children


In April and May 1916 there was a measles epidemic in Deseronto. The 1916 report of the Medical Officer of Health was presented to the Town Council at a meeting on December 15th of that year and described the outbreak in the following way:

Description of measles outbreak

During April and May, an Epidemic of Measles passed through the town, a large number were attacked and there were two deaths from this disease. It was part of a general epidemic which swept through the Province of Ontario last winter and spring.

The first death was of Audrey Jean Whiting, daughter of Arthur Henry Whiting, the principal of Deseronto Public School, and Annie (née Leedham). Audrey was two years old. She died on May 16th.

Isabella Barnhart was the second child to die in the epidemic. She was the daughter of George Barnhart and Isabella (née Louis or Lewis), who were both Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. She was fifteen months old when she died on June 17th, 1916. She had been ill for three weeks.

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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.

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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.

Sometimes the bald information in records of the past can conceal stories of human suffering and loss. But those bare bones of birth, death, marriage and census details can also be used to give structure and meaning to half-remembered family stories and newspaper reports from days gone by.

Deseronto’s Tribune  newspaper of August 31, 1888 reported the death of Philip Gaylord, a man who was working for the Rathbun Company, in the following (rather graphic) way:

Fatal Accident

On the afternoon of Saturday, 25th inst., Philip Gaylord, an employee of the Cedar Mill, was the victim of an unfortunate accident which was followed with fatal results. He was employed as a teamster and was engaged in hauling cars loaded with refuse from the mill to the yards. About the middle of the afternoon he left the mill with a loaded car and had almost reached its destination in the yard east of the Chemical works. It happened, however, that one of the pieces of stuff on the car projected too far from the load and as the car proceeded along the track between two piles of wood, this piece was caught and as the horses moved on it was swung about, throwing Gaylord from the load.  He fell on the rails, and the loaded car passed over him, the wheels mutilating him in a dreadful manner.

Railway tracks behind the cedar mill in 1907, with refuse burner chimneys in the distance (HMR1-06-79)

Mr. Donaldson, the foreman of the yard, witnessed the accident and ran immediately to his assistance.  He was conveyed at once to Dr. Newton’s surgery where it was found that his right arm was nearly cut off, the bones being shattered to the very shoulder, while the right leg was also fearfully mangled.  Dr. Newton immediately amputated the arm at the shoulder joint, and the leg above the knee; he also amputated the great toe of the left foot which had also been crushed.  The young man bore the operation well, but the terrible shock was too great and after midnight he began to sink rapidly and he expired at an early hour on Sunday morning.

The funeral took place on Sunday afternoon and was numerously attended.  The deceased, who was 21 years of age, was the son of Levi Gaylord, of the township of Arden.  He was a steady young man and had gained the good will and respect of his companions and fellow workmen.  His sudden cutting off is rendered more sad by the fact that he was to have been married in the course of two or three months.  His last words, somewhat indistinctly uttered, expressed a message which he wished to be conveyed to his betrothed.

The obituary was discovered on this blog by a researcher who was trying to find out about the parentage of a woman called Minnie May Penny who was born in January 1889. The family story had been that she was adopted by Charles and Emma Penny in Arden after one of her parents was killed in a railway accident that spooked some horses. Marriage and census records show us that Emma Penny’s father was Levi Gaylord and that she was therefore the sister of Philip, the man who died in Deseronto in August 1888.The similarity of the family story and the information from the obituary strongly suggests that the soon-to-be-wed Philip was Minnie’s father. Minnie’s date of birth was January 4, 1889 and in the 1891 census we find her living with the Pennys in Arden and carrying their surname, which bears out the family story that she was adopted by them. Now we know from the information in the newspaper story that the Pennys were her paternal aunt and uncle.

But who was Minnie’s mother?

We had a date of birth for the child, but no name for her mother apart from a family story that it might have been Haws or Boomhower. This time, it was the Ancestry website which was the best source of information. A search on Minnies born in Ontario on January 4, 1889 brought back a likely match: Minnie Hawes was born to Ida Hawes of Olden Township, Frontenac County (not far from Arden) on that day. No father’s name is given on her birth registration, but the matches between the family stories and the records mean that Philip Gaylord and Ida Hawes are highly likely to be Minnie’s parents and that Philip’s ‘indistinctly uttered’ last words had been meant for Ida, the woman he had planned to marry.

Mystery solved!

Ontario’s marriage records show us that Ida went on to marry a man called Stephen Dolan in August 1892, by which time Minnie was living in Arden with her aunt and uncle. Minnie herself married a man called Robert Loyst in 1905 and by 1911 the couple had three children and were living in Nipissing. We can hope this was a happy ending to a life which had such an unfortunate beginning.


Dating old photographs is not always an easy process but, just occasionally, archivists get lucky. This is one of those times. We’re working on arranging and describing the Hall Family materials at the moment and this photograph shows Flossie Hall, who was born in Deseronto in 1887. At the time the photo was taken, she was working as a schoolteacher. She has helpfully written the name of the school on the blackboard behind her: School Section No. 10, Mariposa, Victoria County. Not only that, but Flossie thoughtfully wrote the date that the photograph was taken, too: Mar. 28, 1912, which was, like today, a Wednesday (you’ll see from a comment elsewhere on the board that Ray needed to work on his spelling!).

If you look above the heads of the children, you’ll see the school clock, frozen in time at 2.50pm. So for once, we know the exact moment when this photograph was taken. A rare occurrence!

Well done to the winners of this year’s Archives Competition at Deseronto Public School:

First Prize: Hannah Rooney
Second Prize: Jarrett Moss
Third Prize: Cassidy Jackson
Honourable Mention: Ziah Silver-Lanuza

The Archives Board would like to thank Principal Heather Seres and her staff for their support of this annual competition. The standard of the entries is always very high and it is extremely difficult to choose winners!

This year the theme was ‘My Deseronto’ and the students described aspects of the town that are important to them. The Library featured fairly frequently, as did local restaurants, the parks and the children’s friends and family.

2012 Archives Competition winners

The prizewinners with Archives Board Chair, Paul Robertson with fellow Board members, Councillor Edgar Tumak and Archivist Amanda Hill. (I should probably mention that the school were having a Pyjama Day, too…)

Today saw the Archives Board facing its annual task of choosing between the entries in our Deseronto Public School/Deseronto Archives competition.

Judges hard at work

As you can see from the photo, there was no shortage of entries this year and it was very hard to choose the winners. Thanks to Archives Board members Edgar Tumak and Sharon Sharpe for their invaluable help. The winners will be announced next week!

Last year’s family heritage competition, run by the Archives Board in conjunction with the staff and students of Deseronto Public School was such a great success that it didn’t seem possible that 2011’s competition could be as good.

Prize-giving

But it was! Thanks to all the children who entered – it was very difficult to judge, but Board members Reverend Betts and Sharon Sharpe chose four winners from the entries we received. Congratulations to Gabe Cook, Stevi Menard, Jakob Howald and Britney Wotherspoon.

The prizes were presented in the new Community Hall of the Deseronto Recreation Centre by Deputy Mayor, Clarence Zieman and Archives Board Chair, Paul Robertson, following on from a great show by magician Nigel Harrison, who escaped from a straight jacket immediately beforehand. Another tough act to follow!

Magician Nigel Harrison

All the entries received this year will be on display in Deseronto Public Library for the next week or two: please drop by and see the excellent standard of work by the children.

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