200th birth­day party in 2019

The Glengarry News - - Garrynews - BY RICHARD MA­HONEY News Staff

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.

300 im­ages

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.

‘Fun, in­for­ma­tive’

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.

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