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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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A recent transfer to the Archives from the Oshawa Community Museum and Archives includes a series of photographs of a collapsed bridge, without any information as to the location of it. I’m sharing it here to see if anyone can help us pinpoint it. The other photographs in the album mainly show scenes from Royal Flying Corps training camps in Ontario (Camps Borden and Mohawk) and Texas (Camp Taliaferro, Fort Worth) and were taken during the First World War in 1917 and 1918. The bridge could be somewhere near one of these camps, or perhaps somewhere else entirely!

This photograph shows an overview of the bridge site. There are no buildings on the side of the bridge nearest the camera, but there are several houses on the other side of the river:

Site of mystery bridge

This one shows a Coast to Coast bus in the water at the side of the bridge:

‘Coast to Coast’ bus next to the bridge

And this one is a close-up view of the bridge itself:

Collapsed bridge

Collapsed bridge

Please leave a comment if you can help.

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'

Harold McMurrich Rathbun took this photograph of Portage Avenue in Winnipeg in the summer of 1907:

I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to Winnipeg to talk about our work at Deseronto Archives and so today I had the chance of standing in the same spot to try to recreate the photograph.

Actually I couldn’t stand in exactly the same spot, as it looks like Harold was standing in the road, which isn’t something I’d recommend on a weekday morning in the rush hour in today’s Winnipeg.

The only structure which is still recognizable from Harold’s photo is the Somerset Building, 294 Portage Avenue, which you can see on the left of the shot. The Eaton’s store has gone, replaced by the MTS Centre and there are now some trees softening the lines of  the road and buildings.


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!

Deseronto has no snow on the ground this December (so far!) but this Christmas card from the 1920s reminds us of what the weather can be like at this time of year:

Christmas card from 1920s

The card was printed by Old Colony Greeting Cards of Toronto. The picture on the front, ‘Winter’, was by ‘Revilo’ and the message inside is from Evelyn ‘Tottie’ Hall (born 1882) who lived in Deseronto in the early part of the twentieth century.

The rhyme reads:

All the things you care for best,
A happy heart, a mind at rest,
Be yours upon this Christmas Day,
And through the Year ne’er fade away.

The same group of records (which we’re currently in the process of cataloguing) holds another Christmas card from Evelyn, this one with a photograph of the sender on the porch of her home at 426 Thomas Street, Deseronto:

Evelyn Hall

As we work through the Hall family materials, there will no doubt be more to share with you in 2012. But for now, we leave you

With Hearty Greetings and best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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