Bonnechere Museum | Eganville Ontario


Say a little prayer for Father Dowdall

This was a favourite line spoken by Jim Foy in the concerts that the Parish of St. James the Less used to present annually around March 17. If he himself or a fellow performer forgot a stage line and created a pause that was a bit too long before the prompter tried to restore the flow of dialogue, Jim would insert this line, “Say a little prayer for Father Dowdall” The line was an inscription on a plaque in the grotto of the former St. James. In the way Jim spoke this line, it might sound like an appeal for assistance directly to the spirit of the great cleric who served in Eganville from 1981 – 1914, or it might sound like an assurance that all was well if under his protection and rescue would be imminent. It seemed the audience enjoyed this “fill line” as much as they would have the regular dialogue.

An expanding role

Traditions of holding such concerts fade and revive only periodically unless a group in a community offers some organizational and leadership support. There is a need for writers, storytellers and researchers to tell the stories of people who have influenced our community – to tell the stories with print and photography, with artifacts and tapes, and crafts and performances as well.    Soon after Bonnechere Museum opens officially on May 18, watch for an appeal for writers and artists who want to collect and contribute historical and artistic materials partly for publishing and partly for museum display and resource. This expanded role allows those who may be interested in research, writing and performing to pursue their interest in conjunction with or parallel to the museum organizing. This creative basis and a series of weekly programs that will be advertised soon will ensure that ours is a “live” museum, not merely a place that collects artifacts. Each of the amalgamated municipalities had prominent families and community leaders whether religious, political, or recreational. Their portraits, their biographies, even the political issues they were part of, should be recorded and find their way into performances. Bonnechere Valley Players, who were especially active in Eganville’s 1991 Centennial, helped to dramatize incorporation, the Great Fire of 1911, Lacey’s General Store (The museum has a pickle crock stamped D Leacy,[spelling variant] Eganville.), the War Years and many others. There are important events and portraits of residents of Sebastopol, South Algona and Grattan too. Once the research writing gets shaped into dramatic forms: plays, poems, songs, a theatre group would be able to perform selections whether for Canada Day or special events such as Sebastopol’s homecoming weekend and “walk about”.


Community projects usually struggle with start-up costs. The same is true of our community museum project. Eganville Legion Branch 353 has contributed $500 seed money, with the possibility of further donations, to start the renovations to the second floor. The donation is timely and much appreciated. The renovations for the first floor have cost $14,000. Window casements and second floor renovations will need about the same amount. There are additional expenses related to opening. No donation is too small: every donation helps make this community project a success. People want a museum and the generous donations and personal time contributed to get it started indicate the enthusiasm and broad support for this community project. Several donations have come from outside the municipality and we anticipate more. By making a building available to house our museum, Bonnechere Valley Township has shown foresight and tangible support. It has encouraged the actual development of the museum as a project of the people. The entrance fee for visitors to the museum is a suggested donation of $2.00 for adults, $1.00 for students, children under five free. On the subject of fund raising, I should mention that you can buy an annual membership: for an individual, the fee is $10; for a family, the annual fee is $15. Benefits of buying a membership include: free entrance to the museum throughout the membership year, invitations to special events, voting rights at the annual meeting, a newsletter, and the satisfaction of knowing that you are doing your part for the heritage of the Bonnechere region.


To date artifacts seem to fit into the following themes: general store; logging and pioneer tools; textiles; schools; government – official seals, flags or plaques; area churches; sports; the wars; family histories and heirlooms.  Books written by Brenda Lee-Whiting and by Carol Bennett would be welcome additions to the family history section. We do have Jewel of the Bonnechere. This past week, some photos and title documents arrived. Percy and Annabel Bradley have contributed land deeds and photos of various churches. Pat and Ramona Foran donated a 1908 copy of the Sears, Roebuck catalogue. It fits nicely into the general store section. Rod and Sylvia Wilcox have also added deeds, sports photos and school class photos. This area is known for its interest in sports but so far the museum has very few photos to tell our sports stories. We need more. This area has a hunting tradition. So far, there are no photos of hunters or trophies, although we have two antiques shotguns. Children’s’ toys reveal craftsmanship and reflect the interests of an era. We should have some in the museum. Jock Von Karstedt has donated the George Hockey Cup, a riding crop and an attractive century-old lady’s jacket. Gerald Tracey was instrumental in finding this cup that was hidden away in a basement. AEnid and Eric McMaster brought in carvings done by Tom Mills, and several photos with write-ups to accompany them.

To do list

Watch for an ad for summer programs. Buy your membership. Add your name to the list of volunteers who will be taking a once weekly 3 hour or 6 hour shift in the museum after our opening on May 18 so that there will always be someone to greet and chat with visitors. Find large photographs up to four feet high that fit into our artifact themes. Help us find a low cost fridge so that volunteers can store a lunch or a cool drink. Tell me what this description means: “His high order of intelligence was dimmed by his following a downward path.”