GTHS Annual General Meeting

2016_Goulbourn Township_AGMThe Goulbourn Township Historical Society invites its members to its Annual General Meeting taking place January 23rd 2016.

The event will take place in the Church Hall of Christ Church, Ashton. Dinner will be at noon, price $15, followed by our annual business meeting. Details concerning reservations for dinner will be provided later. Please mark your calendar for this date and come out and support your Society.



Hobo Christmas – 1935

Hobo Christmas – 1935
terrance west

Author Terrence Rundle West joins us for a reading of ‘Hobo Christmas, 1935’ an excerpt from his book,  Not In My Father’s Footsteps. This historical novel follows two young men from the bread lines and hobo jungles of Canada to the battlefields of the Spanish Civil War. Hear an uplifting story that takes place in a Canada few could imagine today, based on true events and bringing to life the true spirit of the season.

Terrence was a former teacher and administrator in the Ottawa area and although having lived in Ottawa since 1968 still fancies himself as a northerner.

Terrence has written several historical novels revolving around Canadian events.

Hearing our story can be galvanizing; which is why Canadians are turning to novels that revolve around home-grown events. And why not? There’s enough history, politics and social drama in this country to match any nation. In my writing I strive to capture the essence of the life and times in which my stories are set“.

This event will be held Saturday November 21, 2015 at 1:30PM in the Stittsville Public Library meeting room, is free and open to the whole community. It will be followed by light refreshments and a chance to chat with the author to learn more about his inspiration and research.

Photo Contest – 2015

GTHS Annual Photo Contest – 2015

GTHS2015_horse_Photo_contestThe deadline of October 17th 2015 has passed and entries are no longer being accepted for this year’s photo contest. This was your opportunity to explore your community in search of that prizewinning shot. Entries are now being judged. Stay tuned to find out who the creative winners are. The purpose of the contest was to express the spirit of historic Goulbourn.

This year’s categories were:

  1. Old and historic barns
  2. Front porches
  3. Rural mailboxes
  4. Horses

All photos must be taken in 2015 within the confines of the former township of Goulbourn (Ashton, Munster, Richmond, Stittsville and the rural lands surrounding them). A maximum of two images were accepted for each category. You were required to identify the location and any relevant and historic information about the subject of the photo. Photos were submitted electronically. There was no entry fee. Prizes will be awarded in each category. All submitted images will become the property of the Goulbourn Township Historical Society and added to our photographic library.

Finding Women on Ancestry

Finding Women on Ancestry

Building you Family Tree - the female side

Building you Family Tree – the female side

As you research your family tree do you find tracing females to be somewhat problematic? Female ancestors are often neglected in family histories and genealogies. Until recently women nearly always changed their names when they married either by law or custom. In addition women were often not allowed to sign legal documents or to own real estate in their name. Men were also the ones whose surname was carried into the next generation by the children.

Our female ancestors can be mysterious and they are waiting for you to come and find them! In this presentation, Lesley Anderson will share with you specific tools and strategies when searching for women in the Ancestry databases. This includes methods to uncover females using name variations and other search techniques. Famous and interesting women will be highlighted. The presentation will appeal to both new and experienced researchers.

Lesley Anderson has been involved in the personal research of her family tree for over 45 years and her passion for genealogy has branched out to teaching classes, speaking at seminars and conferences and doing research for others. Lesley works for as Content Specialist and has been Director of Education for the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa. She Also volunteers at the Latter-day Saints Family History Library helping genealogists with their research.

Join us at 1:30PM on Saturday October 17th 2015 at the Royal Canadian Legion – Stittsville Branch for this presentation Women on Ancestry. Light refreshments will be available. This presentation is free and open to all.

Stittsville Railway Heritage

The Railway in StittsvLast train through Stittsvillecrille

Come out and view the photograph exhibit to Commemorate 25 year anniversary of the last train through Stittsville (– Exhibition closed February28th 2015)
It’s been 25 years since the last train passed along the railroad tracks through Stittsville. The VIA rail train came through early in the afternoon of a cold January day – January 14, 1990 to be exact. She came with a whoosh of snow and the poignant sound of a long, lonely whistle, people waving to her as she went – then she faded into the distance as she headed west toward the coast. It was the end of an era for Stittsville – one that began in 1870 when the first train came through from Carleton Place, heading for Ottawa.

The Goulbourn Historical Society has mounted a public photographic exhibit on the back wall of the Stittsville Library, known as the Artspace Wall, which portrays the history of the railway in Stittsville from 1870 to 1990. Everyone is invited to view it and to write their comments in an accompanying book.

The railway both destroyed Stittsville and built it up again. The Great Fire of 1870 was said to have been started by men burning brush to clear the new railway bed. Due to tinder dry bush lands brought on by a very hot summer and high winds on a day in August, the brush fires got out of control and thousands of acres were burnt, twelve people died, and the countryside was devastated. Old Stittsville was destroyed and there were hundreds of refugees in Hazeldean and Bell’s Corners. But within a month, the new railway line came through – about a mile and a half south of the site of the former village, and within a year, new buildings were going up, situated around the new railway.

After 1870, Stittsville became a very busy railway centre with a station and water tower at its heart. Hotels were built close by where travellers could stay. Farmers brought their cattle to ship out west. Women used the train to go into Ottawa for shopping trips. People coming to take part in the Holiness Movement Campground (now commemorated with a plaque near Alexander Grove) arrived by train. By 1910, sixteen trains a day were travelling through Stittsville. Richmond did not have a train station at this time so all the freight and passenger traffic went through Stittsville.

