the prize. To this day, Michel Martel is amusingly uncertain whether they got a ‘real deal’ from Mr. Levac.
Michel and André’s mother, Andrea Martel, helped with the tickets. “We sat down and made them by hand, each with a number on them, in duplicate,” said Seguin.
Denis Seguin recalls standing in the middle of Main Street selling raffle tickets to people driving by. “They had to stop because I was just standing there. They would roll-down the window, probably to tell me to get out of the way, but it was business first. And I sold them tickets. I think it caused a bit of a line-up, but that was good for business back then,” he said with a laugh.
It took off from there. Within a couple of years, the boys were 16. “We played with the men who came out of their sports retirement to join us on the ball field, and guide us in many ways. The improved condition of the field returned softball and fastball to our community, and both men and women’s ball flourished for many years.”
The rehabilitation success and the learned life skills brought the Vankleek Hill Stones to the resurrected ball field. Four boys learned a lot about politics, work ethics, business, volunteering and camaraderie.

Second Vankleek Hill Arena Opens 1979

Fair secretary Jack Hurley on the phone in the 1960s at the VKH Fairgrounds. Jack served on VKH Town Council, raised funds for the first VKH Arena, coached hockey, promoted sports for youth.
Photo Jeannine Duval Seguin Archives.

The new arena officially opened in 1979, and was greeted with community fanfare. Fundraising never really stopped, and every year improvements were made to ensure success. This continues today.
In 1989, on the 10th anniversary, Jack Hurley’s efforts for the first arena were recognized and he became the first inductee into the Vankleek Hill & District Sports Hall of Fame. VKH Recreation Coordinator Janis Renwick said, “Volunteers have been the backbone of Vankleek Hill recreation …. We salute the many who have given of their time to give us all a rich sports history … minor hockey, senior hockey, broomball, softball tournaments, carnivals, dances – all in this location.”
Hurley was honoured by the VKH Recreation Board for his volunteer efforts as a coach, manager, organizer, promoter, and fundraiser. As well, he served as curling club president, flooded hockey rinks, negotiated deals with softball stars, recruited players and donations.

Doug Hall captured playing a country tune c.1970. Photo Debbie Hall.

At the 1989 event, Douglas Hall was honoured with a Certificate of Merit from the town for his volunteer work that included tending to the outdoor Legion rink, his involvement in local hockey, and his work as a Recreation Board member. Doug Hall represented the “countless citizens who have raised funds for a rink in Vankleek Hill over the years,” said Renwick.
Janis Renwick told a fundraising story about each arena. She gave a lesson – in how not everything goes according to plan.
“When the first arena was being built, Don Messer was booked as the crowning glory of the fundraising campaign. When the famous fiddler had performed his concert to a large crowd, organizers were left with a $1000 bill and a profit of 35 cents.”
“No one thought it could happen again.”
It did, when in 1978, a few weeks before the official inauguration of the second arena, another star attraction came to town. “Profits from the Family Brown concert were $36.22.”
Renwick laughed, and added, “We learn the hard way!”

Your Arena Story

Interior of Vankleek Hill Arena. Photo Champlain Township

There are many stories connected to the two Vankleek Hill arenas. Human stories, sports stories, event stories, fundraising stories. They go on and on, because for so many years this location has been at the heart of the community.
Please feel welcome to send us your story, so that we can continue to build the arena story for the future.

(With information from Le Moniteur & The Echo-Express, Feb. 25, 1989: “Replaying the glory days of Vankleek Hill sports;” “Arena builders saluted.” by Richard Mahoney.)

The history of Riverest Regency Cottage

A Story To Celebrate L’Orignal’s Past And Future

Riverest Regency Style Cottage, L’Orignal. Built 1833. To open in May 2021 as Riverest Marina & Restaurant. (photo 2012)

As always when reviewing history, particularly local history, everything is open to further research.
In May 2021, the 1833 heritage site Riverest Regency Cottage on Wharf Street in L’Orignal plans to open as the Riverest Marina and Restaurant. To mark this endeavour, we present this brief history of the first two families to live in this beautiful home.
The Regency style cottage Riverest was first occupied by John Wurtele Marston in 1833. His father Jacob Marston Jr. was one of the earliest settlers in L’Orignal. John W. Marston lived at Riverest from 1833 to his death in 1880.
The next owner was Edward Alexander Hall from 1881 to 1912, and he was head of the Ottawa Forwarding Company.

