Estella Burkett was a teacher at the Deseronto Public School. She was born in Maynooth, Ontario in 1913 to Agnes Shields and Patrick Burkett. The picture below shows her with her class of children in 1949, outside the old Public School building. Estella retired in 1974 and lived in Belleville until her death in 2010 at the age of 97.

2010.27(6)

Estella did a considerable amount of travelling in her vacations and she donated some of her photographic materials and notes about her excursions to the Deseronto Archives in 2004. These materials include some photographs taken on a trip to Berlin in 1955, ten years after the end of World War II and six years before the city was divided by the construction of the Berlin Wall. Estella took photographs of the monuments her tour group visited, including this image of a statue of Joseph Stalin, which was removed in 1961 and melted down.

Statue of Stalin

She also photographed the Brandenburg Gate, which would be isolated by the Berlin Wall six years later and impassable until the Wall’s destruction in 1989. The damage caused to the Gate during the Second World War is visible in this image.

Brandenburg Gate 1955

These photos are good examples of the way that small local collections can be unexpected sources of information about entirely different parts of the world. It’s not until we dig into the boxes and do the work of describing the materials, that it becomes possible for everyone else to see what is in them.

The north-south streets at the eastern end of Deseronto are numbered, like those in many North American towns. We have First Street, Second Street, Fourth Street and Fifth Street, but Third Street is nowhere to be seen.

Numbered streets on map of Deseronto from Bing

Well, that’s actually not quite true: you can see it in the Archives.

Here is a detail of a plan of the town made in about 1895:

Third StreetYou can see Third Street in the middle of the map and there’s also a Sixth Street on the far left. As you can see, Third Street was never a very long road, stretching only from Main Street down to the flour mill on Water Street.

On this day in 1896 (the Victoria Day holiday), most of this side of town went up in flames, destroying docks and many buildings. Newspapers across North America reported on the fire. This clipping is from the May 27th 1896 edition of the Daily Public Ledger of Maysville, Kentucky:

Daily Public Ledger report on Deseronto fire of 25 May 1896

Fire destroyed two-thirds of the east end of the town of Deseronto, Ont., and nearly a hundred families are homeless. The Rathbun Co.’s big flour mill, storehouse and elevator, the shingle and lumber docks, the Roman Catholic church and about one hundred dwelling houses were burned. Most of the houses were occupied by workmen. The total loss will exceed $300,000.

The original Roman Catholic Church of St. Vincent de Paul stood on the north side of Dundas Street in this part of Deseronto. The church had been built in 1883 at a cost of over $4,000. Herbert A. Osborne took this photograph of it in around 1895:

St. Vincent de Paul church, c.1895

When the church was rebuilt, it was located further west; still on the north side of Dundas Street but away from the more industrial areas of the town. It was completed in November 1896.

Unlike the church, it appears that Third Street was never rebuilt after the fire. By the time the map below was made for the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway in 1912, the road  had vanished.

Detail of 1912 map of the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway

A neat example of history affecting geography!

August 4th 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of Canada’s entry into the First World War. Organizations and communities around the world are marking this occasion by examining the effect the war had on their local area. We’ll be doing this in Deseronto, too.

In the Archives we started by researching the 34 names of the First World War casualties named on the town’s war memorial. In the process we found out some interesting facts about the monument itself.

 

War memorial in Deseronto, April 2014

The memorial, which stands on the South side of Main Street, opposite Rathbun Park, was unveiled in a ceremony on Labour Day (September 3rd) 1923. The event was attended by many of the townspeople, as the photograph below (one of several taken on the day) shows. A piece of land forty feet square was purchased by the Town of Deseronto from the Rathbun Company for the monument’s site, at a cost of $100.

Unveiling ceremony for the Deseronto war memorial

The memorial itself was donated to the town by a former Deseronto resident named Thomas Carson Brown. Thomas was born on 21 April 1870, the son of Thomas Brown and Emily Varty and one of 10 children. His mother died in childbirth in Lennox and Addington County (where the family had a farm)when Thomas was seven years old and by 1881 the family had moved to Mill Point (Deseronto). In the 1891 census, when he was 21, Thomas’s trade is given as bricklayer. His father died just six weeks after the census was taken.

It was through the bricklaying trade that Thomas C. Brown would go on to earn his fortune in New York State, where his firm constructed a number of public buildings, including the Plattsburgh Normal School, pictured here, and a large section of the Clinton Correctional Facility at Dannemora.

Plattsburgh Normal School

Brown went on to serve as a Senator in the New York Senate between 1925 and 1930, where he took a keen interest in prison reform issues. He clearly never forgot his home town of Deseronto, as the generous gift of a war memorial demonstrates. It is not just a war memorial, however, as Thomas C. Brown ensured that his parents and five of his sisters (Jane, Ida, Etta, Emma and Annie) were also commemorated on the structure, as you can see in this detail.

Detail of war memorial

Thomas himself died on May 24th, 1952 at his home at 1174 Lowell Road, Schenectady, New York: you can read his obituary in the Schenectady Gazette (PDF made available through the Fulton History site).