The railway created lots of jobs for Stittsville. There were section men and the station master, and those working on the trains. There was a flour mill situated just across from the water tower. In 1903 at the corner of Abbott and Main Streets, Stittsville had a two-story department store with an elevator no less, as well as a post office and a public telephone. The railway station was the hub of the community.

The railway continued to be an important feature of life in Stittsville right up into the 1950’s when the automobile began to take over. Freight and passenger trains still passed through but all no longer stopped in Stittsville and by 1969, the railway station was no longer in use and was sold. The trains still came through, notably the trans-Canada. But by the time the last train came through in 1990, the double tracks had become a single track and VIA Rail only came through twice a day – once going east and once going west. It was a sad day when the tracks were pulled up – which happened almost as soon as the last train had passed.
But at least the railway bed has provided the basis locally for the Trans-Canada Trail and once again the path is busy – this time with people bicycling, walking and skiing. Life moves on and history with it. But Stittsville has a proud railway identity which we need to cherish.

1870 Great Fire


Plaque commemorating the great fire of 1870 and the destruction of old Stittsville installed september 29, 2012 Stittsville, Ontario

Plaque commemorating the great fire of 1870 and the destruction of old Stittsville installed september 29, 2012 Stittsville, Ontario

The Carleton County Fire of August, 1870, devastated much of what was then Carleton County, including the village of Stittsville, and even threatened Ottawa for a time. The fire broke out following a three and a half month dry spell which left the countryside tinder dry and susceptible to a rampaging, out-of-control fire. The tinder dry landscape combined with a collection of farms built largely of fire-friendly white cedar plus a howling wind, caused widespread destruction.

The fire brought not only destruction but also death in its wake, partly because of its wide swath but also because of its rapid, blitzkrieg-like advance. Among the deaths were those of Mrs. Patrick Hartin, an early settler from Ireland who settled in the Stittsville area, and who, on Aug. 17, 1870, died clutching a prized old world clock on the bank of Poole Creek; and Robert Grant, one of the most prosperous farmers in the area, was engulfed by flames in his stone home as he tried to rescue some important papers. Mrs. Grant and her children escaped, but not without hazard as her dress caught fire as she rushed from the burning building with her children.

One wonders why these people did not flee from the fire and why they were still on their properties as the fire advanced….The answer is to be found in the behaviour of the fire…It began when workers cutting brush for the new Central Canada Railway line near Blakeney between Almonte and Pakenham set about to burn the brush. But the fire got away, spreading into the adjacent bush area. Efforts to contain the fire proved fruitless as the wind began to rise, spreading the fire. The wind-assisted fire first spread north, missing Pakenham but reaching the outskirts of Arnprior and then Fitzroy Harbour, all in the morning hours, spreading at a speed difficult for people to avoid with the wind blowing harder and harder.

By the afternoon, the wind carrying the fire was blowing around 100 miles an hour. Then the wind shifted and began blowing eastward with the fire front increasing from the seven mile front near Fitzroy harbour to an 11 mile wide front when the fire reached the Goulbourn/Stittsville/Bells Corners area. There were reports of winds of terrific force which swept the fire along “in billows of flame until the whole west appeared like a sea of fire rolling down”.

The village of Stittsville was in the path of the fire. It sat at the crossroads of two important roads – Huntley Road (now Carp Road) and the 12th concession road leading to Ottawa, (now Neil Avenue, which at that time ran directly to what is now Hazeldean Road.) It had a hotel, a general merchant, a fairground, some stables, a post office, a blacksmith, a tanner, two shoemakers, a weaver, and a log schoolhouse. About 100 people lived there. Two churches, a Wesleyan Methodist and an Anglican church, were located a couple of miles to the south in the countryside.

The fire roared through and destroyed every building in the village. except the two churches to the south. No villagers were killed, probably because they were able to warn each other and fled in a frenzy just ahead of the fire, many to Westboro and the Ottawa River. But those living on farms may not have realized the danger until it was too late.

Daily in the days following Aug. 17, quantities of clothing, provisions and lumber were sent to Goulbourn, Huntley and March townships, the three devastated areas as well as the Bells Corners area.

In early September, the Toronto Daily Telegraph reported that :“Few at this distance have an adequate idea of the magnitude of the disaster that has fallen upon the people in the burnt district adjacent to Ottawa. So sweeping a fire was never before known, in a purely farming country such as that which has devastated in this instance. For miles there is not a house standing, not a fence, and not a tree except bare trunks, denuded of all their branches.”

The new Dominion of Canada government (Confederation had only taken place three years before), sent financial assistance to the victims of the fire and so did Carleton County Council.

The villagers of Stittsville picked themselves up and began to rebuild their lives. But many decided that a better place for the village might be near the new railway line that had just been built through Goulbourn and it was a kilometre and a half south of the old village site. Times were changing they reasoned, and the new railway line would bring a whole lot of business to Stittsville. They were proved right as the railway became central to Stittsville’s prosperity in the early years of the 20th century.

A few people preferred to rebuild at the original site of the village around Carp Road and Neil Avenue and so that area gradually became known as “Old Stittsville”. But for a hundred and twenty years or so after the Great Fire, the commercial hub of Stittsville was centred around the railway, right here in Village Square. The TransCanada Trail which we now use for our recreation, is the former railbed of the rail line that ran right through the centre of Stittsville.

Information taken from accounts by John Curry, Editor of the Stittsville News; the Tweedsmuir Histories; and “Stittsville: A Sense of Place” by Barbara Bottriell.