Background:

The L’Orignal Seigneury was formed in 1674 and owned by François Prevost. Next it came into the hands of the Chevalier de Longueuil. With the 1791 passing of the Constitutional Act, the seigneury became part of the new province of Upper Canada. The Chevalier’s son, J-D Emmanuel de Longueuil, put the lands up for sale. In 1796, American Nathaniel Treadwell purchased the defunct seigneury for 1000 guineas. (More detailed history of the community is available in the publication L’Orignal-Longueuil: Au fil du temps / Through the Years published in 2011.)
Some settlement had already taken place. Notably, Jacob Marston Jr. arrived in the 1790s, and there was also Joseph la Rocque-Brun and Joseph Pomeroy Cass. Treadwell got busy and encouraged wider settlement.
By 1825 the village had 12 houses, the McIntyre store, William Waite’s tannery, John O’Brien’s public house, and a schoolhouse. Formal discussion of building a court house is on the official records in 1816. The new court house would open in 1825. Today it is recognized as the oldest court house in Ontario.

County Court House for Prescott and Russell, L’Orignal ON. Opened in 1825, it is designated as the oldest court house in Ontario. To the left is the jail that is now a heritage interpretation centre, l’Ancienne Prison/ Old Jail. The court continues to be active. (Photo: Michelle Landriault)

Plans for a court house firmed in 1823 when Jacob Marston Jr. gave two acres from his holdings in trust to George Hamilton, Alexander Grant and Donald MacDonald. The court appointed John Chesfer (Chesser), Alexander Grant (Duldraeggan Hall) and Donald MacDonald as an oversight committee for the construction of the court house. Once fundraising ‘subscriptions’ began, Charles Waters was added to the committee, and Alexander Grant became the treasurer.
Heritage historians suggest the brownstone court house was completed in 1825 when not only benches were procured for the court room, but there was also the appropriation of thirty shillings to Almstead Gates, Deputy Sheriff, for the construction of a pair of stocks adjacent to the court house.
As to who designed the court house, there are two threads of thought. In the records of the Quarter Sessions of April 24, 1824, the order was given to pay William Moody “ten shillings for drawing plans for the gaol and court house under direction of the court.” Heritage historians question whether Moody actually designed the building, or if he was hired to draft the plans.
The other theory as to designer, is that the plans were drawn-up by either Charles or William Lundrum, engineers who lived in Riceville. Certainly, when extensive additions were made to the court house in 1861, William Lundrum was the architect and a Mr. Matthews was the contractor.

Marston Family

This introduction to early settlers and the construction of the court house informs investigation into Riverest. The presence of engineers Charles and William Lundrum providing services in L’Orignal suggests the possibility that the Riverest regency design arose from their expertise.
With Jacob Marston Jr. providing land for the court house, and his son John Wurtele Marston as the first resident of Riverest, we now look back to when the Marston Family arrived from the United States.
Jacob Marston Sr. was born in New Hampshire in 1750, and he married Hannah Post in 1773. Their son Jacob Marston Jr. was born in Fairlee, New Hampshire in 1774, and he was the first of nine children.
In 1784, Jacob Marston Sr. and Hannah left New Hampshire to live in the Montréal area where he held the position of High Constable – le grand Constable.
There is evidence that Marston Sr. was acquainted with Nathaniel Hazard Treadwell, an American living in Canada who had large holdings in L’Orignal and Longueuil Township. Treadwell and his wife are buried in the Cassburn Cemetery.
In the February 1796 ledger of Québec Notary John Garbrand Beek is the following entry which indicates Jacob Marston Sr. acquired land in the Seigneury Jouet on the Rivière l’Assomption. These lands were purchased by Treadwell just days before.

Excerpt from February 1796 ledger of Québec Notary John Garbrand Beek which indicates Jacob Marston Sr. acquired land in the Seigneury Jouet on the Rivière l’Assomption from Nathanial Hazard Treadwell.

Then in 1802 a land grant in Lower Canada is issued. Jacob Marston Sr. “high Constable” along with his oldest sons Elihu and Jeremiah had applied for 1200 acres. Jacob and his sons are recognized in this grant as arriving in Lower Canada in 1784, and they were granted a “warrant of survey” in Portland Township Lower Canada in 1792. Portland Township at that time was bordered by Wakefield and Buckingham. Note that in 1784, Elihu and Jeremiah were ages 8 and 4 so it is clear Jacob Sr. had their future interests at heart. In this 1802 land grant, all three are described as “deserving Loyalists.”

