Touring the Upper Ottawa River: Pontiac County, Quebec – Allumette Island and Chapeau

May 27, 2012

My tour on Monday, May 21, 2012 continues.  I headed east back out of Pembroke turning onto Hwy 148 east of the town by the Esso gas station.

There are three bridges that take you to Allumette Island and cross over Cotnam and Morrison Islands. The first is under going repair so there is a stop light that monitors the traffic.  The second comes quickly and you are then greeted by a big blue sign welcoming you to Quebec.  If you decide to take photos of the bridge, be careful for the auto’s speed along and don’t wait for anyone and there is not much space along the highway to walk safely.  Each bridge gives you different views of the Ottawa River.

Welcome to Quebec

The Ottawa off the 2nd bridge to Allumette Island

The next bridge is the one that finally places you on Allumette Island but the sign reads instead:  L’Isle-aux-Allumettes (below on the map it reads lle des Allumettes – there is a ˆ over the l.)

The Big Sign

The small sign for Allumette Island

Just beyond the sign is a grocery store and other businesses including a gas station and restaurant. It was very busy at this store and it was open even on the holiday.  I found a map titled  Outaouais/Gatineau which gives more detail. They feature cities on the Quebec side but not the towns I am interested in.  The Renfrew County Ontario side is on the map but some it blotted out.  It goes all the way to Hawkesbury, Ontario but emphasizes the Quebec side.  It is very interesting to me that they only feature certain communities.  Apparently when you are too small you don’t get mentioned?

Get your supplies here!

Hwy 148 travels up the eastern side of the island to Waltham and another bridge.  I turned at Ch. de Pembroke and headed for Chapeau 12 kilometres on the north side of the island.  It curves around and you are pretty much in the center of the island. Farms and fields stretch out on both sides of the highway and it is flat. First is the Dejardinsville sign which you can turn left and go exploring but I continued on to Demers Centre which is four corners filled with mostly lovely homes and at least one business.  I guess they call them hamlets?

The next stop for me was the what is called the new St. Alphonse Cemetery on the right side of the road. easily to spot but you do have to turn quickly or you can miss the entrance.  You can pull in through the gate/sign and drive through part of the cemetery. It was well-kept.

St. Alphonsus Cemetery

New St. Alphonse Cemetery overview

UPDATE 7/09/2012:  Here are additional overview photographs of this cemetery.

 

St. Alphonsus Cemetery (new)

During my trip I will stop at various cemeteries and take overview pictures of them.  There are websites that you can go to and get photos and listings of the tombstones and those buried there, as well as publications.  When I return from this trip I will post more photos and information about each cemetery that I did visit.

The journey continued to Chapeau which was very exciting for me.  As you enter Chapeau you will see their fairgrounds to the right.

Chapeau Fair

Chapeau is actually two levels, so when you come from the south you come to the upper level where the municipal building is located on Notre-Dame street and the catholic church, St. Alphonse is situated on Ch. St. Jacques with the library behind the church.  If you continue on Ch. Pembroke you drop down to the lower area next to the river and can cross the bridge to Chichester Township.

My first stop was the St. Alphonse Catholic Church where I dallied a while taking pictures of the church and the cemetery which is behind the church and over a block.  The church is very difficult to photograph because there is limited room to back up (cliff) and the spire is so tall so that is why this photo looks slightly distorted.

St. Alphonse Catholic Church

There is a green park area next to the church and it has their war memorial.

Chapeau’s War Memorial

Crossing the bridge to Chichester is a little less scary than the crossing from Pembroke to the island.  I was able to stop and take pictures and not fear for my life.  The Chenal de la Culbute is part of the Ottawa River which splits and circles the island with the major portion of the river flowing along the west and southern part of the island, while the northern part is the Chenal de la Culbute.

The Chenal de la Culbute to the east

Chenal de la Culbute – looking west

This was very exciting for me because my great-grandfather Archibald McDonell was the locks master.  The locks were operated from about 1870 to 1891.  The history books and articles keep changing the date when it was abandoned.  Archibald is listed as the lockmaster in the Canadian census for 1891 so I tend to think he was still involved at that date.  It was made of wood so a lot has rottened away.  I tried to figure out its location but failed.  I was told by a volunteer at the Pontiac Archives in Shawville that you would have to go to the remains by boat.

