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Mak­ing con­nec­tions in nine­teen­th­cen­tury On­tario.

Dig­ging through an­ces­tral pa­pers, we came across this photo of work­ing men paus­ing for a proud mo­ment upon a bridge they were help­ing to build. The fash­ions and tele­graph poles sug­gest the lat­ter part of the nine­teenth cen­tury.

My hus­band’s kin lived then in On­tario’s New­cas­tle and Bond Head ar­eas, and the Clarke fam­ily in­cluded sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of car­pen­ters — so a rel­a­tive may be among them.

As a Clarke de­scen­dant and twenty-first-cen­tury con­struc­tion carpenter, my hus­band, Kelly Clark Reid, has also built re­gional bridges and in­fra­struc­ture — so the im­age res­onated with us. And we were in­trigued by the many nearby bar­rels, which per­haps con­tained ex­plo­sive ma­te­rial needed to blast through the rock.

Con­tact­ing lo­cal his­to­ri­ans helped us to learn more. Bev­erly Jeeves of the New­cas­tle Vil­lage & Dis­trict His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety ex­plained: “The bridge is called the ‘Sub­way’ here in town. Its lo­ca­tion is on Mill Street South, just south of [High­way] 401 at our exit.

“It looks very dif­fer­ent now, as they just added a pedes­trian walk­way next to the open­ing for ve­hi­cles. The rail­way tracks are still used to­day for CN. Just to the east of the rail­way is ‘Hunter Creek,’ and there is a small bridge above the creek. It is ob­scured by the Hunter House and not easy to ac­cess.”

Shar­ing fam­ily his­tory helps to ex­pand the his­tory of our com­mu­ni­ties. We en­cour­age oth­ers to share their personal archival trea­sures with lo­cal his­tor­i­cal groups.

Sub­mit­ted by Anne El­speth Rec­tor, her fam­ily’s his­to­rian and the wife of Kelly Clark Reid. They re­side in Belleville, On­tario.

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