Page from 1802 land grant in Portland Township, Lower Canada awarded to Jacob Marston Sr. and his two sons Elihu and Jeremiah. Jacob Marston Sr. had extensive communications about land grants. Portland Township was located in the Gatineau Hills between Wakefield and Buckingham QC.

At age 75, according to the 1825 Census of Lower Canada, Jacob Marston Sr. was living in the Paroisse de Montréal. His wife Hannah Post, 70, died that same year, and the funeral service was held at Christ Church Cathedral in Montréal. Marston Sr. died in 1830 at age 80, and his funeral service was also held at the Christ Church Cathedral in Montréal.

Jacob Marston Jr.

Jacob Marston Jr. came to L’Orignal in the 1790s in his 20s, and in 1806 he married Mary Cass, a member of the United Empire Loyalist Cass Family of Cassburn. They had seven children. Mary died in 1835.
Jacob Jr. is credited with being civic minded in donating lands to further the advancement of the village of L’Orignal, including land for the courthouse.
A population shift was about to start. There was no standing army in Lower and Upper Canada until after Confederation in 1867. Military activity relied on volunteer militias. The 1st Regiment of the Prescott Militia was formed as early as 1812, and Longueuil Township residents such as Ensign Charles Waters of L’Orignal served 1812-1814.
Historically, it was service in the War of 1812 that brought many French Canadians to take up their Longueuil Township land grants awarded for their militia services defending Lower Canada at the U.S. border.
In 1842, Jacob Marston Jr. married Sarah Chamberlain of East Hawkesbury in L’Orignal. His son Josiah was a witness for this second marriage. The couple had two children. In the 1851 Census, we find Jacob Jr., age 75 and widowed a second time, visiting his son George Marston at his farm in the Township of Hull, Quebec. Perhaps this Gatineau Hills Quebec location is linked to the 1802 land grant given to Jacob Marston Sr.
In the 1861 Census, Jacob Jr. was 87 and living with son Josiah C. Marston and his family, in a 2-storey wood frame home on Josiah’s farm in Cassburn.

18th Prescott Militia payroll, 3rd Company, L’Orignal. Coming back to the local militia – Richard Henry Marston, son of Josiah and Hanna, and grandson of Jacob Marston Jr., was an active member of the 3rd Company, 18th Prescott Militia, L’Orignal. He is found present and signed-in to be paid $8 for attending drill exercises in 1865, and here again in 1873.

John Wurtele Marston, Riverest

John Wurtele Marston, son of Jacob Marston Jr. and Mary Cass, was born in L’Orignal in 1806 and christened at Christ Church Cathedral in Montréal where his sponsors were Wurtele family members who had immigrated from the U.S. and had early business dealings with his grandfather, Jacob Marston Sr.

Bio of John Wurtele Marston from the Canadian Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery, Ontario Volume, 1880.

According to the Biography, John Wurtele Marston started his mercantile business in 1828. He then married Mary Ann Davis in 1836. In a 1973 Ottawa Journal feature article about Riverest, the author reports that Riverest Cottage was constructed by John Wurtele Marston in 1833. As can be seen by both his business interest and the impending marriage, this construction date makes sense.

In 1838, John Wurtele Marston was a member of the 1st Regiment, Prescott Militia. In his 1895 publication History of the Counties Argenteuil, Quebec / Prescott, Ontario, author Cyrus Thomas reports that in 1838 the Prescott Militia was “well officered”, as this was following the 1837 Rebellion. The payroll table indicates John Wurtele Marston is an Ensign who received his first appointment in 1832.

The 1st Regiment of the Prescott Militia became the 18th Battalion of the Prescott Militia at the time of the 1860s Fenian Raids. The 18th Battalion volunteers met at least twice a year to practice drilling and to have marksmen competitions. To sharpen their skills, there were competitions with their Quebec counterpart, the Argenteuil Rangers. In planning these events, they chose the farm of a member where they came together with their militia accoutrements and horses. The Vankleek Hill Museum has several 18th Battalion red military jackets.
In the 1851 Census, John W. Marston is a merchant in L’Orignal. He is 46, already a widower, and living with him are his children: Sarah, 15; Mary Ann, 13; John J., 11, Caroline, 8. The household includes their cousin Ann McLeod, 19; plus, two servants: Ann Jane Fulton, 18 born in Ireland, and Peter –? 18, a French Canadian – likely day workers who returned home at night. John W. Marston does not remarry.
The 1851 Census reports that the family lives in a stone house that is 1.5 storeys, Riverest, and there is a separate stone building which is a store.
In 1856, William Lundrum who had designed the courthouse, designed the L’Orignal quay located on the Ottawa River just north of Riverest. Wharves were largely responsible for bringing early prosperity to L’Orignal, a principal stopover for loading and unloading merchandise long before Hawkesbury took over that role.

