2017 Wildlife Along the Aragon Road

Neighbours sent us some rare photos of the  wildlife along our road and in the River Styx. Enjoy!

Jackie Duffin photographed these turkey vultures roosting in a tree bordering Colonel By Lake. We counted fifteen but there might be more. 

Enjoying the midday rest after a heavy lunch? These birds eat almost exclusively carrion and one wonders where they find all that around here. I assume there is road-kill and in the fields there might be a lot of dead animals killed by predators and other causes?  In any case they are valuable for cleaning up our environment.

In flight one only sees the dark profile of the bird with its characteristic bend-up wing tips when soaring on a thermal updrafft, but in this closeup we see the primary wing feathers. Below the anatomy of a bird’s wing. Click the photo for more information.

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Mark Fleming a professional photographer on our road took these photos of the bald eagles that nest in the marsh of the north-western tip of the River Styx.

This is the one young they hatched this year, 2017.

Parent number one and below number two. Mark tells us that subtle differences show who is the female and male. Any birders who can see the difference?

The young fledgling in flight.


Not all of us might like the cormorant but they are magnificent flyers skimming at low altitude over the water and the waves. This one is taking off by splashing its webbed feet on the water for extra lift.

The Ministry of the Environment must have done some culling because the numbers of cormorants on our lake is way down, compared with last year. Is it wise to interfere with nature?

To go to the INDEX click here.




Mince Meat Bucket; A Short Story

This story  that happened at Kingston Mills, is by Garth Scott a participant in Later Life Writing  at Cross Road Church, Kingston, Ontario, 2016.


What do a mincemeat bucket and Jaques Cousteau have in common? A lot more than you might think.

mince meat bucket b

I met Terry Walker in 1942 and we became lifelong friends. My friend could build cedar strip canoes, works of art. That someone can take some strips of wood and make from them a thing of beauty and utility never ceases to amaze me.

Terry always had a love for the water and for historical exploration and to satisfy these loves, in later life he became an accomplished SCUBA diver, exploring old wrecks in the water around Kingston.

Terry’s grandmother had a cottage at Kingston Mills and he and I spent many happy summer days on the water at the Mills, in a rowboat Terry had built. At the time we were both around twelve years old.

One day, when I called on my friend, he excitedly showed me his latest creation: a diving helmet. It would allow us to dive under the waters. Terry was certain there were historical artifacts present in the wreckage of an old boat whose timbers we could see from the surface of a small bay above the Kingston Mills locks.

Picture and inverted wooden bucket with a sort of rubber jacket securely affixed to it. The jacket was made from an automobile inner tube attached to the open end of the bucket. This went over your head with its rim resting on the shoulders. A drawstring threaded through holes in the jacket allowed it to be drawn tightly closed around the chest and arm openings. An eye hole cut in the bucket and covered with heavy celluloid and water proofed allowed underwater visibility. The air supply to the diver, who was to be me, consisted of a length of garden hose screwed onto a fitting on the top of the bucket. Air would be forced down the hose to the diver by a tire pump mounted in the boat on the surface. Thus outfitted I would be free to move around the bottom of the bay and explore. The simplicity of the diving helmet design was beautiful and I couldn’t wait to try it out. We agreed to begin our underwater explorations the following Saturday.

We didn’t reckon on Terry’s mother uncovering our  plan and she, being unwise in scientific matters, chopped the diving helmet to splinters and burned it.

Just imagine if Thomas Edison would have had a mother like that.

Terry did eventually explore the wreck without the helmet, and artifacts were recovered.

This is the water above the locks at Kingston Mills. The two cottages are from the time that Garth’s story takes place. However there are more cottages at Kingston Mills and it is unknown if Terry’s grandmother owned one of these or another.

The Graham Farm Sold

The Cecil and Wilma Graham farm was sold by the Estate Trustees John and Isabel Turner, to the George Patrick and Marie-Ann Carey, owners of two century farms on Paterson Road, just north of the Aragon Road where the Graham farm was located.

The Graham farm was assembled over time by acquiring smaller land grants given by the British government to workers and military personnel who participated in he building of the Rideau Canal from 1826-32. See Wilma Graham remembers…click HERE for more.

The land north of the Aragon Road from the Quintin property farm to Keirstead’s land is mostly designated as “Prime Agricultural” by the Province of Ontario and local planning laws. It is for this reason that estate development along the road is limited to fill-in estate lots, such as currently advertised by Century 21.

It is for this reason that the historic Aragon Road has been preserved by the people along it, but mostly by Cecil and Wilma Graham, as the original “forced road” from the mid 1880s.

The sale of the Graham farm has added another layer to the preservation of our road’s character as the Carey’s are now owning it and have added it to their large farm that now stretches from the Paterson Road to the Aragon Road.

