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Monthly Archives: June 2008

Annual Brockville Power Boat Regatta

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Saturday, July 15, 1950

The 3rd annual Brockville Power Boat Regatta was held on a sunny Saturday afternoon on July 15, 1950 along the Brockville waterfront. Huge crowds of boating enthusiasts showed up from near and far to line the shores for this big international race event. Competitors came from the local area and from other areas of Canada and the U.S.

The local hopefuls were, Ward Armstrong in “Sea Change,” Bob MacKenzie in “Little Chief,” Murray Billings in “Roger B III,” and Jack Langmuir in “Running Wild.” There were thirteen races run that day in four classes. The excitement was punctuated by dramatic spills and engine failures, Murray Billings seeing his boat sink after the turn in the first race.

The top award of the day was in 225 cu-in Division I, theCentennial Cup, which went to Bob Bogie of Loon Lake, N.Y. in “Blitz III” after a time of 4:43.41/2 minutes. The most successful of the Brockville racers was Jack Langmuir who placed second in three of his four races and earning the first place “Cowan Dairy Trophy” in the 135 cu-in Canadian Division final with a time of 5:28.2 min. After the regatta wound up the winners were presented with their trophies at a special reception held at Fulford Place.

An aerial View of Blockhouse Island during the annual Power Boat races on the Brockville waterfront on Saturday, July 15, 1950.

This view is interesting now because it records the configuration of the Brockville harbour at that time. Thousands of spectators crowded the island shoreline to take in the action which passed in front of the officials raft shown here in the bottom corner.

In the background we can see the arrangement of industrial buildings on Blockhouse Island near the rail line. Included is the notorious Libby, McNeil & Libby pickle factory on the left, and Wells C. Simpson’s Sand and Boating Co. on the right.

On the other side of the harbour are many buildings which no longer exist. On the right we can see the tour boats and property owned by Capt. Wilfred L. Snider which contained the Thousand Island Boat Tours and the W.L. Snider & Sons Moving & Storage business. He was supported in these enterprises by his sons, Charlie and Everett. Just to the north is the glove factory run by Russell R. Shorey.

Next on the water is the large arched building owned by the St. Lawrence Engine Co. Ltd. Notable is their crowded parking lot full of automobiles and boats. The business was owned by John W. Langmuir, and managed by his son, Jack Langmuir, the local hero of the day in his speedy boat,“Running Wild.” To the north is Bill Patterson’s Brockville Glass. At the bottom of Apple St. was located Smith’s Dairy, operated by Glenson S. Smith, and L.C. Dunn’s ice house.

Source: This great photograph is just one of thousands of pictures taken by the late George Eland in the course of his career in Brockville. Many of these photos and negatives are now in the collection of the Brockville Museum thanks to Mrs. Helen Eland and Dr. Adrian Ten Cate. I would encourage anyone who has local items of historical interest to do the same and donate them to our local museum.

The waterfront businesses were identified with the help of a copy of Vernon’s Brockville Directory, 1956. While the races proceeded that day, Brockville photographer George Eland aimed his camera from the window of a plane that was circling overhead. Another photograph taken about the same time was published on the sports page of the Recorder & Times a few days later.

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[The above photograph can be viewed full size in a separate window by double clicking on the picture on this page until you reach the enlarged version further in the system]

Copyright, June 2008, Doug Grant, Brockville, ON

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The General Isaac Brock Monument

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unveiled, August 19, 1912

The monument to the memory of Maj.-General Sir Isaac Brock which stands on the edge of Court House Green in Brockville was erected in 1912 as a centenary project by the local Gen. Brock Chapter, Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire.

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This group of Brockville women had worked for over seven years to bring about the erection of a suitable bronze bust surmounted on a granite monument. Their efforts at fund raising collected a significant amount of money and enthusiasm to get the job done. The sculpture of the head of Brock was the work of Ottawa sculptor, Hamilton MacCarthy, whose fame was wide-spread in Canada.

