September 14, 2003

One of the exciting things about independent travel is that you never know for sure what treasures or experiences you will encounter along the way ... and the wonderful people you meet.

The day started of without any expectations.  We had a breakfast picnic overlooking the Ottawa River.  As we packed up our belongings we struck up a conversation with a couple who live in Sudbury.  

"We can recommend this table highly," said Sherrie pointing to the table we had just left.

"Thank you.  We see by your license plate you are a long way from home."

"And will be even further as we continue to head east."

"Are you going to the rock?" they asked referring to Newfoundland.


"We have just come back from there," they said enthusiastically.

"What would be three things you would recommend to see or do?"  and with that the conversation began in earnest.  People sharing travel experiences and recommendations - sights, activities, restaurants ... some that are not mentioned in tour books.

The day had only begun.

We drove on into Lanark County, Ontario stopping at the  Pakenham 5 Arched Stone Bridge.  It was built in 1901 and its the only stone arch  bridge on the North American Continent having 5 masonry arches. The bridge was completely restored to its original state during 1984.  A reinforced concrete deck and parapet walls allow modern traffic  loads to cross without causing major structural deterioration.

We visited a delightful gift shop in an old stone building on the other side of the bridge.  After having a conversation with the owner she directed us to a tea house back on the side where we had originated.   At the tea house/bed & breakfast we met Brian Bean, a genealogy buff, who suggested where we should be looking for information.  We took his advice and checked into accommodations in Perth.

With some daylight left, we ventured out in search of Hugh O'Brien's (Sherrie's great-grandfather) homestead property. 

As we drove up to where we thought it was, big, heavy trucks came barreling along at a fast pace not only behind us but passing us going in the other direction.  We soon passed the gate they were entering and exiting .... a huge open pit mine.  We drove to the other end of the mine site and parked at a view point.
OMYA (Canada) Inc. is a subsidiary of the worldwide organization Pluss-Staufer AG whose world headquarters are located in Oftrigen, Switzerland.  OMYA (Canada) Inc. is the leading manufacturer of Calcium Carbonate products for industrial use in Canada and the United States.
Calcium Carbonates are the most widely used products for extenders or fillers in the paint and plastic markets worldwide.  Calcium Carbonates are also used as an aggregate in the manufacturing of building  brick and as a landscaping stone.  OMYA supplies these markets with close to one hundred different grades of dry product with varying particle size under the trade name of "Snowhite".  They are shipped in bulk, "super sacs" or bags (25kg).

The Tatlock Quarry, where we were standing in Darling Township of Lanark County, Ontario, mines a unique high calcium crystalline limestone within the Precambrian Grenville series of metasedimentary rocks.  Quarry work has been carried out in the area since the early 1900's.  At Tatlock, the high calcium crystalline limestone is thought to be approximately 1255 million years old.  Originally, thick beds (blanket deposits) of limestone (in this case with high calcium content) were laid down in warm, shallow seas, from broken shell material, etc..  These beds were then subjected to metamorphism (heat and pressure) from volcanic activity within a predominately carbonite basin, converting or altering the original sedimentary limestone into the calcareous marble mined today.     

Because of the twists and turns in the road, we could not appreciate exactly where we were, so we drove on to Tatlock to get our bearings.                    

While we were gazing around a red pickup truck pulled up and the driver asks if we are lost.  We explained that we were trying to hunt down the O'Brien homestead at Concession 4 Lots 4 and 3.   "Oh," he said with his teenage son in the passenger seat, "You'll want to talk to Willie.  He knows all about that kind of stuff."  Then he gave us directions to Willie's place. 
We arrived at Willie's place just as they had finished dinner.  Their welcoming hospitality made us feel less like intruders and more like friends who had stopped by.  "Why I just read something about Hugh last night when I couldn't sleep," Willie said leaving the room to fetch a book.  He came back with a copy of the "Historical Atlas of Lanark & Renfrew Counties 1880-1881" and looked up the section he had read.  "Here it is," and he read, "Darling received its first settlers soon after immigration into the more southerly townships became general, and Hugh O'Brien is said to merit the distinction of being the pioneer of the township."  We read on further "The increase in the population was such, toward the close of the first half of the century, that Mr. Smith, in his work on "Canada," says of the township: 'Darling is but little settled.  In 1850 it only contained 571 inhabitants, and 1606 acres of land under cultivation.  The quantity of produce raised was consequently very small.'"
Willie then offered to take us to the property, " I was just up there a couple of days ago to find our property pegs [they own lot 3 he explained].  I can take you right to them. "  With that we hopped into Willie's pickup with 4-wheel drive and headed to Hugh O'Brien's homestead. 

