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Oral Histories

The North Lanark Historical Society is proud of our Oral History Project, Digitally Preserving the Past for the Future! This project has allowed the Historical Society to preserve the stories and local histories of Mississippi Mills to be preserved for future generations.

As of 2020, we have nearly fourty interviews with members from the area who have shared their own unique histories, including descendants of the founding family of Appleton and survivors of the 1942 Almonte Train Wreck.

The goal of these interviews is to preserve the history and heritage of the North Lanark region. We are interested in preserving a wide variety of stories, such as early settlement, local families, schools, the dairy industry, mills, post offices, as well as any other local histories and anecdotes.

The North Lanark Regional Museum would like to extend an invitation to all local residents (young or old) who have stories and histories they would like to share to participate in our interviews project. Anyone interested in participating can contact Amy at or 613-257-8503.

Eleanor (Command) Wright
Eleanor Wright Interviewed July 16, 2012 by Brian Armstrong
Catalogue No.: 2012.60.1
Duration: 90 minutes
Photo L-R Eleanor, Brian

Eleanor (Command) Wright is a long-time resident of the Village of Appleton in Ramsay Township. A caring and enthusiastic woman, Eleanor has been involved with the local Women’s Institute, Churches, Community Groups, Historical Society and much more. Eleanor has an amazing wealth of information on the community of Appleton.

Eleanor was born in 1937 at her family’s log cabin in the Village of Appleton. She attended S.S. #11 Ramsay School and then attended Carleton Place High School. In the interview she tells stories about the Woollen Mills in Appleton, the Appleton General Store, and going to the movies in Carleton Place. She also discusses muskrat, beaver and frog hunting, her father’s taxi service, school days in Appleton and the role of the Red Cross during WWII.

This is a wonderful interview for anyone interested in the Village of Appleton or simply 20th century village life in Canada.

Stephen Collie
Stephen Collie Interviewed July 23, 2012 by Eleanor Wright
Catalogue No.: 2012.61.1
Duration: 90 minutes
Photo: L-R: Eleanor, Stephen

Stephen Collie was raised in Appleton, Ontario where his family operated the Collie Woollen Mills. Stephen is a great source of humorous childhood stories and very knowledgeable on the history of Appleton’s mills.

Stephen Collie was born in 1952 and was raised in Appleton, Ontario. His grandfather William Collie and his uncles operated the Collie Woollen Mills in Appleton. Growing up in a small village, Stephen recounts various childhood adventures and memories including school life at S.S. # 11 Ramsay. He also shares his knowledge on the cheese factory, the general store and the local machinery dealer. Stephen also shares the history, stories of the workers, and business details on the Collie Woollen Mills.

If you are interested in rural school life or the mills of Appleton you’ll want to view this see this most entertaining and informative interview.

Sheila Babb & Ann E. Love
Sheila Babb & Ann Love Interviewed July 24, 2012 by Eleanor Wright
Catalogue No.: 2012.62.1
Duration: 25 minutes
Photo: L-R: Sheila, Ann, Eleanor

Sheila Babb and Ann E. Love are the descendents of the Teskey family of Appleton and the West family of Almonte. During a summer 2012 visit, the two cousins shared some of their family history.

Sheila Babb and Ann E. Love are descendents of the Teskey family that built the grist mill, saw mill and woollen mill in Appleton during the early 19th century. As part of their visit to Appleton they also received a tour of the former Robert Teskey Home, courtesy of current owner Julie Odin. In the interview the cousins provide details on the history of the Teskey family and explain how Sarah Ethel Winifred Teskey married Wesley West the owner of a general store in Appleton. In 1900 the couple moved to Almonte and opened the W.W. West General Store.

This is a wonderful interview for those interested in the early history of Appleton and Almonte, and the importance of family history.

In addition to participating in the oral interview the two cousins also made a large donation to the museum of photographs and archival material related to the Teskey, West and MacFarlane families (Accession No. 2012.55).

Leonard Spinks
Leonard Spinks Interviewed July 30, 2012 by Eleanor Wright
Catalogue No.: 2012.63.1
Duration: 140 minutes
Photo: L-R: Eleanor, Lenny

Lenny Spinks grew up in Appleton, Ontario and has many memories of village life and World War Two.