From Service Ontario, Land Registry. The Graham farm is marked in darker grey. The 29 acres of land south of the Aragon Road Lot 37-38, was donated to the then Township of Kingston for the “enjoyment of the  public” and is now marked as the Cecil and Wilma Graham Park.


A areal view of the land between the Aragon Road and the Paterson Road shows the combined area the Careys farm.

The Graham farm is marked by the dotted borders, the Carey land is marked by solid lines. These borders were assumed from local observation and might not be correct. This will be followed-up. Note the land south of the Aragon Road,the Graham Park, is connected to the wooded peninsula the juts out in Esther Head Marsh, and which is federal conservation area.


To go to the INDEX click the icon below which is Graham’s house. What happens with it, is of yet unknown.

New Life on Colonel By Lake

For us, humans, the spring has barely shown itself. There was rain, many chilly days, high water on the lakes and rivers, and the occasional sunny warm day. But, the animals around our houses, in the forest and on the water’s edge have been busy like any other year.

We have for the first year a breeding couple of Mute Swans in our bay. They most likely are the juveniles that have been hanging around our nook of the lake for the last couple of years. He or she must have picked up a mate while in warmer climes while we shivered through our winter. Other swan-couples, probably more experienced, have already their young. I made these photos today on the river Styx and on Colonel By Lake at Harriet Point at the end of our road.

The neighbourhood is a bit rough but there is room for all. The Mute Swan on her nest, on this little rock-outcropping, is a first. The place is a favorite spot for cormorants and gulls. Photo taken May 18, 2017. A week later May 24,  I spotted this swan and her mate with two or more young near the shore  of  the Isle of Man.

swans mute breeding june 2 2017 harriet point

Update June 2, 2017. This is the result, two young. The photo was taken from the marked navigational part of the canal towards the shore of Isle of Man, near Harriet Point on Colonel By Lake.

Then on the same day I took this photo of yet another couple that might have bred in the marsh of Casey Island, the couple seems to be a well established pair with no less than seven cygnets. Date June 2, 2017

swans mute breeding june 2 2017 casey isl ++++++++++++++++

This is a couple’s nest on our bay. He or she is digging up mud and pieces of bulrushes and will put the material on a pile near the side of the nest. From there she picks up a beak-full of material and carefully distributes it around the outside of the nest to increase its size and to keep up with the rising waters.

At times the pair works together, “he” gets the building material from the swamp and piles it on the storage site, “she” takes it from the storage site and applies it to the nest. The bigger bird on the nest might  be the female?

After all that is done, it is time to get down again incubating the eggs. Her wingspan is  enormous and I wish I could have made a video of the sequence.

Careful does it, her underside is impressive, like the undercarriage of an airplane?  But if there are five or more eggs, it she must cover a large area.


May 28, 2017, we see two young bobbing around the parents for the first time and only for a brief period. Two days later they are on the water around the nest eating weeds while the parents gobble up to eight pounds of weeds and roots each day. The marshy area in our bay provide excellent habitat for the new couple. Here are updates on our photographic observations.

swans mute breeding may 31 2017. col by f jpg

swans mute breeding may 31 2017. col by d jpg

For information on the breeding habits click here: Most Swans find their mates before the age of 2 years, usually during the winter season. Even though some may nest for the first time when they are two years old, most won’t start until they are 3 to 7 years old.


This family photo x taken on May 24th must have bred in the marshland at the north-west corner of the bay in the River Styx. In this photo they were feeding and leisurely floating in the water near the navigational part of the river, in the middle of some juicy weed mats. I counted five young but on one photo it looks like one more is hiding behind one of the parents.

Mother and her cygnet have a tête-à-tête.

It looks like Mom is hugging her child she was carrying on her back in the photo above. Her head is lying on its side, a somewhat unusual pose.

And in this photo she seems to encourage the little one to feed on some green snacks.


The ospreys are back on the nest in the conservation area, near the Dickinson’s property, and at the nest on the Keirstead’s property at the canal between the River Styx and Colonel By Lake. But those are the only two nests left from the six that were once established around the lake, see: https://aragonroadhistory.wordpress.com/ospreys/

Ospreys are well established along the Rideau Canal and near other big waterways and lakes. Not to worry about a decline on our lake, it might just be a local phenomena, there is lots of real-estate for these birds to occupy and breed.

It will be interesting to find out of the Bald Eagle that nested last year in our area has come back, see for last year’s update on the ospreys and the bald eagle at:  https://aragonroadhistory.wordpress.com/2016/07/30/update-on-osprey-nesting-and-more/


And finally here is an osprey that flew by with a fish in its claws, landed on a hydro pole and sternly observed my actions taking the photo.  This is most likely one of the ospreys that nest at the Keirstead’s property at Harriet Point.

To go back to the INDEX, click here.

Water Levels in Colonel By Lake

ki mills waterfal may 22 2017 b

Spring 2017 poured a lot of water from the heavens into the Rideau Watershed and the level of Colonel By Lake has been higher than ever.