Guests of honour attending the ceremonies in Brockville the day of the unveiling included, Colonel Sir Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia and Defence; Mrs. Albert E, Gooderham, of Toronto, National President of the I.O.D.E.; Sen. Daniel Derbyshire; John Webster, MP; A.E. Donovan, MPP; Mayor Charles W. MacLean and the members of Council; Counties Warden Nelson Webster of Landsdowne, and other members of Counties Council.

Events for the afternoon centred around a specially-erected platform to the left of the draped monument. Hundreds of people arrived in the early afternoon to find the best vantage points. Col. Hughes accompanied by a guard of honour arrived from the Armouries about 3:00 pm and joined the party on the platform. The event was chaired by Mayor MacLean and he was accompanied by Mrs. G. Crawford McClean, Regent of the Brock Chapter, along with her executive, Col. Biggar, A.D.C. to the Minister, Judge H.S. McDonald, Lieut. Col. William S. Buell of the 41st Regiment,, Police Magistrate Joseph Deacon and others.

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[These photographs can be viewed full size in a separate window by double clicking on the picture on this page until you reach the enlarged version further in the system]

Brock Monument Unveiling

Mrs. Ida McClean, the Regent of the General Brock Chapter of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (I.O.D.E.) and Brockville mayor Charles W. MacLean are seen on the platform in this photograph taken during the events related to the unveiling of the new monument erected to the memory and celebration of the life of General Sir Isaac Brock.

Sources: This interesting photo was sent to the editor of the Brockville Recorder & Times in 1975 by Doris L. Rankin of Syracuse, N.Y.. It was first published in “Out of the Past” on December 20, 1975.

Following a short introductory speech by the mayor, Col. Hughes approached the flag covering the new monument and from a position on the platform pulled the rope to reveal the work of art to the public who cheered and applauded for several minutes. He then addressed the audience and in his speech touched on various patriotic themes, and complimented the ladies whose efforts resulted in the handsome stature now in their midst.

Then, while the regimental band played “Rule Britannia,” young Nora Wilgress presented Mrs. Gooderham with a large bouquet of white roses. Next, Mrs. McClean officially presented the monument to the Town of Brockville with the reading of a written proclamation. Rising in acceptance, Alderman C.W. MacLaren recounted the hard work and success of the local chapter of the Daughters of the Empire in this endeavor and in other charity work. He also spoke amidst the cheers of the crowd about the military accomplishments of General Isaac Brock and other historical references from the past.

The sculptor, Hamilton MacCarthy was also asked to speak, which he did, mentioning that his maternal grandfather was wounded while serving in the War of 1812 under Brock, along with his father’s uncle who lost his life in one of the battles.

Hamilton MacCarthy, sculptor

The sculptor of the bust was Hamilton MacCarthy of Ottawa

The last speaker was local historian, Judge Herbert Stone McDonald who entertained the audience with a recounting of the cross-border events of the War of 1812 which took place in this area of Upper Canada.

A late afternoon tea at the Brockville Armouries for all the platform guests was held to end the day’s events.

This new plaque was placed near the monument to General Brock in November 2007. It points out how Brockville came to be named after Brock the leading British officer in Canada and the hero of the War of 1812-14. The re-naming of Brockville from Elizabethtown came about shortly after the general was slain in the Battle of Queenston Heights on October 13, 1812.

Copyright, June 2008, Doug Grant, Brockville, ON

Edwin P. Comstock (1865-1892)

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The tragic early death of a young man, whose talents and potential were widely recognized by the people of Brockville and area, is a story that has been lost in our history.

Edwin Perkins Comstock was the only son of William H. Comstock (1830-1919) and his first wife, Josephine Flint (1840-1890). He was only twenty-six years old, but had gained a reputation in business and public matters that was beyond his years. His father, one of Brockville’s successful patent medicine manufacturers, had taken him into the family business when he was only 19 years old.

Young Comstock had become involved in many of the activities of his home town, and was well-known, bright, and popular, with all those he came into contact. He was described by the Rideau Record as “of a particularly cheerful and loveable disposition, kind and generous, good and true, strikingly free from many of the failings which oft times ruin the lives of young men in his position.”