Lenny Spinks was born in 1926 in Almonte but lived and grew up in Appleton, Ontario. In the interview Lenny discusses his childhood in Appleton, S.S. # 11 Ramsay, the Collie Woollen Mills, hunting and trapping, the cheese factory, the general store and various residents and farmers of Appleton. He remembers joining the war effort as a paratrooper, working at a Prisoner of War Camp in Kingston and the importance of the war effort at home. In an emotional segment, Lenny recalls his family’s struggles and his personal successes in life.

This is a powerful and thought provoking interview that deals with the hardships of the Depression, wartime experiences and his cherished memories of Appleton.

Ed Muldoon
Ed Muldoon Interviewed August 17, 2012 by Peter Moller
Catalogue No.: 2012.64.1
Duration: 52 minutes
Photo: L-R: Peter, Ed

Ed Muldoon is a survivor of the infamous Almonte Train Accident of December 27, 1942. His stories provide context for this deadly accident that killed 39 people.

On December 27, 1942 Ed Muldoon was taking the Passenger Train from Arnprior back to Ottawa where he was attending pilot school. He had no idea how that trip would change his life. In the interview Ed discusses his experiences on the train, the reasons the accident occurred, and his personal journey researching the whole event.

Ed Muldoon provides a firsthand account of the Almonte Train Accident. This is an essential interview for anyone interested in the history of Almonte or Railways.

Edith Clarke
Edith Clarke Interviewed September 10, 2012 by Eleanor Wright
Catalogue No.: 2012.65.1
Duration: 35 minutes
Photo: L-R: Eleanor, Edith

Edith Clarke, once a city girl and now long time resident of Appleton, Ontario offers her story of how Appleton became her home.

Born and raised in Ottawa, Edith moved to Appleton with her husband John after WWII. The couple took up residence in a beautiful stone farmhouse and began Appleton’s very own Chinchilla Farm. Known nationally and internationally as an expert on Chinchilla Farming, John Clarke even published a book on how to raise the small creatures. Edith recounts stories of life in Appleton and reminisces about local residents.

This is a charming interview, offering a glimpse into life in Appleton and the fur industry.

Logan More
Logan More Interviewed October 23, 2012 by Edward Wilson
Catalogue No.: 2012.66.1
Duration: 50 minutes
Photo: L-R: Logan, Ed

Logan More was born and raised in Ramsay Township where he eventually became the Roads Superintendent for the Township. Logan is very knowledgeable on the local history, roads and politics.

Born in 1928 at the Rosamond Hospital in Almonte, Logan grew up in Ramsay Township and attended S.S. #9 Leckie’s Corners. He spent his early career working with various construction companies across Ontario. Eventually he became Roads Superintendent for Ramsay Township and led a small crew of dedicated staff. The crew built roads, drew gravel, ploughed snow and other important roads maintenance. Logan worked hard to improve road safety in the Township.

This interview will appeal to those interested in local history and highlights the impact of transportation on a community.

Irene Robertson-Thompson
Irene Robertson-Thompson Interviewed November 28, 2012 by Eleanor Wright
Catalogue No.: 2012.67.1
Duration: 37 minutes
Photo: L-R: Eleanor, Irene

Irene (Dunn) Robertson-Thompson moved to Appleton as a teenager in 1945 and began working at the Collie Woollen Mills in 1947. Irene offers many stories about working at the mill and raising a family in the village.

Attending Appleton’s local school, S.S. #11, Irene met her life-long friend Eleanor (Command) Wright. The two friends followed similar paths in life. They attended S.S. #11, raised their families locally and at various times worked at the Collie Woollen Mills. Still great friends, the two shared their life experiences during this interview. In the interview Irene tells stories of her father and uncle working at the mill, her summer job delivering ice, working at the mill, marriage, family, returning to High School and the community of Appleton.

This interview offers great insight into the experience of the mill workers and the meaning of community.

