ON THE HISTORY OF THE LAC DES ILES COMMUNITY
By BOB CALHOUN and JOHN TAIT (August 5, 1984)
I want to issue thanks to the Committee for the great success that
they have had in this 1984 Reunion. When Dave McEntyre and a couple of others
dreamed about it two summers ago, I had some doubts as to whether they would be
able to pull it off but it has come off in a beautiful way and the whole Committee deserves to be congratulated very very heartily for doing it.
This little talk this morning I've entitled "Reminiscences of Lac des Iles", and before I get to the reminiscences, perhaps I should give a little bit of history about the founding of things and how we came to be here at Lac des Iles.
It started with Donald William Ross who was a Montreal merchant.
He had interests in the Mount Royal Milling Company where he dealt in rice, and also with The Charlemagne and Lac Ouareau Lumber Company which had timber limits up in Wexford Township and up the Ouareau Valley. The logs were driven down the Ouareau River into the Assomption River and then down to Charlemagne at the foot of Montreal Island. And that's where the logs were sawn. And he, knowing that these lakes up in the country probably had some fish, asked the lumber superintendent where he could get some good fishing. This man suggested Lac des Iles.
So Mr. Ross and his three older boys came by train to St-Jerome. Then they had a horse and buggy from St-Jerome to Ste-Marguerite and then from Ste-Marguerite over (this was in the late 1880's): just a little logging "trail". So they came over and had good fishing. The next year they invited Mr. Ross' friend, D.A. Budge, my grandfather, to accompany them, and Grandpa had my two older uncles with him. While they were talking over fishing and in the pauses between the times they were taking fish off the line, they dreamed up this idea of settling at Lac des Iles and putting up cottages for their respective families. So the purchasing started at that time. There is some little confusion about the exact date. This lectern says "This commemorates the services starting in 1890". Well, I think 1890 is a pretty good date. There's a jingle that seems to indicate that the first house was on the Ross Point in that year. But Mr. Ross actually didn't get a temporary lease or a sale with conditions until December 1891 and then three months later he got by Letters Patent the title to Lot 47 on which the "Big House" stands, and Lot 46 next to it on which the Budge House stands. Then he carried on with his purchasing and some years later he bought Lots 48, 49 and 50. He did that in 1908 and then in 1910 he completed the last of his purchases when he picked up Lot 51 on which
Jim Griffith settled.
The language in the Deed by Letters Patent is quite interesting and I can't resist the temptation to read a few lines from it. I'll try not to give you the legal jargon but here's the way it reads:
"Canada, Province of Quebec, Victoria by the Grace of God, of the United. Kingdon of Great Britain and Ireland. Queen, Defender of the Faith, etc. etc., to all to whom these presents shall come:
Whereas Donald William Ross of Montreal in the Province of Quebec, Merchant, has contracted and agreed with our commissioner for the sale of our crown lands, duly authorized by us in this behalf for the absoluted purchase at and for the price and sum of $11.26 of lawful money of our said Province, the lands and tenements hereinafter mentioned and described of which we are seized in right of our crown containing by add measurement as per cadastre 28 acres and one half which said parcels or tracts of land may be otherwise known as follows: that is to say the Lot number 46 containing four acres and one half and the Lot number 47 containing 24 acres, both situated in the eighth range of the aforesaid township of Wexford."
Mr. Ross carried on with his purchases so that by 1910 he owned the lakeshore property from Rue Daviault all the way over to 900 feet east of Rue James Griffith. That's a total of about 6,000 feet by the depth back to the main road. He paid for that - it totals about 229 acres and his total purchase price was $1,471.20 and that price includes the home and some farm buildings on Lots 48, 49 and 50. Now in addition to the above, Mr. Ross purchased 13 of the 15 islands on the lake between 1899 and 1906 for a total price of $475. I estimated by looking at the map that the area is about 148 acres. When we think of that $475. and then we think of the appraisal that Wexford Holdings got for the islands, it just goes up to the heavens. So all we can say is that Mr. Ross was a shrewd businessman.
Now, to get down to particulars, I have listed here the families who settled here and their purchases. I have made some searches in the Registry Office in Ste-Julienne over the last couple of years and have got the dates for this. I had the registered number for each deed and the date that the deed was signed. There may be one or two that I have omitted but I tried to get them all.
So it started in 1892 with D.W. Ross and D.A. Budge. In 1899 John R. Mott got his property and here's another case where he settled on the land before the deed was signed. Because his deed states that he received from
Mr. D.W. Ross this lot of property with dwelling thereon erected. And also George A. Robertson bought his property in 1899. The Robertson property is between the McEntyre's and Chartier's Boarding House.