Detail from 1862 Walling Map of the five counties, SDG & Prescott and Russell, indicating the quay or wharf located north of Riverest. Also, in the lower centre of the map is the location of the farm of J. C. Marston (Josiah), John Wurtele Marston’s brother. At the time of the mapping, their widowed father Jacob Marston Jr. lived with Josiah’s family in Cassburn.

In the 1861 Census, John Wurtele Marson is now identified as the County Treasurer. He continues to live in the stone house on two acres of land.
His one horse and one cow have a livestock value of $55. His carriage is valued at $110. Daughter Mary Ann, 22, continues to live at home. John J. Marston, 20, is a medical student. Daughter Caroline is 17. There is one servant, Alexis Boneau, age 15.
In 1863, John’s father Jacob Marston Jr. died at age 89. He had arrived in L’Orignal and Longueuil Township at the outset of settlement. He was a key contributor to the construction of the courthouse and gaol, and to lasting improvements to the village. His children were successful.
Author Cyrus Thomas provided a bio of John Wurtele Marston, undated and written while John was still living by someone who knew him. It has the tonality of a tribute for a life event, perhaps when he turned 70. It focused on his career with no mention of his militia service.

John Wurtele Marston, Treasurer of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell for the last quarter of a century was born in L’Orignal on the first day of May 1806 and has always been a resident of the place. His father, Jacob Marston, a native of New Hampshire followed his grandfather [John Wurtele’s grandfather Jacob Marston Sr.] into Canada a little before the close of the last century and visited the spot where L’Orignal now stands, in 1796, coming here with Nathaniel Treadwell, the proprietor of the township and being, it is claimed, the first Anglo-Saxon to fell a tree in this township; and two or three years later, made a permanent settlement here. The mother of our subject before her marriage was Mary Cass, whose father was a United Empire Loyalist.
Mr. Marston received an ordinary English education; clerked for some years for Silas P. Huntington and in 1828 commenced the mercantile business for himself continuing until 1851 with fair success. During a part of this period, he held office in the Ottawa District. He became clerk of the District Court and Registrar of the Surrogate Court in 1846; Deputy Clerk of the Crown in 1853; and, since 1855, has been Treasurer of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell. He has proved a very faithful county officer, is a model accountant, and a man of the highest integrity, and has unlimited confidence and greatest respect of the people. Mr. Marston has had much concern for the educational and other interests of his native village, and served for some time as Trustee of the High School. He is an adherent of the Presbyterian Church; has been a trustee of the Canada Presbyterian Church since it was organized in 1832, and is the only one of the five charter trustees now living. He is most emphatically the oldest landmark of L’Orignal. Born and reared here, the fourth season of his life already seemingly far spent, he has seen the Ottawa Valley in this vicinity converted from a wilderness into a well improved country with all the marks of thrift as well as civilization. He is a remarkably well-preserved man, and a stranger would hardly place his age as high as seventy. His life has been remarkably exemplary, worthy of being copied by young men. In 1836, Mr. Marston married Miss Mary Ann Davis of Milton Vermont, and she died in 1844 leaving four children – one son and three daughters. The son, John J. Marston, M.D. has been assistant surgeon in the American Army since 1864; Sarah, the eldest daughter, married Eden P. Johnson of L’Orignal, and died in 1867; Mary Adelia is the wife of John Millar, merchant, L’Orignal; and Caroline I. is the wife of Sturgis M. Johnson of Almonte, Ontario.

(History of the Counties Argenteuil, Quebec / Prescott, Ontario by Cyrus Thomas, John Lovell & Son, Montreal, 1896 – pp. 521-522)

John Wurtele Marston died on October 17th, 1880 at age 74. The death register entry states he is County Treasurer. No reason is provided for his death. Dr. James McIntosh of Vankleek Hill signs the entry.
With his death, the Marston Family connection with Riverest ended.

