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June 30, 2005

Hartley Trussler Remembered on Powassan’s 100th

One of the most capable and prolific local historians in the North Bay area for years was Hartley Trussler (1897-1990).  He wrote a column for the Nugget or the Almaguin News for 17 years in the 1970-80’s.  He was also an enthusiastic photographer who took hundreds of outstanding photographs over the years.  Hartley’s father James and Hartley and his brothers developed a huge lumber operation in the Trout Creek area for a quarter century and were the area’s largest employer.  Some of Hartley’s best writing came from direct experience building the Trout Creek Logging Railway, driving the locomotive and being involved in every aspect of the business. 

The Trussler Shay locomotive 999 in 1919 – Fred Ferguson engineer (centre) and Amo Darling of the Darling family at Wasi Falls (left)-Hartley Trussler Collection

Since Trout Creek was near Powassan and is now a part of the amalgamated Powassan, I contacted the Trussler family to see if some of his photographs could be displayed as part of Powassan’s 100th anniversary.  Hartley’s son Paul, who serves as the family archivist, kindly showed me Hartley’s archives and lent me a couple of his photo albums to get some photographs for a show in the Downstairs Art Gallery in the Powassan Library.  The show runs until July 9 during library hours Monday, Tuesday & Thursday 10:30 to 8, Friday 10:30 to 6, and Saturday 10-4.

Ice Fishermen – Charles Trussler (centre)-Hartley Trussler Collection

 Hartley took pictures of family, the company, beautiful shots of nature and other items of interest.  The company had a Heisler and a Shay locomotive that traveled east into Algonquin Park hauling logs.  With competition, lack of logs and changing times the business was eventually abandoned.  Brother Thomas remained to farm nearby in Glen Roberts, and 2 brothers went to Kirkland Lake to establish a General Store there.  William Trussler, who now lives in Powassan, is the son of one of these brothers (Rolland) and ran the store for years after his father retired.  William’s son John also lives in Powassan.  John’s children are 7th generation Trusslers going back to great grandfather George who came to Canada in 1833.

Hartley went to business school and joined with former company lumberman Bill Foster to run a garage in North Bay.  He eventually established North Bay’s highly successful General Motors dealership with a partner and ran it for years.  Hartley was a Director of the Chamber of Commerce for 26 years, a member of the School Board for 12 and for many years was a Rotarian and a leader in the Cancer Society, the Boy Scouts and the Historical Society. 

Hartley Trussler’s garage – the first in North Bay in 1934.-Hartley Trussler Collection

Hartley’s archive is remarkable in the quantity and quality of the material.  All of his columns are carefully scrapbooked.  Several large photo albums are carefully laid out and annotated, often with pages of writing in his beautiful handwriting.  He kept diaries all his life and all are preserved and leather bound.  He also kept scrapbooks of clippings, etc. some of which were donated to the North Bay Public Library and are available in the reference section there. 

Originally Hartley’s grandfather George (II), son of the original George (I), hunted in the Trout Creek area in the 1880’s and saw the potential in J.R. Booth’s abandoned squared timber and other pine as saw logs.  Four of his sons including James, Hartley’s father, came there and set up a sawmill on the falls about 1km west of Trout Creek on Trout Creek.  They eventually added a chemical plant that made charcoal and distillates and a mill for wagon wheel hubs.  They also built a thriving General Store which wholesaled throughout the area.  They even had their own money (script) for their employees that could only be used at the store. 

Young Trussler with his first deer.-Hartley Trussler Collection

Hartley married Margaret Chadbourn whose family was also in the lumber business on Trout Lake, and they had 4 sons and a daughter.  During his busy life Hartley wrote regularly on history and other topics in his “Reflections” column, and was highly regarded.  In 1982 the Chamber of Commerce published a book of his columns, “The Best of Hartley Trussler” and some of his columns have been reproduced elsewhere.  I have used him as a reference in several columns (see www.pastforward.ca #3, #5, #31, #83) 

The exhibition in Powassan includes many photographs and some of his columns and a profile of his life and times. 

Powassan’s 100th 

July 1st is History Alive Day at the Clark House Museum in Powassan 10-4pm followed by Canada Day Celebrations at Glendale Park at 6pm.  On Saturday the Anniversary Parade begins at 11am with a Homecoming Dance at the Sportsplex in the evening.  The new Gazebo will be dedicated at noon Sunday in Memorial Park on Main Street followed by a picnic.  Happy Birthday Powassan. 

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