200th birthday party in 2019
With 2018 winding down, plans are revving up for the celebration of Alexandria’s 200th birthday in 2019.
Priest’s Mill, the settlement that would become Alexandria, was founded in 1819 when a grist mill was erected on the Garry River by the Reverend Alexander Macdonell, who later became the first Catholic bishop of Upper Canada.
“After 200 years, the town just keeps rolling on,” observes historian Dane Lanken, a member of the bicentennial committee. That resilience has meant that Alexandria has always been able to recover from the setbacks it has encountered over the last two centuries.
Formal festivities will kick off February 9 when a gala will be held at the Glengarry Sports Palace.
That will be followed by the March launch of a history book recounting the town’s past in photos.
A Canada Day barbecue at the arena will have a special 200th anniversary flavour.
The bilingual 300-page history book will feature no less than 300 photos selected by Allan MacDonald, archivist at the Glengarry County Archives. Captions written by Mr. Lanken and Jean-Claude Larocque describe the photographs of people, street scenes, events, gatherings, buildings and newsworthy incidents, such as a train derailment and a tractor rollover, where the owner miraculously escaped serious injury.
A prime source of images is a collection of Duncan Donovan pictures the professional photographer made from 1890 to 1920. The book will also include the work of photographer Gordon Reid, who captured slices of life in the mid-1950s.
The task was a pleasant one for Mr. Lanken. “I always like looking at old photos so it was a lot of fun. It was interesting and informative,” he adds.
A past president of the Glengarry Historical Society, as a member of the North Glengarry Arts, Culture and Heritage Advisory Committee Mr. Lanken wrote the text for interpretive panels that were unveiled in 2017.
The town’s overall population has remained relatively constant.
There were 12 buildings in 1823. “The Golden Age” began with the arrival of the Canada Atlantic Railway in 1882.
That valuable line provided access to markets in Ottawa, Montreal and the United States.
In 1884, the settlement was incorporated as a village.
In 1902, when the village was incorporated as a town, the population was 2,069.
Alexandria enjoyed a prolonged period of prosperity between the 1880s and the 1920s.
The town would become known for the “buggy from Glengarry,” produced by the
Munro and McIntosh sleigh and carriage company and J. T. Schell’s woodworking and cheese box factory.
In the ensuing decades, the town would face a number of economic challenges.
“But it kept bouncing back,” points out Mr. Lanken.
For information visit alexandria200.ca or call 613-525-3600.
ROOTS: A panel in Alexandria’s Mill Square chronicles the founding of Priest’s Mill by Bishop Alexander Macdonell. Mill Square sits on the site of the original settlement.