Another outside newspaper, the Ottawa Free Press wrote that “the universal opinion of his fellow townsmen is that Brockville never had a citizen of his age before, who did so much for the advancement of his native place, and contributed as largely to the interests of charity.”

His health had been a concern for about a year before his final days. He had been struck in 1891 with what was described as a “hemorrhage,” leaving him in a critical condition. He rallied, however, and went south to spend the winter there. On his return to Brockville he felt very much improved. In the spring of 1892, however, he contracted a severe cold from which he never fully recovered, and which led to his death. He was attended by two physicians, Dr. McMonagle and Dr. Cornell who were unable to combat his illness which was pronounced in the press as “inflammation of the heart and stomach.”

His Funeral

On the day of his funeral, Wed. May 25, many people gathered at the family home called “Rockcliffe,” located on King St. East where his body had been laid out for two days. A short service was held at the house in the early afternoon, after which a procession led off for the public service at the First Presbyterian Church on Court House Square.

Funeral Procession on King Street for Edwin P. Comstock, May 25, 1892

This photograph records the afternoon possession of funeral carriages traveling along the main street on May 25, 1892 from the family home of Edwin P. Comstock at 185 King St. E. to the mournful celebration of his life in the First Presbyterian Church. This young man had died two days earlier in the prime of his life and career. The shock and loss felt by the people of Brockville resulted in one of the large funerals ever known to be held in the town. The picture also shows the south side of King St. just west of West Market St. including the businesses from the Revere House hotel to Ritchie’s store. Notice, as well, the dirt road, wooden sidewalks and crossing, and the new wooden electrical power poles.

His funeral was the largest and most impressive seen in Brockville up to that time. The service was conducted by the Rev. William A. MacKenzie, assisted by Rev. Dr. Saunders, Rev. Mr. Cairns, and Rev. Mr. Cheetham. The church choir who supplied the music was led by Miss French.

After the formal service was completed, a long period of time was allowed for citizens to view the body while it was in the church.
It was not until about 4:30 pm that the procession to the old Brockville Cemetery led off. In the lead was the 42nd Battalion Band, followed by the 42 members of the volunteer Hook and Ladder Fire Co. with their wagons, Members of the Board of Trade, Town Council, and other citizens were next, all on foot. Then carriages provided by the Comstock Company and the Leeds Reform Association came along filled with floral tributes. Next came the undertaker’s carriage with Rev. MacKenzie, the hearse with his coffin, and numerous citizen’s carriages.

Besides the many people walking in the procession there were about 125 carriages in line. The cortege, owing to its great length, was fully a half hour in passing down Court House Ave. Every place of business was closed, the large factories were closed down and mourning emblems were displayed at frequent intervals along the route. Both sides of King Street, as far as the Kingston Bridge, were lined with people, many of whom could not hold back their tears.

The chosen pall bearers for the funeral were all warm personal fiends of the deceased, Messrs. George A. Dana, Oliver K. Fraser, Frank E. Clayes, Thomas Southworth, Alson A. Fisher, and Charles S. Cossitt. The casket of Edwin Comstock was buried next to that of his beloved mother, Josephine who had died just two years before, in the family plot in the old Brockville Cemetery on the south side of the highway.

As a final note, to quote the Brockville Evening Recorder: “Party feeling, which for many years had been carried to its highest point in Brockville, seemed to have been buried in the general grief, and as a result, young and old, rich and poor, Liberal and Conservative, united in giving expression to the general sorrow which all felt.”

Sources: This little-known story of the life and death of Edwin P. Comstock was found on the microfilmed pages of the Evening Recorder during the period of May 23-27, 1892. These filmed copies are invaluable for research, and can be viewed at the Brockville Public Library. These and other historical resources can also be discovered in the research library of the Leeds & Grenville Genealogical Society in the basement of the Brockville Museum. The photograph, a copy which is now in the photo collection of the Brockville Museum, is believed to have been owned by the family of Mrs. Griswoldine (Comstock) Lewis. Edwin was her half-brother. The photograph was also first published in Brockville, A Pictorial History (1972), edited by Adrian Ten Cate.

Copyright, June 2008, Doug Grant, Brockville, ON

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