Archive for the ‘Featured Fonds’ Category

D-Day on a Canadian Destroyer

June 6, 2013
Front cover of "D" Day on a Canadian Destroyer

Front cover of “D” Day on a Canadian Destroyer, from the Leonard Brockington fonds (;rad)

On the 69th Anniversary of the Allied offensive into German-occupied Europe, Queen’s Archives is pleased to present a small sample of a transcript from a CBC radio broadcast by Leonard W. Brockington, who had served as chairman of the CBC in 1936, was special assistant to Mackenzie King from 1939-42, and served as an adviser to the British Ministry of Information in 1942-43.  Brockington spent nearly one week aboard the Destroyer “Sioux,” providing an account of the D-Day invasion:

The duty of the fleet destroyers was to protect the minesweepers from any surface or underwater attack and to see that they were not hampered in any way from carrying out their task.


We saw the coast shattered from end to end by the pattern bombing of hundreds of Flying Fortresses.


At 5.30 it was daylight and what a sight met our gaze. A great semi-circle of hundreds of ships lay off the enemy’s coast.

Brockington continued with a minute-by-minute account of when the Sioux and surrounding ships started to open fire:

At 6.40 the ship anchored and at 7.10 with a target of 10,700 yards the captain ordered our gunners to engage the enemy.  At 7.34 we were still bombarding and had obliterated our direct target.

Thunder answered thunder, tanks were ashore; guns went ashore; men went ashore; fires broke out; the coast was enveloped in smoke which cleared away and returned in changing phases.


By five minutes past eight everybody was standing around watching the planes overhead.  As those of us who were able to do so breakfasted on bacon and beans, we listened to the B.B.C. announcing the landing.

Brockington concluded his broadcast recollecting his conversation with the Chief Engineer that evening:

“Chief,” I said, “many fleets of ships have crossed these waters to bring destruction to innocent people and slavery to the free.  This armada is different.  It is the first that ever set out to bring freedom to all men.”


“Yes, sir,” he said,” and that’s what makes everybody feel good – and every Canadian glad to be here.”


Fortune Telling Expedition, Dec. 1860

December 17, 2012

In flipping through random files through the Archives, it is entirely possible to stumble across even just one letter that fascinates and astonishes. This week, that latter was found in the John McDonald (of Gananoque) fonds. The account, written by John’s son, Herbert Stone McDonald of Brockville, tells of his journey with ten friends by three sleighs to Farmersville, Ontario (now Athens) to visit a fortune teller on 6 December 1860 (Thanksgiving).

After a dinner at Cole’s Hotel, three of them, Miss Tillie Jones, Mrs. Smith and the author, took their sleigh some three miles outside town to meet with the fortune teller. Each met with the lady in turn, and Miss Jones provided the details of her fortune to Mr. McDonald for his account.

After Miss Jones’ fortune had been told she came to the head of the stairs and called to me to come up and she remained present while my fortune was being told. I poured out the tea just as she had done so and before the fortune teller took the cup from me I told her that my birthday was upon the twenty third day of February. I also made my wish as follows “I wish that I may marry the dear girl now beside me in this room – Miss Tillie Jones.” The fortune teller having examined the cup told me in substance as follows

You will have your wish. Every fourth year you will not be so fortunate as on other years but you will always be fortunate. You will marry the woman whom you now love. Your wife will die when you are forty one years of age. I don’t think you will marry a second time. If you do you will separate from your second wife. You’ll hold a high government appointment and office to obtain which you will be elected by the votes of the people. You will never be imprisoned. You will never die a violent death. You will be as honest as any man can be and you will never run away to avoid debt.

There is, of course, far more to the fortune, which we invite you to see for yourself in the pages above (and should anyone care to try their hand at transcribing the contents, feel free to place them in the comments section!).

Upon conducting some of our own research, we were able to track the story of Mr. McDonald. At the end of this week, we will post what we’ve found, and whether his life story matched his fortune. Stay tuned!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Dickens!

February 7, 2012

In celebration of Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday, we thought we’d present the author’s views on Kingston from his travels to North America, as documented in American Notes, published in 1846:

The   time of leaving Toronto for Kingston is noon. By eight o’clock next morning the traveller is at the end of his   journey, which is performed by steamboat upon Lake Ontario, calling at Port Hope and   Cobourg, the latter a cheerful, thriving little town. Vast   quantities of flour form the chief item in the freight of these vessels. We had no fewer than one thousand and eighty barrels on board between Cobourg and Kingston.