When we built our house near the lake, the  Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, watershed management and Parks Canada prohibited the building of a basement. The floor of our first level of the house needed to be six feet, one and a half meter, above the highest recorded water level since the canal was built in 1832. We are glad we did built accordingly. For water levels over time and the targets of water management, click here.

The recent lake level was almost 20 cm above the highest recorded since 1832. The recent high water is now the record high level until it might be broken next year, or the years thereafter. The wetlands on our thirteen acre property expanded widely by absorbing the massive amounts of water that poured down for days on end. Plants and amphibians had a good time.

Watershed managers in the different areas coordinated water flow as best they could. The weir in the dam and the hydro-electric generation station at Kingston Mills worked overtime. I took some photos of the thundering water that flowed over the weir and under the road towards the waterfall at the south-east side of the blockhouse.

Kingston Mills

The original Kinston Mills engineering plan and nomenclature; from Rideau Canal a History of the Rideau Lock Stations. Almost all of this plan can still be seen. Only the lock-master’s house was not built in the shown location.

The dam and weir. The new concrete cap was installed in 2016 to stabilize the stone key-work of the original  140 feet limestone dam. The overflow seems gentle from this distance, and it is only part of the water released from the lake since the power generating station takes also a substantial outflow from Colonel By Lake.

The water thunders through the sluice that runs underneath the one lane bridge. The bridge has been completely renewed during the fall of 2016 and the spring of 2017. It was scheduled to open in the middle of May but is now delayed. 

ki mills waterfal may 22 2017 d

The water flows from under the bridge and against the rock-bluff on which the blockhouse has been built. From there it flows towards the south-east side of the earthen wall of the roadway and from there it is reflected towards the rocky cliffs of the original waterfall in the river.  But the earthen wall did not stand up against the eroding water. In the photo below the road is washed out with the steel railing posts hanging in the air.  My VIDEO of the rushing water shows this in real-time, click here. 

A professional view of before and after the flood taken by a drone gives a really spectacular view of the Kingston Mills area, waterways, waterfall and power generation station. Click HERE and look for Kingston Mills drone videos, specifically “Kingston Mills Before and After the Flood”.

ki mills waterfal may 22 2017 c

The washed out road that was just rebuilt as part of the 5 million dollar restoration and upgrade of the Kingston Mills lock-station. When and how this is going to be repaired is currently being discussed. The opening of the road will be delayed well beyond the mid-May opening of the locks.

The waterfall on the east side of the hydro-electric generation station looks in this setting like it would have been before the building of the Kingston Mills locks in 1926-1932. Note the small rainbow just to the right and above the centre of the photo.


The two large diameter pipes funneling water tot the turbines in the electric generation station. Note that the water flows over the rocks and under the pipes, a feature that has never happened. This water will join the waterfall and will flow into Lake Ontario via the Cataraqui River and the Inner Harbour at Kingston.

Image result for Cataraqui River


To go to the INDEX  click here.

Neighbour Publishes a Historic Novel

I hope you allow me to use this platform to announce the publication of a novel by Henk Wevers entitled: Going East. It is available at the bookstore Novel Ideas, 156 Princess Street, Kingston, ON.

The historic novel reminds us of several contemporary issues such as nationalism, refugees fleeing war and dictatorial regimes, and the creeping influence of extreme political movements.

Synopsis: Adina Baumgarten, post-doctoral fellow at the University of Amsterdam, is the main character in this novella. She is a fired from her position together with all Jewish faculty, on orders from the Nazis who had invaded Holland in early 1940. She decides to volunteer in a refugee camp for German Jews who fled the Hitler regime in the late 1930-s, and entered Holland illegally. Adina becomes a prisoner herself when the camp turns into a transit centre for the deportation of Dutch Jewish citizens, and other “undesirable” human beings, to Auschwitz-Birkenau. In a strange twist she is assigned to work in the Hollerith administrative centre at Auschwitz I which is part of the immense Auschwitz complex of camps and factories.

Adina finally escapes to become a member of the commandant’s family. Her dreamlike existence, in a relative peaceful part of East Germany close to Dresden, is utterly destroyed when the city is fire-bombed by the Allied Forces. This gives her a chance to join a large group of internally displaced Germans and refugees of many nationalities who flee the advancing Russian Army at the Eastern Front. After the German capitulation, she travels by bicycle to the American positions west of Leipzig in the state of Thuringen. From there, she enters her liberated country near Arnhem. She is the only member of her family who survived the war.

While the period is dark and horrific, Adina’s spirit and personal qualities makes this an uplifting story that explores good and evil in Dutch and German society, the crimes committed in war by all sides, and dubious political decisions made by elites affecting ordinary people.

Pipeline Repair at 569 Aragon Road

You might have noticed some large earth-moving equipment in the field and trucks on our Aragon Road, just east off Battersea Road.

