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Monthly Archives: December 2008

Bohemian Athletic Club

51 Jessie Street, Brockville

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1899 Champions – Bohemian War Canoe Team

bohemian-canoe-club-ca1899This photograph, taken in 1899, shows the 15 Bohemian Club paddlers in their war canoe, a young boy, and two club officials. Identified has been Frank Black, captain, first on the left, Alf Doran, 9th from the left, George L Horton, President of the Bohemian Athletic Club, standing on the left, with George C. Howison on the right. From newspaper accounts, we know that the following young men took part in the first years of the athletic club: N. Abbott, A. Champagne, William Daniels Jr., W. Deir, A. Fortier, Guilboard, John Hilliard, R. Lunney, John Monahan Jr., G. Morrison, J. Nicol, H. Price, Fred Robinson, Fred Timleck, Frank Timleck, Willy Timleck, I Wadham, and W. Winifred. This crew won most of their races in the club’s second year of operation and beat all comers in the northern division championships in Gananoque.

The Bohemian Amateur Athletic Association was established about 1898 to provide paddling and lacrosse experiences for the young men of Brockville. Their first achievement came the next year with a 15 man war canoe team which went on to great success in their first season.

June 7, 1899 was the first anniversary of the opening of the Bohemian Club House on Jessie St. The occasion was celebrated with the launching of their new war canoe, a boat about 30 ft. long by 3 ft. wide and holding 15 paddlers. George P. Graham MPP, and secretary of the club, officiated at a gala event in the evening which included a concert by the band of the 41st Battalion of Rifles, and culminating with a dance to the music of Prof. Stenson’s full orchestra.

The sport of canoeing gained a new interest in the Town of Brockville with the first races in June of 1899. A team was mounted by the established Brockville Rowing Club, and the “sports” of the YMCA placed an order for a new war canoe with Nelson Gilbert of Brockville and looked forward to its delivery. The Bohemians started practicing in earnest. Their team was made up of working class young men, some of them employed in factories like the James Smart Foundry.

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This photo was taken during one of the canoe races held in Brockville and shows the big canoe of the Bohemian Club with captain, Frank Black at the helm.


The first organized race was held in Gananoque on July 1st. The Dominion Day events included yachting, rowing and bicycle races, but a lot of interest was centred on the war canoes and a race between the Brockville Rowing Club and the Bohemian Club. The canoe of the Kingston Club did not arrive for them to take part. The Bohemian canoe was the clear winner in this race taking home a handsome silver cup on their first outing.

The next occasion to race was in Brockville on July 18 when the Firemen’s Field Days were held in Brockville. On that occasion, a team from Vaudrueil, Quebec came to show the Brockville boats a bit of spray. The race, however, came off with the Bohs winning by a length and a half, and the BRC second.

The next big challenge to overcome would be the eastern Ontario meeting of all teams at the American Canoe Association (Northern Division) competition at Gananoque on August 14, 1899. In the morning race about a dozen crews were entered, including, Ottawa Britannias, Dorval Juniors, Toronto, Ottawas, Kingston Cataraquais, Brockville Rowing Club, and the Bohemians of Brockville. The Bohemians registered the win by a close margin as the top three canoes finished one second apart. The BRC was seventh in the race.

That year they were also the winners of the Walker Cup at the Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsmen championships.

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The club house and storage buildings of the Bohemian Athletic Club were located on the shore south of Jessie St. The club was founded in 1898 and took over possession of the property of the former Chaffey Bros. Lumber business. This sports facility was located just east of Lachapelle & Sons, boat builders.

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Sources: Most of the information about this war canoe team has been hard to puzzle together. Thanks to Chris Stesky, formerly a reporter with the Recorder & Times, for searching the newspaper microfilm. The excellent photograph of the crew at the top, formerly in the collection of George C. Howison, was in the possession of his daughters, Helen and Marion Howison. It was taken by Alex L. Murray of Murray & Son, photographers of Brockville.

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“Woodlawn”, the Susan & James Crawford House

25 Woodlawn Place., Brockville

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The earliest picture of Woodlawn is this engraving printed on the edge of the 1853 map of Brockville. It was based on a daguerreotype taken by E. Spencer.

The central part of this house is the old stone farm house built by the Jessup/Covell families, around 1800. The property was part of the Crown grant (E1/2 lot 8, 1st conc.) received by Edward Jessup Jr. and his wife Susannah Covell in 1801. They would have been in possession of the land from the 1780s. This 100 acre parcel of land was turned over to her brother James Covell in 1806.