The latter place, which is now the seat of government in Canada, is a very poor town, rendered still poorer in the appearance of its market-place by the ravages of a recent fire.  Indeed, it may be said of Kingston, that one half of it appears to be burnt down, and the other half not to be built up.    The Government House is neither elegant nor commodious, yet it is almost the only house of any importance in the neighbourhood.

There is an admirable jail here, well and wisely governed, and excellently regulated in every respect.  The men were  employed  as   shoemakers, ropemakers,  Black­ smiths, tailors, carpenters,  and stonecutters;  and    in building  a   new   prison,  which  was   pretty  far  advanced towards completion.   The   female prisoners were occupied in needlework. Among them was a   beautiful girl   of twenty, who had been there nearly three years. She acted as  bearer of secret despatches for the self -sty led  Patriots on Navy Island during the  Canadian Insurrection: sometimes  dressing as  a  girl, and   carrying them in her stays; sometimes attiring  herself as  a  boy, and  secreting them in the lining of her hat.  In the latter character she always rode as a boy would, which was nothing to her, for she could govern any   horse that any   man could ride, and could drive four-in-hand with the best whip in those parts. Setting forth on one of her patriotic missions, she appropriated to herself the first horse she could lay her hands on; and this offence had brought her where I saw her.  She had quite a lovely face, though, as the reader may suppose from this sketch of her history, there was a lurking devil in her bright eye, which looked out pretty sharply from between her prison bars.

There is a bomb-proof fort here of great strength, which occupies a bold position, and is capable, doubtless, of doing good service; though the town is much too close upon the frontier to be long held, I should imagine, for its present purpose in troubled times. There is also a small navy-yard, where a couple of Government steamboats were building, and getting on vigorously.

We left Kingston for Montreal on the tenth of May, at half-past nine in the morning, and proceeded in a steamboat down the St. Lawrence River. The beauty of this noble stream at almost any point, but especially in the commencement of this journey, when it winds its way among the Thousand Islands, can hardly be imagined. The number and constant successions of these islands all green and richly wooded; their fluctuating sizes, some so large that for half an hour together one among them will appear as the opposite bank of the river, and some so small that they are mere dimples on its broad bosom; their infinite variety of shapes; and the numberless combinations of beautiful forms which the trees growing on them present; all form a picture fraught with uncommon interest and pleasure.

In the afternoon we shot down some rapids where the river boiled and bubbled strangely, and where the force and headlong violence of the current were tremendous. At seven o’clock we reached Dickenson’s Landing, whence travellers proceed for two or three hours by stage-coach: the navigation of the river being rendered so dangerous and difficult in the interval, by rapids, that steamboats do not make the passage. The number and length of those portages, over which the roads are bad, and the travelling slow, render the way between the towns of Montreal and Kingston somewhat tedious.

Our course lay over a wide, unenclosed tract of country at a little distance from the river-side whence the bright warning lights on the dangerous parts of the St. Lawrence shone vividly. The night was dark and raw, and the way dreary enough. It was nearly ten o’clock when we reached the wharf where the next steam boat lay; and went on board, and to bed.

She lay there all night, and started as soon as it was day. The morning was ushered in by a violent thunderstorm, and was very wet, but gradually improved and brightened up. Going on deck after breakfast, I was amazed to see floating down with the stream a most gigantic raft, with some thirty or forty wooden houses upon it, and at least as many of these rafts afterwards, but never one so large. All the timber, or “lumber,” as it is called in America, which is brought down on the St. Lawrence, is floated down in this manner. When the raft reaches its place of destination, it is broken up; the materials are sold; and the boatmen return for more.

At eight we landed again, and travelled by a stagecoach for four hours through a pleasant and well- cultivated country, perfectly French in every respect: in the appearance of the cottages; the air, language, and dress of the peasantry, the signboards on the shops and taverns; and the Virgin’s shrines and crosses by the wayside. Nearly every common laborer and boy, though he had no shoes to his feet, wore round his waist a sash of some bright color: generally red: and the women, who were working in the fields and gardens, and doing all kinds of husbandry, wore, one and all, great flat straw hats with most capacious brims. There were Catholic Priests and Sisters of Charity in the village streets; and images of the Saviour at the corners of crossroads, and in other public places.

At noon we went on board another steamboat, and reached the village of Lachine, nine miles from Montreal, by three o’clock. There we left the river, and went on by land.

Queen’s Archives also possesses two letters, purchased by the University in 1977.  Perhaps our readers may wish to try their hand at transcribing what is written within in our comment section?

