1920s


CIBC in October 2012 (from Google Streetview)

Deseronto CIBC in October 2012 (from Google Streetview)

The CIBC branch in Deseronto will be closing its doors for good this summer, bringing to an end more than 120 years of banking history in the town.

The Bank of Montreal was the first firm to open a bank in Deseronto: Herbert Osborne took this photograph of its original Main Street branch in around 1895:

Bank of Montreal, c.1895

Bank of Montreal, c.1895

In 1904 the Bank of Montreal built a new structure at Centre and Main on the corner of the park lot.

DESCOM-06-23

DESCOM-06-23

Shortly after the Bank of Montreal opened its new building, the Standard Bank opened a branch in Deseronto, in September 1905. Seventeen years later, a new brick building, the current CIBC branch, was constructed on the south side of Main Street. Here is the bank under construction:

2009.26 CIBC-09-02

2009.26 CIBC-09-02

And here is the finished building in the 1920s:

2009.26 CIBC-09-15

2009.26 CIBC-09-15

In 1928 the Standard Bank was taken over by the Canadian Bank of Commerce. During the Great Depression it was common practice for banks to rationalize their branches and transfer customers to another firm. The Bank of Montreal closed down in 1932 and its customers were moved to the Canadian Bank of Commerce.

This is how the building looked in 1933:

2009.26 CIBC-09-17

2009.26 CIBC-09-17

The Bank of Montreal building was taken over by the Town of Deseronto and became the Town Hall in 1945, with Council holding its first meeting there on November 15th of that year. In 1961 the Canadian Bank of Commerce merged with the Imperial Bank of Canada to become the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The CIBC Deseronto branch celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005.

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Louis Bardy's signature

On this day in 1915, Louis Bardy enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Kingston. Louis was born in Tyendinaga on February 12th, 1894, the son of Alexander Bardy and Margaret (née Brant), who were Mohawks.

Louis was five feet six and a quarter inches tall, with a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He joined the 26th Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery 7th Brigade with the regimental number 89616. His service record shows that he was in France from May 1916 and was transferred to the 4th Brigade in March 1917. He received a good conduct badge in that month and in January 1919 he was awarded the Military Medal:

Louis Bardy military medal award

Military Medal award for Louis Bardy, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

Bardy left England on June 23rd, 1919 on the SS Belgic and was demobilized in Kingston on July 3rd.

Louis Bardy died of a fractured skull at Belleville General Hospital on August 24th, 1920, after an accident at the Point Anne cement works. He was buried at Christ Church in Tyendinaga three days later.

Point Anne Cement Works

Point Anne Cement Works (image courtesy of Belleville Public Library)

Aerial photograph of Deseronto in winter, c.1920

Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-213876

This aerial photograph is a reproduction of an image held at Library and Archives Canada. It is undated, but was probably taken around 1920, judging from the visible buildings. Right at the bottom of the picture is the chimney of the Big Mill, and on the right is the sash and door factory which took up the western side of the bayshore end of Mill Street. The two roads stretching away from the photographer are Green Street and Mill Street, both of which were lined with trees. The Arlington Hotel can be seen on the middle right of the image, with the Canadian National Railway station just in front of it, on the other side of Main Street.

The Archives will be closed on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, but will be open again on January 7th. We’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy and peaceful midwinter break!

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. Deseronto’s newspaper, The Tribune, reported Brown’s marriage in August 1899 to Hattie B. Humphrey, noting that “the groom is well and favourably known in Deseronto, where he passed his boyhood days. He is now engaged in the contracting business in Little Falls. He is a brother of Mrs. Jas. Sexsmith.” Thomas’s sister, Jane Brown, married James Sexsmith in Deseronto in January 1884. She died of pneumonia in 1910.

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 Archives has recently received a small collection of materials which once belonged to Cecil Elmer Argue (1888-1974), who was elected Mayor of Deseronto in 1929. Cecil and his wife Elizabeth moved to Belleville, taking a few mementoes of their time in Deseronto with them. This items have now found their way back to the town and we have scanned them and made them available online, along with some supplementary materials from the Archives which also date from 1929.

One of the 1929 objects from the Argues was this pennant:

This was from a major event commemorating the 145th anniversary of the United Empire Loyalists‘ arrival in Canada. The celebration lasted four days, as the pennant shows. One of the additional items we have digitzed is the printed souvenir and programme of the day. This document details the many events held in June of 1929, several of which would have been presided over by Cecil E. Argue in his role as Mayor. The Town called in representatives of higher levels of government to take part in the celebrations: the Premier of Ontario, G. Howard Ferguson, gave a speech, as did the Minister for Labour, Peter Heenan, and the Superintendent-General for Indian Affairs, Duncan Campbell Scott.

