The name of the early settlement was Front Westmeath; not to mix it up with the Township of Westmeath.
The hamlet of Westmeath overlooks the Lower Allumette Lake and the name Westmeath comes from a county in Ireland. The first settler in the Village of Westmeath was George Washington Tucker, a United Empire Loyalist, who owned a large section of the hamlet as shown on a survey plan dated 1875.
The other founding family was the Noah Jackson Family. Both the Tuckers and the Jacksons as early land owners subdivided their properties into lots with the Jackson lots mainly to the north of the Gower Line and the Tucker lots mainly to the south. Both these maps are available in the Maps Section of the site. The early spelling of Gower was in use in that era; later to be changed to Gore. Westmeath is the oldest community in the area.
In the early days, Westmeath was situated on the busy portage route to the lumber camps and the hamlet grew as settlers moved into the surrounding area. It had several blacksmith shops, a carriage shop where wagons and buggies were built, a harness shop, a tailor’s shop, a shoemakers shop and a barber shop. The Acheson House was the first hotel. There also were several general stores in which the farmers could sell or trade their produce locally.
In later years, Westmeath boasted one of the first covered arenas in this rural area. Today, the hamlet of Westmeath provides residents with a rural lifestyle yet it offers the convenience of two elementary schools, several churches and an arena & community hall complex, all within its boundaries.
To get a look at the beginnings of the settlement we present this series of three pictures drawn by Emmett Brisson. The pieces are undated. No description comes with the pictures so we are left to guess the exact content; the captions are just “best guesses”. These pictures are from the Westmeath W.I. Tweedsmuir Book.
Myrtle Bromley wrote the following article in 1939, using newspaper clippings and items she had collected. Her very comprehensive piece reviews well the beginnings of the Village of Westmeath. Goddard’s Corner was at the intersection of the Westmeath and Lookout Roads. She also makes reference to the back and forth commerce with Allumette Island. That back and forth travel across the river was an important part of the life of the small settlement.
Much conjecture centres about the origin of the naming of the township of Westmeath, and the picturesque village which bears the same name, but it is generally conceded that the name must have been given to it by a surveyor, who named it after his native county in the Emerald Isle. Many of the older residents recall when the settlement was also most generally known as “Front Westmeath” to distinguish it from the township, but the common use of this distinguishing appellation has almost entirely disappeared.
From Valliant’s Hill there is spread before one a scene of pastoral beauty: – the Ottawa River, Allumette Island – where Champlain camped with his men more than 300 years ago – the distant mountains and forest, the village of Westmeath, the farms and fertile fields and valleys stretching for miles.
More than one hundred years ago the whole country was thickly wooded with pine and spruce, when up the Ottawa came those first stout hearted men and women – the early pioneers – some coming from the Old Country having spent weeks on the Atlantic crossing in sailing vessels, other United Empire Loyalists from the Eastern States.
Among the early settlers in Westmeath Village were: George W. Tucker, Sam Adams, Samuel Huntington, Ira Mason, C.S. Bellows, C. Bateman, A. Fraser, M. Drew, Henry Byce, A. Acheson, a. Chamberlain and others are on record as taking part in the business life of the settlement from 1854-1860 and earlier.
A later Adams’ home with Mary Adams, parents Hannah and Gideon (brother to Samuel Adams), also Joe and Willie Adams.
George Washington Tucker’s parents came from England and settled in the States but left there after the war of 1776 rather than deny allegiance to the Motherland. Finally George W. Tucker and his family made the hazardous journey up the Ottawa, portaging the rapids and camping on its wooded shores until he came to that part where the village of Westmeath is now situated. He owned at one time, practically all the land on which the village is built, and gave the land on which the first school was built.
In this little log school, Rachel Stone, – who traveled here from Prescott County, – was the first teacher. She boarded at the Tucker home and afterwards became the bride of eldest son, George Rex.
One of the settlers in the early 50’s who seems to have enjoyed popularity and success was Samuel Adams, whose farm was on the North. Mr. Adams built a stone house, and his farm, which is now owned by Hugh Dunn. This house was destroyed by fire.
Mr. Adams owned land on Allumette Island – just across from his farm – where he built a flour mill for the accommodation of the Westmeath farmers and settlers on the island. Row boats were used to cross in the summer. The old stone still stands, on Alex (looks like Ryan) farm close by the winter road to Pembroke – from Westmeath.