Edward Alexander Hall, Ottawa Forwarding Company

In the 1881 Census for L’Orignal, Edward Hall, 27 and Irish, is identified as a ‘Commercant’ – a merchant. He is married to Julie Soulière, 30. Their children are: Alice, 6; Frank, 4, and William 2. We know they purchased Riverest because their youngest daughter Eva was born at the house in 1881.
In 1891, their family home is identified as “Pierre 1½” with 9 rooms. Edward’s trade is listed as “merchant grain.” Knowing that Edward Alexander Hall owns the Ottawa Forwarding Company, it is interesting to see in the same census that his two brothers, James Hall and William Hall of L’Orignal, are each identified as a “Capitaine de navire”. The census stops short of identifying if they work for the Ottawa Forwarding Company; however, it does seem likely. Each had a family to support.

Ad from Ontario Gazeteer & Directory 1898-1899

In the 1901 Census, Edward, 47, is again “commercant de grain”. He and Julie, 54, lived at Riverest with their children: Maude, 24; Frank, 23 – a “Capitaine de bateau”; Walter, 22 – a “clerk”; and Eva is now 17. Edward’s earning for 12 months is $1,200. Frank earns $600 over eight months of the year. Walter earns $500 over 12 months.

In the 1903 issue of The Canadian Engineer, we find that the Ottawa Forwarding Company has commissioned the construction of a new boat by J. & R. Weir of Montreal: 107 feet in length with a capacity of 150 tons. $25,000. in cost – about $500,000 today.

The Ottawa Forwarding Company navigated goods back and forth between Montreal – Ottawa – Kingston using tugboats, barges and steamboats, and they also provided some passenger service.
Although Edward Alexander Hall maintained ownership of Riverest until his death in 1912, it appears he also had an Ottawa residence which makes sense given the nature of his business.
Edward Alexander Hall died at age 58 on April 17, 1912 in Ottawa from heart disease. His address is given as 65 Delaware Avenue, Ottawa. He is identified as a “Forwarder”. His son Frank Edward Hall came from Montreal to look after the estate. Edward is buried in Beechwood Cemetery.
Riverest was sold and has had a number of owners over the century since. According to current owners Alexandra Quester and André Chabot some of the past owners are Frank J. Pattee, Ernest Johnson, Hilda M. Elliott, Donald and Ann Mclean. Paule Doucet was the most recent owner and she was active in promoting local heritage.
According to a 1973 Ottawa Journal article, Riverest was purchased in 1959 by Douglas D. Stewart, who was still the owner in 1973 when the house was featured.

Looking across the Ottawa River to the Lower Laurentians from the Riverest Marina, April 2021. In the summer the hills are variations of verdant greens, and in the fall the famous colours of the Laurentians are thrilling.
(Photo: Michelle Landriault)

Riverest, architectural details

In their 1963 book published by Clarke Irwin: The Ancestral Roof : Domestic Architecture of Upper Canada, Marion MacRae and Anthony Adamson state that Riverest is “the finest example of Regency in Ontario”.
A 1973 Ottawa Journal feature by Audrey Blair provides us with a valuable informal inventory of Riverest. The interest Ms. Blair had in writing the feature was sparked by her familial ties with Eva Hall Blair born at Riverest in 1881. The owner, Douglas D. Stewart, who Blair states purchased Riverest in 1959, provided Blair with the interview.
Here is information provided in the feature article:

Site: The storey-and-a-half stone cottage is built on the length. The site location is “congruent to the site” as Regency architecture demanded, and is both aesthetically perfect and extremely practical. Surrounded by magnificent trees and gardens and contemplating the lovely Laurentians across the Ottawa River.

Construction:

Porches: Originally there were two matching porches – on the north and south sides – the north porch was already removed by 1973. The porches are latticed with delicate supporting columns.

Front door: The front door originally opened to the river view. It is more elaborate with elliptical fanlight and moulded trim arched over the fan that sweeps out to frame the sidelights.

Central hall: This hall runs from front to back with entrance doors that have eight panels each. The hall has views of the river. The hall may have been reduced in size prior to 1973. From the hall there is a staircase with a nested newel, slim stair rails and wide steps. Originally, the staircase may have had matching newels.

