The Pontiac Archives, Shawville, Quebec

June 13, 2012

It was Tuesday, May 22, 2012 and this was the day I had looked forward to for a long time.  I have been wanting to  visit the Pontiac Archives in Shawville since I knew of their existence.  I was driving from Renfrew to Shawville via Portage Du Fort.  So I would be exploring the area on both sides of the Ottawa river and also learning about the treasures in this archive.

The Best Western was not offering a free breakfast like advertised on the website. I was a little unhappy about that for I had booked with them for this very reason?  So I went into Renfrew on O’Brien Road and came to the Flamingo Restaurant at about 8th.  They had an easy access and big parking lot.  Apparently they have not been rated well online, yet, I had a friendly waitress and a lovely breakfast that day.  I think I was amused by the name and the pink color of the building.  When I travel I like sit down restaurants where I am served or I can get my meal without too much of a hassle. 

Flamingo Restaurant, O’Brien Road

On the way up to Pembroke the day before, I had noticed Storyland Road and knew that was where I needed to turn to take the highway across the bridges to Portage Du Fort.  You can also go via Hwy 653 the Chenaux Road which Storyland meets up with.  When I did come to Hwy 653 I turned right and follow it to Hwy 301.

I had passed Storyland which was not yet opened for the season.  It is tucked into the forest on the left. It is a family theme park.  Here is there brochure:  

http://storyland.ca/photos/photo-archive/StorylandBrochure10.pdf 

There are some very nice views of the area from this road especially where you come to Riverside Road.  You can see across to the Quebec side.  Trying to find an elevated spot from which to view the Ottawa River is not an easy task.  If anyone has some suggestions that would be very nice for others. 

Looking east towards Quebec

The bridge to Portage Du Fort is very different from the one to Allumette Island.  The cars drive considerably slower and you get to enjoy the view.  You are driving across a dam or a series of dams and it gets a little tight in a few places for it is a two lane highway.   There are all these interesting green power structures in various configurations.  My husband who loves electricity would have been in heaven.  

Looking north toward the Ottawa

  

One of the dams across the Ottawa, Portage Du Fort

Once across these dams you come to Portage Du Fort.  You make your way passed the church and turn left onto Hwy 303 and head up past the St. James the Great Roman Catholic Cemetery.  It is  just as you climb a little hill and go almost around the corner and all of a sudden it is there so keep an eye out.

The Welcome Sign – Portage Du Fort

Portage Du Fort – A Church? on the Rue De L’Eglise N.

Here are some overview pictures of the cemetery:

St. James RC Cemetery? I hope?

More of the cemetery in Portage Du Fort

At first I thought the fields stretching out before me as I was driving along were lovely white flowers like clover, but when I looked closer I saw that they were hundreds of Dandelions gone to seed spreading out before me.  It was very pretty as long as you didn’t think about all those spores being introduced into the air.  My husband would have gone crazy! 

You travel along Hwy 303 till you come to Hwy 148 and turn right and Shawville is only about 2 kilometres to the south of this turn.  Here is a video by Duffy about a Trip to Shawville:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sxuBCkO6HM  It is very close to what I did up until he leaves Portage Du Fort.  There are some videos on YouTube about Shawville just make sure you choose Shawville, Quebec.  I found that accessing Google Images was a great way to get some pictures of an area and to orient myself before I went on this trip. 

I followed the lead of the car before and was soon on Rue Centre in Shawville.  It was not easy to spot the turn into the town of Shawville.  It was between some buildings in this shopping area along the highway. 

I found the Pontiac Archives in the Library building.  It was down from the main intersection on the south side of Rue Main in the library or more appropriately, bibliotheque.  I parked on the northern side of Rue Main and walked back to the archive.

Shawville Library, The Pontiac Archives are in this building in the basement

The Pontiac Archives is the repository for all things about Pontiac County, Quebec such as town records, genealogies, local history books, newspapers, maps, church and cemetery records, tax valuations back to 1857, and more. This is their website:  http://www.pontiacarchives.org/

This archive is cared for by a friendly group of volunteers: Elsie, Dorcas, Venetia, Margaret, Gwen and more.  They were very helpful and set about trying to find me information.  I gave them a booklet that was a condensed version of this blog about my McDonald family and the areas that were specific to Pontiac County and also Glengarry County where I think they came from.  It was enough to show where the family migrated to.  It will become part of their current collection.  Blogs are living breathing entities so more information will be added as time goes by but I think what I submitted to them will be good for quite a while and I did reference the blog url.

