Easily Kept Illusions

August 3rd, 2015

When I think of Al Purdy, I remember his wit and his bittersweet reminicenses that manage to avoid the trap of sentimentality and romanticism.  He was real.    I loved him immediately and spent far too little time with the man.  For some reason I am thinking of him, today.  Remembering dinners at Spinnackers, Harbourfront and that gravel dusted voice... contrary perspectives- just because.

Back then, I was a just a young woman from the city with family ties to the county where Purdy honed his craft. 

Much has changed.  Now, I've had twenty-five years in the area and recognize the importance of place as it calls from all of Purdy's poems, perhaps most notably in "The Country North of Belleville".  It's been a long time.

Bush land scrub land —
            Cashel Township and Wollaston
Elvezir McClure and Dungannon
green lands of Weslemkoon Lake
where a man might have some
            opinion of what beauty
is and none deny him
                                  for miles —

Yet this is the country of defeat
where Sisyphus rolls a big stone
year after year up the ancient hills
picnicking glaciers have left strewn
with centuries' rubble
                                days in the sun
when realization seeps slow in the mid
without grandeur or self deception in
                        noble struggle
of being a fool —
A country of quiescence and still distance
a lean land
               not fat
with inches of black soil on
                  earth's round belly —
And where the farms are it's
                  as if a man stuck
both thumbs in the stony earth and pulled
                 it apart to make room
enough between the trees
for a wife
           and maybe some cows and
           room for some
of the more easily kept illusions —
And where the farms have gone back
to forest
          are only soft outlines and
          shadowy differences —
Old fences drift vaguely among the trees
          a pile of moss-covered stones
gathered for some ghost purpose
has lost meaning under the meaningless sky
            — they are like cities under water and
the undulating green waves of time are
            laid on them —

This is the country of our defeat and
            yet
during the fall plowing a man
might stop and stand in a brown valley of the furrows
           and shade his eyes to watch for the same
            red patch mixed with gold
            that appears on the same
            spot in the hills
            year after year
            and grow old
plowing and plowing a ten acre field until
the convolutions run parallel with his own brain —

And this is a country where the young
                        leave quickly
unwilling to know what their fathers know
or think the words their mothers do not say —

Herschel Monteagle and Faraday
lakeland rockland and hill country
a little adjacent to where the world is
a little north of where the cities are and
sometime
we may go back there
                       to the country of our defeat
Wollaston Elvezir Dungannon
and Weslemkoon lake land
where the high townships of Cashel
                                              McClure and Marmora once were —
But it's been a long time since
and we must enquire the way
                  of strangers —

— "The Country North of Belleville," Al Purdy

Gearing up for Wheels, Water & Wings

July 3rd, 2015

This year marks the 4th anniversary of Bancroft's Wheels, Water & Wings event.  The schedule of activities has something for everyone and promises a weekend of great family fun.

Opening night always begins with the Classic Car show which closes down the main street... over a hundred vintage cars will line Hastings Street between Flint Ave and Station Street.  This year, we have Splash'N Boots coming to perform and Rita Carrey & No Strings Attached- yes, she's sister to Bancroft's favourite funny-man, Jim Carrey.

While you're in town, be sure to pick up a historical walking tour guide at one of the shops.  Bound to become a collector's item, the brochure includes tid-bits of information about the town's history, which co-incides with the historical banners hanging throughout the main shopping district of our beautiful little town.

More information about these early families is available on Bancroft's BIA website.  www.beautifulbancroft.ca

Featured on this banner is Henry Taylor.  The youngest of 10 children, brought into the world in the family's cabin near the Conroy Marsh in 1904- his grandmother serving as the midwife.  Henry worked for 42 years with the Department of Lands & Forests (now known as the Ministry of Natural Resources) as a forest technician.  His positions included, towerman, timber scaler and fire ranger.  After his retirement, he continued to work, scaling for various local lumber companies. 

Henry was an accomplished, master canoe-builder.  Following native tradition, it has been said that he built some of the best birch-bark canoes ever assembled by a non-native person in Ontario.  Working with pioneer tools, Henry fashioned shingles and paddles and became a noted craftsman of beautiful woven baskets and primitive-styled wooden carvings.  In the 1970's, using the very same broad axe, Henry felled, scored and hewed the timber to replicate his grandfather's 1860s log cabin and bunks. 

For some 15 years, Henry was Santa for the local Lions Club's annual Santa Claus Parade.  In 1999, Henry Taylor was named Bancroft's Citizen of the Century.   He passed away in 2006 at 102 years of age. 

 

Got Allergies? Come to the countryside.

June 14th, 2015

The number of allergy sufferers has been practically doubling every decade and scientists feel that climate change is to blame.?? With longer and more intense spore and pollen seasons, there is a noted increase in financial and social costs associated with allergies.

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Some experts feel that this year, as many as ?33% more people may be hit by allergies- because of the longer pollen season and increased load of some types of pollen that was brought about by the unusual weather we have experienced this year. ?

