As summer winds down I trust that everyone
has had a relaxing and enjoyable time in spite of all the rain. It has
certainly been beneficial for the vegetation and water levels. This was
particularly true for my cottage on West bay of Lake Nipissing where I passed
many days. Located near the Dokis First Nations Reserve, where the French River
flows out of Lake Nipissing, I managed to pick up a recently published copy of
a history of the reserve. It is a fascinating story, in particular the heroic
efforts of Michael D’Aigle who led this tiny band in opposition to the combined
pressure and threats from the big American and Canadian lumber interests,
backed by the full weight of the provincial and federal governments, to sell
off the 39,000acres of prime old-growth
white pine. They finally gave in by 1918.Our own Jim Angus from Orillia gave a detailed account of this struggle
in his book A Deo Victoria, a history
of the Georgian Bay Lumber Company, located at Waubaushene where Jim grew up.
Our programme for this year is taking shape, opening with Eric Conroy on the SS Keewatin, September 16, as detailed below. On TuesdayOctober 21, Simcoe County Museum at 7.30 pm we will have John Merritt, the winner of the Andrew Hunter prize speak to us about his research on the Oro Black settlement and the perceptions of it that have existed over the years. We will join with the Legion for our third meeting on Tuesday November 18 at the Legion Hall 7.30 pm to hear Sandra Joyce and Lori Oschefski speak to us about the British Home Children. At a recent meeting with the two women, several members of the Executive were held enthralled for two hours by what they have to relate.
The Gowan portrait restoration has now been completed and Gary Owen has done a magnificent job. We are still raising funds for an unexpected cost over-run but hope to have a grand unveiling sometime in the fall. There will be notice of this in the Barrie newspapers. And finally, take note of the programme that will be put on by the Legion on Saturday September 27, 1-4pm, in commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the Legion and the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. Admission is free. In the evening there will be a banquet. Cost $15. So we are off to a great start for the year. Looking forward to seeing you all soon.
ERIC CONROY AND THE SS KEEWATIN, Barrie City Hall Rotunda, Tuesday Sept 16, 7.30 pm
Whether you have visited the restored SS Keewatin in Port McNicoll or not, you will not want to miss “Captain “ Eric Conroy who will address the Barrie Historical Association and the Simcoe County Historical Association on Tuesday September 16 at 7:30 pm in the Rotunda of Barrie City Hall. This Edwardian steamship carried a variety of freight and passengers in style between the Lakehead and its home port of Port McNicoll from 1907 to 1966. Conroy served as a teenage waiter for the last few years and has many fond memories as well as a wealth of information regarding its history and its ongoing restoration.
In the last twenty years of her working life, like many passenger ships of that era on the Great Lakes, the Keewatin and sister ship SS Assiniboia operated under stringent regulations imposed for wooden cabin steamships following the Noronic disaster in 1949.That was a similar ship that caught fire and burned while on the docks in Toronto Ontario with large loss of life. Doomed by their wooden cabins and superstructure, these overnight cruisers lasted through the decline of the passenger trade on the lakes in the post-war years. As passengers opted for more reliable and faster modes of travel, the Keewatin and her sister ship were withdrawn from the passenger trade in 1965, Assiniboia continuing in freight–only service until September 1967. Along with the South American and the Milwaukee Clipper, the Keewatin was among the last of the turn-of-the-century style overnight passenger ships of the Great Lakes. The Keewatin was eventually moved to Douglas, Michigan, in 1967, where she was a museum ship across the river from the summer retreat Saugatuck, Michigan. In June of 2012 she was sold to Canadian developer SKYLINE INVESTMENTS and sailed back to the Port that had been her home since 1912, Port McNicoll Ontario, and run by a volunteer organization as an historic site open to the public.