Then in the 1900's there were nine who settled. James McConaughy is the one who lived at the end of Rue Daviault and he bought the original Ross house and moved it over the ice in 1902 and he had it erected. It's the house the Guthrie family lived in for 10-11 years and that house is still there.
Its condition is not good right at the moment. In 1902 Dr. A.R. Griffith bought his property. His wasn't bought from the D.W. Ross holdings. His was bought from the farmer Benjamin Leroux - Lot number 45 in the 8th Range. In 1903, my Dad
received his property.
He and mother got the property from Mr. Ross as a wedding present; and Mr. W.H. Leach bought his property. 1904 James A. Cuttle bought his property and that's the property that now is owned by the McEntyres.
1905, Fennell P. Turner settled next to our family. 1908, and this is an interesting part, Mr. Ross bought Lots 48, 49 and 50 and he divided them between his two sons, Bert Ross and George Ross. The division line, which is known as the base line, runs from a point right near Nancy Moore's wharf over to the big pine stump over at Bob Sedgwick's wharf. All property northwest of that line belonged to Bert Ross and the property to the southeast of it belonged to George Ross. Well, George Ross didn't do anything with it because a year or so later be bought some property at the Twin Lakes over East of Lac St.Patrick. He and Aunt Gertie stayed over there with their children for a number of years. They were somewhat isolated as it was necessary to use a horse and buggy to get there.
Mr. Bert Ross sold some of his property in the 1910's. He had two sales - one was to Dr. Fred Tees. He bought a piece of property near where the Kinsmans are now but he didn't use it and he retroceded it to Mr. Ross 5 or 6 years later. (Fred Tees mentioned that it was in fact a wedding present). And Ethel Bardwell, who was a classmate at school of Mrs. Bert Ross, received a piece of property there. In 1920 there was a change in the ownership of the Ross property. D.W. Ross turned over the Big House and property to his son, George. The property which George had been given in 1908 became the property of Ken Ross, who put up a log cabin on the point where the Chowns are living at present. Later in the 1920's Charles Johnson bought from the Cuttles the property which now is owned by the McEntyres. Annette Fallows bought the old Ross House that was owned by Mr. McConaughy. Mrs. H.J. Griswold bought property which we know as the Budge property, and in 1928 Mrs.Ruth Winters bought from the Rielle Estate this property where we are having our service this morning.
Then in the 1930's there were ten families settled: Dr. James Griffith, then Charles Johnson bought his property up on the point next to the Tees, Dr. Tees, Donald Budge, Mr. Bull bought Miss Fallows property and then the Sedgwicks came, then Doug Ross received from his father the property that Bubs Ross is in now.
In 1937 Hugh Garland settled on the lakefront and in 1939 James Milligan and Vic George bought their property east of Jim Griffith. In the 1940's there were eight: Betty Beddoe Wood, Mrs. Ruth Winters bought the Johnson property in 1942; then in '46 Margaret Milligan Edson and Harvey Leathern bought their properties, Ed Bromley bought his property, Jim Parker bought some property from my Dad and then Mrs. Peter McEntyre bought from Mrs. Winters the McEntyre property. And in
'48' and '49 Cam Budge and I bought our properties.
In the 1950's, there were seventeen settled; that includes Harold Guthrie, Ben Ferguson, the Watsons, Mac Blakely, Alf Kinsman, Thomas Hoskin, the Goudreaus, Eleanor Ross, Nancy Moore, the Farrells, Jack Tait, the Nancekivells, Dr. Smith, and the four Ross children: Alan, Curtis, Johnny and Elaine.
In the 1960's there were six: Elizabeth de Franco, Mrs. Robson, Betty Jennings, Stephen Edson, Dr. Fred Mott and Albert Nixon.
In the 1970's there were ten: Mr. Fraser Lindsey, Bill Gundy, Guy Langlois, Jack Tait bought Cam Budge's property. Then Andre Bergeron, Mme Michele Dupras Desrochers and Mrs. Elinor Griswold, Andre Gagnon,
Henry Cohen and Pierre Boulê.
Then in the 1980's there are six so far: Nathaniel Bernstein, Mme Paule Corbeil Mercier, Sidney Cohen, Laurier Riopel bought the original Bert Ross Point and then Colin Royle bought some property from Bubs Ross and Jean Lamy bought Cam Budge's house just a few days ago.
