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Sponsored by the Portland on the Rideau Historical Society, Rideau Lakes Legion Branch 231, the Big Rideau Lake Association, Portland Community Hall, Portland  Outdoors and  the Township of Rideau Lakes, the second annual Sailpast and Salute honoring Admiral Kingsmill will take place on Saturday, July 30, 2 pm at Hanna Park on the Big Rideau Lake shoreline of Portland village. Other demonstrations and events also from 11 am to 4pm on site.

The public is invited to participate either with their boat in the afternoon’s sail past event or by coming to Hanna Park before the event to enjoy the historical display, live music by the Grindstone Cowboys,  artisan displays/demonstrations, and corn on the cob and soft drinks supplied by the Girl Guides.  It is a great place to bring a picnic lunch or to follow up the boat parade on the lake with a chicken barbecue (eat in or take out) from the nearby Portland Community Hall. Barbecue begins at 4:30 pm sharp. Be early as they may sell out fast.

The sailpast event will focus on:

  • Recognizing Admiral Kingsmill’s achievements in founding the Royal Canadian Navy in 1910, his naval leadership for many years resulting in the installation of his historic plaque near Portland during the naval centennial celebrations last year, and his summer residency on Big Rideau Lake;
  • Recognizing Portland’s great local history;
  • Recognizing Big Rideau Lake’s fabulous opportunities for boating;
  • Encouraging family fun ashore and on Big Rideau Lake.

Admiral Kingsmill Admiral Kingsmill was the founder of the Royal Canadian Navy in 1910 and his family summer residence was on Grindstone Island near Portland. Last year as part of the Canadian Navy centennial celebrations, a historic plaque commemorating his deeds was unveiled at his gravesite in the Anglican Cemetery near Portland where he was honored with much fanfare and recognition of his achievements by the site being made an official Ontario Heritage Site. A naval cadet squadron at Dows Lake, Ottawa, is also named after him.

The Admiral Kingsmill Sailpast and Salute will consist of  a long line of a variety of local boats sailing past a dock at Hanna Park in Portland village where a stand-in and costumed Admiral Kingsmill will take the salute from the ”Big Rideau Lake Fleet” as it passes. It is expected that many interesting antique, classic, power boats and sailboats from the area will take part in the sailpast.  They will each dip their Canadian flag or salute in passing to commemorate Admiral Kingsmill’s efforts for Canada, the Royal Canadian Navy and his local link with Portland.

The Admiral Kingsmill Sailpast and Salute on July 30 will take place starting at 2pm from the green channel buoy off  Tower Island in Big Rideau Lake led by a designated boat and proceeding together in a line to Hanna Park in Portland Village. This is a great opportunity for family fun on and off the water and to learn more about the exciting history of Admiral Kingsmill and Portland. All aspects of the sailpast on the lake are FREE (just bring your own boat!). The salute will be taken by Admiral Kingsmill from a dock at Hanna Park provided by Eastern Ontario Docks and Marine in Crosby.

Please note:  the day’s events  (except for the chicken barbecue) are on a weather permitting basis. The public may contact Buzz Boles at (613) 349-5435 or prhs@live.ca with any inquiries prior to the event.

Portland’s Wicked Past

We are excited to be able to reprint (with permission) the following excerpt from the book Whiskey & Wickedness by L.D. Cotton:

whiskeyandwickedness Located on the original “trail” linking Brockville and Perth, Portland was initially called “the Landing”. During the influx of settlers into Lanark County starting in 1816, people travelled northward from the St. Lawrence River until they reached the Rideau River system at Portland. Loading their possessions on bateaux, they travelled by water to Rideau ferry to the mouth of the Tay River and up that watercourse to Perth.

The completion of the Rideau Canal linking Portland with Kingston and Bytown, triggered a commercial boom that founded a new community. Construction of wharves and warehouses to service the steamships and barges became the order of the day. Initially the shipment of potash from Portland was the main activity. However, as the 1830’s began, square timber took over. A half a dozen “forwarding” companies worked out of Portland.