Samual A. Huntingdon also came to Westmeath in the 50’s. He was a nephew of Samuel Adams, and clerked for him in the lumbering business. Later he owned a large general store. He was interested in medical science, studied it, and possessed a fund of practical knowledge in that time. He brewed medicine from various herbs and rendered much service in those days of hardship and privation. If anyone had an aching tooth, an abscess that had to be lanced or a severe ache or pain, or was in a run-down condition, he came by horseback or on foot, through the forest or along the river front to Samuel Huntingdon for relief and help.
If the patient could not come, Mr. Huntingdon went to the patient. He was instrumental in alleviating much pain and suffering and his services were always given willingly and gratuitously.
He built a large frame house on Main Street, painted white with green shutters and trimmings, and having wide verandas. It was surrounded by beautiful and well kept grounds and was greatly admired in the early days. The house still stands but is now in a dilapidated condition.
George Rex Tucker built a Sawmill on the creek running through his farm, this was a great accommodation to the early settlers. This mill was burned, and rebuilt. George Blackwell operated it for years.
Robt. Bonnell had a sawmill for a few years at the end of the Gore Line road, and later Wm. Buchanan installed a much larger and better equipped mill on the same site. This mill was moved away in 1943.
At one time, Hugh MacKinnon owned a Brick Kiln at the end of the Gore Line.
Compiled by Myrtle Bromley 1939
Sometimes just a whole lot of nothing in particular is happening worthy of being a news item, or they are timeless topics. The Ottawa River’s high water levels and how-the-crops-are-doing are such topics. The “drive” would be the work of bringing the logs down the tributaries and channels of the Ottawa system.
The community’s largest employers were the lumber companies or “jobbers” operating shanties up the Black River and the Coulonge River basins of Quebec, opposite Westmeath. They employed all the able-bodied Westmeath men available, during the winter season to fell the timber and then to bring it down the rivers with the melt-water of the spring. These shanties had to be stocked with all the provisions needed by the lumberjacks and the horse teams during the winter months. That presented a ready market for farm produce from Westmeath Township. Lumbering was a hard life of hard work and not always peaceful. The tale of the 1869 Battle of Black River is an example. Martin Hennessy was a well-known “enforcer” in those days.
Significant migration of Protestant Irish to Canada in the early 19th century brought with it the establishment of the Orange Order in Canada. Protestant Irish soldiers and emigrants, largely Ulster-born, introduced the organization into New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario within the first decade of the nineteenth century. At its zenith, the movement had a membership of as many as one in three Canadians.
In the two villages of Beachburg and Westmeath, Orange Halls were built circa 1855, (both buildings survive to this day) and working together the lodges took their place as fraternal organizations in the community. By The biggest day on the calendar was July the 12th and “King Billy” (William of Orange) rode into both villages on a white horse. By the twentieth century the lodges’ membership was in decline until they were finally disbanded.
This photograph has been submitted by Patti Desjardins in the hope that some of the Lodge membership can be identified.
Patti writes: “This photo was in my grandparents’ desk drawer forever. I remember asking my uncle Norris McMullen about it, long after the Lodge closed. He told me that the same photo had hung in the Lodge and the names of everybody were on the back. After Norris died, I tried asking Edgar White about it but, as I recall, he didn’t know where the framed photo might have ended up. There weren’t that many involved at the end of the Lodge after all. I only know two people in it: the gentleman kneeling on the right of the drum is George McMullen, father of Leslie and Willard and the man at his shoulder with the moustache and the Lodge sash is my great grandfather William Lingstrum. Your grandfather Izett Anderson should be there and others like Harvey Poupore, etc. Perhaps if we put it out there more people can be identified, or we can track down the frame photo with the names.”
Lacrosse was a big sport all across the country in the late 1800s and into the 1900s. It was an adaption of the native game of “baggataway”. Although Westmeath Township was able to field a team they were usually beaten.
Unfortunately we don’t have an exact year that this portfolio of snapshots was for sale as village souvenirs – maybe around 1908-1910 would be a guess. It is a collection of landmarks some of which had gone such as the Norman Reid Store and the Arena, but other buildings remain in the village.
A sad incident during the war brought the sacrifice close to home. Dr. Edgar Woods was the Village doctor at the time.