Jim Lowry
Jim Lowry Interviewed December 11, 2012 by Bob Butler
Catalogue No.: 2012.68.1
Duration: 61 minutes
Photo: L-R: Bob, Jim

Jim Lowry was born and raised in Ramsay Township. He shares an amazing wealth of information on the history and local politics of Ramsay Township.

Jim grew up in Ramsay Township and first attended SS#8 Ramsay School and then Carleton Place High School. Jim grew up farming with his father and has continued to farm his entire life. In addition to farming Jim is an avid collector of tractors, has been involved in County and International Plowing Matches. As a municipal councillor and reeve, Jim represented Ramsay for 29 years.

This interview offers information on the early history of Ramsay Township, farming life during the 20th century and municipal politics from the second half of the 20th century.

Bernard Turcotte
Bernard Turcotte Interviewed December 20, 2012 by Doreen Wilson
Catalogue No.: 2012.69.1
Duration: 28 minutes
Photo: L-R: Doreen, Bernard

Bernard Turcotte was five years old when he survived the Almonte Train Accident of 1942.

On December 27, 1942 the Turcotte family was returning to Ottawa from a Christmas vacation in Petawawa when the train accident occurred. The Turcotte family, parents Maurice and Cecile and children Bernard (5 years) and Denyse (8 months) were sitting in the rear coach and felt the immediate impact. Denyse died immediately, while Maurice, Cecile and Bernard spent six months in an Ottawa hospital recovering from their injuries. In the interview Bernard details his family’s experience in the crash, their recovery and his father’s successful lawsuit against the CPR.

This interview offers a firsthand account of the Almonte Train Accident of 1942 and the long term impact of the accident

Mack James
Interviewed February 11, 2013 by Sheila James
Catalogue No.: 2012.70.1
Duration: 55 minutes
Photo: L-R: Mack, Sheila

Mack James Mack James was born and raised on Spring Valley Farms in Ramsay Township. He is known across Canada for his purebred Hereford cattle.

Mack James grew up showing and judging livestock, seeds and crops. He attended the Graham Scientific Breeding School in Kansas and then returned home and joined the family farm in 1945. The James’ have a tradition of breeding and showing the best purebred Hereford cattle, in fact at one point they won the very prestigious Premier Breed & Premier Exhibitor at the Central Canadian Exhibition for fifteen consecutive years. In 2001, Mack and Lois (wife) James were honored by the Canadian Hereford Association as foundation breeders. In this interview Mack is interviewed by his daughter Sheila about school days, early farming techniques, Hereford cattle and his involvement in a number of Agricultural Societies, Associations and Boards.

This is an interview for those interested in early school days, agricultural fairs, and farming.

Here is an article from the Canadian Hereford Association magazine Digest featuring Mac & Lois James.
Reflections on 150 Years of Herefords in Canada

Malcolm “Mack” James passed away on July 2, 2013.

Gail Donohue
Gail Donohoe Interviewed March 12, 2013 by Doreen Wilson
Catalogue No.: 2012.71.1
Duration: 28 minutes
Photo: L-R: Doreen, Gail

Gail Donohue is the daughter of Mac and Nora Crozier of Renfrew. Mac Crozier was a survivor of the Almonte Train Accident of December 27, 1942.

In this interview Gail tells a story that she just recently learned: the love story of her father and her mother in the Almonte Train Accident of 1942. Like many survivors, Mac didn’t speak much of the Train Accident other than to say he was in the first coach and wasn’t hurt. But in fact the Almonte Train Accident was part of a much bigger love story for Mac and Nora Crozier. This is a love story of an attractive blond who needed help carrying her Christmas parcels up the steps of a passenger train.

This is an interview for those interested in the Almonte Train Accident.  

Pat and Gerard Green
Pat and Gerard Green Interviewed June 14, 2013 by Rita Cornell
Catalogue No.: 2013.31.1
Duration: 30 minutes
Photo: L-R: Rita, Pat, Gerard

Siblings Patricia and Gerard Green grew up in Renfrew Ontario. They have a very personal story about the Almonte Train Accident of December 27, 1942.