First stop was a look at the site where the school used to be ... at the south-west corner of concession 4 lot 4 as shown on the 1880-1881 map.  The last school that was built here met the fate of the previous school ... fire.  

Then he took us further along the concession road right to the property peg between Lots 4 and 3 where remnants of both an old stone fence and a more recent bobbed-wire fence lay.

While taking pictures in the quickly fading light of evening, Sherrie made sure she stood on both lots ... one lot being her great-great grandfather's original homestead and the other the first home and most likely the birthplace of her grandfather.
Sherrie brought something back to the truck and confessed, "I took a rock from the fence to take home to Dad .... it's what Mom would have done!"

"Let me show you what's underneath the land", Willie said as we piled back into the truck and bumped back to the road, crossed it and went through the gates where the trucks had earlier turned.

On the opposite side of the open pit mine from where we had stood at the viewpoint, Willie drove through tall piles of aggregate and down into the quarry itself.  The fading daylight seemed to return as we became surrounded by white rock.  Willie shared with us some of his knowledge about the site where both he and his geologist son both work. 

When we came back out of the valley of limestone marble and weaved our way through trucks and loaders that work around the clock, Willie stopped and said, "Maybe your Dad would like a rock from here too."  With that Terry jumped out and grabbed a small piece.  "That one will grade out with only about 2% impurities."

With the luck of the Irish, great-grandfather Hugh O'Brien ... or as we have taken to calling him "Hughy" ... was sitting on rock worth millions more than the amount he made eking out a living from the little amount of soil that lay on top.  Hugh probably cursed the white rock each time he dug a hole for a well, an outhouse or a fence post. Hugh sold his original homestead and consequently, years later, some other owner became very very rich.  Oooooh  Huuuughy!
September 15, 2003

We drove to the township office and picked up a current map of the concessions and lots and where the quarry is currently located.  With those in hand, we were able to go back to the properties and take a closer look.  Willie had told us that Concession 4 Lot 4 was some of the best farming land in Darling Township.  His family has been farming the area for four generations next door to the O'Brien homestead.  The field had not yet been harvested, "He was suppose to take the crop off," said Willie, "but it's awful late now." 

In the south-west corner of Con4 Lot4 we found two open fields divided by rock fences intermingled with trees ... and to our delight Terry spotted discarded wheels ... perhaps from the days of James McIlraith ... perhaps .... ?

While dropping off a thank you gift to Willie and Linda for their time and hospitality Willie mentioned that a number of people from the area were buried in the Clayton cemetery and that we might want to take a look there for Hugh's grave.  The daylight was fading quickly as we made our way to Clayton and there were sprinkles of rain.  By the time we reached the cemetery gates the sprinkling of rain had turned into a torrential downpour.  We waited .... but darkness came before the rain let up.  IF Hughy was there, he was going to have to be found another day.


September 16, 2003

A few people had mentioned that the Perth satellite campus of Algonquin College had local genealogy information.  Rather than spending our last morning tramping through graveyards, we decided to take the time looking through books ... and our hunt was fruitful ... not for the location of Hugh O'Brien's grave site but for the gravesite of his youngest son, Levi (who according to our records died in Broadview, Sask.), ... in other ways that will be formatted at a later time.  Fun!

It was afternoon when we made our way south west towards Prince Edward County .... "Thorne" and "Terry" country.

