EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Chapleau's 'beautiful summer resort' scene of surprise party for Mr. and Mrs. Richard Brownlee in 1931

Mulligan's Bay, "Chapleau's beautiful summer resort" was the scene of "most enjoyable" Surprise Party on Wednesday August 26, 1931, to honour Mr. and Mrs. Richard Brownlee, according to the Chapleau Post.

The occasion was an "At Home" to all the campers at Mulligan's Bay hosted by Mrs. Merrick and sons Herb and George, to honour Mr. and Mrs. Brownlee, who had decided t o sell their summer home on Brownlee Island.

The Chapleau Post reported that it was being sold to Mr. and Mrs. William Card "that they might enjoy to the full, with their family, the beauty, grandeur and refreshing vigour that only such a life can give." It became known as Card Island.

The Brownlees seemed to be the first to open and the last to close their cottage and all were welcome on their island, the report said.

The party was held at the Merrick's "Log Cabin" which is still in their family and used yearly by Merrick Goldstein. Growing up in Chapleau, I spent wonderful times at the Log Cabin with the Goldstein family.

Mrs. Merrick had invited Mr. and Mrs. Brownlee for tea that day and "not a whisper" was heard until the "Log Cabin" was set up for the party, and the guests started to arrive.

A little later, lanterns were lighted among the trees and "with the moon peeping out of the clouds made a charming background for the happy faces that were to visit and enjoy a few hours together".

The orchestra was Alf Comte and his son along with Herb Lucas . (Mr. Comte took over Mr. Brownlee's barber shop when he retired in 1931, the same year he sold the island. Mr. Lucas worked in it for many years.)

The guests "tripped the light fantastic" until the wee small hours" at which time D.O. Payette "called the company to order" and a presentation was made to Mr. and Mrs. Brownlee. J.B. Dexter read a letter to them.

It read in part: " It was with great surprise and sincere regret that we, the campers of Mulligan's Bay and surrounding district heard that you had disposed of your beautiful island and summer home. It is hard to realize that you are not to remain members of our little community for you are the pioneer campers in this neighbourhood and have always been an inspiration to others who have followed your example."

The letter noted that at one time the Brownlee yacht was the only gasoline powered boat, and "you sure were kind-hearted and generous in taking people...  down the lake or to the island for a picnic."

They also put out flags and markers in the bay . lights on the island and a gramophone with a very loud speaker played  music "the source of much pleasure to your neighbours..."

"To you then as pioneers, is the credit due for the pleasure we enjoy at our summer homes.." A gift was then presented to them. The letter was signed by Mr. Payette and Mr. Dexter on behalf of all the campers.

Mr. Brownlee arrived in Chapleau on February 4, 1886, and two days later, established a barber shop in a tent on the site where the Lady Minto Hospital would be located in 1914, at the corner of Elm and Queen Streets. 

Within a short time, he had relocated to Birch Street, in a lean-to attached to the T.A. Austin store. Later he bought the Brownlee Block.

In 1887, he married and he brought his wife Ellen to Chapleau. She was one of the few women there at the time. Both were 19.  Mrs. Brownlee died in 1936, and in 1938 he married Marie Jeanne Leclerc.

Richard Brownlee died at age 83 on August 8, 1951, and his funeral, conducted by Rev. E Roy Haddon, was held at St. John's Anglican Church.

My most sincere thanks to Margaret Rose (Payette) and Bobby Fortin, for lending me the Richard Brownlee papers. It was also great to have a visit with you when I was home. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Coming home to 'lovely land called Chapleau' included book presentation to Donald White its oldest surviving veteran of World War II

Michael, Harry, Don White, Norma, Trudy
Perhaps Laurie (Nichol) Taft summed up my trip to Chapleau with a Facebook comment when she learned I was going home to officially launch 'The Chapleau Boys Go To War', which I co-authored with my cousin Michael McMullen.

Laurie wrote: "Be sure to write about that lovely land called Chapleau where my favourite Auntie Moo lived."