The main work area of the Pontiac Archives

Café 439 was across the street and it was delightful very nicely decorated. http://www.cafe349.com/en/home.html I had an egg salad sandwich and tea.  The waitresses would take orders in either English or French switching between the two languages with ease.  I live on the west coast of the USA so we do not hear French that often.  This was my first introduction to the real presence of the French language, besides the Quebec road signs.  I know… just indulge me please.  

Cafe 349

The rest of the afternoon I continued to study the Pontiac Archives holdings. Visitors were coming in and out throughout the day.  They do have a finding aid for their holdings that is placed on a small table in the middle of the main work room.  In the back is the microfilm and computer area in another small room.  They have a lunch room toward the front of the area.  So they are nicely set up.  The stairs are little steep but I think there is another access in the back of the area where the washrooms are located. 

More treasures of the Pontiac Archives in thru the door. That room has restrictions on access, just ask!

Venetia Crawford is a local historian, author and impersonator.  She is a volunteer at the archives.  She told me that she had tried view the remains of the Culbute Canal but the trail had lots of nettles and she decided that you would have to get a boat to go to the location of those parts that are still visiable.  My great-grandfather Archibald McDonell was the lockmaster for the Culbute Canal.  I have posted about his involvement with the Culbute Canal in the past on this blog.  This canal is in the channel between Allumette Island and Chichester Township (municipality).  It was abandoned in 1891 which was the last year that Archie had written he was lockmaster on the Canadian Census.  I was reading that there might have been a fire that caused some destruction in 1889. 

Venetia also pulled the municipal township maps which showed all the lots and number for Sheen, Chichester and Allumette.  This made it easy to identify where the lots for Archibald and John are located and hopefully more as I dig in deeper on the land records of the area.

I spent most of my time searching their files for genealogies and obituaries to see if I could find that one piece of information that would link my family to another and point back to Glengarry County.  I may not have been successful but I feel I learned a lot about what was available and what was not.  Of course, I have to review all my findings from this trip and you never know what I may have discovered. 

There had local histories and I studied the ones for Allumette Island and Sheen, mostly.  When they publish a book in this part of Quebec they have to write paragraphs or sections in French and then repeat them in English.  That was very helpful.  That is not always the case for some books are in French only. 

My day at the Pontiac Archives was coming to a close and I was ready to head back to Renfrew.  So I returned the way I came north on Hwy 148 to 303 and through Portage Du Fort.  I stopped at the park where there is a war memorial and a little lake.  There is a restaurant across the street if you are inclined. 

Portage Du Fort honors its military

A big beautiful house in Portage Du Fort

I decided to return to Renfrew.  I had discovered that I could exit into Renfrew by using Bruce Street which is north of the city and winds its way into town passing the St. Francis Xavier Cemetery where Father Joseph E. Et. Arthur Gravelle had been the priest for a number of years.  His fonds s are at the National Archives of Canada and here is a link to a finding aid: MG25-G 271, Finding Aid No. 1180.  He was an avid genealogist and kept records about the pioneers and families in the area of Renfrew and beyond, so you might want to check the contents at the link I provided. 

Time to get ready for the second day of research at the Pontiac Archives.

Portage Du Forts – Palais du Justice (City Hall)


Touring the Upper Ottawa River: Sheenboro Township in Quebec

June 9, 2012

I am still sharing my May 21, 2012 experiences exploring the area above Allumette Island called Chichester and Sheen Townships.  There have been challenges to keeping up on this trip but don’t worry you will hear about my adventures, all three weeks, HA!

They call them municipalities. Everything is changing in Ontario and Quebec with the government districts and maybe all over Canada, so you will have to be diligent in your research of the locations if your family comes from here. They are consolidating and discarding the old names. This means that if you look at a map of today or the future the area you are looking for may have disappeared. These two archives can help with the new designations for the government districts.

The Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogical Society: http://www.uovgg.ca/

Pontiac Archives: http://www.pontiacarchives.org/

After visiting the Holy Spirit Missionary RC Cemetery in Nicabeau (Nicabong), I headed west on Ch. de L’Eglise.  According to my map it turned into Ch. Sullivan and Meehan. It was a long gravel road with no sign of habitation and a thick grouping of trees lining the side of the road.  It seemed longer but it was probably a little over 5 minutes and I came back to the Chapeau-Sheenboro Hwy.  I made the mistake of turning left. After a few minutes it became obvious that I was going east so I had to do a turnaround at a connecting road.  There was a white picture fence along this road, which was curious?

