by Brent Eades
A project begun several years ago by the Almonte Public Library is nearing completion with the launch on the Textile Museum website of a searchable online archive of the Almonte Gazette. (The Gazette was our town’s weekly newspaper from 1861 until 2009, when it was shut down by owner Metroland Media.)
According to Museum curator and executive director Michael Rikley-Lancaster, the Library carried out the initial digital scanning of its 148-year collection of Gazette issues, but couldn’t get funding to move the content online. The Library then joined forces with the Museum, which secured a grant to undertake the ‘optical character-recognition’ phase of the project — this made the text of the issues searchable. That work was carried out by artifact-digitization technician Matthew Moxley, beginning in the fall of 2012 and finishing this spring. Local resident Mel Turner donated his technical expertise to the creation of the web-search capability.
Funding over the years came from the Museum, the Library, the Elizabeth Kelly Foundation, and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
At present 90 years’ worth of issues (1861-1950) are online, with the remainder to be available by summer’s end. A small number of issues, most from the early years, are missing, but the Museum still hopes to track those down.
I spent several hours looking through the archive this week and I was intrigued at what I found. I began (as people do) by searching my own last name; this returned a large number of matches, many involving my great-uncle, George Eades, who was a merchant here in the 1920s and 1930s. I also came across many references to a branch of my family that lived here from about 1890 to 1920 – this I hadn’t known before.
I learned, for instance, that at the St. Paul’s church bazaar in 1894, “Mrs. James Eades won the fancy cake presented to the guild by Mrs. Turner of Ottawa”, and that in the same week James himself was elected financial secretary of the Loyal Orange Lodge.
I also discovered that in 1925 Uncle George’s young daughter Helen, who I remember well, “was hit by an automobile on Queen Street. She had a knee dislocated and a bad scalp wound. She is now doing very nicely.”
And of course there are the many references to ‘who was visiting whom’ over the years, a quaint small-town newspaper practice long gone by the wayside: “Miss Lil Eades of Shawville, Que. was the guest of her brother Mr. Geo. Eades and Mrs. Eades during the week.”
The online Gazette archive will prove a treasure trove to anyone interested in genealogy, local history, or simply “how things used to be” in our little town.