Pat and Gerard were 11 and 8 years old in 1942 when their older sister, Marie Green, was killed in the Almonte Train Accident. Marie boarded the passenger train in Renfrew headed back to Ottawa to work for Monday morning at Woods Manufacturing. This interview discusses the evening of the accident, the wake, the funeral and the grieving process.

Pat and Gerard provide a touching tale of a family in mourning.

This is an interview for anyone interested in the Almonte Train Accident.

Joe Flynn
Joe Flynn Interviewed June 17, 2013 by Rita Cornell
Catalogue No.: 2013.32.1
Duration: 26 minutes
Photo: L-R: Rita, Joe

Joe Flynn tells the story of his mother Elizabeth Carter and her sister Zita Carter who both survived the Almonte Train Accident. Both young ladies were unmarried at the time and suffered only minor injuries during the accident. The interview explores the Canadian war effort on the home front, the difficulties of automobile transportation and the relative silence about the Train Accident. The interview also discusses the impact the train accident had on ships in Halifax waiting to transport troops to Europe.

Grief silences many tragic events. In this interview Joe Flynn tells the story that his mother never spoke about.

This is an interview for anyone interested in the Almonte Train Accident.  

Ken and Keith Brydges
Ken and Keith Brydges Interviewed June 19, 2013 by Eleanor Wright
Catalogue No.: 2013.33.1
Duration: 29 minutes
Photo: L-R: Ken, Keith, Eleanor

Ken and Keith Brydges grew up in a family of twelve children on the 12th Concession in Ramsay Township. They are one of three sets of twins in the family.

Ken and Keith share their stories of attending S.S. #12 Ramsay, farming and getting married. They also recount the story of their Uncle Earl Brydges who survived the Almonte Train Accident on December 27, 1942. Further information on Earl Brydges is recorded in his book "Mangels and Memories" a copy of which is available for reference at the North Lanark Regional Museum library.

This is a great interview for anyone interested in the Almonte Train Accident or the history of Ramsay.

Betty and Lenny Spinks
Betty & Lenny Spinks Interviewed July 20, 2013 by Ed Muldoon & Sarah Chisholm
Catalogue No.: 2013.34.1
Duration: 47 minutes
Photo: L-R: Betty, Ed

Lenny Spinks grew up in Appleton and during World War Two met a young lady called Betty Guillemette from Arnprior who was working at the Collie Woollen Mills in Appleton. Both have a story to tell about the Almonte Train Accident of December 27, 1942.

After Christmas, Betty and her two sisters of Arnprior were returning to work at the Collie Woollen Mills in Appleton. Instead of the regular train ride from Arnprior to Carleton Place the sisters spent a frantic evening in Almonte. Meanwhile, at home in Appleton, Lenny heard about the horrible accident. He along with several young men from Appleton jumped on a truck and travelled to the accident site. They worked in the early hours of the morning to clean up the site, loading abandoned luggage and personal belongings into a truck.

This interview provides two perspectives on the Almonte Train Accident and also tells the love story of Lenny and Betty Spinks.

Marion Watt
Marion Watt Interviewed July 17, 2013 by Ed Muldoon
Catalogue No.: 2013.35.1
Duration: 33 minutes
Photo: L-R: Ed, Marion

Marion (Stewart) Watt grew up in White Lake and was working in Ottawa for the Navy during WWII. On December 27, 1942 she was headed back to Ottawa after spending Christmas with family.

In the interview Marion tells her story of the accident. She explains why she was on the train, what she saw and how she reacted in the days following the accident. She has great respect for the soldiers from the Troop Train who helped with the injured at the accident site. According to Marion, when the accident occurred, “hell let loose for breakfast.”

There were hundreds of passengers on the Pembroke Local the night of the Accident. Thirty-nine people were killed, but many more had experiences similar to this one.

This interview is for anyone interested in the Almonte Train Accident.

Lenny Spinks
Lenny Spinks Interviewed July 31, 2013 by Kenneth Caldwell
Catalogue No.: 2013.36.1
Duration: 106 minutes
Photo: L-R: Lenny, Kenneth

Lenny Spinks was interviewed in July 2012 about his experiences growing up in Appleton and then again in July 2013 about his memories of the Almonte Train Accident. This 2013 interview focuses on Lenny’s experiences as a paratrooper in the Second World War.