A whole community benefits from a strong recreation program and the citizens of Westmeath always had a “Let’s do it!” attitude. Whether curling, hockey, skating or other winter pursuits, everyone had a great time.
Compiled from information given by Mr. Eulysse Gervais – a resident of Westmeath from the early 1900s and a key builder of the structure; then used in the Westmeath Tweedsmuir Book.
The month of May 1975 saw the beginning of the end of an old Friend and historical landmark, in our Village of Westmeath. This was the start of the dismantling of the old “Covered Rink”, which has served the village of Westmeath and surrounding communities since the early nineteen hundreds, 1907 to be exact. For many years it was the only covered rink for miles around, and was our third rink. After being repaired many times, it became unsafe for use. Now after several years of hard work and campaigning, a new arena has been built.
The first rink was an open air rink and was below the bridge next to Fraser’s Store, (later Schultz’s). George Tucker built a sawmill there and as it was water powered he built a dam across the creek to form a millpond. In the summer the pond was used for his logs but in the winter it became the skating rink. There was one big advantage to this it was easy to flood. The rink was swept off, the dam lowered a couple of inches and the rink was covered with two inches of new ice. Mr. Tucker was quite ingenious. The saw he used then was a quarter of an inch think. This meant that it didn’t saw very quickly. He had it set that when it came to a certain point it would touch a lever of some sort and stop. This way he could go home for dinner of visit with friends know that he didn’t have to return to the mill to stop the sawing operation. In later year, Mr. Eulysse Gervais, the village blacksmith, used one of these saws in his shop when fixing wheels.
In 1901, a second rink was built on a lot on Jessie Street. It was built with posts in the ground and boarded in all around. It had a flat roof and one side was fixed up for spectators. At one end were two hockey rooms – one for the visitors and one for the home team. These were heated with wood stoves. Many hockey games were played in this rink. At times the play would get pretty rough and players would crash right out through the boards. No one was seriously hurt though as they just landed out on the snow. The players would return to the ice and continue their game. This rink was approximately 70 feet by 40 feet and was used for several years. Then it was decided that it was too small. An additional lot was purchased, the old rink torn down and a larger rink built in 1907, on the same site.
The third rink was the second covered rink that was built in Westmeath. This one was 166 feet long and 66 feet wide. Charlie Howard, a citizen of Westmeath took the contract and with the help of all the carpenters around and other volunteer labour – and material- the rink was built; quite an accomplishment for a community of 400 people.
Westmeath in those days was a great centre for supplying lumber camps and business was good, but that erection of a $4,000. took a great deal of courage on the part of the promoters. But a number of public minded citizens – among them Dr. John Graham, Mr. Norman Reid and Mr. August Carlson – formed a committee and gave leadership on the project. Stock was sold and about $4,000 was raised. When completed, the committee found they still owed $1,700 on the construction of the building, and about $22 for lights. Mr. Reid took over the financial management and the debt was all paid off and the shareholders received a 20% dividend.
The rink was built with gin poles and the braces were raised by hand with ropes and pulleys. They had only a few braces up when it fell down but the men started over again. This rink had a rounded dome roof. Posts were put in the ground and braced with planks. Mr. Eulysse Gervais, who has given us this account of the rinks, did all the steel work, making angle irons and putting steel rods right across the rink; then the structure was braced. Over two tons of iron was used in the building. In later years the planks rotted and a cement foundation was put in.
Being the only covered rink for miles around, people came from all over on skating nights – even from Waltham and Allumette Island Quebec. Westmeath always seemed to have a good hockey team with always attracted large crowds. Those were the days of the seven-man hockey teams and many great games were played in the rink. For more on Hockey Teams see Hockey Heritage.
The rink was kept in good repair for many years. It had two anti-rooms, a hockey rooms and was lit with gasoline lights. As the years rolled on, many improvements were made. A Curling Club was formed and for a few years they had many good games. The anti-rooms were enlarged and repaired; a banquet room was built up over the anti-rooms; when the hydro came to the village, electric light was installed; a concession booth was added and the wood stove was replaced with an oil furnace.
In recent years there has been organized hockey from mosquito age to the midgets; and most of the children around learn to skate almost as soon as they can walk; they have a good many teams and all earned recognition. There have been many hockey tournaments held at this rink as well as skating parties, carnivals, broom-ball games and figure skating exhibitions. Communities such as Perretton and Greenwood and others have made use of the rink for these events as well as Westmeath.
