|J.B. Dexter, A Rathwell at water plant|
John Blanchard (J.B. or Jack) Dexter was a "highly esteemed and pioneer citizen" of Chapleau had a keen interest in the community and greatly contributed to it, according to the Chapleau Post.
Born in 1863 in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, he arrived in Chapleau in 1885, and became a locomotive fireman on the Canadian Pacific Railway, eventually being promoted to anengineer in the days when wood burning engines were in use.
He left the railway to accept a position in the James McN. Austin department store and a bit later started his own painting and decorating business.
When the Chapleau Brass Band was formed in 1888, Mr. Dexter was a member, and the newspaper noted it was largely through his efforts that it came into existence.
But his "keen interest in municipal affairs" led to his election to Chapleau's first council when the community was incorporated as a municipality in 1901, and he was returned to office in every yearly election until 1913 -- when he and Chapleau's first and only reeve G.B. Nicholson, both retired.
Major projects included the Town Hall, opened officially in December 1913, as they retired, and a water works system, among other projects.
Mr. Dexter was instrumental in establishing the Chapleau Volunteer Fire Department, and was appointed Fire Chief, a position he held until his death in 1936.
He took the position as Town Foreman, and inspector of waterworks, the installation of which he worked hard to promote while on council.
In his book, Pioneering in Northern Ontario, Vince Crichton noted that he was "adept at sailing" and won second prize in a contest on the river on July 1, 1891.
|Town Band at wooden cenotaph circa 1920 Remembrance Day|
(As an aside, sailboats were not common on the river when I was growing up in Chapleau, but my grandparents Lil (Mulligan) and Harry Morris told me my father Jim Morris, and his friends, including Dr. G.E. "Ted" Young, had sailboats too. If anyone has information and/or photos, please let me know.)
Vince also shared an anecdote about Mr. Dexter about a house he bought that was located near the CPR tracks on Pine Street and moved it to the northwest corner of Birch and Lansdowne Street, "designated as 68 Birch Street East."
When he moved it, the house was located "deep in the jackpine forest and his friends considered him a little daft" to locate his house there.
At the time of his death, he was the last member of the Chapleau Band which he had helped establish in 1888, as well as being the last charter member of Missanabie Lodge, I.O.O.F. He was also a Mason.
The Chapleau Post noted that "Though his life work here is done, the memory of Mr. in the hearts of the citizens who realize that much that they enjoy was made possible through his energy, courage and perseverance".
The Chapleau Band led the funeral procession to the Chapleau Protestant Burying Grounds on Birch Street. Thanks again to Margaret Rose (Payette) and Bobby Fortin for loaning me the Brownlee Papers. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org