A transient water population on the Rideau, combined with emigrants passing through the community on their way to the interior, created a need for a tavern.

The Government cracked down on the lockmasters in 1841 by prohibiting them from selling beer. A lucrative legal trade with the shipping industry on the Rideau Canal, now became clandestine.

Thaddeus Stevens conducted a busy tavern from the 1830’s into the 1850’s in Portland on Water Street near the wharves. The steamer and barge traffic on the Rideau River became quite heavy after the opening of the Rideau Canal. Initially potash, soon replaced by square timber and then sawn lumber, made Steven’s public house a popular place.

Not all his neighbours were happy about the copious amounts of alcohol consumption generated by this activity. The owner of a parcel of land adjacent to his Tavern, Dr. Peter Schofield certainly was not amused. Schofiled organized and founded the first Temperance Society in Upper Canada and that happened ironically in Bastard Township, where Stevens prospered. The Bastard Township Temperance Society reputedly claimed at the time of its formation that 15,000 gallons of whiskey was manufactured in the Township on an annual basis; enough ardent spirits to drown every resident several times over.

Barbarous Cruelty

A businessman from Smiths Falls named P. Loucks had a quantity of rock elm timber lying on the ice of the Rideau River within a kilometer of Portland in March 1851. The timber was ready to be shipped. One night a group of people in disguise were seen driving in a sleigh in the direction of Loucks’ timber. Next morning every stick of timber was cut, causing a loss of 250 pounds sterling. This action was followed by several anonymous letters threatening further destruction, advising Loucks to leave Portland and also threatening to murder him and his two sons.

A few nights later, Loucks had several horses in a pasture a short distance out of Smiths Falls. One night three of these horses were ham-strung, supposed to have been done with an axe, as the leg bones were broken. The horses had to be shot after they were found [see Lanark Observer, August 7, 1851].

Hotel Growth in Portland

During the early part of the 1850’s a second hotel owned by William Elliot opened near the wharves, on the corner of Main and East Water Streets. Elliot’s public house soon found the same success that Stevens had encountered. The prosperity created by the American Civil War reflected in the community through an increase in the number of hotels. Two more public houses appeared in Portland in the 1860’s. General merchant, James Donovan erected an addition onto his store, which was utilized as a hotel. Edward Oates established a public house across the street from William Elliot’s place about the same time. Elliott still held a tavern license as late as 1867.

Roger Cawley and R.L. Joynt operated public houses in the community in the early 1880’s; O. Rodger and R.L. Willis in the late 1880’s. Beginning in the early 1890’s, W.H. Murphy hosted a large popular resort hotel in Portland variously called “Murphy’s Hotel” or the “Commercial Hotel”. The proprietor in the 1920’s was Ernie Bell. It burned in 1942. Other hotel operators in the 1890’s were Roger Cawley, R.G. Hervey, 1892-93; Roger Cawley, 1895; Thomas Hart, 1898-1899.

Copies of Whiskey & Wickedness are available from Amazon.ca.

While Skate the Lake is on sabbatical in Portland this year it does not mean that the last weekend in January will be an idle one for the ice or the village.  A group under the Portland Athletic & Recreational Committee is coordinating  the Portland Bay Winter Games, a family oriented fun day to fill the gap.

There will be 2-3 rinks on the lake ice for fun hockey games (men vs the women), kids curling and general skating. There will also be a family team relay race.  Snow sculpturing for the kids, horse & sleigh rides, hot chocolate on the ice and food service in the community Hall and shuffleboard for all are some of the many activities.

There is no entrance fee – just bring your enthusiasm! In case of a storm all will move indoors to the Community Hall and it will all work out somehow. Saturday January 30 is a go! 11am to 4pm.

26 The Portland on the Rideau Historical Society has started gathering historic photos for placement in the website museum gallery. We will be trying each month to have a new opening page which will show historic photos of Portland people, area and goings-on. After a month they will be moved into the main body of  the gallery collection to be replaced with new items.