Now,what it was like in getting to the Lake in those days was interesting. The CPR line to Ste-Agathe was put through in 1894 but before that the Ross and Budge families had to take a train to St-Jerome, stay in a hotel overnight and then drive up by horse and rig the next day, a trip of 10 to 12 hours - whatever the horses felt like.
After 1894, the trip from Ste-Marguerite Station to the Lake was made in about 22 hours and we had plenty of time to see the scenery as the horses plodded along. I can recall the large boarding house about 2 miles from the station and my Dad saying it was operated by a man from Switzerland named Cochand. That place has seen a lot of changes since that time. In the early 1920's travel from Montreal by car became common. The trip by horse and rig was phased out.
However, the changeover was not without incident. Horses frequently got nervous and skittish as the motor cars passed. Don Budge told me a story about a week ago that I feel like repeating to you about old Louis Riopel who lived on the hill just at the end of what is Elmo's Bay. He had married an Irish woman named Sophie Brooks and she had a rich language, her French was not so good but her Irish was excellent. She recorded this story about her hubby driving the mail from Ste-Marguerite to St-Emile and as he was leaving Ste-Marguerite Village, he was driving along a long, long stretch (in those days there were no curves) and he was going along and he suddenly heard a roar behind him and saw a cloud of dust. His horse started to get worried and the sound kept coming closer, and the dust kept coming closer and closer and old Louis was to have said as Mme Riopel told later: "Sure enough he was afraid it was the Devil that was after him." It turned out to be George Ross with his 16 cylinder Cadillac.
Travel on the Lake before the 1920's was just the double-pointed Vercheres rowboat and the canoes. Some of these paddlers of yesterday were pretty good but with the amount of paddling we did in the good old days, we were in shape to paddle around the place. The first outboard that I con remember on the Lake belonged to Bert Ross; he had a little Elto and he used to toot around• on that. He was a very handy chap and he was the one who built the windmill which gave the name to Rue Moulin-A-Vent. He put that up about 1912 or so. He had a 9-foot concrete tank at the top of the hill and the windmill was placed for the prevailing winds from the West. So he used to pump his water up to the tank and his was the first house on the lake that had running water.
Then there was old Dominique Chartier who had a big boarding house. He built a big boat. It must have been about 30 feet long - it was a big deep
one. He put an automobile engine in it and used to take the boarders around the Lake on tours. He had the first phone in the area so every so often he would come down with a message for Dr. John R. Mott. Dr. Mott had almost daily communication with his office in New York City and it was a treat for us to see this huge boat. It couldn't come down the straits - it had to go around Flavia and stop at the Motts' to pick up Dr. Mott to answer the phone.
There was a lot of canoe sailing in those days and the Griffith boys (I don't know whether I should call them "boys" or not - Harold is just 90) Hugh, Harold, Jim and Art used to go out sailing in their canoes and the Rosses had a big sloop called the "Isy". They used to sail her on Lake St-Louis and then they brought her up here. It was about 25 or 26 feet long and to me it looked like a huge mainsail - they had some good sailing with that on the Lake.
I guess a lot of you have heard about the trip to Church on Sunday morning. We never got the farmer to take us over by buggy - we all had to go by canoe or by boat.
The Cockfield family in Lac Charlebois used to paddle down Charlebois, portage across and then paddle down the Lake. The Robertsons had a lovely varnished skiff with a rudder to it and they feathered their oars as they came down the Lake. Then for any time we wanted to make a trip to St-Emile - it wasn't a matter of hopping into the car and going over the village, we had to row over to the end of Provost's Bay and then walk up half a mile to the Village. We didn't carry very much stuff with us at that time.
Running the house and the feeding of the flock, etc. Getting ready for the summer at the Lake was an extensive task. In our house Dad used to get out his diary on New Year's Day and say: "Well, there's 25 or 26 weeks till we leave for the Lake." Then they would order the staple supplies from a wholesaler in Montreal and they would pack the trunks with clothes of all kinds and ship them up to Ste-Marguerite Station and the farmer would come over to pick them up on a wagon generally a day or so before we got up to the Lake.
Occasionally at the Lake we had a butcher or a baker come around with meat or bread but most of the time we would have to go over to St-Emile and get some meat from the butcher who was over there.
One thing that was a necessity was the ice-house. We had to have ice in the refrigerator and the small boys had the chore of taking the sawdust off, chopping off a suitable piece of ice and putting the ice in the fridge. The Sunday treat was to crush up some of the ice and make ice cream in the ice cream freezer - and we'd have that for dessert on Sunday.