So I put out a challenge to someone who knows where the remains of the locks are in the Chenal de la Culbute and would be willing to take pictures for me.  Just leave a comment if you wish to contact me to help?  I am wondering if they widened the Canal and was told that there were a lot of dams.  When I first started research back in 1999 the Culbute lock was not mentioned nor did anyone know about it but I am seeing more on-line.  I will revisit later with additional information.

When I was preparing for this trip, I tried to find auto tours.  I stumbled onto this website for the Outaouais Heritage WebMagazine that has some very interesting articles and auto tours click on the Outaouais Pontiac Heritage tour and then go to the page 3 for more choices for tours.   http://outaouais.quebecheritageweb.com/attractions-and-tours

On the Chichester side you can look back toward Chapeau and you will see the beautiful St. Alphonse Church rising above the trees.  Driving along the Ch. St. Jacques going west and then returning you can see the spire in the distance.

Looking back to Chapeau


Archibald McDonell as Culbute Lock Master

June 9, 2011

Miriam, Archie’s granddaughter, wrote the following in her notes:

Archie the Lock Master

As you can see Miriam misspelled the name of the locks and that caused a bit of a problem.  Still she was on the right track.  It is spelled formally: Chenal de la Culbute.

Unfortunately the Archives in Ottawa did not know anything about these locks which are in the Ottawa River a little north of the Island of Allumette. 

Apparently the locks were built about 1870  and were in service in the area from that time to around 1894.  There appears to be some confusion as to when they were actually abandoned.  

The exciting news is that Keith’s grandfather Archibald is featured in a book as the Lock Master:

Source:  The Upper Ottawa Valley, by Clyde C. Kennedy, Renfrew County Council, Pembroke, Ontario, pg. 137-139, 1970 FHL Book#971.38 H2 (This is a book at the FHL and is not on microfilm.)

Culbute Locks:  “Dredging the shoals along the channel was completed in 1883, but in 1886 Archibald McDonell, Lock Tender, was writing in his report; “Last fall after water got low it was almost impossible to open them (the gates) then it took about half a day to get them opened.”  The inevitable decay and distortion of the timber structures had become serious and the end was in sight for the Culbute Canal.  The steam railways had extended into the Ottawa Valley and the steamboats were losing their importance, except for sight-seeing excursions (the tourist business began years earlier) and for towing booms along the great widenings of the Ottawa where the current was imperceptible.  Archibald McDonell reported for 1885 only 20 passages of the canal by steamers, six by scows and six by row boats.  The structures “…are rapidly becoming so completely decayed as to render some wholesale substitution for them inevitable,” wrote D. Stark, Superintending Engineer, Ottawa River Canals, Ottawa, in 1888.  “The expense of keeping them (the locks) in repair is annually becoming greater, and if they are to be maintained in existence at all, their replacement by structures of stone becomes the only practical mode of dealing with them.  The Culbute Locks were abandoned to the forces of the river and Nature’s wood-rotting agents in the fall of 1889 and only the excavations and relatively small portions of the timbers remain to indicate the changes that were made to the highway of the voyageurs.”

There appears to be more information on the Internet these days about the different locks that were constructed and used during this time frame including the Culbute Locks.

If anyone has additional information about the Culbute Locks and photographs I would be most grateful if they would be willing to share?


Archibald and Mary McDonald

March 20, 2010

Keith’s grandparents were Archibald and Mary McDonald.  Archie and Mary settled in International Falls sometime after 1905.  They had migrated from the Upper Ottawa River Valley to Bemidji, Beltrami County, Minnesota.  Their children felt they were getting to old to manage their farm in Chichester, Pontiac Co., Quebec so the remainder of the family made the move to Minnesota.  Two of their sons, Ronald and Alexander, were already in Minnesota.  So Mary, Archie, and two other children, Jack and Nellie, moved to Minnesota around 1901. 

Mary McDonald

 

Archibald McDonald

 

I have so very few photographs of my great grandparents.  These two photos are taken from a much larger family picture I will share in the next post.  It really focuses in on their faces, clothing and personalities.   

This was taken in Bemidji in 1905.  My great-grandfather looks like a sea-captain in this photograph.  He wasn’t a sea-captain but he was the locks master for the Culbute Locks located on the Upper Ottawa River.


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