Bonnechere Museum | Eganville Ontario


Tamarack'er down on the red pine floor!

Many of us remember the dance hall called Sunnydale Acres on Lake Dore, or Royal Pines at Higgison's Hill. Some of us know how to tamarack'er down as the fiddle plays and the caller shouts, "partners for a square." Only a few may know why it was "on the red pine floor." A red pine floor was considered a hard surface; tamarack was even tougher. If you've listened to a step dancer slap the floor, you get the idea easily. The Ottawa Valley has its local sayings, many of which are connected to work and play, to logging and rafting - timber rafting, that is. Wouldn't if be fun to see these expressions collected and recorded in Bonnechere Museum? Birling a log during the spring drive was routine for the lads with the caulked boots. However, as motor cars became more available, the expression was transferred to wheels spinning on ice. "Don’t birl'er so fast." Still today, an invitation to try out something such as a car is "Give'r a birl."

If you say you were talking to some of the lads, the folks in Ottawa will know that you are from up the line. If you are invited to sit in, do so and know that you are welcome and a fine meal is before you. Afterwards, when everyone has enjoyed the meal, it's time to red-up the dishes. As you leave, if it's winter time, you may be warned that it's slippy out, but it's a cam night. Should you be lucky enough to go on a sleigh ride, you might be able to pet the horses if they're quite. Do you be understanding this at all? I hope so.

Lumber companies: past and present

The language people use is influenced by the activities that influence their lives. Although the first Europeans interested in the Bonnechere Valley area were explorers and fur traders, those who put down roots and established conditions for settlement were the heads of the timber trade in the Huron tract: James Wadsworth, Alexander McDonell, Alex Barnet, William Bannerman, William McKay, William G. Perley, Daniel McLachlin, M.J. O'Brien, J.A. O'Brien, George D. McRae, John O'Manique, and especially John Egan. Egan's managers and clerks, including Robert Mills, Robert Campbell, James Bonfield, Robert Turner, Richard Nagle and Patrick Hickey, John Foran and Harman Moore went into business for themselves. Bonfield and Turner bought most of the local Egan holdings. The many partnerships formed and dissolved by the heads of the timber trade are like tree rings marking the years of growth of a founding industry from approximately 1806 to 1950.

The early British market for squared timber was gradually replaced by that of sawn lumber largely for United States and British export markets but also for local use. The shift to sawed wood created the lumber companies and related businesses, many of which are still active. It is a worthwhile goal to have every lumber company or associated business represented in displays within Bonnechere Museum. I encourage owners and the descendants of owners to think of creating a history in pictures and print of these businesses that were and still are important in a heritage and economic sense. A horizontal time line depicting dates, places, changes, and personnel would be a very good way to begin.

The production of pine timber and lumber of mixed species laid the foundation for settlements and support occupations and trades, such as, farming, blacksmithing, general stores, harness makers, carriage makers, coopers, shoemakers, cheese makers, tailoring, barbering, dairying, quarrying and limekilning, to name a few.

On the Opeongo Line I drove a span of bays
One Summer, once upon a time for Hoolihan and Hayes.
The road was rough; the hours long; the pay, scarcely a wage;
The stopping places, none too good; but work was then the rage.
How time has slithered nonchalantly to another page!
On the Opeongo Line I walked beside the load
As, pulling hard, the team went up the winding mountain road;
"Whoa, lads," I cried, from time to time, with kindliest intent
And wedged a stone behind a wheel, so steep was the ascent.

(Tom Devine)

Settlements created other needs: local government, churches, schools, doctors and nurses, clergy, lawyers and teachers, fire departments, service clubs, and hobby groups such as the more modern snowmobilers.

A community such as the Township of Bonnechere Valley has a rural or small town flavour. We should not let that flavour disappear; we should not try to imitate city life. Visitors like to experience what has made us what we are. Let us preserve and conserve our timber and lumber roots first, then expand our museum collection to include agriculture, and other businesses and organizations that create the feeling of home, of belonging.

"Which municipality are ye from?"
"The Township of Bonnechere Valley."
"Ah, the one with the museum that shows how a lumberman's dream turned into a paradise?"
"Turrible, how news gets around! There's an open house on Sunday, November 25. Give'r a go."

Petawawa to the 'Bogie,
Eganville to old Smith's Creek;
You will find exiles returning
To revisit, every week.

(Reverend Jack O'Gorman Sammon)