New(ish) acquisition: Kingston Sleighing Club journal

October 7, 2011

Last year we acquired the journal of the Kingston Driving Club, 1849-1851. Purchased from a collector in England, the leather-bound journal was in fairly good shape overall, however there were some small tears and binding issues that needed attention from our conservator. Now, fresh from the conservator’s hands, in a custom-made enclosure, the journal is available for perusal in the Reading Room. The description of this lovely item is below, plus a couple of digital images to pique your interest.

Item description:Item is a detailed book of the proceedings of the Kingston Driving Club from 26 December 1949 to 7 February 1851. The proceedings were predominantly written in prose, though occasionally in verse, by the Vice-Presidents of the Club; the role of Vice-President rotated at each meeting. The subject matter of the minutes is heavily weighted towards the social aspects of the meetings and often touches upon the route travelled during the outing, the food and drink served, the abilities of specific drivers and the qualities of various horses, harnesses and sleighs.

The authors of the entries were: Lt. Col. Horn, XX Regiment (also known as the 20th East Devon Regiment of Foot); Major Hugh D. Crofton, XX Regiment; Baron de Longueuil; Major Forbes; Captain Sharpe, XX Regiment; Lt. Morrison, Royal Engineers; Dr. Horatio Yates; Major Gen. Hon. C. Gore; J.A. Corbett, Sheriff; Astley P. Cooper; John B. Forsyth; Lt. Henry P. J. Miller, Royal Artillery.; Lt. J. Gore, ADC; Mr. Bowen; Dr. Combe, Royal Artillery; and Lt. W. Markham.

Additional members of the club are identified as: Lt. John Yerbury Moggridge, Royal Engineers, Treasurer; Hon. Peter Boyle de Blaquiere; Captain Cane, XX regiment; Lt. Miller, Royal Artillery; Lt. Hill, Royal Artillery; Lt. Evans, Royal Artillery; Lt. E. F. Anstey, XX regiment; Lt. M. T. Thomson, XX Regiment; Lt. Lutyens, XX Regiment; Captain Sharpe, XX Regiment; Capt. McCausland, Royal Engineers; Lt. Adair, XX Regiment; Lt. Mansfield Turner, XX Regiment; Lt. McNeil, XX regiment; Lt. Col. Young, A.A. General; Dr. Cole, XX Regiment; Lt. Sedley, Royal Engineers; Lt. Seale, Royal Artillery; Dr. Robeson; Mr. Muttlebury; Mr. Kirkpatrick, Mr. McLean; Lt. Poley, XX Regiment; Lt. Davis, Royal Navy; Mr. Hinds; Mr. Bowen; Mr. Stevens, XX Regiment; Mr. Turner, XX Regiment; Major Symons, Royal Artillery; Baron de Rottenburg, A.A. General; Captain South, XX Regiment, Mr. H. James, XX Regiment; and Lt. Col. Dalton, Royal Artillery.

Kingston WritersFest

September 22, 2011

Starting today and running through Sunday (22 to 25 September), seventy award-winning and up-and-coming authors will be in Kingston for Kingston WritersFest. Queen’s University Archives is home to the papers of four of this year’s featured authors. Within their fonds are research, rough notes, early drafts and beyond. Here is just a small sample of what you will find:

Audio and video recordings for Quiet Limit of the World, 1994 (Wayne Grady fonds SR1138 and MI1159)

Audio and video recordings for Quiet Limit of the World, 1994 (Wayne Grady fonds SR1138 and MI1159)

In 1994, Wayne Grady travelled alongside a team of scientists on a research trip to the North Pole. They were conducting an investigation of the effects of global warming. Wayne’s chronicles of this expedition included his own journals, extensive research and interviews with the scientists and crew of their ship, the icebreaker “Louis S. St. Laurent,” all of which would go on to form The Quiet Limit of the World: A Journey to the North Pole to Investigate Global Warming.

Correspondence - Gordon WWII (Phyllis), 1941-1955 (Merilyn Simonds fonds 5064-1-10)

Correspondence - Gordon WWII (Phyllis), 1941-1955 (Merilyn Simonds fonds 5064-1-10)

Clippings-Religious (Phyliis), 1921-1961 (Merilyn Simonds fonds 5064-1-5)

Clippings-Religious (Phyllis), 1921-1961 (Merilyn Simonds fonds 5064-1-5)

With the release of The Convict Lover, published by Macfarlane, Walter & Ross in 1996,  Merilyn Simonds became nationally known as a literary writer. The Convict Lover was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction and was chosen as one of the top ten nonfiction books of 1996 by the Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire Magazine, Elm Street Magazine and Maclean’s. Merilyn Simonds donated the correspondence between Phyllis Halliday and Joseph David Cleroux and one manuscript copy of her book in progress to Queen’s University Archives in September 1994. The remainder of the Convict Lover material came in the accrual of 2007. The Phyllis Halliday material was located for many years in the attic of the Phyllis Halliday’s, then Merilyn Simonds’, house. Wrapped in bundles, tied together with ribbon and placed in numerous containers, this material remained undisturbed until discovered by Ms. Simonds in 1987.