Dining room: This room is now enclosed (1973). The dining room retains a Regency fireplace with two china cupboards on either side of a wall niche. There is a sideboard of rosewood or mahogany original to John Wurtele Marston.

Kitchen: Kitchen wing is at far east end. It once had a fireplace (blocked-in); huge bake oven still exists (1973) lined in brick, and large enough for an adult to stand upright inside. Over the kitchen is a small room with dormer windows; an extremely narrow staircase leads up to this room from the north end of the kitchen. Originally, this staircase rose from a library-den that became an office. By 1959, alterations had changed the kitchen wing (1973).

Drawing Room: This is on the west side. It has an elegant Regency fireplace flanked by an open china cupboard with corner-boxed corners. This matches the woodwork downstairs which is bullnose with centre trim, corner-boxed doorways, and doorways all have double-cross panels. There are two large French windows at either end of this lovely room. There is a ‘heat-hole’ between it and the hall that has removeable cover panel – open in the winter and closed in the summer.

Bedrooms: The downstairs west wing has a bedroom that opens off the drawing room and has three French windows. There are three bedrooms upstairs with a central bathroom. There are ample clothes cupboards.

Other features: French windows; decorative chimneys with dentelled trim at the top; fanlights and sidelights on entrance doors and all windows — by 1959 the fanlights had been covered (1973).

On ‘International Women’s Day’ we interpret women’s rights in 1970 through ‘TEEN Magazine

A Story Of How Far We’ve Come

In the pandemic summer of 2020, Elizabeth MacDougall and Natalia LaRosa worked as the summer students at the Musée Vankleek Hill Museum. They were delighted to find a ‘Teen’ magazine from August 1970 on display. After an eager look through the magazine, they were taken aback by what they saw in text and in advertising.
In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations declared March 8th as International Women’s Day. From then on, the date March 8 became the tradition.
To mark March 8, 2021 – a pandemic and vaccine year – we present the students’ interpretation of what they saw in Teen magazine – stretching across a 50-year divide.

Teen magazines had many more ads for do-it-yourself sewing than we see today in youth publications either in-print or online. The fashion is attractive even today.

It was fascinating to see that many of the clothing styles popular at the time have come back, and we both agreed that many of the outfits featured could be worn today.
On the other hand, some of the messaging in the articles and advertisements would definitely not be considered acceptable today. We thought we would take advantage of this chance to study the changes in messaging to teens over the years by highlighting some of the things that surprised us, having grown up in the early 2000s.
If you have any old magazines lying around, we would love for you to send your thoughts about any pieces that jump out at you.

Body Shaming Article

Among the many advertisements concerning weight loss, one article stood out in particular. Fat-shaming and body-shaming in general are still a major concern today, especially on social media apps such as Instagram and Facebook. However, this article surprised me in how blatant it’s messaging was.
The article’s title immediately communicates that being fat means being unlovable, and the description on the first image states that “being fat can really make you matronly-looking.”

(l) It’s not about health. It’s about being “dateless.”

The side-by-side comparison of a picture of the girl in high school compared to when she is writing the article could be said to foreshadow the before-and-after pictures so common on social media today.
Today at least, we are beginning to see some resistance. In 2019, Instagram announced a policy that would see content geared to advertising diet or weight loss products blocked or removed for users under 18-years-old. This came after pressure from campaigns such as I-Weigh, a community promoting body-positivity, made it difficult to ignore the issue.
Fifty-years ago, challenging this type of message would have been more difficult. The article goes on to explain how the young woman lost weight and even lists the woman’s measurements before and after her weight loss.
The article ends with the woman describing all the attention she got from boys after losing weight, and her perfect relationship with her new husband, “a sergeant who’s now in Vietnam,” which seems to imply that this was all made possible through her diet.
It is uncomfortable to imagine the self-esteem issues this kind of article would have promoted in young readers.