The crews were digging-up the ten-inch diameter pipeline that runs from Toronto to Montreal and locally follows the Aragon Road, behind and in front of houses, and through the fields and woods. It crosses the road near the Keirstead farm then across the canal between the River Styx and Colonel By Lake. The pipeline is owned by Trans- Northern Pipelines Inc and dates from the mid 1950-s. It transports refined petroleum products, mostly gasoline. The digging was necessary to repair a weakened section of the pipe.

The trench and the pipe repaired by installing a sleeve, it looks like an  fibre reinforced epoxy outer layer over a welded steel sleeve, see below. An email request was sent for more precise information.

The reply: 

Subject: RE: pipeline repair Aragon Road.

Thank you for your inquiry about repair project near Aragon Road. We wanted to provide you with an update on the project.

As you know and describe in your post, we conduct regular inspections of the pipeline as part of our responsibility to ensure we protect the public, the environment and the pipeline. In this case, we identified a feature or anomaly in the pipe that came from the original manufacturing process. The feature was detected by ultrasonic inspection which can detect features through the pipe wall as well as through the steel compression sleeves. As you witnessed, steel compression sleeves were welded over the pipeline to address the situation. There is no welding directly to the pipe, only on the compression sleeves. In addition, between the pipeline and the sleeve there is an epoxy to ensure there is no gap between the sleeve and the pipe. To ensure the integrity of the work, we conduct additional inspections and tests after the weld is complete to ensure a high quality As you may have noticed, the work is now complete.

We noted in your story that you also referenced the Amending Safety Order issued to TNPI by the National Energy Board (NEB) in October 2016. We want to assure you that the work near Aragon Road is not related to the Order. We continue to work with the NEB to meet the conditions outlined in the Order and to be vigilant about monitoring and maintenance activities, including operating below approved pressure ranges until we are confident the pipeline can return to full capacity.

Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc.


How does the company know when and where to repair? The preventative maintenance inspection of the pipe is done regularly by sending a “pig” through the pipe. A “pig” is a cylindrical body loaded with sensors that pickup small cracks, diminished wall thickness as a result more general corrosion and erosion of the 3/8 inch steel wall of the pipe. When the interpretation of the inspection results indicates the need for repair, crews go out and fix it before leakage occurs.

The “pig” is guide by the wheels radially positioned with the magnetic flux coils and the flux pickup sensors located in the middle. The inspection tool is inserted into the pipe at one of the access points at either end and it travels as a discreet package with the liquid in the pipe at high speed from one end to the other of the 500 km plus length of the pipe. All the while picking up data on irregularities in the wall of the pipe. 


A so-called “Sleeve B” repair. A steel sleeve of the same thickness, and the same chemical and crystalline structure as the pipe-steel is clamped around the pipe and welded longitudinally,  there is no welding onto the pipe itself. Space between the sleeve and the pipe is filled with epoxy. Then the outside of the exposed pipe and the sleeve are covered with corrosion protective layers. Pipeline Repair Manual; for details click HERE.

The nearest site that also requires a repair is near the Sydenham Road about six km west from the Aragon Road.

Of interest to our rural community and Council might be the following quotation, especially where it addresses the water crossing management program. Note that this 2016 Amending Safety Order is referring to previous orders dating 2009, 2010. Does this mean that the Trans-Northern pipeline, that runs along our road, operated with lower pressure for the last seven years? Repair seems a bit late?  And more action appears to be required? Questions that might be considered by our elected representatives.

September 27, 2016 – Calgary, Alberta – National Energy Board

“The National Energy Board (NEB) has issued an Amending Safety Order to Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. (TNPI) that consolidates three previous Safety Orders issued by the NEB to the company between 2009 and 2010. The Amending Safety Order also includes additional requirements to protect the pipeline system while TNPI develops and implements a longer term solution. The company is directed to:

  • Implement a 10 per cent further pressure restriction on its pipeline system;
  • File annual fitness for service assessments for its pipeline system;
  • Conduct and validate a hydraulic analysis, and develop and implement corrective and preventive measures;
  • Assess and optimize its over-pressure protection system;
  • Reassess its over-pressure incidents;
  • Conduct engineering assessments in accordance with the requirements of Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Z662-15 Clause 10.1;
  • Implement a facility and pipeline integrity management program on its pipeline system compliant with sections 6.1 to 6.5 and section 40 of the Onshore Pipeline Regulations; and
  • Develop and implement a water-crossing management program.

“The National Energy Board (NEB) had previously issued three Safety Orders on sections of piping in response to incidents that occurred in 2009 and 2010. The order directed TNPI to restrict the operating pressure but the NEB says TNPI has yet to satisfy all conditions spelled out in the original Safety Orders. As a result, the company is being asked to reduce pressure by another 10% and undertake a number of corrective measures related to the system’s hydraulics and over-pressure protection.”