Mr. Gervais also told us that one of the big attractions of those early hockey games was provided by Mr. Frank Marlow who would entertain the spectators with an exhibition of fancy skating, skating on spring skates attached to his regular boots. These were tightened on with a key. If you happen to lose the key, the skates were useless.
Now, the rink no longer safe for use has been torn down. All the reusable materials were sold and the money used in the construction of the new arena. Many of the residents look over to where “The Old Covered Rink” stood with nostalgic memories of young sweethearts meeting there, skating with each other all evening; or of young hockey players with visions of going to the NHL striving to bring the “Trophies” home. But they also look over to the new arena with pride and appreciation for all the hard work and campaigning done by the many workers who are responsible for achieving the goal of a new community centre in Westmeath.
The building and paying for the 1906 covered rink was a great undertaking that was financed by the following shareholders. It is a “who’s who” of the families that were in the community at that time.
Record of Rink Shares Sold at $10 per Share from January 1908
There were 16½ shares transferred to Norman Reid leaving his total to 43 shares. This information was taken from an old receipt book. Click here to read more about Westmeath’s Proud Hockey Heritage.
The following 2 photos are from the Westmeath Women’s Institute Tweedsmuir Book and both include a large cross-section of the women of the community. The first photo is not dated and the identification of the women is not total. If you recognize any of the women and know the correct name, please contact us.
Date Unknown and some women unidentified. Help if you can to fill the blanks.
Back row: Mrs. A.C. Timm (Nellie Smith), Mrs. James Anderson (Ethel Miller), Maggie Snowden, Alice O’Brien, Mrs. W. O’Brien (Stella Jeffrey), Mrs. Munroe Morrison?, Florence McMullen, Mrs. S. Jeffrey (Eliza Jane Crozier), Mrs. Norman Reid (Phoebe Tucker ), Mrs. John G. Bromley( ), Mrs. R. Wright (Carrie Smith)
Third row: John Paterson, Mrs. W. Wilson, Mrs. Jack Burke (Agatha Pappin ), Mrs. John Wright (Frances Ann Gordon), Etta Morrison(Mrs. Beverly Whyte, Beachburg), Mrs. William P. O’Brien (Maude Friar) , ______, _________. ________. ________.
Second Row: _______, _______, ______, Jessie Smith, Reta Bromley(Armstrong), Mrs. Peter D. Anderson (Agnes Graham)holding son Morris on her knee, Mrs. W.F. Grylls (Eva Wright), _______, ________, Huckabone, Luella Shannon, ________, Mrs. G. Shields (Jane Spotswood)
Front: _______, ________, _______, _________, Miss Morrison.
At any hour of the night or day, in any weather or season, a messenger would come to the doctor’s house or the telephone would ring. Everyone in the village and surrounding countryside depended on the country doctor – a general practitioner meeting every need as best he could.
This writing from the Westmeath Tweedsmuir Book is by a “A.H.M.”, unknown to us, and tells the tale of one of those doctor call-outs. Country Doctor
The big red brick house beside the little Anglican church was built by Dr. John Graham, M.D., and served the community well. Dr. Graham also served as the Township’s Medical Officer for many years and oversaw the smallpox vaccination program instituted by the township in 1899.
The long tenure of Dr. Edgar Wood in the village meant that a couple of generations of babies were all delivered by him. There are many around that can still tell tales of anxious visits to Dr. Wood’s practice located in the front section of his big red brick house, one house in from the Main and Synton Street corner in the village. Dr. Wood also served as the Township Medical Health Officer for many years.
He had graduated from Queen’ s University, in Kingston in 1921 with a degree of M.D., C.M. That same year he came to Westmeath to practice medicine and surgery, remaining for 40 years until his death in 1961. His funeral was held at the Westmeath United Church.
Another well-known doctor, Dr. I.D. Cotnam, practiced in Westmeath Village for a short time but remained in the area – first at Cobden and later in Pembroke. In his 58-year practice he had seen at least one member of every family in the township at one time or another. Those days are recalled in his obituary: Dr. I.D. Cotnam.
In 1967 all Canadians in every community across the nation staged a community-wide celebration of Canada’s 100th Birthday; 1867-1967. This is the pamphlet from that celebration in July 1967. 1967 Come Home Weekend