Editor’s Hurrah

The “Editor’s Hurrah,” titled ‘Restoration of Cool’ – sound familiar? – did not immediately grab my attention. However, upon taking the time read it, I was surprised to see how readily the magazine positioned itself against “the liberal outlook that has dominated the U.S. scene for too long.”
Two years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, this article claims that “shouters and marchers have reached the point where they are the repressors (sic) and not the repressed.” It even goes as far as to say that “many, if not most, are professional dropouts, floating and churning beyond the realities of our society.”
Most young people today grew-up learning about the civil rights movement and second wave feminism in school. We celebrate figures such as Martin Luther King JR, Rosa Parks, and Gloria Steinem who protested against such things as racial segregation and discrimination, sexual harassment, and domestic violence.
It is interesting to see the type of criticism that social rights movements faced in the 1970s in light of the Black Lives Matter movement today. The BLM marches that began in June 2020, in response to ongoing police brutality against Black people received much media coverage for the vandalism and violence generated as an adjunct to the protests.
Similarly, the ‘Editors Hurrah’ explains that the “vandalism, vicious speech, assault, bullying, incitement to riot- all have caused much more than material damage.” The article ultimately champions the “return to reason and order” and praises young readers, “who choose to wait and watch- rather than leap and lament.”
This last quote positioned the editor directly against the message of standing-up for what you believe in, as I would say most people are encouraged to do today.

Do Something Nice for your Father

We thought this Dr. Pepper advertisement would be interesting to include because it seems to perfectly encapsulate the ideal family dynamic of the 1970s. This ad got the attention of readers by stating that you could win a scholarship for college so that “your father could stop worrying about his wallet for a change.”
Today, the idea that the father is the only one that works and worries about money seems very outdated.

(l) This 1970 Dr. Pepper ad clearly does not recognize women – in this case mothers – as financial contributors to their families. The ad is in direct contrast to the women’s rights movement taking place at the same time.

It was around this time period that second wave feminism would have seen more and more women entering the workforce.
The ad finishes by stating, “your father’s been good to you. Now you can be good to him.”
The whole ad encourages and relies on girls wanting to be ‘good’. This message seems funny today because of how blunt it is. However, the notion is not foreign to girls today. I think girls definitely still feel this pressure today to be good in order to please.

Here is another image from the August 1970 issue of Teen:

Polaroids have made a come-back 50 years later!

A history of racism and stereotyping in Vankleek Hill’s past

A Story To Mark Black History Month

Black History Month brings us an opportunity to explore both our personal experiences and our community experiences with racism. We know racism and prejudice continue to exist. We must continuously make the effort to recognize and reject it, and to forge new pathways that benefit us all.
The Vankleek Hill Museum contains local artefacts that are racist in their content. The Museum identified them as racist on their arrival, and knowing this accepted them into the collection.
Why? Because these items represent opportunities for discussion and learning. They are a chance to explore and consider prejudices that influenced our community in its earlier years. Talking openly about racism, or prejudice becomes a tool to identify the different forms of it that we live today.
The Museum holds in its collection, for example, a Dingman’s Electric Soap advertising pamphlet that was made available to customers in the ‘McCuaig, Cheney General Store’ which today houses the Vankleek Hill Museum. In addition, the collection includes white tea towels embroidered with exaggerated images of Black musicians and dancers in absurd stances meant to be amusing.

Dingman’s Electric Soap advertising pamphlet, c.1890. Developed by Archibald Dingman at his Toronto soap factory. It is a laundry detergent in bar form. This promotional material was used in the McCuaig, Cheney General Store which today houses the Vankleek Hill Museum. Dingman’s used images of Black children in their advertising and trading cards, to absurdly demonstrate the effectiveness of their soap’s cleaning properties. The racist implication is that once the dirty Black colour is washed off, the child becomes civilized.
(Collection Daisy and Ken Brock)

The Dingman’s Electric Soap pamphlet directly implies that Black children can never be washed as clean as White children. Therefore, Black children, indeed Black people, are unworthy and no one should expect very much from them.
Advertisers often used children in these racist types of promotional materials. It is a socializing strategy: how could images of such sweet children mean any harm. But of course, they do harm.
Take note of this: Dingman’s Electric Soap was used as laundry detergent. It was not meant for washing skin. Yet, in the ad it is demonstrated just how effective this laundry soap is when faced with the toughest ‘black’ dirt possible.
In Vankleek Hill, the racist Dingman’s Electric Soap advertising was used at the McCuaig, Cheney store during a time when the local paper, The Eastern Ontario Review, carried racist content that used the “N” word from 1894 to 1921, with no complaint evident in letters to the editor, nor comments by the editor. The use of the word had been normalized.
During those years, small newspapers purchased folios of 2- to 4-pages of weekly content, ready for print, to provide readers with entertaining fiction and international news. The “N” word is embedded in this purchased content. The fiction depicts Black people in derogatory terms as comical, illiterate, impaired and as entertainment for White readers who could easily see themselves as far more sophisticated. Much the same as the purpose of the tea towel graphics – Black people as ridiculed stereotypes, barely a step-up from slavery.