Our first stop was the County Museum and Archives in Napanee  to meet Jane Foster ... cousin of Terry's through mutual great-great grandparents Harvey Terry and wife Agnes (Schecal).  Even though we came unannounced the welcome we received was warm and wonderful.  Jane took us through some of the family tree and then offered to take us around to some of the homesteads and graveyards the following day.  We gladly accepted her generous offer and made arrangements to meet at the museum at noon.

We then took a drive to Wellington and back before checking into accommodations.


September 17, 2003

We had a wonderful, enlightening day with Jane as she guided us through back roads and family histories.  Her knowledge of the family seems to be endless and she attributes her interest to her mother's enjoyment of sharing family histories with herself and others.
Once we have it sorted out we will arrange for the pictures to be placed properly along with more information on the family genealogy website.
September 18, 2003


The morning took us from Napanee to Kingston where we had a picnic lunch on the grounds of historic Ft Henry.
We then drove on the 1000 Island parkway east along the north bank of the St. Lawrence River. A stunningly beautiful drive with scene after scene of inlets and islands.  Even some of the smallest islands support cabins and homes with docks and boat houses hanging over the water. 

We crossed over the bridge to New York state between Gananoque and Brockville then went Hwy 81  to Adam (does it have anything to do with the Big Apple?) where we passed a church with a sign saying "Do not give up - Moses was once a basket case".  
Continuing to Watertown and then east of Hwy 3, we entered the Adirondack Mountains and stayed overnight in Saranac Lake.

September 19, 2003

Waking up in Saranac Lake and enjoying the peaceful view from our corner room with balcony, we kept an eye on the deepening clouds.  This was the day that hurricane Isabelle was to come through the area.  On the tv they were already reporting nine deaths that she had left in her high wind path.  We contemplated just staying put for another day but ultimately decided to push on and see how the day progressed.

After breakfast we drove to Lake Placid - home of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games.  The village was attractive with Whistler-style tourist shops.  

After checking with a local, we made a change of plans.  We had thought we would drive up to Burlington and cross over to Vermont on the ferry, but when he told us that  they were expecting Isabelle to cause four to five foot waves on Lake Champlain, we decided to take a longer land and bridge route south through Port Henry towards Montpelier, the capital of Vermont.

On the way out of town we stopped to take a picture of the ski jumps tops. The rain began.

Further south we stopped at a Farmer's Market in Elizabethtown.  Some ladies we talked to pointed out that it was not as big or busy as it usually is on a Saturday, as many were not coming because of Isabelle's threat.  The harvest displays of vegetables were most attractive and tempting to purchase but we would be crossing over the border again soon and had to keep our cooler empty of fruits and vegetables. We did, however, come away with a few carrots, sourdough bread and two chocolate chip cookies.  

At 11:50 we crossed the bridge into Vermont and then drove highway 17 east, then onto Highway 2.  Even with the intermittent showers and rain downpours along with periodic high wind gusts, Vermont did not disappoint us in it's beauty and architecture against a background of changing autumn colours. 

Entered New Hampshire at 3:20 pm.

After crossing into Maine, we had some difficulty in finding accommodations.  This being the last weekend of summer numerous events were happening and the accommodations in small towns had filled up early.  As we searched we continued driving north-east.  It was nearing 9:30 when one full motel phoned another and was able to track down a tiny room in Rumford.

September 20, 2003

It was a little slow crossing over the border from Houlton, Maine into Woodstock, New Brunswick.  They were asking numerous questions and searching each car. 

Once we were in our room in Fredericton, we did some grocery shopping and filled our cooler once again with fruit and salad vegetables.  An earlier and quieter night allowed us to do some journaling and reading of things to look forward to as we still have our sights set on Newfoundland.

September 21, 2003

What a lovely day.  A Sunday.  A relaxing tourist-kind-of-day. We made some phone calls and arranged to go to the Gagetown Museum tomorrow.  Today we would stroll through Kings Landing .... a United Empire Loyalist heritage village.  Stroll with us through some of our pictures:

On the banks of St. John River, Kings Landing historical village re-creates rural life in 19th Century New Brunswick. Costumed  villagers go about their daily chores.
September 22, 2003

After a lazy morning, we drove to Gagetown where many United Empire Loyalists settled -  including the Thornes.

They had so much information on the Thorne families in Gagetown that we spent the time looking up and photocopying information.  They also told Terry that a distance relative, Richard Thorne, had done a great deal of work on the family's history and gave us his phone number.  

Terry called and talked with Richard's mother-in-law, Joan.  

From Gagetown, we drove into Hampton and on the way took two cable ferries.  The ferries have their own power but are guided across the currents by cable.  They have no set schedule and gauge their activity from need.  On each side there is a push button for service.

In Hampton, the old train station is now a tourist information centre.  Unfortunately for us it was closed.  There are no accommodations in Hampton and after trying, without success, to find accommodation in St. John (everything - motels, hotels and B&Bs were all full) we made our way to Sussex.  

September 23, 2003

Terry spoke with Richard and they spent some time talking of family connections.  When Terry told him that it was our plan to go to the museum and archives in Hampton today Richard told him that he was the President of the Society there and that he would drop off his personal file on the Thornes and invited us to photocopy it in whole or part.  He also told us that there was a picture of the Robert Thornes of Gagetown in the file.

When when we arrived at the Hampton Museum Richard's file was full and waiting.  Morrison information was nil.  One thing has not been made clear ... and a good starting point for further research .... the question ... when did they come to Hampton and when did they leave.  
To begin finding answers we went to the Property Transfer Archives ... a place filled with beautifully bound books and some impeccably hand written contract records.  "Even the smell", Terry said "adds to the experience."

Answers? Yes to some of our questions but our time there definitely gave us more questions to ponder.

September 24, 2003

We left family files and computer programs in the trunk of the car and were tourists for the day.  We left Sussex and drove south east through Fundy National Park stopping at the little village of Alma where we picked up some fresh bread, sticky buns and Atlantic smoked salmon.

Due to the temperature difference between Bay of Fundy water and land, the Fundy National Park has two distinct climates.  Inland may be sunny and warm while the coast experiences fresh breezes and fog.  Fog usually dissipates by midday as the air warms.  

The Bay does not freeze in winter.  Its moderating effect is felt year-round as pleasantly cool summers, long autumns and moist, mild winters.

Imagine 100 billion tons of water moving in and out of a bay twice every 25 hours.  Powered by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun, Fundy's tides are among the highest in the world and vary daily with the changing positions of these celestial bodies.  

The gravitational pull of the sun during the new and full moon phases is stronger than usual and results in higher than normal or "spring" tides.  When the moon is at right angles to the line between the earth and sun, the gravitational pull is weaker, resulting in lower than normal or "neap" tides.

These beautiful carved rocks make for wonderful silhouette photography.  In the centre picture can you see Sherrie standing in the round opening? ... and in the picture to the right, Terry is investigating one of the deep crevices. Water between fractures of sandstone continues to expand and contract as it freezes and melts, causing the fractures to widen.  Ocean waves and giant tides erode the soft sandstone bases.  As the soft sandstone is eroded, the harder conglomerate layer is left unsupported and collapses.  A "flowerpot" or "rock sculpture" is formed.  As the cliff's top, face and base are continually subjected to erosion, this process is still shaping the rocks today.

Some may stand for thousands of year, others for hundreds, depending on how much they become unbalanced through erosion.  Geologists say there is enough conglomerate rock to make these amazing rock pillars for the next 100,000 years!


For the next four days we stayed with Bryan and Tammie and our grandchildren, Tavis (5) and Tyler (3). We played, babysat, visited, had a mini 5th birthday party at home for Tavis on the 25th (and went to his bowling birthday party on the weekend) plus took them on a day trip to Halifax and Victoria Park.  Such fun  ...  trying to keep up!



Continue to September 29, 2003