The house, along with fifty acres surrounding it, was next the farm of Jonas Jones (1791-1848), who purchased it in 1822. He was a Brockville lawyer who first practiced here, represented this area in the Legislative Assembly,and later was elevated to a judgeship and moved to the provincial capital of York. Jonas and his wife Mary (Ford) lived in their town house at the corner of King & Bethune Sts. The Jones had a large family of 8 sons and 3 daughters. They retained ownership of the farm for the next thirty-three years.

It was in 1845 that this property first became connected with the Crawford family. It was purchased at that time by the Hon. George Crawford (1792-1870), who acquired a total of 150 acres from Judge Jones. Crawford was a wealthy and successful canal contractor who came to Brockville in the 1830s. He sold the farm house and fifty acres to his eldest son James, two years later for $5000. James Crawford (1815-1878) had just married Susan Harris in 1847.

He, like his father, was a contractor, and later was elected a Member of Parliament (1867-68) in the first Dominion Parliament for one term. He was a long-standing officer in the local volunteer militia, being in command of the Brockville Rifle Company during the Fenian threats of the 1860s. In 1866, Major James Crawford was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel of the re-established 41st Battalion, Brockville Rifles.

crawford-jamesLt.-Col. James Crawford

James and his wife Susan, shortly after moving in, may have decided to expand their small stone house. An addition in the latest neo-Gothic style was added to the front or south side of the existing house. This new brick part seems to have been built about 1850. The ground floor of the original house behind is now used as the dining room. Another brick addition was added to the rear.

The James and Susan Crawford House stood as one of the new east-end estates which made their appearance on the eastern outskirts of Brockville in the 1850s. “Woodlawn,” the name used by the Crawfords, was located on the north side of the King’s Highway, set back at the end of a long entrance driveway.
After the death of James Crawford in 1878, his widow sold Woodlawn, the next year, to Judge Herbert S. McDonald. McDonald a former Brockville attorney-at-law was then judge of the County Court, when he moved in with his wife “Tillie” (Emma Matilda Jones). Their living children were Katharine and John McDonald.

25-woodlawn-pl-brockville-on-woodlawn-crawford-house-ca1920This photograph was taken sometime in the 1920s by Doris (Jackson) Arthur (1893-1978) of her family on the front porch of Woodlawn. Standing is her husband, William F. Arthur, their infant son Desmond Arthur was in the pram, and her parents, Dr. W. Fred Jackson (1852-1935) and Katharine H. (McDonald) Jackson were seated in the chairs.

Judge McDonald (1842-1921) was active in the life of Brockville serving a time on Town Council (1870-71) and MPP for South Leeds in 1871. He was appointed junior judge of County Court in 1873. Herbert S. McDonald was an active member of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, acting for a time as the Chancellor of the diocese of Ontario. He served as a member of the Dominion Royal Commission on the Liquor Traffic in 1892. His wife died in 1908.

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Judge Herbert Stone McDonald

The Woodlawn property was bequeathed to his only living daughter, Katharine Henrietta Jackson, the second wife of Brockville physician Dr. W. Fred Jackson (1852-1935). The Jacksons became the residents of this house upon Judge McDonald’s death in 1921.

Katharine Jackson, in turn, left Woodlawn to her two daughters, Doris and Athol, after her death in 1927. They sold the property to George T. Fulford, Jr. who had grown up in Fulford Place across the street.

This then became the Brockville residence of George and Josephine Fulford during the years that he was the provincial and federal representative in Toronto and Ottawa. Following his mother Mary’s death in 1946, the Fulfords moved back into Fulford Place.

Woodlawn was sold in 1947 to Arthur J. Soper (1883-1970), then living in Montreal, and he and his wife Ethel, and their son Arthur moved into the house. A second son was Allan J. Soper who worked at Dupont. Arthur, Sr., a retired official with Northern Electric Co., was returning to Brockville, where he had spent his youth, the son of John Soper. He and Ethel lived out their last years here, she dying in 1969 and he in 1970.

The next five families to call Woodlawn their home were: Natalie & Fred Hampton 1971-74, Jane & Peter Clarke 1974-1979, Heather & Bob Carson 1979-1985, and Mary & John Quigley 1985-1997. Later owners were Ann & Peter Bevan-Baker who continued to appreciate the charm and history of one of Brockville’s most interesting houses.

Sources: The pictures used here have been published previously in various forms. The photograph of Woodlawn was credited to the late Frank J.E. Rogers in The Pictorial History of Brockville (1972) edited by Adrian G. Ten Cate. The coloured painting of James Crawford is in the collection of the Brockville Museum. The source material used in this story was collected over a number of years. The records on the Woodlawn property were originally researched at the Leeds County Registry Office.

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