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It isn't unusual for the same people who have allergies to tree pollen, to have a reaction to grass pollen as well.?? The allergic trigger is protein in the pollen- the same proteins can also be present in our food.?? Some of the most offending trees are alders, ash, birch, cedar, elm. maple and oak.? Oak being the worst.? In species where there are gender specific trees, it is the male tree that produces the pollen.

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Generally, pollens from grasses begin to affect us in June and July.? The worst offenders here areBermuda,Kentuckybluegrass, timothy, fescue and sweet vernal.? Pollination runs longer for grasses, meaning that the symptoms will be prolonged. Plants like ragweed seem to be multiplying heartily and they are known for their allergy-irritating pollen.

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Ragweed allergy is often called hayfever.? It is twice common in urban areas, because of air pollution.? Pollens stick to airborne particles of pollution, increasing the chances that someone will ingest them. Good weather often means an increase in the pollution index, intensifying symptoms- even affecting people who have never experienced allergic symptoms. ?Aside from higher levels of pollution, cities are often warmer than the countryside and the higher temperatures increase the production of spores and pollens.

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Itchy eyes are most common to grass allergy sufferers.?? Some mould spores cause allergy- two of the most common are found both indoors and outdoors.? Some are found on carpets and window frames, others outdoors on plants and in the soil.? Still others grow on rotting vegetation, logs, in compost or on grass and grain.

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Fungus likes moist surfaces. ?When your indoor humidity goes over 50 percent, the probability of fungus growth is increased substantially.? This can have serious consequences for people with allergies or asthma.

Baptiste of the Ottawa Valley

May 29th, 2015

The Anishnabeg or "people" is?how many North American aboriginal tribal groups refer to themselves.? Remains of their camps and artefacts have been discovered widely?throughout this area.?

Bits of pottery, tools and implements with their distinctive markings provide evidence of a communications and trade in the Bancroft area, more than 400 years ago.? Most native groups are identified on the basis of the style of their pottery vessels and their decorations.

While different groups carried out hunting and gathering expeditions in the Bancroft area, many journals and diaries refer to a trade route through the Ottawa Valley, which followed the St Lawrence, ascending the Bonnechere River to Round Lake, through Kamaniskeg into the Madawaska and its streams, the Little Mississippi and York (Shawashkong) Rivers.? They travelled as far as Lake Huron.

Records of the Seminary of St. Sulpice at Lac Des Deux-Montagnes (Lake of Two Mountains) indicate that the Algonkians were the primary territorial organization defending the waterways.? They set out in groups, each having their own captain or "Okima" meaning Chief.? ??Many of them traveled by canoe for 150 miles or more from Lake of Two Mountains (where they spent a few months each summer)?to Kijicho Manitou (or Long Lake, later to be named Baptiste Lake).? Archaeological evidence has revealed this was an ancient gathering place and spiritual area for the Algonquins.?

Church records as far back as the late 16th century note a settlement of "Algonkians" at the shore of Kijicho Manitou near where the Village of Baptiste now stands.? Much has to be considered when we speak of our early history- information was frequently recorded into church records weeks and months after the event and may not be entirely reliable.?? Genealogy is, at best, a jigsaw puzzle but the native peoples had an oral tradition and many of the earliest expeditions included French missionaries their interpreters whose cultural differences may have further complicated the understanding. The phonetic spelling of native names, poorly written in early French documents that are barely legible is yet another challenge- as are dit names and baptismal names that were also used as early means of identification.? Other issues arise from?the custom of plural marriages and country wives, rampant adoption and the friendly tradition of acknowledging?dear friends and loved ones, although not related via bloodline, as brother or sister.

Several books on the area, mention a settlement of Algonquins and Nippissing living in the vicinity of Baptiste Lake in the late 19th century, under the direction of Nippissing Grand Chief ?"Jean Baptiste Kijicho Manitou" (Kijicho Manitou meaning "gentle spirit").? In 1853, Surveyor/Geologist Alexander Murray described an encounter he had on the York River, near the hamlet of?Purdy, with an Algonquin leader by the name of "Kaijick Manitou" who explained that his people lived around a lake that they had named after him.?

Some believe this might have been George Cowan, known to his French Canadian employees as Jean Baptiste Constant and by others as ?Pierre-Louis Pinesi dit Constant (son of Chief Bernard Wambolak) who was born in 1768 at Lake of Two Mountains.? Known to travel extensively, Constant established posts and settlements throughout the region while spending summers at Lake of Two Mountains.? It is curious to note that one of his settlements was established on Lake of Bays- which in 1826 was known as Baptiste Lake. Baptismal records?show that Jean Baptiste, son of Pierre-Louis Constant and Marguerite Nipa8ik8e was?born?about the?27th of December, prior to his baptism on the 18th of June 1793. ??Constant was, by 1830, Grand Chief of the Algonquins Anishinaabe Baptiste Band (Ignace John Baptiste)- he died in 1834.? Constant is said to have had many sons.? One,?Jean Baptiste Constant,?was?later known as Chief Jean Baptiste Kikons?or Kiconse.? Some records suggest there was a second son also called Jean Baptiste Constant (Kekandjkapawitch) born in 1793 and died in 1879, although some believe this was?Kikons.