Over the next four years we will be marking the 100th anniversaries of local people’s involvement in the First World War here on the blog. There are a lot of stories to be told and we are always keen to hear new ones, so if you have any local World War One information which you would like to share with the world, please let us know!

The past does seem a strange place, sometimes. An item which made its way to the archives this week is a case in point. This object was originally given out as a prize at the Lucky Strikes Lanes, the bowling alley which was where the Deseronto Public Library (and the Archives) is now. It was run by Ernie and Gladys Luck – and Gladys’s apple pie was legendary, it seems.

Green ashtray

Even as recently as the 1960s or 1970s, it was perfectly fine to hand out an ashtray as a prize. It’s hard to imagine this happening today!

We’re not sure who donated this object to the Library – so please let us know if it was yours!

It’s surprising just how often people discover items of historical interest in the walls of their properties. Today’s accession arrived in the Archives as a result of renovation work going on in a house in Mill Street in Deseronto. Grateful thanks to Shelley Dupont for bringing them in!

Three items were found inside a wall of the house. The first is a photograph of an unidentified family. The picture has suffered some damage from being inside the wall for perhaps 100 years, but the image is still fairly clear. There is nothing on the back of the photograph to identify the group.

Unidentified family portrait

The second photograph has more information – these three children are identified as  Hazel Annie Cole, aged 3 years and 5 months; Murney Nelson Cole, aged 1 year, 9 months and Edna Kathleen Cole, aged 6 months. Hazel was born July 27 1910 in Milford, Prince Edward County – dating the picture to late 1913/early 1914. Their parents were Jesse Abbot Cole  and Alta Theresa Viale.

Cole children

The third item also has a Prince Edward County connection. It is a wooden rectangle, covered with black felt, and with a tin plaque, bearing the name of Eliza Dodge. This is a coffin plate. Eliza died in South Marysburgh on March 1st, 1890.

Memorial for Eliza Dodge

A little digging through the census and vital statistics records shows us that Eliza was married to Frederick Dodge and her maiden name was Thompson. In the census taken the year after Eliza’s death, Frederick is working as a telephone and telegraph operator and living with his two daughters, Rosa Bell Dodge, aged seven, and Sarah Ann Cole, aged 19. Yes, Cole again. A bit more digging yields up information on a connection between Sarah Ann and the three children in the photograph: Sarah Ann, Eliza Dodge’s daughter (known as Annie), was married to Claude Wilmot Aylsworth Cole, who was the older brother of Jesse Abbot Cole, the father of the three children

Annie Cole is the link between the last two items: she’s Eliza’s daughter and aunt to the three Cole children. Perhaps the first photograph has a Cole family connection, too? Claude and Jesse came from a family of four sons and one daughter, which just happens to be the configuration of the family in the first photograph. We’re entering into the realms of wild supposition here, but it’s just possible that this photograph represents Simon Aylsworth Cole (1844-1922), his wife Sarah Letitia Boulter (1848-1922) and their five children: Claude (1870-1938), Edna (1873-1929), George (b.1876), Arthur (1877-1941) and Jesse (1879-1937). If so, it would have been taken in around 1885.

Or they could be other people entirely!

UPDATE (Feb 15th, 2014): Thanks to Claudia (Cole) Grendon for adding some more details to this story in the comments. She tells us that Annie Cole was her grandmother and that Annie moved to Mill Street in around 1939 with her son, Wilmot Havelock Cole and his family. She died in around 1946.

Cyril BettsThe Deseronto Archives Board would like to express its deep sympathy to the family of Cyril Betts, who died this morning. Cyril was a long-serving member of the Board and an influential supporter of the Archives and its work. Board meetings attended by Cyril always went on too long as Cyril had an apparently endless supply of highly entertaining stories, accumulated during his long career as an Anglican minister.

You can still hear some of these stories in the interview Cyril gave us for the ‘About Deseronto’ project on September 10th, 2010.

We are hugely grateful for Cyril’s contributions to the work of Deseronto Archives and will miss him very much.

A couple of Flickr-related news items today, one local, one not-so-local.

This morning we passed one million views on the Deseronto Archives Flickr account, according to the statistics generated by that service:

Graph showing one million views on the Deseronto Archives Flickr account

And in the not-so-local news, the British Library has just released a million illustrations from digitized versions of 65,000 17th, 18th and 19th century books. Like the Deseronto images, these are in the Flickr Commons, which means they are freely available for re-use in whatever way you choose. Sadly, Deseronto doesn’t feature in any of these images, but there are a number of drawings of other Canadian towns and cities, including this image of Toronto, showing “a bird’s eye view of Toronto industrial exhibition, 1899″.
Bird's eye view of Toronto Industrial Exhibition, 1899
This is from page 22 of an 1899 book called Toronto, historical, descriptive, and pictorial, etc by Alexander Fraser. Its reference number at the British Library is HMNTS 10470.ff.24.

And here’s a reproduction of Guy Johnson’s 1771 map showing the territories of the Six Nations in what is now New York state:

Map of Six Nations territories

This is from A History of the Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English times; being contributions toward a history of the lower Mohawk Valley, by Jonathan Pearson, published in 1883 (HMNTS 10409.cc.2).

You can search over all the images that the British Library has shared.

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