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February 15, 2013

History Notes February 2013


The following are some references of historical or heritage interest in the area. 

Black History Month 

This month we note, among other things, the second term of Barack Obama and the loss of Lincoln Alexander our  first black MP, Cabinet Minister, and Ontario Lt. Governor at age 91. 

Locally I remember the remarkable achievement of Dr. Firmin Monestime, Canada’s first black mayor elected numerous times as Mayor in Mattawa in the 1960s and 1970s.  It is ironic that Canada’s first black woman mayor elected in 1984, who died recently was widely reported as Canada’s first black mayor. Google Dr. Monestime for my article on him and reference to the book I wrote on him which is still widely available. 

Heritage Minutes 

There has been some good historical television over the years including Canada: A People’s History and the local favorite on Quints- Million Dollar Babies. The best know series going back 20 years is the Heritage Minutes  that have recently been reactivated.  The Historica Dominion Institute with the help of the Federal Government is beginning to make them again. 

The original producer of the series is now the head of the Institute. A recent issue of Macleans had a full page spread stating “Got a minute – we’ve got one for you”. One of the new ones available on their website is on the black Canadian Richard Pierpont who formed a Canadian Black Regiment in the war of 1812. 

Local author Steve Pitt wrote a book on Pierpont that I reviewed in Black History Month last year.  Steve was featured in an article in Community Voices in November talking about his book Running to Extremes which was on the best seller list and nominated for a prize. 

Poster for Ontario Northland Exhibition at the Discovery North Bay Museum.

New Discovery North Bay Museum Display 

The Ontario Northland Railway collection of art and artifacts from their collection is on display at the museum until March 31.  It looks at various aspects of the ONR activities including train stations over the years. 

There are some excellent paintings in the show including 2 by Tom Cummings.  There is a public event scheduled in connection with the exhibition on Thursday, February 21st at the Museum 7-9 pm – author Wayne LeBelle will be speaking on the history of the railway. 

Lorne Fleece’s Remembrances of the Early Days of the Ontario Northland 

It is a nice coincidence that Lorne’s new book has come out at the same time as the museum exhibition. Lorne was the curator of the Ontario Northland archives  before his retirement and worked on the line for years. 

Cover of book The Northern Connection by Robert J. Surtees. Painting by Kevin Hoffman.

There are numerous publications on the ONR.  My favorite is by the late Robert Surtees which looks at the history back to 1902.  The cover of his book by North Bay’s Kevin Hoffman expresses the role of the ONR beautifully. 

Grey Owl Remembered 

2013 is the 125th anniversary of Grey Owl’s birth and the 75th anniversary of his death at age 49.  There will be several exhibitions recognizing his work as an author, conservationist and native rights advocate. Discovery North Bay will be holding an exhibition this spring featuring his conservationist initiatives. The Mattawa museum will also have an exhibition with an emphasis on Grey Owl’s muse Anahareo. It will feature the recent acquisition of a large archives of Grey Owl material. The new book Anahareo: A Wilderness Spirit will be featured. Look for other activity. 

West Nipissing Activity 

I mentioned Wayne LeBelle above and should add some additional information from a recent conversation with him. He is working on a book on the Ontario Northlander, the subject of a lot of recent controversy.  He will travel the route and conduct interviews and prepare a publication.  He is also working on a book to update activity in West Nipissing since his previous book 15 years ago. He is working on a book celebrating 125 years of the Michaud Levesque store. 

Wayne reports that an English Historical Society has been formed, like the French Society to record the extensive history of the area.  For information on the new group contact Dwight Fryer at 705-898-2005. A new book on Monetville is in the works. 

I was pleased to note that Wayne’s work as an author and leader has been recognized by the Ontario Historical Society.  He received their Carnochan Award at their 2012 conference. The award is for “an individual who has contributed many years of service to the heritage community.” 

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