The Church Services were at the Ross House during all my time. They were conducted by my grandfather, Mr. Budge, and by Dr. Mott and by my Dad, by Mr. McConaughy and some YMCA Secretaries,. or friends who were around, or
missionaries home on furlough.
Dr. Mott always seemed to have one or two missionary families staying on Flavia and they would take the Service. As today, it was a place for gathering together and meeting, and the fellowship that was developed there has carried through to the present. Occasionally the Service would be livened up with some youngster on the stairs upsetting the collection plate as it was passed up. At one time I remember the family was waiting for me down on the wharf to get into the boat to row over to the Service and as I walked down the path I saw a nice little garter snake. So I picked it up and put it in my pocket. Apparently I was seated near the front that day and during the Service the snake got out of my pocket and wriggled around on the floor. It broke up the Service while I had to take it out.
Another time we were doing the usual thing of helping the people into their boats and canoes after the Service so they could get away from the Ross wharf and there was always a lot of skirmishes between the boys as to who would do that. Well, one time I had just helped somebody in the boat and another hip came up against me and heaved me into the drink. In those days we came well dressed to Church with white flannels and a jacket. I had taken off my jacket but was still wearing my flannels. So I swam home (Ed. note: swimming after Church on Sunday was not allowed) and when I got home my flannels had shrunk half way up my shins.
Just a couple of interesting items. One is The Number of Weddings. In 1930 there were three weddings at the Lake and one of Lake folk in Montreal. Chick and Peg Sedgwick were married over at the Ross house, Ken and Martha Ross were married at the Mott House and so were Doug and Bubs Mott Ross. Fred and Marj Mott were married in Montreal during that summer. The offspring from those families we see around here most of the time in the summer.
Perhaps The Most Unusual Event that I can recall is Fred Mott riding on a moose. He was up here one Fall and he saw the moose swimming across over toward the Tees Point. He and Bubs went out in the canoe and alongside the moose. Fred jumped out of the canoe and landed on the moose's back and rode for several strokes. He said it was probably a yearling moose because when he got on the back his weight was enough to have its muzzle sink under the water a bit, and it surfaced, then coughed and grunted. After a few strokes, Fred backed off.
Well now, with these comments I bring to a close my version of the continuing saga of the Lac des Iles community.
Now, the Committee has felt that John Tait would be a logical spokeman to give some comments of the era of the Reunion and I call on John now to come forward.
I just want to assure everyone that the Committee is made up of people. (Fraser Lindsay got me a bit worried back there. He said it was starting to sound a little communistic.) It is made up of people you know well and love.
My part in this is to reminisce about more recent years - the generation of which I am a member. I thought I'd take advantage of the fact I am following Bob Calhoun by tying in the Lake as we knew it when we were growing up, the Lake as we know it today, and the Lake that was.
I guess one of the reasons I thought I'd take a slightly different approach from Bob is that I don't know any stories. As hard as I searched for stories about people riding moose across the Lake I couldn't find any.
The thing I thought I would start with is the extent to which those of us who enjoy the Lake today owe so much to those of whom Mr. Calhoun was just speaking. The legends that we have about the Big House and all the other things which were mentioned have really sustained this Lake community over the years.
Not only the legends - look at the Lake itself. The Lake we saw yesterday, and if you could look out the window as I am now and see it today, is really a fantastic place, as we all know.
This is 1984. We're about 60 miles from Montreal and look at the shape it's in. We have managed, despite some difficulties, despite some trials,to keep the Lake in fantastic shape. It's not overly built up. The houses are well spaced. Long before the environmental community across this country got concerned about the environment, the people who were living at Lac des Iles took care of this place. And look at what we still have. It's just fantastic!
I might mention Wexford Holdings and Wexford Foundation as a continuing example of the kind of care and concern that we have because the people who built the Lake community started it that way.
That's the other thing I'd like to say a word about - about the past coming into the future. The sense of community and the things that the community does at Lac des Iles.
Just to mention a number of the events that our sense of community has sustained over the years, right up to this reunion week. I have to mention the Church Services first: we all know how much they have meant going way back to the many years at the Big House. There is also the Regatta, consistently successful over the years and involving all generations. And this year we reinstigated the Regatta Dance, perhaps restoring for many years an old tradition. Next - tennis, and our tennis tournaments. We have had all kinds of tennis players at Lac des Iles, and all kinds of tennis tournaments. And we all know of the individual generosity of community members that makes this possible
All of these traditions add up to community spirit, the involvement of all members of the community and of great generosity of different kinds. We've seen all this reflected during the last week: at the adults' and teenagers' tennis tournaments, at the soccer-baseball game which brought to mind the baseball and football games that we incredibly found room to play at the Motts', the bonfire and fireworks at McEntyres', the picnics on Bon Repos. And, the annual walks and canoe trips we used to take around the Lake have turned into a triathalon!
