Perfect home for archives
The new home of the Glengarry Archives will be, eventually, the perfect setting for largest repository of historical documents in Eastern Ontario. The archives plans to move from Glengarry District High School to the Knights of Columbus hall on Kenyon Street in the fall of 2020. In the meantime, much effort and money will be required to restore the new archives base, which is the oldest building in Alexandria and one of the oldest in Glengarry.
Erected in 1823, the building was originally the “Colonel’s House,” a stately stone house that was first owned by Col. Angus Macdonell. The mansion was described in the Dictionary of Glengarry
Biography, as being “one of the show places of the village.” Indeed, among buildings, rivaled only by the Bishop’s Palace.
The Colonel (1791-1842) was the nephew of the Big Bishop and one of the first residents of Alexandria. Later, the house belonged to Duncan A. MacDonald (1837-1921). Angus Macdonell was accomplished in many areas, even though he would die three months short of his 51st birthday.
Squire Angus served with the 2nd Glengarry Fencibles in the War of 1812.
As a lieutenant, he oversaw the settling of the Bathurst Proclamation emigrants of 1815.
His uncle, one of the founders of Alexandria, transferred to him a piece of land that was located in Lochiel and which would later become part of Alexandria. A store owner, The Colonel was a postmaster in 1828. When he fell on hard times in 1835, he asked the government for a land grant, citing personal hardship. His home had been destroyed by fire and he wrote of financial misfortunes. He later rebuilt the home.
During the Mackenzie-Papineau Rebellion, he was colonel of
the 4th Regiment of the Glengarry County militia.
His death evidently had been accelerated as a result of disease contracted at Beauharnois, where he had been dispatched during the 1837-1839 uprising. He is buried at St. Raphael’s, but there appears to be no headstone.
In 1843, an advertisement announced plans to transform the “large and commodious stone mansion” into a hotel.
The Colonel donated large tracts to the Roman Catholic Church, including the sites of St. Finnan’s Cathedral and cemetery and the Bishop’s Palace.
Duncan A. MacDonald was reeve of Lochiel and was warden of Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry in 1888.
When Alexandria was incorporated as a village in 1883, he became its first reeve. During his time as reeve, the growing village got waterworks and electrical lighting systems. He also championed the planting of shade trees, and was chairman of the Alexandria High School Board.
Mr. MacDonald was a “man of striking appearance.” He and his wife “were very active in the social life of their time” and were known for their “truly Highland hospitality.”
Fast forward to the present. North and South Glengarry have agreed to purchase the Knights of Columbus hall. With the municipalities sharing the $140,000 required to buy the property, a public fund-raising drive will soon be launched to foot the bill for renovations.
This is indeed an idea whose time has come. “This is a once-ina-lifetime opportunity to secure for the archives a permanent home in a building that not only meets the long-term needs of the archives but is steeped in the history of Glengarry. It's an incredible win-win,” points out County Archivist Allan MacDonald.
Another view: See Letter Page 6.