In 1915, the world was hoodwinked into paying top dollar to see the landmark 3-hour film “Birth of a Nation” about the Civil War by director D.W Griffith with movie star Lillian Gish. People who experienced the Civil War were still living. Under cover of glorifying President Lincoln, the film overtly degraded Black citizens with racist content and presented the Klu Klux Klan as a heroic force to preserve white supremacy.
Three years later, at a single showing in Vankleek Hill, the technically innovative film played to a packed audience on March 13, 1918. There was also a matinee open to children who took in hours of experiencing the “N” word and viewing racist violence. Did the film shape local attitudes?
A word search in The Eastern Ontario Review for the “N” word finds it intermittently used in the purchased pages of fiction and international news from 1894 to 1915. In 1916, it appears in seven issues of the newspaper, then fewer times in 1917 and 1918, until disappearing in 1921.

Coming attraction notice for “Birth Of A Nation” in the March 8, 1918 edition of the Eastern Ontario Review (left).

The movie review of “Birth Of A Nation” in the March 15, 1918 edition of The Eastern Ontario Review (left).

In the September 9, 1921 issue of The Eastern Ontario Review, we find the first and only use of the “N” word by a local reporter, and it is on the front page. The “N” word appears in a report of the success of the 1921 Vankleek Hill Fall Fair, including a popular target game:

“The directors and officers [of the Vankleek Hill Fair] realizing that some “pep” was needed to put forth every effort to live up to advance notices, and outside of a few disappointments, everything advertised was there. The merry-go-round, the ocean wave, hit the “N…..” and the midway made things merry and added a much needed spree to the show of the agricultural products.”

Today, it takes our breath away that there was ever such a game. There was, and it was rampant in the U.S. and Canada.
Did the page one report of this unconscionable and racist ‘game’ at the Fair spark some revulsion in our community? Was there some recognition that it was wrong? There is no evidence of complaint in subsequent issues. Knowing our community, we want to believe it did raise ire and criticism.
What can be said is that the September 9, 1921 issue of the Eastern Ontario Review appears to be the last issue that carried the “N” word.
The intent of racism is to objectify and dehumanize a race. To make “those people” appear both lesser and less deserving; and, in turn “we” become both more deserving and entitled to hold the power.
We celebrate Black History Month to recognize and appreciate the many contributions made, and being made, to the honourable advancement of Canada by our Black citizens.

The history of Jeannine Duval Seguin

The Story Of Vankleek Hill’s Retired Country Music Singing, Hops-Picking Postmaster

Jeannine Duval Seguin at her home, after retirement from the Vankleek Hill Post Office. (Photo: Michelle Landriault)

A glimpse into the life of Jeannine Duval Seguin of Vankleek Hill takes us through the 1950s and 1960s, a time of change and modernization in rural Ontario. Her life touches on experiences all but forgotten in our local history – the small subsistence farms that supported large families; early education; local hop growing business; postal services; and even local country music.

Moise & Cecile Duval farm, Ridge Road

Jeannine Duval Seguin is the daughter of Moise Duval (1889-1961) and Cecile Baron (1892-1994). She is the youngest of seven children born and raised on the family farm on County Road 10, the Ridge, west of Vankleek Hill at the edge of the Caledonia Flats with the Alfred Bog in sight.
Farm chores included milking 25 cows, growing crops of oats, corn and buckwheat, raising chickens for eggs and meat, salting down the pork, making butter, working the garden for preserves, prepare root vegetables for storage, pick cranberries and blueberries in the Bog, constant laundry, baking and sewing.
Milk and cream that required refrigeration were placed into a bucket then lowered down the well to sit partially in the ice cold fresh water. In the winter, Moise suspended butchered beef from the rafters in the coldest section of the barn. Keep in mind that electricity only arrived in this rural area in the 1940s and 1950s. Regulations about refrigeration hampered the efforts of many small farmers to grow.
There were winter months when Moise left the farm to work in logging, as did so many other small family farmers, to supplement their earnings. During these times, Cecile and the children maintained the livestock.
There was also Moise’s private still, discreetly tucked out of sight. Jeannine smiles and remembers when she and her youngest brother Henri were allowed to sip the sharp homemade whiskey.

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