The use of the Lake itself has evolved over the years. Thirty years ago, the favourite transportation was the canoe or sometimes the rowboat (square-backed). From there we went from small motor boats to larger motorboats and a lot of waterskiing. Many of us worried about noise, safety, pollution. But in 1984 the main boating activity is windsurfing and the Lake is much more peaceful. We've seen loons on the Lake all summer long in recent years, and we have a duck and seven ducklings living right near the Farrell's wharf.
The fishing. We all remember when this was a good Lake for trout. That was changing thirty years ago. We caught the odd trout, but that didn't last very long. I hate to say it but the big fish for catching in Lac des Iles when we were young was really the perch. Now we've got the bass. But Dave, my brother, caught a trout the other day. About a foot long, Dave? Two feet long Dave? Three?... There has been evolution in many ways, but we still have good fishing. Acid rain has not really done us in.
I can't match the anecdotes of Mr. Calhoun but just a quick word about social life when we were teenagers. I do this because this reunion was concocted in the middle of the night by some people who were teenagers twenty-five years ago and that is how it got going.
In the early days there were fundamentally two groups of teenagers, roughly defined by whether you were older than Doug Calhoun and Sam Milligan, or younger than Doug Calhoun and Sam Milligan. There may be a better dividing line, but that's the way I remember it. Of course, I was younger and Pam (for example) was older. I hate to tell you but our group was the tamer of the two.
Mr. McEntyre's been telling a story this week but there may be a few people who haven't heard it. It's a story. I believe (subject to correction by Dave McEntyre) that is about his group not about the younger one. There was a rule, the story goes, that you could lower the lights at parties but there always had to be a light on. One night there was a party in the McEntyre's playhouse. Mr. McEntyre - he wasn't checking on anybody - but he did go down to say hello to everybody ... about 11 o'clock. He walked into the playhouse and indeed there was a light on, shedding about as much light as the moon would during a thunderstorm.
So he said, "What's going on here?", went to the refrigerator, opened the door and there was an explosion of light. They'd taken the 10 watt bulb from the refrigerator and switched it with the 100 watt bulb in the lamp! Now our group was tamer. Our group never did anything like that!... (Well, maybe when Dennis Heward was here.) No one knew who was responsible for that switch of lights though there were rumours that it was Sandy Kinsman. I think the reason for that was that Sandy was always being CB'd ("confined-to-barracks") by his parents. Suzanne, I might say, who was in our group, to my recollection never was CB'd. I only say that to show the difference between the groups. We always did what we were told when we were told...
And then, you know what happened last night at Trois Coins? We were there enjoying ourselves when there was this swamping of people who were supposed to be at another party and those people started ordering strange substances at the bar and telling the people_ who were handling the music to start playing something that sounded reasonable. We never crashed parties when we were younger.
Young people are selfish and we had such a great time up here that we weren't always aware of what our parents were doing. But you'll all remember the parents seemed to find time away from running our parties to have their own good times. I remember the formal funny dress-up affair that you had after the Regatta. I remember - there couldn't have been that many of them but sufficient of them to remember - the six o'clock in the morning motorboat rides. And other more mundane things: poker games till all hours of the night, lobster parties, ect. etc.
Just a quick word about the way the Lake has evolved. The Lake has obviously gone through an evolution. There are a number of reasons for it. There's the age cycle. We all go through different stages in our lives and that has an effect on the Lake. People move on, they take careers and some of their careers and their family lives take them away from the Lake and new people come. And so the Lake goes through an evolution just like all parts of our society.
The only thing that I'd like to say is that the traditions of Lac des Iles stay with us and are embraced by the people who arrive, whether they come as new members of the families who are already here or whether they buy properties from people who are leaving. The traditions of Lac des Iles sustain the community and make us what we are. The other thing is - we all came back this week didn't we? Even if we see each other only rarely, we're still a community.
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ASSOCIATION DU LAC DES ÎLES D'ENTRELACS
46 chemin du lac Violon
Entrelacs (Québec) J0T 2E0
HISTOIRE DE L'ADLIE
SPORTS ET PASSE TEMPS
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