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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.

51-jessie-st-brockville-on-bohemian-athletic-club-1890s

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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About Doug Grant

I am a local history buff who lives in the terrific city of Brockville on the north side of the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Toronto in the Canadian province of Ontario. I intend this Blog Site to share a lot of historical information which I have been collecting for the last 35 or so years. I was educated in Scarborough, Ontario and Toronto. I graduated as an Architectural Technologist from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University) in 1966. My first career was as an Architectural Technologist/Draftsman in Toronto between 1966 and 1972. I decided to go into teaching in 1972, and attended the Ontario College of Education in Toronto. I was then qualified to teach Architectural Drafting in the Ontario school system and obtained a position to do this in the town of Prescott, Ontario. I taught all my career at South Grenville District High School in Prescott until my retirement in June 2000. I have continued to develop one of my main interests and hobbies in Canadian History and specificly the History of Brockville since moving to live in Brockville, Ontario in 1972. Some of the material that I intend to use on this site was originally published in the Brockville newspaper, "The Recorder and Times" under my copyright. In addition I want to use a number of historical photographs that I have collected over the years. Would love to hear from anyone with similar interests to mine.

3 responses »

  1. I am looking for history of my family in Brockville. My grandfather (who I never knew ) is George Howison. I remember visiting with my aunts Helen and Marion as a young girl. My dad Gordon was their brother. Can you suggest where to look?

    Reply
    • Hello, Anna:
      I don’t know where you are living now, but the best way to search out your Howison family history is to visit Brockville. The Brockville Museum and Leeds & Grenville Genealogical Society are here to help you. Your aunts, Helen & Marion Howison were very well-known here and left a lot of memories with local people. Not everything can be found online on the Web.

      — Doug Grant

      Reply
    • Hi Anna – my Dad was one of the local people who knew your aunts quite well. They used to give him candies whenever they saw him even after he was a grown man! lol I remember chatting with Helen when visiting my cousin’s Mom when she lived at Bridlewood Retirement Home here a few years ago. She couldn’t hear well but always had a pen and paper so you could ‘talk”!

      Reply

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