There are records that indicate Constant Pinesi (which means Partridge in Algonquian) was married in 1783 to Marguerite Nipawikwe daughter of Pandikeassunk at the Oka mission.? Another record shows him married to Marie Joseph Pinessiikwe and still others refer to Marguerite Onipaik8e.? It is obvious that records relating to our indigenous people are sketchy, at best.? Many rely on?an entry made ?in 1842 that indicates that Jean Baptiste Dufond or Desfonds, a?son of Kijicho Manitou (or Manito), was born at the hunting grounds on Baptiste Lake???He was leader of the Bear Clan and spent most of his life in the Bancroft area.???

In September of 1890, A.F. Chamberlain visited Baptiste Lake and noted that some twenty "Indians, of Algonkian stock" were living on the islands and shores of the lake.? He spent time with a family, headed by a man known as Pana'sawa Ekwo'satsh (aka Francois) and his wife.? Chamberlain also mentions a son, John aged approximately 25 and another boy, about 7.? He also noted that Ekwo'satsh was very skilled in the art of birch-bark canoe making.? Ekwo'satsh spoke of his grandfather, Mishito'gon (from Oka or Lac des Deux-Montagnes) and explained that the lake was called Assi'ntow'ningk which means "the lake where they hunt with a long pole for fish, at night."

The 1891 Canadian Census for the Monteagle & Herschel in Hastings County shows a family of Baptiste headed by widow Madeline aged 75 and including a?single male, Denis Baptiste, aged 28 and a widowed female, Louise Baptiste,?aged 30.? It aslo indicates?the family of farmer John Baptiste (1842-1920) and his wife Madeline nee Benoit (born 1861) together with their children: Susan 14, Mary 13, Ceclilia 12, Maggie 6 and Samuel 5.? The Baptistes lived in a small log cabin, on the north shore of the lake. This John is most likely the fellow mentioned in Chamberlain's writings.? Neighbouring families? included the Yateman, Bernard, Lavallee and Hunter families- most of whom also had ties?to Lac des Deux-Montagnes.

On April 20th 1900, a Mrs. John Baptiste's death was recorded at Monteagle & Herschel.? She was listed as the wife of a farmer and 88 years of age.? On April 7th 1920, ?widowed farmer John Baptiste aged 78 died in Herschel Township.? The record shows the informant as his daughter- May L. Lavalley.? This John Baptiste is said to have paddled to the Bancroft area, from Lake of Two Mountains, in the early 1800s.??These three records may lend credence to the possibility that George Cowan was the Baptiste for whom the lake is named, making him the great grandfather of the John Baptiste listed in the 1891 census.

Regardless of the details of their ancestry, Samuel and Mary Baptiste were well-known and well-loved members of the community.? There are many stories about Samuel who was a hunting and fishing guide, friendly with all of the early cottagers, the builder of birch bark canoes, a musician and captain of the steamboat The Beaver.

Mary, was beloved by the community.? She is known for crafting moccasins from deer hide and birch bark containers that she decorated with porcupine quills.? Some of her work is on display at the Bancroft Pioneer Museum.? Mary was famous for her berry pies and she would often be seen out on the lake, in her canoe, delivering them to eager cottagers.

In Bancroft, on June 15th 1904, Mary Baptiste married Francois?Xavier (Frank) Lavallee.? He was the son of Louis Lavallee and Madeline Dafoe.??Mary and Frank?adopted a son, Bill.? They farmed?on their property on Baptiste Lake.? Frank is said to have harvested the marsh grasses out of Grassy Bay to feed his livestock. ?Mary passed away on July 6, 1948 and Frank perished in a fire, on June 28th, 1954-? having fallen down the stairs,?while carrying a lantern- he was 94 years old.??

Gearing Up for Cottage Time

April 22nd, 2015
  1. Check your car’s lights, signals, tire pressure and fluids before the trip to the cottage.
  2. Check your first-aid kit and replace any missing supplies.
  3. Check and maintain cottage smoke detectors and CO detectors.
  4. Check the condition of boat(s), including fuel lines and tanks. Check that all required safety equipment is on board and in good repair.
  5. Remove dry leaves and debris from the cottage roof and/or eavestroughs to reduce fire risk.
  6. Prepare for extreme weather events – create a family emergency preparedness plan for the cottage.
  7. Assemble a disaster safety kit for your cottage and car.
  8. Talk to your neighbours – plan ahead for emergencies by identifying vulnerable people and potential community volunteers.

In the event of an emergency, it is critical to be able to quickly and accurately relay the required information to emergency service providers. Prepare a handy list of emergency phone numbers and post it prominently in your home or cottage, near a telephone if possible.  Having accurate information at hand will aid in directing first responders to your location – critical information that may save a life, and that (in a panic) may be hard to translate or describe  – especially if a guest or others less familiar with your location are making the call.

Here's a sample of the sort of information you want to have on hand: