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July 22, 2005

Mattawa Matters

If you are visiting the Mattawa Voyageur Days July 21-24 there is lots to see of an historical nature, if you are so inclined.  Explorer’s Point, where the old Hudson’s Bay Post was located overlooking both the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers, is one of my favorite historical sites. 

Mattawa Museum 

The beautiful log museum on the Point not only touches on the Voyageur’s history, recognized in the title of the big event, but also explores lumbering, farming, interesting personalities, etc.  There is an interesting exhibit on Mattawa’s Gertrude Bernard who as “Anahareo” became Grey Owl’s wife and mentor.  She won the Order of Canada for her own conservation work and her books.  An interesting new addition is an embroidered Grey Owl deerskin jacket and some of Anahareo’s clothes donated by her children. 

One of the Mattawa carvings – Doug Mackey photo.

Speaking of Voyageurs, for the second time in 2 years a crew traveling the 2500km Voyageur route stopped in Mattawa recently.  The large Destination Nor’ Ouest canoe stopped on Explorer’s Point to meet some native people, local high school students and others before traveling on.  A film of the trip is being made and will be shown later. 

Dr. S.F. Monestine 

The revered Dr. S.F. Monestine, Canada’ s first black mayor and respected family doctor whose family still runs Algonquin Nursing Home, the town’s old folks home has a new display at the museum. 

Joe Mufferaw 

Joe Montferand (1803-1864), the giant real life lumberman became an exaggerated legend in stories, verse and song.  Stompin’ Tom Connors recalls him in song when he says: “Big Joe Mufferaw paddled down to Mattawa – all the way from Ottawa in just one day, eh!” A new 16 foot statue of Joe is located at the museum to recognize the gentleman. 

The Destination Nor’ Ouest canoeists on their recent trip through Mattawa.  R. Lamarche photo.

Paradis Paintings 

As Bruce Hodgins said in his book “Paradis in Temagami,” Father Charles Paradis, “quarrelsome priest, artist, prospector, linguist, his sanctuary across fifty years of old Ontario and Quebec North was always ‘where he happened to be’”.  I wrote about Paradis here recently and mentioned his training as an artist and his remarkable paintings of his travels. 

Jack Whalen the chair of the Mattawa Museum Board acquired mint copies of six of Paradis’ paintings at the National Archives in Ottawa.  Copies are now on sale as a fundraiser for the Museum at $40 ($75 framed).  They are an excellent acquisition, especially if you are from the area he painted them in. 

Paradis got stuck in Mattawa one winter in the 1880’s and made a beautiful painting of the town from a height of land.  He later helped guide and drag the Mattawan steamship up the Mattawa to Temiskaming where the boat provided local service.  A drawing of this exercise is very evocative of that particular time and place.  The other paintings are similarly connected with an era when photographs of locations and events were not available.  Drop in to the museum and have a look at the remarkable paintings. 

Joe Mufferaw waiting to take his place on Explorer’s Point in Mattawa.  Rene Lamarche photo.

The Mattawa Carvings 

The last of 22 9 foot carvings of famous Mattawa personalities has just been completed.  This remarkable project carved by Garry Johnston with the help of Clermont Duval can be seen in various locations.  Grey Owl and Anahareo are there, as is well known Mattawa painter Gordon Dufoe.  Some of Dufoe’s paintings are on sale at the Clermont Duval Gallery on Main St., along with Clermont’s beautiful paintings and prints.  The Algonquin Nursing Home, mentioned above, recently opened their doors as a part of Ontario’s Doors Open event.  With June also Seniors’ Month it was appropriate that one of the statues “Joseph,” a pioneer man with an axe, was unveiled at the Home.  (More on the statue project in a future article). 

Mattawa History Book 

A great souvenir of Mattawa is Gerard Therrien’s Millennium history book “Mattawa, Our Timeless Town”, available at the Museum and at the Information Centre.  The cover features a painting of the famous three crosses that can be seen on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River.  There are excellent photographs and stories galore on Mattawa and its people. 

When it comes to history, music, art, and hospitality, Mattawa Matters. 

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