For January 2010 we are fortunate in having  family members Richard Richmond and  M. Wier as well as researchers Diane Haskins and H.  Cavagnolo provide many pictures of the Bolton-Lyon family and the Henry Ferris Bolton House on Highway 15, just south of Portland  [# 2756].   A few are previewed here  and many more are to be found in the Family section in the museum files  [left side of this web page].  Enjoy – and please start to assemble any historic photos you may have so that we can borrow them and place them on the website for all to see.

- PRHS Chair: Buzz Boles: prhs@live.ca

PRHS Newsletter – June, 2009

Welcome to the Portland on the Rideau Historical Society Virtual Museum!

The PRHS virtual museum is a web based system to collect and preserve the history and heritage of Portland, Ontario and the nieghboring  Big Rideau Lake. We have been ably supported in this work by Dave Pye, a valuable volunteer and experienced website designer and search engine marketing consultant.

The PRHS virtual museum is a community space where we can place archives and photographs of local history. We have found that there is a wealth of material available and it will be a real but worthwhile challenge to gather it all up, convert it to an electronic medium and then posting it to the virtual museum website.

Previously others have gone before us to collect Portland’s history and should be acknowledged including Mrs. Scoville in the 1950’s, a Portland Historical Society in the 1920’s and various publications such as My Four Walls by Diane Haskins and Grindstone Island. Several more recent publications by Ed Beebee, Ken Watson, Doug Bond and others have in part also documented the heritage of our area. We will draw heavily whenever we can [with permission] from existing sources.

On the right side of the opening page is a site map which lists various file categories (pages) where the PRHS  can file documents, photographs and write ups as we obtain them. We have started small and put material in just a few areas, partly for example and partly for content. Please recognize that this is the early stages of a work in progress.

You will see for instance that there is an area called About PRHS and that this contains various documents and reports about the general business of the Society such as the AGM minutes, the Constitution, and a List of Officers and Directors etc.

But the really interesting categories are under the Portland History section. We are attempting to build a categorizing system where almost everything historical can be placed in some manner or other and readily retrieved. To illustrate how the categories under History might look we have started to fill in a few files. For instance under Cemeteries a local burial site is recorded and under Events a local airplane crash is documented. Under People Admiral Kingsmill, founder of the Royal Canadian Navy, and a long time resident of Grindstone Island is commemorated, and under Village of Portland we have provided an example of a century home [22 Perth Street] whose history has just recently been researched. There is also a place for Family Histories wherein we hope local families will contribute to extensively. The virtual museum will eventually hold a similar file for most of the older homes in town and cottages on the lake as we get to them. Much additional information will also be added from My Four Walls by PRHS Director Diane Haskins and other publications. Also, watch our banner page masthead photos. One of these will regularly change  to show historic photographs of the area.

It is a huge job to develop electronic files on the heritage of the community. We have only made a miniscule dent in the task at the time of launching this virtual museum. You will note many blank pages yet to be filled and others that need to be created. We hope you will join the PRHS to help keep up the work on this daunting task.  Currently, you can help most by becoming a member and unearthing historical information for a building or house or event or person that you happen to know about and sharing it with us. Also please look at the Request for Info category….maybe you can help solve some of the historical puzzles mentioned and there will be many more to come as we proceed.

The Society has access to a scanner and hopes to borrow historical documents and photographs to make electronic copies and then return the originals to the owners. Once electronically copied we can share them with all the community through the virtual museum.

The website has been designed to accommodate advertising to help keep the PRHS and the website financially sound. In the near future we will begin to canvass local businesses and organizations to take out advertisements on the site that can then link to their own web based information sites.

We need your membership in the PRHS to continue this good work. Please go to the membership page and join the PRHS.  Without these financial resources and your evident interest the Society cannot function. 2009 membership fees are $10 for one year and $100 for fifteen years.

Thank you for taking the time to read this Introduction.  Please send us comments on the developing website and become a member.

Thank you,

Buzz Boles, Chair

2009 officers and directors: Shirley Wimperis (Secretary), Jill Turnbull (treasurer), Rick Long (Vice-chair), John Bossert, Diane Haskins, Christine Row, and Ian Johnston (directors).

Skate-the-Lake, the marathon speed skating event held annually in Portland, had a celebrity guest this year, comedian Rick Mercer. Rick was filming a segment for “The Rick Mercer Show” and certainly seemed to be having fun doing it. He participated in the relay race, one of the several skating events featured every year.

Strap on your skates as Rick heads to Portland, Ontario for the Sixth International Big Rideau Lake Speed Skating Marathon.

Please click here for more photos from Rick’s hilarious visit to Portland.

Members of the PRHS have been hard at work throughout the spring and are pleased to announce that the all-new www.PortlandOntario.com will be launching in late June, 2009!

Additions will include many new categories in the History section, photos, video interviews with village residents and a lot more. Please stay tuned for more information and we look forward to everyone’s participation and feedback.

PRHS Newsletter – April, 2009

Dear members of the PRHS;                        April 5, 2009

Since the founding Annual General meeting in January 2009 the Board of Directors has been diligently working to move ahead on the aims of the PRHS.  Actioned items are:

  • The PRHS is now formally registered with the Ontario Historical Society as a member and registered with the federal government for taxation responsibilities. We are in the process of filing for not-for-profit status with Revenue Canada and the forecast looks good on this. We hope to be able to issue income tax receipts for funding and some artifact & archive donations later this year.
  • The PRHS now has a video camera and an accompanying microphone and tripod mount for use in interviewing senior citizens on their recollections of their life, their home, Portland and the Big Rideau Lake. The PRHS camera can be borrowed by any PRHS member for a period of up to two weeks to carry out their own interviews with a senior citizen of their choice. The video records collected will then be kept in the PRHS archives. We encourage members to get involved and to collect this important heritage while we can. Contact the Chair [Buzz Boles   349-5435] to arrange to borrow the easy to use camera and related equipment.
  • The Board of Directors has begun establishing PRHS working committees. All members are invited to join any committee of their choice. It is through the work of committees that the PRHS will fulfill its objectives. The following is a list of committees and we encourage you to join at least one of them to work on preserving the history of Portland and the Big Rideau Lake.

Museum Development Committee: Chair Buzz Boles – contact 613-349-5435
Fund Raising Committee: Chair Ian Johnson – contact 613- 275-2343
Artifacts & Archives Committee:  TBA…in the interim contact Buzz Boles.
Membership & Communications:  held by Board of Directors for now.

Committees will establish their own schedules, agendas and workplans. Board of Directors approval will be required for any committee budgetary items and for approval in principle of workplans and public communications.

  • The Board of Directors has decided that due to a shortage of funds we will not operate a drop in centre this summer as we did last year. We want to focus our limited treasury on building a stronger organization able to pursue the goals of building a museum and preserving the heritage of the area. The PRHS will be promoted through signage at some local events and locations. Our strategy is to  inexpensively build membership and awareness for the PRHS.  Current members will be kept up to date either through email or real mail as each may need and they may join in the committee work as they wish. We are also looking at establishing a PRHS website.
  • 2009 membership fees are under review. Members will be notified shortly of how to submit their 2009 membership fees.

I hope you have found this brief update informative and I encourage you to join into the committee work of your choice. Any questions or comments please feel free to contact either me or the other directors.

Chair Buzz Boles
email: prhs@live.ca
tel:  613-349-5435
PO Box 1, Portland ON, KOG 1VO

Portland is a community located in Eastern Ontario within the township of Rideau Lakes in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Ontario, Canada, north of Kingston and situated on the Big Rideau Lake. While Portland is steeped in history, most of today’s visitors merely come to enjoy themselves, relax, and take in the beautiful scenery of Portland-on-the-Rideau.

You may also visit local antique shops, gift shops and crafters markets. In the surrounding area, the Forfar Cheese Factory, one of the last independently owned cheese factories in the area is where you can buy world famous cheeses and curd made right at the factory. Visit the Mill Pond Conservation Area for a hike, all year round. The Cataraqui trails is also very near to the Forfar Cheese Factory and can also be enjoyed in all seasons.