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In celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Big Rideau Lakes Association (BRLA) the community and region turned out for the gala event in Hanna Park in beautiful downtown Portland on the Rideau.

The event featured good food, (breakfast and lunch at the community hall), good music, a marvelous collection of antique boats, antique cars, tractors and bikes as well as the updated Portland Historical Society museum and a joy-filled kids arena.

See the spectacular video: BRLA 100 Special Event Video

A subsequent “after action review”  indicated that the event was enjoyed by all who attended and a desire to do something like this again.

Our thanks to all who participated, contributed and stayed through the day.


Lots of wonderful exciting things happening in Portland this summer.  New and interesting stories of our local history, a calendar of new events in town and on the lake, and a refreshing new look to Hannah Park.  Check it out on the latest newsletter with a full calendar of events:

Portland On The Rideau June – July 2015 Newsletter Vol. 1 Issue 2

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.

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