objects


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.

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The Archives has recently been in contact with Silvy Embury of Lethbridge, who sent us some photographs of an iron which belonged to her grandmother, Helen Boyle.

2015.01(1) left view of iron

On the back of the iron is an information panel which records details of the iron’s manufacture, including the fact that it was made in Deseronto by the Redi-Heat Electric Company Ltd.

2015.01(5) iron information panel

There is not a lot of information in the Archives about Redi-Heat, but there is an advertisement for the company in the May 28th, 1948 issue of the Deseronto Post newspaper:

1948 May 28 Redi-heat ad

REDI-HEAT

ELECTRIC COMPANY LIMITED

A DESERONTO INDUSTRY

MANUFACTURERS OF NEW MODERN LINES

OF ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES

HOT PLATES

IRONS

TOASTERS

HEATERS

RANGETTES

DESERONTO                  TELEPHONE 76

The February 4th, 1948 edition of the Post (held here on microfilm) notes that the company was originally based in Belleville, from 1921, and had been in Deseronto since 1932. The firm was based in the building which originally housed the head office of the Rathbun Company, on the east side of Mill Street, south of Water Street. In the Rathbun era, the building looked like this:

RATHCO-06-48.3

We don’t have any twentieth century photographs of this building. A newspaper report from 1967 notes that Redi-Heat had been bought out by Dravo, although there is no date given for this. If you have any more information about Redi-Heat or the building it was based in, please leave a comment below!

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 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.

Portrait of a Native American man on silk

This intriguing portrait on a fragment of silk belongs to a descendent of the Portt family who lives in Massachusetts. The six Portt brothers left Ireland in 1819 and settled on lands in Tyendinaga after the first surrender of a large part of the Mohawks’ original territory in 1820. One of the brothers, William, is described in a letter of 1835 as having learnt the Mohawk language. In the 1820s William Portt had been a schoolteacher for the Mohawk people and it seems from correspondence dating from that time that he often acted as a representative for the Mohawks’ interests. One of William’s brothers, John, was a Justice of the Peace, while another, James, served as a sergeant in the Hastings militia and lived to the remarkable age of 94.

The portrait was discovered in the binding of a Portt family photograph album and is only a few inches square and, as you see, very fragile. We don’t know who painted it or the name of the man it depicts, although it seems very likely that the subject is one of the Portts’ Mohawk neighbours. It is possible that this item is over 175 years old: an extremely rare visual record from Tyendinaga in the first half of the nineteenth century that we are thrilled to be able to show here. If you can add anything to our knowledge of the item or have any information about the Portt family that you’d like to share, please leave a comment.

Rev. Creeggan's communion set

In August the Archives was contacted by Avril Sullivan of Cranbrook, British Columbia, who had found an interesting item at a local garage sale. It was a boxed portable communion set engraved with the words “To Rev. J. Creeggan from the Guild Tyendinaga June 26, 1927”. Avril was willing to send the  box back to this area and wanted to know if it would be of value to the Archives.

Alfred Henry Creeggan was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1871 and was ordained as a deacon in the Anglican church in 1894. He was appointed to the Mission of Tyendinaga in 1903 and stayed there until 1927, with the exception of the period between 1914 and 1919, when he served as chaplain for the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. He was appointed as the Rector of Gananoque in May 1927 and died there on July 16th, 1933. It seems that this set was a gift from the women of the Tyendinaga Guild (now the Mohawk Guild) on his departure from the parish.

Rev. Alfred Henry Creeggan

Photograph of Rev. Creeggan from the Journal of the Provincial Synod, 1919

We do hold some objects like this in the Deseronto Archives: notably some materials from the former Anglican church of St. Mark’s in Deseronto, but generally we collect written and photographic items rather than museum-type objects and our policy is only to collect materials relating to Deseronto. As the connection with the Parish of Tyendinaga was so strong in this case, we contacted The Venerable Bradley D. Smith, the current Rector, to see if the box might be better placed there.

Father Brad was able to explain the ‘J’ in the inscription: the Rector was known as ‘Jack’ when he lived around here. [It should be noted that Creeggan’s son was called Jack – and was also a clergyman, so perhaps the set is connected to him.] He also suggested that as the communion set was still in good condition, it could be used in the parish by those people who are licensed to administer Communion to parishioners who are unable to leave their homes. None of these licensed individuals currently own their own communion sets.

Avril Sullivan, the owner of the set, was delighted with this planned use of Rev. Jack Creeggan’s gift from the Guild and is sending it back to the parish where it was presented to him. Now the only mystery is how it ended up in British Columbia!

Inscription 'To Rev. J. Creeggan from the Guild Tyendinaga, June 26, 1927'