Short story notes (Diane Schoemperlen fonds, 1162.1-5-19)

Charts and notes for novel (Diane Schoemperlen fonds, 1162.1 F3 B3.8)

Diane Schoemperlen’s papers consist of textual and multiple media records reflecting her literary activity over a 30 year career in writing, teaching and editing. Research notes, drafts, manuscripts and published copies of poetry, book reviews, short stories and larger literary works are all in evidence in her archival material.

The Frozen River/When the River Froze/The Frozen Thames, 2006 (Helen Humphreys fonds, 2207-1-16)

The Frozen River/When the River Froze/The Frozen Thames, 2006 (Helen Humphreys fonds, 2207-1-16)

In 2007, Helen Humphreys published The Frozen Thames, a book of creative non-fiction. It went on to become a national best-seller and one of the Globe and Mail’s Top 100 books of 2007. As with many of Humphreys works, the manuscript begins with a small black book where notes and jottings start to come together to form the story. Humphreys newest release is The Reinvention of Love.

Season’s Greetings to all our visitors!!

December 8, 2010

The annual Christmas card.

This odd little Christmas card sprang from the long lasting friendship of a pair of creative and prolific Canadian journalists and fiction writers.  Arthur John Arbuthnot Stringer (1874 – 1950) was born in Chatham, Ontario and worked briefly for the Montreal Herald newspaper in the last years of the nineteenth century before he moved to New York.  Madge Macbeth was born in Philadelphia but married a Canadian and settled in Ottawa.  On the early death of her husband she supported her young family through her writing for newspapers, magazines and with her popular novels.  At some point during their friendship they started to return the same Christmas card to each other and this continued for several years, always with comic quips, teasing accusations of miserliness and pasted additions of old stamps and scraps of recycled paper.  The result was a quirky but intimate documentation of their friendship.

Queen’s University Archives.  Location: 2999

“The years pass, leaving me in wonder as to why I don’t do something useful with them.” – Madge Macbeth.

“Society my dear is like salt water, good to swim in, but hard to swallow!” – Arthur Stringer.

Letter from Madge donating the card to the Archives.


Doctor Michael Lavell

March 24, 2010

Dr. Michael Lavell

Dr. Michael Lavell was born in 1825 in Quebec City, to a family of mixed Irish and French descent.  The family moved to Toronto when he was quite young.  The family were members of the Methodist Church; two of his brothers studied theology and became ministers, and Michael worked for the Christian Guardian under Dr. Egerton Ryerson.  He later studied medicine in Toronto, and after graduation eventually set up practice in Peterborough.

In 1858, he moved to Kingston, where he soon became a prominent member of the community.  He was active in the political arena, supporting John A. Macdonald in the 1861 election.  Soon after he received a commission (signed by John A. Macdonald) as “Surgeon” to the First Battalion of the Frontenac Militia, a post that opened many doors for him in local society.

Another appointment came in 1872, undoubtedly again as a reward for his support of Macdonald.  This time he was offerred a position as surgeon of the Kingston Penitentiary.

Appointment of Lavell as Surgeon to the Kingston Penitentiary.

His medical career flourished and he was instrumental in facilitating the admission of women into medical school at Queen’s University.  Later, when this initiative failed, he became first President and then Dean of the new Women’s Medical College and taught courses in obstetrics and women’s and children’s diseases.

Dr Lavell finally resigned from Queen’s, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Kingston Women’s Medical College in 1885 at the age of 59 when yet again benefiting from John A. Macdonald’s patronage, he was appointed warden of Kingston Penitentiary at a generous salary. He continued in this post until his retirement in 1894.

The episode of most historical note in Lavell’s life, however, was when, in October 1885, his friend Macdonald sent him on a secret mission to Regina.  He was  to meet undercover and assess the sanity of the Métis leader Louis Riel who had been tried for treason after the 1885 Rebellion.  The medical commission also included Dr August Jukes of the North-West Mounted Police, and Dr. François-Xavier Valade, a French Canadian doctor with a practice in Ottawa who was a friend of the Minister of the Militia, Sir Adolphe Caron. Lavell and Valade were sent on their way with the same instructions in an identical formal letter from Macdonald, but Lavell also received a private letter, more frank in tone, that made it clear that his task was to allay the doubts over the adequacy of the trial by talking to Riel undercover and any persons he chose that were in charge at the gaol “so soon as you are convinced that Riel knows right from wrong and is an accountable being”.

