Per­fect home for archives

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Mahoney

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.

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