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The Fossmill Story wins Best History Book Award

Toronto, Ontario: On May 5. 2001 First time authors and small publishers Doug and Paul Mackey were awarded the Ontario Historical Society’s Fred Landon Award for the best book on regional history in Ontario for the year 2000 for their book The Fossmill Story: Life in a Railway Lumbering Village on the Edge of Algonquin Park. 

Bryan Walls, the OHS president, noted that the book tells the “story of the beginnings of an isolated village built around a lumber mill in the 1920s, the intertwined lives of its people, and its return to wilderness…Two threads run through this tale - the workings of the lumber camps and mills, and the daily lives of the families whose lives revolved around them. Work, school, church, sports and a variety of social activities are portrayed here, both in the lucid text and the numerous illustrations that vividly depict those Depression years.” 
 
The photo shows OHS president Bryan Walls presenting the award to Doug and Paul Mackey. The incoming president of the OHS Frank Bartoszek is behind them.
 
 

In 1995 Doug Mackey, a retired teacher, and his son Paul, history buff, photographer and aspiring publisher, began to research the history of the ghost town which is located near Doug’s home in Chisholm Township south-east of North Bay near Algonquin Park. They interviewed over 50 people who lived in the village.  Paul, who lives in Toronto, spent hours in archives and libraries reading old logging magazines, forestry student reports and looking at old maps to reconstruct the village. In 1996 they discovered a 1934 film of the logging, railway and mill operations in Fossmill and produced the successful video Logging by Rail in Algonquin Park. 

The Mackeys formed their own publishing company, Past Forward Heritage, to produce the video and the book. Doug Mackey said that they had originally written “text heavy history, but decided to cut the text down and focus on the dramatic stories and fascinating characters in the village. We also had accumulated hundreds of photographs and decided to feature them in the book.” 

Paul, who also did the book design and layout, said “I had the idea of a dramatic relationship between the photographs and the story. I like to see the photos alongside the story and I like the photos big with the text flowing around them.” 

Coincidental to the OHS Award, the Mackeys have just released their second book My Childhood in the Bush. They co-wrote the book with Rebecca Atkins from North Bay who grew up in the railway village of Brent in Algonquin Park from 1913 to 1919. The book is her memoir of those years and also features her photographs of the era. Past Forward’s books and video are available in many bookstores and directly from them. They have a web site at www.pastforward.ca.

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