photographs


A recent enquiry by a researcher who is studying the region’s lighthouses has revealed some interesting facts about Deseronto’s own lighthouse. Some of its history can be traced through federal government publications, beginning with the report of the Department of Marine and Fisheries for 1884 (published in the Sessional Papers for the Dominion of Canada, Volume 6,1885), where the Ontario Lighthouse Division reported that:

Agreement to build a lighthouse in Deseronto

Unsurprisingly, it was the Rathbun Company who were contracted to build the lighthouse, for the reassuringly precise estimate of $437.49. Construction of the light had been completed by the time of the Department’s report.

We next hear of the lighthouse in the Departmental report for 1885 (Sessional Papers for the Dominion of Canada, Volume 9,1886).

Deseronto light - 1886 report

Here we learn that the Rathbun Company supplied the gas to the light and that the light was constructed on the roof of the freight shed of the Bay of Quinte Railway at the Rathbun Company’s wharf. It’s interesting to see that the Rathbun Company went a little over their budget, spending a total of $455.55.

A search on our Flickr images reveals several photographs which show the light in place on that building.

Steam wharf at Deseronto

A notice in the Canada Gazette of September 19th, 1885 announced the light to the maritime community:

Gazette notice about Deseronto light

This detail of photograph RATHCO-06-48.4 shows how the light would have appeared to the ships approaching it from the Bay:

Deseronto wharf from the Bay of Quinte

In the background on the left, you can see the brick head office building of the Rathbun Company, from where its owners could keep a close eye on the activities of the wharf. None of these buildings survive today.

It’s not every day that a small municipal archives is featured alongside a national institution, but today is one of those days. We are delighted to be able to share the news that Deseronto Archives is now part of the Flickr Commons, a place for institutions to share their photographic collections and a place where people can add tags and comments to the photographs to help describe and interpret them.

Flickr Commons participating instutions

Some of the institutions participating in Flickr Commons

We’re already seeing new comments and tags being added to the Flickr photographs, such as this one of Lieutenant Ned E. Ballough, ‘the wing-walker’ performing a daring stunt during the First World War:

Man standing behind the cockpit of a Curtiss JN-4 training aircraft

Ned Ballough, ‘wing-walking’ 2012.10(05)

And the usage statistics on the account have also taken a dizzying skyward trajectory in the 16 hours since we officially joined the Commons!

Usage statistics from Flickr

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.

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.

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.

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.

From a Hastings County directory of 1868-1869, this map shows the street plan of the village of Mill Point, later to become the town of Deseronto.

Mill Point in 1869

It is interesting to see how few streets were laid out at that time: Thomas Street, which now runs the entire length of the town, was only two blocks wide in 1869. Centre and Prince Streets were yet to be established and there were no roads north of Dundas. In 1869 the village did have a Third Street, however, which is more than the town can boast today! Compare this plan with the appearance of the town in 1962:

Deseronto lots, 1962

In 1869 the industrial core of the village was firmly in the southwest corner, where the steam saw mill, wharf, post office and ship yard can be seen. The H. B. Rathbun and Son advertisement from the 1869 directory neatly summarizes the firm’s interests at this date:

1869 advertisement for H. B. Rathbun and Son

The 1869 map also shows the location of Deseronto’s first church, at the top of [St.] George Street, close to the current location of the Presbyterian Church of the Redeemer. The Union Church had been built in 1868 as a shared place of worship: the Anglicans had a service there in the morning, the Presbyterians in the afternoon, and the Methodists in the evening.

Only one residence is marked on the earlier map: presumably that of the Rathbun family. At this period, Edward Wilkes Rathbun (1842-1903) had taken over the day-to-day running of H. B. Rathbun and Son, due to his father’s ill health. E. W. Rathbun built the Deseronto firm into a hugely successful business, becoming a millionaire in the process. While other family members built houses on Dundas Street, away from the busy industries of the waterfront, E. W. Rathbun liked to be close to his concerns. His Main Street home was a substantial property, as this photograph shows:

E. W. Rathbun's house on Main Street, Deseronto

This house no longer exists. To the front, it looked out on Central Park (now the Rathbun Memorial Park), which was laid out at E. W. Rathbun’s expense. He brought in A. J. Hopkins, a landscape gardener from Oswego, New York, to do the work.  The back of the house would have afforded good views of the Rathbuns’ industrial empire along the waterfront of the Bay of Quinte: Edward Wilkes Rathbun was clearly a man who liked to keep a close eye on his business!

Top ten

As regular readers of this blog will know, the Archives has been gradually digitizing its photographic collection over recent years and putting them online through the Flickr photo-sharing website. This week, we passed a significant milestone, with over 100,000 online views of those photographs.

To mark this achievement, here are a few more Flickr-related statistics:

Number of photographs: 1,189
Number of sets: 42
Number of collections: 5
Number of tags: 341
Views of most popular image: 545
Views of least popular image: 7*
Number of times photos have been ‘favorited’: 222
Number of comments on photos: 87

The collage at the top of this post is a compilation of the ten most popular photographs on Flickr, which between them have been viewed over 3,500 times.

It’s also interesting to see the geographical spread of the Archives’ photographs: the image below shows how far across the globe the subject matter of our photographs is scattered.

Geographic range of Deseronto Archives photos

The ‘most interesting’ photograph (by Flickr’s measure) is one of these far-flung ones – a picture of the Eaton’s store in a very quiet Portage Avenue in Winnipeg, Manitoba, taken in 1907 by Harold McMurrich Rathbun.

HMR1-09-38

Four years ago, the only way of seeing most of these photographs was by coming to visit Deseronto Archives in person. Some of them belong to individuals and were not available to public view at all. We’re delighted that they are now accessible to a much larger public.


*It should be pointed out that this image has only been on Flickr for a week or two. It’s not unpopular because it’s spectacularly unattractive or boring. Go on, go and have a look at it, just to give it a boost…

Cole family sleigh-ride - 2010.27 (7a)

This festive photo was one of a small collection recently donated to the Archives by Bev Boomhour. It shows members of the Cole family on a sleigh ride. Bev remembers the sleigh, but doesn’t think she ever rode in it herself.

We’d like to take this end-of-the-year opportunity to thank all our donors for bringing or sending their historic materials into the Archives. We’ve had over thirty donations of photographs and other items this year. A particular vote of thanks goes to those people who gave their time and memories to the oral history component of our ‘About Deseronto’ project this year.

We’re still looking for more memories (and photos) of living, working and growing up in the town, so if you are willing to share them, please head over to the About Deseronto site and let us know what Deseronto means to you!

United Church, Deseronto

The archivist paid a visit to the United Church in Deseronto today, so that she could encourage the members of the Deseronto Diner’s Club to take part in the ‘About Deseronto‘ project. We’re hoping that people in and around the town will share their memories, photographs and objects with us, so that we can, in turn, share them with the wider world through the About Deseronto website.

We are also taking part in a Community Digitization Project which is being led by the Prince Edward County Archives in Wellington. We are organizing a Digitization Day in Deseronto Public Library on September 15th. We are hoping that people will bring in their old photographs of the town, or of their families for us to scan and add to the online information we already hold about Deseronto and the surrounding areas. We are also able to photograph any interesting historic objects that might be lurking in corners of people’s houses.

We hope to see you at the Library on the 15th!

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