The drywall divider between the public and the construction area of the new Community Archives has now been removed, allowing people on the second floor of Belleville Public Library to see into the new Archives reading room for the first time. Our reception desk has been built and IT connections are in the process of being hooked up. Work on packing up the archives in our current space is under way and we are looking forward to formally opening our doors in the new building in April.
As 2015 comes to a close, I would like to thank all of the volunteers and students who have contributed to the work of the Community Archives this year. The Archives volunteers alone have contributed some 4,000 hours of work in sorting, boxing, listing and digitizing records. We have helped more than 300 visitors discover more about our community’s past and have answered over 450 telephone calls this year.
Our Young Canada Works summer students, Heather Malcolm and Nicholas VanExan, worked hard on a variety of processing jobs, including the Historical Society’s Textual Records series and Gerry Boyce’s records. They also added a number of descriptions to Ontario’s online archival network, Archeion. In the Fall, Loyalist co-op student Sydney Welch was busy digitizing some of our glass lantern slides and negatives, many of which are now available on Flickr.
In the first three months of 2016 we will be moving the archives into our new location in the Belleville Public Library. With over 2,500 boxes and volumes to shift, this is going to be a major undertaking and there will be periods in that time where the Community Archives will be closed to the public as we prepare materials for the move. We ask for your patience in this transition period: if you are planning a research trip, please leave it until after March, when we will be in our new space and better able to assist you!
In the meantime, I would like to wish you a peaceful and happy holiday season and leave you with this postcard, sent by ‘sister Lillie’ of Port Stanley to Duncan Morrison of Tweed in December 1910.
Amanda Hill (Acting Archivist)
A new addition to the Archives’ collections this month is this photograph, found by members of the Woodley family in the basement of the former McKeown’s Drugstore at 271 Front Street, Belleville. It was donated by Betty Lavallee.
The display was promoting products as part of ‘Rexall Week’. On show were a range of Rexall products, including: Liver Salts, Rubbing Oil, Baby Laxative, Rexall Orderlies, Celery & Iron Tonic, Beef Iron & Wine (made from the best predigested beef, concentrated iron and imported wines), Cherry Bark cough remedy, and Dyspepsia Tablets. The photo was taken by Belleville photographer Robert McCormick in around 1920.
McKeown’s store was at this location from around 1915 to the 1960s. John Spottiswood McKeown was born in Belleville in 1871. He was the son of John McKeown senior (a boot and shoe merchant) and Mary Bullen. He married Caroline (Carrie) Lingham on October 5th, 1898 and they had one daughter, Helen, born in 1901. In 1921 the family were living at 16 Alexander Street, Belleville, with a maid called Florence Parks.
With work beginning on the Bay Bridge Road construction project last week, in this post we take a look at former projects relating to the bridges across the Bay of Quinte between Hastings and Prince Edward counties.
Nick and Helma Mika’s 1982 book Bridge on the Bay of Quinte is a good source of information on the history of the Bay crossings, from the horse-powered ferries of the early nineteenth century to the first bridge, which was opened in 1891.
This bridge was described in The Belleville Daily Sun of May 31st, 1895 as
one of the engineering and mechanical triumphs of the age…It is the longest highway bridge in Canada, and the longest bridge of any sort in the Province of Ontario.
This photograph, taken from the Rossmore side of the Bay in 1910 shows the swing bridge part in action:
The first bridge was a toll bridge until 1920, when the Province of Ontario, the City of Belleville and the County of Prince Edward paid $85,000 to purchase the bridge from the owners, the Belleville Prince Edward Bridge Company. In the winter of 1927-28 the steel trusses of the bridge were replaced with a rock causeway, with the exception of the swing section near Rossmore and a channel toward the Belleville end.
This photograph from The Intelligencer negatives held at the Community Archives shows the old bridge in 1982, looking down at it from its replacement when it was under construction:
…the Archives received these turkeys this week. They are part of a collection of lantern slides which were used to teach Agriculture and Science classes at Belleville Collegiate Institute and Vocational School, probably in the 1920s.
The slides were rescued from destruction by Mike Mills, a teacher at BCIVS in the 1970s and were donated to the Archives this week by Mike and his wife, Sue (who also taught at the school).
There are over 200 slides in total, and co-op student Sydney Welch has taken on the task of cleaning and scanning them so that we can share them more widely. Sydney completed the scanning of the Poultry set of slides this week and they are now available through the Archives’ Flickr account.
These 49 slides were produced by the Province of Ontario Picture Bureau for use in schools. Some of the poultry slides appear to have been signed by the artists: “A.D. Schilling” and “LS”. While some of the slides have suffered damage over the years, the poultry ones in particular are in very good condition.
One of the things archivists get exercised about is the importance of ‘original order’. This is the idea that the arrangement of records by their creator has significance to our understanding of the records themselves. Wherever possible, archivists will try to determine the original order of materials in their care.
A recent accession (2015-55) presented something of a puzzle in this respect. It is a scrapbook from the First World War, of newspaper clippings and other memorabilia which had been pasted into a printed book. The binding of the book had partially come apart and the early pages of the scrapbook had been jumbled into no particular order, with clippings dated 1917 mixed with those from 1916.
The book which the compiler had used for the scrapbook was Richardson’s New Method for the Piano-Forte, originally published in 1859 by Nathan Richardson.
Examination of the scrapbook revealed that its owner was Alice Deacon, born in Belleville on September 27th, 1899 to Daniel Deacon and his wife Catherine (née Dugan). During the First World War, the Deacons were living at 107 Station Street, Belleville. They were Roman Catholics and Alice was probably a student at St. Michael’s Academy on Church Street, Belleville, which opened in 1907.
Alice had three older brothers: James, Frederick and Francis (Frank). Frank joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force on March 23rd, 1916 in Belleville and it may have been this event which triggered Alice’s interest in the war. Frank’s service record is available from Library and Archives Canada.
The scrapbook mainly comprises cuttings from The Intelligencer during the war, where Alice carefully recorded references to Belleville boys overseas, sometimes annotating the clippings with her own observations about whether a man returned to the front, or which school he had attended.
Alongside the newspaper extracts are other, more personal items, such as postcards, theatre programmes, calling cards, invitations and even ticket stubs. This page illustrates some of the variety:
Here we find an invitation, two pressed flowers “from ruins of a French village, May 1917” and a picture labelled “off a box of chocolates Jim gave me for my birthday, 1916”.
In between Alice’s pastings, we can see some of the text of Nathan Richardson’s book. This was the key to re-creating Alice’s original order. Some of the pages still had visible page numbers, although most did not, but the majority had at least some words and phrases. The book has been digitized by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is available online through the Internet Archive. This digital copy has proved extremely useful in discovering the original order of the scrapbook. Using the Internet Archives’ searching facility, we were able to locate the identifiable words and match them to the page numbers of the original book. Once all the pages were identified, it was a simple matter to put them into the order they would have been in when the book was intact.
Alice’s brother Frank came home safely from the war and was demobilized on May 23rd, 1919. Alice worked as a stenographer and bookkeeper in Belleville until 1929, when she married Leo Houlihan in St. Michael’s Church. She then left Belleville to live with Leo in Lindsay, Ontario. She died in 1955 and was buried in the Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic cemetery in Sarnia, Ontario.
Her scrapbook arrived back in Belleville by mail, sixty years after Alice’s death. We are grateful to the anonymous donor for sharing with us this glimpse into life in the city during the First World War, through the eyes of a teenage girl.