One of the highlights of the event was a grand Pageant with a cast of over 250 people. The members of the Pageant were recorded for posterity by the Marrison Studio of Kingston. They took a panoramic picture of the Pageant participants:

Loyalist Pageant members, Deseronto, 1929

1929 Loyalist Pageant

[Archivist’s note: it can be challenging to reproduce such large photographs, but modern technology can help. In this case, we scanned the photograph in four sections and then used a free program from Microsoft Research called Image Composite Editor to automatically ‘stitch’ it back together again. You can’t see the joins!]

By 1929, Deseronto was past its industrial peak and the mills and factories of the Rathbun Company era had closed. The last page of the Loyalist Celebrations programme gives a rather beseeching plea to the reader:

Deseronto invites you to take notice of the valuable Manufacturing Sites available and extending along the water front

We are left with the impression that the Loyalist Celebration event was seen as an opportunity by Mayor Cecil Argue and his fellow town officials to regenerate the declining fortunes of Deseronto. But with the Wall Street Crash of October in that year and the Great Depression which followed it, it seems that no-one was in a position to “Come to Deseronto” and take advantage of its “valuable Manufacturing Sites”. Cecil Argue himself did not stay in Deseronto to complete his term as Mayor: in the same year that he oversaw the Loyalist Celebration, he left the town and moved to Belleville, where he lived for the rest of his days.

Library and Archives Canada have made the 1921 census available through Ancestry.ca. The census has not yet been indexed (which means it can’t be searched by name at present), but it is available to browse. You need to sign up for a free Ancestry account in order to see this, or you can get access without having to sign up if you use Ancestry from a public library which has a subscription to the Ancestry service (most libraries in Ontario do).

To see the entries for Deseronto, you’ll need to select ‘Ontario’ from the menu on the left of the Ancestry 1921 page, then go to the ‘Hastings East’ district. You’ll find that Deseronto is covered by three sub-districts: 44 (Centre Ward), 45 (East Ward) and 46 (West Ward of the town). This census was taken on June 1st, 1921.

And speaking of libraries and 1921, we’ve just digitized the first ten pages of Deseronto Public Library’s register of books borrowed in March, April and May 1921. This volume was maintained by Deseronto’s fourth librarian, Flossie Hall.1 So if you do find a Deseronto relative in the 1921 census, you can also check the borrowing register and see what they were reading!

Register of books issued in 1921

The books aren’t available in the library itself these days, but you can find scanned copies of many of them online through Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive and the Open Library, to get a taste of what people were enjoying back in 1921.


1 There’s a photograph of Flossie featured in this earlier post.

Naylor's Theatre in 2009

It’s hard to believe these days, but Naylor’s Theatre in Deseronto was once on a theatrical circuit which included far more famous venues such as Washington’s National Theatre, Philadelphia’s Orpheum Theater and New York’s Broadway.

This advertisement from The Deseronto Post of November 24, 1920, is for a touring bedroom farce called Twin Beds, starring actress Mabelle Estelle (who was originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania).

Twin Beds

Twin Beds was written by Salisbury Field and Margaret Mayo and was produced by Selwyn & Company, owners of the Selwyn Theater at 229 West 42nd Street in New York (now the American Airlines Theater). Edgar Selwyn (1875-1944), who had founded the company, was also a co-founder of Goldwyn Pictures. Margaret Mayo was his wife. The play was based on a novel and was also turned into a movie four times.

The show was obviously a popular one: it appears seven times in the timeline of plays at the National Theatre between 1915 and 1925 and had run on Broadway for a year before that. It returned to Washington D.C. in the May of 1921, where it was favourably reviewed in the Washington press. We can find all this out from the Library of Congress, which  has an excellent online newspaper service called Chronicling America. This allows searching across a range of digitized American newspapers from 1836 to 1922. You can also download images of the newspapers which interest you. The picture below is from The Washington Times of May 1, 1921 and shows Mabelle Estelle. You can click on the image to go to the page of the newspaper on the Chronicling America site.

Mabelle Estelle in the Washington Times

And, from the same site, here is the listing from The Washington Herald for Twin Beds:

Twin Beds advert in the Washington Herald

Naylor’s Theatre is now silent and empty, unlike its Washington and New York counterparts. It’s difficult now to imagine a time when stars of the American stage would have been staying in Deseronto on a regular basis!

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