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Harry Stiner, who had enlisted on January 15th, wrote a letter home to John ‘Jack’ Evans on this day in 1916. At the time Harry was stationed in Camp Bramshott in Hampshire, England and was hoping to be posted to France. His letter was published in the Deseronto Post of December 14th, 1916:

Deseornto Post 14 Dec 1916 Letter from Harry Stiner

Letter from Harry Stiner
Bramshott Camp, England,
Nov. 29th, 1916
Mr John G. Evans
Deseronto, Ontario.
Dear Jack, —
Just thought I’d drop you a line. We have just given a draft of one hundred men to go to France and another will be made up in a day or two. I offered myself for the first but my company commander scratched me and would not hear of my going. I have been examined for the second and I am marked for medical board, as owing to the climate I have a severe attack of asthma so I may not see the scrap at all well I saw the big draft move out and it was a wonderful sight-ours was only a small part of it.
It made every body feel a bit blue knowing that in less than 24 hours they would be in the danger zone but when the massed bands started their music about 200 strong it made things a bit more lively; our Brigadier who is an officer of the famous P.P.C.L.I. [Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry] made a very good speech after which the Bands played, “Hats off to Tommy Atkins” and the boys were cheered to the echo. They marched away very cheerful and made an excellent showing.
Herb left me today and I don’t expect to see him again as the section is transferred from us to the machine gun Brigade School somewhere on the coast. If I don’t get to France I’ll hardly see him again until the war is over. He and Hogan are McGee’s right bowers and he will look after them well.
Well Jack, there is not much to tell you. Its a great country but I would sooner have Canada. I saw some of the greatest sights and now I am satisfied that I wouldn’t care to stay here. All for now.
Yours truly.
Harry.

Editor’s Note-The draft spoken of was made up of, as well as others, Isaac Maracle, Hugh Brant, Rendall [Randall] Brant, Harry Corby, Jake Green, Bill Sero and Alex Bardy. Those rejected for this draft were highly disappointed but will leave in about 11 days with the second draft.

2015.09 two pairs of glasses made by Canada Optical

After the iron we featured a few weeks ago, here are two more examples of Deseronto-made items. These glasses frames were manufactured at the Canada Optical Company’s factory on Main Street in Deseronto, the building which was until recently the Deseronto Fleamarket and which originally contained drying kilns for the Rathbun Company’s lumber business. It is marked number 15 on the detail of the 1895 map below:

Dry kilns and sash factory. c.1895

According to an article in the Quinte Scanner newspaper of October 4th, 1972 this building had several other uses between these two:

The building which is occupied by Canada Optical at present housed a match factory in the 1920’s, a meat packing plant in the early ’30’s and a cheese factory after that. Canada Optical started operations in 1946; in 1947 an extension was added to the factory, this consisted of an old hanger from the nearby wartime airfield.

At this time the firm was called the Canada Zyl Company, (it is still known by this name to local residents) and was producing four or five different types of spectacle frames in only two colours. They were made of a highly inflammable material and had to be stored in thick walled buildings well away from the main plant.

Here is how the building looked in 1972:

The factory moved from this location in 1996 to a building at the airport on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. It closed down in 2002.

Thanks to Andrea Hinz for the donation of these frames, another piece of Deseronto’s manufacturing past.

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!

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 in 1891, 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),  married Claude Wilmot Aylsworth Cole on December 11th, 1890. Claude 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 and (additional information from Tammy Cole Peterson) was buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Picton, where her husband, Claude, had also been laid to rest.

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.

A month ago, we received a new accession of photographs  from Dave Stapley, whose family once owned a farm on the Boundary Road, at the eastern side of Deseronto. The farm was close to the World War One pilot training site, Camp Rathbun, and many of the 33 photos depict men, buildings, and aircraft of the camp.

As usual, there are pictures of crashes on the ground (look closely at the trees on this one in relation to the aircraft):

Crashed aircraft

Crashes into hangar buildings at the camp:

Aircraft crashed into hangar door

And into water (you can see the Foresters’ Island Orphanage in the background of this shot):

There are also several photographs of (mainly) unidentified individuals, including this lovely shot of a man crossing the finishing line of a race:

Man crossing finishing line

The skull-and-crossbones motif seen on the aircraft and on the tops of the runners here is a symbol used by the men of 90 C.T.S. (Canadian Training Squadron), which was based at Camp Rathbun. We know nothing about the creator of these photographs, but we can  surmise that he was a member of 90 C.T.S. who left his photographs behind him after he left the area.

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