I headed northwest up the Chapeau-Sheenboro Hwy and passed the Sheen welcoming sign.  It was not long after that I came to Sheenboro itself.

Sheen Municipality Sign

The highway called the Chapeau-Sheenboro Hwy and becomes Ch. Sheenboro after the sign to the municipality. You pass several houses and buildings and the big white parish meeting-house and right behind all these buildings to the left is the cemetery.

Sheenboro, looking south, southeast

The church and its sign – St. Paul the Hermit

From the Back of the St. Paul the Hermit to the northeast

It is very easy to find.  In the above picture you see where you enter between the church on the left and the parish meeting hall on the right, then you follow the road down till you turn and yo see the car sitting there.  It is very easy to access this cemetery and the road through it means not careful maneuvering.

The cemetery is in a big meadow which has room for future burials.  When I visited again later in the week someone was firing what might have been a  canon?  It went off about three times with a loud “Ka BOOM!  I could not see anything because there is a thick grouping of trees and what looks like a stream that goes along the back of the cemetery.  I could hear the cattle making their complaints.

St. Paul the Hermit Overview

My goal was to find the particular gravestone of John McDonell (McDonnald)and Julia.  I found the tombstone after a little dithering and it was in great shape. It was in the northeast corner of the cemetery closer to the parish meeting hall.

John McDonald and Julia Record Tombstone

I believe this John McDonell to be the older brother of my great-grandfather Archibald McDonell.  He died in 1873. He was coming home from a little enjoyment of alcohol and must have fallen and cut himself.  They ruled it an accident.  This came from his obituary which was found by my cousin at a church archive in Pembroke.  Nothing more was said about his life other than his immediate family.  I had hoped it would reveal where he came from but it concentrated on the accident instead.   See my posted dated March 31, 2012, A Discovery:  Archie’s brother John McDonell, living next door in Sheen?

Julia’s last name is a problem.  I was talking with a genealogist in the Cornwall area and she is bilingual and said that LeCour could be mispronounced as “Record or Ricard” if said in French?  So she played with it switching from English to French? My cousin and I have the following names for Julia: Tebeau, Lacour, Record and Ricard.  This same genealogist was looked through a big book of marriages edition for male and female and we were not finding LaCour but we were finding LeCour. AUGH!

UPDATE July 7, 2012:  Here is a complete set of the photographs I took at St. Paul the Hermit Church and cemetery.  These are just overview photographs with some specific tombstones.  Go ehre for more individual tombstone photographs of the area:  http://www.gravemarkers.ca/quebec/pontiac/index.htm

St. Paul the Hermit RC Church & Cemetery

My next target was to see Fort William which is a historical site.  It was once a fur trading post. This article from Wikipedia is not too bad and describes the area:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheenboro,_Quebec

So I turned the car down Ch. Perrault another gravel road closed in on both sides by trees and not a living soul around. At least it seemed that way. The drive took about 5 minutes till I came to an intersection in a wooded area.  My first reaction was “oh dear,” what do I do now?  I then spotted signs by and on the tree across the intersection.  Nothing fancy, but good enough to tell you to go in that direction.

Fort William is across the Ottawa river from Petawawa or actually the Canadian Forces base above Petawawa. This is a very wide part of the river.

I proceeded down the road and spotted the gate with stone pillars.  It was closed up.  So people were parking their cars in the shade of some big trees and bushes and carrying their items to the beach area.  There was a sign on the gate stating that the Pontiac Hotel will open in June. You do have to walk a little ways to the beach area but if you are into beach bumming it is a good thing.  I am afraid my fair skin will not allow too much sun without burning.

People were enjoying the lovely hot sunny day and several boats were moored along the beach.