The repair started on about the 14th of March and is ongoing as of April 6th. The cost of each local repair,  is around $100,000. The company that was contracted for this work is

To go to the INDEX of this website click the icon below, which depicts the comfort station for the workers.




Graham House and Lot Sold and For Sale Again

The Angel-stone house at 90 Aragon Road, that Cecil and Wilma Graham owned and rented, was shipped by tractor and large trailer from the Isle of Man across from Colonel By Lake. It was recently sold. Click here for more information on the history of the little house

The little wood frame house that Cecil Graham scooped up at the Isle of Man and dragged it to 90 Aragon Road. Later he had it clad in Angel-stone. Cecil and Wilma never sold land for private development and we owe it to them that our Aragon Road is an attractive “forced road” that has preserved many of the late 1800-s characteristics. The ten acre lot was separate from the Graham farm property. Photo credit: Henk Wevers

Century 21 now advertises 5 acres, or half of the lot, for sale. The advertisement suggests one can build a one million plus house on it: “Build your dream home on this picturesque parcel of land situated 5 mins from Kingston. Legacy Fine homes welcomes you to customize the home you have always wanted on this 5 acre parcel with elevated rolling hills. A rare offering to have this size of parcel this close to the city and steps to the Great Cataraqui River. A few front elevations for your selection have been provided but your plans can be accommodated. Pricing will change based on model being built. Lot to be severed and occupancy could be as early as Fall 2017. Expect stunning stone elevation with stunning roof lines Enjoy the comfort and feel of a net zero home! Custom work can be added to this build to truly suit all of your needs.”

This is an example what a million plus buys. Photo credit: Century 21 website.

90 B ARAGON RD, Listing ID 363260504, ON, Kingston, Canada - ID178562071.jpgPresumably when this “net zero” home is built, the other 5 acres might see a similar house built on it? 


There is one thing we can all agree on: the land along Aragon Road IS picturesque.

But “elevated hills”? Isn’t that an oxymoron? And “5 minutes from Kingston” is patently wrong, we are already in Kingston, 15 minutes from downtown. And “…steps to the Great Cataraqui River,” is a bit of a stretch, maybe in real-estate we deal with “alternative facts”? There is no Great Cataraqui River, just Cataraqui River and it starts at Kingston Mills from where it runs into Lake Ontario.  What does “net zero” mean? Pay a million and get “net zero”? Ah well that’s progress.

This is a view to the west of the 5 acre parcel with “elevated rolling hills”. Five more acres extend to the right of the trees . Photo credit: Henk Wevers


In other news, the Graham farm has been sold to George Patrick and Marie-Ann Carey on December  21, 2016.  Their land together with the new acquisition covers several hundreds of acres between Paterson Road and the Aragon Road.

Long term neighbours on our road will remember that a large part of this prime agricultural land was studied between 1982-88 for making a municipal dump site. Very hard work in opposition to this plan included the Carey families, many families around the Glenburnie area, and a sophisticated neighbourhood committee that won the case against the dump. The then Reeve of Kingston Township, Isabel Turner presented Dr. Bob Wolfe the committee chair with an award for “constructive opposition”. Is that another oxymoron?  Stay posted for a story about this period.

Congratulations to the Careys for procuring the Graham tract of land an preserving our rural landscape and the land as agricultural.


The new bridge at Kingston Mills Locks is nearing completion, the up-ramp coming from HW 15 and Station Road is now wider and it will be much easier to wait for oncoming traffic from the bridge. It is still one lane though, because Parks Canada wanted to change as little as possible in this historic site.

The new bridge at the south-east side of the locks at Kingston Mills, Ontario. Photo credit: Henk Wevers, March 18, 2017


Click the Graham cows and barns icon below to go to the INDEX.

Winter Sports

The new heading on the website shows two nice and quiet winter sports: Ice sailing and snow/ ice bicycling. The photos below might inspire you to enjoy the winter.


Notice the very thick tires on the bicycle, they are 10 cm wide and have a low pressure to create a large contact area between the tire and the snow or ice. A very coarse and deeply grooved rubber pattern also increases grip. Otto Wevers on bicycle, photo credit Henk Wevers.

ice-boats-and-otto-jan-6-2017-oNo problem cycling at a speed of 15-20 km per hour. To see what the ice sailings buddies are up to.

ice-boats-and-otto-jan-6-2017All tuned up and ready to go?

ice-boats-and-otto-jan-6-2017-eHere they are, the boats are fast with a  low friction blades they easily go 30 to 50 km per hour if the wind is favourable. The sailors are from the Kingston Yacht Club and the numbers and initials show.



To go to the INDEX click the photo below.


John Lach Remembers

This story of five children, orphaned at one to eight years of age, taken in by the Catholic Church ,shows a time when our society had a very different approach to wellbeing and mutual responsibility.

The Lach children: John, Mary, Greg, Henry and Michael grew up during their first years of childhood at the Heathfield Orphanage that was managed by the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul.

heathfield_landmakrs_p43_bychristinehamelinHeathfield, known as the Providence Motherhouse – the term “motherhouse” refers to the official home base of a religious congregation – continued throughout the early years of the Great Depression and provided employment for many workers. Built of limestone quarried in the Kingston area, it was officially opened on July 6, 1932, and housed the novitiate and general administration of the congregation,  stood in the middle of a hayfield. From: http://www.providence.ca/our-story/history/motherhouse/

When the children were four to twelve years old Wilma and Cecil Graham welcomed them in their family on the Aragon Road farm. John Lach remembers…


John Lach Remembers

By Henk Wevers

October, 2016

John and Linda Lach were harvesting firewood on the Hydro right-of-way at the Graham farm just north of the Aragon Road. The Hydro had cut trees to protect the lines from making contact with tree branches and beautiful hardwood was available for pick-up.

I introduced myself and the two took a break while we had a chat. Following our impromptu conversation, we came together at a later date to talk about their connection with the Graham family as part of the history of the Aragon Road. Here is John’s story.

John’s father, Joseph Lach, emigrated from Poland to Canada when he was 16 years old. This was before the second World War in the depth of the Great Depression mid 1930-s.  He somehow found work with the rail roads. He married Doris Davies in 1943, their first child John was then on its way, a silent witness at the wedding, he was born on Aug 18, 1943, followed by sister Mary in Oct 1944, brother Greg in 1946, Henry in 1949, and Michael, aka Mike, who was born in 1951.

Shortly after the birth of Mike, the father and family’s breadwinner died and Doris was left behind with five children, including the 10-month old baby Michael. This was at a time when little social security and organised, tax funded, community care existed. It was insurmountably tough for the mother to keep the family going.

Doris worked at the British American Hotel on Ontario Street. The hotel built in 1807, was famous not the least because Dickens slept there on his visit to Kingston in 1842, and Sir John A. was often seen there to guzzle his favourite drink. The hotel burned down in 1963. [i]

After her husband’s death she was utterly dependant on this job to provide for her five children ranging in age from ten months to eight years. To care for this large family and at the same time working full shifts at the hotel was overwhelming and depression set in.

As hard as she tried to make it work, Doris had to give up her children ranging in age from less than a year to eight years  old. A brother of Doris was willing to take them into his family but since they were Protestant, the Catholic Arch Dioceses of Kingston was not in favour of this arrangement and the church stepped in. The children were moved to the Heathfield Orphanage run by the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul. The Sisters owned the convent, a thirty-acre property just outside the western limits of the city, now 1200 Princess Street. In 1941 the villa situated on the property became a home for needy children.[ii]

Mary joined the girls in the orphanage, and her four brothers were housed in the boy’s section of the children’s home.

John and other children in his group had a caregiver who was in her thirties.

“She was strict but kind. Before we had to go to bed she would slip into the kitchen of the Mother House and make us a slice of bread with brown sugar on top. Man we liked those.”

John’s smile and beaming face showed that the memory was still vivid.

“Yes, we were well taken care off. There was strict discipline though, if you didn’t behave, you would get the strap. Those nuns were good at that, too.

“Christmas dinners for the kids were offered in La Salle Hotel and for good measure at the Steel Workers Hall the next day. In the summer we had picnics at the conservation area near the DuPont factory on Front Road. That area was also used for camping by the Girl Guides. The kids in Sunnyside Children’s Centre on Union Street, a non-denominational orphanage, and the Catholic ones from Heathfield would be picked up by school bus and taken to these events together.[iii]  [iv]

“Every Sunday the Heathfield children got an in-house movie. They were all films about nature. After 1950 the orphanage had also access to a TV, children and the nuns would watch at certain times.”

John remembered with much relish his role in a Nativity Scene that was set up in the window of James Reid Furniture on Princess Street.

“I was dressed up like Joseph among the Kings and the Shepherds. We would stand there and tried not to move or blink while the people outside the store stood on the sidewalk staring at us and making all sorts of comments which we couldn’t hear but from their gestures you could see they had a good time and so did we.”

“How did you and Linda get together, John?” I asked switching away from John’s youth to his early adult life.

They both smiled and looked at each other a bit hesitant. Should we tell?

“Well… I had a girlfriend, but it wasn’t going anywhere. One day I drove in my prized cream coloured Chevy Impala that had bright red stripes, red leather interior, and what was called a “rag top” that could open up and folded back just after the rear seat. I was behind the wheel all dressed to the tee, with the ragtop open, on my way to this girlfriend’s house. She lived past Odessa.  Just before Odessa coming from Kingston I had to stop for a herd of cows that were driven across the road by a young girl. She was barefooted and stood there confident in the middle of the road, stopping the traffic and letting the cows cross. She was in control of everything, for sure. I was impressed and right there and then got interested in her and we chatted bit. I didn’t continue to where I was going, and the rest is history. We got married in 1969 and after a couple of year renting a house, we bought one in Odessa, fixed it up nicely and lived there ever since.”

“It was June 21, 1969,” Linda added with a smile on her face.

She looked at John as if she still was the young woman-farmer in the middle of the road, shy and barefooted. She was used to tramping around barefooted in the pastures and freshly cut hayfields, even enjoyed it.

John and Linda shared proudly that they got two children, now both married, and have four grandchildren, two girls and two boys not too far from Odessa in Brockville and Ottawa.

“So what else happened to the Lach children at the Heathfield Orphanage?” I asked.

“In 1955 after four years in the orphanage, all of us were taken in foster care by Wilma and Cecil Graham, a farmer with a large stretch of land on the Aragon Road. I was twelve then and Michael the youngest was four. The Grahams had no children of their own but had several foster children over many years.[v]

“Wilma cooked good meals in a pressure cooker and we were well fed. She cooked on an electric stove in the summer kitchen on the side of the house, and in the winter on the woodstove in the large kitchen inside the house. All the food came from the farm’s own garden for all of summer and winter. We’re well fed, but we’d to work to help with all the chores on the farm. It was hard, you better believe it.” [vi]

Cecil  Graham came himself from a hard working farmer’s background and in the 1950-s it was not uncommon for children to work many hours before school and after school in the farming operation. Even in 1961, in Canada forty percent of boys age 14-19 were gainfully employed and not in school.[vii]

The Lach children did go to school and had to work hard on the farm: from 6 to 8 am was time for chores, and a quick breakfast. Then it was off to the corner of Fitzpatrick Road and the Aragon Road where the school bus picked the children up. After school, other chores were waiting.

“Haying time was particular busy,” John recalls.

“Cecil’s brother Matt would drive a two horse team to mow the hay, Cecil’s father would drive the raking machine also with a two horse team, and Cecil drove the tractor to gather the hay and bail it. The square bales would be thrown out of the bailer and I being the oldest of the Lach siblings, I was about seventeen then, would stack the bales on the wagon. You needed to be strong and quick because you had to keep up with the machine that spat out the bales. You couldn’t stop because that shut the whole shebang down. That was before 1961.”

horse-team-cuttingA two horse mower at work similar environment as the Graham fields. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2R-7gg5yyE

The Lach kids were kept busy on the farm, each according to their age and strength, and that gave them little time for anything else.

“We were ‘babe in the woods’ when it came to city life,” John said.

“The only contact with the city was on Sunday when we would go to church at 6.30 am Mass. Then after coming home and milking the cows, no more work, for once.

“Leisure time meant resting somewhere in a quiet space around the farm, reading some comic magazines or books, and in the summer swimming in Esther March Bay off the ‘island’ that Henry had named ‘Paradise.’ [viii]

“I went to school on Battersea Road in Sunbury. The building is still there, on the left if you head north. It became a candle factory and now it looks somebody restored it into a house?

“Did grade 7 and 8 there, and after that I went for one year to Kingston Collegiate & Vocational Institute, KCVI, in the city.  Coming from a farm you were different, had this smell from milking cows, they teased me about it. Then with the chores every morning and afternoon and the homework it made it all very hard.

“After the first year I dropped out and worked full time at the farm for about two years. Then I had enough and joined the army for a couple of years, in 1961, when I was eighteen.

“Then after six years of army life, I de-listed and came back to the farm for about three years. I left again and worked in a car-wash for a couple of years before I got a job at Garnet Compton in the city at the corner of Princess Street and Collins Bay Road. The business sold washing machines and stoves. He was a very good man. He trained me in all the electrical and mechanical work needed for the repairs and home installations. I worked there for twenty-four years until 1989 when Garnet died and the business was closed.

“But I got another job in the same line of work at R.B. Knapp Appliances. They might be still there on Sydenham Road, as far as I know. Worked there for seventeen years and then in 2008 I retired at 65. We have a nice house in Odessa with a bit of land around it and we have a good time, Linda and I.

“Mary my only sister and second oldest of the siblings, worked her whole life on the farm and did part-time housecleaning and gardening for other families. Some of these people became good friends. She did some travelling during brief vacations and has been retired and living on her own in the city for the last several years now, still doing some housekeeping work for others.

“Greg, the second oldest boy was three years younger than me, we considered him the smartest of the lot. He finished high school but only because he wanted to study. When the chores and the homework just got too much he complained to the social worker who looked after the foster care and she talked to Cecil. After that he did not have to do chores before going to school in the morning and he got two hours every night set aside for his homework.

“After graduation, Greg went to work for the Fairbank Morse Locomotive Company on Ontario Street. Worked there till 1968 when it closed the business. He then went to Orillia in a machine shop as a tool and die maker, and from there he got an office job at IBM in Toronto, some combination of computing and inspection in the manufacturing part of the company. He retired early and lives now in Alberta with his wife and three children. She was a registered nurse in the hospital there. And now they have this nice camper-van and go south in the winter. They have this ‘snowbird’s life.’

“Henry worked his whole life on the Graham farm, and since Wilma passed away just recently, he helps out with the cleaning and downsizing of the farm and barns. He has been going a little slower after he reached his pension age, but he is the happiest when he can be around the farm and enjoy the country side.

“Michael finished high school and then went to St. Lawrence College to earn his certificate in small engine repair. He did well but passed away when he was only fifty-one.”

Around Farm and Field

John recalls, “When Cecil died in 1994 there were nine transport loads of cows shipped to auction and then Wilma, with the help of Henry kept some cows on the farm until she died in May 13, 2013.

“Henry also bred sheep on the farm at the corner of Maple Lawn Drive and Battersea Road. That had been the farm of Cecil’s parents. Cecil’s parents and their other son, Matt had farms side by side on Maple Lawn Drive. Cecil’s parents’ farm-house is still there and that farm is now owned by Mr. John Turner. Matt’s farm has been severed in some building lots where the large homes have been built in the early 2000-s but there is still land left there.

“That angle stone extension on Wilma’s house, here on the Aragon Road, was added after Cecil died. The same stones that were used around the little bungalow that sits at the east end of the Graham property, on ten acres of land. It’s now for sale. Cecil had it trucked from the Isle of Man Road to Aragon Road and put it there on its foundation.

“It wasn’t the only building that Cecil moved. He and a team of family and neighbours also relocated a large barn on their property from the south side of the Aragon Road to the north side, where it sits on a limestone foundation wall. It’s the one that is parallel with and closest to the road. They used a 1953 John Deere AR tractor and rollers the get it out of the field over the Aragon Road, which is a lot higher than the land where it sat. Then it was pulled further up the hill, to the left of their driveway, where it is now one of a group with two other barns and a three bay driveshed.

“Cecil wanted to keep the Aragon Road as a rural road with trees, and he opposed a planned subdivision that Mr. Chippier had surveyed and laid out on the land opposite of Jack Colden’s house, north of the road, just west of Fitzpatrick Road, about 75 acres. Cecil won that fight and the development came to nothing.

“The big house on the lake across the road from that land, was built by Chippier who owned a Tim Horton’s store, on Princess Street, corner McDonnell. Chippier sold the house to Jack Colden in 1983 who also bought most of that land on the north side of Aragon Road. It’s still used for taking hay off. It’s for sale again, I noticed.

“That limestone house just east of the boat ramp, that’s where Dr. & Mrs. McCuaig lived. He was Superintendent of the Rockwood Psychiatric Hospital.[ix] They had cattle on what’s now Keirstead’s farm at the end of the road, they rented that land from the Co-op.[x]  Their cows often broke out and then we herded them back over our fields south of the Aragon Road and the road itself. That was something else…

“And did you know that the house on Fitzpatrick Road had a native person renting part of the house and he had four wolves in a pen about two years ago? Henry delivered hay and straw for bedding. Sometimes you could hear them howling. That person left after about a year ago.”

End notes:

[i] Former Kingston firefighter recalls one of the more spectacular fires in the city. The Kingston Whig Standard. http://www.thewhig.com/2015/05/01/former-kingston-firefighter-recalls-one-of-the-more-spectacular-fires-in-the-city

[ii] http://www.providence.ca/our-story/history/motherhouse/

[iii] Despite dissolution, Sunnyside’s work will continue. At: https://www.google.ca/search?q=Despite+dissolution%2C+Sunnyside%27s+work+will+continue.&oq=Despite+dissolution%2C+Sunnyside%27s+work+will+continue.&aqs=chrome..69i57.997j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

[iv] Queen’s archives: Orphans’ Home and Widows’ Friend Society, which established and maintained an orphanage in Kingston from 1857 and 1947, and since then a home for children called Sunnyside Children’s Centre on Union Street, Kingston, ON.

[v] See Wilma remembers at: https://aragonroadhistory.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/wilma-grahams-story/

[vi] Pressure cooker at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressure_cooking

[vii] http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/child-labour/

[viii] See Wilma Remembers. At: https://aragonroadhistory.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/wilma-grahams-story/

[ix] Kingston General Hospital, A Social and Institutional History.


[x] See Marjorie Allen story at: https://aragonroadhistory.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/marjorie-allen-remembers/


colours oct 2011 graham prop.ajpg

The Graham Farm on our Aragon Road. Photo by henk Wevers fall 2015.

To read more about the Oral History by people who lived on the road click the photo of Graham’s barn yard, below.

graham cows barn nov 2014 b