Lenny enlisted for WWII as soon as he was old enough. He joined the military and trained as a soldier before volunteering to join the First Airborne Battalion as a paratrooper. The interview describes the intense training that paratroopers went through and the harsh realities of training casualties. Lenny also recounts his time in the Canadian Provost Corps serving at the Old Fort Henry Prison at Kingston, where he worked for a year to re-integrate imprisoned soldiers.

This is an interview for anyone interested in local military history.  

Clarence Fishenden
Clarence Fishenden Interviewed August 1, 2013 by Ed Muldoon
Catalogue No.: 2013.37.1
Duration: 45 minutes
Photo: L-R: Clarence, Ed

Clarence Fishenden owns and lives in a large piece of local history – the former Pakenham CPR Train Station.

Clarence Fishenden grew up in Pakenham and remembers watching trains come through the town on a daily basis. He eventually worked for CP Rail all across Ontario as a section crewman. When the CPR Station was closed in Pakenham, Clarence decided to purchase the building and make it into a home. The building was moved from its original location to its current location where the exterior remains 90% original. In the interview Clarence tells his story and also speaks with Ed Muldoon (a survivor) about the Almonte Train Accident and the role the unmanned Pakenham Station played in the accident

A great interview for anyone interested in the history of Pakenham, architecture or the Almonte Train Accident.  

Elda Stresman

Elda (Boese) Stresman
Interviewed September 17, 2013 by Ed Muldoon and Sarah Chisholm
Catalogue No.: 2013.38.1
Duration: 36 minutes
Photo: Mrs. Elda (Boese) Stresman

In this telephone interview two survivors from the Almonte Train Accident share their stories.

Elda (Boese) Stresman was working as a teacher in the Pembroke area in 1942. Over the Christmas holidays she had returned to Arnprior to spend time with family. On Sunday December 27, 1942 she boarded the Pembroke Local headed to Ottawa. She was going to visit her sister in Ottawa before having to return to Pembroke in the new year. The trip became an adventure when the train was rear-ended at the Almonte Train Station. Elda describes her memories in this interview.

A great interview for anyone interested in the Almonte Train Accident.   ;

Marion Jamieson
Marion Jamieson Interviewed September 23, 2013 by Rita Cornell
Catalogue No.: 2013.39.1
Duration: 23 minutes
Photo: L-R: Rita, Marion

Marion Jamieson grew up in Carleton Place and attended Carleton Place High School which had an ongoing rivalry with Almonte. Marion’s opinion of Almonte quickly changed on December 27, 1942.

On December 27, 1942 Marion Jamieson was at a dinner party in Carleton Place with several girlfriends, most of whom had husbands overseas. The fun evening was interrupted by a phone call, there had been an accident and the local Doctor needed the nurses and any one able to help to come straight away to Almonte. That's how Marion Jamieson, a secretary, ended up at the site of the Almonte Train Accident, helping the Doctors and nurses and holding the injured.

Marion tells her story of the accident, emphasizing the amazing efforts of the local residents who opened their homes and businesses to the injured.

This is an interview for anyone interested in the Almonte Train Accident.

Eugene Fytche
Eugene Fytche Interviewed October 2, 2013 by Sarah Chisholm
Catalogue No.: 2013.40.1
Duration: 31 minutes
Photo: Eugene Fytche

An engineer by profession, Eugene Fytche became interested in the design of log fences when he acquired a flock of sheep and was required to repair various types of log fences on his farm. He soon realized there was a large gap in the information available and began researching and identifying log fences across Eastern Ontario. His efforts resulted in the publication of “400 Years of Log Fences” which was first published in 2008 and a second revised edition was published in 2010. In this interview, Mr. Fytche explains the three main categories of fences (Snake, Bunk and Indian) and how they have evolved over time.

This interview provides an unique local at our local history and is a reminder of the history that surrounds us, lining the roads we drive every day.  