Lavell's Report on Riel, page 1

Earnscliffe, Ottawa

The final reports were received November 9th by Macdonald, but they did not agree, so they were suppressed and the final decision to hang Riel was made by the Cabinet in spite of some opposition from Quebec Ministers.

Queen’s University Archives holds the papers of Dr. Michael Lavell in Location # 2999.

Captain George Holmes Young

March 10, 2010

His story is told in the sparse but rich material deposited in the Queen’s University Archives under the title of the

George Holmes Young fonds, Location# 2159.

Captain G. H. Young was a brigade major on General Middleton’s staff at the time of the 1885 North-West Rebellion.  He was given responsibility for escorting Louis Riel after his capture to Regina for trial.

The Family of George H. Young

The papers in the fonds show that in 1780, a young soldier of the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, Henry Young by name, was reputed to be the first loyalist to step ashore at Dead Man’s Bay in the area then called “Cataraque” but destined to be called Kingston.  Three years later, Henry was given a land grant and settled his family at East Lake in Prince Edward County.

His great grandson, George Young, also a staunch Loyalist, became a Methodist minister who ventured west in 1868, and set up the first Methodist mission serving the needs of the early settlers in the Red River Settlement. Times were turbulent at Red River and matters coming to a head when, in the following year, the English speaking officials from the Canadian Government attempted to survey the settler’s land and build a road to open up the territory to immigrants. Métis settlers resisted these moves and formed a provisional government. Into this mix arose a group of fiery and vocal characters that called themselves the “Canada First Party”.  They included a medical man by the name of John Schultz, the bureaucrat and poet Charles Mair and the most turbulent of all Thomas Scott an Orangeman.  In spite of (and perhaps because of) the strong resistance that the group put up against the Métis provisional government at Upper Fort Garry (Winnipeg), its leader, the Louis Riel, arrested and incarcerated the group.  Reverend George Young took it upon himself to minister to the prisoners including Thomas Scott who was eventually executed by firing squad.

When he retired from the ministry in 1897, George Young published his memoirs; “Manitoba Memories:  leaves from my life in the prairie province. 1868-1884.” was to influence the view of the history of the nascent province for many  decades.

The Life of George Holmes Young

George Holmes was the only son of the Reverend George Young.  Born in Niagara in 1851, he grew up in the Red River Settlement.  As a young man, George was one of the first few men to volunteer to serve with the militia of Colonel John Stoughton Dennis in 1869.  He served with the troop that fought off the Pembina Fenian Raid of 1871, and was in  command of the state funeral of Madame Cauchon, wife of the Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba.

In 1885 he served in the Red River Rebellion at the battles of Fish Creek and Batoche. He was tasked with escorting Louis Riel after his capture to Regina for trial.

George Young field notebook - Map

George Young field notebook - Map

The Papers

His field notebook is a most fascinating document with a map of the battlefield drawn by Young, and several pages of notes in the handwriting of Riel himself.  These latter pages contain an explanation of Riel’s use of the term “exovede” and an elucidation of his “mission”.

George Young field notebook - Riel's Notes

George Young field notebook - Riel's Notes

Also among the material in this fonds is a notebook in which Young recorded claims made after the Rebellion by the Métis followers of Riel.  These include individuals implicated in the incident relating to the furs misappropriated from  the Métis Charles Bremner by Sir Frederick Middleton.

Kingston, Ontario in the 1920’s.

March 10, 2010
La Salle Causeway, ca. 1920

La Salle Causeway, ca. 1920

Newton Price Harcourt Brown was born in Toronto on May 30, 1900.  He was educated at the University of Toronto where he received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in Modern Languages.  He obtained a Phd. from Columbia University in 1934.  He lived in Kingston and taught at Queen’s University from 1926 to 1929.  In 1927 he married Elizabeth Stacey, of Toronto. Professor Brown died in Winnipeg on November 17, 1990.

The fonds consists mostly of correspondence between Harcourt Brown and his wife. But in addition there are some stunning images of  Kingston and district in the twenties. These photographs include images of shipping and the bridge in Kingston harbour, Fort Henry, Wellington Street, Portsmouth village, Kingston Mills and the old military hospital.

Location #  2350.1