Laurie is the daughter of the late Iven and Arlene Nichol, who came to Canada from the United States as World War II started. Her father, Iven joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, and became a flying instructor with my father Jim Morris in the Commonwealth Air Training Plan at Mount Hope near Hamilton. My mother Muriel became "Auntie Moo" to the Nichol children when Mom and I started visiting them in the United States after the end of the war.

As most regular readers know, my father was killed on active service in the RCAF on July 16, 1943, just on 72 years ago now. 

I am still in touch with my "American sisters" as the bonds created between families during the war remain forever.

So, I went to Chapleau, and here I am writing about Laurie's "lovely land" and mine too, launching a book, and marking  six years of sharing 'Chapleau Moments' in the Chapleau Express, thanks to Mario Lafreniere, its publisher. 

Before I go any further, I extend my most sincere thanks to all of you I met while wandering about town for your most warm welcome and kind comments. 

Paul Carson, taking a line from Kevin Walker, wrote on Facebook, "You're so Chapleau, Mike." I guess I am guys.

For me, working with Michael McMullen on 'The Chapleau Boys Go To War' was a deeply personal experience of course because of my father.

But it was much much more. I think Michael best expressed my feeling  about the book in the broader sense when he wrote in part about its launch: ""Ideally, our book will serve as a catalyst for families to search old shoeboxes for pictures and letters from those who served. Also, medals and awards should be documented for future family generations. It is important that this information not be lost. We owe this to all Chapleau Boys who have served in wars and conflict."

In effect, our book will be a beginning not an end to the story of the Chapleau boys. They shall grow not old!

MJ with Bruce Poynter at library
Michael and I are cousins through our paternal grandmothers Lil (Mulligan) Morris and May (Mulligan) McMullen, members of a family who first arrived in the community in 1885.

It was simply awesome to meet old friends, (although I must admit I had some difficulty recognizing folks I've known all my life -- aging eyes on my part) at book signings at the Chapleau Public Library, Royal Canadian Legion Hall and Hongers Redwood (Boston) and on the street. Our sincere thanks to the library, Legion and Jim Hong. 

And it took me about five hours to walk from the Redwood to Grey Street with a side car ride with Orville Robinson to look at some historic photos. Thanks to my old lifetime friend Ken Schroeder for picking me up so we could do the back lanes and back yards for childhood memories. That is a story for another day.

However, for me, the greatest  privilege and honour was  to be able to present a copy of the book to Donald White, born in Chapleau, and the community's oldest surviving veteran of World War II, who is now 102 years old.

Donald has been a member of Branch Number 5 of the Legion for many years.

Donald, a member of Chapleau Cree First Nation, enlisted in the Canadian Army shortly after World War II began, going overseas and seeing action in the drive from Italy, into France, Belgium, Germany, and present for the liberation of Holland in 1945. In being able to present a book to Donald, we were able to honour all  our First Nation Chapleau boys who served in the country's armed forces in World War I and II too.

After living and working in various places after the war but always making time to come home to the Chapleau area for hunting and fishing, Donald returned to retire at the Fox Lake Reserve in 2005. But, according to his daughter Norma Rowena, who kindly arranged our visit with her father, he was still hunting at age 100, with his grandson Stephen Caldwell. Thank you Norma.

Butch, Dr Bill, Ian with MJM
I was so delighted that Harry "Butch" Pellow, one of my oldest and dearest Chapleau friends was able to be with us for the book launch. As an aside Butch was the architect for the Chapleau Civic Centre and Chapleau General Hospital, among other Chapleau buildings, and we were able to get some photos of the "historic"  moment for the community's archives.

Also here were his brother Dr. Bill Pellow, the editor and publisher of 'Chapleau Trails', and another great friend Ian Macdonald, retired professor and head of the department of architecture and now Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. Butch, Bill and Ian have been of great assistance with my column, and thanks so much guys for all your help.

My very personal thanks to Michael McMullen who spent countless hours making it possible for 'The Chapleau Boys Go To War' to be written and published.

Thanks to everyone who made my most recent return to Laurie's "lovely land called Chapleau" so fantastic. By the way, Laurie has never been here, although her father Iven and her grandfather have on a fishing trip in 1954. 

If you live in Chapleau,the book is now available at Chapleau Village Shops. It is also available on amazon.com, amazon.ca and Kindle ..My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE