Carleton Place Canoe Club Dates Back To 1893, by Howard M. Brown, 02 August, 1962

Among the many Carleton Place organizations of the past and present in the field of athletics, sports and recreation, the award for longest active life appears to go to the Carleton Place Canoe Club.  Through times of enthusiastic public backing and financial support as well as in leaner years, the canoe club has served its community well.  In many years it has spread this town’s name and paddling fame throughout Canada.  For sixty-two years it has offered a wholesome outlet for the social and athletic energies of the youth and younger adults of the town.

Carleton Place, with the waters of the Mississippi as its attractive setting, has an aquatic sports tradition which goes back to its village days of the past century.  In the decade of the Carleton Boating Club, the first local venture of its kind, competitive rowing in long light racing shells had its days of glory in the eighteen eighties for this district.

Professional and amateur Ontario oarsmen including world champion Ned Hanlan attended the local club’s big annual regattas.  Then the first Carleton Place canoe club was formed in 1893, under the name of the Ottawa Valley Canoe Association.  With a membership of owners of canoes and other pleasure craft, its original officers were elected at a midsummer meeting of some twenty persons, held in the cabin of the Lake Park Company’s eighty foot side-wheeler steamboat, The Carleton. 

They were honorary president A. H. Edwards, president S. J. Mclaren, vice-president W. J. Welsh, secretary Colin McIntosh and advisory committee members Robert Sibbett, Albert E. Cram and Robert Patterson.  For several years the association’s races and regattas were held at Lake Park and on the river near the town bridge.

The present Carleton Place Canoe Club was organized in April, 1900, when at a meeting in Colin McIntosh’s law office it was decided to affiliate with the proposed international canoe association and to unite in forming a league expected to be composed of Ottawa, Brockville, Aylmer, Britannia and Carleton Place clubs and others.  Equipment was to be secured for the town club including a war canoe, “a vessel that takes fifteen paddles to propel it.”  Accounts of several of the regattas of the club’s first twenty years may serve to illustrate the earlier part of the long and notable record of this town’s canoe club.

Brockville Canoe Regatta

The town’s new club sent several winning entrants to Britannia and Ottawa club regattas in 1901, including Archie McPhee, Fred McRostie, Cornell and Jack Welsh.  The eight clubs listed to enter the Canadian Canoe Association’s meet at Brockville in that pioneer year of competitive paddling of the present kind, and the colours assigned to each, were Brockville Bomemians, red ; Brockville Rowing Club, blue ; Montreal Grand Trunk Railway Club, white ; Carleton Place, green ; Ottawa, black ; Britannia, purple ; Smiths Falls, orange ; and Brockville Y.M.C.A., yellow.  The judges appointed were James Powell of Montreal, Dr. Ewen McEwen of Carleton Place and George P. Graham of Brockville.

The Carleton Place Herald’s report of the August, 1901, Canadian canoe meet at Brockville said:

“The river was very rough and there were many accidents from swamping.  Carleton Place was the only club that entered all the contests, although they had but their war canoe crew.  In doing so they certainly handicapped themselves in competing with fresh men in the different events.  As it was they captured some seconds and made a good showing in the war canoe.

In this race there was a foul between the Britannias and the Y.M.C.A. of Brockville, the Otta- was also being mixed up in it.  At the finish the Bohemians were first, Britannia second and Brockville, Carleton Place and Smiths Falls all bunched within a length for third place.  The race was declared null on account of the fouls and called again.  The Bohemians refused to paddle, and at an evening meeting it was decided to call the race off and have it paddled again within a month, probably at Carleton Place.

“In the senior four, won by the Grand Trunk club, the second place Carleton Place crew was that of Welsh, McRostie, Cumbers and McPhee.  Jack Welsh placed second in the double blade.  The second place in the green four was taken by the Carleton Place crew of Donald, Moffatt, Cumbers, and Penny.  Our war canoe crew included J. Penny, F. McRostie, W. Moffatt, Gibson, McCallum, Leslie, Cumbers, Boucher, Howe, Donald, Sibbett, McPhee, Cornell, and Welsh captain.  Our boys deserve some recognition for the very gamey way in which they have upheld the sport the last two seasons.”

National Meet at Lake Park

Decision to hold the Canadian regatta for 1902 at Carleton Place was reached at a November meeting here reported by Will Allen in the Herald:

“A meeting of the executive of the Northern Division of the American Canoe Association, which covers all of Canada, was held here last week.  It was decided to hold the next annual race meet at Carleton Place, probably the last week of June.  Mr. Herbert Begg, Commodore, Mr. Harry J. Page, secretary treasurer, of Toronto, and Mr. E. R. McNeill, Ottawa, of the executive, met with the local canoeists here Friday evening and finally decided upon Carleton Place.

“The American Canoe Association is divided into divisions, Atlantic, Central, Eastern, Northern and Western.  Canada is in the Northern Division, but the contests are open to members of the American Canoe Association of all divisions, and none but members can compete, so the meetings are usually very large gatherings.  The Association is kept up by membership fees – annual fee $2.00,   which admits members free to all association contests and gives a year’s subscription to The National Sportsman.

On Friday evening the local canoeists entertained the visitors of the Leland, where a fine spread was laid by Mine Host Salter.  After the tables were cleared Mayor Patterson took the chair……The meet here should prove a big advertisement for the town.  Now that the log has been started a-rolling we hope to see it kept agoing until June, when our townspeople will realize what we have tried to picture feebly with our fingers stiff with the pinches of Jack Frost.”

Carleton Place Canoe Club officers for the big year of 1902 were patrons Mayor Robert Patterson, William McDiarmid and Dr. George McDonald, commodore Colin McIntosh, vice-commodore R. A. Sibbett, captain W. J. Welsh, secretary treasurer J. N. Gibson, executive Frank Donald, Dr. K. C. Campbell, George Cornell, J. F. Moffatt and Fred McRostie, and auditors M. G. Howe and C. A. Roberts.  Chairmen of committees were, Racing, Fred McRostie ; Sailing, Dr. K. C. Campbell ; Entertainment, Frank Donald ; Property J. F. Moffatt.  The course from Nagles Shore to above the Lake Park steamboat dock was measured on the ice in March.  Mounting interest in June was noted in this newspaper by W. W. Cliff, who said :

“There are some thousands of persons who regard the coming Canoe Meet as considerably more important than the new fast trans Atlantic service, or even perhaps the end of the war in Africa.  Doubtless they are mistaken, but the world would lose a good deal if a temporary bias due to the ardor of youth did not exist.”

Northwesters in Terrible Fury

Winds higher than those on the St. Lawrence of the year before played havoc with the schedule of the 1902 national regatta, held in the last week of June at Lake Park.  The ten crews in the mile war canoe race, started at 7 p.m. when the “northwesters in terrible fury” had lessened, were two Toronto crews, the Bohemians of Brockville, two Brockville Y.M.C.A. crews, and Britania, Lachine, Smiths Falls, Grand Trunks of Montreal and Carleton Place.  In the mile the Grand Trunks were first with time 5:57 2/5, and Smiths Falls was second.  Several including Carleton Place who were grouped for third place protested successfully that the race had been started before all boats were in position. 

The visiting canoeists, numbering over two hundred, were said to be probably the largest aggregation of paddlers ever yet gathered at one meet in Canada.  They had their tents pitched on the Lake Park grounds and remained a second day for the completion of the regatta.  Though the wind was very high on the second day the principle events were completed before nightfall.

In the protested mile war canoe race, repeated without the formerly winning Grand Trunks, Smiths Falls was first, Britannia too second and Carleton Place third.  Grand Trunks took the half mile and quarter mile war canoe events, followed in the half mile by Smiths Falls and Carleton Place and in the quarter mile by Carleton Place and Britannia.  The Carleton Place crew of W. Wilson, F. McRostie, A. Powell and J. Welsh won the senior fours, a half mile straightway race, and local paddlers Welsh and McRostie came third after Ottawa and Toronto in the tandem half mile with turn.

A ball was tendered the visitors at the Lake Park Queen’s Royal Hotel, combined with a huge bonfire and a fireworks display. 

A second installment in conclusion will recall the first annual club regatta of the Carleton Place Canoe Club, a motorboat race of the same time, and the Canadian regatta held here in 1920 at Lake Park.

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