Touring Glengarry: Glengarry Archives & the Sir John Johnson House

June 26, 2012

Ever since my Aunt Miriam wrote in her notes that Archibald McDonell, my great-grandfather, might have come from Glengarry, Ontario I have been fascinated.  So I have tried to learn as much as I can about the history and the area of Glengarry.   The information below implies that he grew up in Glengarry…hmmm?

Archibald & Glengarry, Ontario

I begin my tour with the Glengarry Archives which is housed in the Sir John Johnson House in Williamstown in what was Charlottenburgh Township and is now part of South Glengarry.  I had emailed and made an appointment at 10 am on Monday, June 4, 2012.  They are not open very many hours so it is wise to contact them before you go for a visit.   Here is their official website:  http://www.glengarryarchives.ca/

I began my tour from Brookdale Avenue in Cornwall.  There is a roundabout and then you have to watch closely or you might be on your way to New York and cross that big bridge.  I did good for my 1st time and made my way down 2nd Ave E. to Boundary Road (Hwy 44). Crossing Boundary Road, I was officially in Glengarry.  I turned right and came to Hwy 2 and drove along that amazing section of highway.

I think I fell in love with Hwy #2 in this area east of Cornwall. Do you think this is what caught the fancy of our ancestors?  This section of Hwy #2 is right along the St. Lawrence River?

The St. Lawrence and Hwy #2

I drove through Glen Walter and turned left at Summerstown heading north on Hwy #27.  The weather was a little stormy.  I turned onto Gore Road and immediately encountered a gravel road.  There were houses along this road.  There were fields stretching to my right and it was so green.  I could barely keep my eyes on the road because it was lovely.  The sky was dark and threatening and it was pouring rain.  I wanted to stop but I had an appointment to get too. I turned north on Kraft Road and it too was gravel.  It took me to Hwy #19.  I went to the right and came to Williamstown.

Williamstown welcomes you!

The book by Dorothy Drumbrille “Up and Down the Glens” truly came to mind.  I wish I had more time to absorb her stories and understand them. I obtained my copy at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  So far I have not found a copy online that you can read.  They are for sale at various online book websites.

Ms. Dumbrille wrote affectionately and romantically about Glengarry County in 1954.  Her book was charming and nostalgic.  As I drove through Williamstown I can understand now.  It is quiet, lazy, sweet and gentle. It is old and steeped in history.  I was charmed and delighted.

Looking southwest from the Sir John Johnson Manor

I made my way to the Glengarry Archives.  I followed the signs.  I turned onto Williams St. which lead me to the Sir John Johnston house. You enter from the rear of the house and drive around to a parking lot.  You could drive up to the front of house but something told me not too.

Sir John Johnson’s Home

It was about 10 minutes to 10 am so I just enjoyed the beautiful setting and read the presentation boards:

The plaque outside the Sir John Johnson House

Next to it was another presentation board with additional information:

A little more about Sir John Johnson

They also provided a map of the area explaining how it use to be (click the photo and it will enlarge, click your back button to return to this blog):

The area today!

At exactly 10 am a car drove up to the front of the house.  It was Penny.  She is the person who you email when you wish to contact the Glengarry Archives.

As usual when you first enter an archive it is a little disorienting.  I spent most of the time talking to Penny and explaining my family history.  I gave her a copy of my McDonald booklet.  At one point she consulted the Internet and found this blog.  I was touched.

For some reason when you tell a person that you are researching McDonell/MacDonald/Macdonnell etc. they laugh.  After awhile Penny started to shake her head at all the McDonell’s in my family line.  I was relieved that even she would find it all frustrating and confusing just like I did.  I usually get a knot in my stomach.  Well it was obvious that I had more work ahead of me to try to figure out about Archibald McDonell and his wife Mary McDonell (yes she was a McDonell too).  Mary’s parents Alexander John and Ellen (McPherson) McDonell.

I had left a seed and hopefully it will germinate and grown. I really didn’t expect them to give me a full family history.  It is not going to be easy to find that one piece of information that will connect my family.

Sometimes amazing things happen.  There was a map on the wall in their book area and I was coveting it.  Penny had found it at a real estate office and just pulled it off the wall and gave it too me.  WOW!  I love maps and this was wonderful because it would help me to tour Glengarry.  I have that map and will treasure it.  It reads:  Compliments of Royal LePage, M. Jean Cameron Real Estate Broker.  What a great idea, I never thought of a real estate office having maps.

I am grateful to Penny and Alicia for their interest and help and I thank them for their time.

I couldn’t believe that I had been there a full two hours but it was time to go.

What you see when you exit the Sir John Johnson Manor


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