Blanche Dezell
Blanche Dezell Interviewed October 3, 2013 by Sarah Chisholm
Catalogue No.: 2013.41.1
Duration: 120 minutes
Photo: L-R: Sarah, Blanche

Blanche Dezell is an amazing storyteller. In preparation for our 2013 Military Exhibit we asked Blanche to come in and speak about her brother Russell James who died during WWII.

Blanche speaks of their childhood growing up on the family farm with her siblings Russell, Mack, Bobby, May and Irene. She talks about their childhood doing farm chores, gardening, attending S.S. #11 Ramsay and skating on the outdoor pond. Her memories of Russell are all cheerful until the topic of enlistment comes up. Russell James enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in September 1942 and only a year later was killed in action over Germany. His sacrifice remains a heart-breaking memory for the family.

This interview is a great source of local history. The interview covers local farming, rural schools, and local military involvement in WWII.

For more information on Russell James please visit the museum and read:
Lest We Forget: Sergeant Air Gunner Russell George James
By Jillian Douglas
Almonte District High School (June 2013)

For more information on the James family of Appleton, Ontario please see the interview with Mack James by his daughter Sheila James. (See 2012.70.1)

Melville Bowes
Melville Bowes
Interviewed October 18, 2013 by Rita Cornell
Catalogue No.: 2013.42.1
Duration: 23 minutes
Photo: L-R: Rita, Melville

Melville Bowes was born and raised in Almonte, Ontario. He attended Taber College in Carleton Place and was working in Ottawa in 1942. He came home to Almonte for Christmas and then on the Sunday night boarded the Pembroke Local at Almonte to head back into the city. Melville Bowes was one of the lucky ones the night of the Almonte Train Accident on December 27, 1942. He escaped the train unharmed and in this interview describes the scene that night. He also talks about his career selling Hearing Aids and learning to take a vacation.

This is an interview for those interested in the Almonte Train Accident.

James P. Paul
James P. Paul Interviewed November 4, 2013 by Sarah Chisholm
Catalogue No.: 2013.43.1
Duration: 42 minutes
Photo: L-R: Sarah, Jim

James P. Paul (Jim Paul) comes from a long line of farmers. He grew up on Mount Blow Farm in Ramsay which was started by the Paul family in 1821.

Mount Blow Farm operated as a mixed farm until the early 1900s and was well known for its lime kiln business which ran from the 1860s to 1908. In 1925 the farm began the transition from mixed farming to dairy farming, building a purebred Holstein herd. In 1951 Jim Paul officially joined his father and his brother on the farm. Mount Blow Farm continued to expand and evolve. The farm improved with the addition of milking machines, a bulk tank and a pipeline all added by 1970.

Jim speaks about the history of the farm, the equipment changes and also speaks about his father, Norman Paul. Norman Paul is well known in Lanark County for his whittlings and dioramas.

This is a great interview for anyone interested in the history of Ramsay, agriculture, in particular the dairy industry.  

Kathleen Thomson
Kathleen Thomson Interviewed November 7, 2013 by Sarah Chisholm, Ross Thomson & Barbara
Catalogue No.: 2013.41.1
Duration: 65 minutes
Photo: L-R: Sarah, Kathleen

Kathleen Thomson (nee Coxford) was born and raised in Almonte. She married Cyril Mac Thomson in 1943 and although they moved to Port Credit after the War they maintained close ties to the community of Almonte.

This interview covers a broad history of Almonte from Mrs. Thomson’s experience with the Almonte Train Accident in 1942 to her memories of attending Almonte Public School. She discusses her connections to the Mack’s No Rub Company and her experiences working in the office of the Rosamond Woolen Mill. The interview is full of unexpected anecdotes including the story of how she received her nickname “Tat” and the swimming cat “Tommy. ”

Kathleen Thomson provides a unique perspective on the history of Almonte with some additions by her son Ross Thomson and his wife Barbara. The museum also received a donation of several artefacts and photographs from Mrs. Thomson.

To listen to a full interview, please contact staff at the North Lanark Regional Museum.
The interviews are available for on-site viewing at the museum.
Please call: 613-257-8503
Or email: