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Portland’s very own, Janet McKeage returns to Portland United Church with her friends Rasa Krokys and Dave Irwin for another fundraising concert with music ranging from Mozart to Andrew Lloyd Webber and everything in between!  Continue Reading »

A Timely Historical Photo Find to celebrate the Rejuvination of the Portland on the Rideau Historical Society Website/Museum

Hello all! We are back! The Portland on the Rideau Historical Society [PRHS] website has been rejuvenated through the able technical efforts of Larry Cochran and Gary Petro of Portland and Dave Pye [ex-resident and original website designer]. There will also be a PRHS annual general meeting on May 12 in Portland. Contact Chair Doug Good [dcgood@ xplornet.ca] for further details.

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Portland Community Pot Luck Supper

When:  Thursday April 23, 2015  Time: 5:30 pm Social for 6:00 pm Supper

Place:  Portland Community Hall

Presentation by Doug Bond, story-teller extraordinaire,  “The Homes of Portland”


Portland Beautification

Be Part of Your Community!

We have a beautiful community here that we need to show off to visitors and residents alike.  The flowers (believe it or not) will soon be growing and the seasonal residents and tourists will arrive.  Join us to put Portland-on-the-Rideau on the “must see” list.  All ideas and hands-on help are welcome.  Continue Reading »

The purpose of the Portland On the Rideau Newsletter is to promote the Portland Area through providing information on community activities and events and issues affecting the community.  It will be published bi-monthly, 6 times a calendar year.

You can view it here: Portland On The Rideau April-May 2015 Newsletter Vol. 1 Issue 1

Our thanks to Carolyn Bresee for taking on the task of getting this underway.  She needs our help to make this newsletter interesting and informative, so be prepared to participate and contribute.

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.

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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

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).

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