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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Here are some overview pictures of the cemetery:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.