The road into the Fort William area after the gate

The beach

The Pontiac Hotel and beach area

The Fort William Beach

The Pontiac Hotel

There is a little church called St. Theresa of the Flower but I did not go there because at the time I had forgotten about it or did not realize its significance.  It is old and once was run by the Olate Missionaries.  Lachlan Cranswick has pictures of it on his website which I have mentioned before. http://lachlan.bluehaze.com.au/chalk_river/2006/jun2006/11june2006a/index.html

The Municipality of Sheen website has pictures of this church and more:  http://www.sheenboro.ca/community/churches.html

There is a two set publication at the Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogical Society Group library in Pembroke under the area of their publications. It is available for review:  http://uovgg.ca/index.html

Crosses & Shamrocks, Souvenir of St. Paul The Hermit Parish 1872 – 1997 Sheenboro, Quebec and St. Theresa of the Little Flower 1857-1997, Fort William, Quebec.  The second volume is an Appendix – Family Trees.  In the first booklet they give the history of these two churches.  The second volume has family pedigree charts with no sources and no index but they are families of the Sheen Township.

After I spent some time enjoying the people enjoying the beach at Fort William I made my way back along the road to the same intersection and decided to turn right.  Well this was Ch. Fort William and it came out at the place were I did my earlier U-turn to get to Sheenboro.  The one with the picket fence!  So if you are on the Chapeau-Sheenboro Highway and come to the Ch. Fort William take a left and you will be at Fort William a lot easier than me. Then at the intersection in the woods go left again.

Back on the highway of Chapeau-Sheenboro I headed east trying to find any openings in the trees and public areas where I could view the Culbute Channel but it was pretty densely covered from Chichester to Waltham where I turned and south – southwest and followed Hwy 148 over the bridge and back onto Allumette Island.

As you cross from Waltham to Allumette Island is the area that I believe was once called Church Point.  It is where the first church was located.  It is privately owned so you can’t really do any exploring without asking permission. I saw from the highway just a thick bunch of trees. My friend Elaine Brown said she was all over the area thoroughly  when she was putting her book on the St. Alphonsus church records together and didn’t find anything, it was lost to time.  Apparently when they built the bridge they destroyed the old burial ground in the process.  There had been a fire that swept the island and so they moved the church to a mid-point on the island, location unknown to me.  It was about the middle 1880′s that the St. Alphonsus Church in Chapeau was established.

Driving down Hwy 148 on Allumette Island is easy and the road is smooth.  You see a little more of the island’s beauty.  I did not get to Lac McDonald but I am told there were two, one in Chichester and one further up in Sheen.  Anyone want to go and take a picture and contact me?


Monday, May 21, 2012: A Tour of The Upper Ottawa, First Pembroke’s Marina

May 27, 2012

The time had come for me to visit the locations and towns that I had been first introduced to by my Aunt Miriam’s notes back in about 1986.  It was not until 1999 that I finally started the search for my family history.  I started with the McDonald’s in all its various spellings.

The goal for May 21st was to tour Renfrew County, Ontario and Pontiac County, Quebec.  It was Victoria Day in Canada so a lot of places would be closed.  It was sunny and muggy.

These two counties share the Ottawa River.  Renfrew is on the western side and Pontiac is on the eastern.  Here are the tourism websites for these two counties and they are very different in approach and information.  You are going to have to dig to find what you want on these websites.

http://www.bonjourquebec.com/qc-en/outaouais0.html

http://www.ottawavalley.travel/

I headed up Hwy 17 and took a detour onto to Sutherland Road.  I was curious about the McDonald Burying Grounds.  There is not much there according to online sources, probably about 4 stones left.  I didn’t find it.  Well I was to learn it was on the western side of Hwy 17 up Sutherland road to the hill so don’t turn right if you are heading toward Pembroke.

One of the volunteers at the Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogical Group is working to clean it up of the poison ivy and to get a memorial plaque and stone placed there.  There is a McDonald family buried there but they are Presbyterian not Roman Catholic something to keep in mind when you are researching.  They are Scottish not Irish origin another factor. In preparing for this trip I learned that a great many Irish came to this area and that includes Irish McDonnells. If you want to learn more about this cemetery contact the Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogical Group for information. (See side bar link to the right under Ontario links.

I was not going to dither in Pembroke long because I had a lot of ground to cover.  I would be back later in the week. I took the Greenwood Road into Pembroke so I could get a feel for the city.

The Ottawa River & Allumette Island in the distance

Albert Street is in the heart of the town and I turned right toward the river.  They have a park and a marina at this location.  It was my first introduction to the Ottawa River.  I had only caught glimpses of it as I drove up Hwy 17.

Off in the distance was Allumette Island.  According to my Aunt Miriam, Ronald her father and my grandfather grew up there.  So this was going to be great to finally see this island.

Pembroke’s Marina end of Albert Street

The Marina’s rock jetty and Allumette Island

Looking back towards Pembroke


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